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It sounds like your appointment with Linda went very well. I'm glad that you are feeling better as a result.
It seems like you are getting closer to understanding your parents' role in your situation and your life overall. You are right, it is not fair that your father puts more value in emotions over a football team than your feelings over what happened to you. But that is what happens when someone is dysfunctional. Their actions make no sense because they are based on a point of view that was born in hurtful and abusive behavior rather than healthy behavior. Both of your parents choose to see things their way and impose these views on you and your siblings without questioning whether or not the views are healthy behavior or not. Part of the reason for that is probably a sense of narcissism. By thinking of themselves first, they can feel justified in treating you and your siblings any way they see fit. Another part of this is lack of insight. They do not see what they are doing because they do not want to see it. To change would be too painful so they avoid it. This would also explain why they can show emotions to your nieces and nephews but cut you off instantly. They choose to do this because they think of their own needs first.
Your anger over the situation with your parents is a sign of your emotional growth. I'm not sure that you would have been open to these feelings a few months ago. But when you feel discouraged, thinking about how much you have changed can help you. And the fact that you are determined to work through your feelings despite what your parents did to you shows that you are much more emotionally healthy than they are.
You deserved help when you were attacked. And you should have had it, I agree.
It is easy to feel discouraged about your progress. This is all new to you. Linda is right, you did try your parents way, now it's time to try your way. Letting yourself feel and accepting yourself as you do are two big steps that I think you are on the edge of, if not already working on. Your resistance to accepting your feelings is very high now, which is a sign that you are close to working it through. It's probably why you are feeling so overwhelmed now. It takes time to realize that you do not have to follow your parents' way of handling your feelings. Their way does not work. If you look at how you and your siblings have struggled, it will show you that way is dysfunctional. And you are smart enough to realize that.
Alos, why didn't I have anyone to help me? Is it my own fault because I didn't tell anyone, and if I would have, I would have found that I did have support, or did I read my situation correctly that telling would have hurt more than helped?
I was telling Linda yesterday that I look at my niece, K. She's almost 16. I can't imagine her being prepared to deal with something like that on her own in 5 years.
I think the episodes of feeling overwhelmed keep getting closer because you are letting some of the feelings in. As I mentioned before, you are emotionally healthy. There is just layers of behaviors you were taught and experienced on top, covering your true feelings. You are working through those layers but you resist because of the things you were taught (it's my fault, I'm to blame, I shouldn't feel this way, etc). They are your defenses. But as you begin to let in the things Linda and I talk to you about, you are gaining more and more insight and the defenses are getting thinner or less effective.
I'm glad that you felt our talking about what happened to you as a child helped you recognize what to tell Linda. Linda is right, it is very common for children who have been mistreated in some way not to see that what they experienced wasn't normal. Part of therapy is just getting someone to see what is normal compared to what they experienced so they understand why they feel as they do.
Shay, I am so sorry that you had to grow up with parents who treated you badly. Your description of what happened with your nephew breaks my heart. The poor child. He was sick and only trying to get his work done. He did not need to be put down and made to feel like a failure. I am glad you were there to talk to him and help him to feel better.
Many children who are abused and mistreated are able to use what they went through to make them stronger. It is because they had to endure the abuse not because the abuse was good for them. These qualities are already in the person. And abuse often makes a child go the other way as well, coming out broken and unable to function in society. If abusing your child was so good for them, then there would not be laws against it. And therapists like me and Linda would no longer be needed.
I imagine seeing how your father was with D was different than it used to be now that you know what to look for. Your parents' defensiveness is to be expected. They feel they are right and when you bring up that they might not be, they feel threatened so they defend themselves even further. I had to take a deep breath when you described your father's excuse for his behavior with you and your siblings as "well, it didn't kill you. then it was good for you". That is like saying a hot poker in the eye doesn't kill you so it's good for you. It's an excuse so he does not have to look at himself as being wrong. If he was wrong, then he would feel shame. And that is to be avoided at all costs, even at the expense of a little boy's self esteem.
You are not bashing your parents by recognizing that they abused you emotionally. Their abuse is a fact, not some random thing you made up about them to make them feel bad. It's ok to feel sad, anger and frustration at what they did to you and continue to do to your family. They are acting in a dysfunctional way and recognizing your feelings about that is not wrong. It does not mean you hate them or want revenge. You just want to become emotionally healthy and you cannot do that if you pretend what they do is ok.
You didn't have anyone to help you at the time of the attack because you did not have the support system you deserved. You mentioned that you thought of telling your parents but you knew because of their problems that they would only make you feel worse. And you did not feel comfortable telling your friends. Add to that you were dealing with the issues from your childhood which taught you not to reach out for help and you ended up being alone in the situation. This is not about fault but about what the situation was at the time. You made the best choices you could with what resources you had. There is nothing else to it.
Every person who suffers a trauma finds a way to cope. Your niece would survive and find her own way to cope. Her life is quite different than yours was so her journey would be different as well. But it is interesting that you are seeing your niece and imaging yourself at her age, knowing that in 5 years you would be coping with such trauma, and on your own, without support. If you could see yourself at 16 again, what would you say to yourself?
I understand what you are saying. It's hard to grasp that what I have thought was normal all my life is not. And I don't really understand what normal is. I do have a bit of an idea, and basically, I understand that the things I wanted when I was younger, such as sympathy, affection, understanding (or at least an attempt), were not unreasonable and were normal to want, and that I should have gotten it. But I didn't. So where does that leave me? We talked about the inner child work and Linda mentioned it a few weeks ago. I just don't know how that would work. I have no idea what I would say to my 4 year old self. And I am not sure how I can give myself what I didn't get back then, especially physical affection. (By the way, I think I understand now why my sister was pretty promiscuous. I think she was probably trying to get some attention and physical affection, and believed that was the only way to get it. What do you think? If that's the case, then I feel really bad for her. I mean, I'm sure she did not get any loving affection having sex with high school and college boys.) Anyway, how am I going to give that to myself?
