Notes to Self

September 17, 2015

The baggage I carry

I mean this literally…the number of bags I carry each day is pissing me off. I feel like a mule.

 

Each school and workday morning I pack four lunches; one for each of my two children, one for me and one for my husband. That’s 3 bags I have to carry (I take the kids to school on my way to work). Then I have a purse. I downgraded from a backpack to a relatively large messenger bag. That makes 4 bags. Sometimes my eldest want to bring toys to school so she needs her backpack. Of course then my youngest wants his backpack as well. Guess who ends up carrying them? We’re up to 6 bags. On occasion, I go to the grocery store before I pick up the kids so I will either have the empty reusable (and insulated) grocery bags to take to the car in the morning and/or (if they are already in the car) I have a few bags of groceries to bring into the house ALONG WITH the kids (I can’t leave them in the house alone and it would take a good 30 minutes or more to permit them to return outside so I can make a second trip, once you add on all the playtime, dawdling on the stairs, etc. That can bring the total up to 8 or 12. But that’s not all. Some days I either have to carry my son or end up bending down with the 8-12 bags to pick him up because he’s too busy playing and won’t just walk into the house so I can put down all of these bags. The kicker is that I wonder why I am so annoyed by the time I actually get into the house and struggle to walk around my kids or their shoes (which my daughter takes off as soon as she gets into the door and then leaves in the middle of the floor) or the meowing cat to peel the bags off of my body and use the bathroom.

 

Yesterday was show and tell for my daughter’s class. I suggested that she bring the pop-up tent my kids had been playing with for the last few days. Of course that meant that I had to carry this awkward item, in addition to all the bags and my son. Great idea! Anyway. Last night I propped the tent against the car and apparently forgot it because it was leaning against the stairs of the daycare this morning. My kids saw it and were very upset. I planned to bring the tent to the car after I dropped off the kids but my daughter wanted to retrieve the tent immediately. So, carrying the two lunch bags and watching my son so he doesn’t run into the street or get hit by a car coming out of the driveway, I also then had to take the tent from my daughter, chase down my son and pick him up so I could put the damned tent into the car. As I began losing my temper and becoming overwhelmed with anxiety/frustration, I heard myself complaining mumbling something like “this is why I wasn’t going to take it until later”. I looked up and caught a glimpse of a man sitting in a car watching us. I felt awful. What he must think of me and my parenting. How terrible that must look to everyone and how absolutely wretched it must be for my children to experience. And for what? The inconvenience of too many things to carry?

 

Sure, that seems like a simple thing. Oh – what’s the problem…it’s a few bags! But it isn’t that simply and we shouldn’t downplay these kinds of situations. If it were one day, here and there of too many things then it may not be cause for a blog post. But every day (weekends are not much different because I have the diaper bag, extra clothes, water, food, toys…..) of carrying and struggling is just too much for me to handle. I strap the lunch bags and my purse across my body so they don’t fall off my arm but then they strangle me and fall forward when I bend down. I am weak and sometimes feel as though the muscles in my shoulders are ripping from the weight. It’s very painful. And I look around and don’t see ANYONE with as many bags as I have. Sure; there are other folks who pack their kids lunch but the bags are small and don’t even have straps. Because I pack so many things in my kids’ lunch bags (two fruits, a hot meal, yogurt, vege’s, etc), I purchased larger lunch bags. I didn’t realize how large they actually were, but I wanted to make sure there was enough room for all the Tupperware and the ice-packs. And they have pockets for miscellaneous things (hair clips, vitamins, extra clothes, etc). So from the start I created this enlarged baggage. But it’s form fits function….right?

