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Decision paralysis…I feel like I'm going mad

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  • #88953
    Mermaid
    Participant

    Hi everyone,
    I have written on here before and sometimes think it’s strange because I’m asking for advice from strangers, but have found these forums helpful and insightful in the past. This post is very long and disjointed, so sorry maybe some of you won’t read through to the end.

    I posted a few months back, explaining I am dealing with a major transition in my life (leaving Christianity after 15 years of heavy involvement). I have been depressed and anxious for about 6 months now, I have never felt so desperately low in all my life. I have started seeing a therapist, but to be honest I am not sure it’s helping with dealing with the loss and grief I feel over losing my faith and my identity, she keeps wanting to work with memories from the past, saying that I adapted myself way before religion came along…

    Anyway, the past year I have been struggling because now age 30 I feel like there is so much I have missed out on. Sure, I have done loads of things, travelled and lived abroad, studied, but all the time dealing with the guilt and turmoil that my faith brought with it. I didn’t permit myself to do so many things, to question certain things, my sexuality, my views on life… to have sex, until I decided after 2 years with my loving boyfriend to do it (of course guilt and turmoil came along after that).
    I now find myself thinking or desiring the experiences of ‘freedom’ I feel I missed out on when younger, whilst also craving the need for stability and groundedness. There’s a huge part of me that feels I need to go away again and recreate myself, have adventures, away from former friends and family, but I am well aware that wherever you go, you take your stuff with you.
    My ex boyfriend (loving, eternally patient, kind and devoted) is in France and we have been in an on/off relationship for the past 7 years. I never thought I would be capable of that. Last year when we broke up, I knew it felt right as we were both in bad places and I needed time to digest the huge change I had been through. This summer we were writing a bit and he knew how low and depressed I was so suggested we meet in France. I was apprehensive because I knew I was feeling so lost that it would not be the right time for a relationship (even with him). He said he understood and that it was just about being together for a short time and enjoying the moment.

    Of course, now months on, we are back in the limbo interim of being unable to commit to each other, but unable to quit. Well, he can commit to me, but he won’t leave France. He is also 9 years older than me and wanting to build a career for himself and settle. There is the part of me I mentioned before that feels the need to go off and explore, and I put flights on hold for Australia to go early next year, but I can’t go ahead and buy them, I am afraid. I’m afraid it’s running away, I’m afraid it’s not right, I’m afraid what I need is stability and clarity and mundaneness. Maybe I need to accept that everyday life is boring and I can’t be expecting to have a full blown adventure the whole time. I am scared of making decisions when I feel so lost and depressed, but equally not making any leaves me feeling stuck. There’s also a part of me that says I’m ‘messing around’ if I go away and travel or live abroad at 30, that I need to be settling down and building foundations for a future and a family, but I don’t feel ready for that.

    I am scared to lose the man I love once and for all, but I am also scared that if I commit to him now, I will always wonder ‘what if?’ What if I had gone away and rebuilt my identity alone? What if I missed out on so much?

    I know no-one but myself can give me the answers, but any insight would be so appreciated. I feel there are so many voices conflicting and drowning each other out that I just can’t hear which one is ME.

    #88957
    Sarah
    Participant

    Mermaid,

    Im 30 myself and have recently had similiar feeelings that you are currently feeling. I just now finally got a good job and found myself in a stable relationship. I felt “late” to the game so to speak for quite some time. My biggest realization was, who said i had to have all my ducks in a row by 30? or have everything figured out by 30? Everyone does things at their own pace, some of my friends are married with kids and i am NO where near that stage in my life. I wasnt ok with it at first, but im slowly getting there. Its hard to put yourself first and take care of you. But you just need to sometimes listen to your intuition and do the first thing that comes to your mind. Believe in yourself and that what you are doing at that given moment, is what you are suppose to be doing. And if later it turns out that it wasnt, you learn life lessons from that and move on to your next adventure, no matter how big or small it may be.

    You’ve made it to the fantastic age of 30…who says that you have missed out on anything at all? I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason – the path that you follow in life was meant to be yours. For example, it took me years to find my dream job, and one day it just happened to fall in front of me. And sometimes that just happens – one decision leads to another that leads to mistakes or the best thing that could every possibly happen.

    My point is, i had to take a risk… this one happened to work out really well for me. In the past others have not, BUT if i didnt try and attempt at other things, it would not have lead me to where i am now.

