I came across this letter I wrote to myself while in DBT counseling for Borderline Personality Disorder several years ago. I hope it might help someone who is struggling today.
By the time you were in high school you began to experience age-appropriate stuff, but through your parents’ eyes: friends betrayed you, boys used you, guilt was an effective form of manipulation, and you believed you were not worth protecting.
It was not normal for the adults in your life to behave like they did, and the adult world you observed as a child was now becoming your reality. You were no longer a bystander, but a participant. You no longer assessed how it felt by witnessing your parents’ chaos; you were now experiencing it first hand. You believed this was the world’s reality and thus, never entertained the idea that it would ever be any different for you. And your 40-something year old parents were way worse off than you.
The horror of each present moment and the shock of truly believing that life would only get more confusing, dangerous, and insane was so overwhelming and terrifying that you could hardly bear to open your eyes. So, you drank – a lot – which, of course, put you with unhealthy people in unhealthy places that merely reinforced your view of life.
You were not protected. You were raised in an unsafe and scary home, family, and community. Not one adult sheltered you. Not one aunt, grandma, cousin, family friend, teacher, or mentor. Not one. And I am so very sorry that you had to go through that. It wasn’t your fault. You deserved a safe, supportive childhood. You were worth it. You didn’t have to earn it or even ask for it. However, it wasn’t your choice to give. It was your parents’ choice, and like you in high school, they never even entertained the idea of doing things differently.
And the rest of what I just wrote can be written exactly again for them, starting with “the horror of each present moment…they could hardly bear to open their eyes. So, they drank – A LOT – which put them with unhealthy people in unhealthy places,” thereby exposing their children to a terrifying side of life, not thinking to show them the other side of life – the safe, supportive, sane, unconditional loving side. They didn’t think to tell me about it because they didn’t know about it; their parents didn’t tell them about it either. As much as it sucked for me, it did for them, too. Maybe even more.
Now, I believe that I am absolutely worthy of being loved and protected because God has proven this to me by leading me to a stable, safe, and supportive life, where the world need not be terrifying; where I can trust other women to not betray me. To make mistakes? Of course, but not to abandon me. And I can trust men to not use me (my husband proved that to me a long time ago.) I also know now that guilt is not a healthy tool to use on people and it is especially unnecessary around mature adults.
Finally, I am worthy of protection, and I will honor this worth and protect myself by: limiting my contact with unhealthy people; seeking out healthier friendships; focusing on positive self-talk rather than tearing myself down; sharing more openly and lovingly with those whom I trust; and avoiding conflicts unless it is necessary to protect myself or my children. From now on, it is not my job or my business to protect any other able individual, institution, group, organization, idea or belief or to convince anyone of anything if the price is my peace of mind.