And it's true that if we had not been talking about the childhood stuff, I would have never known to bring it up to Linda. It never dawned on me there were issues until you asked me something about what I was taught about something when I was young. I don't even remember what it was, but your reaction to it and other questions were the first clues I had that something was wrong there.
My parents are not going to change, and I don't expect them to. Generally, they are much more affectionate with my nieces and nephews, but that really upset me when he was talking to and about D. that way. And he was mad I went in the bathroom to talk to him - that it would just encourage this kind of "behavior." Is that really a behavior? To cry when you don't feel good and feel embarrassed? Both my brother and sister have said that they have to intervene sometimes with what my parents tell their kids. But they said it is usually okay.
My mom told me that my dad has been super grumpy since he had the stroke, and she thinks it's his anti-seizure stuff. He said it's causing him problems, and he was trying to get his MRI set up so maybe the Dr. Would take him off of it. I told my mom about the anti-seizure stuff I take for migraines, and that I haven't had any side effects (unlike when I was on topamax and it made me want to stab myself in the head). So I think he hasn't been feeling well. I think that gives him even less tolerance. I haven't seen him act that way with the grandkids before.
I know that as far as my not having anyone to help me when it happened, it just is what it is. But I so much want to have had help or for someone to recognize what I was going through and say it was okay and would be okay, and to take it seriously and let me know it was a serious matter worth taking care of. But I lived with a bunch of 20-22 year olds. Who could have known what to do anyway? And if I told an adult associated with the school, they would have informed my parents. I just am upset I didn't have that, no matter the reason.
I know K would survive and cope. But I also know she wouldn't be alone. And I pray she never has to deal with anything close to that.
As for what I would say to my 16 year old self - I have no idea. I mean, what should I tell her? Warn her about what's to come? Give her the date and tell her not to leave the house on that night? Tell her she needs to prepare for this? But how? Tell her that this thing is going to happen, but she will survive and I'm sorry it has to happen, but know when it happens that it is really something that is to be taken seriously, and she has a right to be very upset about it when it does happen, and that it is a big deal, so don't feel bad later for thinking you are making it a bigger deal in your head than it actually is? That she needs to start working at age 16 to be able to emotionally cope with thing by the time she's 21?
You know what? I just had a thought. I obviously have guilt/self-blame issues related to what happened and some other things. But I think I may have always felt, at all times, like I've done something wrong, and like the other shoe is going to drop, and something I've done or some mistake I've made is going to come back and ruin me. I think I always feel that way and always have, in my recollection. Is that normal, or is it related to my parents' stuff (or neither one)? Can I get rid of it? Does everyone feel that way to some extent? Does that even make sense? Do you know what I'm talking about?
By the way, Kate, i appreciate that you ise the words "affect" and "effect" correctly all the time.
It can be very hard to grasp that your childhood wasn't what you thought. It always is difficult to change how you have seen something your whole life and takes time to work through. But it sounds like you are getting there. And that is good progress.
It's ok that you are struggling to connect with the 4 year old self or even your 16 year old self. This is about getting in touch with the pain from your past. You are just beginning to get in touch with those feelings. It may help you to find a picture of yourself at those ages. Once you can do that, keep the pictures nearby. Try looking at them several times a day. As you do, think about what you might have been feeling at age 4. What was going on in your life at that time? Do the same for your 16 year old self. Don't pressure yourself. Just see what comes up.
You can comfort yourself and give yourself some of what you should have gotten as a child. But that can come after you have time to work with your pictures for a while. It is a process. Once you discover one thing, it brings you to something else. Like building blocks.
I think you are absolutely on target about your sister. Her behavior can be explained by the lack of affection from when she was a child. That is not to say that is an absolute, but your guess about her behavior is a likely possibility. If it the reason why she was promiscuous, then it is very sad she had to suffer such loneliness.
I mentioned that your lack of support at the time of the attack was what it was because you do not need to feel it was your fault. But I agree with you, you should have had someone to care for you. The first place you should have been able to go was home to your parents or at least called them to come and be with you. Your mother should have helped you through getting medical attention and your father helped you with support and if you decided to get help from the police. All of those things should have been available for you to take advantage of. It is a loss, Shay. And it deserves to be mourned because it was a loss. It's ok to feel cheated, upset, angry or sad or whatever you feel about it.
All of the things you wanted to tell your 16 year old self are very valid. You start off by giving her the facts but then you move into addressing her feelings. I think that is very interesting. It means that once you see what she will deal with, you feel for her. Maybe not very deeply yet, but the feelings are there. You could continue this by seeing what feelings you want to address with her. And include what we talked about above with looking at your picture and seeing what was going on in her life at the time. What feelings did she have?
Your feelings about your guilt/self blame issues is from your childhood and being taught that you are always at fault. It is part of your life and how you think of yourself because your parents always did make you feel you were doing something wrong. It sensitized you to everything you do making guilt and shame a natural reaction for you. You can get rid of this. It takes slowly recognizing that it is impossible for someone to always be at fault for things in their lives that they did not intentionally cause. Think of how your parents taught you that everything was your fault. What did they say and do to you to convince you that you were guilty? As you realize what they did, you can counteract it through how you think of it. For example, if every time you spilled something in the kitchen your parents punished you for "being clumsy", then you can take this and change the message in your mind by looking around and seeing that many people spill things by accident. They are not clumsy. It is just an accident. When P spills something, how do you feel about it? About her? This can help you undo the cognitive message that something is wrong with you and rewrite it so you can see spilling something as normal.
I hope court is going well for you.
