This I believe

Joy - Tampa, Florida
Entered on December 10, 2008

I believe that people can unlearn behaviors.

One of my first memories as a child was not the tender kisses from my mother, nor the loving words from my father, but it was my father whipping glass jelly jars at my body. I tried to protect myself, but there isn’t much a six year old can do.

I grew up in an emotionally and physically abusive home; I didn’t know what unconditional love felt like. I cried out to God for help, but He didn’t help me. No one helped me, so I became angry. I didn’t understand why my parents wanted to cause harm to me. Daily, I feared for my life.

I inflicted pain on my fellow classmates; it was the only way I knew how to interact with others. They hated me, and so did I. I was tired of suffering, so I tried to commit suicide. As I slashed at my wrists with a razor, I cried profusely. At that moment, I knew I didn’t want to die.

Years came and went, and I learned how to conceal the depression in my life. I befriended people and attempted to have a relationship with a man. But, then I went through an experience that completely altered my thinking. One afternoon, my boyfriend and I were in a heated argument when suddenly I attacked him. I don’t know what came over me, but I was choking him. Then, he said, “What, are you going to kill me?” Simultaneously, in my head I clearly heard my grandmother’s voice utter, “If you don’t watch it, Joy, you are going to be just like your father. Do you want that?” Immediately, I released my grip from his neck, and sat horrified on the floor. I felt like a “monster”; I felt like my father. I decided I wanted to change.

Four years have passed since that day. I have become an entirely different person, but it wasn’t easy for me. I recognized that I had a choice to become whoever I wanted. I didn’t have to become the person I was reared up to be. I read numerous books on positive thinking; I liberated myself from the self defeating behaviors and condemning words. I learned how to deeply love myself. I have befriended supportive, remarkable people. And I chose to truly forgive my parents for all they have done to me. I had a choice that day to either stay the same or to unlearn the destructive behaviors. I chose to unlearn the behaviors because, ultimately, I believe that you are defined by the choices you make.