    Sometimes its hard to hear your own voice — try meditating — grasp at the things that jump out at you first. You know who you are and what you want to do, deep down you do. Don’t be scared to be who you are and who you want to be.

    #88986
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Mermaid:

    It is a hell of a thing to change core beliefs such as you have. Old beliefs gone, new beliefs not established yet, hence the conflict, confusion, fear, paralysis… Do you see a good therapist? I think it is necessary for you, someone skillful to guide you at this very unique process that not many people go through- change 15 year old religious beliefs. This is not easy stuff. Changing core beliefs is like a tsunami in the brain. Old beliefs gone, new beliefs not formed yet, beliefs to replace old motivations.

    If I was you, I would pretend I was a two years old again, just starting life. At two or three I wouldn’t travel to Australia, I would start at the playground, not a far away land, close by. Start with the small things, the daily things, looking at those things you already are doing with a BEGINNER’S MIND, as if you are seeing things for the first time. In a way, you are. Without the old beliefs you are seeing things anew. So see them where you are, in what you do every day. Make no big changes or decisions.

    Therapy and small scale steps, this is what i would do.

    anita

    #88997
    Mermaid
    Participant

    Thanks ladies, thank you for your compassionate replies.

    Anita – yes as mentioned above I am seeing a therapist, but not feeling it’s helping yet, she is working with’traumatic’ memories from the past as opposed to dealing directly with the trauma of loss of my religion which makes me question the usefulness of it.

    In regards to doing nothing (taking baby steps) the issue is I now find myself back at my parents’ in the middle
    Of the countryside which is an isolated place to be and not the best for my state of mind, so doing nothing doesn’t feel like the best course of action either. I do try to meditate but no clear answer domes through, just conflicting ideas and contradictions.

    #89008
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Mermaid:

    I missed it where you wrote in your original post that you are seeing a therapist. I think that therapist may not be good enough for you. I think she should have been working with you starting with the practical problems of the present (and if they are stabilized, then go backward if needed).

    Notice, I didn’t suggest “doing nothing.” I suggested doing the same things you are already doing, but looking at those things with a beginner’s mind, including what you are doing right this moment, reading these very words. Nothing is too small a thing-to-do if it is a part of The Way for you to go: healing.

    After writing to you yesterday, I thought to myself that Australia may be a good idea, the break you need, the opportunity to see things a new… the newness that your brain needs. It may be.

    Obviously, you feel that you need to be elsewhere and do something else. Probably a good idea, move elsewhere. And away from parents is always a good idea, as far as I am concerned because troubles most often do start in that context: the early years of living with parents.

    Moving out and away, probably a good idea…
    anita

    #89013
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Mermaid:

    I was unsatisfied with my above responses to you so I went back and read some of your posts since last year. At one point you lived in France on your own and it didn’t make things better for you. Learning from history is important: moving and living on your own does not mean Problems-Solved!

    I read about your dissociation, floating above your body, not being connected/ associated with your emotions, overly thinking, thinking none stop in order to make sense of things and decide on the right-thing-to-do. I read about your chronic fatigue and ongoing feeling of distress, that being squeezed feeling that drains your energy.

    I have to correct myself, now with further information- and I apologize for doing so when you are already confused. But please follow me:

    your therapist may be doing the right thing so far. From what I have been reading from 2014, the trauma did not originate from the changing of religious beliefs fifteen or so years ago. But way before that- and the distress of way before that probably was the glue that held your religious beliefs in place for 15 years. The trauma obviously predates becoming religious.

    i am so sorry for your distress. I believe I am very familiar with this kind of distress you are describing, from very personal experience. I believe I do know how difficult it is. I too was chronically fatigued and feeling that squeezed, distressed sensation very often. I too analyzed and re-analyzed with no progress made.

    There is hope though, because I believe I WAS there, where you are, in your mind, and I believe I am in a much better place now and not by accident. But by effort and a plan and a path of healing that is available to you as well.

    Without you being associated, aware of your emotions you have NO WAY of knowing anything, really. You can’t solve life’s problems with intellect alone. This is why all that thinking did you (or me) no good.

    There is no doubt in my mind- and I mean, no doubt- that the solution for you, the way for you, is to get re-associated with your emotions. You need your emotions to have easy access to your awareness. You need to be okay with experiencing them and listening to the crucial messages behind the emotions.

