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I’m obsessively worried about past people coming back to hurt me

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  • #368868
    Z
    Participant

    I used to be more messy, have said some stupid or rude stuff, and burned a lot of bridges by just pushing people away, and I carry a lot of guilt and anxiety about it to this day.

    I’m a 29 year old bi woman, for some context. I’m sorry this is long, I just need to vent.

    -My ex gf of 4 years who I broke up with because she was getting really toxic, maybe even abusive, in the last year or so of being together. She was starting to control my every move and lay on jealous guilt trips and criticize me constantly to the point where she was isolating me from people a little and I felt constantly sick with anxiety. She badmouthed me on public social media platforms (a lot of people who followed me followed her) for at least 1 1/2 years after I left her, maybe more but I forced myself to never look at anything of hers again after the last time, because it left me so torn up I couldn’t eat and got sick. That was years ago. I don’t regret leaving, I’m just kind of scared of her to this day even though we haven’t talked.

    -My close guy friend who I developed feelings for and I really thought it was a sure thing with how he acted. Long story short, he ends up turning me down for a mutual friend. We both quickly reconciled and agreed to be friends, but as time passes he starts to act rude towards me, talks a little trash, and gets more distant and we start growing apart. I sent him one last text message last Christmas just saying happy holidays and I’m glad to be friends, and he responded a little formally and without returning the ‘glad to be friends’ remark, and I decided I wouldn’t try to talk to him again unless he initiated and we have not talked since.

    At some point while me and him were still talking, the mutual friend who he started dating blocked me, so I lost this friend too. I grieved but also while we were friends this person had been kind of mean to me and tried to pick a few fights and paint me as a “scary” person to other people in the group. About a year after she blocked me, she reached out to basically say “I know we haven’t talked in a long time but I hope you’re doing well!” and I just responded “I hope you’re doing well too!” and left it at that because I didn’t really want to reconcile with this person.

    I know that the guy friend and the ex-friend badmouth a lot of people behind their backs. They didn’t show this side to anyone but me because we were all “close.” At the time I let it go thinking maybe they were just venting, but I do remember feeling a little shocked at the way they would rip into and mock people they called their friends, who really didn’t do anything to them, and when they were buddies to their faces. They’re still well-liked by a lot of the old group, whereas I was the one left in the cold (there is still one friend I talk to, everyone else… not really). I haven’t talked about what happened with me and the guy to any mutual friends because it didn’t seem right. I’m still a little scared of both of them.

    -Back in college there was a girl and I heard from a friend that she made some annoying remark about her pretending to be a lesbian at bars as a joke to get guys to go away, and I complained about it on twitter (I didn’t mention the girl’s name or anything identifying and she didn’t follow me), and she ends up sending me a bunch of text messages basically telling me that I won’t amount to anything in life and she’s on the track to success. It got around the school and to professors, she was branded as a homophobe and it ruined her social life for the remainder of college. At the time I had a lot of people gassing me up and we’d trash her behind her back. She shouldn’t have said that stuff, but in retrospect I feel stupid for making the tweet, because nowadays her remark is honestly something I’d tune out. I identified as lesbian at the time (that’s another thing, I feel weird admitting that I’m bi after this whole incident blew up about me being gay), and it was around the era of gay marriage only just being legalized and the Pulse shooting happening, and it was my first time being out to more than a few close people. I’d also dealt with homophobia before. So I was already tense, and her lack of perspective frustrated me especially because her friends had told her before that it might be offensive. She pretended to be gay for a laugh just to brush off some guy once in a while, while I pretended I was straight my whole life to avoid being victim of a hate crime.

    These days if a straight girl asked me to pretend to date her to ward off a guy, I’d just laugh and go along. I wasn’t at that place when I dealt with this girl, and that’s okay, but this blew up and her college experience was ruined. She’s from a rich family and got a cushy job right after college so she’s fine in that sense, but I still just feel gross about having been in the center of all of that and don’t feel like it’s something I could reach out to her about and have my apology measure up.

    -I don’t know, just all the incidents that aren’t as big but still resulted in burned bridges, like people I blocked because I just felt annoyed by them or didn’t want to talk anymore and I was usually being egged on by someone else on the side. Petty. Stupid. Most of those were a really long time ago but I still think about them. More recently (2 years ago) I told someone not to make jokes about my dead dog because it was like an hour after I had him put down (all I said was “this might not be the smoothest time” or something and said it was ok when they apologized), and that seemed to ruin our friendship and create gossip about me which is frustrating. It’s all just frustrating.

