Notes to Self

September 1, 2013

Low self-esteem can be exhausting!

Something relatively minor happened at work on Friday and I am still obsessing over it. I have lost sleep because of it.

I have learned by now that when I can’t “let something go”, its because I haven’t resolved it for myself.

The event happened, I reacted, called a few folks, got a resolution and yet I am not done with it.

The issue, I realized this morning, is the way I treated myself when the question first arose. The doubt and worry I had about something so minute. When I talked to a friend/co-worker she told me what to do and it was that simple, yet I was envisioning everyone thinking I was a terrible person! And so I made it a bigger deal than it was, and now I am angry that I did that.

My husband said to focus on the fact that I have recognized his and how that is furthering me along the “road to recovery”- that I am becoming a better person. While I agree, I still can’t stop being completely annoyed.

It isn’t just the event and the ridiculousness surrounding it, it’s that I think so lowly of myself and that I let my family continue to treat me so poorly to encourage the low self-esteem for so long. I am tired of finding more ways and further reaches of how my poor self-image affects my everyday life. I am not surprised by the effects, just where it comes up and how it then affects me.

I am just tired of it. I want to be “normal” and not think twice about little stuff. I want to stop doubting myself so quickly and I want to stop obsessing when I do.

I’m just tired of it all.

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July 16, 2013

In War, inside

I remember the day I was listening to the radio and a song by The Who resonated most amazingly; “I don’t need to be forgiven”.

I have been searching for the fundamental (irrational?) thought that will lead me to victory. Maybe there isn’t one, but I am finding one that is very influential: while I do not believe I did anything wrong, I have not forgiven myself.

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!

December 30, 2012

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…..

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