I like to say I’m a musician but it’s the part of me that I fear the most. I’ve struggled to understand why that is so well enough to convey to others (like my therapist or my friends to help me get through it, past it) and myself. Though a vague idea of the feeling lingers around me like a mist of the childhood that haunts me, it has never made enough sense for me to be able to piece it out and accept my heart.

Because of a generous soul I have been able to sink my teeth into an amazing book “Believing Me” by Dr. Ingrid Clayton. It’s her memoir about surviving narcissistic abuse and CPTSD. Something I live with today as my followers should already know. For days I was scared of reading about her trip to Vagas with her step father in the 8th chapter but I got through it and then I was faced with chapter 9… “A Musician’s Musician.”

Here I was eager to devour the chapter, feeling shame to want to identify as musician and connect. The words echoing in my mind again “that’s not for you, that’s not your place, you stupid little girl, you’re just an idiot.” I read on, still, hoping to soothe my little me. Desperately reaching for a clue to accept me. Why does music taunt me and hurt me? Another part of me wanted to learn I’m a fraud, a joke, a fool so I could stab that part of my soul and rip it out for good.

I often can’t read a good book without my mind interrupting me with the enticing need to write as well. I struggle to read and easily tell myself I am not really a writer because “I don’t read. I suck at reading.” Sometimes, my heart wins and thus here I am writing to you all. In this chapter, Dr. Clayton starts delicately describing her first encounter with a large stage and her feelings of being seen and safe and the joy of feeling her power through music. My mind started racing, remembering that my father denied me of my deepest desire. I was overwhelmed at my stupid jealousy for her with a toxic step father who used her love of music for himself. The “opportunities” I would have died for, I suppose.

I’m skipping around a lot and I apologize, her moments of experiencing an auditorium for the first time were free from her abusers influence, as she wrote “nothing matched that form of expression. I could be full of self-doubt outside of that building but when I got on stage, I was a force. I commanded attention and it didn’t scare me, because it was safe to take up space in the center of a song.” Reading this I felt myself zooming out of the memories of my first time singing alone on a huge stage. I never felt powerful, I never felt anything like this. What I did feel was the constant under current of my whole life as I do now. A deep rooted complete fear of attention. It feels like a dirty word, an evil concept, a disgusting existence… I am not to be seen or heard. That’s dangerous on all counts.

So here I am ready to deny my heart and soul again. New friends have called me “Sabi the Siren” and the woman inside me takes in a deep breath and finds herself drinking in her true self, a voice of an angel another new friend said, soothing, peace-bearing, healing… friends have given me this feedback that reflects what my soul says “this is me.” Immediately, within seconds because it’s a reflex of self defense and survival the child inside me harpoons those feelings of being seen and heard and I’m assaulted with shame and guilt. “You stupid prideful bitch, you’re never going to be or do anything. They’re just being nice, that’s what people do to be polite as they say, if you can’t say anything nice say nothing at all. You can’t even make music, you failed school, you’re too stupid to ever make anything that would help people. You’re lazy and stupid.” My whole body wants to participate in shutting down the sign of danger. My whole body remembers a life of denial and neglect.

As a little girl being seen meant Mom would get hurt, being seen meant I would get denied, pushed aside and lied to. Asking for attention meant promises would be made and broken silently without an apology. Asking for attention meant evil would take place and I was made to believe I was the culprit. “How dare you, Sabi.” How dare I ask for support as I get laid off from a job that gave me stability but also forced me to deny my heart everyday… How dare I ask for attention even as I speak, sing and create because I am a healer and healing makes me feel whole… How dare I breathe… How dare I exist… How dare you, Sabi.

My first time singing on a large stage was after years of hiding my singing in my tiny bedroom. A few friends had taught me guitar and helped me put chords to my first song “Here I Am.” They all treated my musicianship as a hobby (I hate that word so much) but they were kind and excited to share in music making. They were also budding musicians. After they taught me guitar I felt the endless desire to create music, lyrics anything. Little Sabi was dancing inside my heart and she was safe because she was in her room where no one would hurt her or be angry. This was after my father had left us in poverty but free, and my mom was allowed to be Mom. Of course I wanted more. I dreamt of blessing others with my words through song, but I constantly denied that part of myself, “sell out, attention whore…” I wanted to do what other musicians did for me, save me from sleep paralysis and nightmares, help me feel safe, find peace and love and warmth and tenderness and connection.

Thumbnail of my YT video of the first song I ever wrote

I feel like I ask too much.

