Here’s this week’s featured essay from the Cosmophilia website. Amy Elliott charts her path toward feeling a sense of belonging after being told quite the opposite early in her life. You’re invited to comment below if the piece strikes a chord with you. — Amanda P.
By Amy Elliott
So far I have heard two opposing and rather unappealing stories about my conception. I was the last child by a decade, and my father often used to call me an accident. More recently, I was told I was the instrument that kept my mother in her unhappy marriage for another 12 years.
I will probably never be certain exactly how much I was wanted, or for what reasons.
Growing up with my parents, and later their separate households and new partners, helped to cement my sense that I lacked worth. I was an encumbrance, a clumsy, moody liability who was generally yelled at, punished or ignored. I spent my teenage years in a pensive, petulant haze. There was no such place as home: in every dwelling I was an interloper.
I still carry this feeling today; in every circle, my very presence seems a presumption, making me comfortable nowhere. I qualify for enough psychiatric conditions to make a one-person mental hospital.
It is a profound indictment of the human condition that my case is very, very far from being unique. For many survivors, that fact is also an invaluable support.
Abuse can often leave a person feeling as though their life is a life sentence. There’s the guilt (albeit for another person’s crimes) and the sense of treading on eggshells; the notion that one is never quite free to be oneself; and the simple absence of the bubble of happiness that surrounds the more fortunate. Sadly, for many of us there are also insurmountable obstacles in the way of decent help, and of ultimate justice. Western society is still learning how to care for the mistreated.
In the meantime, I am continuing on my slow journey towards freedom. It’s a little like wading through treacle, and I sometimes have to remind myself that because I only got one ‘hiding’ as my father termed it, and because he never actually touched me inappropriately, I got away lightly. Because I have kind friends and some helpful family members, shelter and enough to eat, I am lucky. And after all, my experiences have given me better sensitivity, liberality and compassion. In a judgmental world, I feel blessed to have the gift of empathy, even though it can be like a thousand little pinpricks in my heart.