    Whatever needs to be done to promote re-association with your emotions is THE RIGHT THING to do and the right way to go. Maybe put more into therapy! Maybe, if elements of abuse and neglect are ongoing with your parents, move out. I don’t know. What I do know is that re-association, reclaiming your emotional self is non negotiable.

    There are things from the past you are refusing to see because you imagine seeing those things will cause you more pain than you can handle. Someone has to guide you through seeing what you need to see and hold your hand so that you believe you can endure it and live afterward. It is necessary. Who will be guiding you and holding your hand through it?

    anita

    #398019
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Mermaid/ Reader:

    I studied your seven threads from July 2014 to December 2015. This thread is your 6th, ending with my reply to you, one you did not respond to. The purpose of my study is to better understand myself/ people, to learn something new today. I don’t like reading finished, edited and re-edited (and re-edited yet again) books, neither of the fiction genre nor he non-fiction genre, because I don’t trust that the real story can survive all that editing. On the other hand, your threads, written over time, give me the opportunity to look into a real story with minimal editing.

    Next month, May 2022, you should be 37. At the time of your first thread, July 2014, you were 29. There you shared that you used to be a “devoted Christian” from the age of 16 to 29 and had an “on/off for about 6 years with big breaks relationship” (age 23 to 29) with a man who lived in a different country (He lived in France; you lived in the UK).  The breaks in the relationship were about the distance, and about you feeling “so darn guilty” as a Christian being with a non-Christian. (The Christian faith does not allow having sex with or living with a man who is not your husband).

    In May 2014, you had a “kind of epiphany moment of wanting to totally change my belief system. I read ‘The power of now’ by Tolle and it all made sense, I felt I was awake and able to do the things he suggested, I felt so happy and alive“, and you “said, ‘screw it!’ I’m just going to go and be with him“, so you moved in with the man in France, but living with him, you experienced the following: “I love being with him… but I can’t feel at ease, I feel down and worry I made the wrong decision to get back with him… I have always had a tendency to be indecisive…  doubts and questions (are) 24/7 right now… I get extremely anxious and feel so guilty for having doubts, feeling like I’m lying or something. I do wonder whether being on my own is best, doing what I want and not having these doubts and uncertainties… I don’t feel settled“.

    In your second thread in August 2014, you shared that you were still indecisive: “My problem is I don’t know if it’s the relationship making me unhappy or other factors. I love my boyfriend but… I am thinking and analyzing allllll the time, I just can’t BE and let things flow. I feel so, so, lost, and I don’t know what to do… I have such tension in my head like it’s being squeezed in a vice or something and I know that is stress related“.

    You shared that you were “rediscovering” who you are “without Christianity defining me anymore“, that you are therefore in turmoil: “I feel like there’s a monkey on my shoulder constantly throwing me doubts and questions… I keep thinking ‘just go back home, go back to the UK’ (I am English), because I am missing dear friends and family, but I am also not sure running away is the answer“.

    In your third thread, in September 2014, you shared that since your previous thread, “I have since moved into a small studio flat on my own to have some space and create my own life in France…. but there’s so much tension in my body… I have these feeling like a foreboding that ‘I’m just not right/me’… Like you’re living your life but floating above your body“. You tried to meditate and breathe, but it was unhelpful. “I can’t decide if it’s my heart saying ‘end this relationship and your life here in France and go home’ … I keep panicking thinking these depressed feelings will cause cancer or something… I love my boyfriend, but my mind seems to fire a thousand questions at me ‘is this what you want?’ ‘What about being young and free?

    In your fourth thread, November 2014, you shared that a few weeks earlier, you moved back to the UK, but “thing is, the peace I was longing for hasn’t come, the excitement and joy I felt before going to France hasn’t returned and I am 29, have moved back with my parents in the middle of the countryside and just feel STUCK… I am very sad about the breakup with my ex… I just feel so lost, I don’t know how to ‘find myself’ again”.

