I've worked with and lived around a lot of really broken people. Myself included. But one of the oddest, most awkward questions I get and still do is How did you turn out so normal?
No, really. I'm not joking. I get that question all the time---in "real" life and in emails and comments on this blog. In fact, I'm writing this blog post because I just got another email from an anonymous, curious follower of this silly little blog asking me, You've had basically a whole lot of fucked-up people around you and somehow still came out normal. How?
Dear reader, you bother me. (I'm laughing) For obvious reasons. The high schooler in me wants to say, "hey! what's normal anyway?!" but I do understand the question. Despite what we all like to say, there is a margin of normal that keeps us healthy and connected to other people. And, if we choose or are made to step out of those norms a little bit, we're ok. If we choose or are made to step out of those norms in an extreme way, we feel extremely isolated, depressed, disconnected, misunderstood, and disliked. This is what ultimately leads us to self-harm. Because self-harm is not based on a desire to self-harm. It's based on needs that are not being met and so we attempt to feel connected---to ourselves, to others, to The Great Big Something. Funny how that desire is so primal and so healthy but gets so skewed by our pain.
I wish I had the supermagical answer, but I don't.
The only thing I can say is my typical story-within-a-story:
I had terrible boundaries growing up but there was a crack in all the drama and trauma and displacement and it let the light in. It was also the crack in The Story I was being told---the lies, the myths-made-realities. Inside that crack I peered and pulled and could see very little, but if I focused my eyes hard enough I could see there was a whole world out there. And I was just inside this teenytiny one that had been made for me. And I believed in it. So I hid that little part of me that believed in me but strangely, constantly looked at my hands as a child all the way into my late teens finding myself saying, I want so much more than this. Eventually, we're all handed a chisel. We can cut out a life for ourselves or we can cut into ourselves. I took it to that crack. I scraped and scratched and stabbed and gouged, realizing it was inside a boulder. A big rock was slamming me up against a wall and there I was, crouched around it, holding on for dear life. So what do you do? You carve a life out of that rock. You make windows you can see out of and doors you can walk out of. Then one day, you'll look back at that big boulder and there you are, bruised and beaten but whole-- and you finally see that it was never going to move for you. Never. Do you understand? The boulder is never going to move.
So that's all I have to offer you for advice. When your boulder slams you up against the wall (and come hell or high water, one eventually will) you find the crack. It's there, keep looking.
Then carve the life out of it that you know is on the other side. That tiny chisel is bigger than the boulder.