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February 14, 2018 at 6:22 pm #192563
If you’d like to share more about the particularities of your family I’d be happy to listen as a non-judgmental person (and without offering specific advice); just a listening ear for whatever experiences you’re struggling with reconciling.February 14, 2018 at 6:20 pm #192561
You’re already way ahead of most people by recognizing that your emptiness or numbness is actually repressed emotions. It’s great you are able to identify that. I didn’t mean to suggest that forgiveness wouldn’t help, only that if you find you have forgiven them and you still feel angry, or anxious in your home, it’s pretty normal and not something to be alarmed about.
Regarding forgiveness in general, here’s a little more of my story that might be useful. Both my parents abused us, but my dad would apologize. My mom did not – or, her apology would really just be about how bad you were and how you made her do what she did. I understood why my dad was violent – he had a bad childhood, his dad was terrible – but my mom seemed strange to me. Her childhood had been good, I didn’t get why she would treat us like that.
It wasn’t until I got older and I was able to learn more about her family that I realized that underneath a veneer of normalcy there’s definitely some problems that helped explain why she had such poor coping mechanisms for stress (which is what using your children as an outlet for your negative emotions is). Perfectionism and anxiety run in her family. She was never taught healthy ways to cope with stress.
It’s easy to excuse someone for hitting you when they themselves were hit even worse as a kid, but hard to explain why someone who by all accounts had a great life would treat you so horribly. The few times I’ve tried to get her to admit some of the things that happened I was met with flat-out denial.
So, I decided I had to make my peace with her without getting anything resembling acknowledgment or apology.
The first thing was to validate my own experiences, because she was never going to validate them for me. I stopped saying stuff like “other people have it worse” or “stop feeling sorry for yourself, nothing that bad happened to you” and let myself feel all the pain I felt without judgment. It is what it is.
The second thing was to try to extend empathy to her. Even if I’ll never know what she was thinking or why she did what she did, I know that it didn’t make her happy to hurt us. She probably, on some level, feels a lot of shame and self-loathing for hurting us.
I tell myself: she did the best with what she had. If she had better tools, she would have used them. She just didn’t know how.
This helps me feel empathy for her without justifying how she treated us. She certainly was in a lot of pain – no one who hurts defenseless children feels good about themselves inside. It let me move on without needing her to admit what she did or take responsibility; if I was waiting for that I’d be waiting forever.
Nowadays we have a pleasant relationship, although it does make me sad we’re missing the intimacy that we’d have if there was more honesty between us. I focus on the good things and the nice times we have together, and try to let go of the things that make me sad still, like her perfectionism that still ruins parts of her life, ability to relax or have any fun. I can’t fix those things for her, but I can love her anyway, and that helps.February 13, 2018 at 11:58 am #192267
I’m with Anita on this one – she has a really good explanation of how children feel guilty for their anger towards a parent, even when that parent is mistreating them.
I would not characterize slapping a child in the face as “light” punishment like you did, using a term to minimize the abusive treatment. There’s never any reason to slap a child in the face. It is not at all surprising you hit your sister. Children copy what they see their parents do. You’re carrying a lot of guilt that belongs to other people. By all means, acknowledge hitting her was wrong, but then feel free to let it go. You were a kid. It’s over.
As far as your therapist disappearing on you, sometimes it helps me to take things out of the personal context and put them into a different context so I can see them clearer. For example, what if we were discussing your mechanic, not your therapist?
The mechanic says you probably need a different mechanic for your car’s problem, then he is unavailable to you because he has a health problem, then he never sets up another time to look at your car again for months.
Would you be worried about the mechanic rejecting your car? Would you think, “I guess my car is too broken to be fixed”? Or would you think: “Well, this isn’t really working out with this mechanic, he seems to be too busy or preoccupied to help me with my problem. I’m going to need a different mechanic.”
