The parent anti-oxident

“They gave birth to you …”

“I’m sure they mean well….”

“They love you very much….”

“They will come around….”

Things people will say with very good intentions to help console those that are estranged from their parents. I have hoped and prayed that my parents would come around. I have tried my very best to let the fact that they gave me life, loved me and tried their best to wash away my negative feelings. I have let go and forgiven many times only to realize I haven’t really let go or forgiven completely. None of this has been half-assed. I have honestly been working my pretty little ass off.

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Yet, here I am. Again, at a crossroad, between a rock and a hard place, whatever you want to call it – its the hardest place, most painful place I have ever had to be. And I hate having to come back to this place again and again after I have done everything I know how to do to work through my feelings and move forward. Like seriously, how many fucking feelings do I have? Because they just keep coming, and each one is harder than the first.

The precursor was anxiety. I spent two years working through my anxiety disorder to discover other underlying emotions. The first layer I faced was guilt and shame. I worked through that and improved my self-esteem and self-worth. That was a lot of work over a lot of years –  but I did it!! And I am now a proud assertive woman. 🙂 Then, came the anger and rage. This was harder than guilt and shame. But again, I worked through it – in therapy, on the subway writing in my journal, meditating, taking breaks, talking to people, crying in the shower, talking in my sleep, sobbing in my sleep, exercising, self-soothing, taking supplements, eating healthy, praying, reading etc. Like I said, I really worked hard. Then, came some empathy and forgiveness. What a relief! I could reconnect a little and let go a little. Right until the disappointment from my parents present actions pushed me right back into anger, rage, and a new layer of emotion – grief.

So here we are. Grief and loss. No my parents are alive not dead. But apparently, my childhood sucked so bad that they might as well be dead – at least that is how my body is physically reacting. I don’t want that, but my body is grieving the loss of my healthy and alive parents! How messed up is that?

Then the criticism I experienced my whole life sets in. I must be a bad child. I must be over-sensitive. I mean they gave me life and loved me and did their best. How is it that I can logically get that, want to forgive them, but the forgiveness does not stick? Am I just a resentful, vindictive, parent punishing small person? I didn’t think I was, I mean, I give all the time to others, like literally majority of my life I am giving to others. So, seriously, what the fuck??

Then eventually all the work I have been doing begins to pay off. Its not me its them. Society is wrong on this one. We have a culture of silence about talking about how loving, caring, well meaning parents can screw up their children. How? Because of low or no emotional intelligence, inability to manage their own stress/life, own insecurities and unresolved issues, lack of resources, unwillingness to seek help, unwillingness to acknowledge that they could be wrong even with good intentions, unwillingness to give up the blame game or victim mentality. In other words, because they were never brave enough to face their own shadows or resolve their own baggage, and somehow thought they could raise another human being, without the shadow or baggage impacting their child. Well, I’ll be honest, either thats just really dumb, illogical, careless and/or selfish. Yes, having a child without being emotionally prepared for it, puts you at risk of being a toxic parent.

So now what? I go on the internet to google ‘how to work through your estrangement with your parents’ and many other similar searches. Almost all the links are for parents who’s children have cut them out. Poor parents, here is how to cope if your child doesn’t want to have anything to do with you. Really? Even google is telling me that the world thinks its the child’s fault. REALLY? So after another round of self-criticism, I finally come back to the realization that the internet is wrong – again only because now I have been working my very pretty little ass off. Seems like its gonna get really pretty before I find some resolution. 😛

But there is good news. YAY!! I love posts with a happy ending too (its the Bollywood, rom com lover in me ) I have done the hard work to find one book that looks promising and so far it has really been helping. The audio version is going to be my mantra to and from work. Its called “Toxic Parents” by Susan Forward. I hope Susan is forward thinking enough to help me detox out of this mess. But I am prepared for a disappointment like some other books I have read. But at least I have some hope again, and its going to be back to the workout of my life – working and working so damn hard, all because – lets face it – I had lazy, flabby assed parents!!