 

But the issue isn’t really about the bags. Sure; it’s not easy and not fun and no one would voluntarily do what I do (well, actually, mothers do voluntarily do what I do – I just haven’t met any like me and with a similar number of bags!). The issue is my perception of the situation and of me and my performance as a mother and a woman. When it comes down to it I feel like, and believe that I look like, complete chaos; a “hot mess” as some would say. I feel silly. Lame. Pathetic and clumsy. There is something inherently wrong with me that creates this situation, and many more like it, and makes me feel completely isolated and like a total failure. There is a better way to do this and I am not capable of figuring that out. Here’s another fundamental belief; one of a few songs that get sung over and over in my head without me realizing it until it’s too late. They cloud my judgement, fill me with anxiety and make me say and do things I instantly regret. I may realize I am in this state but not until I am too far gone. I don’t know how to stop it. I don’t know how to calm down and pour water on the fire. I thought about getting a really tight bracelet with “CTFD” written on it….perhaps it would be so tight that I could never ignore it and I would have a constant reminder to calm the fuck down. But I didn’t think it would be workplace appropriate, and wasn’t sure it would work – feared it would actually make me more anxious.

 

So. How to start “fixing” this? Medication. I have an appointment with a psychiatrist to see about some medication for my anxiety. I haven’t been to therapy in a while (too much going on in my life that demands my time) but I plan to return soon. I wanted to start medication several months ago but couldn’t get an appointment. Funny….mental health practitioners can’t give appointments for 1-2 months. Somehow that seems contrary to the purpose of the care. But I digress. I am hoping with all my might that medication will help lessen the reaction and I can stop myself before it’s too late; that I’ll stop becoming my anxiety and exploding inside and out. It’s all about behavior modification. But without a trainer following me around I need help.

 

I cannot stop carrying so many bags but hopefully I can stop doing so with so much baggage (and yes, I am now referring to baggage in the figurative sense! LOL!). What baggage do you carry with you every day?

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February 17, 2014

All that glitters is not gold

Filed under: Growing pains, Life's little things — Tags: , , , , — me2self @ 2:47 pm

It’s been quite some time since I have posted on this blog, but I have a good reason…I had a baby! Now, as a mother of two, I find “life challenges” take on a whole new meaning…getting dressed in the morning is a life challenge! But hopefully I can get back to regular posts on this blog, as it has been very helpful to me and hopefully to any readers.

 

The other day I was looking in the mirror (while washing my hands – I certainly don’t have time to just stare at myself!) and noticed a gray hair. Upon further investigation I found a few more. I quickly stopped looking.

As an ‘over 35 year old’ I should expect this, and have had a few in the past which I quickly yanked out, but I am not ready to go gray. I have fought my age since I turned 30. I actually stopped celebrating my birthday that year, which is hard because my husbands is very close to mine. Over the years I realized that I feel like I haven’t done enough, accomplished enough and succeeded enough and that is why I hate getting older. Like each year is another marker of my being a failure.

I imagine that someday I will realize my potential, release myself from the strings of negative people in my life and live free without these clouds above my head. An image of self-confidence and self-assurance. And that image isn’t of an old lady.

My husband has always said that I better do what I want/need to do and get over it, because age is age.

I would love to have a view of what I look like in the world and see myself as others do. If this were possible, what do you think you would see?

July 30, 2013

because She said so

Saying it aloud makes it seem silly, obvious, as if I should have always known. But the complexities of the mind, the way we learn and the way every little experience has the potential to influence how our personalities develop…I didn’t realize it.

So yesterday when I finally made the connection, the impact was profound. I think it will take time to really understand, and then to change.

I believe beyond all doubt that I am a fat, ugly, disgusting whore who is incapable of being feminine or sophisticated; I am nothing but a bum and will always look like one, despite what I am wearing. I am a failure as a woman, which means I am a failure as a human.

I have lived my life in jeans and t-shirts, rarely venturing out of my comfort zone (and having great anxiety when I did). I’d avoid situations where dressing up was necessary. I never wore makeup. Never cared about my hair or nails. I did the bare minimum.

I avoided mirrors, would run out of bathrooms if another came in and I was trying to redo my pathetic hairstyle (barett, half way up). I felt I had no right to look and even less right to attempt to appear feminine.

I never had many friends. I constantly compared myself to other girls/women, telling myself how unworthy I was of their presence and friendship, and how less of a girl/woman I was because I didn’t dress nicely, do my hair, wear makeup, get my nails done or wear pretty shoes. I was not as worthy of a human being because I was not a good enough female. After all, I was used and no one wants a used person (yes, that is what my mother said to me when I was 13 years old after a very manipulative, abusive 16 year old boy took advantage of me).

