By Brieanna Knepper
Forgiveness is something that I have always given without hesitation. Honestly it’s been given out much too easily. Hurt me? It’s ok! Break my heart? Totally fine!
So when I found myself on the bathroom floor at 3am, crying my eyes out, debating on ending my life, did I never think to forgive myself?
I’ve struggled with depression for most of my life in some form or another. My childhood was less than ideal. My parents divorced when I was 4. My father wasn’t around for several years after that and my mother struggled as an alcoholic. I was moved around a lot until finding a somewhat stable environment to call home. My mom did the best she knew how, but I was left to raise myself quite often. She did eventually quit drinking, but instead replaced alcohol with boyfriends that would take her away all over again. My dad would pop in and out of my life and caused a lot of heartbreak.
Fast forward to high school. I was unhappy, anxious, and desperately trying to find where I belong. Freshman year I met a boy I thought was the love of my life. We both had rough childhoods and it felt like we were destined to save each other. Ahh young love. After about a year together, he started to change and the sweet boy I loved turned into an angry, possessive monster. Rules were made for how I was expected to behave and it became unbearable. I wasn’t allowed to talk to other boys. I had to walk the halls of school looking at the ground. I had to be at his beck and call at all times, even if it meant having to walk 2 hours to his house just to bring him food. Not answering or doing as I was told was not an option.
He turned violent and things escalated so fast I wasn’t even able to wrap my head around how bad it was. I had to drop out of school and live with him. I had no friends, was forced to alienate my family, and was threatened with what would happen if I left. I was abused verbally or physically almost daily. I was absolutely alone and terrified. It took me years before I found the courage and an opportunity to run. It took every ounce of strength I had to leave that relationship.
After all of that I did go on to graduate high school, find work, get married, and settle down. I was doing everything I was supposed to, but I couldn’t shake this black pit growing inside me. I could produce a version of normal on the outside, but inside I felt so much pain. All the horrible memories and things I had done, or was forced to do, were held back my a wall that was crumbling. I was having severe anxiety attacks. I couldn’t sleep. I hated everything about me. I was using self harm as a way to punish myself for the monster I truly thought I was.
It was sitting on that bathroom floor when I hit bottom. I didn’t want to be me anymore. I didn’t want to be this burden to people. I wanted out. I couldn’t handle the pain anymore. Thankfully I didn’t succeed in ending my life that night, but I came out of it with a scar down my wrist that made me feel even more shame.
I had scared myself and my family enough that I was forced to get help. I reached out to a life coach named Erin McGuire that I had been working with because she was the only person I’d met that was truly able to help me sort out my mind. Through working with her I found where I was carrying all my guilt, anger, and shame. She was able to get me to ask myself some really hard questions. Why was I punishing myself for doing what I needed to survive all those years? Would I blame my best friend the way I blame myself if they went through that kind of trauma? Why could I forgive the people that hurt me, but not forgive myself for doing the best I could to cope with some really horrible situations?
It really hit me just how much I blamed myself for all the things that had happened. I took the way I was treated and found a way to make it my fault and convinced myself that I deserved it. It wasn’t my fault. I was dealt some rough things and I did my best to get through them. Did I learn unhealthy methods for dealing with horrible things? Of course I did! I was a child! I had no idea how to deal with such intense feelings and had no one to show me how. I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. I needed to release that pain. I needed to release that guilt and blame. I needed to release that suffering. I cried and cried until I had nothing left. I apologized to myself for not only being hurt by outside influences, but by myself most of all. I apologized for the traits and patterns I learned while enduring trauma. I apologized for blaming myself for things beyond my control. I apologized for not giving myself the love I deserved. I apologized for not taking the time to heal my wounds before moving on. I apologized for trying to save everyone around me while letting myself drown. I apologized to myself over and over until the forgiveness truly came through.
Through all that I also learned that my willingness to forgive so easily comes from a need to please and be loved. I’m now able to send honest forgiveness to the people in my past because I need to let it go for myself, not because I’m afraid. It’s taken so much self love work to finally feel like I’ve truly forgiven myself for all the pain and sadness I carried. I’ve even come to forgive myself for wanting to end my life. I no longer judge myself for what I did. The shame and guilt don’t serve me anymore. I now carry love and light in its place.
I hope if you are carrying pain or guilt or sadness, that you are able to show such a deep love for yourself by granting forgiveness, whether it’s towards you or someone else. I hope that you can set yourself free from those chains and live in the joy that life can bring. It definitely won’t be easy. It will hurt, but I promise you that being able come out the other side with that freedom in your heart makes it worth it. There really is no greater gift.