What Love Is!

I grew up in a house of horrors. And the lead monster in my horror house was actually my mother. The physical abuse she administered wasn’t so bad—those wounds healed quite quickly. The wounds that remained with me were from her words.

I know my mother hated me. And because of that hatred, I spent my entire life searching for love.

Food became one source of “love” replacement for me at a very early age. I didn’t eat because I was hungry; I ate because I was hurting. Food made me happy for a moment. I had stashes all over the place that I could go to after an altercation with my mother. In the beginning, it helped a lot. But as I grew older, the food was no longer enough. The verbal abuse I endured from my mother grew harsher, and her hatred for me grew deeper. Food alone could no longer comfort me.

I was about 15 years old the first time I decided to cut myself. I went straight from binge-eating to self-mutilation. I think it started right after my older brother passed away and my mother looked me straight in my face and said, “I wish God would have taken you instead of my son.”

I remember going into my bathroom and grabbing a razor. I don’t know what made me do it, but I recall placing that razor right on the greenest-looking vein on my arm and pressing down. I didn’t cry, I didn’t scream–I just watched.

I spent my life comforting my pain with more pain. I prayed it would get better every day. I loved my mother. Some people said, “How could you love a woman like that?” I replied, “Because she’s my mom.”

I just knew one day she’d finally treat me like a daughter should be treated. I’d forgive her for every word and every bit of hurt. But it never happened. As I got older, we simply began to fight more and more, and when I was 18, she put me out for good.

I finally had freedom from my mother, but my mindset hadn’t changed. I was now alone and yearned for love even more than before. My mother had told me for years that because I was fat, no man would ever want me. When I was about 16, her boyfriend assaulted me and I tried to tell her, and she laughed. She said, “Look at you and look at me. Why would he want you?”

So I thought if a man talked to me or looked at me, I should be honored. I was 18 years old with 36-year-old men in my bed. I let men do whatever they wanted to me because I thought that was love. I was in my late 30s when I stood in front of a mirror and looked at myself and saw all the unhealed cut marks over my body.

I fell to my knees and just cried like I had never cried before. I heard a voice in my head saying parts of a Bible scripture I had heard throughout my life in church. It was 1 Corinthians 13:4–8: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

I realized nothing in my life I had been searching for was actually about love. I had no idea what love really was. I spent the next few years trying to clean myself up. I had to change a lot about myself, starting with letting go of my mother. I will always love her, but I had to let her go to finally find myself. I pray for her every night, but that’s all I can do.

I’m 42 years old now, and I’m just now getting my life together. I had a lot of healing that needed to be done on the inside as well as outside before I could start living. But it’s possible to finally live. What I learned through this journey was that if I wasn’t supposed to be here, I wouldn’t have made it this far. I have a purpose and a plan, and I won’t leave this Earth until I’ve accomplished what God put me here for. That gives me hope and strength.

I’m finally in a better place now. I love myself first and foremost and I know God, my heavenly Father, loves me, too. And that is what love is!

Shannan Butler

About the Author | Shannan Butler

Shannan Butler is a mom, writer, and poet. She loves working with children and seniors and has done so for over 20 years. She is a proud mom of a college freshman. She enjoys listening to conversations out and about and going home and writing a poem about the lesson she took from the story. Shannan currently lives in Virginia but hopes to one day travel the world sharing her poems with many others.

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