There’s this thing I’ve never talked about before. I’ve kept it buried deep inside, locked in a tiny box inside a bigger box thrown into the well of my mind.
Deep dark secret stuff.
When I was 12, my parents got divorced.
I was Daddy’s Little Girl. Golden star child, love of his life, sparkle in his eye, spring in his step… and suddenly, he was gone. My mom was cast as the villain by him and, therefore, by me.
I needed to love her, but I hated her.
I knew I was everything she didn’t want in a daughter. I was fat, obnoxious, loud, dark-haired. I was just like my father.
And she left my dad. She stopped loving him. So how could she possibly love me?
But, as much as I hated her, I needed her to love me. I needed to know she loved me. I needed to feel it, to see it, to hear it, all the time. I was super needy and clingy and terrified and lonely, but she needed to get out and away. She’d spent a long time in a marriage she didn’t want to be in, and when she finally got free, she went a little crazy. She started going out a lot, leaving me home to care for my little brother (whom I also hated for various reasons).
A few months later, I fell and broke my wrist. It was a hairline fracture, and took weeks to be discovered by the doctors. During the entire process, my mom was tender and attentive and gentle and loving – she suddenly transformed into exactly what I needed her to be.
But when my wrist healed, she went back to the way she’d been before.
And I learned a dreadful lesson.
One night, after she and my brother were in bed, I crept out into the garage and got the hammer.
I went back into my room and hid under my desk.
I quietly laid my chair on its side.
And I thought about my plan.
I planned to smash my ankle with the hammer, then hide it in my desk. Then I would tell my mom that I’d fallen off the chair when I’d tried to reach something high on the shelves.
So, there I am: a terrified kid, smooshed under my desk, chair on its side in front of me, wishing I’d get caught with no real hope of it happening. Appropriately, a storm rolled in and thunder started booming. I gripped the hammer tightly in my hand and started crying, silent tears rolling down my cheeks. I raised the hammer, took a deep breath, and pelted my ankle with it.
It didn’t break my ankle. Barely bruised me, in fact. My arm refused to use enough strength to do more than that.
And I know, because I tried. Over and over again, that night, hidden under my desk.
I learned another lesson.
I gave up, eventually, and crawled out from under my desk. Set my chair upright, snuck out and replaced the hammer. Went to bed and sobbed myself to sleep.
And became the klutziest kid I’ve ever known.
Since that night, I’ve broken both wrists, torn all the ligaments and tendons in my left knee, dislocated both shoulders, sprained and strained and damaged most of my joints, broken fingers and toes and other small bones. My brain/body/heart learned that, while I couldn’t overtly intentionally cause damage to myself, damage got me the attention I so desperately needed from the one person I needed it from the most – and so began to subconsciously generate accidents.
When I moved out of my mother’s house, I moved into my partner’s. She had a similar attitude towards injuries, so the pattern didn’t die off.
There have even been times when I’ve eyed a hammer or a convenient ladder or other terrifying tools, times when I’ve been especially lonely or desperate for attention, when my soul has been weeping and knotted up and lost.
But then things changed.
Eventually, I met myself. I started paying attention to myself. I started listening to those urges, honoring those impulses by acknowledging them without carrying them through instead of burying them and pretending they didn’t exist – or worse, hating myself for having them.
And, slowly, the injuries stopped.
But then, things stayed the same.
Then there was the car accident.
Two years ago, I was going to a Starbucks when a car ran through a yellow arrow, making a left-hand turn into me.
My wrist and shoulder were seriously damaged. And I was plunged into a world of injury, pain, fear, and triggers.
My recovery was slow. Some of the damage done to my arm was permanent.
My emotional recovery was even slower. It was eight months before I could drive again, over a year before I went to that Starbucks again, and I still flinch every time I go through that intersection in the same direction.
I did recover, mostly. But the injuries returned. Not long after my wrist surgery, I fucked up my ankle. I still don’t know what was wrong with it, but it was so intensely painful I couldn’t sleep. I wound up in a wheelchair for a month because my wrist wasn’t recovered enough to support me on crutches.
Slowly, my ankle recovered. My wrist got stronger. My shoulder got stronger. I stopped wishing I could just take my heavy narcotic painkillers and sleep all the time, and started looking forward to my life again.
My heart started recovering.
My spirit started recovering.
Some lessons are hard-learned.
And then, last week, I turned my foot upside down when I slid on some water on the kitchen floor. There’s some pretty bad damage there; it’s swollen and sore and can’t support my weight for too long. It’s all still so swollen, well up into my ankle, that it’s hard to say what exactly is injured, but I suspect a fracture.
And all these issues flooded back.
Yesterday morning, I was exercising in spite of the pain in my foot. I promised myself I would exercise every day in July, and I refuse to break that promise.
About 20 minutes in, I broke down. I started weeping, sobbing. I stopped exercising and sat on the pedals of my elliptical and wept for a good ten minutes, then drug myself out to the porch swing and sobbed for another twenty.
I kept thinking about that little girl, hiding under her desk, so desperate for attention that she was trying to smash her own ankle with a hammer.
I looked at my ankles, now all grown up.
I’ve spent my life trying to please everyone around me.
I’ve tried to be the perfect wife, the perfect mom, the perfect daughter.
I’ve tried to be the best, most loyal friend, even when the friendships were toxic for me.
I’ve smooshed myself into boxes – under desks – of all sorts for people of all sorts.
And I’ve waited for someone to love me.
Waited for someone to see me, to know me, to really get me. Waited for someone to pay attention to me in the way I really need attention paid.
A couple of days ago, I wrote myself love notes and taped them up all over the house. They range from “Good morning, beautiful!” to “I love you just as you are, right now in this moment, every moment.”
This morning, I looked at my ankles.
I remembered being so small, so scared, and so alone. Hiding under my desk, so desperate to be found.
Kyeli, I’m here.
I’m the one who loves you.
I’m the one who sees you.
I’m the one who will save you.
I’m the one who will find you when you’re lost.
I’m the one you’ve been waiting for.
Sweet little Kyeli, you’re not alone. You don’t have to hide under the desk anymore, because I’m right here. And it’s okay to get hurt. Injuries happen. It doesn’t mean you’re sick or stupid or even careless. And I will love you when you’re hurt, and I will love you when you’re healthy. I will love you when you’re fat, and I will love you when you’re not.
I see myself in all my parts, and I know myself in all my parts, and I love myself in all my parts. All my broken, healing, terrified, happy, singing, warbling, screaming parts.
Forever and ever.
or, I guess, the beginning.