I agree, your ADD could be contributing to your feeling that you might have made a mistake. Because you mentioned not feeling like this at church as much (or maybe home either?), then it could be how you feel about work that makes your feelings more concentrated there. Compare your home life, church life and work. How are they different for you?
And it is partly from your parents as well. You may have always had ADD and it contributed to your inability to pay attention. Their reaction to it probably sensitized you to your inability to pay attention and this caused you to experience some anxiety around it.
It sounds like P went through a really horrible abusive marriage. It's good she has a friend like you to help her.
Any pictures of you as a child will work with this exercise. I am sorry that your parents do not have more pictures of you. I know you can explain this by your order in the sibling group, but when you combine the lack of pictures with the kind of treatment you received being criticized and blamed, it adds up to the message that you are somehow defective and not as worthy as your brother and sister. And that is a very hurtful message to a young child. Acting out as a child could have been your response to how you were made to feel, especially since you were not allowed to express your feelings otherwise. Children who act out are usually hurt and looking for attention. They also want to evoke a response from the adults around them so they can either get the attention they want (even if it's negative it's still attention) or they can control their environment in some way.
I'm glad your night was better. I am curious why your medication is not having an effect. Any word on that from Dr. M?
You sound like you had a really good time at church last night with your drums! That is excellent therapy for you, if I may say so.
Talk to you soon,
Court was uneventful, thanks.
I do think the drumming is good therapy. When I do it at church (whether practice or during service), it is fun and I am just concerned with playing, and when I sing along, it helps. They keep threatening to put a headset mic on me, but I don't want to have to worry about singing the right thing or the right part when I'm drumming. I find I am more able to take in the praise songs and worship more when I am just singing along while I play, without anyone except the people up there hearing me. And it's more relaxing than singing (although it can be frustrating sometimes when C gets frustrated), because I just took it up a year ago, and had never even sat at a drumset before then, so I don't have high expectations of myself, and I feel like it's pretty good that I was able to play in church after only 2 months of playing, and I am getting better and better. At home, it's good because if I am feeling angry or wound up, I can just put music on loud and bang the heck out of the drums. And if it's the middle of the night, I have an electronic set I can run through headphones, so .... Always thought it would be so cool to play the drums, and although it may not be quite as cool at age 40, I am so glad I gave it a try, since I was never allowed to play an instrument when I was younger. BotXXXXX XXXXXne, I guess, is that it makes me happy.
Plus - this may sound odd, but I like the fact that I can sing and play the drums, and nobody in my family knows anything about that stuff or cares anything about it, and it is totally separate from all of them. And I'm good at these things, I think.
Okay - as for the worrying and feeling guilty about stiff, you are right - it is concentrated on work, mostly. Do you ever have those dreams where it is the end of the term and you realize you never went to one of your classes and don't know when/where the final is? I have those kind of dreams frequently, along with the dreams that I have to get to court, and I keep forgetting things and have to run back into the house a ton of times, and eventually I realize that hours have passed and I missed the hearing. The feelings I get are similar to the feelings in those dreams, although not as specific as to what I'm worried about, and not as strong. It's just a feeling that sits there.
I don't worry about church because, generally, people are forgiving there, and people are generally up front about their flaws, so I feel I can be as well. Plus - everyone at church seems to love me. I'm not sure why, but everyone seems to want to be my friend and are so complimentary on anything I sing or when I play drums or whatever. And if I drop my sticks or something, everyone thinks it's funny. They don't criticize for it. I could totally fall on my face walking up to sing, and although I would be a little embarrassed, it wouldn't be such a big deal.
At home, what do I have to worry about? Nobody is watching what I do or chastising me or expecting anything from me. P. would be understanding (or act that way), even if I burnt the house down.
At work, however, I have a lot of people depending on me. I have my clients to please and to try to do a good job for them. I really care about how things turn out for them. Even when the facts are against them and it's a clear uphill battle and I have explained the outcome will likely be negative, I still feel bad and take it personally if I can't get them what they want (unless they are being totally unreasonable or are bad people and they get what they deserve, then I don't feel bad). I always worry that I am going to miss some argument I could have made or missed some procedural thing which wouldn't allow me to call a witness or present evidence, or something like that. Plus, I am responsible for my employees' livelihoods. I didn't have to worry about that in my old firm, but now it is just me billing, and I have to make enough money to pay all the bills and pay them, and sometimes to pay me. It is a struggle. People don't pay. It's too unpredictable for me. That is a huge worry. That is also a reason I will be glad to go back to my old firm if that works out. Also, if I miss a deadline or screw up, I can be sued for malpractice (I obviously have a ton of insurance, but it's just the fact that would be awful) and I could be disciplined, and could lose my license. That would totally mess up my whole life. Even if I got a small disciplinary consequence - like a month probation or something - it would ruin any chance to become a judge and would make me lose certain certifications.
And now I feel it even more because I am so behind. More than I have ever been. Part of it is because that is the nature of being on my own, part of it is because I just have too much work, and part of it is because I am preoccupied with this other stuff. It is a major thing for me to go see Linda twice a week and have these sleep tests and appointments with Dr. M, because it takes a lot of time from work. That's another reason I like that I can write you - I can do it usually when I'm on the phone or waiting for court or something. But I have never been so unproductive. The Wellbutrin helped (for the ADD), but doesn't seem to be effective anymore. I want to ask dr. M if I can try the stimulants, but I think she would want to wait until all this sleep stuff is done and treated, because she thinks that sleep issues are causing a lot of my concentration problems. So maybe it will be better once we figure out the sleep stuff. I know I have to do the breathing machine, but may also take meds for the movement. It makes sense that if I sleep better, I will be more productive. Plus, when I get through this other stuff, it will be better. It is taking so much of my focus and energy. It is exhausting right now.
I have always been a worrier, and that got a lot better when Dr. M put me on the zoloft (an unexpected benefit). But it is still there.
