Editor’s note: Almost a year ago, Lovefraud received a letter from Mandy, a 15-year-old who told her distressing story about a “relationship” with a sociopathic guy. Read it here: I didn’t want to be alone and believed that he loved me.
Well, it’s a year later, and Mandy has written to Lovefraud again. She’s grown. She’s matured. Her letter contains so much wisdom that I’m astounded it came from a 16-year-old. I invite you to read—and learn.
Life is hard; I think everyone can agree on that. It’s true when people say life is like a roller coaster. People have their ups and downs, twists and turns and every day is a new adventure.
It’s important to slow down in life and to not live in the past or future. Living in the moment is key, whether we are conscious of it or not. Believe it when I say every day has significance to it.
1. We have a conscious choice.
Every choice, every decision we make, is made within us. People are in control of their lives, and other parts are beyond our control. As people we have the choice to create a better lifestyle and to grow. You can choose to be happy, or sad. The part that we have control over depends on our thinking.
When summer 2009 came, everything had fallen apart. This was the first Fourth of July alone, with no grandparents, cousins, aunts, or uncles, since my family had been fighting. My first year of working at a day camp was a nightmare. My co-workers didn’t like me because I didn’t fit in, and tried to get me fired more than once. Every day they would whisper about me, and purposely leave me out, and treat me if I were below them. This was the first summer without the guy who I thought loved me. On top of everything, my group of friends, including my best friend, had been fighting with me almost every day. My best friend was extremely angry that I received the job that she did not get. She went out of her way to pick fights and to verbally abuse me.
Well, why didn’t I just get rid of the people who were putting my down? Because I didn’t want to go back to a place where I felt alone and scared. I have been there before, which led me to even more awful places. I also had lost the one person who would support me in awful times like these, but he left my life completely.
So what had come out of that summer? The feeling of depression, feeling alone which would make me cry almost every day. I would cry, “Why me, what have I done to deserve this? G-d hates me.” I had thought, that’s it, my life is over, but then I had realized something towards the end of the summer. I can either cry about it, or choose to do something positive.
I ended my relationship with my circle of friends, which made me vulnerable and scared. This was the best decision I made, because I chose to become active to make new friends. I chose to make a fresh start. When the new school year came, I joined my school’s kick line team, and joined a program through my temple. I made new friends, and felt that I’ve become a part of something. I was open to the idea of trying new experiences, which I’ve never done before. It is really true when people say you have to work to get what you want. With a positive and open mind, positive things can come together.
By joining these new things, I had many new experiences such as performing in homecoming, helping out with children, and went places with people I never thought I would even talk to. I started to put myself out there, but that is what life is about: taking chances. We might succeed or fail, but how will you know until you try?
Sometimes we fall into dark places and feel that we will never be able to see the light again, but everyone has the power to do something about it. You can either sink into the negativity or pull yourself out.
Sometimes there are reasons to have grief or sadness, such as a death of a loved one. This is the part that is beyond our control. As many people say, “To live is to suffer.” This is normal and is a part of life, but it comes to a point where we need to find our inner strength. We will have happy moments and there will be sad moments. I learned that if you live in fear of becoming hurt, then we will never be able to fully enjoy the good. Face your fears, look it right in the eye and make peace with it.
When we fall back into those dark moments, it is good to think of something you’re thankful for. It can be your health, family, friends or what ever means the most to you. During summer 2009, when I fell into a complete depression, I was in search of hope. I decided to talk to a 16-year-old boy diagnosed with leukemia to find out what he was going through. He told me he missed his house because he was too sick to leave the hospital, but then I asked him what he missed the most; he said “All the small things. The ability to ride a bike, go out with his friends, just independence of doing what he wanted.”
If he could find his inner strength through this unfortunate situation, I knew I could find mine.
Most people dwell only on the negative because that’s what hurts us. Why not think of the positive though? I am not saying deny the negative, it’s important to acknowledge it, but it’s important to know when to let it go.