Chit Chat.

Inner Child

The last few weeks have been difficult for me. After four years of therapy, my therapist and I came to identify that there is still a lot of healing to do. Although, I have learned that it is not my fault, processing feelings is complex – just when you think its done, another layer appears.

In all these years, I have never truly connected with my inner child. Whenever I talk about the abuse, which is rare, I talk about it as if it happened to someone else. I was shocked to discover this, I never realized this before, I talk about it very matter of fact, very disconnected. The fear of facing the grief, of facing any left over feelings of shame/guilt, and therefore the fear of connecting with my inner child has been terrifying.  I have finally come to a logical place, been able to move past my abuse and I don’t want to lose it all….

As I began to connect with this part of myself – emotions rushed in. It felt like I was nine years old again. Very weird feeling, to be a fully grown woman and feel unsafe even in your therapist’s office. Logic isn’t what can explain the feelings of the inner child. But these feelings, so old but so real, like time had never passed. I can’t do justice to these feelings with words, I wish I could. But its the first time I have truly felt speechless.

And for the last two weeks, I have been speechless. Unable to comprehend, unable to explain to others, unable to journal or meditate. I have found ways to sit with my feelings but its been a world wind. I guess, I finally opened that pandora’s box, when I allowed my therapist to take control of the session, and stopped rejecting her help with this topic. Although I’m glad to move towards healing, another part of me is screaming, what was I thinking, giving up control again? Which is ironic, because I too am a therapist, and a good one too – yet being in therapy is never easy – no matter how much you know.

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After a lot of tears, numbness, dreams, reflection and reading, I have come to realize a few very very important things:

  1. When I imagine my inner child at the time of the abuse, and I imagine soothing her, talking to her, connecting to her (as recommended for healing), I feel so incredibly guilty – and that is after I am even able to move past the numbness and connect. Guilty for ignoring her all this time, guilty for ignoring all the signs that she needs comfort.
  2. As I overcome some of this guilt, I realize that she is a wonderful child. She was so smart, so wise, so courageous, so positive and so skilled and doing her best to protect herself, protect me.
  3. As I learn to connect, I feel her intense grief, but also realize this is my grief. Mostly, for allowing myself to treat myself so poorly and reject the one person, who protected me – my own inner child.
  4. As weird, uncomfortable or illogical it may feel, learning to comfort myself and talk to my inner child, has been allowing me to feel some sense of happiness in a way I can’t explain. It is like gaining back a relationship I had lost, filling of a void that I forget is empty since I have been so good at filling it with other meaningful relationships.
  5. I continue to learn that my inner child, my authentic self is very special. She is very smart, beautiful, funny, caring, loving, able to think of others even in the worst of times, she is a very gentle soul. She truly amazes me, how at age 9, she could be so wise and giving. This brings me to tears because I have ignored this fact for over 20 years. I have allowed myself to constantly criticize and constantly shame myself.
  6. I have realized my inner child does not deserve the treatment I have been giving her. She doesn’t deserve to constantly feel like she has to be perfect, to prove that she is a good person, or to constantly desire approval/love from others. She deserves to just be and be celebrated for her courage, for her amazing self.

A big sigh of relief and a sigh of sadness. I will call this the happy-grief feeling. I am happy to know my  inner child. I never truly felt special, although I am lucky enough to have people tell me this all the time. A part of  me always doubted what they said. Maybe a relationship with my inner child is the only way I can truly fill this void. I think I realize the hardest part of abuse, is losing yourself, because every child blames themselves. What I’ve learn is that its easier for children to believe they could have changed something than to realize that it was not in their control, this is very scary as a child; to be in a world where you cannot change/control the horrible things happening to you. And it is even worse when your abuser blames you and emotionally manipulates you into thinking its your fault. And that is what my grief is about, for myself and for all the other children in this world who suffer.