I'm not sure why the sleeping pills aren't working. I have tried a number of different things. They seem to work at first, but then not. But that might be the fact that when I start a new one, it's usually because I haven't gotten much sleep for a while. Seroquel, an anti-psychotic, seems to work best, XXXXX XXXXX it is not working now. I have so many prescription sleeping pills sitting around, but can't sleep. I guess I should call Dr. M about that. But maybe the sleep treatments will help, too.
And I'm sure you're right about my parents' contribution to my worrying. I would be yelled at for not paying attention or losing things or being disorganized. My parents were so irritated with me because my test scores were so high, but I underperformed in school because I was messing around and not paying attention and not turning in homework and stuff. I think they thought I did it on purpose or was just lazy. Maybe that was part of it. My mom was an LD teacher for a long time. She told me I had learning disabilities, that everyone did to some extent. But her solution was to punish me to try to get me to be more organized and pay attention. It didn't work.
But in college and law school, I did well. I might have taken strange ways around getting things done, but it worked for me. I think it was a huge benefit to me that my college was on trimester, so we usually only took 3 classes per term. It was much easier for me to work with only 3 subjects at a time. Law school wasn't that way, but we also didn't have homework or anything. We just read and participated in class, and our entire grade was one final exam. So I think that helped. And I had a system for studying and memorizing which worked for me.
I can't tell you, though, how relieved I was when I found out I may have ADD and read about it. I had always thought I was just a chronic underachiever.
You are also right about my seeking attention by acting out. I was pretty much starved for attention, and I would act way differently away from home than I would at home. That's, I am sure why I was class clown. And my friends' parents loved me and praised my humor and creativity, and usually my teachers really liked me, too, even though I was disruptive sometimes. Everyone else seemed to like me a lot more than my parents did.
But when I went to college, I didn't act out. It was hard at first, because coming from a small town where I had the same friends all my life, it was different having to make new friends. But I came into my own there, and did well in school, and made some great friends and for the first time was able to just be me all the time. I was so happy my first 3 years and the beginning of my senior year. And I felt normal and liked. And my parents, after I started college, dealt with me differently, and my siblings joke that I became the "favorite." I think I did, because I was over my rebellion (to some extent) and was doing what they thought was acceptable, so it was easier for them to relate to and be proud of me.
I can't remember what I felt when I was little. I think I was happy. I don't remember not being happy. I remember things that happened from a pretty young age (random things - nothing major happened), but I don't remember how I felt. When I was in preschool and kindergarten, my great grandmother would babysit me, and she used to tell me that she knew what it was like to have a sister like J who everyone fawned over and to be ignored. She said when she was 11, she was sent away to live with and take care of her sick grandmother. I didn't understand what she meant - comparing herself to me - at that time I didn't feel disfavored. But I liked her attention and the fact that she would tell me that I was her favorite and that my sister was a brat. It wasn't until later - maybe 4th grade or so that I started to feel like I lacked attention. I just always felt like I was different and there was something wrong with me, that I was a screw-up. I guess I would tell my 4th grade self that I am normal and fine and there's nothing wrong with me and that I deserved attention. I'm not sure how I would tell her to get attention. Acting out was not the best way, but what other options did I have? I would tell her to listen to her friends' parents and teachers when they praised her. That it was them who were normal and right - not that they had a skewed perception, like I thought. I would tell her, I think, to be herself and she would be okay, and that things get much better when you're older, and you will not be a failure if you keep working hard.
As for my late teenage self, I would tell her that the feelings she gets when she is away from home, at work, at practice, at friends' houses, out with friends, etc. is the real thing, and that there will come a time when she feels that all the time. That she doesn't have to feel guilty about hiding that self from her family, that it's her family's loss that they would tease her and not accept her, and that the away-from-home self is really who she is, not the other way around. I would also tell her that she is doing the right thing by staying away from home so much, and to try harder n school so she doesn't get grounded for 9 weeks at a time and have to be home more.
How is that?
I think many people get the type of dreams where they feel inadequate and like they forgot something important. My guess is that it happens to people who have a sense of responsibility and maybe are somewhat of an overachiever. Plus, your parents expectations are going to add a feeling of anxiety to the possibility that you will mess up because when you did as a child, they made sure you were punished, even when it was not your fault. I'm going to venture a guess here and say that you might have some underlying anxiety from your parents expectations of you and their treatment of you overall. That would explain your feelings.
You also have a lot of responsibility at work which can increase the chances that you feel you'll mess up and that it might become the huge problem that your parents made everything out to be when you were younger. Keep in mind that when your parents always pointed out your issues, they made a big deal of it. A lot of parents do not do that with their children. For example, talking with you about what you did in a gentle way and being sure you learned from the mistake is a normal way to handle anything you did as a child. If it was intentional, then a mild punishment is appropriate without blame or guilt. Children develop their own sense of guilt and it kicks in when they do something wrong. There is no need to add to it unless you want to create issues for the child.
I'm sorry that your mother was not supportive of your learning issues. You would think as an LD teacher that she would know how to approach the issue. It sounds like her bias towards you got in the way and she refused to see you as someone who needed help.
How do you feel now about what your great grandmother said to you about not being a favorite child? How does it make you feel that other adults noticed how you were being treated?
You mentioned telling your young self that you were normal and that you deserved attention. What does that mean to you about what was going on at the time? What do you think your young self would want to hear about her feelings? If she was your child, what would you say to her?
Your reaction to yourself as a teen is great. I realize that you can remember being a teen a lot easier than a kindergarten aged child, but you seem to have a very good grasp on the dynamics at home and how they affected you. Talking to your teen self, what do you feel she would want to hear about her feelings?