    In your fifth thread, 11 months later, October 2015, you shared that you were offered anti-depressants but resisted taking them, that you “have so many surface reasons to feel happy, but inside is deep emptiness and anger that I can’t ‘fix things’“, that you feel shame.  You recalled that in April 2014, a month before your 29th Birthday, and after 4 years of suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (2010-2014), you “decided to stop being a Christian after 15 years of being heavily involved in the church… never feeling good enough and extreme guilt. When I made the decision to not be a Christian anymore and believe in such an angry God, I felt euphoric and alive and so much better physically, I felt like a completely new person. Now over a year on, I feel deeply depressed, anxious and lost… like nothing feels the same, I’m not the same…there’s the constant feeling that ‘nothing’s normal’“.

    You addressed me: “Anita, your words were most helpful to me, reminding myself to be kind to myself as I transition through this massive change, which makes me feel like I’m going mad“.

    In your December 2015, sixth thread, the one I am typing into right now, a thread titled “Decision paralysis… I feel like I’m going mad“, you shared that you were living with your parents in the countryside, that your relationship with the man in France was still ongoing, but in limbo. You were feeling “depressed and anxious… so desperately low“.

    You shared that while you were a devoted Christian, you “have done loads of things, travelled and lived abroad, studied, but all the time dealing with the guilt and turmoil that my faith brought with it“, and you therefore missed “the experiences of ‘freedom’… to go off and explore“. You were afraid to commit to the man in France and then regret not having explored life before committing to him. You were considering traveling to Australia.

    You’ve been seeing a therapist for the purpose of working through “losing my faith and my identity“, but “she keeps wanting to work with memories from the past, saying that I adapted myself way before religion came along… Anita – yes as mentioned above I am seeing a therapist, but not feeling it’s helping yet, she is working with ’traumatic’ memories from the past as opposed to dealing directly with the trauma of loss of my religion which makes me question the usefulness of it“.

    In my reply to you on this thread, right above, Dec 6, 2015, I suggested to you that your “trauma did not originate from the changing of religious beliefs fifteen or so years ago. But way before that… maybe, if elements of abuse and neglect are ongoing with your parents, move out. I don’t know…  There are things from the past you are refusing to see because you imagine seeing those things will cause you more pain than you can handle. Someone has to guide you through seeing what you need to see”.

    You did not reply to my Dec 6, 2015, post, but two days later, you started your seventh and last thread where you shared for the first time something about your parents and about your childhood. You shared that your parents (with whom you were living at the time) “are amazing human beings who have always loved and encouraged me and never told me ‘I must succeed’“, and yet, growing up, you “felt an enormous amount of pressure growing up… the overwhelming pressure to be everything to them and to be perfect… responsible for everyone (including my parents’ happiness)“.

    You felt guilty about feeling that pressure and responsibility and being so troubled otherwise even though you never had an abusive or neglectful childhood: “I feel guilty because I never had an abusive or neglectful childhood… I have such guilt for even saying I struggle with being an only child because obviously I had all the love and care and limelight I needed, but I think that in itself is a problem because you can never escape the attention

    My Mum is highly anxious and has always worried what others think of her and whenever we have people round it’s always so stressful as if 50 were coming round when there were only 5! She has also always strived to please others and I think I have absorbed that too, I suppose it’s not always what we say verbally is it that gets absorbed by children” – those were your closing words.

    My thoughts today, six years and four months later: in therapy, you wanted to deal “directly with the trauma of loss of my religion“, but your therapist wanted “to work with memories from the past… before religion came along“. You became a Christian at 16 and lost your faith at 29. Your therapist wanted to work with you on your memories before religion came along, that is, before you were 16, but you didn’t want that, feeling that “it’s not helping” and that it is not useful (“makes me question the usefulness of it”).

    You did not want to explore your childhood. You wanted to explore Australia… life out there in the future, not your childhood, and not your adult life here and now, being that you were still living with them at 29.

    You were an only child. You lived in a serene countryside location in the UK, but inside the house, you grew up with a very anxious mother: “My Mum is highly anxious and has always worried… it that gets absorbed by children” – you absorbed her high anxiety and worry as a child. And living with her at 29, you were still exposed to it.

    I suppose it’s not always what we say verbally is it that gets absorbed by children” – you absorbed her anxiety, and you absorbed her tension: ” I have such tension in my head like it’s being squeezed in a vice or something and I know that is stress related“. Your mother didn’t physically abuse you by squeezing your head with a physical vice, she squeezed your head with a mental vice simply by being highly anxious around and not containing her anxiety.

