How I Ruined My Life

“You have ruined your life”.

I have been hearing that sentence since I was a teenager. I heard it first from my mother. She was not the only one. I heard it from coaches, teachers, preachers, doctors and other relatives. I grew up in a very small town full of people from the south who seemed to all go to the Baptist church I grew up in. I first ruined my life when I lost my virginity before marriage. I not only lost my virginity but I was sexual with more than one guy, and even a couple of girls. It was pretty apparent to all those who said I had ruined my life that I had certainly ruined it now. Then I got pregnant at 17 and got married. I had made my bed and now I had to lay in in is what I was told several years later when I tried to ask for help because I realized I had made a huge mistake. I struggled for years. I had a second child and struggled as a parent who had ADD, depression and severe anxiety. I also had a love addiction. I believe that was the root of much of my troubles as a young woman. I was addicted to the high of being someone special to a man. I was addicted to those early days of wanting to only be with that person and I sought it out as often as possible because it never lasted. I hurt people and people hurt me. When someone left me I thought it was the end of the world. I self medicated with food, drugs and alcohol when I was alone. Every mistake I made filled my mind with “You have ruined your life”. But you know what? I got back up. I never gave up. I reinvented myself over and over. At the age of 49 I graduated from college. I have a job that I never thought I would have. I have won awards for my work with students. I produce an art show for survivors of violence. If that is a ruined life then that is what it took for me to burn up completely and rise again over and over. Do I still struggle? yes, one year ago a relationship that seemed to be the most intense I ever experienced ended after 2 years. I was devastated but this time I made the choice to not jump into a new one. I stayed alone. It was one of the saddest and loneliest times of my life but that time in darkness, in that cocoon I created in those dark winter months I began to see the patterns of my life. I began to see that I was always looking for someone else to love me so that I would have worth. I did not see my own worth because I thought I had already ruined my life and I was not worth real love. I let myself feel the pain and go through the withdrawal of being alone. I had never experienced that for long. At times I thought I was not going to make it. I thought about suicide. People told me to just get over it. I isolated because I thought my healing was taking way too long. But I know now that I was healing from every single relationship I had not healed from in the past because I never gave myself time. I was healing from my high school love that I broke into a million pieces when I left him over and over. I was healing from the young man I thought loved me who beat me senseless and molested my child. I was healing from the man I loved who left me for a younger woman. I was healing from the marriage I walked out of because I stopped feeling loved. I was healing from the love that I thought was my soul mate and could not live without. I was also healing from the loss of my father who died of lung cancer at the age of 64. It was many things at once not just the break up of my most recent relationship. I am still working on this existence called life. I am still learning to love myself. I know this much. I love my life and it is not ruined, it is what it is and it’s mine. Those who told me my life was ruined had no idea what a strong woman I would become. Those experiences only strengthened me. If anyone ever tells me again that I have ruined my life I will look them in the eye, smile and rise like the flaming phoenix I have become.