Thank you for your question. Before providing an answer, please tell me more about yourself. How would you describe your current accomplishments?
Honestly I don't feel bad about my accomplishments as much as my inability to form trusting relationships, but to answer your question...currently I'm a stay at home mom/caregiver and I have two overachieving daughters who are age 20 (just finished 2nd year of college at an elite school) and 17 who is currently finishing her junior year of high school.
The reason I'm a stay at home mom is because my youngest daughter had a rare cancer at age 2 and I quit to care for her. The doctors told me her best chance of survival and quality of life would be a full time caregiver who can really watch her until she's fully grown. This was not what I had in mind, but I have no regrets because she most likely wouldn't be doing this well without a full time caregiver.
Penny, First I need to mention that I recently read my childhood medical records and the abuse was much worse than I could remember. It does explain the unexplained scars on my body. It was all done by my mother and it looks like my father didn't know what to do with me. I was even left at a hospital for 3 weeks with no visitors and the nurses notes said they didn't know if social services should be called. It looks like I had several shorter hospital stays with no visitors. My dad always signed me out. I have(had) 4 siblings...oldest brother is 22 years older than me, sister 18 years older than me, sister(deceased 5 years ago) 14 years older than me and brother 12 years older than me. They saw me as a nuisance and I still feel that way with them. They only include me in things if they need me to do something for the event. For the last 12 years I haven't lived near any of them.
I've tried all the things you mentioned, but it hasn't worked. I have several gratitude journals, quotes and affirmations all over my house. My husband of 25 years used to sabotage all my efforts until about the last 6 months and now I'm just worn out. When I look in the mirror, I see a very tired unhappy person who has no one to share conversation with. All I've ever heard is that "you get back what you give out". I know I'm giving all the wrong signals so I want to find out what they are so possibly I can fix them and have friends. I really do care about people, but I know that doesn't get across except for with my children. As far as "give and you will receive", well I have overdone that one to no avail. I'm even having a graduation party at my house this weekend for two of my daughters friends. I offered the house because they are raised by single mothers who live in small apartment/house. When I offered the house almost a year ago, I thought these mothers were my friends, but as I'm finding out I'm simply a close aquaintance.
Brad, For me accomplishing things is not the difficult part. I've been on my own since 16, working 39 hours in high school while still graduating top of my class and active at school. I worked 3 jobs while going to college full time and I graduated with highest honors at a large university. I was one of the most sought after candidates upon graduation and I worked for many fantastic organizations, moved up quickly and made fantastic money. When my daughter was diagnosed, everyone including my husband, our families and local doctors said we need to accept the fact she would only live about a year, but I researched(no internet back then) and called all over the country and took her to the doctor who pioneered the treatment and today she's a happy and healthy teenager. While staying at home with my kids was not what I had in mind, I made the most of it and I actually love every minute with them. I became busy volunteering and I'm also known as a "go to" person to get things done well (I'm detailed, creative, and organized). See, accomplishing things is not a problem, but what I'm finding is accomplishments mean nothing without friends to share life with. Even though I talk to my daughters everyday, they are busy with their own lives and I am Mom and friend to them, but I need friends closer to my age to share things with that would be ackward or maybe even inappropriate with my daughters. Keeping busy isn't and hasn't worked for me. It just exhausts me. The more I'm around other people, I have to hear about them making lunch plans with each other or the fun event they went to over the weekend or the friends they got together with. In almost everything I have done for the past 25 years, I get left out. I used to think it was just an oversight, but recently I found out a group of mothers I'm with often for an organization at my daughters school get together often for breakfast or lunch. Everyone is included except me and they even talked about it in front of me without inviting me. Social networks don't help either. Actually I think facebook has made me feel worse about myself. When my older daughter was 16, she wanted a facebook account because she was living away from home performing with a prestigious ballet company and she wanted to stay in contact with her friends here. I agreed, but told her we both needed an account so I could keep an eye on things. Fast forward to today and now everyone(people my age) has a facebook page with lots of friends. I don't have many friends and something I'm noticing is that the friends I do have don't respond to my statuses or photos or anything. I especially hate my birthday because I get very few posts. I have considered closing the account, but I like to see the photos of my daughters. Also, my daughter in college tells me to look on her page to see things she's involved in, etc.
I don't know why I hate myself, but I do. I never want my picture taken, I'm completely uncomfortable in social situations (and we used to be very social) and I don't know who I am. I'm afraid if I really find out who I really am, I'll see what other people see and I'll realize that although I thought I was a good kind person, I'm really awful. All I know is that at my age I should know who I am and I should have developed at least a few close relationships. My husband and I are going to separate in a year and my youngest will be off to college so I will really be alone. Plus, I'll need to find a job and start a new life and I don't really want to live anymore. I know I won't be missed. I will have done everything I need to do for my daughters
I have no goals. The days of me being a high powered executive are over. I'm simply too old. I've interviewed for a few positions and talked on the phone with many others and I found that I'm likely to make less money than I did when I graduated from college, no one cares what you did as a mother/caregiver/volunteer, and I honestly don't desire the same profession I had. I've considered a career change and there are things I like, but I would need to go back to school and my husband won't pay for that and I can't make enough money on my own to pay for it. My age is an issue there too since the return on investment is low.