I believe all this to be true because She said so.

That is the only reason.

It was an “ah-ha” moment laden with pain. My body cringed as my mind tried to make sense of the simple truth. Because She said so. I could almost see the words come out of her mouth and pave the neuronal pathways that caused the morning tears and tantrums as I went through my wardrobe desperately trying to find something to wear that would take away the negative thoughts and feelings. Day after day the struggle to hide behind cotton and somehow cognitively ignore my own body.  “It’s bad enough you look like a tramp but now you have to dress like a hobo too!” she said one day. Every time I got my hair cut, with a new do, she’d say “oh, well I would have done something different, but if you like it.” Miss Manners was always turning over in her grave at my existence. I stopped going shopping (clothes) with my mother when I was in the 6th grade or so – after she pulled out some frilly shirt (for the hundredth) and I replied “do you really think I would like that?”. It was clear she didn’t know me, didn’t approve of me and wanted me to be something else.  The messages of “I do not approve of you and you are not good enough” came from all directions in various forms. The eye rolls when I came down the stairs. This ’tisk’ when I got a little dirty (as a child mind you).

It was all there, all the information I needed to realize that no, there is and was nothing inherently wrong with me that makes me less of a human or woman. Stop hating yourself and thinking you are undeserving of anything but abuse. Stop trying to fix yourself or deny yourself fundamental love and appreciation for the individual you are.

I look at pictures of myself from when I was a child/adolescent and feel such great, deep sadness. As if I see my potential dying. As if I could have been great but it was lost and I am doomed to being….me. I hate that feeling. I hate thinking that I am nothing but a shell of a person who was wonderful.

And to think that I believe all this to be true simply because She said so.

I don’t know how long it will take me to fully appreciate this realization. I am still in shock. I do know that it is the beginning of brighter days ahead. I just need to figure out how to let all of her words go; how to dust off the little girl that needed love, encouragement and support, and emerge the person I am, that I have always been and will finally love.

April 16, 2013

A portrait of resistance

It occurred to me yesterday that I have been slowly uncovering all these varying coping mechanisms or ways that my parents shaped my thought processes but I don’t really have a general idea of what a picture of me would look like.

This is what I have so far:

I am a judgmental person (to myself as much as, or more than, to others) because I was always criticized and I learned to be critical.

I have this idea of how the world should work and if people don’t fit my schema then I get angry; much like how my parents and sisters got angry if I didn’t act the way they wanted me to.

I have anxiety, probably because I was never allowed to have my feelings, show anger or voice my disagreement with decisions made without regard to me.

I believe that I will always fail at everything I do, because nothing I did was good enough or the way they wanted it.

I believe I am unworthy of unconditional love and I am only as good (or loved) as what I can do for people, because I was not good, and did not deserve support and encouragement if I strayed from their idea of who and what I should be. The more I did for them, in the way in which they wanted it done, the better a person I was and the more loved I was (and by the way, this is still going on – I was recently kicked off the will because they felt they couldn’t rely on me any longer. A few years ago they kicked my sister off for similar reasons.).

Hmmm, I can’t think of any others right now, although I know there are more.

So I asked my therapist, if I feel like I will always fail at everything that I attempt, why do I try? What makes me have initiative and drive? What makes me continue to take chances and try new things and put myself out there? Why didn’t I just settle for something safe?

His only response was that people often have this core that is resistant. It survives and continues on regardless.

So, instead of painting a picture of my faults, here’s a picture of my resistance:

I have been married to a wonderful man for almost nine years; we have been in love for sixteen (we dated 7 years before getting married).

I have a beautiful, happy, healthy little girl who knows she is loved.

I have a few really good friends and am making more.

I have a job in which I am respected, relied upon and am really good at what I do. I will be promoted soon.

Even though I don’t like what I see in the mirror, I know it’s a superficial disgust and that the person standing there is really a beautiful, kind, loving, intelligent and wonderful person.

Even though I think about the time I spent sad and broken and how that may have kept me from being more than I am now, I also remember the moments that I shined and stepped out of my shell to be truly magnificent.

Despite the lack of consideration, respect and care that my family showed me, I am a caring person who considers other peoples feelings and gives everyone the benefit of the doubt (at least once because I’m not a fool!).

