I’m going to start this by being incredibly blunt with you: No one is coming to save you. Your feelings of emptiness will be there until you can figure out how to feel full all by yourself. It isn’t an easy feat but it feels better than any comfort another person can offer you. 

If you were lucky enough to grow up with loving parents who were capable of taking care of themselves and you, you might not know what I’m talking about. This is a feeling that I think only folks who experienced trauma and abandonment in their formative years can understand. 

Your parents are supposed to be the ones who show up for you. Realistically, they are some of the only folks who will ever love you unconditionally, and even then, many of us still don’t really know what it feels like to experience that. My parents were never taught how to love properly and their toxic effect on me is a direct result. 

My parents divorced when I was two years old and my father, for the most part, raised my brother and me. He did the best he could with what limited emotional capacity he had, a symptom of his abusive childhood, I’m sure. My mother didn’t become a permanent figure in my life until I was a teenager and by that point, I had already learned how to parent myself. I had no interest in being someone’s “little girl” or being told what to do. It didn’t (and still doesn’t) really matter why she wasn’t there. A child’s brain will struggle to understand nuance especially when it comes to love. I am learning how to fully mourn the loss of my childhood, a step that is integral to my healing.

Neither of my parents had a handle on their own mental health, so how could have they have even begun to take care of mine? I was forced to grow up and take care not only of myself but also my parents. They didn’t know how to regulate their emotions and taught me to follow in their incredibly unhealthy footsteps. My recovery has been a significant amount of unlearning behaviours that my abusive parents normalized.

From age seventeen to twenty-seven, I was in long-term relationships. No down time, no time being single as an adult. When I went through my first bad break up – the first one that really gutted me – I didn’t know how to be alone. I couldn’t see value in life’s beautiful moments unless I was sharing them with someone. I’ve come to realize that I was bullshitting myself hard there. I didn’t want to “share my world” with someone. I wanted them to take me into theirs so I could distance myself as much as possible from mine. I couldn’t handle just sitting with my feelings. 

Self-love and compassion aren’t new concepts to me, but the idea that no one is coming to save me has given me a renewed sense of confidence, security and hope. I’ve tried to fill the emptiness I am often consumed by with cute musicians from the South, drugs, sleep, food, school and exercise. All of those things – a life worth living, meaning and purpose – are integral in the uphill battle that is being at peace with oneself. The final puzzle piece for me has been accepting that I am enough for me. I’ve spent nights alone in the hospital, and I’ve felt lonelier than I thought possible. I survived. I am better for it. 

Affection, romance, friendship and love are some of the most important things in life. For me to present my best self to my partners and friends I’ve had to learn to start from a place of giving, not needing. It is okay to need comfort and love but when I can give myself those things, the permanence of calmness seems more real. I finally feel like I’m going to be okay all by myself.