Love Conquers All – the power of love . . . and its limitations

I grew up in a very loveless home. The closest thing to love were probably the moments when my stepfather was comfortably drunk and watching football, being at peace with the rest of the world, as long as my mother went in and out of the room to provide a ready supply of beer and food. During those moments she was the most important person to him and no crap came my way. Sometimes, in a rare moment of generosity, I would be given a handful of potato chips. I used to love football. With some luck it meant calm and peace while it lasted.

Most other things that could be considered ‘love’ were one big tangle of sexual abuse. Hugs and cuddles were never just hugs and cuddles. That I was not used to real love and understood positive attention and affection to be mere precursors to sex probably made it quite obvious to people in the helping profession that I was pretty much in need of love.

Maybe I should mention that to most people I seem to look physically attractive. I’m short and light and have long blonde hair. I look younger than I am. I seem to look a lot more innocent than I am, too. 

I was aware that many people I met along my way – social workers, nurses, therapists, you name them – took to me. For reasons of pity, charity, so I could be their success story, or just because they were idealistic . . . I don’t know which. For some reason I attracted their attention, even when I tried to be invisible. I can’t count how often someone thought that what I needed was love and kindness, someone to take an interest, good experiences . . . and I’d be better.

I suppose it’s a lovely thought. Love conquers all, and all that. But I never bought it. Love is just a word. If someone was kind to me, I absorbed all of the good stuff that I could take, I liked the person and even thought they were the one who would save me, that they were finally the one good person, but as screwed up as I was I had unrealistic expectations. That someone good couldn’t possibly disappoint me. So when it happened, I turned on them. I am capable of very awful behavior, and they were sure to get the worst of it. And I turned on me as well, for being such a horrible person.

But often before they disappointed me, I disappointed them. They invested feelings in me – some even said so, that what I really needed was some love – and were bitterly disappointed when I did not react as they expected. When I lied to them. Didn’t open up. Didn’t get better. Stole from them. Or others. Or that when they were so generous to invite me to their house I ended up having sex with their husband.

So they gave up. Declared me beyond repair and a despicable creature. Even by crazy people standards. Abandonment. Once again. Like I knew was going to happen. Fuck love. If love did shit, I would have gotten better. I hate love. Nothing but lies and deception and people feeling you owe them.

Then I met the people who are now my family. Went to live with them, because heck, what did I have to lose? Government run group homes sucked. So once again someone wanted to love me. Great. I knew how this was going to end. Knew it by heart. But hell, I’m a sucker for attention and they gave me plenty. Against better knowledge I also don’t tire of being tricked into feeling like THIS person will be the one good person, the one who will fix it. So I got a set of new therapists and family people.

And the mom there loved me. Said so, too. In English: everything was set up for failure!

Except that it worked out. The mom there was kind and affectionate, patient and gentle. But she was also not easy to manipulate. She would not melt with pity at some tear-jerking story I dished up. She was firm and consistent. She could be fun and good times, but no-nonsense, too. Yet never threatening. Or, well, very threatening, because I found love threatening and relationships threatening and everything threatening, but she managed to see that I was scared and found ways to bring the fear down to levels I could tolerate. She never allowed for situations to end before I felt safe, for the time being. More than once that meant staying up all night.

She has become my mom. She loves me. And it makes all the difference. Sometimes she, too, says “love conquers all”. Then I laugh, because that’s what all those people before her thought too, and I know how that turned out. But my mom is not delusional. She does not mean it in the way that love itself fixes stuff. It doesn’t. 

My mom has a metaphor that she uses when I laugh at her for saying love conquers all. She agrees that the way that won’t work is when people expect love itself and love alone to do the fixing. She says that’s like loving on broken china. You can love and love and love it all you want, it won’t magically become undamaged. BUT if you really love that piece of china, it will give you the strength and endurance to go looking for ways to fix it, even when it isn’t easy. The china will never be the same as before, because it will always have been fixed, but if you love it enough, you’ll do the very best you can to mend it the best possible way, even in the face of difficulty and setbacks and things taking a long time. Even when it doesn’t turn out perfect. Or not the way you originally wanted it to.