It is impossible, though, to only make sure we have positive moments in our life. This would be a very unrealistic situation. We have to acknowledge the other feelings of sadness, or anger. It is ok to feel sad or angry at times! It just depends on how we deal with our emotions and the decisions we make from this.
Positive choices are the most important choices in life. The great thing about this is that everyone has the power to do it!
It’s never too late! Nothing in life is ever too late. You read how I joined kick line and a group through my temple, which were extremely positive choices. It takes a lot of courage, which can leave us vulnerable, but it pays off in the end. I made a lot of wrong choices to reach the right ones, but that is ok. That’s how people grow; we learn from our mistakes and take the next step forward.
What would life be like if you could never accept? Let’s say your parents had recently gotten divorced, but you never accepted it. You held onto anger and sadness and were never able to move past it. Doesn’t sound very healthy, right? But what if you could face your sadness and reach peace? If you could accept the situation for what it is and move on. Even though it is easier said than done, just think about it and how it would feel to get there.
So what are some ways a person can reach the ultimate goal? Well, that takes us back to everyone has a conscious choice. What if you say to yourself, “This was not my fault.” “Life will be okay if I want it to be; this will not stand in my way.” Positive thoughts and a positive attitude can bring positive results.
We are our own worst enemies. Every choice leads to another moment in our lives. It all depends on how we chose to make those choices. We try to be the best person we could be, and to have a better life, although we face a constant battle each day to reach that.
So my point is, what if we can accept those bad choices and learn from them? We then can realize we just moved one step forward to reach the ultimate goal.
Look at everyone in life as a teacher, and from each of those people we learn something. Elizabeth Gilbert mentions this in her book “Eat, Pray, Love.”
When I was thirteen, I had fallen in love with a guy who I believed loved me. Our relationship continued on for more than a year, it ended when I was 15 and he was 17. My whole life revolved around him, and he eventually became my life. Until, without any warning, he left me for another girl. I took a scissor and started to rip everything that he gave me, screamed into my pillow and tried every way to get revenge.
It gets worse, though. I found out that most things he told me were lies. He told me he never met his dad, his mom abused him, to name just a few of his lies. This would make me feel sorry for him, which was all part of his plan. He had manipulated me for over a year, had full control of my life, received all types of abuse, broke all his promises, and took me down with him. Money out of my own pocket was spent to go see him, and buy him various gifts. He verbally and mentally abused me and made believe I would never find anyone like him who would stay with me. When about a year passed, his interest in bestiality, incest, and sexual interest in children came out. He tried to make me go along with it, but I never did.
As I write this at the age of 16, almost 17, it took me more than a year to get over this awful experience; I was traumatized and depressed. To quote Matchbox Twenty:
“Say goodbye, these days are gone and we can’t keep holding on.”
Perhaps you are wondering: If the relationship was so awful, then why would I stay? Because I wanted to be loved and as long as he said, “I love you,” I would stay no matter what.
For over a year I felt hurt and broken by him and never truly moved on. Why couldn’t I? Because I never faced my pain and never could accept the fact that I allowed this awful situation to take place. I would think to myself, how can I be so stupid to believe all his lies? Well you know what I think now? How could I have known better, I was so young and naive, there was no way for me to know!
One day I thought about it and said to myself, “How much longer will I keep beating myself up?” Getting revenge will solve nothing; it is just a waste of energy, but instead move forward and learn from it. It has happened already and nothing I do will take that back. So why not turn into something positive? I could forgive myself, accept this has happened, and use this knowledge in the next relationship I have.
The only way people will learn is through failure. It’s ok to fail because we are only human. The only part that we need to do is to pick ourselves up and to learn from it.
My hardest obstacle was to accept my past, and to not pity myself. I would have built up anger from the people who looked upon me as a loser, or the people who stepped all over me. Accepting and forgiving yourself is one the hardest tasks to do. Accepting this means I was able to move forward, although I am not trying to forget. You can never forget because that puts you in denial and the inability to face reality. I have realized that it is ok to think about your past, but there comes a point where you need to let it go and move on.