I am not who they are.

I am not who they want me to be.

I am me.

I survived and I resisted.

My picture of resistance is colorful and blooming everyday. It’s made of tears, fear, anxiety and sorrow but it smells like love and joy (and it tastes like coffee).

How about yours?

 

April 15, 2013

A year’s worth of work

Today I realized that it has been almost one year since I returned to therapy. I was surprised by this information, although not in a bad way – just seems like the time went by quickly (but doesn’t it always!).

However the more important bit of information is how this years worth of work was put into action yesterday. And I am quite proud of myself!

My mother stopped by for a visit yesterday, unannounced. I believe this is what you call an ambush.

She walked in demanding to know why I have cut everyone out of our lives. I am not joking – from the moment she entered the room she said “what is going on” – and she wanted the truth, mind you.

She continued to tell me how everyone is so pained and no one understands what’s going on with me and why would I do this to them (note the assignment of victimization here).

I told her that I was busy today and I didn’t want to discuss it right now. I told her that showing up, unannounced to have this conversation was selfish.
She told me that she figured it was the only way I would talk. I told her that didn’t make it right.

Despite my telling her I didn’t want to talk she continued to press. She continued to demand that I do as she commands.

I told her that no one hears or listens to what I say. She said she heard me and she was listening. Yet she pressed on and demanded me to respond. (So she basically admitted to ignoring me, evidently without it registering in her selfish brain that she did so).

Finally, when she said something that really got me really angry I stood up and told her it was time to leave.

I was filled with anxiety and had to breath deep and quickly for a little while. I was a little shaky from the confrontation.

But I had stood up for myself in a way I don’t think I have ever done before. I stated my position and stuck with it. I didn’t cave to her demands. I didn’t give in because that was what they wanted.

I recognized the conditions of this event almost as soon as it started. I saw it for what it was, factually, and didn’t get tied up emotionally.

This wasn’t someone who cared about me or my family. This was someone who cared about her.

I wasn’t being approached out of concern for me, I was being approached out of selfishness and self-centeredness.

It was a good moment for me, to assert myself, protect myself and finally, after so many years, not give up myself to meet their demands.

I think this tells me more than I can hear right now – the promise it holds and the potential for growth.

I think I am closer than I realize to looking in the mirror without disgust.

I think I joked in an earlier post about how long does it take to overcome, likening it to losing weight.

I don’t think I have “overcome” completely, but in this tiny amount of time (and really, one year is so small) I have made huge strides and I can’t tell you how proud of myself I am!

Yeah me!

March 25, 2013

Deaf minds, lose tongues

Life has been unusually demanding lately. Work got incredibly stressful after my boss was fired and time just seems to be less and less. I barely have a moment to breath let along write in a blog. But now I will take the time to unload an enormous weight.

About a month ago my family staged what I (somewhat mockingly) call interventions. They wanted to complain about how they aren’t vital to my daughter’s life. They don’t like how she treats them (i.e., that she doesn’t run to them, cuddle with them, always give them lots of smiles and giggles, sit on their laps and just think that they are the most wonderful grandparents and aunts that a child could ever have!) and how they just want her to love them. And, by the way, it is all my fault.

These “meetings” happened over a meal (there were two separate ones). Sometime into the meal I stopped eating and could no longer look at my food. Later I realized I had gone into “flight or fight” mode. Yes, in conversation with my family my primitive self-preservation mechanisms kicked into full gear. Not really all that surprising when I think about it, but disturbing nonetheless.

There are endless defenses I could give to their claims of my and my daughter’s wrong doings (e.g., you are a stranger because you never make time to see her, I don’t trust you with my child because you are selfish and manipulative, etc), but it really doesn’t matter.

Last week I received another ridiculous email from one of my sisters, telling me again how unacceptable the situation is. She copied the entire family. She used phrases like: ” [my daughter] does not look at me, runs from me, and has no interest in interacting with me unless I’m holding something she wants. The fact that you don’t try to change that behavior is also worrisome.” which only made it clear that my sister not only doesn’t understand one iota of a child’s behavior or needs, but is also a child herself. I am so tired of hearing my family complain about how my daughter doesn’t act the way they think she should act, doesn’t love them as much as they want her to and they don’t have the kind of relationship with her as other grandparents and aunts they know. Again, there are endless defenses I could give to their claims of my and my daughter’s wrong doings, but it really doesn’t matter.

