As a child, I lived in my head a lot. My parents divorced when I was 4 years old and my sister was 2. When my father married my stepmother, she came along with a son from a previous marriage.
At first, my sister and I only visited once per month on the weekends. Later we moved in full time and I went from being the oldest to the middle child.
My younger sister was a tomboy, so she and my step brother rode motorcycles and climbed trees together, but I was too scared. My sister excelled at gymnastics and soccer while I was more into reading books and playing the piano. This is when my feeling left out and disconnected began.
I Was Disconnected
Two family members (not my dad) sexually abused me, and I developed eating disorders, which I now know is very common. So I disconnected more and more from my body. It felt like I was living inside my head, and my body seemed to belong to someone else. Since then I’ve learned that many sexual abuse survivors disconnect and leave their bodies as a way to protect themselves and survive.
Fast forward through many years of drug abuse, drinking and unhealthy relationships (all driven by shame), I eventually did some healing work that led me to sobriety and onto the path of recovery. Thank you, Landmark Education and AA.
Sometime during my 20s I’d learned to work out at the gym and the gift of being physical. I’d figured out that I needed 2 bras when I jogged. Jogging bras have come a long way, thank God! In musical theatre school, I’d taken modern, tap, jazz, and ballet. I’d always wanted to try ballroom dancing, but had just never been with any kind of man who would be open to that. Through these experiences, I made some peace with my body and food.
My Prince Had Come…
I met and fell in love with a guy, who was the healthiest man I’d ever been with. Unfortunately, the bar was set pretty low, but I didn’t know that at the time. What started out as a loving relationship, slowly deteriorated due to my active alcoholism, then early sobriety, and both of our co-dependencies.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but one of the many ways this man attempted to keep me small and dependent on him was by making fun of me, very often. It would start out as playful, but then subtly evolve into a meanness and smallness. This was like emotional erosion or “gas-lighting” for my soul. Since I never saw a healthy relationship growing up, I didn’t know that I didn’t know.
Emotional abuse is much trickier than physical. It’s so much easier if they just hit you.
He would tell me that I couldn’t dance - that I was a horrible dance partner, too white, too straight, and that I had no rhythm. And I believed him. He knew me better than anyone. After all, he must be right because he still loved me. So I was lucky, right?
Luckily, some girlfriends came to town to visit. We had a “Come to Jesus” talk, and I realized that I did not want to be engaged to this man. I woke up out of my trance, and after staying up the whole night journaling I realized that this man was always angry no matter what I did or didn’t do. Although I’d taken responsibility for his anger for a long, long time, it actually had very little to do with me.
A few days later, I got more clarity and I realized that I had to get away from this man because we were finally done. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. We’d been through so much together.
Why Am I Telling You This?
My point in telling you all of this, dear reader, is that I’d bought into his story that he’d made up about me. I truly believed that I was a bad dancer and a horrible partner. You know that whatever we look for in the world, we can find the evidence of it being true.
I hoped that someday I could meet a man who would want to ballroom dance and maybe we could take lessons…someday, my prince would come…
It turns out, I am my own prince.
Stay tuned for the continuation of this story next week…