3. Self esteem comes along with self respect
What exactly is self esteem? Self esteem is to reflect a person’s overall evaluation of his or her own worth.
I am a person who suffered from low self esteem.
Lack of self esteem leads to a lengthy list of problems, including some that could be dangerous to a person’s lifestyle. This led me into troubled relationships with guys and girls. I would cling to people who were unhealthy and would have trouble recognizing that. From these kinds of people I took a lot of verbal abuse and never knew when to walk away.
One rule I learned is to never be desperate. Never settle for someone who will not respect you and your values. To have interest in another person is ok, but not at the expense of your health. Keep your options open, especially for teenagers. You do not have to settle for the first person who takes interest. When it comes to the opposite sex I like to use the expression, “There are so many more fish in the sea.”
Life is not always about what you desire, but what is right. That was another one of my problems, my desires with men would confuse me with reality. You can not get caught up in fantasies, but need to stay in reality, even if it is not you want at the moment.
My low self esteem took a big hit when puberty started. My acne broke out, and my whole image started to fall apart. I was made fun of by classmates, especially about my acne. I remember one boy said, “Pizza face.” Another boy said, “She is so ugly she will never get a guy.”
This would make me feel bad about myself, which would make me think the only way I could get guys is by sexual intercourse. I didn’t realize that I have so much to offer as a person. I couldn’t see the good in me; I saw a girl who was ashamed to look in the mirror.
I still deal with acne, but I have received treatment and I put myself back together. Now if anyone says anything about my acne my answer is, “I can get rid of my acne, but you can’t get rid of your disgusting personality!” Considering I am a quiet girl, I never was able to stand up for myself. But there is a difference between being quiet, and able to protect your emotions.
Standing up for yourself is important; it shows high self esteem, confidence which all proves that you feel good about yourself. This is also proves that you are able to respect yourself.
I have to admit I was a bit of a mess, but I was 12 when it all started! I have learned how to fix up my appearance, which now I can feel beautiful inside and out.
Now from more than one guy I have received comments like, “You are so pretty.”
Life is not all about looks and beauty; it is just a part that can make us feel good. Taking care of ourselves physically helps us with our mental health. Personal hygiene, exercise, sleep, and a healthy diet is all part of the key.
Another key to happiness is to learn to love yourself. Find at least one thing about yourself that you are proud of. Don’t get me wrong, there is always room for improvement with all aspects of our lives, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t already qualities we can’t enjoy.
All it takes is to look in the mirror and smile to help us feel good. “Smile with your mouth, smile within the mind, and smile within your soul.” Elizabeth Gilbert mentions in her book “Eat, Pray, Love.”
So how can low self esteem be dangerous? Low self esteem can lead to depression, drug use, and promiscuity, which basically equal bad choices. Some less serious problems are denial in bad experiences, unable to express our feelings, and depending on others for self acceptance.
Denial happened for me when I thought I was with a guy who loved me. As my dad says, “He was pulling me on a string.” I gave my heart and soul to him, not because he was such a great guy, but because I was needy and depended on him. I never wanted to believe that he could be using me for his ulterior motives. I wanted to have a boyfriend so desperately that I lost my own self respect. I ignored all the bad parts of the relationship and only looked upon the times he made me feel loved.
This was immature love: I was 13 when this all started, and I loved him because I needed him. That’s why I was his perfect victim; I was in a point of my life that I didn’t like myself and had zero self esteem.
We talked about marriage, kids, our lives together and talked everyday for 30 months straight. We were there through our greatest and worst days during this time period. We cried together, we laughed together, and we knew each other’s biggest secrets. He always would ask me what love means to me, and I could never answer this question. As of now I still don’t know, but a real relationship consists of two people who build a relationship through friendship and trust, who grow together with respect and care.