As an outsider, based on what you’ve said, I’d guess the abuse you suffered in your home and school has given you a lot of hesitancy to judge other people’s treatment of you (not knowing how to handle a small interaction with a flatmate, ie). I have had trouble with this, too.
So I do this mental exercise when I feel too close to a problem: either put the issue into an impersonal setting, like the mechanic. Or I try to think about what I would tell a friend who is in my position, because for some reason it’s a lot easier to think about how to help other people.
I hope you can find a new therapist that actually helps you, if that is what you want. The shame cycle of being unmotivated/wasting time is a pretty hard one to break out of, but it’s definitely attainable and it does get easier. I still go through cycles but they are shorter and shorter these days.
It comes from adjusting my goals. If your “two hours of work at a time” system was not working, did your therapist help you set a smaller goal? That is the key to making progress.
If I can’t do two hours, maybe I can do fifteen minutes.
When I commit to fifteen minutes of something, I often end up doing the whole two hours. But if I keep trying to do two hours and failing, I just feel bad and procrastinate all the time. I will even sometimes set a timer for fifteen minutes. If I know I am “free” at the end of fifteen minutes, then I am not so averse to sitting down and trying.February 13, 2018 at 11:57 am #192259
I have the same internal voice. I really love the episode of Bojack Horseman S04E06 – this might get my comment moderated out, unsure about the policy on this, but whatever: it’s called Stupid Piece of Sh*t. It’s the first/only time I’ve seen that voice so accurately portrayed in pop culture. It’s a combination of negative self talk and existential crises all rolled into one.
I was talking to my brother about it – we both have the voice, seems to especially crop up in people who have tendencies toward perfectionism who have also been abused. One thing we both realized was that the voice is very good at grabbing onto “real” information about our failures in order to get its foot in the door, and then it just lays into us with all manner of constant abuse.
My other thought on your post is that you’re not really having problems with intimacy per say.
Like say intimacy is inviting someone into your house. You know your house is a mess. The wallpaper is peeling and floorboards are rotting and you’ve let trash pile up everywhere. And you’re like “Why can’t I just invite them to live in here with me? What is wrong with me?”
I mean, 1) because you don’t want them to see your trash and think poorly of you and 2) because you know if you’re this terrible to yourself, why should you make others live in your trash? You’re trying to protect them from yourself.
You have a trash-house problem, not an invitation problem.
What I did, and what a lot of people do, is to find someone else whose house is also full of trash, and invite them in. Because they already live in trash, so what’s the big deal?
Needless to say, if this metaphor is making any sense, inviting people with their own problems to share yours can get very, very messy. I’m not saying don’t do it, but I am saying it wasn’t the answer, it didn’t help my original trash-house problem, and we did end up hurting each other a lot. We also ended up helping each other a lot. In the end I realized I had to fix my house myself. Once I did that, inviting people in was so much easier. I don’t live in the cleanest house these days, but it’s better than it used to be and I feel okay about having people inside every once in a while. In other words, it’s still a struggle, but the struggle is less hard.
My advice would be to try to stop beating yourself up for not being okay with intimacy. You’re just giving that negative voice another piece of ammo. I’ve jumped out of a plane twice, and it’s awesome. Sharing my intimate emotional feelings is a thousand times harder than that. So you’re not abnormal, or we’re both abnormal together.
Another thing I do is that if I’m trying to solve a problem (my next job, for instance) and that voice is arguing with me, I put aside solving the problem until I have more control over that voice. The voice is an expert at ruining every attempt to make a decision or positive change in my life. I try to focus on the day to day and stockpile positive experiences until I feel up to trying to think through my life again.
Take walks, call friends, pet a cat, eat a favorite food, whatever I do that makes me feel good. Maybe even help others, but do it with the knowledge I’m really trying to help myself. (*cough*this post for example *cough* 😉 )
Once I’m in a better mental place, try approaching my decision-making again. This makes me slow sometimes to get things done, but I try to be okay with that and forgive myself for not “living up to my potential”.
