"I am a product of divorce." I hate that phrase. It's just so limiting, so defeating. Don't get me wrong, divorce is a very serious topic that has everlasting effects on the people that it touches. I know this; I am from a broken family. My parents split up when I was four years old as a result of an affair my father was having with a family friend. The same woman he is still with today. The same woman who abused me. I have suffered long and hard for the mistakes of others, the mistakes of those who were meant to protect me. I had to learn to protect myself, and as so often happens with children who are forced to grow up too soon, I protected myself in the most destructive ways imaginable. As I have grown, and truly only recently discovered, I have learned that sometimes the only way to move forward is to let go. It took me years to realize this fact, and it is one that I wrestled with tirelessly for what seemed like an eternity. Believe me, I know how cliché this sounds, and the conclusion came at no small cost, but it is the truth. A ship cannot complete its voyage while its anchor is cast. Healing cannot begin if one is not ready and open to the idea of letting their past be just that - the past. Too often it happens that people spend a lifetime punishing themselves for the sins of those who hurt them. It is so important to reach an understanding within yourself that it is okay to move on. You are allowed to let go, you're allowed to heal, you're allowed to grow. You do not have to carry every single thing that has ever happened to you through your whole life, in fact, that is an extremely toxic way to live. What I'm trying to say is, you cannot let the bad things that happen to you as a child define who you are as an adult. And that is no easy task, believe me, I know. I have countless stories of personal punishment that I could delve into, intimate horrors I could lay out for everyone to see. I still find myself using food, or the lack thereof, as one such punishment when I feel I am not doing enough, when I feel I have messed up, when I feel like I am just no good. I do this because that is what I was taught. When you upset someone or do wrong, you don't get to eat, you have to earn it. And I know this is ridiculous, which is why I try so hard to remind myself every day that what happened to me doesn't have to follow me for the rest of my life. And it shouldn't. No one will ever be able to take away what I experienced, no one can take away the pain. But beauty can still grow from those ashes. I can, and I must choose every single day to let go and to grow, to break out of the box that I built around myself to keep from getting hurt again. The box was only hurting me more. I am so glad I can see that now, and I am so glad that I have allowed myself to have a voice and to speak about my journey into freedom- because that is what I am. I am not a product of divorce. I am a product of my own making, a product of letting go and being free.