My first time on a real stage I was auditioning for music school at my university after changing majors twice and always running away from myself. The last time I had learned music officially was in 7th grade when I was 13 and my music teacher then neglected the choir because he was a band teacher who didn’t care about singers. Maybe that was where I learned singers aren’t musicians but it would later become a repeating theme in my music education. “Singers are stupid.” There I was a decade or more later, dressed improperly because I didn’t know the politics of classical singing, reading off sheet music just for the lyrics because I had learned the melody by rote because that was how I had always learned music. I couldn’t read the score though I knew the theory behind the time signatures and rhythm values but to this day I can’t remake music from these tools, not very well anyway. I had ignorantly chosen an aria that was way above my level supposedly, on paper, more classical training politics. I sang “o mio babbino caro,” for those of you familiar with opera.

They didn’t let me into the music school. My brother made fun of me behind my back to my mother implying I wanted to be a music teacher because I thought music was “fun and easy.” She defended me and later talked to me about it telling me I’m a hard worker and telling me that I have been singing before I could even talk, telling me I was made for music. The advisor basically laughed me out of the office thinking I would never come back after failing. It was the first time in my life I wanted to fight for myself and succeed out of spite and prove to anyone who I really am. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the fierceness if my heart at that moment, but I finally stood up for Sabi at that time. Perhaps I was fueled by the fact that the professors who I sang for saw potential in me. Perhaps it was my friend at the time who encouraged me to fight and make a way for myself. Perhaps it was Mom being a mom and remembering she always made a way for me to be a singer when and however she could. Whatever it was, the fire of wanting to be a healer in this world was ignited and I still felt small and weak on that stage but it changed my life forever.

My first voice professor

I finished the chapter where Dr. Clayton describes her step fathers attempts at controlling her dreams and future and using her for his own ego. Bits of it reminded me of one of my last conversations with my father where he took credit for my learning music without his help or support. “Just like your father,” he said gloating about my YouTube channel to his Facebook friends and work. Ignoring the reality that he would scream at me for even looking at his dusty guitar (I never once saw him play it). Ignoring the hundreds of times I begged him to fix my brother’s old keyboard that was given to me, as would happen often, like the family junk yard. He promised time and time again that he would buy a replacement AC adapter. It took batteries too but that was “too expensive.” Of course his beer and cigarettes (and later I found out about drugs) were never “too expensive.” Fuck you Dad! I was fucking worth it! My heart was worth it, my soul was worth it!

Reading about what felt like my dream, the attention the seemingly nurturing of her skills and talent that Dr. Clayton had with her step father breaks my heart but also makes me thankful in a weird way of my father’s neglect. She writes “Eventually, singing with him just felt disgusting. Like he was pimping me out for his own pleasure. And yet, it was better than being ignored or punished.” When my father sang in the car he was arrogant and pompous. He often talked about his band from when he was young. The way she described her step father is just how my father was.

My first open mic with my old guitar Cloud

After not being able to finish music school because my financial aid was cut eventually I decided to “take my music seriously” years later. I started my YouTube channel and tried to play at open mics in my area. I started running into young girls in their teens who had their parents there supporting them. Seeing that made me feel so alone and forgotten, it hurt me to the core. I felt shame and guilt as if I thought they didn’t deserve the support or they were frauds for not fighting the world on their own. Really it was like seething hot coals on the wounds of my inner child. Now I wonder how many of those girls were being treated as we all deserve with love and support and how many were just being paraded around like trophies and ego boosts forever made to feel “not enough.”

As I face another season of unemployment and my family’s life in my hands I am scared. Last time 7 years ago I had just started my YouTube, I didn’t know how triggering doing what I love was going to be for me, I had fake supporters, narcissistic people who were using me and ready to devour me, I had fake friends who didn’t really support me, I had a faith that made shame and guilt even worse and I was in a circle of people who would use it to manipulate me… I still had Mom who supported and encouraged me as best as she could. Today I have a therapist on my side to help me fight. I have friends who genuinely support me and are cheering me on. I have myself trying to fight and cheer me on too, finally getting to the surface of my trauma getting tiny moments to breathe and keep navigating this sea of confusion and survival mechanisms. I just finished a sponsorship that all of me wants to say failed because I still feel I am not worth the support or love or care but I did it bravely and failing is not evil, it is beautiful. I am courageous. You are courageous.

Open mic at a local homeless shelter, Mom made that guitar strap for me

I want to thank you for reading this and sharing your time. If you have ever struggled with your musicianship or any of your creative endeavors I would love to hear from you. I share these stories to encourage others. You are not alone. Your dreams and hopes are worth being supported and you should be cherished. Dear one, dare to be seen and heard and fill whatever stage in your life where you feel your power and worth because we need your life and light and love.

My first photoshoot (that I took myself) with my old guitar Cloud

I wish you love and peace. Be fearless and brave for we need you. Thank you for reading.

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