I was four months pregnant and I just left my soon-to-be ex-husband’s house. He told me he wasn’t sure he wanted to reconcile from our separation. I couldn’t drink it away. I couldn’t cut it away. I couldn’t shove my fingers down my throat again. I couldn’t even think about suicide for the second time; not with this life my husband and I created squirming inside of me.
I drove through town, as if someone had injected a grey cloud into my brain. I stopped for a milkshake, simply because. Then I drove on auto-pilot to a tattoo shop. Yes, wretched of me to get a tattoo while pregnant. But the other options to handle my pain weren’t really options.
I sat in the car with a pen and a bank deposit slip, and started numbly scribbling single words to ink into my wrist. About three words in, I had it. ENOUGH.
Twenty minutes later, my 5’1” frame allowed me to softly dangle my feet on the tattoo chair, as I sipped my milkshake like a child, hiding my newly pregnant belly. I sat there as the sweet bliss of the needle dug into my skin. It wasn’t a sick kind of pleasure. It was a relief. These six letters etched into my flesh were telling me what I had to do.
Four years later, I still get asked what the tattoo means. My answer is never the same, for it speaks to me differently, at various shifts in my life.
I smile and say, ENOUGH of the Bullshit. ENOUGH to my bulimia. I am ENOUGH. Sometimes I say all three.
Most understand me. Some almost shudder at my honesty. And some seem completely confused as if I said it in Pig Latin.
I don’t mind the reactions. It’s mine. I own it. It saved my life; literally and more than once.
I know how I got here, to this place of incessant struggle with being enough. I grew up in your typical dysfunctional family, except mine was saturated in a religious rain of disapproval and unacceptance of individuality. It wasn’t god’s fault. It wasn’t really even my parents’ fault. They loved as much as they were capable. Not knowing my worth or who I was, I married young to a ‘religious’ man-child with a mean streak. Five years, a plethora of bruises and a shattered soul later, I finally divorced not only from my marriage but also from the confines of religion.
To make the transition even more of a mind-fuck, I received a letter from my father on my birthday. He had a charming habit of sending his most damning letters on yellow lined legal-pad paper. I could feel his disgust as my fingers unfolded the three yellow pages. I could feel the impressions of his all capital-words, as if he pressed his pen deeply with anger. Three pages of ‘Holly, I’m so disappointed you left god, sleeping around, ashamed of you, had better hopes for you’ etc. I knew he had leukemia but as I read his letter through streaming tears of guilt, anger and shame, I wished for his death. Twenty days later, I got my wish. I watched his once terrifying presence be reduced to a small frame beneath starchy sheets on his deathbed. He lost lucidity, therefore having a last breath chat with how much he hurt me, just never happened. As he expelled his last death rattle, I whispered ‘I love you’. An hour later the morgue took my father away in a black body bag. A black fucking body bag, contained my ‘god’. He was gone and I was left with his ‘gift’ of never-good-enough. Left with an empty bewilderment. My ‘god’, withholding his love and approval, is now gone. What the hell am I supposed to do?
So for the next ten years, I answered that question by sifting through my childhood, my abusive marriage and broken self with boozy nights, angry canvases, my raw bulimic throat, shamefully shameless sex and bizarre journaling.
Funny thing about abuse, it likes to linger like an insecure motherfucker. When would this stop? This invisible demon wagging its finger at my tear-stained face, saying, ‘Who the hell do you think you are? You’re nothing. You’re pathetic. You’re fat. You’re ugly. You deserve nothing. YOU ARE NOT ENOUGH’.
Just typing those words, the tears well up from my stomach to my eyes. The core beliefs I was taught never really took her graceful leave. These past few years, I’ve rewritten them. I’ve recolored them. I’ve redefined them. I’ve done self-work; I’ve done the fucking work. But I’m not done. It’s like ripping up a letter (on yellow lined legal-pad paper) and throwing it up to the sky. Some shreds may drift away in the wind and some still fall back down on us.
I’ve created a mental scrapbook. Each age, each story, each mistreatment and how it impacted each subsequent year and relationship. Just because I created this scrapbook with a measure of psychological awareness, maturity and clarity, it doesn’t mean I’m fixed.
My husband and I did reconcile and continue to fight for our love. That unborn child who accompanied me at the tattoo shop, is now nearly four. I’m also four and a half years ‘clean’ of my bulimia. Suicide hasn’t occurred to me again. My scars on my left arm are now pale from healing. I enjoy wine but not until I pass out on the floor with Tori Amos on repeat until dawn. Enough of the bullshit.
I still have my dark moments, ok…weeks. I still allow assholes to hurt me. I still trust and get burned. I still want to throw up. I still struggle to stop after the third glass. I still miss the soothing pain of a razor blade. I still cry. I still wish my Dad loved me for who I was. I still feel not good enough.
But my tattoo is still there, even though the ‘O’ has a cut image of a cross. But it’s perfectly damaged. I am perfectly damaged. I love and accept all my scars, all my memories, all my not-so-great-choices. To hate any moment of my thirty eight years of breath, is to hate myself. Which I am tired of doing. Enough. Enough of hating. Ok, two steps back, I get it. I’m not perfect. But I’m perfectly damaged and I own that shit. I own all my pain, all my horror stories, all my tears.
Our wedding bands are inscribed inside with, ‘Love me with all your smiles and tears’. Life, love, relationships, our bodies, our minds – they can’t exist without light and dark. They just are. I just am. They are enough. I am enough.
‘Please stop Holly’, I beg. Please stop reader. Work through your pain. Work through your crying. Work through your divorce, and job losses, and eating disorders and breakdowns and all things ugly and imperfect. But work through them with a silent acknowledgement of getting on the other side of shit. That’s what this year has been for me. Realizing, Goddamn woman, you are on the other side of shit. You made it. You’re here. Congratulations. You were hurt but you’re no longer a victim. Your bruises have healed. You are not laying at the bottom of the stairs any more. His boot is no longer raised above your head. Your dad’s letters are fading. The scars on your body have paled. Your children feel the kiss on their foreheads and know they are loved and accepted and safe. Your husband loves your silly ass and you needn’t fear him. Food is no longer the enemy and it’s damn yummy. You’re a healthy gorgeous weight. You have your dark, boozy, jazzy nights but they no longer end in a tearful bloody drunken mess. Damn woman, you’re on the other side of shit and that is enough. That is more than enough. You are enough you lovely, beautiful mess you.