I am a woman. I am not a girl, but a fully grown, mature, responsible, adult woman. It is a concept which I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around. Every once in awhile, I am reminded that I am a woman, like when I went out with another female friend tonight, and we had nice, adult conversation. It was give-and-take. We respected each other.
Going back to how my life used to be I can honestly say that I did not feel like a woman. I was anything but. I was the “toy” wife, the “play thing”, an object to use for garnering attention and sexual gratification. I had met my abuser when I was a teenager, and in many ways my young adult years of growth were stunted. I was treated like a child, someone younger, someone inferior, someone incapable (and not allowed) of making her own decisions. I wasn’t allowed to talk because he had to be the center of attention. I didn’t get to tell my own stories. A part of me lay dormant. That woman part of me that was waiting to blossom one day.
There have been many times in therapy where I have regressed to a younger state of self. I have this angry three-year-old inside of me who is angry because my dad died. I have an angry eight-year-old wanting to defy authority. I have a risk-taking 16-year-old and a mature 19-year-old. But somehow once I hit 20, that growth stopped. It was when I decided to move in with him. It was pretty much all downhill from there. Don’t get me wrong, I had my fun in life. There were things about my life which I enjoyed. But I wasn’t allowed to handle the finances or make any of the big decisions, like where we were going to live. I was actually dependent on him, and he cultivated that dependency to his own benefit.
So when I say that I am a woman, it means a lot to me. I am still trying to figure out my place in my world, where I belong, what my purpose in life is. I am learning to be okay with my body and the way that I look. I get to choose how long to grow my hair, and what colour it’s going to be (natural). I don’t have to wear makeup. I get to choose my own clothes. And even in choosing my own clothes, I feel like an adult. Because I actually get to cover myself up! Some might think that being a curvy woman, one would want to show off those curves! No! Not me. Now that I get a say in what I wear, I wear things that hide my curves. I don’t want anyone looking at my body and objectifying me. I want them to see me for me.
It was so validating, being out with another woman friend tonight. We both got to be just ourselves. We talked about fun things like the idea of “speed dating”. It sounds interesting because I’ve never done it before. We talked about our accomplishments at work, our future plans, the possibility of going on a road trip together. I didn’t have to worry that I would say the “wrong” thing and she already knows all about my mental illness, my depression. That’s how we met two years ago, at a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy meeting. She falls into the category of “friends and family” not someone personally afflicted with a mental illness. She has done her utmost to understand it on someone else’s behalf. I admire that.
I want to be able to be silly. To have the freedom to joke around, or to act younger than I am given the right moment (and not remain that way for an extended period of time as I used to have to in order to protect myself emotionally). I just want to be me. That’s what it boils down to. And part of being me is being a woman, and discovering what that means to me. In relating to other women, I begin to garner a sense of who I am in relation to them. I have achieved things in my life. I am financially independent. It’s so amazing! I wasn’t this person I have become many years ago. I continue to grow and to change. I want to have a future. I want it to be a better future than what my past has been. I can see it happening, slowly, day by day, step by step. And as my friend who text messages me for support and runs an anti-suicide website says, “just take a deep breath. Breathe.”