I am fond of saying I “lived life backwards” simply because I had my son at age 25, then went to college at age 28 and after rearing my son to adulthood (and with two children of his own!), I married the kindest, sweetest man I know at the age of 52. It truly does not matter the order in which your life runs, it only matters that one stay present and willing to grow along their own personal journey. I write today with hope that someone may read these words and find themselves willing to open up for perhaps the first time. The time for hiding is over.
What I failed to mention in the first installment is there is an inherent sadness that comes from seeing the glass half-empty; of living life from a negative place constantly worrying when the next “thing” will come along that throws everything out of whack…again. I am sorry to say I lived with just that attitude. Thankfully, I have discovered along my life’s journey that our vision can always be adjusted and we can change and become the people we were meant to be – optimistic, satisfied, fulfilled – and the shine on the glass becomes more apparent and the beginnings of a glass half-full view of life becomes clearer and clearer.
I grew up with a very mean, social-climbing and very superficial mother. To her, appearance was everything; as long as the family looked good, we must be doing good behind those closed doors. Nothing was further from the truth. I was labeled the “worst” of the siblings because I carried extra weight and to my mother, that was almost a Cardinal Sin. I also sought reason for why things were done and questioning the Queen brought harsh punishment. The truth was I had a very voluptuous body for a young woman. I had curves that didn’t fit my mother’s ideal of a dancer’s body. She attempted to shame me in just about every way possible and yet I survived. I grew up somehow knowing, despite the words of my mother, that I did deserve the space I occupied and I did deserve the air I took in. While my poor head was very confused about who and what I was, at the very least I knew that she was wrong. In my late teens, early twenties, I knew the only thing I could do was get away from “the place of many bad memories” and so I uprooted myself from Jacksonville, FL and moved to Los Angeles, CA…unless you own a boat, you can’t really move much farther from “home” than by moving to the opposite coast. I dissociated from most of my family, old friends and some pretty horrid memories of what I’d survived; I struck out on my own to find MY life.
My youth had been spent being mentally, verbally, physically and sexually abused by family and others. It would be easy to assume that by adulthood I didn’t have a very good self-image but I continued to follow my path placing one foot in front of the other and moving from my youth like it never happened, never looking back – always forward. I desperately wanted to be normal despite feeling that, at best, I was pulling a great ruse on those who cared by pretending, always pretending, to act as normal as I thought normal people behaved. I assumed that feeling disconnected emotionally from the world was a result of the abuse of my past but also assumed one day it would magically go away – I’d feel “normal” and right in the world…I just needed to find “my place” in that same world – “my place” however, was elusive. I have bounced a lot during adulthood from going through to licensing for cosmetology (I wasn’t a beauty school dropout!), then somehow into banking which led me back to school ending up with a master’s in educational leadership and creating an advising job for myself in the Honors Program at my alma mater. If changing jobs/professions wasn’t enough, I also moved…a lot. If one place didn’t feel right, you could count on Tamela being gone sooner rather than later. From Florida to California (during the five years I was there, I moved at least once a year to a new location in Los Angeles, no anchors on my ankles!) to Kansas to Arizona all in the span of about six years…I didn’t stick around for much, I saw trouble coming and I went away. Arizona has become my home, I raised my son here. I finally planted some real roots and in the process, found me and “my place”.
Within a year of moving to Los Angeles, I met and fell in absolute puppy love with the father of my only child, Kyle. The stand-up man I thought was going to be my life partner looked me dead in the eye the day he found out I was pregnant and said, “You have ruined everything,” and walked forever out the door. The jerk did see his son perhaps five times in the first four years of his life but that was always due to my arranging it and rarely did he give financial support. Yes, I could have taken him to court but Kyle was my son, that was clear from the start, and I truly didn’t want the interference that often comes with child support and such. There’s that stubbornness again – leave me alone, I can do this on my own…watch me. Gosh darn it, NO ONE was going to tell me what to do, how to do it, or even when to do it! “They” – including God – did not know what was best for me so I went deep inside and stayed behind my protective walls until the walls became so great and so high and so mighty that I was isolated and beyond reach on many levels.
I tried very hard my entire life to overcome the visions of my past, and I only mention a few, but that seemed the impossible dream for me; letting go of the hate and anger and the knowledge that somehow this life, my life, was not going to magically change. I had to change. I had to put to rest the past and learn to forgive myself for the mistakes of young adulthood; I needed peace of mind more than anything and all the self-help books in the world couldn’t solve MY problem with ME! Do you know what it’s like to discover or realize there is something fundamentally wrong or different with how you view the world and your thinking about your place in the world? They say admitting it is the first step.
