Discovery.

February 25, 2011 at 6:00 am | Posted in Crazy Talk (aka: Therapy) | 20 Comments

(WARNING: This is a heavy post for me to write. And. There’s a lot of whining in it. Please, PLEASE, feel free to slip away. I promise I will not judge. But for me, I need to get this out and away and into some sort of written form. Since blogging is my therapy, too, this really is the best place to put it for me.)

I was talking, yet again, about grieving my aunt and cousin.

And it slipped in before I even THOUGHT about it.

I ended my whining about how hard it is on me with an incredibly sarcastic “Waaaaah.”

Said quickly, nearly under my breath, more to myself than anything.

My therapist didn’t miss it, though.

She said, Did you just disparage yourself?

I was sort of shocked, too. Sat there for a minute before I could respond.

Yeah. I did just disparage myself.

I do it all the time.

____________________

I often get annoyed with J for being so defensive so quickly. Because if I ask a question, no matter how damn hard I try to word it, to say it in a neutral voice, he takes it as criticism.

And at my angriest – because, yes, it pisses me the FUCK off, that I work so damn hard to phrase a damn QUESTION the PERFECT way so that he doesn’t react – I’ve wanted to let loose, to show him what REAL criticism is.

Because I grew up HOUNDED. I was told I was lazy, I was no good, I didn’t THINK, I didn’t work hard enough. I was going to amount to nothing if I wasn’t careful.

Those were the bad days.

On a good day, I was merely an idiot, I argued too much with my mom, I didn’t do a good enough job of being responsible.

Even now? My mom tells me this: We’re proud of how you’ve turned out.

See, when you’ve grown up where EVERYTHING is real, true criticism, you have to grow a thick skin. You don’t have the luxury of reacting to someone’s tone of voice, because you know it gets so much worse.

My mother hit me, she screamed at me, she lectured me about every. last. weakness of mine until she got foam in the corner of her mouth.

It was only after her own irrational, authoritarian anger was spent that I EVER heard the words “I love you.”

My husband has no sense of this. He doesn’t GET how much worse things can be.

_____________________

Somewhere along the line of my life, I managed to take all the crap hurled at me from my parents and assimilate it into my person.

And it wasn’t until I was talking with my therapist that I realized WHEN it started.

Just after my second semester freshman year of college.

When Amy committed suicide.

I was so young, and so unable to cope. I was so GUILTY. Maybe if I hadn’t pushed her into the pool at my high school graduation party, or had been a better sister-cousin to her, or paid attention to that letter she sent me about how she was sleeping around her high school and everything seemed dim and gray, or when she told me that she had a suicide attempt and “was all better now.” Maybe I could have helped. If I had just LISTENED.

But instead?

I rolled my eyes and went on loving the magic of my college in the spring.

I was so happy that year. Honestly, it’s the happiest I’ve been in my entire LIFE.

And then I went home for the summer. And within days, she was dead.

And my raging guilt over not doing anything to even TRY and help? I took that guilt and DID things with it. That guilt made me Responsible. It made me work hard at achieving goals.

Before her death, I was a lackadaisical student at best.

After? I made Dean’s List every semester. I took more credits than I needed, took on a nearly full time job on campus, and became the Fundraising Manager of my marching band. I joined a co-ed service fraternity. I took care of puking freshmen at house parties.

Like I couldn’t live my life for me anymore, I had to live it for Amy.

I was doing penance for all of the times I didn’t step in to help her when I could have.

It was an effective motivator.

But it never made me FEEL better. The guilt never went away.

And the presence of that guilt amplified all of my weaknesses, whether real or imagined, I heard as a kid.

If I had been the person I SHOULD have been, I wouldn’t feel guilty.

Maybe my parents were RIGHT.

_______________________

Just before we finished this week’s session, my therapist told me this.

You have to learn how to love yourself. Even when you’re not running.

(This, of course, was said in response to me saying that I needed to get back into running, because it made me feel good.)

When I got up to leave, I couldn’t meet her eyes. I couldn’t leave that room quickly enough.

I’m ashamed.

Ashamed that I’ve spent nearly 17 years trying to prove that I’m more than what my parents thought of me.

Ashamed because, by working so fucking hard, I give creedence to the things they said about me.

Ashamed that I can’t intellectualize this away.

Ashamed that once all the trappings of my life are stripped away, I’m just six year old girl.

Sitting in the corner.

Wearing a dunce cap.

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20 Comments »

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  1. Powerful post. That’s really all I can say. You are on a road to self discovery, the destination will very much be worth the trip.

