“It doesn’t matter,” was my mantra. I said it over and over and over and over and over again when I was a child, especially when I was laying in bed at night, trying to go to sleep. But I have repeated that little phrase a million, trillion, zillion times during my lifetime, over and over throughout the day, when hurtful things happened, when I’m going to sleep at night. And as I repeat it, I push down the pain. It has become an automatic response to disappointment, loss, hurtful situations, emptiness…you name it. If it’s bad and it’s happening to me, my instant mental response is, “It doesn’t matter.”
Using this phrase has helped me to numb out the pain. It worked as a child and it works to this day. Now, that is not especially a good thing, frankly. I push all the hurt down, mentally forcing it down my throat into my stomach. Then I put the lid on and walk away, leaving the pain behind. It was grueling when I was a kid. I had to push hard, persistently, forcefully, because it was pushing just as hard to come out. But these days, just saying those three powerful words pretty much does the job. Pain gone just like magic!
For some reason, I was thinking about this last night, maybe because my counselor keeps telling me that it DOES matter and that my coping mechanism is outdated and harmful at this point in my life. I have been trying to do better in the self-talk department…a monumental task. But it’s very tempting to whip out the old mantra. Or maybe I would be more accurate to say, it’s tempting to let the old mantra play, because now, it pretty much whips itself out without any need for me to activate it. But as I was thinking about this old friend, I was suddenly struck by the thought: what is “it?” The instant the question formed, the answer was there. And the realization of what “it” is sucked the air out of my lungs.
If I had completed the sentence, it would have gone something like this:
- It doesn’t matter that my parents don’t love me.
- It doesn’t matter that my parents neglect me.
- It doesn’t matter that they show me daily how unacceptable I am.
- It doesn’t matter that I’m worthless.
- It doesn’t matter that my parents are abusing me.
- It doesn’t matter that I’m so alone.
- It doesn’t matter that I’m empty.
- It doesn’t matter that I have nowhere to turn for help.
- It doesn’t matter that my parents don’t take care of me.
- It doesn’t matter that I’m a constant disappointment.
- It doesn’t matter that I hurt so badly, it’s ripping me apart.
- It doesn’t matter that my father ignores my cries and pleas and sexually abuses me, playing out his sexual fantasies with me, forcing me to do things I detest and despise and that rip out my soul.
- It doesn’t matter that my mother lets this go on right under her nose.
- It doesn’t matter that my grandparents won’t let me come to their house because I “stir things up” and make my grandfather go crazy.
- It doesn’t matter that my parents hit me.
- It doesn’t matter that I’m never good enough.
- It doesn’t matter that they’re so unpredictable, I never know what they’re going to do to me next. That I can’t depend on them.
- It doesn’t matter that they broke their promise to me.
- It doesn’t matter that no one sees me; that no one cares what is happening to me.
- It doesn’t matter that I’m living in a dark, painful, frightening nightmare.
- It doesn’t matter that I’m terrified.
- It doesn’t matter that I can’t escape.
- It doesn’t matter because it’s all my fault.
- My feelings don’t matter.
- My pain doesn’t matter
- My needs don’t matter.
- My wants don’t matter.
- My hopes and dreams don’t matter.
- I’m not a real person.
- I don’t matter.
The list goes on and on and on.
I have always wanted to matter, but I never really have. I have always hoped someone could love me, but no one ever has. Does it matter that I’ve never been loved, cherished, adored, nurtured, cared for? Does it matter that I’m broken. That my heart is so decimated, it has been ground into dust? That I’m a mess because of the damage and destruction? That the clean-up effort is horrid and crushing? Does it matter that the pain is unbearable, completely overwhelming and all consuming? That I’m so alone, it pierces my heart? That I’m terrified of life because I have never known safety or security?
Do any of these things matter? Do I…matter?
I honestly don’t know. And that hurts.