In my last post, “A View into Darkness,” I talked about my previous marriage and just the tip of the iceberg of the abuse I endured. At the end of that post, I kind of glossed over the ending. That has been bugging me, so I want to expand on it some today.
The ending was really a new beginning as I started to rebuild. once I left and cut myself off from the people who were abusing me, I had to learn two main things: how to “pull myself up by my bootstraps” and how to accept help from others.
Pulling up on My Own Bootstraps
“How does someone pull themselves up by their own bootstraps?” “What the hell are bootstraps?” Those are the first two thoughts that I imagine pop into most people’s heads. I know it did mine. It’s an idiom from by-gone days where I guess they had bootstraps to pull up on. It’s more about self-help than anything else.
Self-help, in my eyes, is nothing more than doing things that will improve your situation in life. And it’s only you who can do them.
For example, after I moved to my current location, I was really messed up mentally from the abuse and physically from the cancer I had just beaten. The latter one is the easier of the two to recover from, let me tell you. But getting my strength back from all of the chemo and radiation I had put into my body was no easy feat. I had to start out small, such as getting up and walking around the house. Even if I felt like an idiot doing it, or my mental state wasn’t up to it, I still did it – most of the time. After I was good with that, I started to hit the pavement on my dead-end street. I walked down to the dead end, then back to the house. I would do that when I could, weather permitting. I spent a few weeks of that, going down to the other end of the street and back, then even more weeks doing loops up and down.
It worked. I got stronger to where I didn’t need my cane any more or even a walking stick (though I still have it because, let’s face it, walking sticks are cool). No one else could get out there and walk up and down the street for me; I had to do it myself. I may have needed help to get out there and do it some days, but they couldn’t do it for me. That, to me, is self-help.
For the mental stuff, I’m not even sure what I did; it’s kind of a blur for me. I remember talking to myself quite a bit, working out what was abuse, what was my depression, and what was actually me. I had to come up with my own closure for that section of my life, having dealt with a divorce, cancer, and starting anew. But again, someone else can’t come into my head and rewire my brain to fix everything. It took months and years, and the healing is still an ongoing process.
Learning to Accept Help from Others
Oh boy, this was a hard lesson to learn. And I still haven’t learned it fully (just ask Illiana about that). Before I got back together with Illiana two years ago, I was actually thinking about getting into another intimate relationship. I had come to a point where, in my head, I had done all I could to fix my mental issues that I could on my own. I knew that there would be landmines, bad habits, and probably loads of other things I had no idea of laying out there. I needed someone to help me with it. And all of those things, you really can’t talk to your parents or a therapist to find them. You really just need to get in there and find them.
I learned this lesson with my physical issues pretty early on in my cancer treatment. Through various things, I got to the point where my legs atrophied. My muscles were so weak that I couldn’t move around at all. I needed help to even get out of bed. I had to rely on others, and I hated it. I wanted to do these things on my own, but there was no way I could. So it got drilled into my head pretty quick that I needed to ask for help. I went to a rehabilitation center where I learned how to get up, stand, and walk all over again. That was something I couldn’t do on my own. I needed professional and even mechanical help with all of that.
“You Know You Are Pulling Sideways Not Up”
Believe it or not, both of these things can work together. I do need help noticing when there is a problem. This is one of the many reasons why I love the fact that Illiana walked back into my life. For one, I didn’t have to explain everything I had gone through to someone new. She already knew about 90% of it, and since she knows all of this, she can tell me when I am having issues about something I think is a normal thing for people to do. Because all of my abuse was mental/emotional, it’s all in my head. As I said before, Illiana can’t just reach in and flip a switch, move some wires around, and voila! It’s fixed. It’s down to me working through my issues. I have, and still do from time to time, use Illiana as a sounding board.
I talked to myself about everything before her and did the best I could on my own. With her, I still talk to myself, but if I go down the wrong path, or get something incorrect, she is there to go, “Nope, it’s X that is the problem, not Y like you are thinking.”
At the End of the Day…
I would say that most issues are a 70/30 split between self-help and accepting help from others. Friends, family, significant others, and professionals are there to help you by giving encouragement and various other tools to help with the problem, but the hard work of actually fixing issues within yourself is down to you. I had to put the effort in to relearn how to walk, but I was given tools, techniques, and encouragement to accomplish the goal. I had to find the closure to my divorce, abuse, and everything else with my previous relationship, but I had encouragement, a sounding board, and was walking the path of a healthy relationship with someone whom I love and loves me back to help me get my head on straight. I might have had help getting the boots on, but I still had to pull up the straps.
As always, remember: It’s your life; live it your way!