I’ve heard myself saying, “I don’t recognize myself anymore” for the last few weeks, because of how different I feel compared to my younger years. Self-awareness can be an extremely uncomfortable thing to deal with, but it’s necessary for intrapersonal insights and growth. For some reason, I had a massive moment of self-awareness happen to me when I came home from work today.

Today was an unusually rough day for me, emotionally speaking. Part of it was I didn’t sleep properly last night, and like all of us, I have a lot on my mind right now. I’ve been struggling to process all of the chaos and nonsense that’s ensued as COVID-19 continues to affect our daily lives. I’m worried about what the future holds for us all, and what current events might do to my personal future.

I was extremely agitated on the job today, and apologized to my shift leader when I thought I’d said something snippy to her. To my surprise, she told me that I hadn’t been mean at all, and that I’ve never been like that with her.

See, this is indicative of two things: I’m still plenty nice even when I’m fed up, and I apologize more than I need to.

My manager and I’ve discussed this several times, because as she knows, I’ve struggled to stop myself for saying sorry for every little thing. I use “I’m sorry” as a reflex response anytime I believe that I’ve inconvenienced somebody. After I recently replayed Silent Hill 2, watching this scene with the young woman Angela Orosco hit a personal note for me.

Angela’s instinctive response, because of the horrible trauma she was put through prior to the game, is to apologize. For me, this was one of the coping mechanisms I developed in response to the sheer stress that being around my ex-stepdad for all those years.

I want to avoid writing an entire blog post about him again, but it necessitates mentioning his role in this. When I poured my heart out to God on this matter, I realized that my constantly saying “I’m sorry” whenever I feel uncomfortable or think that I’ve made somebody unhappy stems from my interactions with my ex-stepdad. I did my best to act in a manner I believed would appease him, in order to avoid angering him. I was constantly walking on egg shells around him, like Mom and my two sisters did. We had to put on a façade to avoid hearing him drop scathing remarks, or do something pettily passive-aggressive in response.

God helped me realize that I don’t need to apologize just because I feel uncomfortable, or because somebody might feel inconvenienced. He stopped me from saying to Him, “I’m sorry, I’m just not in a good place today”. Since when is God inconvenienced by His kids being honest with Him?

In hindsight of those nasty years of my life, it didn’t feel safe being honest with my ex-stepdad. This makes him a hypocrite, because he felt that he had the authority to be loud and honest about his beliefs, while shutting down anybody who even slightly disagreed with him. It felt better to go with the flow and avoid giving him fuel for a needless argument. I chose to be the appeaser instead of somebody willing to rock the boat even slightly, and I regret that.

Another thing that I’ve come to terms with is that, as another byproduct of that era, I’d rather daydream (or arguably, dissociate from the moment) to avoid drowning in anxiety. By distancing myself mentally from my surroundings back then, I believed I could avoid being crushed with tension. Well, it may’ve worked in those moments, but it had the direct consequence of saving the stress for later. Constantly trying to deny my feelings about a situation has gotten me into trouble a few times, namely that awful dormitory I put myself in at college. I was dishonest with myself and Mom about how bad it was for me, with how toxic the social environment was. It took me having the worst breakdown of my life for me to admit that I needed to leave.

Thankfully, I no longer need to worry about having to deny my feelings or the situation to survive. I’m supremely grateful to work at a job that encourages its employees to be open with their thoughts in an objective manner. My managers have done an awesome job of encouraging me to not feel like I have to dance around topics when I talk with them. It’s a breath of fresh air, for sure.

If anything, I’m free to be as pleasantly honest about things like Steven from Steven Universe! (Spoiler Alert for the following clip).

You see, Steven barely has to raise his voice in comparison to Blue Diamond here, as he calls her out on how toxic their “family” truly is. Now, without the fear of any repercussions from the man who loved oppressing opposing viewpoints, I’m free to call things out at my pleasure.

I have to remember going forward that I’m no longer in a toxic place in my life where I have to use these mechanisms to feel safe. I am safe. I don’t have to tiptoe around anything anymore. And in time, the echo of all the crap my ex-stepdad put us through will fade away. I just have to keep working to ensure that it disappears completely.