The inabilities to express my feelings were another problem for me. Whenever I would feel angry or upset the exact words I would say are, “I’m ok, I’m fine, I’m fine.” I was never able to touch into my other emotions. I thought that those feelings were negative feelings that a person should not feel. I was scared to feel upset or angry and tried every way possible to get around those emotions.
The third problem for me was depending on a guy for self acceptance. Since I was 12, I depended on guys to make me happy. I thought, once I get a boyfriend it would be the answer to my problems. If they love me, then I can love myself. Well guess what: That’s wrong!
You are not going to be happy if a certain condition is met. I will not be happy all of a sudden if I have a boyfriend and all my problems disappear. You should not let people approve of you to make you feel worthful. This part needs to come from within yourself to lead a healthier lifestyle. There is no perfect solution to life; it’s about taking one step at a time and keep moving forward. Life is a process, and we will face problems, but this is reality. People will not be happy all the time, but we can work to try to enjoy life as much as we can.
These were all real problems for me, but promiscuity was the serious problem I had because of low self esteem. Luckily, I never went into drugs, smoking, or had an alcohol problem. When I was 12 and my low self esteem kicked in, my friend and I would go online and talk to random guys only about sexual things. This phase lasted for about a year; we met some of the guys, but most of them we didn’t meet. This was dangerous to us because what happens if one of those guys was a sexual predator, or a killer? Our lives were at stake. The guys we talked to were from Florida, Pennsylvania, Brooklyn. This was very unhealthy to our lifestyle, but sometimes we learn the hard way. We were lucky enough that nothing happened to us.
My friend and I, who would go online together, are not friends anymore because we went our separate ways in life. She went into drugs, smoking, and alcohol, which is one thing I knew never to start. It is ok if people grow apart, because people are constantly changing in life; nothing will last forever. Life is about making changes and rolling with the punches, and to keep moving forward. No matter how much I didn’t like it, nothing will stay the same. You make relationships, you lose relationships, people come and go, and that is perfectly normal. We have moments that we can look back on and smile, and other moments that we regret. Try not to regret, but to cherish all the memories and one thing I have learned, it’s not about if the relationship will last. It’s the meaning of the relationship and how it affects you as a person. The more you can accept this, the stronger you will become as a person.
My self esteem is still building and everyone’s self esteem will continue to build in life. View yourself as the person you see yourself as, not what anyone says you are.
4. Friendships and Family
There are good friends, best friend, just friends, and acquaintances. Everyone in your life has a category. I had some trouble picking the right kind of people for me. Ever since first grade I would pick people who were louder than me, leaders, which I was not. It wasn’t until eighth grade when this decision making in friends exploded in my face. I met a girl who was my enemy in disguise. Yes, this was my best friend, who I spoke of earlier, who verbally abused me in summer 2009. Just like my ex, she wanted to control me and take me down with her. People talk behind each other’s back, which is a part of life, but she went out of her way to make you feel bad about yourself. She dropped me as a friend, and this is the time when my ex boyfriend came into the picture. She dropped me as a friend and picked me up when ever she wanted to. I felt like I had no one because I depended too much on her, the leader of the group. It wasn’t until the end of summer 2009 that I found courage to drop her for good. This was hard because I faced her in school every day and we still had some mutual friends; it took me six months to recover from her.
Friendships reflect you as a person and how you feel about yourself. If anyone is going to be categorized as a friend, it should be a two-way system. You are there for them, and they are there for you. A real friend would never put you down, and talk crap about you behind your back constantly.
Friendships are a process just like everything else in life. It takes time to develop and needs to be slow to see if you click with the other person. This is hard because you don’t really know anyone at first; only in time you will be able to tell.
Now I am able to pick up on the warning signs if they are the wrong kind of people for me. Well, how do I do that? I take it slow and don’t give everything until I see what kind of person they are. I look for genuine people like me who are real and not into gossip or drama.