    The English term “stiff upper lip” is useful when it comes to parenting in this context: a highly anxious parent should not show her anxiety, but hide it, contain it, because it harms children. And in private, in the office of a professional, treat that anxiety by medications and/ or psychotherapy.

    “I felt an enormous amount of pressure growing up… the overwhelming pressure to be everything to them and to be perfect… responsible for everyone (including my parents’ happiness)” – a highly anxious mother is a very unhappy mother, so you desperately wanted to make her happy. That was your number #1 priority and sacrificing yourself (placing yourself on the back burner) felt worthwhile, when what was on the front burner was seeing her happy!

    I feel guilty because I never had an abusive or neglectful childhood… I have such guilt for even saying I struggle with being an only child because obviously I had all the love and care and limelight I needed, but I think that in itself is a problem because you can never escape the attention” –

    * “I had all the love and care and limelight I needed” – you also had all the high anxiety that you didn’t need.

    * “you can never escape the attention” – you can never escape her anxiety. If you go for a walk in the serene surrounding of the house, you are always back to the anxiety when you re-enter the home.

    * “I have such guilt for even saying I struggle with being an only child” – your struggle has not been about being an only child, it’s been about being a child to a highly anxious mother who did not contain her anxiety.

    *I feel guilty because I never had an abusive or neglectful childhood” – your mother was not abusive, she was “only” highly anxious, and she expressed her severe anxiety; that’s all it takes to mess up a child.

    You didn’t mention your father, so I am guessing he wasn’t as powerful a figure as was your mother. Her high anxiety affected you much more than anything he expressed.

    I am guessing that you took on religion at 16, so to have a strong parental figure, aka god… to substitute your highly anxious, restless, agitated, unhappy mother with a calm, content god, a god that will allow you the freedom to live your own life, to explore, to be who you are?

    I will add to this post within the next 24 hours.

    anita

     

    #398152
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Mermaid/ Reader:

    In May 2014, at 29 years old, you had a “kind of epiphany moment of wanting to totally change my belief system. I read ‘The power of now’ by Tolle and it all made sense, I felt I was awake and able to do the things he suggested, I felt so happy and alive” – the power of self-help and inspirational books is temporary, like watching an inspiring movie, you leave the movie theater feeling inspired, hopeful, powerful… but it doesn’t last long. “The Power of Now” too quickly becomes the power of then. It takes a lot of post-epiphany work, time and dedication to change a belief system and to experience a lasting change in the way one mentally and emotionally experiences life.

    Inspired by your epiphany, at 29, you “said, ‘screw it!’ I’m just going to go and be with him”, so you moved in with the man in France, but alas, your mental and emotional experience of life remained the same as what you experienced growing up with your highly anxious mother: ““My Mum is highly anxious and has always worried what others think of her and whenever we have people round it’s always so stressful as if 50 were coming round when there were only 5!“.

    This is what you experienced with the man you lived with as a 29-year-old: “I can’t feel at ease, I feel down and worry I made the wrong decision…  doubts and questions (are) 24/7 … I get extremely anxious and feel so guilty… I don’t feel settled… I am thinking and analyzing allllll the time, I just can’t BE… I have such tension in my head like it’s being squeezed in a vice“.

    Growing up with a highly anxious mother means to grow up highly anxious yourself, (using your words in regard to your experience living with the man in France:), it means to grow up feeling uneasy, unsettled, to “feel down and (to) worry… extremely anxious and feel so guilty“, to “doubt and question” if you said the wrong things or expressed something in a way that upset your mother, feeling guilty for having upset her, for not being able to calm her, for not being able to fix things, “thinking and analyzing allllll the time“: what did I do to make my mum anxious, what should I do now, what do I need to do next to make her feel better, “I just can’t BE… I have such tension in my head like it’s being squeezed in a vice“.

    When you moved out to your own flat in France, no longer living with the man, you still experienced the same imprinted mental and emotional experience of childhood:  “I have since moved into a small studio flat on my own to have some space and create my own life in France…. but there’s so much tension in my body… I have these feeling like a foreboding that ‘I’m just not right/me’… Like you’re living your life but floating above your body“.

    Next, you moved back to your parents in the UK, but “thing is, the peace I was longing for hasn’t come… just feel STUCK… I am very sad… I just feel so lost… inside is deep emptiness and anger that I can’t ‘fix things’… I feel deeply depressed, anxious and lost…there’s the constant feeling that ‘nothing’s normal’… I feel like I’m going mad… depressed and anxious… so desperately low”.