As hard as that is for me, and I do feel that sadness quite often, I try to remind myself that I am one person, and I do my best to help others recover as I continue to recover myself. I have come a very long way and now I have the privilege of being able to heal fully, to be able to afford therapy, to be able to be supported by my partner, friends, co-workers, and my supervisors. I am truly very blessed. I hope that as I keep healing, I can continue to advocate, raise awareness about what it is like to recover from abuse, and help people truly heal and not just cope indefinitely. As I previously said in a post, I am trying to prioritize getting better vs. getting by.

 

Chit Chat.

Push, Pull, Avoid

I have been avoiding and pushing people away. I have been very very busy. Things just keep coming up, very very important things. And shouldn’t people understand how hard it is for me, how difficult it has been for me? Shouldn’t they understand that I can’t fully be there for them right now?

I hear myself talking more often than I want to about my physical health condition, my pain, my emotional overwhelm, how I’m just dealing with one thing after another, trying to make it through one day at a time. Years have gone by, one thing after another keeps happening.

As I am healing, I am noticing that things have changed. As I have wanted the world to stand still until I can emotionally catch up and be present again, others have moved forward, or so it seems. They too, have had one thing after another, and to my surprise, I had no idea. The guilt arrives, OMG, have I been a terrible friend? Did I become preoccupied with myself again, with my emotional challenges, my unmet emotional needs or with saving people who had it worse than me? I hate to say this, but today I realize, that although not intentional, partially, at minimum, the answer is yes.

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Yes. I have often been pre-occupied with myself for the last few years. Yet,  when I realize that I didn’t catch something about another person I care about – intense guilt follows.

Yes. I want to get my emotional needs met – they have been ignored for so long. Yet, I push you away when I think you are being clingy or invasive, then try to pull you back when I think I’m loosing you.

Yes. I want to know that you will be there, even when I give mixed messages. When I want to tell you that I need help, but instead I signal that I am okay; or worse, when you actually believe me and don’t further pursue – I feel slightly, if not greatly rejected.

Yes. When you consistently pursue without avail, I reject you and label you as being clingy or invasive – even though I am terrified of being labelled ‘a clingy burden’ myself.

Yes. I have unfortunately created a no win situation, or at least a very very difficult map to navigate. If somehow, you have figured out when I push you away that I want you to pull closer and also how I push you away differently when I want you to back off – congratulations, you must be ridiculously intelligent and/or extremely invested in me.

Yes. If you can figure out my roadmap, I feel loved and safe – the anxiety subsides. Yes, I also know that this is an unfair expectation – and I am terribly sorry.

Yes. I don’t want to be this complex, moody or difficult. So I hide it from you. I find ways to calm myself down, rationalize with myself and work through my anxiety that tells me that I am not loved, worthy of love or that I am being rejected.

Yes. I learned this in my childhood, mostly from my mother. When I truely and genuinely expressed my emotions to the fullest extent, when I demonstrated my affections to the fullest extent, I was rejected, minimized or criticized. Yes, sometimes I was labelled ‘clingy’ and sometimes made to feel like a burden.

Yes. My parents also had unhealthy attachment styles, and difficult relationships with their parents. Their cultural norms also make it acceptable to treat children in this manner – because parents can say anything, and children’s job is not to get offended.

Yes, I am terrified of you knowing this about me – terrified that you will think I’m crazy. I feel paralyzed by this pattern that I have recently discovered about me. I haven’t gotten to a place where I can begin to feel sane.

Yes, I am the one who is judging myself, rejecting myself, criticizing myself. Most of the time, my wonderful friends, you are there -ready to support me.

Yes. I am grateful. I am grateful for all those that make the effort, that fight for me, that care for me, that believe in me and never give up on me.

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As uncomfortable as it is for me to accept that I push, pull and avoid, I hope that knowing this now, I can begin to undue the damage and reverse another layer of the cycle of emotional abuse.

