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For as long as I can remember, I have always had this unshakable knowledge that I was damaged. I don’t know why or when this discovery was actually made. But, even as a child, I was always aware particularly when interacting with other children, that I was different.

The circumstances of my birth, my “origin story” are sordid and full of the worst kind of soap opera style dramatics. There’s a theory that the maternal experiences can leave an imprint on the genetic material passed onto the next generation. Could it be that most of my issues are, at least partly based, in the previous generations messed up behavior? There certainly is enough bad behavior to go around.

And yes, I realize that there’s a huge element of personal responsibility. I acknowledge as given that my brain is wired wrong. I’ve known that for pretty much my whole life. Each day is a struggle to overcome that bad wiring, but knowing that it is there is truly half of the battle. My abuse was more subtle, harder to explain to people who weren’t there, enmeshment and manipulation are not always perceived as the invasive quiet damaging factors as the physical damage I also endured. The expectation for me to be the responsible party in a household of extremely damaged, and chemically addicted adults was conveyed in very real terms at a very young age.

My home life was alternating between two sides of the same coin, wanting to resist the damaging experience, and failing, and wishing for “normalcy” which was an impossibility. We attended church for a while when I was small, and I remember the promises made during the services, that God was always with us, could hear our prayers and performed miracles.

Each night I prayed silently to myself, laying awake in bed while the chaos spun just outside the door. I wanted desperately to feel the closeness to a higher power that people at church promised was possible, if my heart was open and pure. But as hard as I prayed, trying everything I could think of to feel something, I always came up wanting. The emptiness that filled that void still haunts me. I understood in those moments, when you wish for something, dropping the coin deep down into the well, aching to hear the satisfying splash, the tinkling as the coin banks off the walls, sometimes you only hear nothing, feel nothing. That’s my experience of God.

I don’t want to say that a higher power doesn’t exist, or take away the value it serves for the lucky faithful who have experienced it. I can say that it never worked out for me. And in the darkest parts of my life, I came to the very real understanding that I was truly alone. And all the prayer in the world couldn’t help me undo the damage.