  2. I grew up with a similar situation with my parents. I had to eventually dis-associate myself from them (luckily I had my Grammie in my life). College was also my stepping stone away from them. And I find that I am a better parent because I KNOW how to NOT parent from them.

    Oh, and yeah, I have similar thin-skinned hubs that doesn’t know what a REAL yelling, screaming argument is.

    I hear ya. And I hope that the therapy (and this blog) helps heal.

    [[Hugs]]

  3. There is no shame in realizing what happened to you, and working hard has not made those things your parents said any truer than they were when you were six. Working hard has been your way of silencing those awful voices that won’t be silenced. I’m glad that you’re finally listening to them with an adult ear, so that you can hear how wrong they are … and to learn how to love yourself as you deserve, rather than through your parents’ issues. Serenity, you are so amazing in so many ways … I’m really looking forward to your discovery of just how amazing and beautiful and love-worthy you are. πŸ™‚

  4. I can’t pretend to know where you’ve been and what you’ve been through, but I do know that you shouldn’t be ashamed at all. Kudos to you for doing the hard work it can sometimes take to get to a better place.

  5. First, I think you have a really good therapist, since you feel comfortable talking about all this with her. I’m glad. And what you are saying totally makes sense. I have not been through half of what you have, but having experienced some of it with my dad, I can kind of understand how you have internalized things. It is better to become an overachiever than go to the other extreme, sure. But if you can even start to feel, maybe a little, that you’re someone who should be proud of herself, and someone who deserves it, that will be the best thing. I’m thinking of you.

  6. I agree that your therapist seems awesome. And hey – take it from someone who know (my dad always told me I ‘turned out well for a girl’) it’s rough. Sounds like we are both going through a ‘thing’.

    I’m always looking for LIFE CHANGING events. I signed up for the NY-Boston AIDS ride (360 miles of bike riding over four days) because it was supposed to change my life. I just got a sore bum. I did the Ironman to Change My Life – lost 18 months of my life to training and I crossed the finish line feeling no different. Did the Boston Koman Walk for Breast Cancer – mostly just got a apprication for people who stand on their feet all day. And then it hit me – I don’t NEED to have a life changing experience. I have a pretty great life. Good huband, decent job, great kids…. I try to live in the present and push away the ugly thoughts from childhood.

    It certainly doesn’t happen overnight.

  7. I don’t know what to say other than I’m so glad you are working through all of this because you deserve to be happy and love yourself. I’m glas to see this post for that reason. I write in a journal to get things out. I have to get them out and on paper to process them and move on. I’m so glad to see you doing it. And, it helps me to remember not to disparage myself, so a HUGE thank you for that as well. It’s not the pain olympics, if we hurt, we hurt and that is justified.

  8. You are confronting your past and your fears face on… that is so brave of you! Be proud of yourself! HUGS. I hope this takes you to a path of healing and acceptance!

  9. I agree…you should be able to love yourself even when you’re not running! There’s no one that’s so responsible for others that they should have to carry all that guilt, really.

    I hope your therapist can help.

  10. I don’t think you’re whining at all. It sounds like you have found a good therapist, which is wonderful. And it sounds like you have an awful lot of processing to do. I hope you can work through it. You do deserve to love yourself. And striving to achieve does not make what your parents said about you true. I can’t say I know how you feel, or that I’ve been there, but I had a very difficult relationship with my father for many years (result of a nasty divorce), and I know that his approval still means far more to me than it should. And I am pathologically incapable of coping with conflict- I can’t STAND having anyone mad at me. Again, I can thank the divorce for that. All that to say that we can’t outrun our past experiences, but we don’t always have to let them shape who we forever become.

    xoxoxo
    T.
    PS. Am very curious to know how the great underpants experiment went!

  11. OH Serenity, oh sweetie. My heart was pounding reading this, I don’t want you to feel this way. I don’t want you in any way to think of yourself as ANYTHING less than the person , the AMAZING, WONDERFUL, AMBITIOUS, KIND, woman you are.

    I know all about how all those things that your parents tell you shape you, how you spend your whole life trying to make yourself INTO something for other people , so that they will see you, really, really See YOU.

    I know that therapy is working, not because you are writing posts like this, but because you CAN write posts like this, you’re thinking about the places this stuff comes from in an attempt to get past it. That’s strong, that’s brave. Mostly because it’s hard to put stuff like this out there..and own it, to tell yourself this is how you feel.