    An epiphany is only the very beginning in the years-long process of changing a distressing mental and emotional experience that was imprinted in us during the long years of our childhoods. An inspiration and will-power are not enough to make any change.

    I think that becoming a devoted Christian at 16, was about trying to change your imprinted experience of childhood by sort of switching allegiance from your mother (parents), to God, hoping for a stronger parent to calm your anxiety/ to ease that vice’s squeezing hold on your head. But religion cannot change the mental and emotional imprint from childhood long-term any more than an adult romantic relationship can. You shared that while being a Christian, you experienced “never feeling good enough and extreme guilt” – just like you experienced growing up with your mother.

    When you attended therapy, you wanted to deal “directly with the trauma of loss of (your) religion“, resisting your therapist’s efforts “to work with memories from the past… before religion came along“. Addressing the trauma of living with a highly anxious mother, especially doing so while still living with her at 29, was too threatening.

    You wrote: “I feel guilty because I never had an abusive or neglectful childhood” – abuse and neglect create distress in a child, but so does a highly anxious mother. Let’s look again at what you wrote about the experience of living with her: “whenever we have people round it’s always so stressful as if 50 were coming round when there were only 5!” – in this sentence you estimated that your mother was 10 times (1000%) more stressful than what the external situation called for. That’s indeed a very “highly anxious” mother.

    psych central. com has a 2009 article titled Life with An Anxious Mother, it reads in part: “When worrying becomes excessive, it starts to affect the people around you…. Daily life becomes more about avoiding risk and discomfort rather than having experiences. Like playing not to lose, not playing to win. A child with an anxious mother might start learning that the world is too dangerous to be explored much… An anxious mom can literally transfer her nervousness to her child. A child that senses tension will become tense themselves… Mothers tend to set the emotional barometer in a household… When a child is exposed to an excessively worried and anxious mother for years, it may take them quite a long time to see that as their mother’s problem”.

    talk space. com has a 2018 article titled Raised by Anxious Parent? it reads in part: “It’s extremely difficult on a child to grow up with an anxious parent… Anxiety is a disorder characterized by constriction — it keeps people from living full and free lives, and often encourages ‘worst case scenario’ thinking. Here are some of the things that parents with anxiety may teach their kids, implicitly and explicitly: The world is dangerous. Other people are not to be trusted… Don’t take any risks, because it would be worse to fail than not to try…. Add to the mix that many highly anxious parents do not conceive of themselves as anxious at all, and see their behavior and thoughts as rooted in fact…”.

    Back to your writing: “When I made the decision to not be a Christian anymore and believe in such an angry God, I felt euphoric and alive and so much better physically, I felt like a completely new person” – when you abandoned your substitute parent (God), you felt euphoric, alive, like a completely new person. This is how you would have felt if as an adult, you would have abandoned your real parents/ your highly anxious mother. But this euphoria would have been temporarily because of the guilt and the inevitable return of the imprinted mental and emotional experience of childhood.

    You shared that while you were a devoted Christian, you “have done loads of things, travelled and lived abroad, studied, but all the time dealing with the guilt and turmoil that my faith brought with it“, and you therefore missed “the experiences of ‘freedom’… to go off and explore” –

    – Your ongoing longing to be free is about your need to be free from your mother’s constricting  excessive anxiety, anxiety that imprinted in you he belief that the world is too dangerous to explore, as the first online sources states: “A child with an anxious mother might start learning that the world is too dangerous to be explored much“, and the second: “Anxiety is a disorder characterized by constriction — it keeps people from living full and free lives“.

    Last you posted you were living with your parents in a house in a serene English countryside. In your various threads you never mentioned that any of your parents suffered from any physical illness or disability or any financial disadvantage, nor did you mention any material want on their part or your part.  You wrote: (I) have so many surface reasons to feel happy“.

    You last posted, in December 2015- four whole years before anyone heard of Covid-19, the pandemic that negatively changed the world, and it was before the alarming escalation of climate change and political radicalization of later years, and before the current war in Ukraine, and the ongoing deteriorating economy… and yet, in what appear now as the good old days of 2015 and earlier, you were miserable.

    “What about being young and free?“, you asked.