    I feel guilty. And for some reason the thing that keeps popping up in my head, and what holds me back in life, is the fear that if I start using social media to get my creative career off the ground that it’ll eventually make it’s way back to people I’m scared of. Even though I always had my reasons for arguing with people, I feel like the longer that list gets the less credible I seem and the less I can justify it to myself. I’ve slowly drifted off of social media because of this fear, which has eased my anxiety but isn’t entirely practical for my field.

    I don’t really have a lot of friends left in my corner now, and I have so many people whose lasting impression of me is negative. I have a track record of conflicts with people. And I don’t know what to do or how to ease the guilt and fear I have, or how to plan for a worst case scenario where someone comes back in a bad way. I don’t really want to reach out to most of these people. The logical part of my brain also knows that I’m not so important that people sit around and think about me, but it’s more just the thought of: if my creative works get the recognition I’m aiming for, who will it land in front of? Because a lot of these people run in similar circles as me. And then those thoughts spiral into thinking of past regrets mixed with my fear of “cancel culture,” and it snowballs into a fear-fantasy of someone saying horrible things about me and nobody believing my side, and then everyone hates me and I’m a bad person.

    It sounds really irrational especially when I type everything out, but this fear and guilt is real enough to me that it’s kept me from fully embracing my career path and trying to put my name out there. I even get scared of making new connections because I’m worried I’ll just ruin it. I don’t know if I can rightfully call all of these people toxic or recognize myself as the common denominator. I don’t know how to find peace and confidence.

    • This topic was modified 3 weeks ago by Z.
    #368881
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Z:

    I looked at your previous three threads (we communicated some in your first thread, Dec 2018- Jan 2019), and read much of your post in your current, new thread. I will need to put more time and work so to answer your current thread thoroughly.

    If you would like me put together a thorough reply for you, please let me know and I will do so Tues morning, in about 17 hours from now.

    anita

     

    #368888
    Z
    Participant

    Thank you, Anita. I remember you. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    #368889
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Z:

    Then I will be back to your thread in about 14 hours from now.

    anita

    #368928
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Z:

    In about 2013 (at 22 years old), while attending college, you met and became friends with a guy (I’ll refer to him as G) and a girl (I’ll refer to her as L), the three of you were friends. In about 2016, you graduated college, moved two hours away from the two friends, but remained in regular contact with the two, and you visited them occasionally.

    At first, you had a small crush on G, but that small crush “snowballed into full-blown feelings”, the two of you had “a ton of long intimate late night talks and things like that”, you “really connected with him… fantasized about a whole future.. together.. really, really wanted to be with this person”.

    But he “seemed very interested in (L)..  spent tons of time with (L)”, and when you visited G and L, you felt like “a third wheel”, but still had fun with the two of them. Even with the distance, you still thought of your relationship with G as being special, “the intimate talks, the super sentimental way that he would compliment me sometimes, quiet moments where it was just us and we would lay on the ground and stargaze, one time we very briefly drunk-kissed at a party”.

    In late November 2018, you stayed in G’s apartment, and the two of you “cuddled pretty intimately for a long time”, your hopes were up. But the day after he seemed somewhat distanced. Soon afterwards, another friend told you that G “had long-time feelings for (L).. who recently expressed some back”, and that the two of them have been “kind of hanging for a  month or two”. As a result of this new information, you felt “awful and stupid.. selfish and a little childish.. like an idiot”, not knowing how you can “keep being friends with both of them and act like a normal person… I’m not sure how much I really mattered to him or if I was mostly just a backup friend for when (L) is busy”.

    “All I want is to feel loved and desired and I’ve just never had a lot of luck in that department”, including in a four year relationship you previously had, “even that felt empty, like the other person wasn’t fully into me… I just want to know why I’m not enough”., you wrote in December 13, 2018.

    A day later, you had a talk with G, and “Ultimately.. he said that he would rather keep being friends and didn’t share the same feelings I did. We agreed being friends was best and we’re gonna have some space for a while”. You also shared that you tend to put others before yourself, that as a child, you were “emotionally parentified.. had feelings of responsibility towards others”, suppressed your own feelings, and suffered “some emotional abuse/ neglect”. While in college you attended counseling for a year and a half.