I have also learned to stop trying so hard for friendships or any kind of relationships. Let it come natural and let it come to you. Pushing for anything only makes you look bad, and it’s important to know when to back off. As people say, “Go with the flow.”
To find balance in relationships is a difficult task, but can be done. You need to know where everyone stands, and most importantly, where you stand. It is important to do what is best for you, which was one of my biggest problems in friendships. I was always so concerned with pleasing others that I would sacrifice what was best for me. You need to put yourself first, because you are the most important. This could also be useful in any other relationships.
What about family? For thirteen years of my life, I had an amazing family, amazing parents, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Unexpectedly in 2007, my grandpa had an unsuccessful colonoscopy. He died in August, and this is when my family collapsed. My grandma on my mother’s side completely withdrew from the world and the family. My Aunt Susan (mother’s sister) decided just to have a relationship with my grandmother, which started the family fighting. Holidays started to become separate, which turned the family into two teams: my Aunt Nora with her kids on our team, against Aunt Susan’s family and my grandmother. We tried to make things work, including talks with grandmother, but the next tragedy for our family happened. My Aunt Nora died from a heart attack in February, 2009, which ironically pulled our family further apart. Her children had to go live with my grandma, which left us with no one our team. This decimated my life, because the most important people seemed to be disappearing.
I tried talking to my grandma a bunch of times, but she was never able to communicate with me. It seemed like she really wanted nothing to do with me, which left me hurt and angry inside.
Recently, in the summer of 2010, my mom and grandma cleared the air with each other. My mom was nervous to talk to her, with feelings of rejection and insecurity; she wasn’t sure how to talk to her after everything. I said to her, “Communicate how you feel, and tell her how hurt you are. It is ok to express how you’re feeling in a calm manner.” I helped my mom the whole way through before she went to see her.
Communication is key with everyone in life. It is important to express how you feel and it is ok to show emotion. When there is a problem it should be addressed when it happens, not to let it build up in anger or hurt. Communication is how relationships evolve and are able to keep going.
One realization that I had to help my mom with was that you can not change anyone. She couldn’t change my grandma no matter how hard she tried; she could only do what was best for her. Going to talk to my grandma did not mean that everything was going to go back to normal. I said, “Go to talk to her because it will make you feel better, to know you tried, to let her know how you feel, and then go from there.”
You can only control yourself and to choose what you want to do. One of my favorite quotes is:
“Any change, any loss, does not make us victims. Others can shake you, surprise you, disappoint you, but they can’t prevent you from acting, from taking the situation you’re presented with and moving on. No matter where you are in life, no matter what your situation, you can always do something. You always have a choice and the choice can be power.”- Blaine Lee.
This relates back to having a conscious choice in life. Friends, family, or anyone in any of those categories make up our life. Relationships are a huge factor for everyone, so why not try to improve this area? This will help us with our balance, which will lead to a healthier lifestyle.
5. Where to go from here
So what do I do now? I take all of my knowledge from my suffering, which I will carry into the future. What a journey I’ve been through, to only realize this was my first real journey in life. To have once thought I couldn’t make it through any of those difficult times, and to now be writing about it, amazes me.
Life is unpredictable: It can be our best friend or worst enemy. I now appreciate everything and absorb all the positive moments that occur. Another one of my favorite quotes is:
“Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.”- James Dean.
My strength has been put to the test, and I have proven how strong I really am. I actually have the Youth Leadership Award from my temple. When I was younger I attended Hebrew school and loved going in, which most people did not. This really loud guy in my class, who would not stop talking, decided to be rude to the teacher. I turned around and said, “If you don’t like going here so much then leave. He said “What?” I said, “You are obnoxious to the class; you are not funny at all.” He became angry and told me to go back into my shell. The teacher watched me stand up to what I believe was right.
My point is that I have had strength all along; I was just not able to find it all the time. Everyone has strength inside them.
There will always be light at the end of the tunnel. As Pema Chodron said,
“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, and for joy.”
This is not an ending, but only the beginning.