How do I feel now about what my great grandma said about not being the favorite and the fact that other adults noticed how I was treated? It makes me feel validated, because I felt that at times when I was younger. I even told my parents that a number of times and they said it wasn't true and I was being ridiculous and feeling sorry for myself and that it was a middle child thing. But when I would bring up the middle child thing, they would basically say "too bad." Although I do remember my mom telling me that by being the middle child, I will grow up and be more well-adapted than my sister and brother. ??
As to telling myself I was normal and deserved attention, I think that means that at that time, it is when I started to feel starved for attention. My parents were beginning to discount things I was doing that were important to me, and my dad and sister would tease me for random things, and they thought it was funny, but it really hurt my feelings. It was also around then when they started noticing my lack of organization and not paying attention and would be upset about it. It is also around the time my brother and sister started to really gang up on me. And then I would be punished for being "hysterical." I just felt different and like I did things wrong - maybe not bad things, but that I was strange. It was late elementary school when I started acting differently away from home than at home. Other people accepted me and how I was. I was different, but they saw it in a good way. But the same things got me teased or punished at home. And sometimes my parents' friends would say stuff to my mom about things my sister was doing to me or other stuff, and then my mom would say I was lying. And the more I wanted attention, the less I got. My parents were not going to reward that behavior, and were not going to baby us. I was way too old for any kind of attention, they seemed to think. But the same applied to my siblings. It was around 4th or 5th grade when I got the message clearly that I was not okay and I was a problem child. However, I still did very well in school. Although I acted up some and was a bit unfocused and disruptive, my teachers still liked me and would do things like have me sit at their desk with them to work, etc. (which was not presented as a punishment - it was presented as a privilege). They would tell me how smart I was, etc. I used to wish my 6th grade math teacher would adopt me. :)
My young self would want to hear that what she felt was valid. It was confusing to feel a certain way and be told that I really didn't feel that way or that it was inappropriate. I would want to hear that my interpretation of things and my friends' interpretation of things that went on with my siblings, especially when my parents weren't home, was right. I knew I wasn't lying about those things, but being told I was lying made me feel like my perception must be wrong and I was making a big deal out of nothing. If she was my child, I would have made her feel important and that she was special and she mattered, and I would want to protect her and stop what was going on with the kids. I would feel bad for her when she was getting teased at the dinner table and would run upstairs crying, instead of teasing her more for crying. I would want to tell her that there is nothing wrong with her. And I would try to appreciate her differences and say it is okay to have interests and beliefs that may differ from the rest of the family.
As to my teen self, I would probably say a lot of the same things. I was even more separated in how I was at home and how I was elsewhere. But I had a lot of freedom (when I wasn't grounded). I had a job as soon as I turned 16 (not sure why - my sister and brother never worked) - I worked at Burger King, then McDonald's later. I always had basketball or track practice right after school, then I would go to work. On the weekends, I would close at BK or tell my parents I was closing, and the place closed at 1:30 am or something, and then we had to clean, so I wouldn't get home until 3am or something. That gave me a lot of leeway when I wasn't closing. I spent a lot of nights and weekends traveling for basketball and track, and I also had show choir practice twice a week after sports practices and contests and concerts and stuff. I had a car to use, and a lot of freedom, and I didn't have to spend a lot of time at home, and when my sister went to college, starting my junior year in high school, I moved my room to the attic and could stay up there undisturbed. My parents never came up there. I would burn things (which they did notice and tell me to stop, because they could smell burning plastic), and I would drink up in my room or wherever, and towards the end of my senior year, I smoked pot all the time for about 3 months (then never did it again), and I would smoke pot up in my room. I think I told you that I had a fake ID business up there. So - it was actually a pretty good time. I didn't see my parents all that much except at my games and meets. When I would wake up, my mom was already gone and my dad was still asleep. When I got home at night, they were frequently already in bed. And my sister being gone was a huge relief for me. My brother and I got along fine when she wasn't there. Even when I was grounded, I was allowed to work and do sports and stuff, so I still wasn't home all that much. So things were different - I could be myself more because I was away from home more. But it was always really stressful when the 2 worlds collided.
I would tell my teen self that it was okay to act like me, and when my parents would chastise me for it, it was their problem, not mine. And maybe I didn't fit so well into the family, but I would fit into the world just fine. I would tell myself that my lack of organization and failure to pay attention might be an actual medical issue and maybe I wasn't just an underachiever. I would tell myself not to worry, because things would be a lot different when I went to college. I would also tell myself that out in the real world, the things that irritate my parents and I have to hide from them are the very things about me that others will seem to appreciate. I would also tell myself not to have sex with my boyfriend my senior year in HS just because it seems like that's what people do. I guess, as I said yesterday, I would also warn her about what is to come. I would also tell her that there will be someone who she can tell - that she should go to the alumni of our sorority who were 10-15 years older than us and hung out with us sometimes. It would have been okay to call them. They wouldn't tell anyone and would know maybe what to do. And if not call them, when they asked if something was wrong and that I was acting differently, you can tell them. And I would tell her that as much as you are not going to want to go for your first female exam right after that happened, it would probably be less traumatic than worrying if you are going to bleed to death and trying to hide the pain and wondering all these years if you are damaged forever. I would tell her not to tell her parents, though. And I would also tell her to rethink what she want to be when she grows up. Just because you told everyone in the 6th grade you were going to be a lawyer doesn't mean you are stuck with that decision. You can change your mind or at least think it over. And I would just try to convince her that she's just fine.
Is that okay?
I'm glad you felt validated by what your great grandmother said to you. And it's nice that you had her. Her words and support probably played a big part in how healthy you are emotionally today.
I think your mother was trying to tell you that by being the middle child that is treated badly, you will learn to be tougher than your siblings and take on the hard knocks of life. Not exactly great parenting theory. You did turn out great, but it has more to do with who you are and people like your great grandmother and your teachers than your parents.
