The other day, one of my therapists suggested that I buy a stuffed animal to comfort my child self. I never had a stuffed animal. If I needed to hold onto something, I’d use a pillow. I’m usually compliant when it comes to therapy, so that night, I checked online to see if there were any stuffed animals that caught my eye. After ten minutes or so, I came across the perfect bear – a brown teddy bear dressed in a blue sweater with a lightning bolt, red cape, and eye mask. It was the teddy bear version of Superman.
I knew I had to have it, so the next day, I trekked to the nearest Toys R Us and searched frantically for over a half an hour for that bear. I even went to customer service, who could only tell me that they had it in stock and that it “must be somewhere in the store.” I was minutes away from breaking down and crying before I finally found it, stuffed behind a bunch of ballerina bears. I hugged that teddy bear so hard, right there in the middle of the store. No fucks given. That bear was mine.
You might be wondering why it was that particular bear that I needed. As a child, I would close my eyes and hope that Superman would fly down and defeat my evil mother and save me from ever having to be hurt again. I would look out the window, just waiting for him to fly through, at the same time trying to distract myself from the pain of the abuse. Superman never came. But that never stopped me. Superman gave me hope in a hopeless situation.
Now that I am older, I know that Superman can’t save me. I have to save myself. In a way, I had to become my own Superman. I took on a Superman persona. I wore my Superman pajamas every night to bed. I wore Superman t-shirts all the time. I even wore a cape (out in public). People that knew me associated me with Superman. During a group therapy workshop a few weeks back, we had a body image exercise in which other members and therapists wrote messages on traced images of our bodies; my therapist drew the “S” and wrote Superman on mine. Among all of the messages, it stood out the most. I knew I wasn’t Superman. I just needed to feel like I was in a theoretical sense.
My coworkers used to call me Superman because I could do anything. I could unload trucks, answer any question, and complete any task with ease. Little did they know how weak I really was. I could lift a 200-lb grill by myself, but I didn’t have the strength to fight back my abusive mother. While I may be physically strong on the outside, my inside is completely shattered. There’s no point in having physical strength without the support of an internal structure.
While I have escaped, I still don’t see myself as strong. I didn’t confront my mother. I didn’t stand up to her. I didn’t stand my ground. I left in a weak way. There was nothing Superman about that. I’m still so broken. Why didn’t anyone save me?