    I want to say I’m proud of you and have it not sound Placating. It’s not…I am proud of all the work you are doing to undo the past, to make the future better. Just be kind to yourself during this self discovery and know that underneath it you might be a six yr old girl…but you are NO DUNCE.

    love you…lots
    xo

  12. I can relate. I had a very abusive mother & traumatic childhood. I too have a loved one I feel I could’ve tried to help, my uncle. He passed @ 35. This is all so heavy. I hope going to therapy continues to help. You deserve to be happy. πŸ™‚

  13. Serenity, this post made me cry. I so understand being that little girl. But there is nothing shameful about feeling like that 6 yr old girl who never heard anything good about herself. Parents are powerful figures in their children’s lives. I think it would have been very hard not to have assimilated what they said into who you think you are.

    And as for feeling like that 6 yr old girl is still living inside you? That just means that now, the adult YOU can parent her, love her and appreciate her in the way that little girl deserved to be parented, loved and appreciated. And let her grow up with different, more loving voices in her head.

  14. Once again, I am with you. In fact, a revelation I had about my mother just yesterday has gotten me looking for a therapist so that I can work some of my shit out. Actually, what I want to work out is how to manage to have a decent relationship with her until she dies. Which is no small feat because my mother pushes all my buttons ALL.THE.TIME and puts forth no effort to have a relationship with my son but practically co-parents my sisters two boys. I need some practical tools.

    At any rate, what is so great about this post is that having an awareness of one’s wounds and acknowledging them goes a long way in not passing them on to one’s own children. There is a blessing in that.

  15. Your reaction, being ashamed, is still part of the self-destructive pattern. You’ve made a huge leap in seeing it, but placing yourself in the corner with a dunce cap is still perpetuating it. I think you need to forgive yourself before you can love yourself.

    Just some assvise from a 99% lurker…

  16. I know how hard it can be to dig up all of these things in therapy. Be kind to yourself in the process, it can be very draining. Sometimes, just figuring out why you act/feel/think the way you do helps you deal with so many things.

    I am sorry that you were treated like this as a child. No child deserves this, ever. I hope the journey you are going through leads you to loving yourself for who you are.

  17. some of the things you said a very familiar to me. I work very hard to have my son hear me say “good job” when he is done something good.

    I hope you find a way to be who you are, versus who you think your parents think you are. I found later in life that I was much smarter, much more talented, much more likely to succeed then I had given myself credit for as a child. Apparently, having them telling me I could do better, I should be less lazy, I should know better, actually worked against me.

    It took me a long time, but I worked through most of it. I think I still have a need to prove myself. I still get upset when I feel like I can’t prove it that am really damn good. I also get upset when I feel like I’m not being seen as successful.

    Btw – I have a hubby like that…

  18. My shoulders are too wide. My ears are too big. and on and on and on.You hear this often and in that condescending tone, from people that are supposed to encourage and love you, and it becomes who you are.

    Serenity, I am 53 and it wasn’t until I was in my 40’s that I realized that I am NOT who unnamed family members kept telling me I was.

    Honestly…blogging (and Well.butrin) is really what brought me out of my shell. I would dissolve in my head when my husband would criticize me..even over the smallest thing. In my mind all I heard was a continuation of put-downs from long ago. Now, I really say what I am thinking. Reactions from others..be damned. I am not mean spirited, but I don’t blow roses from my ass either. You ask…you get an answer…and if you don’t like it, YOU will have to deal with it. I’m done walking on egg shells.

    I look into my kids eyes, and they see me not as someone with inadequacies, but as someone who will always support and encourage their dreams. In a crazy way…THEY give ME strength. They deserve a confident, self assured mom to show them the way things need to be.

    Serenity, you can’t save other people. You were what..18, 19? You didn’t have enough life experience to even know how to begin saving someone. I understand your guilt. I am the queen of guilt, but I have learned that guilt is often severely misplaced. Please keep talking to your therapist and you will be amazed at the peace that you will come to at some point.

  19. I haven’t had any personal experience with this, but I am married to a man whose parents have never. once. told him they loved him or were proud of him. They didn’t physically abuse him, they didn’t yell at him, they just pretty much left him to himself. And that takes its own toll.

    I think you are making great strides in therapy. I hope you can find a way — or several ways — to dissolve the guilt and self-blame.

  20. I’m sorry you’re struggling. For me, being dragged back and forth between between happiness at having one miracle and sadness at not having another is dredging up a lot of the unrelated in-between emotions that have been under the surface. I’m glad you have someone to talk to about all this, even if you’re still at the point where it’s getting harder rather than easier.


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