    Three months later, in January 2019, you shared that you “crave intimacy, yet.. afraid of it”, you mentioned “emotional walls”, that you were scared “that stating my needs will chase people away” and you shared that after the New Year, G was distant again, stopped messaging you and liking your posts, you felt “more disconnected from the friend group than ever”, the friend group that included G and L. You felt at a loss, and upset at G  for cuddling you that night while “he knew that he liked (L) and didn’t view me that way”, and that you were doubly upset that he distanced himself from you after saying that “he didn’t want to lose how close were were”.

    You shared that you “don’t really have a social life outside of this friend group”, and your family, and that you started to refocus on your career goals, and decided to move”, but didn’t know how to proceed regarding the friend group.

    Two months later, in March 2019, you shared that you babysat your two year old niece every weekday, that your mother “suffers from mental illness and just needs a lot of extra help”, that you often act “as her rock”, trying to “push her towards professional help but.. can’t exactly force her”. You were still in contact with your friend group, viewing G as a person who “led me on for an ego boost and then rejected me in favor of someone else”. You shared that you have “chronic depression”, and you drink alcohol “to drive those feelings away”.

    “I want to shake off the crap and just put my head down and do something with my life. But I’m so tired all of the time that I can barely even sit up at my desk… I just want love. Not necessarily romantic… I fantasize about that a lot”.

    In April 2019 you shared that your “closest friend of several years betrayed” your trust and “acted really nasty” to you, and that the friendship has been reduced to formalities. You shared that you are “still so hurt”, tired of (G?) affecting my life each day.. thinking about this over and over… waiting for an apology that will probably never come”.

    A year and seven months later, November 2020 (29 years old), you shared that you have “said some stupid or rude stuff, and burnt a lot of bridges by just pushing people away”, and feel “a lot of guilt and anxiety about it to this day”. You shared about the 4 year relationship you mentioned earlier, the one that “felt empty, like the other person wasn’t fully into me”, that you broke up with her because “she was getting really toxic, maybe even abusive” in the last year of the relationship, criticized you constantly, badmouthed you on public social media platforms for at least 1.5 years after you broke up with her, and that you are still scared of her. Regarding G, you shared that after him being rude to you and distant , you sent him one last Christmas message 11 months ago, to which he replied “a little formally”. You shared that some time before that, L blocked you after she painted to other people in the friends group as a “scary” person, but reached out to you a year later but you didn’t want to reconcile with her because she and G “badmouth a lot of people behind their backs.. rip and mock people they called their friends, who really didn’t do anything to them, and when they were buddies to their faces”, and you are “still scared of both of them”.

    You shared that back in college a girl talked about how at bars, she pretended to be a lesbian so to get guys go away from her. You identified yourself as a lesbian at the time, and “complained about it on twitter”, and even though you didn’t mention her name in your complaints, she responded with aggressive text messages to you. Somehow (as a result of your complaints and “a lot of people.. trash her behind her back”?), “she was branded a homophobe and it ruined her social life for the remainder of college”. Looking back, you “still feel gross about having been in the center of all of that”, suggesting you feel guilty about it.

    You shared that you blocked people “because I just felt annoyed by them or didn’t want to talk anymore and I was usually being egged on by someone else on the side”, you mentioned someone making an inappropriate joke about your dead dog, which ruined that friendship two years ago.

    You plan to use social media to get your creative career off the ground, and you are afraid that all the animosity that happened on social media between you and other people will hurt your career. “Even though I always had  my reasons for arguing with people.. the longer that list gets the less credible I seem and the less I can justify it to myself… I have so many people whose lasting impression of me is negative. I have a track record of conflicts with people.. these people run in similar circles as me… (I) spiral into thinking.. of someone saying horrible things about me and nobody believing my side, and then everyone hates me and I’m a bad person”.

    This fear and guilt is keeping you from “fully embracing my career path and trying to put my name out there. I even get scared of making new connections because I’m worried I’ll just ruin it. I don’t know if I can rightfully call all of these people toxic or recognize myself as the common denominator. I don’t know how to find peace and confidence”.

    My input today: I am guessing that not all the people you referred to as toxic were or are toxic, and that relationships/ connections with people went bad for you as a result of different combinations of your wrongdoings and theirs. As far as your part in destroying connections with people- I imagine that your anger is responsible, an anger born in an incredibly lonely and empty childhood, empty of love and of a feeling of safety.