So I responded to the ridiculous email in a manner I have never ever done before; with anger and “right back at you” blame. I said things like: “Your assessment of [my daughter] and our actions as parents is based on ignorance, selfishness and impatience. You make demands on [my daughter] and never question whether a baby or toddler can (or the important question is should they) meet demands. Despite my trying to explain this to you, you still demand. There is no instant gratification in this situation. [my daughter] is acting as she should at this age.  You adapt to her.  The two year old does not adapt to your needs.  They have yet to develop the skills to adapt to you.  If you stopped to think about it, I did encourage [my daughter] to interact with you. Using playdoh was a means to engage you two. It worked. You two were playing together. Did you not appreciate this or how much [my daughter] loved the animal you made her? She wouldn’t let go of it. Keep in mind that you complained a lot about how gross it was and made it clear how much you didn’t want to play with it. You almost seemed to resent having to do it. I picked up on that; do you think [my daughter] did?”

Her response was “Let me know when you’re ready to talk in a productive fashion”.

Nothing I said was heard; not one character imparted an ounce of doubt in her preconceived notions. I received additional responses with similar sentiments (we are not happy and you aren’t doing anything to make us happy!) from other members of my family. Lose tongues.

That’s why nothing I said or can/could say really matters.

My words fell on deaf minds.

 

And I haven’t anything else to say to them.  In a challenging enough time in my life I do not have the desire to surround myself with such negativity and selfishness. I cannot and will not subject my daughter to the demands of ignorance and close mindedness.

I wasn’t proud of myself for sending a harsh response but felt I needed to assert myself and make it clear that they are tiring out my patience. The only thing they are accomplishing is pushing me farther and farther away. The more they demand the less I will be a part of their lives. And when I do remove myself (and my family) from their lives, be certain that I will be accused of being selfish and childish and they will wonder why can’t I just be who they demand I be?

December 30, 2012

Do as I do, child

I just read possibly the most influential two paragraphs that I will ever read as a parent.

For a few months now (maybe longer), I have been aware of, although trying desperately to ignore, the frustration my daughter sometimes exhibits and how it is so similar to the tantrums I have thrown. I believe that I have already taught her one of the most negative attributes of my personality. I recognize that toddlers get frustrated, and that throwing things or knocking them over is a basic response to frustration. Maybe it is just me imagining the worst (after all, aren’t I responsible for all negativity in my family?), but it has made me aware that this child is already a sponge.

Therapy has really been helping me – the realizations I have made have resulted in far less stress and frustration (which we figured out recently may also be from constant low grade anxiety). But I do still have my moments where the fact that the couch on which my toddler is trying to climb is covered with toys and blankets, (and isn’t it awful how I can’t keep the house organized and clean because I am such a terrible mother and wife) so I am left with no choice but to clean it off in a few sweeps, sending everything to the floor. Do as I do, child.

When my daughter gets frustrated (usually because her fine motor skills are limiting her in her play), I try to talk her through it, keeping my voice low and calm. Sometimes it works, but you can’t expect toddlers not to express their frustration!

The book suggested that parents ask their children, or a family member if the child isn’t old enough, what was the most positive lesson taught by example and what was the most negative. Then, the author suggested parents to look to their own childhood.

Being a full-time working mom, I find that after doing the basic necessities and spending as much time with my daughter and husband as I can (and don’t forget the cat!), I haven’t much time for other things. There are a lot of things I would like to do to help take better care of myself, but I don’t. I think about how it would set a wonderful example for her to see mommy putting her needs ahead of dishes or the like, and also that I feel I am important enough to make sure I do what is needed to be healthy (like exercise and eat well) and look nice (I haven’t had a hair cut in 6 or more months!). But I don’t.

I wonder if I will ever have the motivation (as I was typing that word, motivation, I wondered if it really should have been self-love) to take care of myself and set a good example for my daughter. I do everything I can to show her every moment how much I love her, how proud I am of her and what a wonderful little girl she is. But I just can’t do the same for myself. Do as I do, child.