I try to tell myself: this is my best, and that is okay. It sounds so stupid and simple but it’s the hardest thing in the world to let go of that loathing and frustration. I hope you can find some strategies and get some peace. Good luck to you!February 13, 2018 at 11:57 am #192251
I signed up to this forum to answer you. I clicked on your post because I was today thinking about my pain tolerance being overly high, and I was interested in seeing what someone on the other side had to say about it. Then I read your other posts and saw a lot in common between us, so I thought I might be able to share some insight that could help.
I am a decade older than you. When I was your age, I was in the same boat. I felt like a failure. I was suicidal. I was trying to forgive parents that had been abusive. I had moved every few years (different cities, countries) as a kid. I never felt like I could talk to or trust anyone. When I did try to trust my parents with my emotions, they reacted poorly and made me feel worse. The only reason I never killed myself was because I have two little brothers who follow me everywhere and I couldn’t justify leading them there.
Here’s a couple things that stood out to me about your posts:
You say you have a low pain tolerance, but then say you are suicidal. No one who is suicidal has a low pain tolerance. They are in a massive amount of pain every single moment of every day. Even if you are mostly numb, or lose the ability to name or feel emotions properly, under that is a huge amount of pain.
Anger isn’t its own emotion, it’s a response to pain. If you are angry all the time and don’t know why, it’s because you are in pain all the time. (As someone who went in the opposite direction and can turn pain “off”, it’s not that great or something to aspire to. It seems cool and badass but really I just ended up permanently damaging my body in a lot of ways. It’s nothing I’m proud of.)
You said it is absolutely vital that you learn to forgive your abusive parents so you can get rid of your anger. I’m kind of even hesitant to share this, but I wish someone had told me this when I was your age so here goes: forgiveness is great, and it will help, but it doesn’t change everything.
It would be so great if there was a switch where you could just let go of everything and feel good, right?
What I’ve discovered as an adult who has had to move back in with my (no longer abusive) parents (for non-mental-health related reasons, long story that is unimportant here) – no amount of forgiveness will undo the programming that has been imprinted on me as a child.
It’s been a decade since anyone hit me, and the idea that they would storm into my room right now and start screaming or throwing things or hitting me is ridiculous, like laughable. We’re all way past that – they’re different people than they were when I was a kid and we no longer have that type of relationship.
What I’ve found is that logic and reality don’t sync up to what my body and emotions remember. I’m still hyperaware of their shifts in vocal tone, I overreact internally to their frustrations. Any small amount of stress they feel gets picked up and magnified inside me.
Forgiving them helped, but it didn’t fix me.
That’s the bad news, I guess – that years of experience can’t be undone by a simple realization.
The good news is that if you can get some space from them, you’ll probably be in less pain all the time, which means less anger, which means forgiveness will come naturally and easily.
The biggest things that helped me: picking up slowly all the pieces of the failure I had made of my life (failing out of college, for one) and trying again. I was able to become financially independent after a couple false starts. Once I had some space, a lot of the anger and resentment disappeared.
I realized most of it was coming from being around them and my body continually reacting to fear signals, even if I was so out of touch with my body that I couldn’t tell anyone what I was feeling, other than maybe rage.
That was only the beginning though – I spent the better part of my twenties working on myself. I have never trusted psychologists, so I did it on my own. I got a book on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. It is a really good type of therapy that helps you reprogram your reactions to stress in a healthy way.
I found healthy ways to channel my overwhelming anger, which turned out to be a whole bunch of other emotions underneath (pain, shame, regret). I eventually learned how to organize and name them. I can now recognize a whole scope of emotions I’d lost access to before.
Living with your abusers puts you in the position that a couple other people here mentioned – fight or flight. It doesn’t matter that they are no longer hurting you. You’ve been hardwired for survival in a way that helps us make it through crisis situations, and no amount of logic is going to convince your body you’re not still in crisis.