    As a child, you were robbed of the possibility of experiencing life as a carefree, adventure-seeking child. Feeling responsible for a mentally-ill mother meant that you.. never got to be the child who is taken care of. This kind of experience creates a lot of emotional pain, and in the mix of the incredible hurt and sadness and fear, there is also anger.

    If you want to, we can communicate for a while and hopefully better understand your emotions, motivations and behaviors, move toward the “peace and confidence” that you need, and plan the steps toward managing  your career-social media situation.

    anita

    #368951
    Z
    Participant

    (trigger warning for talking about suicide, self-harm, and child grooming in this response)

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a long and thoughtful reply. I think you laid things out very accurately and it’s helpful in getting some perspective. It’s interesting to look back at those quotes and see how much pain I was in. I definitely don’t feel nearly as heartbroken now as I did when things first went sour with G. I’ve cleaned myself and my life up a lot, and while I still miss him it’s a little more like having a pebble in my shoe–I notice a dull pain that kind of follows me around, but I can still walk, and if I shift the pebble around then it can sit in a spot where I forget it’s there.

    It does occasionally still hurt, though, or I get in a thought spiral where I feel guilty about it again. I’ve expressed that to my mom (she’s the only person in my life I’ve talked to about all of this) and she doesn’t really get why I do, and to be honest, I don’t fully know either… I lashed out a little once when things were first turning bad with G–I drank too much and said something about how I keep giving too much to unavailable people, sort of referring to him but also just some of the other people I mentioned in my posts (among others I haven’t mentioned yet). A couple days later I apologized profusely for everything and told him he didn’t do anything wrong, which he was touched by and we gushed over how much we cared for each other as friends, though a few weeks later is when he started dating L and his attitude towards me started shifting into acting burdened and annoyed by me regardless of what I was doing. Even though I apologized, I think I still just feel really bad about saying that and wonder if that deteriorated everything. I also just feel bad for having had feelings at all.

    Something I didn’t mention before, but in retrospect I think it plays a big part: during this time, both G and I were struggling greatly with mental health issues, and it was one of the things we talked about and helped each other with. I was struggling with suicidal thoughts and had to text hotlines now and then. I didn’t want to act on those thoughts, it’s just that my depression would get to such a scary low that I needed someone, so I’d talk to hotlines.

    G actually did act on his suicidal thoughts. I noticed him making some really scary posts and reached out to him, and he started venting, telling me I didn’t have to do this, and eventually told me he overdosed on pills. I couldn’t go over there because I lived four hours away, so after some back and forth with him (he didn’t want me to call 911 because he couldn’t afford it), he told me to call L. So I did, and L went over there and got him to vomit and rest while I stood by panicked out of my mind and waiting for info. G contacted me hours later just thanking me and telling me I didn’t understand how much he loved me. He went to a mental hospital for a while after that.

    The whole thing was insanely scary and traumatizing, and also very triggering not just because of my own depression but because when I was ~12-13 I had a friend I was constantly having to talk down from suicide. This friend would tell me she’d kill herself if I ever stopped being her friend or if I told anyone about what she was doing, and at least once she showed me a picture where she wrote ‘help’ in her own blood after she hurt herself. She would also hit me sometimes. It wasn’t great, and it was a time in my life where I felt completely trapped. This went on for about a year and then my friend just kind of suddenly stopped talking to me one day after she went to a hospital and got meds. I’ve told G about this experience before, and in retrospect I wonder if he thought about this when I said that I give to unavailable people. I honestly have no idea if he made the connection because he never brought it up, but if he did then I feel like garbage about it because he was a much better friend to me than she was.

    Around the same time I was dealing with the suicidal friend when I was 12-13, I was also kind of being groomed by some older guys online into doing or saying sexual things. It made me feel deeply disgusted with myself, but I wanted friends, even though these guys would also belittle me and call me the worst names you can think of and make me feel scared. I think all of these experiences kind of play into the way my mind works now and why I can be a little touchy and nervous about intimacy, and maybe also why I took it so hard when G didn’t reciprocate feelings. I don’t often have feelings for anyone–the ex-gf is actually the only relationship I’ve been in. But I trusted G so much, and when it felt like he lied to me and subsequently turned on me it really broke my heart.

