The Line Between Love and Hate: Lost on the Road to Love

Artist Brandon Smith

Life isn’t a straight path. If it was, we’d all live in a fucking fairytale.

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For as long as I can remember I have felt like I was not good enough.  I don’t recall a single instance when I have faced a mirror without feeling lost. This story is not about finding the love of a man. It’s about finding the courage and ability to love myself.

The true journey began in early 2014. After feeling “down in the dumps” for several weeks, I decided to find the root cause of my sadness. I knew it wasn’t about the guy I was seeing at the time; it was things from my past I put on the back burner. It was finally time I faced my past and fix it so I could move forward in my life.  I wanted to take the next step in my career. Deep down, I know I am good at what I do. However, I do not display that self-confidence. I have a low self-esteem. 
 
The first step I took: Utilize my insurance benefits and find a counselor.  The behavioral health nurse asked a ton of questions including how long I’ve been feeling sad to did I have any suicidal thoughts to have I had any life changing events, etc. etc. I told her I did not have any suicidal thoughts. Trying unsuccessfully to hold back the tears, I provided the nurse with a little detail regarding the several life-changing events I endured within the past 24 months.  I also confirmed my main reason for calling was to find a way to increase my self-esteem and self-confidence.
 
There is a lot of taboo around seeing a counselor. If you divulge this information, people automatically think you’re suicidal and crazy. Not so. The nurse was very reassuring and said it takes a lot of courage to ask for help.
 
We picked a counselor and the nurse set up an appointment in a few weeks.
 
My First Appointment
In the midst of a snowstorm, I walked to my first counselor’s appointment. (The counselor’s office was within walking distance of work.) Bundled up and face down, I listened to music to calm my nerves and preparedmyself to answer any questions with limited crying. Telling myself “you’ve got this. It will be okay. And, it’s okay to cry.
 
My counselor texted she was running late and the building was closed. So, she suggested we meet at the local coffee shop a few blocks from the office. I agreed and trudged on in the cold. 
 
warmed up as I waited 10 minutes for my counselor. Several questions raced through my mind: What am I getting myself into? Am I doing the right thing? How long will it take to fix myself? Will people know and what will they think?
 
My counselor arrived. She was pleasant and apologized for the meeting place. She asked if I wanted anything to drink. I replied nervously “No, thank you.” I think she could tell I was a bit nervous. We exchanged the normal information…then, the questions began.
 
Why did you decide to see a counselor? I’ve been sad for the past few weeks and I’m tired of it. There are things from my past that are weighing me down because I truly have not dealt with themI want to move to the next level in my career. I feel dealing with my past, increasing my self-confidence and self-esteem will help me. 
 
What do you need to deal with from your past? Well…there are a few things. First, there are four so-called “exes” I never dealt with. One of them emotionally abused me in my late teens. The other three used me. I only mention them because I felt strongly for them. I buried my feelings deep and focused on school and/or work. It was how I was raised. My family didn’t discuss “emotional” stuff (and abuse was taboo). 
 
Second, the pressures of a new job and moving to a new city proved to be stressful.  My job required 75% travel; I felt like I was constantly on the go. When things finally calmed down and I felt somewhat settled….(I looked around the coffee shop and whispered) “I was diagnosed with Herpes.” This was heartbreaking to me because the only person I had been with in the past few months claimed to be “a good friend.” Yeah, right.  I felt dirty and ashamed. Broken, really. I retreated into my own little world for a few months. I wouldn’t go out and I spoke only to my good friends via text. When I expressed my thoughts on not being able to date again, my friends provided words of encouragement. They said “Herpes does not define you. You are an amazing, strong, smart and funny woman. Any man who cannot see past that is a total douche bag and not worth your time.” Comforting to hear, but difficult to believe. 

 

Finally, my low self-esteem limits my self-confidence. When I was growing up, the other kids would call me fat and ugly. After a while, I started to believe it. I still believe it. When I look at myself naked in the mirror, I focus on the fat or parts that aren’t model thin (which is all of it). I cannot remember if there ever was a time I thought of myself as cute, pretty, or sexy.

As the first session concluded, we agreed upon a time to meet in two weeks. As she hugged me goodbye, I felt a little relieved to tell someone about everything I kept bottled up for over 20 years.

bundled up, placed my earbuds in my ears, and began my journey on the road to love. 

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The author wished to remain anonymous. It’s clear that she has an aptitude for writing . This story is unfolding in real time. As this story develops I hope the author is feeling free and understood. I also hope she will continue to share the journey with us here …On the verge…

–Shareen Mansfield 


“She Wolf” 

Image provided by Brandon Smith