    I will continue within the next 24 hours.

    anita

     

    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by anita.
    #398317
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Mermaid/ Reader:

    Having studied your thread in the last three days I learned more about how indeed damaging it is for a child to grow up with a highly anxious parent, and how important it is for parents to treat and manage their own anxiety best they can, so to minimize its expressions.

    A highly anxious person in every relationship needs to take responsibility for his/ her personal anxiety and work on lessening it with professional help when needed, because anxiety in one person increases the anxiety and stress in the other person. But it is especially important to do so when the other person is a child. There is a term for the years of childhood: Formative Years. To put it simply, the Years-long anxiety expressed by a highly anxious parent becomes Formed in the brain-body of the child.

    Put in another way:  years of exposure to highly anxious parent => a highly anxious child => a highly anxious adult.

    The highly anxious child, now adult can move out of the parents’ home, as you have done, Mermaid, live with a man in another country, live on your own, travel, etc., and yet wherever you go, there’s the high anxiety, that “I’m just not right” feeling, as you put it.

    When a person feels I’m-just-not-right, nothing feels right: living with a man feels… not right, living alone feels… not right, living in another country feels… not right, living back with parents feels…  not right, religious life feels… not right, leaving your religion… feels not right.  Nothing feels right.

    A child needs to grow up with parents who seem okay, in control of themselves, because the child needs to feel that she is in good hands, so to speak, that the people in charge of her are dependable. When a parent seems all over the place, restless, unsettled, the child feels that she has no one to depend on. Without a calm-strong parent to care for her, the child cannot rest. She becomes restless. Restless within herself, nothing feels right.

    Restless adults who have been restless since childhood resist addressing the origin of their restlessness and prefer to address their restlessness within an adult romantic relationship, at work, and/ or elsewhere, but not in childhood. I think that the reason for it is that children of a highly anxious parent (parents who may be abusive or not) do their best to remove their awareness from their painful childhood experience, and this removal aka dissociation becomes a habit that carries on into adulthood.

    But the painful reality of one’s childhood continues to be the reality of one’ adulthood regardless of dissociation, nothing felt right then; nothing feels right forever more… unless serious healing takes place for long enough time.

    An anxious person shrinks from life, anxiety is about constriction. To grow, to expand, to explore, a person needs to be free from excessive anxiety. Any and all kinds of freedoms start with this one basic individual freedom: the freedom from excessive anxiety.

    When a highly anxious person experiences a temporary disappearance of the anxiety, a zero anxiety (when taking a particular psychoactive drug, when a big change takes place, such as getting into a religion, getting out of a religion, falling in love, falling out of love, winning the lottery, reading a particularly inspiring book, etc.), nothing feels better: “awake and able… so happy and alive… euphoric and alive and so much better physically, I felt like a completely new person“, you wrote.

    The tendency when that happens is to think that the anxiety is gone for good, and that the euphoria will last. It never does.

    You wrote that you had “so many surface reasons to feel happy“, but you had one reason to feel unhappy and that was… years of growing up with a highly anxious mother, her high anxiety Formed within you.

    You last posted, in December 2015, four whole years before anyone heard of Covid-19 (December 2019), before the most alarming 2020 & onward escalation of climate change, before the global political radicalization and move toward autocracy, culminating in the current ongoing tragic war in Ukraine, before all these things, while physically healthy, living in a serene countryside, wanting for nothing material, you were highly anxious, and your mother was highly anxious. Why?

    My answer to my own question: the world was never right, too much wrong in it, too much abuse and waste, selfishness and ignorance, greed, indifference and short sightedness. As a result, people are highly anxious, and highly anxious make poor choices that lead to more abuse, waste and destruction.

    Lessening the current and expected miseries in our world begins with the individual taking responsibility for one own’s anxiety and lessening it. With lesser individual anxiety, each person can think and choose better, have a far-sighted view of the consequences of one own’s and others’ behaviors and misbehaviors, and calmly move toward practical, long-term individual and global solutions.

    You asked: “What about being young and free?” – excessive anxiety shrinks and constricts us, it ages us, it imprisons us; it is the opposite of youth and freedom. To become young and free (at any age), take on the process of significantly lessening your own personal anxiety long-term, freeing your mind, heart and body from that “tension in my head like it’s being squeezed in a vice“.

    anita

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