    One minor correction- L would paint me as scary for pretty much our whole friendship, even back when we were all in college and L and G weren’t romantic. It was played off as a joke so I took it as one. But (tangentially-related rant incoming haha) L kind of always acted off around me. After we graduated we all took a trip with two separate cars, and I was in a car with L and one other person. Somehow the topic of us being friends came up, and L sort of vehemently denied that we were ever friends, which I was taken aback by because we’d hung out a lot in college for three years and sat together. She laughed in my face when I tried to say we were always friends. L would act kind of sulky whenever I came into town, which I didn’t actually notice (I wrote it off as anxiety/a bad day and just tried to be friendly) until she reached out to me after one of my visits and said sorry for acting weird. On a couple occasions after this she’d sulk to the point of curling up in a chair in the corner and not letting anyone talk to her. G mentioned a few times that L would talk to him about me, basically acting insecure about whether I was their friend. I never initiated any drama with L and was always complimentary and encouraging and nice to her, and we’d always crack each other up when we talked.

    One time I was hanging out with G (this was a year or so before they started dating) and L asked when we wanted to meet up for dinner/hangouts, and we were watching a movie and suggested a time that I guess was a little later than what L wanted. L starts blowing up G’s phone accusing us of needing “alone time” and that I’ve been rude* and so if I’m going to “be that way” then she doesn’t want to hang out with me at all. I had to get in a group text with G and L and basically reassure L that I think she’s great and I want us to hang out. We get together and she suddenly was flattering me and bringing up a job interview I had recently and telling me I’m a rockstar and whatever, and I sort of smiled and thanked her but I remember feeling distinctly creeped out and sick to my stomach because it seemed similar to the way my ex would threaten to break up with me and then switch and love bomb me once I told her what she wanted. G told me later that L acted this way a lot (as in moody/lashing out) and it was just the first time I was seeing it.

    When L wasn’t accusing me of being ‘scary’ she was sarcastically calling me ‘perfect’ and accusing me of thinking I’m better than everyone because I’d do something like bring food for Thanksgiving or encourage someone who felt down or something. After G rejected me we had a game night where G and L were flirting in front of me and purposefully not talking to me and I was kind of quiet, and afterwards L messaged me asking if I was ok. I didn’t talk to her about G but just confided that I’d been feeling a little alienated from the group lately and didn’t know if I wanted to keep doing game night or not, but kept it brief and as light as I could and said I didn’t really know. Before L messaged me, G was acting really mad after that game and tweeting about “being sick of people ruining his good time” and cussed a lot. He later told me that “(he) and L were talking” about how awful my behavior was, and that the day after the game she’d told him what I told her, and told him that I wanted to quit, and that also made him angry with me. So she trashed me with him, but pretended to be sympathetic when talking to me.

    When I eventually quit doing game night several months later (partly because of drama, partly because I was babysitting a toddler 40 hours a week on top of working and portfolio stuff and just felt burnt out), G and L ignored me and went into another text channel to talk about how great the next game night is going to be. I feel bad about a lot of things but I genuinely think L is kind of awful and suspect she played a part in G turning cold on me.

    *The instances L is referring to are me asking her to repeat herself in a noisy restaurant because I couldn’t hear (I still remember the affronted/angry face she made), and when she came over one day to pick up me and G for lunch and responded stonily after I said hi to her, without looking up from the video game system she was playing (that I brought..), so I awkwardly looked at my phone for a few minutes until G came out of the bathroom.

    I’m so sorry this is so long. I really had a lot of junk to get off my chest. Thank you, Anita.

    #368968
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Z:

    You are very welcome. Don’t worry about your post being long, I read very little of your recent post because I am not focused, but I am looking forward to read and reply to you tomorrow morning, in about 12 hours from now.

    anpta

    #369018
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Z:

    I like your “pebble in my shoe” imagery regarding the dull pain that you feel about G.

    “It does occasionally still hurt.. I feel guilty about it again”- your guilt is part of your pain, the belief that you are responsible for what went wrong with G.

    “I lashed out a little once when things were first turning bad with G- I drank too much and said something about how I keep giving too much to unavailable people.. A couple days later I apologized profusely for everything and told him he didn’t do anything wrong”- guilt is strong in you, that’s why you apologized profusely, and why you wanted to give him the gift of no-guilt, telling him that he didn’t do anything wrong.

    I think that you feel terribly when you believe that you did or said something wrong, guilt is a huge pebble in your shoe.

