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Diary of a Doormat

A Lifetime of Trying and Failing to Stand up for Myself

Photo by Timothy Dykes 

I feel like I have been talked out of my feelings my entire life. 

When I'm angry, I never know how to express it without saying the wrong thing, or bringing in things that aren't even relevant to the conversation. I have absolutely no road-map to go on, but worst of all, I have no ground to stand on. I never feel like I am worth standing up for.

When I have been wronged, and I know that I should stand up for myself, I feel this groundless feeling take me over.  I feel like I am full of cobwebs that twist and wind inside of my chest. I can hear a voice inside my head screaming at me 'STOP making this such a big deal,' 'you are making ALL of this up,' you are just MAKING ALL OF THIS UP.' I don't feel propelled to go and stand up for myself, and I have never known the feeling of vindication. So instead... I have accepted that I am 'a victim.'

My whole life, rather than stand up for myself, I have curled into the tiniest cocoon of hatred and spitting words. I've locked my anger up in my room, just like I did when I was a kid at home with my parents. I wanted to scream at them constantly, desperately needing advice and someone to stand up for me. I would sit quietly at the dinner table, while in my head I was raging thoughts like: "Mom, they are making fun of me at school!" "I'm failing math!" "Dad, they were all talking on the bus about the 'big party' this weekend, just so I knew I wasn't invited!"

My entire youth was spent covered in stress hives and eczema, and my parent's having no idea where it was coming from.  I was imploding. I was burning up from the inside. 

I never have felt that I am worth standing up for.

Not when I was in the third grade, I was touched by a teacher in school, in an inappropriate place, and I told another teacher. I was told to go to the principal's office, where a 40-year-old man screamed at me, in front of the principal to "TELL THEM THE TRUTH!" I was terrified. I imploded. I shut down.

Not when I was sexually assaulted in my second year of university. I told my friends, and they reacted one of two ways. The either told me 'well, I don't know who to believe, because he says he had a 'great' night with you,' or that sat in total silence. "But if you tell the police, what is your career?" was another one. Right. I imploded. I shut down. 

I have had a family member, who has taken pleasure by throwing me under the bus over the years seemingly to make himself feel better about his place in the family. I had enough of it and finally stood up to him for the first time (by email... I know. The easy way of doing it). I was kind, but firm and said his actions were not ok, and that he was not allowed to speak to me in that way.  He called right away, shocked and offended but somewhat apologized. Skip ahead to six months after the fact, when I received a call from this family member, telling that he felt bad that I was offended by what he said, BUT that I was the one in the wrong. He explained eloquently how he did not believe that he was a bully and that he hoped "we could avoid this ever happening again."  I ended up consoling and comforting him over the phone line, and got off the call with a burning lump of coal in my stomach. I knew the feeling well. The same one I've had over and over again since childhood. Implosion.

I just don't know what to do. 

I feel like this is a battle that I have always been unprepared for fighting. With everyone else fully armed, and I step into the ring with a helmet made of tissue paper and pipe cleaners. When I draw my sword, it's a squeaky toy.  I don't enjoy a fight, but I am so tired of feeling like I lose in all of these situations. I don't feel strong. 

I think I have conditioned myself to think that if I were to really stand up for myself, my world would fall apart. You might have to go to court, tell your parents, have a big fight, lose friends, etc.  So it's better to just go to that line, quietly speak your piece and hope the other person might sympathize with you. But they rarely do, and so you turn around and walk home in shame. I think that is where 'stronger' people really thrive. They know that line well, and they know that if this softer person crosses it, that they will lose power and that their identity will be challenged. So they stand their ground. It's not a hard battle to win. They pretty much just have to show up.