 

 

The Post Healing Struggle

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Twenty One Years, some odd number of days and hours.

Over Four Years of Therapy.

Over 10 journals, dozens of poems, and countless conversations.

After all this hard work, I came to believe that, finally, I had mostly concurred this. I had conquered the side effects of abuse. After all, my therapist told me that I no longer display the characteristics of a trauma survivor. Amazing!! Now, even the professionals cannot tell unless I tell them. Feels pretty good to know I have beaten this thing as much as possible.

Then, today, comes a realization, disguised in the guise of a cold in the doctors office. I receive the same messages from my doctor and my naturopath: I need to learn to take care of myself, and put my ambition aside for my health. Tears roll down my face when I am asked the difficult question: Do I want to get better or do I want to get by? And truthfully, I could not say that I truly, soulfully, believed that I deserved to be healthy and deserved the hard work it takes to treat your body like a temple. I was asked do you pay attention to your body, ask your body what it needs?

No.

After all this training being a social worker, I forgot, that trauma impacts the relationship with your body. I have been doing all this work on managing my mind, my emotions and building my self esteem, that I ignored the fact that I am completely disconnected from my body. The only time we connect is when I look at myself in the mirror or dance (which is a rarity these days). Even still, I have not learned to be in tune with my body or appreciate it. But most importantly, I have never felt that my body deserves good treatment. Logically, I am aware it does, but in my soul, there is an empty place where my self-worth should be.

Self Esteem: As per Dr. Higgins, it is “what we think, feel and believe about ourselves”. My interpretation is that it is a confidence that develops in a person based on others perceptions of them, based on accomplishments, and based on social approval. Self-Esteem changes, it is relative, it is based on concrete evidence, and very much derived from our self-talk which is highly influenced by our environment.

Self Worth: As per Dr. Higgins, it is knowing that “I am greater than all of those things” [i.e. our thoughts/feelings/beliefs about ourselves]. In my opinion, self-worth is permanent, it is constant, it is abstract, it is derived from an internal faith/belief that requires no proof. Self worth is the core of how we view ourselves. It determines how we then interact with the world.

Source: http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/self-esteem-vs-self-worth/

Now what does this have to do with my doctors appointment today? I don’t truly believe that my body deserves to be treated well. I understand that I deserve to be treated well and that includes not being physically exploited. However, I regularly struggle with developing positive healthy habits that require me to take care of myself and prevent health problems. Even when I remember, I choose not to help myself, making excuses of laziness to disguise the disgust I feel about my body. Finally, I have to accept the hard truth: I have not fully developed or found a way to nurture a healthy self-worth. 

However, I have a fantastic self-esteem!!! I have enough evidence of this in my life. I routinely receive validation from friends, relatives, co-workers, and clients about all of my positive qualities (insert bragging here ____ ) 😛 And now I understand another layer of why I have always prioritized my ambitions over my health. No, I do not solely want to make the world a better place. I also want to ‘get by’ with my health and body. I want to use it as a vessel to get me to my destination but I do not want to have a relationship with my body. Hmm, jee does this sound like self-abuse?!? If I have had to pick between my health and my ambition, to date, I have ALWAYS picked my ambition. Hmmm, does maintaining my self-esteem and keeping a steady flow of validation coming in to fill that empty space where self-worth should be, have anything to do with this obsession with ambition?

I don’t have all the answers, but I have realized that you can read things in text books and completely disassociate from it, if you are not ready to admit that it may also apply to you, not just your clients. I guess I fell prey to cognitive dissonance. Now, I will be on a journey of accepting that my doubts for years that I did not have enough self worth are no longer doubts. Now, I will be searching for ways to rebuild my self-worth, my internal unconditional belief that every part of my body deserves love and it is not disgusting, or a vessel, or a tool. Logically, I can hear this, now lets see how long it takes for me to believe this and say this without being squeamish.

Wish me luck!