    “a few weeks later.. his attitude towards me started shifting into acting burdened and annoyed by me.. Even though I apologized, I think I still just feel really bad about saying that and wonder if that deteriorated everything… in retrospect I wonder if he thought about (the “friend” at 12-13) when I said that I give to unavailable people.. if he did then I feel like garbage about it”- you felt responsible for his attitude and behavior, believing  that something you did wrong/ something you said wrong, caused him to behave differently toward you.

    It is very possible that his behavior was not about something you did wrong, but you believed it was because of that huge Guilt Pebble in your shoe, a Guilt Pebble that feels like garbage.

    You shared that for some time you were “struggling with suicidal thoughts and had to text hotlines now and then”, shared those thoughts with G who had such thoughts himself and shared such on the phone with you one time, after he swallowed some pills. He didn’t want you to call 911 for him-

    – maybe because he didn’t take so many pills and didn’t think he was in danger, I think.

    You shared that when you were about 12- 13, you had a friend who you had to “constantly.. talk down from suicide”, a “friend” (quotations are mine) who (a) told you that “she’d kill herself if I ever stopped being her friend or if I told anyone. (b) showed you “a picture where she wrote ‘help’ in her own blood after she hurt herself”. (c) hit you sometimes. (d) stopped talking to you one day after she went to a hospital and got meds.

    About the same age, you were “groomed by some older guys online into doing or saying sexual things. It made (you) feel deeply disgusted with (yourself), but I wanted friends.. these guys would also belittle me and call me the worst names… these experiences kind of play into.. why I can be a little touchy and nervous about intimacy”- you felt disgusted with yourself, not with them. You felt not only guilty (for doing/ saying something wrong) but also ashamed (for being wrong/ inferior/ bad, worthy of the belittling and those worst names).

    “I don’t often have feelings for anyone.. But I trusted G so much, and when it felt like he lied to me and subsequently turned on me it really broke my heart”- G was an exception to the rule. Other people- you don’t trust, starting with your mother, I imagine- you had to be “her rock” because she wasn’t your rock, no one to lean on, no one to hold on to, no one to depend on.

    L painted you as “scary” throughout the friendship, laughed at your face when you said that the two of you “were always friends”, was sulking when you came to town visiting,  got angry with you one time simply because you asked her to speak up in a noisy restaurant, she often acted “moody/ lashing out”, sarcastically called you “perfect”, and accused you of being “better than anyone” when you brought food for Thanksgiving, for example, or when you were kind to someone, trashed you behind your back and “pretended to be sympathetic” to your face.

    At one point, G tweeted about “‘being sick of people ruining his good time’ and cussed a lot”, referring to you, and later told you that he and L “were talking about how awful (your) behavior was”. Some times the two  of them ignored you, and you suspect L “played a part in G turning cold” on you.

    And now, more of my input for today: it will help you a lot to distinguish between what you are guilty of and what you are not guilty of. I don’t think you have any valid guilt in regard to the following: (a) the “friend” when you were 12-13, (b) the older men who sexually mistreated you online at about the same age, (c) L, (d) G. And I will add (e) your mother.

    You are not guilty for feeling angry and for feeling emotional otherwise.

    If you want to tell me about how your guilt started, as a child in the context of your interactions with your parents, please do.

    anita

     

    #369097
    Z
    Participant

    Thank you so much, Anita. This is really insightful and you saying that I shouldn’t feel guilty over those things brings me a lot of relief. I also had a laugh at the “friend,” haha– the quotation marks are definitely warranted.

    I do definitely tend to blame myself for everything. I think it’s a mix of it feeling like what I deserve in a way, and also that it feels like the “responsible” thing to do. I don’t want to not take responsibility and, in turn, end up entitled or lazy.

    I’ve thought about your reply, and my theory for why I carry so much guilt and why I’m scared of seeming entitled comes from two things: my family and my struggle with school. When I was really little my siblings (I have a brother and sister who are 13 and 8 years older than me respectively) used to be really nice to me, and then one day they switched and started being really mean to me without me ever knowing why.

    I internalized it as something I did, and I wrote them letters (because I was too scared to talk face-to-face) asking what I did wrong and if we could be friends again, which they would just ignore. In 2nd grade we’d do free-writing in journals, and many years later I found something I’d written in my journal, which was a list of ideas on how to get my siblings to like me. It was basically like–laugh at all their jokes, don’t argue with them, do favors for them, learn about things they like. Basically just internalizing that I’m annoying, so instead I tried to be a doormat in the hopes that I’ll be rewarded for it. Nothing I did ever worked, they were still mean. My sister even had an online blog where she would often say horrible things about me, even accused me of masturbating and referred to me as certain names (I don’t know this forum’s rules on swearing?) instead of my name a lot of times. This was a public blog followed by some family members, my sister’s friends and a bunch of strangers, so that’s a horrifying experience to read these things about yourself when you’re like, 8.

