Thursday, 22 January 2009
LEARNING SELF RESPECT
It does feel somewhat strange to me to have been given all the lovely words that I have received because of my recent posts.
It might sound odd but this real liking of myself is only fairly recent to me.
It has been work in progress for years.
For many years it felt that I wasn't lovable, and that I didn't really have any proper friends. That doesn't mean I didn't have friends but they were people you got close to via work, so for a while were very important and then drifted away with a change of job.
I started to learn to like myself when I was 26 yrs old. Prior to that I didn't think very much of myself. Although I had the trappings of a successful life. I was an Orthopaedic Ward Sister. I had a flat, a sports car, I was going somewhere. But I also had terrible relationships that culminated in the one just before I was 26.
We had met when he came to work in the hospital dept I worked,although we didn't get together there. We did that when we were both up for an interview to go and do our psychiatric nurse training. He was married.... I didn't care.
He was a bastard.... I didn't care.
He behaved so badly to his wife, who was pregnant.... I didn't care.
I was drinking too much.... I didn't care.
He beat me up on more than one occasion.... I didn't care.
My sister and mates were really anxious for me.... I didn't care.
And on and on, I was addicted, infatuated, call it what you will, just as long as I got to see him, even if that was for only ten minutes a day.Even though I knew this was a really bad relationship
I completed my psychiatric training. And I booked myself on a week long drama therapy course. On this course was a particular man, he liked me and I did him. He treated me so differently to the way I'd been treated for the previous 18 months. I couldn't believe that a man could be that kind and caring. On the last night of the course we slept together. It was the door to my liberation.
The next day when we're talking over how the course has been I broke down, not wanting this magical time out to end and to back to my life in Leicester. I'd also got friendly with one of the women on the course, and she offered me a life line, and told me that I was going to stay with her in London for a couple of days. I informed my family of my disappearance and went.
To have been so nurtured by these two people was astonishing and it made me brave. So when I finally returned to my flat there were several messages as to my whereabouts from this bloke. I didn't answer them. Eventually he turned up on my doorstep, and taking a deep breath I told him it was over.
And taking an even bigger deep breathe I started the long journey to self respect. So that after a few months I met my future husband, and he was the very first man who came from the same background to me. All the other relationships I'd had and really been with men who weren't middle class, hadn't been privately educated, who hadn't known which knife and fork to use at a formal meal. Howard did.
And for the next 14 years when we were together I didn't doubt that part of myself. I still had the career, the now house and the sensible family car to fit my children in.
More importantly than that I started to make real friends, with two women I'm still proud that they are still my friends almost 25 years later.
When my marriage split up because he had found someone else, someone who understood him(what me cynical... nah, surely not!!!) I went straight back to my old way of behaving with the first man I went out with. My God was he an absolute bastard! My sons couldn't stand him, my sister and her family couldn't stand him. And for two months I let myself be treated really badly, because I didn't deserve anything better. Then my brain kicked in, thank goodness and I realised what I was doing to myself. That just because someone had a low enough opinion of me, my husband, didn't mean that I had to buy into it again, after all the work I'd done on myself, so fast exit for one horrible man.
This is not to say I was immediately transported to a place of decent relationships, I wasn't. The men were good enough, I just wasn't sorted out in myself, and used sex as a way to get validation. Which never works for women.
That part of my life didn't really start to change properly till I had breast cancer. There were suddenly so many other things that needed attending to, that relationships didn't get a look in for a while. But when I raised by head above the parapet again I knew that I would only have relationships in which men treated me equally. Again although I knew this on a thinking level I didn't know it on an emotional level. And it's taken me the last two years to work it out!!!
I know... I'm a slow learner!
But what I know now is that not only am I a good mum, sister,auntie, friend, worker, car driver, cook, care giver,whatever, but also I am someone who likes herself and is worthy of been given respect back by men if they want to be involved with me. What's interesting to me, is it it the last 16 years that I have really established my friendships with women. And even more astounding to me is I actually have friendships with a few men. Why this is astounding is, I never thought that I would feel comfortable with men in that way, as they were people to have sex with, or the partners of my friends. And know I can even go on holiday with one of them as just really good mates, just as I would my girlfriends.
So coming back to the beginning, there is still a small part of me that when given lovely comments feels fraudulent, as if you will see the unlovable me any minute. And I have to stop myself going there, because it's not true. It has only ever been me that didn't love me, and now I do.
So that when we look at people, we never think about how they got to be the way they are. We make judgement calls based on what we see right there and then. And I need at the moment as part of my journey to go and revisit these horrible places to help me understand how I got here today.... sitting at my computer with my early morning dog walking scruffs on, with my dog by my side, needing another cup of hot water!!
I would put photos up of some of my friends, but since some of them are known here I won't. But I would if I could, cause you are so important to me. The picture I have put up is one of my favourites, it is my friend in Devon and I sitting on the steps at Dartmouth Castle, awaiting the ferry with Lucy the dog to go and have crab sandwiches in the Cherub Pub in Dartmouth, which is always now part of the ritual of going to stay with her and her husband.