The contrast between how you were treated outside your home by others and inside your home by your own family is drastic. Outside of your home, you were allowed to relax and be yourself. When you got rewarded for it, you found what was normal. But when you were home and tried to be yourself and get your needs met, you were punished and made fun of. You were also emotionally abused. Your mother telling people who saw your abuse that you were a liar is abusive. She basically condoned treating you cruelly and when someone outside of the home noticed, she blamed it on you. Amazing.
Your thoughts on what you would do for your younger self is an wonderful testament to how emotionally healthy you are. No matter what your parents did to you, you are able to provide love, acceptance and caring to your inner child. You instinctively know what to say and do for her. How does she feel about what you are saying to her?
As a teen, it sounded like you might have lived in two worlds. The responsible (guilty, shamed?) Shay worked, played sports (obviously approved Mom and Dad activities) and did what she needed to do to please parents. The other Shay was free to do what she wanted, without the burden of the parents (some rebellion). Your message to her is healthy as well. Your idea of how to handle your attack differently shows great insight. I wish you could have gone to the older alumni sorority. It would have been a wonderful healing experience for you.
This is great work, Shay. If you feel comfortable, you may want to share this with Linda. I think this would be very valuable in your therapy work.
That's ok Shay! I'm just sorry that the system lost your post. It's done it to me before many times and it's so frustrating!
Just to let you know- tomorrow I will be at an all day seminar so I won't be checking in during the day as usual. I may be able to respond in the morning before I leave and after I am back in the evening.
Talk to you soon,Kate
I probably will share this with Linda. I think she'll like that I started on the "inner child" stuff. But probably not tomorrow. I want to talk about the flashback or whatever it was. I also want to talk to her again about starting EMDR. We spoke about it before I left. I understand it may desensitize me to some of the memories and stuff, which would be great. At this point, I can't think about specifics without feeling upset or sick. So maybe it's time to try the EMDR.
Yes - my great grandma was great. And I liked the fact that she thought my sister was a greedy brat. She probably shouldn't have told me that, but even as young as I was, it felt good to be someone's favorite. I'm not sure why I was always there by myself. I wonder where J & B were. Maybe they were with my mom. J was probably at school, I guess. She died when I was in the 5th grade.
As for what my mother said about becoming a more well-adapted adult because I was the middle child, I am sure she didn't think at all that I was treated poorly or unfairly, and she still wouldn't think that. I think she did the best she could with what she had. But I also think she was right. I think I am more well-adapted than my siblings. However, what she meant by well-adapted, I'm sure, as you pointed out, was that I would be tougher. And she was right about that, too. Although I don't feel very tough right now, I am the one who was least emotional when I became a young adult. That is what she would consider well-adapted, I think.
You are right that my teachers helped a lot, too. And my friends' parents as well. Without those influences, I think I would have had no self esteem. My 6th grade math teacher (the one I said I wished would adopt me), used to put little things on my porch for me, like for the first day of jr. high, first day of high school, other stuff. She would come to at least one basketball game a year until I graduated. I got emails a few years ago from my other 2 sixth grade teachers, who had both since moved to Washington DC. They were so interested in what I was doing, not surprised I was an attorney (because I told them I would be), and told me that I was one of the students they would remember forever, and were recounting a bunch of stuff from that year. Those, I think, are good teachers. They took an interest in me and even remembered specific stuff decades later. That was nice, and I think their showing me, while I was in 6th grade, that I was special, helped me a great deal. Of course, that was an interesting year for everyone in the 6th grade, as well as the teachers. At the beginning of the year, they set things up like a little city, with government, jobs, fake money, etc. At the end of the year, we could buy things with the fake money. Anyway, it was supposed to teach us a lot of things. I won't go into all of it, but I was class president and ended up "suing" the teachers. One of the teacher's husbands was the DA and so came over to be the judge in this "trial" for gender discrimination (I was in my short-lived feminist stage, then). By the end of the year, I ended up owning everything. Things did not go as they had planned, and they said they never tried that again. But they will always remember it. So will all of us who were students.
As for my mom saying I lied about what J did to me - I don't know what she told the few people who said something to her. I assume she told them I lied. I just know that on a few occasions, she told me that so-and-so had called and told her that j did such-and-such to me and that I shouldn't lie about these things, and how embarrassing for her that I am telling these lies. I would try to tell her I wasn't lying, but she didn't believe me. And it usually was in front of my sister, who would butt in and say she did no such thing. I don't know why she assumed I was lying all the time. Maybe because J was the one who was calmly telling her that it didn't happen, and I would get more upset. I don't know. I don't remember if I told you this or if I told Linda. Ignore it if I have already told you. One time my friend, JH (who was one of my best friends my whole life) was over at our house, and J and I were fighting about something. For some reason, JH, J and I all ended up in the bathroom, and J slammed my head against this wooden towel/coat rack thing that had sharp prongs/hooks sticking out of it. It really hurt, and JH finally stopped her. You couldn't see the bruises because of my hair, but if you looked you could see them on my scalp and could also feel the bumps. JH apparently told his mom (who is good friends with my mom), and his mom called my mom and told her she needed to watch what J was doing to me, because she was really hurting me. My mom told me she called and what she said, and asked why I lied. J, of course, said that it didn't happen. I told my mom it did happen, and tried to get her to look at or feel my head. And I told her that I didn't lie - I didn't even tell anyone anything - JH was there and saw it for himself. But she just didn't believe it.