    My mom suffers from severe OCD, which would often make her anxious and depressed, and she also had a really short fuse and would start yelling a lot or have mood swings. I felt really responsible for her behavior at the time, like it was my job to try to keep her calm or make her happy even if I had to make myself smaller similarly to what I tried to do for my siblings. Her mental health issues didn’t start until after I was born, and my family had a little more money when I was born (we were never rich, it was more just going from poor to entering middle class) so my siblings had a really different upbringing from me. I feel like they saw that I “got” more things, so they thought I was spoiled, but didn’t really acknowledge that a lot of the things I got were hand-me-downs or that mom was suffering while raising me.

    I always really struggled with school, like, a lot. I would get good grades when I actually worked, but the routine of having to show up every day and focus was utter teeth-pulling torture, and I was also bullied at every school I went to, so I would play hooky pretty much all the time. I hated other kids, I hated most of my teachers. I even got my mom to pull me out of a lot of schools in favor of homeschooling. One time I spun up this whole lie to get her to pull me out and she believed me and went with it. I was a doormat in a lot of ways but I had kind of a conniving streak.

    The “homeschooling” was… hit and miss, because my parents didn’t really work with me at all and kind of just got me books and left me on my own. So I excelled at things I was interested in, and fell way behind in things I wasn’t. My parents and siblings put A LOT of pressure on me to work harder or go back to school, and there was a ton of tension and fighting around the topic of my education. Again, though, they very seldom worked with me, so it was my responsibility to teach myself when I wasn’t in school. When I talked to other kids my age, my mom would have me lie and pretend I was going to school because she was embarrassed. I dropped in and out of school and eventually dropped out of high school and got my GED when I was 17. My dad helped me with math, but everything else was me. I went to community college for a while so I didn’t have to do as much university and could gather up scholarships. I’m proud of basically being the driving force behind my own education, but it’s a little bit bittersweet, and I carried a ton of shame about being “lazy” and “stupid” until I got my bachelor’s degree.

    Once I hit ages 11-12*, I started getting kind of an attitude. I was sick of being bullied, and also like… harassed? I was an early bloomer so people would think I was older than I was, so the first time I was sexually harassed (in person and not randos online) was when I was 11. I even told the guy I was 11 and he didn’t stop hovering around, it was really really gross. Bullying sucked but the new addition of harassment was really scary, and I started turning into kind of a bully myself just because it felt like the only way to get people away from me. Aggression became my armor and it also weirdly made people like me more because they thought I was funny, so that only reinforced it. I stopped being a bully once I left high school, but I always carried a little bit of spikiness in my personality and I would say I still have that side of me even today. Over the past couple years I’ve really tried to calm down and be less moody, and people close to me have noticed a change which is nice.

    *The “friend” and groomers were later when I was on the cusp of turning 13 and homeschooling again, so I think that’s why I was so desperate for friendship. 12–while I was in school–is also when my depression started showing up, so once I was away from my old friends, and my family was kind of aggressive, and I was super depressed, I think it made me susceptible to falling in with bad people. I started tolerating horrible things in the hopes of being rewarded with someone liking me. This is kind of a recurring pattern throughout my life.

    I’m complaining about my family a lot, but I do think we’ve all settled down a lot and get along really well, now. I’m very close with my mom, and even though she still has OCD she’s not nearly as angry or manic as she was when I was growing up. Things are better, but emotionally I just carry so much baggage. It still holds me back and I don’t know how to move on.

    #369104
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Z:

    I will read your recent post and reply some time after I am back to the computer, in about 12 hours from now.

    anita

    #369189
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Z:

    You are welcome. The way I understand your childhood experience, from the limited information I have, is that you were born to an anxious, short fused mother who yelled a lot (“anxious and depressed, and she also had a really short fuse and would start yelling a lot or have mood swings”), a father you didn’t share about, and two siblings: a brother who was 13 when you were born, and a sister who was 8 when you were born.

    Your brother and sister, by the time you were born, already suffered 13 and 8 years respectively of an anxious mother who yelled a lot, had a short fuse and  mood swings.

