“Okay, Miss Save-the-World,” Leslie said, voice thick with sarcasm.
Our friends snickered and directed their gaze out of the Denny’s window beside us. I shot Leslie the finger and proceeded to cuss her out, then escorted myself out of the restaurant in a blur of humiliated tears.
Just another day in the life of young Christina.
I’ll never forget my friend’s words, and how they made me feel, though I couldn’t tell you the precise reason for them. But they angered me. On the surface, I was angry at her for saying them, but deeper than that, I was angry at myself. Ever since I could remember I had gotten in trouble at school for “not minding my own business,” and for trying to be everything to everyone. I was a people-pleaser, seeking constant validation and approval from those around me, always both the tattler, and the one instigating the rebellion. Always on both sides of the law, the fence, on both teams, afraid to upset or make enemies, I never truly fit in anywhere, had a difficult time securing any true, meaningful friendships, and pretty much irritated, annoyed, and ran off most of the friends I did manage to make.
I wasn’t a bad person. I did really care about people. I was open-minded, compassionate, understanding, forgiving, and fiercely loyal. Inside, I knew I had a good heart, and felt like I was a good person with good intentions. When I tried to “save the world,” as Leslie so poignantly put it, I thought I was doing a good thing 99% of the time. What I didn’t realize then, I realize now, twenty years later, and have finally arrived at a place where compassion for my old self has replaced the embarrassment and self-loathing.
Inside of young Christina was a whirlwind of confusion, a cyclone of emotional disaster, a hurricane of fear, a hail storm of criticism and a seriously shattered self-image. I remember from the time I was very young, looking in the mirror and crying because I was so ugly. I was too skinny. I looked like a boy. My face was flat. My boobs were too small. I had a stupid laugh. I walked funny. I wasn’t good at anything. People didn’t like me, or only pretended to. My absent biological father didn’t love me, and neither did my mother and step-father. I was a burden to them, and to the rest of the world. I was stupid, and would never amount to anything. I was eleven years old.
When I focused on helping others solve their problems, not only did I not have to think about my own, but it also gave me a temporary feeling of worth. This facade worked a lot better when my friends weren’t yet old enough to really see through it. They may have sensed something was “off” with me, but not until the teen–and even more so, the early adult–years could they really see it for what it was.
The reason Leslie’s words hurt so much, was for the first time, I realized that my friends saw my game, and I knew they probably talked shit about me/it behind my back. I was already two years into my drug and alcohol habit, dabbling in self-harm and suicidal tendencies, with already one half-assed attempt (which, admittedly, was a cry for attention from a boy), and I was wallowing knee-deep in the world of the young borderline. Unfortunately for me, it would be fourteen more years of ignorant, self-induced torture before my time for healing would begin.
I always knew there was a superhero inside me. She wore white and she was soft, yet strong, a peaceful warrior who could conquer anything that came her way. She was honest, caring, selfless, loving, and not afraid. She was a great friend and defender of mankind. She was loved and cherished by all who knew her.
The problem was, no one knew her.
Occasionally, the people around me would catch a glimpse of this masked girl, and all-too-often, those who I thought were my friends would see the opportunity to take advantage of what they thought was weakness. This is an unfortunate human condition, of which even the best of us have been guilty of once or twice (or more) in our lifetime, especially as young adults. When we see an opportunity to breech the hull of someone, whether out of fear, envy, pride, or just plain sick curiosity, we do. And they did. And that supergirl inside me retreated further and further, replaced by a protector, who, of my soul, created a battleground, only letting the innocent supergirl come out to play when it conveniently worked to her advantage in her game of power, control, and manipulation. “The sweet little supergirl,” she thought, “weak and stupid, used and thrown away . . . . She will no longer be in control here. From now on, I call the shots.”
This dark force both loved and equally loathed that innocent defender, that pure and gentle spirit who had been vulnerable one too many times. This darkness was erected as both a way to protect, and eradicate her entirely. This, in a nutshell, is Borderline Personality Disorder. (I’ll be going deeper into this disorder in future blogs.)
So, as I’m sure you can see–and perhaps even relate to– there was a war going on inside of me. This war lasted for years and years, and manifested itself in the outer wars of drug addiction and alcoholism, dysfunctional, co-dependent, and abusive relationships, loss of friends, jobs, possessions, and my children to the child protective system. One terrible choice after another, and tragedy after tragedy, the whole time, completely baffled at my afflictions. I was hopeless, and so was my condition. No matter what I did or tried, nothing seemed to shed enough light for me to see myself and my life clearly.
Until it did.
My journey through recovery has been a long, challenging, rocky road. It began on October 4, 2004, at the Magdalen House. Apparently, drawing a sober breath would be the first step in seeing things clearer. Through the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, finding a Power greater than myself to fill my spiritual void, and learning to be entirely honest, as well as to quit blaming everyone else for my own problems, I began to take responsibility for my life. And though it took falling back down hard a few times, I finally came to accept my diagnosis of BPD in 2012, at which time I began treatment, as well as daily meditation. Interestingly, after fifteen years and a plethora of psych drugs which never worked, this Dialectical Behavior Therapy, along with a spiritual practice that worked for me (which was not the one I grew up with), not only healed me, but I no longer take medication of any kind. I’ve been completely sober for over three years now, and I even quit smoking cigarettes. My life as a single parent of four beautiful kids, though challenging, is a perfect miracle, and one I don’t go a day without being in grateful awe of. Most people who dive to the depths of despair I dove to, don’t ever make it back up to see the sun. And I have. And now, I can share that light and hope, with not only my children, but with the world.
To sum up, I stopped trying to save the world. The world didn’t need me to save it. I needed the world to save me. I needed to be vulnerable and ask for help. I needed to be willing to change, to find a different perspective, to trust, and to learn how to love myself, flaws and all.
I needed to let go of that dark protector who had been guarding me for years, and tell her “thank you, but you no longer serve me.” I had to unearth that innocent supergirl, the one who had been there in hiding all along, begging me to let her out. And when I did, with my permission, she removed her cape and lit a candle, placed it in my hand, then vanished.
With this light, I now see the truth. I was always good. I was just scared. I never needed to be everything to everyone to be “enough.” I just wanted you to love me. That’s it. Because then, I could love myself. But I see now, the world inside of me, with this light I shine, and it is a paradise lost, then found . . . the Love I have within me, from me, it grows with every passing, healing day, and there’s no way I can keep it all to myself. It grows and flows and spreads like wildfire throughout my life and to those around me. I stopped trying to save the world, and instead, saved myself. Only then, could I spread the magic of Love–the ultimate Savior–to the world around me.
What about you? Can you relate to this story? Please feel free to comment below, or email me at ChristinaL.Rozelle @ gmail.com (remove spaces) I’d love to hear from you, and help you in any way I can. ❤