By Angela Lemus-Mogrovejo
AFO Content Writer
You know the stories you read as a kid where the hero vanquishes a creature, the kingdom celebrates, and everyone goes home knowing the evil has been abolished for sure?
I loved those stories.
I loved reading stories where good and evil were clear, where it was easy to know who to root for. It felt simpler back then, just reading stories where being courageous when needed was obvious. .
But I always wondered something since I was a kid: what went through the hero’s head when she went to face the big bad creature?
Did she ever have moments of doubt and insecurity regarding her decisions?
Did she ever think for a second about just running away from her responsibilities and detaching from it all?
Did she ever wonder, with what she knew she would have to do to save her people, whether she was in fact a monster for killing the big bad creature, in spite of all the harm it had done?
I’ve thought a lot about all of this as I’ve reflected on where I was even just a few years ago compared to where I am now. Years back, I would have given anything to believe that I would make it past twenty-two years old. I would have given anything to not crave death as often as I did and suddenly be a more worthwhile person. I would have given anything to know someone loved me and cared about me, despite all of the obvious evidence of my friends and family having shown this was already the case. I would have given anything to know I mattered without people having to tell me so.
I’ll be honest: this is not new territory for me to write about. If you have seen any of my previous writing, you know I’ve talked about this a lot. I am open about how long I have been dealing with my issues of depression, anxiety, and trauma and have always tried to live as an open-book for those who are interested in my story. I have kept my trauma fresh in my mind and left my wounds visible so that people did not have to feel alone. I have lived this way for years and tried earnestly to recover as best I could while remaining ready to discuss my pain with whomever needed comfort and company. These are not hard things for me to talk about and at this point it is an act of restraint to not divulge my whole history of pain all at once while never expecting the same in return. This is how I have lived my life for a while and it has served me well for the most part.
But the thing is I don’t think I have been completely honest with everyone. I don’t think I’ve admitted how terrified I have been throughout this whole process. And not of what you might think I would be scared of.
You see, throughout all these years, I have always thought myself a monster. I have always thought I was a big bad that, in spite of pretending to do for the good of others, had all but failed and become a nuisance. I have always thought myself a burden, a disgusting thing someone would come along and clean up for everyone’s benefit. Or, if nothing else, someone or something noble would come along and slay me and the world would be done with me. It would be good riddance and a hero could be celebrated for relieving a family and the community of an undue burden.
This is what I have thought of myself for years. This is what I believed was best: a swift end to an anxious, toxic creature whose failures and lack of merit had all but disappointed her family and friends and could be seen for the evil it was, for the worthless existence it was.
And yet, as has also been the case with much of my life, I have been blessed to have just the right amount of luck appear when I most need it.
I am in therapy once again, for what amounts to the fifth time in my life where I go on a weekly basis to tell someone how much I have hated myself and need support to be a functioning person. And, as with every period of time I have dedicated to being in therapy, I am realizing just how much blame I have placed on myself when it should have gone elsewhere.
I have lived believing in simple truths because they have been easier to swallow. In the case of my family and my friends, I have lived with the utmost certainty that they could never really hurt me. They could never be anything like the monsters I read about growing up or anywhere near as hurtful as the big bads in my stories. People who love you don’t make you think less of yourself. They don’t make you feel like a disappointment every time you can’t reach their poorly communicated expectations. They don’t turn their back on you when you most need them or prey on your deepest insecurities. They don’t say they love you and want a relationship and then do no work to create the space where that is possible. People who love you and care about you don’t do that.
And yet, they do. They do it for so long you think you are the villain in the story of your own life. Day in and day out. For years on end. Up until the point where you just can’t help but think being gone is a much better option.
And that isn’t what I want anymore. That isn’t who I want to be. That isn’t who I deserve to be.
I want to believe. I want to live. I want to love, if no one else then just me.
I haven’t had the will to want any of those things in years but I’m ready to find it once more. I’m ready to see the pain I have endured for the abuse and harm it really is. I am ready to build this fledgling desire to grow and believe in myself into something so much more. I am ready to love with complexity, to know that I can still have care for others without needlessly baring all my scars.
The stories I read growing up aren’t quite what life has turned out to be. People are much more complicated than just good and evil. Good friends and close family can still hurt you, even with the best of intentions. But maybe, just maybe, there is still room for a hero in the story of my life.
Except this time, perhaps that hero can be me saving myself for once.