Feeling betrayed

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    Dear Katrine Nielsen,

    I’ve read this and your previous threads. You say your anxiety, depression and stress started when you were 7 years old, coinciding with your sister becoming seriously ill, with a disease which will later be diagnosed as encephalitis. Due to this disease, your sister was often screaming with pain, and it took 7 years till she was properly diagnosed. She nearly died a few times during that period. The doctors and one part of your family, including your grandmother, thought your sister was merely seeking attention and has no physical ailments whatsoever. You as a family felt ostracized and excluded, and your grandmother excluded you and your sister from her will.

    What I think happened is that when you were 7, suddenly all of your parents’ attention went to your sick sister, who suffered greatly, while no one knew what’s wrong with her. Your mother, who was the pillar of the family – both emotionally and financially – didn’t have time to deal with your problems, such as you being bullied at school or developing anxiety. She was 100% devoted to your sister. Your father, who was emotionally detached anyway, wasn’t much of a help to you either. You couldn’t turn to him for help, neither could you confide in your grandmother, who was very judgmental and claimed your sister’s disease was a lie.

    So you were left alone to cope with your fears, anxiety, and being bullied at school, even by your teachers. There was no one to comfort you or to protect you – such as go to school and talk to your teachers. Your parents told you to simply ignore the verbal abuse and not think about it. When you complained about physical abuse and bullying, they asked you if you want to change schools. But since you were afraid to transfer to a new environment with possibly even more bullying, being a new kid, you rather stayed at your old school.

    The teachers had no understanding for your problems either. They said if you’re afraid of something, the best way is to face it, to do it. So they forced you go give presentations in front of the entire class, and you felt horrified and panicked, and once even cut your wrists.

    Your parents didn’t have much understanding for your anxiety either. They didn’t understand why you’re afraid to ride on a bus, or give presentations at school, or any such “simple” things that doesn’t really represent any real danger, in their view. When you cut your wrists, they took you to a child psychiatrist. He told them it’s better not to force you, so they stopped. But I guess the bullying at school didn’t stop, you just had to live with it.

    You described your situation very well:

    But emotionally I have been on my own so to say. I’ve never been able to talk about my feelings and fears without getting a just be positive and don’t think about it. Dealing with my sisters illness, work, house chores and a mother in law calling her a bad mother, there wasn’t any energy left. So I had to learn to deal with my anxiety, feelings, bullies on my own. Trying to self soothe and pep talk my self. My parents don’t understan anxiety, like why are you anxious there’s nothing to be anxious about. Making me feel really weak because I can’t just snap out of it.

    You were completely on your own since the age of 7. Your emotional needs were completely neglected because your sister became a priority. You had no one to turn to – neither to your parents, nor your teachers, nor your larger family. You in a way were sacrificed because of your sister. It often happens in families when one child becomes severely ill. The other child, who has lesser needs, gets often neglected because the parents simply don’t have the time and energy to deal with the other child.

    But you had it specially difficult because your grandmother and your larger family wasn’t supportive either (neither were the teachers nor the doctors who treated your sister). Your family didn’t have anyone to turn to, and you specially, within that family, had absolutely no one to turn to. (What about your other grandmother – your mother’s mother btw? Was she in your life in some capacity?)

    As you got older, your sister accused you of being selfish if you have any needs or desires of your own. You’re supposed to sacrifice your life for her, and if you refuse, she throws a tantrum and makes you feel guilty.

    In any case, I believe your anxiety and depression is the result of being emotionally neglected as a child, and left to cope on your own with physical and emotional abuse by your peers and teachers. These deficiencies could be made up for, but you’d need to work with it in therapy, to heal those childhood wounds. Are you attending therapy?


    • This reply was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by Tee.
    Katrine Nielsen

    My mothers mother died when she was just 17 and her father was emotional abusive to her. So I’ve never had a rrelationship with him. My grandfather i really liked but he died when I was 15. we (me my sister and my mom) eventually cut ties with my grandmother and only my dad would visit her. That lasted for like 6 months or so, and then my dad came home one day chocked about her behaviour and he cut ties with her as well.

    I was in therapy when I was around 23 I think, after having a breakdown from stress at the age of 20 after my aprentenship had ended. We talked about my childhood and everything concret to work with apart from try meditation. I needed help figuring out what i was doing wrong, like you were emotionally abandoned, this is how your reacting and this is what will help you healing those wounds. It felt good talking about it, having someone to listen to me, but there weren’t any guidlines as to how to deal with it. I guess that’s why I’ve always felt as there’s a puzzle piece missing, I didn’t know I was emotional abandoned and so I couldn’t heal it.


    Dear Katrine Nielsen,

    I am sorry that your grandfather, whom you liked, passed away when you were still young. I am also sorry that you had to go through such a difficult childhood experience.

    The first thing you can do is try to have compassion for your younger self, and tell yourself that it wasn’t your fault. And that you weren’t equipped – like no child is – to deal with such emotional burden that you were facing.

    You were bullied, and your parents and teachers ignored it, and so you anxiety became even bigger, to the point of being afraid to ride on a bus. Your anxiety seems to be largely related to the fear of judgment and condemnation by others. And you did experience a lot of judgment and condemnation in your childhood, both from your peers who bullied you, and from your parents and teachers, who thought you shouldn’t be anxious, and should just “get over it”.

    So I think it’d very helpful if you could have compassion and understanding for that little girl, who had no one to ease her anxiety – to hold her hand, take her into their lap and console her, to go to her school and talk to the teachers. There was no one who had compassion and understanding for you, and so the first step you can do is to have compassion and  understanding for yourself, Katrine.

    I think it’d also be great if you could find a therapist who can be that positive, compassionate, comforting figure – someone to “hold you” emotionally and soothe your anxiety, and help you learn how to love yourself. Do you have in mind someone who could be this soothing mother figure (or even a grandfather figure) for you?

    Also, try to understand that you have the right to be happy and lead a happy and fulfilling life, even if it might not be possible for your sister. You don’t have to suffer just because she suffers. You don’t have to feel guilty for having your own goals and dreams, for wanting to find happiness outside of your role of helper and care-taker to your sister (more precisely, the secondary helper, because the primary helper is your mother).

    In that context, it was wonderful that you got the opportunity to spend some time and work in London for a while, and it shows you’re capable of that. But you’ll need to do some more healing and finding yourself, before you can embrace a new life script and new possibilities for yourself.


    Katrine Nielsen

    It makes a lot of sense reading all this back that I’ve been critisized and bullied, not just by other people but by myself as much. I’ve been very insensitive and mean towards myself, so trying being nice and compassionate with myself would definitely be a better aproach. Like being my own parent so to speak. I don’t really have anyone I can turn to in the moment nor do I have the money for a therapist. But you have given me a lot that I can work with to help myself feel better. Learning to be my number one supporter, and setting boundarys is necesary and not something that means that I’m selfish. I wanna thank you for listening I feel a lot of weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.


    Dear Katrine Nielsen,

    you’re welcome and I am happy I could help you at least a little. Yes, being a good, loving parent to your inner child would be very important, and having love and compassion for yourself. This is what you need like the desert needs the rain, so try to give yourself as much as you can. Being loving and kind to yourself also includes setting boundaries and not feeling guilty about it, so yes, try to take care of yourself in that respect too.

    I do wish you well on your healing journey. Take it easy, step by step, and please feel free to write whenever you need to. Do share with us how you’re doing and if there’s anything you might need help with. <3

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