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First, let me share some things I’ve learned from several sources.

According to some sources, as children, our brains are extraordinary at forming new connections. We are more able to learn any number of skills as children than as adults. We retain a certain amount of neuroplasticity into adulthood, but most of our neural circuitry becomes fixed.

According to some sources, in childhood we are mirrors. That is, especially in childhood, we are prone to taking what others give us in regard to our self-image. This may explain why some of us grow up with decent self-esteem levels and others have little to none. Certainly, we still are mirrors as adults, but we don’t usually morph ourselves to conform to what others say or do as often.

Bullied kids tend to take on the names that their bullies give them.

Children who encounter abuse of any kind tend to shape themselves according to that abuse. We become the”‘ugly” or the “stupid” or the unwanted” that we’re told we are. We become desperate ones, seeking the approval or protection we never got as kids.

So, I must ask the question if it is truly possible to recover from childhood trauma and abuse?  

How do we replace the experiences we were deprived of as children when we become adults? It’s not possible to delete our bad memories like some corrupted file and replace it with an error-free one. This is something our machines have the advantage in; when their parts and pieces break or fail, they are easy to replace. The myriad experiences that make up an individual personality are unique and irreplaceable.

But how many people wish that certain things would have been different?  

In my own life, I wish that my childhood was different. That certain things never happened. I have no idea this would differ among us.  What would that man be like? Would things have been the same yet better?

I can’t have an affectionate father. I can’t have a healthy mother.

I live in another town, away from the abuse. I can’t have it any other way than it is now. It is what it is.

How do I heal this gaping hole in my heart where self-confidence is supposed to be, when the experiences are long gone?  

Self-care goes a long way.

Flipping all the negative over and telling yourself good things can go a long way.

But there are times that all of it seems so hollow. That little boy can’t be protected. The damage was done long ago. The boy is now a man, all the wounds are scarred over. Permanently.

When I imagine the future, it’s one in which I’m alone, friendless, without comfort. I feel like a dumbass when I daydream a better future. Companions and friends who actually visit. Maybe even a significant other.

I KNOW it’s because I had shitty experiences growing up. People who have had a healthy childhood EXPECT more of the same from the future. They have no problem imagining nice futures.

After all, their inner children feel happy and safe. They aren’t disbelieving when someone misses them or expresses their admiration. They probably think “Yeah, I am pretty great!” I don’t believe compliments. I attribute them as ignorance or politeness. I’ve made a conscious effort to be gracious when I receive a compliment lately, but my initial reaction, is always, at the core, negative.

So, since these experiences are fixed, can we ameliorate the past by adding new experiences? I don’t know.

At the end of even a great day, I still feel ready for the other shoe to drop. The few fun dates I’ve had as a single man don’t engender any hopeful attitude for me. I just give up on these relationships, believing I’m just getting to the inevitable conclusion. These past few years have been hard.

I’m alone half the time.  I don’t have a ‘circle.’  The friends I had are no more.  They have lives.  I don’t have anywhere to fit in.  Everywhere I go, I feel like an interloper.  Permanently sidelined.  Wallflower.  I want to move, yet I cannot imagine what would be different.  After all, no matter where you go, there YOU are.

Sometimes I fantasize about a new life.  Friends who visit and invite me to things, self-confidence, a real relationship with someone who is my best friend AND lover.  I want so desperately to have this new life, where I’m not ashamed of myself in public.  Where I make eye contact with people and put my best foot forward. Where I’m not embarrassed by ME.  In this new life, I’m not scared of rejection.  After all, in this fantasy, I actually love myself, so rejection doesn’t affect me as much as in real life.  In this fantasy, I live in a place where I have lots of friends who share my interests.  We go out and play music on weekends.  We talk about the books we’re reading and the ideas we’re thinking of.  We have FUN.

Then I wake up.  Yep.  Still the same life.  No friends.  Little fun.

I give people great advice that I cannot follow.  I’m quite sure that everyone except me has a great future ahead of them.  I try to get them to see if they don’t like their situation, they can change it.  I tell them that there isn’t anything they cannot have if they are willing to work toward it.  Why in the hell can’t I believe that for myself?! It’s that little boy, cringing away from a world that didn’t accept him for who he was.  The world that took his innocence and left only self-loathing behind.  The little boy who escapes into books to hide his big, goofy teeth and glasses.  The little boy who was told by his peers how geeky, nerdy and weird he was till the little boy wouldn’t even make eye contact with them any more.  The young man who played hundreds (probably thousands) of hours of video games to escape from a world that seemed to have no place for him.  The little boy who would become the man that now wishes everything were different.

I’m so careful with my children’s self-image.  I don’t allow name-calling, even in jest.  I don’t allow angry harsh tones of voice.  I don’t allow them to call themselves names.  I make sure that they treat others with respect.  I play with them and make sure they get to do the things they want to do.  I suppose, in the end, they deserve to have what I could not.  Compared to them, my matters don’t add up to much.

I’m dead scared of what I’m going to do when they’re adults.  I know I need to get something going for myself, but I have no idea where to begin.  Bars and churches hold no hope for me.  I cannot imagine any possiblities for the man I am.  I don’t mean to sound like a complete downer, it’s just how I feel.

I know! Those blokes in bowflex ads seem to have it figured out.  Just get in shape and your world will right itself!  That’s what I should do, right? A tight bod and a convertible will fix everything! Sarcasm off…  I’m not at all ignorant to the fact that I just need to take my own advice and pursue my desires.  I just can’t really believe in a good life.  It may seem like very small potatoes but I can’t summon the effort to try because I don’t believe it will do any good!

This is what I mean about these formative experiences: they have me so quagmired that I all I can do is maintain some kind of routine.   The positives I’ve accumulated in my life fade into the darkness that I’ve carried from childhood.  All that’s left is….nothing.  No hope, no reason to plan more than a couple days to a week ahead other than for the kids.  I don’t even know what it means to be excited anymore. The only kind of anticipation I know about lately is anxiety.  The skills I do have for coping only do so much.  The past is still there, just around the corner, shading and tainting everything in the present.  All because of a crappy childhood.  All because of events that occurred more than twenty years ago.