500 Days of Freedom, Part 2 (The Stones I’ve Lost)

I had a good family. They didn’t know better. My mother loved me. I can’t live without her. I am bad; I am evil. I am just crazy. I am worthless. I deserved to be hurt. There is no hope for me. It was all my fault.

These were the beliefs I carried with me for so long. These were the beliefs I held on to because I had no other choice. I didn’t know any better. I couldn’t know any better.

And those beliefs weighed on me. They kept me from moving forward. They kept me stuck. Even after I ran away and found my freedom, I still carried those beliefs with me, every day. But as time went on, I realized those beliefs were not the truths I thought them to be. They were just lies my mother wanted me to believe. They were lies I needed to believe so I could survive without breaking.

I realized I had to let those false beliefs go. I didn’t want to carry them anymore. I had enough weight to bear already.

I wrote one belief on each big stone. Each stone was heavy on its own, but as I gathered the stones together, the weight was tremendous. I wasn’t going to carry these stones with me; I needed to send them away.

So on my 500th day of freedom, I took the stones to the beach. I walked out to the ledge of rocks where the waves were breaking. I watched as the tide washed everything away. I wanted it to wash my beliefs away. I picked each stone out one by one. I felt the weight of the stone in my hand. I read each belief to myself, and thought about how each affected me.

I had a good family.

The wish, the belief that my family was good, was one my mother provided for me. It was all an act; they only played a good family in public. It’s why I couldn’t think any differently. Everyone would say what good people my mother and father were, and I took that in and believed that it must be true. It wasn’t true. It was never true.

They didn’t know better.

I’d tell myself maybe they just didn’t know any better. Maybe they were hurt, too. Maybe they think this is normal. How can I be mad at them if they just didn’t know? But how the hell couldn’t they know? Any person in their right mind knows you don’t beat a child bloody. Any person knows you don’t sexually abuse your own children (or any child). It doesn’t matter if that was their normal. It should have never been my normal.

My mother loved me.

Mothers love their children. It’s what society says. It’s what movies and books says. The bond between mother and child is special. Maybe this is just how she shows her love. But love isn’t supposed to hurt like that. You can’t tell someone you love them and then turn around and break them over and over and over again. That is not love.

I can’t live without her.

She told me no one would ever love me. She told me I would never survive without her. I became so enmeshed with her that I lost my self in the process. And that’s exactly what she wanted. She planted the seed of insecurity in me and then she fed off its leaves for decades. I thought I could never get away. I thought I could never live without her. But I have been living for 500 days without her now.

I am bad. I am evil.

It’s why she always had to hurt me. I was a bad child. I had to be punished. I had evil inside me. I had to be cleansed. It’s the only way her hurting me made sense. I believed what she said because no one else was there to say any different. But I am not bad. I am not evil. I am good. I have a kind heart. I have empathy. I was not the bad one. My mother was.

I am just crazy.

It’s what she’s told everyone for the last 15 years. Don’t believe her, she’s crazy. She lies, she’s crazy. She’s bipolar and crazy. Just don’t listen to her, she’s crazy. I was not crazy. I was dealing with things a child should never have to deal with. I was struggling with emotions I wasn’t allowed to have. I wasn’t crazy. I just wasn’t being what my mother wanted me to be.

I am worthless.

I don’t deserve to eat. I don’t deserve nice things. I am a piece of shit. These were things my mother told me, and I believed them. Because mothers don’t lie to their children. She knows everything, so she must know I’m worthless, too. That’s why she treated me that way. If I could just be worthy, maybe she would love me. But I’ve had worth this whole time. She didn’t want to see it. And she didn’t want me to see it, either.

I deserved to be hurt.

She’s hurting me because I am bad, and evil, and worthless. That’s why I deserve all of this. I was put on this earth to be hurt. This is God’s way. She is trying to help me. But she wasn’t helping. And I never deserved to be hurt. There is nothing a child can do that would ever warrant the abuse that she unleashed on me. I deserved to be nurtured and nourished and loved, not hurt and abused.

There is no hope for me.

I need to just die. I can’t live in pain like this. It’s never going to end. She is never going to stop. I just want to get out of here. Please, just end my pain. I believed I was never going to get out. I believed my mother was going to abuse me until the day I finally succeeded at killing myself. But I got away, and now she can no longer hurt me. I don’t need to die anymore. There is hope for me.

