That was the question my current therapist posed for me back at our first session last December. At the time, I vehemently denied this claim. Sure, I had been through some stuff, but I liked to consider myself a pretty trusting person. I am empathetic and kind and like to see the good in people. Those aren’t usually qualities associated with someone who goes around with a mistrust of the world. Those people are brooding and angry— things I didn’t like to think of myself.
But alas, I had just filled my therapist in on thirty-one years of history in which faith had faltered for me, starting with being betrayed by a caregiver when I was very young. Clearly, that didn’t exactly build the strongest foundation for wanting to and being able to believe in the good of people. Things didn’t get any better when I was a teenager and fell in love for the first time. He was my first boyfriend, and the guy I would subsequently lose my virginity to— the ultimate gift of a trust for a teenage girl. Our relationship ran its course, as young first love often does, but he was angry. At that point, he was the only person I had ever had a sexual relationship with and a few months after our breakup, he came to school with a letter on a M.D.’s letterhead stating that he had HIV and told me I should get tested. It ended up being a prank— a cruel, heartless prank that still sends a shiver down my spine anytime I have to get bloodwork done because it’s a terrible reminder of having to take what ended up being a pointless STD test. I should also mention that the prank was perpetuated by our mutual friends, some of my closest friends at the time, who insisted I get tested because “it wasn’t a joke.” How brutal. And again, when someone you love goes to such extremes to see you in pain, how are you able to put your faith in someone again?
In the years since, I’ve been cheated on, lied to, and misled. I’ve confided in close friends about hurt feelings, only to have them turn around and tell other people how I felt. I’ve had relationships ruined because of gossip. I was told from my very first entertainment job that I would be a wunderkind with her own show in just a few years time. Or they would give me a staffing opportunity as soon as one presented itself. Those same people who made empty promises would disappear after the shows we worked on together ended. Now I’m in my thirties, still working as an assistant and still waiting for that big break. And the reason I found myself in therapy and having this question posed to me at all was the fact I had a pregnancy that for all intents and purposes seemed perfectly healthy, until they discovered something was wrong with the baby and had been all along. My own body and basic human instinct of motherhood had betrayed me.
So yes, my therapist had a point: I hard a hard time with trust.
But, in the past six months since I’ve been honest with myself about my own mistrust, something wonderful began to happen. I began to allow myself to trust. I stopped talking to people who had betrayed me in the past— not in a cruel or overt way, but I learned who I could rely on and who I could simply be cordial with. I learned how to create boundaries that protected myself from the hurt I felt when someone did something to upset me. And most importantly, I learned who I could put my trust in. Like anything in life, trust is like a muscle. The more you use it, the easier it is to tap into. The bad experiences get overpowered by the good ones. And I’m lucky to have such a strong foundation of people that are worthy of my trust, with the top of that list being my own husband.
From the time Nate and I started dating, he never held anything back. A week into our relationship he sent me a text message simply stating: “I’m into you.” No frills, just a cold-hard fact. I wasn’t used to this and a lot of our early fights would be him stating something clearly and plainly, and me refusing to understand or believe that’s what he actually meant. It’s taken a few years, a few fights, and a heartbreaking/bonding moment, but I finally believe him when he says something. It’s easy to put your trust in someone like that. And I’m so lucky that he happens to be the person closest to me.
I’ve also learned in the past few months how to put trust in myself, a skill that has changed everything for me. I’m no longer tied to people’s perceptions of me. They can think what they want, but I know the truth because I know myself. I’m no longer worried about getting hurt. Pain is a fact of life, but I also know I’m a strong-ass woman who has built a solid defense mechanism around myself. And I’m no longer worried (most of the time) about when things will happen and why they aren’t. Sometimes you just have to have faith that things will work out the way they’re supposed to. Most of the time, they do. It’s much easier to trust than not to. It’s taken a long time to get there, and will continue to be something I have to work at.