I think I got this ridiculous “selflessness” from my father. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how absurd his behavior is. He’ll eat the garbage food (whether it is over processed carbs or nearly rotten veges or fruit) because that is good enough for him, he doesn’t mind. Meanwhile he’s obese and can’t walk well. I never had good role models for taking care of myself and as much as I want to be that for my daughter, I just don’t know how.

It is a strange type of self-punishment to not take care of myself. As if I am not worthy. Or it won’t matter because I will always be fat and ugly so why bother. And what’s worse…if I try and fail (not sure what would qualify as failing) then it serves me right for trying to be something that I’m not (this really relates to my wardrobe, hair style and makeup…trying to be more feminine, professional and just overall nicely presented).

So I do the bare minimum and close my eyes around mirrors. I try not to have pictures taken of me but I certainly don’t look at them if I do. I often wonder if it is apparent that I have little respect for myself. I wonder if that’s why I have only a few friends.

Although I started this post a few days ago, it will be the second I posted today. So I can’t help but feel that I am ending up with more “stuck” places than places of resolution and relief.

In weight loss, the saying is that you didn’t gain it overnight so don’t expect it to come off so quickly. I wonder what do they say regarding therapy?

Could it be that simple?

I am having a hard time dealing with…life today. I am so completely frustration and annoyed. I am crying and throwing things. I just can’t deal.

We plan to have two other families over for a New Year’s Eve dinner (with their children) and I have been cleaning and reorganizing the house or nearly 3 days (this includes setting up new toy organizers and moving a table to the attic). And I still have to do the basic cleaning (bathroom, stove, vacuum, etc). I take time off of work to clean…forget just relaxing and, oh maybe getting a hair cut!

I can’t believe my anger. I can’t handle the chaos and the mess and the shit everywhere so you can’t fucking get to a jacket (which is laying on the floor) without first moving three other jackets, a backpack, a few newspapers, maybe some empty boxes from a shipment, etc, etc. You can’t prepare dinner on the counter because there are too many unwashed dishes and tupperware containers. Yeah, the wine glasses from when Sandy hit are STILL SITTING THERE.

My daughter wouldn’t take a nap today. She ran around all morning. Today she didn’t want to nap and I had no patience for it so I put her in her crib and told her to take a nap. Forty-five later (and tears from the both of us) I took her out. She said she was hungry. Now she is asleep and I can’t do much because she is on the couch with my husband instead of in her crib.

So I am standing at the sink, tears streaming from the overwhelming anxiety (apparently I suffer from chronic low-level anxiety) and trying desperately to figure out why I get so upset when the house is messy and why I can’t control myself right now. I want to scream and hit things and smash them to bits I am so fucking frustrated.

And then it occurs to me. In all that I have been learning about my parents and how I grew up – that I acted only in ways that would minimize their distain for me and maybe keep them loving me for a day longer – I recalled how angry my mother would get when there were dishes piled up or the table got covered with crap (forget about when she tried to vacuum and we were watching TV). Oh, the screaming and “I can’t do it all!”; “I don’t get paid to be your mother”…. we were frozen with no clue as to how to respond, or what to do. I think we usually helped clean (in silence). I remember feeling completely responsible for the mess – I was such a messy, no good child. I didn’t clean up after myself and was lazy. I was eight.

 

So when I realized that I may be displaying similar behavior’s that my daughter would adapt, I felt a huge sadness come over me. All I want is to fix this, fix me. I can’t go on with these episodes.

 

I am so worried about what these other families will think – that we live in complete disorder and filth! They will think how terrible and pathetic I am. How lazy and disgusting. I can’t let them go to the second floor because one bedroom is filled with “I don’t know where else to put this right now” crap, our bedroom has unfolded clothes in baskets on the floor and the bathroom needs a good cleaning. Yes, that is what they will think.

 

I still don’t know how to make this anger stop or how to get rid of the anxiety (that overwhelming feeling that I must be doing something other than what I am doing and, if I don’t, then the world will stop).  I feel helpless and a little hopeless.