Twenty years ago I began on a path to healing and recovery and change. I met the woman who, by her very presence and willingness to share her own wisdom with me, would help to guide me toward that healthy place where all is right in the world and my place in the world. I did say twenty years ago…again I remind you there is just a touch of stubbornness in me! It began with meeting three other women who were on a path of change and healing and wanted a safe place to express themselves and work toward common goals using the book, “The Artist Within”. Those women’s group meetings began to open me up to the concrete blob of anger and pain and darkness I walked with daily – and was the root cause of my dissociating from not only a Godly-presence in my life but emotionally from most all long ago. I had no trust. I had no faith. God didn’t look out for me, I was one who’d fallen through the cracks. The angel of a therapist I found, Sandy, led me from the darkness I was living in toward the light I now exist in!
It was Sandy who, after working with me for years and seeing no measurable improvement, suggested I go for in-patient treatment so that others could keep an eye on me over time and see if they made any connections as to why continuous improvement seemed impossible to me. At age 40 it was determined that I only sought treatment when I was down in the dumps and so doctors and therapists only saw depression; the actuality was that I have severe Bipolar Type 1 (thankfully mainly mania) and was “high-functioning” at that. No one much notices a very productive seemingly sane person operating in life. That was the first clue to why I felt abnormal in a normal world.
About a year later, I was diagnosed with an inoperable meningioma (benign brain tumor in, “the worst real estate possible in [my] brain,” according to my first neurologist). I lost touch with Sandy undergoing treatments to stop or slow the growth of the tumor or possibly reduce/eliminate the darn thing and dealing with my new status as “disabled”. To say my head was now officially screwed up would be an understatement of the greatest proportions – and I had medical evidence to back me up, it wasn’t just “in my head” – it WAS my head! Somehow I lost most of what I had learned from Sandy and the darkness descended once again – what was I going to do, my brain was sincerely one messed up piece of grey matter? I didn’t know what to do with this new title or this new life. Working, raising my son (who turned 18 in 2004), participating in life – it felt very much like it had all been taken away and I no longer had direction; where do I go from here??
I made many stabs in the dark at different volunteer opportunities but none of them seemed to fit until I joined the Ladies Auxiliary to the VFW in 2010. I had found my purpose again! There are so many outlets within the organization that keeping my interest has not been hard. I also married in Feb. 2013 for the first time to a wonderful, loving, caring man. I should have been on Cloud 9 and instead I could not shake the nagging feeling that something was still not right; I needed my Sandy again.
I am pleased to say that it did not take five or more years this time around for Tamela to get the message she so desperately needed to hear. It was a lesson of long ago but one I’d forgotten, conveniently, along the way. Sandy re-introduced me to the Drama Triangle; the role of the victim, the role of the rescuer, the role of the persecutor. Ah, it all made sense now. I had allowed myself to be emotionally beaten down again and was most certainly playing the victim for all it was worth! I did a nice job of slipping into the rescuer as well but not nearly as frequently. My glass half-empty view of the world came from feeling as if life wasn’t fair, would never be fair, to me. I was a victim of all that had happened and once again “my place” had been lost. I had lost the ability to rise above it and hold my head high and say, “I matter!” I only mattered, in my own little head, when I rescued someone – and boy did I have everyone’s answers but my own!
I have learned the only way out of the Drama Triangle is to be the persecutor, to be the bad guy and be willing to say, “No.” It did not feel good to suddenly go about saying, “No,” but once I owned me and my feelings again, it became much easier to be protective of me and those feelings. It is not my job to please the world. It is my job to take care of me and those I love as best I can. I cannot play victim in my own life anymore nor can I rescue anyone from their own dilemmas, even those I love, especially those I love. We must be responsible to ourselves and to that Higher Being that gives us life and grace and joy and love. It is only when we shed the false victim and the unnecessary rescuer that we are free again to see the beauty of life, not just the pessimism it is so easy to live in. You can’t be optimistic when you view the world from the position of a victim or rescuer and I’ve never felt “good” about being the persecutor so my goal today is to stay healthy and out of the Drama Triangle forever. It is so easy for me to slip into victim or rescuer, the trick is being aware of it and changing it immediately.
Stepping out of victimhood and to stop being a rescuer has lifted the need to be anything other than who I am. My past is not my downfall nor does it dictate my future. Helping others – while intentionally good-hearted – does not earn me extra points in heaven. It does provide self-satisfaction and good feelings and that alone makes it worth it! Forgiving others, that’s freeing to my soul. Forgiving myself radiates through me and in me. I stand proudly in the knowledge that I am wrapped tightly by capable arms in a powerful hug that “circles” me and that triangles are no longer for me!
I do not tell you this story with the hope you will experience sorrow or pity. No. My hope for all today is that if you come from a troubled past, know you can grow and move out of that mental space that tells you you are all on your own. You are not. Whether you know it or not, there is always Someone guiding your life and leading you away from pain and suffering into joy and light if only you have the faith of a mustard seed. Be open when the opportunity for growth comes! We are human and humans need to feel connection – seek your connection, it’s worth the effort and one day you’ll find that life has “magically” changed and living the lie any longer is just too hard to do. Be you. Be real. Feel love. Give love. It’s all worth it in the end! I promise!!
Tamela Hyatt Jasmann