Since we have been adults, J has admitted to my parents that she did all these things. I asked my mom why she always believed J over me. She said because I was so "sneaky." It is true that I didn't talk to my parents much or tell them anything that was going on. Why would I? I didn't want to be teased or something. Also, when I started having, as you described it, two different worlds, I had to keep them separate. But that didn't mean I was a liar. Of course I lied to my parents sometimes, but no more than any other kid, and probably a lot less than J. J fought with my parents, and I think my parents could figure her out. I didn't fight with them. I just didn't share anything, and I think they couldn't understand me so had no idea what I might be up to or into, and it made them uncomfortable. But I wouldn't characterize it as "sneaky." I was just shut off from them. I didn't think I could tell them anything without some negative consequence. Heck, when I started my period, I didn't tell anyone for about 6 months, until my mom asked me. I knew where J kept stuff, and I just read the directions and figured things out for myself.
As to what my younger self feels about what I would say to her, I don't know. I mean, if it really was said, I'm sure I/she would be thankful that someone was in her corner. But I have a hard time actually envisioning this, because it is made up. I obviously cannot really talk to myself 35 years ago.
I did basically live in 2 worlds as a teen. But to be clear - my parents didn't want me to get a job. But I did it anyway. I think because I wanted the freedom of my own money. Also, I loved playing basketball and liked running track, because my friends were on the team. I chose to do those things, but yes, these were "approved" by my parents (unlike choir and show choir). And I did rebel. But the thing is, what my parents would deem punishable is not what I think should have been punishable, and vice versa. For instance, we weren't allowed to take dishes in our rooms, which was probably a good rule. When I was a freshman in HS, I was in my room getting ready to go to a football game, and I had poured some random liquor in a cup from my parents' liquor cabinet - just a little bit of everything, and I was drinking it in my room. My mom came into my room to ask me something, and she asked what I was drinking (I'm sure because the smell of alcohol was pretty strong). I told her it was whiskey. She just stood there for a second and said "you know you aren't supposed to have cups in your room. You can't go to the football game." Really? I knew I was in trouble when she walked in, but I assumed it would be for drinking, especially since I was only 14. Even then I thought that was so backwards. Bizarre.
I also wish I had gone to the alumni when that happened. I knew them sort of well - they hung out with us a lot because our house mother went to school with them and we hung out with he, and my friend's cousin also went to school with them and she was the controller at the school, so it just ended up that way. Looking back now, I think I could have called ne of them, and they would have kept it to themselves, but would have also helped me. Unlike my parents, I am pretty sure that if I had called one of them who lived out of town, they would have driven there right away. One or two of them in particular, were very caring and motherly, and I think that could have helped me a lot. Or I could be wrong abut that and it could have been a big mess. I don't know. But at the time, I didn't even think about it. Except one time not too long after it happened, a few of them were at the sorority house, and one of them took me into another room and asked if something was wrong because I seemed so different. But as she was asking, a few people came in that room, and my friend, Katie (the one who just died) told her I had a lot of papers due and stuff and was just stressed. She was trying to be helpful. In front of all them, I felt like I had to confirm that. But I wonder, if nobody had come in, if I could have told her, and I wonder how that would have changed things. After all my friends found out, at the end of the year, one of my friends told one of the older women who lived where I was moving for law school, and asked her to keep an eye on me (I found out later). She was really helpful - or tried to be . She just said she knew and I could talk to her if I ever wanted to. She pushed me to see a counselor, and went with me. (I only went a few times). And it felt better to have an adult who knew. I mean, I was an adult, but kind of still in kid-mode I guess.
I hope your seminar is fun and informative!
I understand your point about your mother view's of well adjusted adults. People who are well adjusted are able to balance emotions with logic and basic needs. They have healthy relationships that are rewarding and meaningful. Emotions are a huge part of being well adjusted. It certainly does not sound like your parents are well adjusted emotionally. They limit emotional expression themselves and with their children through abusive means. So you are right, your mother's definition of well adjusted is skewed. Do you feel you are well adjusted now on your own terms or do you feel that your mother still has a lot of influence on how you view being well adjusted?
It must have been very hard to feel that you could not go to your parents with what you needed from them. You should not have had to defend yourself against false accusations and constantly have to be defended by others. How did you feel about what you had to go through with your mother?
Inner child work is not so much about actually talking to yourself from the past. It is a technique to help you connect with who you were at the time and the unmet needs you had. It's using your imagination to address your own needs when you could not get them addressed by your parents. As an adult, you can look back and see what needs you did not get met, when it was not clear to you as a child. Children do not possess that kind of insight. So by "talking" to yourself as a child, you can connect and fulfill those needs the best you can.
Wow, it is very bizarre that your mother chose to punish you for having a cup in your room instead of the alcohol you shouldn't have had being underage. So Mom was ok with breaking the law but not with a cup in your room. Interesting logic. How do you feel when you think about that time?
It must have been very nice to have friends looking out for you in college. They sound like wonderful people. How to you feel your life would have been different if you had told one of the older women in your group?
PS Thanks. I am hoping to learn a lot tomorrow at the seminar.
Let's see .....
I thought I was well-adjusted, but I think that was using my mom's definition of that. I have healthy relationships with friends. But I guess I do not balance emotions with logic and basic needs very well (yet). Of course, now I am moving towards being well-adjusted under the real definition and not-so-well-adjusted under my parents' definition.
I don't know how I felt about what I had to go through with my mom saying I was lying, etc/. I guess I felt bad because she never believed me or didn't care, bad because she probably told other people I lied, and generally unheard. And I would feel guilty - like I must be a liar. I knew I wasn't lying, but when it did happen that my mom didn't believe me on something and I proved to her otherwise, she would say that it was my fault, basically, because I lied all the time, so she couldn't believe me. So I thought I must be a big liar. I knew I did lie about some things, so I assumed it must be a lot. At the time, I didn't think about the fact that in every one of these situations, my sister was lying, and that had to be a lot more than I lied about anything. But a lot later, I realized it doesn't matter. I knew what the truth was, and somebody not believing me doesn't change that fact any more than someone believing a lie would make it true.
