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Forgetting Life’s Lessons by Shira Ellis - Trigger Warning


Just before getting kicked out of an Ivy League university for being a liability, I tried to kill myself. I scared my roommate to pieces and was carried out of the dorm in a stretcher having overdosed on an industrial size bottle of Advil. My next memory was waking up in a hospital bed, where an old woman was watching over me, telling me I would be okay, that I was not alone. If only she’d known.


It was the day after Thanksgiving, a day where I’d determined that this life was just too hard. My ‘friend’ convinced me my parents hated me, and my parents were adamant this girl was a cruel joke of a human being. I called her from the psych ward, begging her to visit. “It’s your fault,” she replied. I spoke to my parents inquiring if they were flying in. “The doctor said it’s just a cry for attention, so you'll be fine.”


I’d had at least four attempts before I was 19, and more than eight in the 12 years since that evening, but it was always a childish tantrum to those around me. My first attempt I was a tween, a kid living in a house from hell. I’d learned how to binge-eat when I was 3, cut when I was 10, and pray for cancer since fourth grade. I figured if I vomited through chemotherapy maybe my father would love me before I died. Later dreams involved leeches to take all my blood so I would be skinny in my coffin. At age 23, post-gastric bypass, post-plastic surgery, I had my final answer. “You’re almost dateable.”


Three years into marriage and I was spending a regular evening at my in-laws chopping an onion. My father-in-law said my name; I jumped a mile high, came down and apologized for the disturbance. “It’s okay, we know you were abused,” said my mother-in-law casually.

I grew up in a small, insular community so it was of no surprise that she knew the stories and rumors. Yet I had believed my experiences were due to “eccentric” parents, that because I was never physically abused (traditionally so) that my Dad was just a weird human.

It has now been two years since Dad died (tomorrow, as I write this) and I’m still having flashbacks to sexual abuse and ridiculous ideas that my father implanted in my head with my never thinking they were wrong. “You can only be skinny if you’re loved and promiscuous,” was the lesson of my teenage years.


The stories are endless, the pain continuous. It dulls, and then it revisits my mediocre self-esteem with questions like “Can you love yourself? If you can’t, why do you bother stringing your husband along when he can find a new wife and have kids before he gets too old?”

The latter part of questioning my marriage and survival is assuaged, but the plague of self-loathing remains. I don’t know how to love myself, to even care about survival in some situations.


When I cross the street the idea of cars hitting me doesn’t seem problematic. After all, in the back of my mind it would be a favor to the world.

I have a wonderful life now, full of everything I’ve ever wanted and all the love I needed. I finally know

what unconditional love is (thank you 2015!) and I love deeply for so many.


Maybe one day I’ll love me.

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