 

Like my daughter says: “I stuck”.

December 21, 2012

Where you end and I begin

According to my therapist, when children are young there is not much separation between them and their primary caregiver(s) (i.e. parents) – they see themselves and their world through their parents. It is the job of the parents to reflect back a positive image of the child (so the child sees their self in a positive way) and as time goes on, the parent must allow the child to develop into an individual – to separate from the parent. This involves allowing the child to differ in opinion and “rebel”; to be unhappy with decisions made by the parents and to voice such opposition. However, the key is for the parent(s) is to maintain love for and acceptance of that child no matter what (you know, unconditional love).

 

Evidently, many parents fail at this. Instead of viewing their child as a separate, discrete individual, they see the child as an extension of themselves. And they expect the child to act accordingly. My therapist likened it to how one might expect an arm to move as you tell it to and imagine how upset you would be if this arm went left when you told it to go right. How dare it not do as you instructed!

 

In my quest to figure out WHY I have the thought processes and behaviors that I do, I am trying to understand the connection between my parents parenting and my current mental state. I do not feel that I can change until I understand why, to the extent that I can.

I am struggling to draw connections between the parenting I received and the thoughts I now have to change. I imagine there is a flow chart that can be drawn – some way to schematically show the if/than arguments.

 

My parents were never happy with what I did, how I behaved or dressed or talked. I was never what they wanted me to be  – regardless of the situation or conditions. I was always lacking something – I didn’t get all A’s or the haircut was nice but my mother would have preferred something different. Of course these are the stereotypical things that parents say – that most folks discuss in therapy. But taken together, over a lifetime, and mixed with other major traumatic events in my life (which I believe were inevitable consequences of circumstance), I am left with this:

1) I do not trust my own judgement, which causes anger and frustration (the death spiral)

2) I do not think I am worthy of love or have any right to ask someone to do something for me (I build walls and don’t let people in; I have no pride)

3) I am not, and never will be or could be, feminine, pretty or sexy (I never look in mirror’s and go through mental hell when I have to wear anything but jeans)

4) No matter what I do, try to do or want to do, I will fail (I have no hobbies or goals in life and no sense of accomplishment)

 

Up until a year or so ago everything I did was done to make my parents and sisters happy. For example, even after I moved out I would mow the lawn, rake and shovel. I would sometimes send my husband (much to his significant dismay). I listened to complaints and ran errands and let them blow me off for someone (or something) else (and never said a peep). I did it because it made them happy and that meant I was good and maybe they would love me. I beamed whenever I was told how helpful I am! This would make me want to do more.

But I am now realizing how much of my actions (or lack thereof) were done just to take care of their mental health. I won’t argue or speak up for myself because that angered them. I won’t tell them my opinion or not go along with their plans because that angers them. I will stay close to home so I can take care of you, even if I hate this damned state. I will put up with the hurt and criticism, judgement and insults – because you are family and, as you have always told me, all I have to count on in this world is my family. When no one else will be there, you will. I view myself according to how I think my family would view me and the decision I am about to or have just made. And since their view of me is/was never favorable (unless I had just done something for them and in accordance with their preferences), then all I think is that I have and will fail.

 

Action will correct my thought processes. My therapist says I need to stand up for myself and confront them when they say or do something I don’t like or when they ask of me something I do not wish to do. When asked why I don’t do this I said it is because it’s not worth the hassle. When I have spoken up I just get questioned more “well don’t you think that ___” or “why do you think that ____”. It’s tiring and I don’t want to deal with it.

So here’s another “cause” – they don’t listen and they don’t pay attention. The last time I went clothes shopping with my mother I was in the 6th grade. She pulled some awful, ruffled shirt off the rack and I replied (rather loudly) “do you really think that is something I would like?”. And that was that.  With all of the choices I have made with my daughter – they still question and criticize. They have not heard me or paid any attention such that they would understand and appreciate that all my decisions are based on what is in the best interest of my daughter, rather than what I do or do not want or what they expect. No, I will not wake her up from her nap so we can be on time for appetizers. No, we will not stay past her bedtime; she gets cranky and unhappy. We will go home so she can sleep.

