I believe that the makeup of a person is rooted in his or her early life experiences, both positive and negative. I had two strikes against me. I was put up for adoption, and I was sexually abused until I was 15 by my adoptive father. If anyone had a reason to be angry with the world, it was me.
And angry I was. From my teenage years onward, the world seemed to exist to make my life miserable. I dealt with an extremely dysfunctional family. I was the conciliator, the one who tried to make everyone else happy. As I grew older, I took on the role of the victim that needed pity. As a college student, I played victim to win girlfriends, who I felt would sympathize with my plight and provide me with unconditional love I craved. Most of the time, it didn’t work. Girls certainly sympathized, but my desperation for something more was unsettling to them and usually nothing worked out. I carried this attitude around with me throughout my twenties, which almost feels to me like a lost decade. I had a horrible opinion of myself. I took every setback in life, romantic and non-romantic, to heart. I fell into compulsive habits such as pornography.
What I hid, what I didn’t want to admit, was a notion that felt so monstrous that I could not entertain such a thing. Yet, it lurked beneath the surface, and I had to reconcile with it. Despite my own self-loathing, I was not a bad person. I had friends who I cared about and helped whenever I could, and they cared about me. I had a good sense of justice and injustice, and I found myself doing community service positions, both volunteer and lowly paid, at an age where others start more lucrative careers. I was gentle and understanding with people who had also faced difficulties in life. And people constantly affirmed me. To them, I was not the monster I thought I was.
I eventually had to face myself. The early trauma I suffered is a part of me and helped make me who I am. I had focused on all the negatives, but there are plenty of positives that others see and want to nurture. I still struggle. Today, I tend to minimize myself even as I help to empower others. Nobody should have to endure trauma like sexual abuse to eventually find him or herself. Yet, I believe that my road to healing lies in admitting that everything good about me, the qualities that my wife and friends love, is partly a result of what happened to me a long time ago. It would be wrong to thank my father, who is now deceased, but his early hurtful acts have led me to conclude that care and love of self is the most important gift we can give ourselves, and it can be good to be a product of our experiences.
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