It was all my fault.

It’s what my mother wanted me to believe. I ruined the family. We couldn’t do anything because of me. She couldn’t pay bills because of me. She got in trouble because of me. She was hurting me because of me. She got angry because of me. Her life was ruined because me. Her life was my fault. My pain was my fault. Everything was my fault. But none of it was. It never was. It was her fault. I was just a child.

One by one, I threw each stone out to sea. I cried, not because I was sad about losing them. Rather, I cried because I was sad for the little girl, the teenager, and the young adult me that had to carry these beliefs for so long in order to survive.

These stones are no longer weighing me down. They no longer belonged to me. They are lying at the bottom of the Atlantic now. They belong to the sea.

They are the stones I’ve lost.

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She stole the night from me.

I wonder what it must be like to crawl into bed at night and just fall asleep.

I could never do that. Not as a child, and not now as an adult. I crawl into bed and lay there for hours, tired, exhausted, yet unable to sleep.

I check the closets. I lock the door. I wrap myself up in my layers and I crawl in bed and wait.

Some days, I wait for sleep. I try to quiet the increasingly loud noise in my head. I think about a million things I don’t even need to think about. After a few hours, I finally fall asleep.

On other, more difficult days, I wait my mother. I lay still in my bed and wait for her to come through my bedroom door, just like I waited for her when I was back home.

So many nights of my childhood were spent laying in bed and waiting. Not waiting for sleep. Not waiting for dreams. Not waiting for the tooth fairy. I was waiting for my mother. I was waiting for her to come in and tear me apart. I was waiting for the pain to be over so I could just go to sleep.

I learned to expect it. I stopped asking questions. I stopped fighting back. I stopped wondering why. I couldn’t do it any more. I knew it wasn’t going to change. So I gave up. And I gave in.

Sometimes, I would stare at the ceiling. I’d talk to Superman, hoping he would hear my thoughts, and asked him to come and save me. I waited for him to fly in through the window, but he never did find me.

Sometimes, I would think about being in a different family. I imagined being adopted. I dreamed I was sitting in a cage at the shelter, waiting for a new family to pick me up and love me, but no new family ever came.

Sometimes, I watched my spirit float away from me, and I followed her. We would sit on the big branch of the tree right outside my window, waiting for the hurt to end so I could come back to me.

It would always end.. If there was one thing I could count on, it was that the pain was only temporary. She’d leave, and I’d come back. I could finally go to sleep, because I knew she wasn’t going to hurt me again. I found solace in that, in knowing that when it was over, it was over.

I wanted a normal night. I wanted someone to read me a story. I wanted someone to check for monsters underneath my bed, and tell me everything was safe. I wanted someone to tuck me in and tell me they loved me. I got none of that. There were no bedtime stories. There was no love or safety. And there were never any monsters under my bed, because the monster was standing right beside it.

Anxiety. Fear. Dread. It all became my nighttime normal. And even though she stopped as I got older, the fear anxiety, fear, and dread never left. They continued to be my nighttime normal. I continued to spend every night waiting for my mother to come back. And I am still spending my nights waiting for her to come back.

I try to remember that she is not here. I know the doors are locked, I know we are miles and miles away from her. She is not coming for us. She can’t hurt us anymore.

But sometimes I forget all that. Sometimes I can’t remember. I am still anticipating something that hasn’t happened for 20 years, but my mind doesn’t always know that.Sometimes it feels like something is missing; I feel like I need her to come in and get it over with just so I can sleep.

I find comfort in familiarity, and all of those nights that my mother hurt me became my familiar. Any deviation from the pattern only creates more panic, and that was true in my childhood and still true in my adulthood.

I feel frustrated, because I don’t know how else to convince myself that my mother cannot hurt me any more. I don’t know how to believe that it doesn’t have to be this way.

I feel sad, because adult me knows that no child should have had to endure the things my mother did to me. Bed is supposed to calming and relaxing, not a place of panic.

I feel ashamed, because some nights, the only way I can fall asleep is to hurt myself in the very same way she hurt me. And then I feel disgusted.

I feel angry, because I want to be able to crawl in bed and night and go to sleep, and have good dreams. I don’t want the fear. I don’t want the panic and anxiety. I just want comfort and peace, and the ability to sleep without a struggle.

My mother stole the night from me. I want it back.