So, fight or flight. Fight is all your anger. Flight is suicide. But you have a lot more options than that.
The tricky part is to work towards giving yourself those options while not being able to feel anything good, like motivation or just, feeling normal or okay. Some people mentioned antidepressants. I never took those. I think they can really help in the short term with getting motivation up. They might be worth looking into. I have friends who they helped get over the initial bump of fixing their lives.
Similarly, if you can find a trusted friend or maybe a professional to talk to (you said you maybe want a mother who will just listen to you), that could help.
It’s helpful to feel validated. I made other friends who had similarly abusive backgrounds and we listen to each other and don’t judge each other. This was huge for me and the biggest thing that helped other than getting actual physical space from my family so my body could heal, and working on the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy to help me process emotions.
You have a lot of good things going for you: you’re being incredibly strong for your little brother. You can acknowledge that and put it into words: you’re living in a great deal of pain every day because you love someone else. That’s so brave.
You also said you channel your feelings into music – that’s wonderful! Music is such a great outlet. I wish I was better at it. Maybe you can find some people outside your home to make music with.
Look up Dialectical Behavioral Therapy from Marsha Linehan. It’s based in mindfulness practices, which based on you being on Tiny Buddha, I’m guessing you’re naturally drawn to those. If you can afford it, there are some workbooks that you can get and fill out on your own. There are free resources online as well.
You have a lot of self-awareness and logical thinking skills that I can see in your posts. If you can make a plan for becoming financially independent from your parents and start taking tiny steps towards it every day, I think that would help. It’s great your mom is on medication and your dad is improving, but if you have been abused in that house, it’s going to be very hard to feel differently around them until you’ve had some space to heal and process things on your own.
What I wouldn’t worry about is trying to make your feelings different. It’s pretty impossible anyways. All we can do is change how we react to the things we feel. So instead of trying to stop feeling anger, try to work on making that anger work for you in some way. Either find healthy ways to release it (exercise is a great one, in moderation).
Or just work on acknowledging the feeling without judging it: “I feel really angry.”
Instead of “I feel really angry, but I shouldn’t, because other people have it worse and my mom was nice to me today”.
I know it can feel really impossible to make major changes in your life when you’re dealing with depression and social anxiety. Depression takes away your motivation, and social anxiety makes it hard to go to school or get a job. But you can do it! It just takes patience and persistence and a lot of congratulating yourself for small victories.
When a task seems too big, try to find the smallest possible step towards it and try to take it. You’re very rational and smart, so you can use those skills to your advantage here in breaking down big goals into small tasks.
This has gotten really long, so here is one last story to close the post. Context: I also struggle a lot with feeling “behind”, like everyone else is more functional and farther ahead in life than me, and I’m broken and lagging behind. I have a lot of useless anger because I feel like my potential (being very smart, learning almost anything easily) has not been matched by my actual life (full of failures to live up to that potential).
A story I heard that I liked because it appealed to my rational side:
A businessman in his forties was telling his best friend, “You know, I’ve always dreamed of being a doctor. But by the time I would be out of school and practicing medicine I’d be 57. It’s way too late to try.” His best friend replied, “Well, you’re going to be 57 anyway. So do you want to be 57 and a doctor, or 57 and never having tried to do your dream?” The man realized his friend was right and enrolled in medical school. He did graduate when he was 57 and became a successful doctor for almost 20 years.
I think of this story whenever I have no motivation to do something or it seems too big a task to take on and there’s not enough time to get it done. I’m going to be 32 anyway, so what do I want to do in the meantime? It’s going to be next week anyway, so what can I do between now and then to improve my situation?
I won’t take it personally if you don’t respond back, so you don’t need to feel anxious about just letting my post hang here or anything. I enjoyed writing to you and hope that some piece of this was helpful.
You’re so very young and have all the time in the world to start over and get it right. Best of luck to you! I know you can do it. 🙂