As to how I feel when I think about that time with the alcohol, I don't know. I just think she's weird. What parent does that? I had the impression at the time that she just wasn't sure what to do, which was odd for either of my parents. It was just strange. I don't know what else to say about it. I knew at the time it was backwards, too.
Yeah - it was nice the older friends were there, but I didn't really take advantage of the benefit of having 30-35 year old women around. How do I think my life would have been different if I had told one of them? Well, I'm sure they would have made me go to the doctor, but they also could have explained to me what would be done and what a female exam entails, and I'm sure they would have gone with me, and could have explained to the doctor what the deal was, since I couldn't. That, I think, would have helped, because it was a real struggle for several weeks to a month afterwards, because it took weeks for the bleeding to even stop, and it hurt so bad. Maybe the doctor would have given me something to make me feel better and would have stopped the bleeding. Also, in hind sight, I think (especially in light of the physical injuries), they would have shown me, maybe, that it was a serious matter and a matter to be dealt with and that it was a major event. I felt like it was just one of those things that happens sometimes, which also enforced the guilt I felt if I thought about it or made a big deal out of it. I'm sure they would have also pushed me to get some emotional help sooner. So I think I wouldn't maybe be dealing with it now. But in the other hand, I have more resources to deal with it now, and I may not have been able to function in school and really deal with it. And then I guess my parents would find out. So maybe my parents would have found out and made it worse, and maybe I would have left school, at least for a while, which would have been bad because I would have to go home, and maybe I wouldn't have gone to law school. I don't know. But I think at that time I really needed someone to help me and someone who would be caring and understanding.
Oh well. I didn't tell any of them, so I will never know.
It would have been nice if I had had someone like you or Linda to talk to then.
My emotions are getting pretty stirred up writing you today. I'm a bit teary. I kind of wish my appointment with Linda would not have been moved to tomorrow. Oh well.
It's ok that you are beginning to feel emotions about what you are writing today. That is a good sign! I did notice though that when I ask you about how you feel, you say "bad". That is ok, but I wonder about your deeper feelings. If my mother called me a liar, I would feel a lot of things. Bad is a good umbrella word, but what is deeper than that?
I am going to give you a link to a list of feeling words. Use them to help you describe how you feel about the things you have been through:
I think you may be feeling tearful because you are feeling the emotions as we talk. You are just not recognizing them (or telling me about them maybe?). When you look at the list, see if you can pick out 3 words that describes how you feel when you think of how your mother called you a liar. This will help you get more in touch with your feelings.
It is interesting how the women in your alumni group would have acted in place of your mother for you. You mentioned that you feel you are attracted to women who are older and seem maternal. Given the lack of maternal love from your mother, their seems to be a huge unmet need for you to attach to a mother figure of some sort. How does this feel for you? It also may explain the sexuality attraction issues we talked about a while back.
I realize that looking back on parts of your life does not mean you get to re do them. You mentioned that you will never know what your life would have been if you had told the women from the alumni group. You are right, you won't. But the idea here is to see what you might have missed if you had been able to share what happened to you. Once you can identify what might have happened, you can see what you missed and mourn the loss. This helps you identify what should have been for you rather than what was.
Okay: What I felt about my mom calling me a liar:
"It is interesting how the women in your alumni group would have acted in place of your mother for you. You mentioned that you feel you are attracted to women who are older and seem maternal. Given the lack of maternal love from your mother, their seems to be a huge unmet need for you to attach to a mother figure of some sort. How does this feel for you?"
It makes me feel:
"It also may explain the sexuality attraction issues we talked about a while back."
It made me feel the same 3 things.
I feel totally discouraged about this. I knew it was wrong that I felt that way - wanting someone to mother me. Especially the older I have gotten. This is so messed up. Now, in general, I feel:
There is nothing wrong with you. Nothing. You are reacting normally to an abnormal situation.
The feelings you have about your mother calling you a liar are good. That shows anger and hurt towards what she did to you. Allowing yourself to feel these emotions and express them is a good step towards recovery. You may want to talk to Linda about this and see if she can help you find a way in therapy to express these feelings. One way is with the empty chair technique. That is when you take two chairs facing each other and you sit in one and put your mother in the other one. Linda guides you in talking with your mother about how you feel. Empty chair therapy is one example of how to work your feelings out. Linda may have other ideas about how you can express your feelings.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with needing a mother figure. Anyone who has gone without maternal influence during the important development years of childhood will miss the comfort, security and love a mother can provide. The unmet need will stay with the person until it is addressed. And even then, there still are times that the person will mourn their loss. Mothers influence their children in very important ways. And when you do not have a mother that provides the security you need to develop, you will try to find these unmet needs in other ways. You do this by developing friendships with older women. It is a source of comfort for you. It is not a replacement, but it is a way to address your needs as best you can, because you cannot get what you need from your own mother since she refuses to provide it.
This is not something that makes you pathetic or that you need to feel ashamed about. This is a healthy response. And the sexual attraction is also very normal, given the two traumas you have suffered in your life. First your mother refuses to meet your needs and abuses you, then you are attacked at a very young age when you are at the beginning of your sexual development. Both of these traumas factor in your attraction to older women. It does not necessarily mean you are sexually attracted to the same sex, but it does mean that your unmet needs and traumas make being with a woman very appealing in dealing with the pain you feel from both situations. Being attacked by two men would influence how you feel about being with a man. It would make it an experience full of fear and apprehension.
Shay, do not blame yourself for this. Following your parents view of blame is not going to help you heal. Exploring your feelings and resolving this will make you feel better. The key is to feel more, not less. That way, you can fully address what it takes to recover and lead the life you want.
I hope your day goes well. I'll be on tonight if you want to talk.
Okay. Just not feeling good about everything right now.
I am so sad.
I am still at the seminar. I hope you are doing ok. I will be able to talk tonight. Hope your session with Linda goes well.
I'm sure she does. What did you plan to talk about?