Growing up feeling unloved

I read a book once that talked about love languages. We as humans communicate love through different languages. It was an interesting take on love. I found that I responded to physical and verbal expressions of love. Exactly what I didn't get growing up. It was hard growing up because we were poor. My mother lived on food stamps, spousal support and welfare. She eventually got a job with the state but it didn't pay much. Often we would go without food and other necessities like toilet paper. My mother shopped at the thrift store for our clothes. It was hard being a poor kid because at school other kids knew it. It wasn't easy going to school and everybody knows you're poor. My mother was always stressed out and depressed. She was never happy with us. She was always yelling at us for something. I felt especially picked on.

At age 7 to 9 I was sexually abused by some neighborhood kids. They would threaten to beat me up if I didn't do what they said. My mother never knew about this. I was too afraid to say anything to anyone. The abuse stopped when the kids moved away. I didn't feel safe anywhere. I felt depressed but my behaviour was seen as rebellion or lazyness. I just wanted to be invisible where I didn't have people yelling at me or making fun of me. I enjoyed school and reading and going to the library. That was my escape. I made up a fantasy world where I was loved.

I never felt loved by my family. I felt like I was a burden to my mother and father. My father gave me an allowance but he made me feel guilty for accepting it. Christmas , Easter, and birthdays would be times when I would get presents but I got the message that these gifts were out of an obligation to me because I was a relative. I never felt loved even on my birthday. My birthday is on December 23 so I would get combination presents. I never had a birthday party because I didn't have any friends. I didn't have a birthday party at school because my birthday happened during Christmas break. Everything I was given was with the message that I shouldn't be ungrateful and spoiled and should feel guilty because somebody spent money on me. Looking back I see that these presents were expressions of love. It just didn't feel like it at the time.

I only remember one time when my mother hugged me. I was about six years old and was crying about something and my mother hugged me. The way she did it was so awkward. It felt clammy and cold. I wished she didn't hug me. I don't remember one word of encouragement or praise growing up. I can't recall one time when my father told me anything encourageing. It was really hard because I wanted that kind of encourgement so badly. I felt so alone and sad. I made up a fantasy world where I was loved. I didn't feel loved at all. My sisters behaved as if they were not loved as well. My sister, Carmen, ran away when she was about fourteen. She was gone for a few days then returned. My other sister Pamela was very quiet and shy and never complained but she seemed depressed most of the time.

I just don't understand it. How hard is it to give your kid a hug or an encourageing word? I know times were tough and it was hard making ends meet but my mother had our father to rely on. It seemed like we went without simply because my mother couldn't bring herself to ask my father for anything. My mother was just not a physical person neither was my father but how hard is it to deny yourself every once in a while and hug your kid?I just don't understand it. I know I was depressed most of the time but I would remember if I was hugged or told "l love you". I just remember being yelled at by my mother and sister and being told to be grateful for what I have. I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.

I'm confident that my lack of feeling loved primed me to be attracted to a church that turned out to be an abusive cult. The members of the church would treat me with such love and friendship that I was blown away at first. I was totally willing to give my trust and obedience to people who professed to love me with the love of Christ. To go from no friends to alot of "friends" was overwhelming. It took me several months to trust these people but when I did I was a loyal member for twenty years. I did leave shortly in 1991 when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The lonliness was just too much and I craved the friendships. I went back to the church in 1993 and soon fell in love and got married in 1995. I enjoyed close friendships and really felt the love of God. In time, however, I found this came with a price. I had to be totally obedient and financially sacrificial to the church. Over time this kind of Christianity wore me out emotionally and spiritually. I had to leave when I felt that I couldn't be the Christian the church preached. I just couldn't live in such a stressful environment anymore.

I don't expect my parents to be perfect. I know the stress of trying to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table was hard. I just wish my parents had the presence of mind to say "I love you" or give a hug once in a while. Even if I could've talked about school and been open about my sexual abuse maybe things would have been different. I know I wouldn't have been so loyal to an abusive church. I know if I had had better self-esteem maybe I would have gotten help with my illness sooner. Children need to be loved or they will find it elsewhere.

When I grew up I replaced the church I went to for my parents' lack of love. I think that is why it took me so long to leave the church. I wanted so badly to please the church thus pleasing God that I remained extremely loyal. I craved positive reinforcement and hugs from church leadership. I wanted to be a leader so that people would follow me and be loyal to me the way I was loyal to the church. I wanted God to be pleased with me so that meant doing everything the church said so I could be pleasing to God. It was very demanding and unforgiving at times what the church wanted me to do. It seemed as if I couldn't do enough right. I felt like a spiritual failure. Eventually I realized that these standards were not realistic. I knew I could let go then. I didn't need a church to tell me that I was a valuable person.

I needed to learn to love myself. It was hard but I feel I can do that now. I don't need people to tell me I'm valuable. I am worthy of love because I am human being. All living things deserve respect and love. We don't always get what we deserve. That doesn't mean that we are worthless. That's a lesson I've learned over the years.