And even when I still laugh at her (come on, who’d spend ages trying to fix a piece of china? 😉 ) I think she might have a point. I think I finally got what love is. And I love my mom back. So, so much.

Love conquers all. Or well. Maybe not all. But a lot. If used properly.

(And now I’m done being philosophical. For at least a week. LOL. That took ages to write!)

Nightmares and BPD / PTSD – my experiences

I dread the night. I dread sleeping. I have nightmares. I used to have nightmares every single night. It may come as no surprise that I learned to get by on very little sleep. It may also come as no surprise that that was not exactly a contributor to my mental health. But at the time it felt like the better choice.

At the moment my nightmares are down to a couple of nights per week. That is still way more often than I care for, and I’m still uneasy about sleeping, but at least I get some good nights, too, now.

The nightmares are horrible. I dream I’m being chased and have nowhere to hide. Or that I’m locked in a room and someone’s coming for me and I’m unable to move. Or that my step-father comes after me with his shotgun. Sometimes I dream of rape and often my dreams involve blood. Blood that comes out under doors is a recurring theme, for whatever reason. But while those are bad, the worst ones are the dreams that start out good and I dream of my family (the one I have now), and then suddenly the dream turns terrible. They die. They turn evil. They are in the house, but the door is locked and I can’t get into the house anymore. We go to some unfamiliar place and I get lost and don’t find them again. I get taken away. Or the house becomes unfamiliar and mixes with the house I grew up in. Crap like that.

I usually wake up from those dreams either screaming or crying or just scared stiff and sweaty and shaking and with my heart beating like crazy. And I always, ALWAYS feel totally threatened by everything after waking up. By the darkness, by the silence, by whatever noise there might be, by being alone, by everything, by nighttime, by going back to sleep.

And I need my mom. Every single time. I feel guilty about waking her up and stealing her sleep and I hate myself for being such a baby, but when I wake up terrified, all I want is her. She isn’t mad at me about it and insists all kids keep their parents up at night, and that with their oldest daughter it was several years before she slept through the night, but I still feel awful about it. After all they were little at the time.

I’m also highly sensitive towards stuff that I find fear inducing. For example this pumpkin I carved today for the Halloween decoration on the front steps – I have a big mouth and like to act like nothing scares me, like I’m tough and the mistress of the creepy, so I carved a scary face. And I can look at it when it’s light outside, I can light it when I let the blinds down, knowing it’s light outside and I can just let the light back in, but despite my big mouth I don’t want to see it lit on our front step during the night. I also can’t watch movies with crime and blood and gore in them. Or movies where bad things happen to people. I absolutely hate the darkness and would never go outside by myself after dark, and even when I’m with someone I trust, I do so only reluctantly and if I have to. (One more reason why I hate winter so much – it’s dark way too much.) Another thing is that I can’t stand to hear the news, like on the radio, because I’m so afraid they will report something terrible, or because they do report awful stuff. There are a lot more things that frighten me, but I usually avoid all of it out of habit, so it’s hard to name them all.

When I got spooked by something during the day, it’s really likely I’m going to have nightmares during the night. I don’t know if that’s just because I expect it, or because the feeling from the day lingers around, but I hate it. Same when I talked about stuff from my childhood with my mom or during therapy in a way that was not emotionally disconnected. Then I’m afraid to even go to bed by myself. Which means I often try to stave going to bed off as long as I can and my mom will let me.

But even so, I’ve gotten better. I used to have no wake-sleep pattern at all, other than dozing for a while when I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, especially during the day. Or when I got too tired of being tired, I drank or took a large dose of some drug so I could sleep for a while without dreams. But by now I get several hours of sleep per night. I have regular bedtimes and have kind of learned to get tired at those times. Or to allow myself to get tired, probably. And while I’m still scared of having nightmares, I can tolerate the risk better now that I know I won’t be alone with them. Even so, they suck and I hate them. I wish they’d go away for good.

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