When I tell people that I’m going to such and such place to hike for the day or I’m going backpacking for such amount of time, and I’m going by myself, I will often get odd looks in return. I’m used to it by now, having traveled the country and, a little, of the globe alone. People just can‘t understand how a woman/person could be happy doing things alone.
Well, honestly, how is that any different than the life I’ve been living in plain sight for all these decades?
I grew up in very big (for the time) and very busy family. I was the youngest of my siblings and was constantly forced to tag along with my older siblings when they had to be taken somewhere. But that’s not why I do things alone as an adult.
This year I’m devoting so much time and energy to healing myself and the mistakes I’ve made the last few years. I’m learning that giving some things a name can validate the experiences I’ve been forced to live through. For the first time publicly, I’m identifying myself as the victim of emotional abuse.
This A word is very scary.
There are members of my family who would be enraged seeing this. However, my experiences fit the conditions of rarely talked about emotional/psychological abuse. I always just assumed I had a controlling parent. Tons of kids had controlling parents. Well, this went so far beyond control, that I had barely any clue until I was 16 years old, let alone the level of understanding that I had when I was driven to finally leave my home just before my 18th birthday. I knew it wasn’t a healthy place. I knew the environment plus my horrible mental health with suicidal urges, was not safe for me.
Let me be absolutely clear here: at no point in my life was I ever subject to physical abuse.
As a result of all of the psychological and emotional manipulation, I now struggle greatly with trusting other humans and maintaining long-lasting relationships. I do not believe in unconditional love. Not a chance. I’ve never seen it, nor experienced it. I don’t believe it’s really possible. I also don’t believe that another individual could honestly care about what happens to me. I simple don’t.
However, I am very well aware that these are what professionals call cognitive distortions. My understanding of the term is that it’s a false belief that I cannot process cognitively as being false. These are things that I’ve never experienced, rather the opposite, so how is it possible?
After a rough life filled with these things, I simply have found solace and self-confidence in doing things by myself. I don’t have to trust another individual to help me have a good experience; I am capable of that myself. Relying on my own knowledge and my own skill for a few weeks off the grid each summer allows me to find peace and give me a break from fighting those cognitive distortions and worrying about how I interact with others in my daily life. The anxiety I have around relationships is immense. The fear I have around any habit that could possibly reflect my emotionally abusive parent is extremely real each day. I refuse to be like them.
That is why I hike, travel, and backpack alone; it’s my respite. I still let the people I care about know where I am going and what I’m doing; that’s being a responsible adult human. The people I am closest to now also fully understand why I need the time alone. I know they will worry about me, so I provide them with resources to help put them more at ease. I’m not a total hermit! They respect that it’s time that I need, and I love them for it.
Please do not take pity on me for what I’ve been though. I share my story so you can learn from my experience and be a better, stronger human; make things better for those you can! And whatever you do, do not force your way on any other human; that’s what happened to me over nearly 20 years, it will not end well.
Cheers. ☕️ Emily