Last night I was talking with my mother and she started lecturing in a very disapproving tone. I fell silent (as I have been doing – and then I just say I have to go and hang up). But then I thought about it and decided to “confront” her (and by the way, I should mention that confrontation scare the hell out of me – with anyone – my heart pounds, my voice quivers).  So I told her what I thought and she just kept challenging me and I realized that I didn’t know how to stop it. What did I need to say to get her to stop talking? My life isn’t your business unless I make it your business. And if you don’t like something it isn’t your natural right to tell me so.

I am seeing clearly how I have become what I am. The logic is unfolding and the consequences come forth as if challenging me to refute their existence.

Self-doubt; you are a product of not having been heard or given the opportunity to safely make mistakes. No, it would not have been tragic if the skirt I was trying to make didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. I would have learned something from it. I would have tried again and become more skilled. Except I just gave up. Lost interest in trying anything since I would only fail.

 

Overall I am hopeful for my recovery. While I see there is a lot of active, in the moment work to do; I think I can change.

I need to change. I am tired of being negative and self-hating.

My daughter needs me to change. I need me to change.

I don’t feel that I have really worked through all of this information such that I feel clarity. But I am getting closer. This has helped.

Inch by inch, row by row…..

September 27, 2012

If you haven’t anything nice to say…your assumption is flawed!

Filed under: Growing pains, I asked "Why", Them vs. Me, Therapy — Tags: , , , , — me2self @ 8:51 am

While no one likes to hear people complain all the time, we do like to vent about the things that bother us.  There are a few, like my husband, who don’t complain much. He says “I already lived through it once, why do I want to live it again”. I on the other hand review the event(s) several times, each time from a different angle/perspective, and I think I am starting to understand why.

My therapist has been extremely helpful. I would say that I wish I had met him years ago but I know that it is only at this point in my life that I am in the right place at the right time.

I started therapy because I found I was getting more and more angry and frustrated. To help me understand my anger and frustration my therapist has had me write down the trigger (event or thought) and the associated emotion(s) and thoughts. I am then to challenge each thought. The idea is to refute irrational thoughts with facts. Yesterday I found something interesting.

 

When the trigger is my family, I have no irrational thoughts until I realize the secondary emotion (self-doubt) and then I go on autopilot self-destruction. One recent trigger: My eldest sister told my daughter she was silly because she didn’t want to be held by my sister (that’s right, a 40+ year old told an 18 month old that she was silly because she wasn’t acting in accordance with how the 40+ year old thought she should be acting. Who’s the child?). So I got angry. This isn’t the first time this has occurred. I did not react (although in my mind I was thinking “who the fuck do you think you are!”) but rather politely informed my sister that my daughter is attached to me, that it is a good thing and that she will grow out of it. My sister rolled her eyes and replied by saying to my daughter “ok – see you when you’re seven”.  (again, in my mind I am thinking “you stupid, selfish idiot” – see, I haven’t had anything nice to say so I haven’t been blogging).
As I worked through this I realized that even though I do not believe for one split second that I am a bad mother or that I made the wrong decisions in the rearing of my child (to the contrary, I am very pleased with my relationship with my daughter and am aware, and thankful, that she is a very happy and healthy little girl!), I somehow found myself going through self-doubt. This was the autopilot bit. I had no irrational thoughts about my mothering and had all the facts I needed to know that I am a good mother and to feel satisfied with the decisions that I made thus far. But somehow the anger I felt was linked to feeling inadequate.

 

It seems that I am living under the assumption that my family is always right, I am always wrong and they will always know better than I do. This Fundamental Belief is my active default and overrides any contradicting emotion or thought. (I have to make a computer joke – I need to change my normal.template! he he).

This appears to be why I can never let anything roll of my back. I obsess and review it a thousand times. I find my fault and then the other party’s fault. I conclude with a list of the things I should have done differently and a statement of how stupid I am for not thinking of those things to begin with. I feel obligated and pressured to act in accordance with their wishes and feel frustrated and angry and enter self-doubt when they are unsatisfied with me or my behavior (and of course my child is an extension of me).

But then the therapy session was over…

 

So until next week, bite your tongue and find your flawed assumptions.

 

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