I know you have a reason for staying on accomplishments, but really I have learned that accomplishments really mean nothing. Obviously, I'm going to need to make a living, but the inital happiness of "job well done" fades quickly. When my daughter was dying, all the accomplishments in the world couldn't save her, but the help of people could and did.
This is the first time in my entire 47 years that I don't have a very full list of dreams and goals. My goals (behaviors) in the past have only lead to very short term happiness (usually just shortly after I achieve something) and then I'm back to lonliness and loathing myself. I've had three therapists in my life. The first one I saw for about 6 weeks when I was in my twenties and it was for a very specific family issue. She was helpful at that time. The second was a marriage councelor I saw with my husband back in the early 1990's. After many sessions, she told me to get out of the abusive relationship (he pretty much took over the abuse I received from my mother). The third one was in the early 2000's and she just kept telling me to pray about it and get involved and friendships would eventually develop. I saw her over two months and consider that a very expensive lesson in how to chose the wrong therapist.
I see where you are going with all this, but I think you need to consider my age and the fact that I have had a lot of life experiences. I know pursuing a goal will not lead to happiness, at least not for me. I need to change the way I approach people and how to develop lasting relationships. I've obviously missed that lesson in kindergarten or from my parents/family. My children have a lot of friends. I think they have friends for a few reasons...one, they know they are always loved unconditionally by their parents, two, they always have and support each other, three, we (my husband and I) taught them how to treat people and they had the comfort of trying and failing at relationships with always having the knowledge that it's okay because I have a family who loves me. I need to figure out what I'm doing that turns people off. I know retired people tresure the time the spend with family and friends over getting a hole in one during their golf game or getting an award for being the best consultant or volunteer. If I'm lonely now, can you imagine how I'll feel after retirement!
I see that you've been a therapist for 8 years so I'm guessing you are younger than me. Would it be better if a therapist who is either closer to my age or has more years of experience help me?
Really? Are you really asking me this? What if I tell you I want to be a ballet dancer or an olympic athlete. Would you tell me to go train heavily so "all my dreams can come true"? I'm old enough and wise enough to know that a career is not going to bring me ultimate happiness. No one on their death beds says, "I wish I worked more hours at a job I loved".
I want to know how to gain strong personal relationships with people. I'm obviously doing something wrong.
To gain strong personal relationships with people, I urge you to think about a friendship or relationship you had in the past that you thought was fulfilling. How did you meet? What are the qualities of the other person that you enjoyed? How did you develop this relationship? Why did the relationship end? Do you feel that you judge people very quickly or dismiss them?
One of the reasons why I asked about careers is because this is where many adults make friendships from the people you work with. Similar to being in school as a child, work has similar social structures in place where you share differerent experiences with co-workers and have similar interests.
There is a theory in psychology where thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are all interrelated. If you have thoughts that your relationships with acquittance are not strong enough so you don't invite them to hang out over the weekend, in turn making you feel bad or lonely. However, if you had these same thoughts and actually invited out these acquaintances to watch a movie or go shopping and they readily accept, your thoughts will change that they are strong enough to be your friend and you feel less lonely.
My point is that if you had a negative thought about friendships, relationships, career, etc, try changing the behaviors associated as this will change the thoughts and feelings.
To develop social relationships, I urge you to pursue activities that you will enjoy doing which may include working.
You mentioned that you do not have any relationships, but how would you describe your relationship with your husband?
I have read the above and would like to reply. It is absolutely vital for you to learn how to like yourself before you can allow others to do so and I am going to advise you on how to do this for yourself, although this will involve going to see a specialist therapist who can help you, as it isn't something that you will be able to tackle alone.
There are so many issues here to talk about. From when we are small, we interpret the environment and situations into beliefs about ourself and the world. If our environment is usually positive, this is great and sets us up quite positively for the future. However, if our experience is negative, then the beliefs and expectations of the world that we genuinely hold in our subconscious mind are also negative. Although our conscious mind tries to understand and to work things out, the power of the subconscious mind is very strong and does not allow us to develop more positively. Although we therefore long for what we didn't have as a child, we subconsciously re-produce in our older life what we had as a child, because, although it isn't positive, it is what we know and are comfortable with. It is therefore no surprise that after your abused childhood from your mother, that you chose the husband that you have. It is crucial that you find an EMDR therapist, who will help you to work through your past memories in order to release the negative emotions that are being held inside you and the beliefs and expectations about yourself and the world that you hold so strongly. This will allow you to become gentle and caring about yourself, and to see the world in a less skewed way. Then you will begin to know who you truly are, and eventually be able to share yourself with others in the friendships that you crave, and deserve. Have a look on www.emdr.com for much more information about EMDR and for a specialist in your area. Please feel free to reply. Best Wishes, Sarah