    At first your brother and sister were nice to the cute little baby/ toddler that you were, but “then one day they switched and started being really mean to me without me ever knowing why”- I am guessing that your mother’s aggression hurt them and they in turn redirected her aggression against you. Siblings often do that in aggressive (“short fuse.. yelling a lot.. mood swings”) households. Often it happens that when a parent is aggressive toward older siblings=> older siblings become aggressive toward younger siblings.

    You grew up within your home with three people who were older than you and who were repeatredly aggressive toward you.

    “I internalized it as something I did”- this is what children automatically do: if they suffer aggression, they automatically assume that they did something to deserve the aggression, and if only they corrected what they did wrong, the aggression will stop, and they will therefore be safe.

    You assumed you caused their aggression because you did something wrong (“I internalized it as something I did”), but you didn’t know what it was that you did wrong (“without me ever knowing why”).

    Truth is: you did nothing wrong. You did not cause the aggression of the three individuals in your home. But you assumed that you did, because that’s what children do.

    You asked your siblings in letters: what did I do wrong? But they ignored your question. In 2nd grade, you came up with ways to make your older siblings (about 10th grade sister and  college-age brother): “laugh at all their jokes, don’t argue with them, do favors for them..”, “I tried to be a doormat in the hopes that I’ll be rewarded for it”.

    But it didn’t work, “they were still mean”, and your 16 year old sister had an online public blog where she posted horrible things about her 8 year old sister, called you vulgar names, accused you of masturbating.

    A few of your family members had access to those blogs, you wrote. Curiously, none protected you and stopped that blog.

    You felt “really responsible for (your mother’s) behavior at the time, like it was my job to try to keep her calm or make her happy”, you wrote.

    “Her mental health issues didn’t start until after I was born”- how can you possibly know her mental health status before you were born… I figure you were told that she was mentally well before you were born. I don’t believe it to be true because the mental health issues you mentioned on the part of your mother are not issues that suddenly appear in a person’s 30s or 40s, when you were born. Also, your much older siblings’ meanness and aggression are congruent with a mother who is mentally unwell and aggressive while your brother and sister were very young.

    You wrote that your family’s financial situation improved when you were born, so your siblings were jealous of you for getting “more things”- that makes sense, being part of what motivated them to hurt you.

    You shared about your school experience- reads like you were an anxious child, and understandably so, given the aggression within your household. It is difficult for anxious children to sit in place and focus for a long time, it feels as you put it, like an “utter teeth-pulling torture”. You “dropped in and out of school”, homeschooled, pressured “A LOT” to go back to school, “a ton of tension and fighting around the topic of my education”, and you were given very little educational help. Eventually you dropped out of high school, got your GED at 17, attended community college and later earned your bachelor’s degree.

    You were sexually harassed in-person at 11 years old, sexually harassed online at 13 while being homeschooled, bullied when in school, and you “started turning into kind of a bully myself just because it felt like the only way to get people away from me. Aggression became my armor”- that’s what happens with aggression, people who are victims of aggression (“my family was kind of aggressive”, “being bullied.. harassed”) often turn aggressors.

    After high school, you stopped being a bully but “always carried a little bit of spikiness in my personality”, but you also continued “tolerating horrible things in the hopes of being rewarded with someone liking me. This is kind of a recurring pattern throughout my life”.

    You referred to this pattern of behavior as being a doormat. No person is okay with being a doormat and sooner or later, the person gets angry. The behavioral pattern of a doormat is acting passively, then angrily.. then passively again, and repeat. This anger may be what’s behind you saying rude things to people and burning bridges (“I said some stupid or rude stuff, and burnt a lot of bridges by just pushing people away”). This anger may also be behind your reactions to the girl back in college who pretended to be a lesbian (?)

    In previous posts you shared that you “crave intimacy, yet.. afraid of it”- no wonder, that’s what happens when a child suffers from aggression perpetrated against her by the people you feel most intimate with/ the people she loves the most: a parent, older siblings, the grown up in the household. No  wonder you built “emotional walls”- when the people you love hurt you, you build those walls. No wonder you became very sensitive to people distancing from you- you learned at home that moments of intimacy were short-lived and cruelly interrupted by a parent’s (and older siblings”) anxiety, or aggression, or both.

    It is interesting and unfortunate that your sister badmouthed you on a public forum when you were 8, and  your ex partner badmouthed you on public social media for a year and a half after you broke up with her.

    Regarding your concern about your creative career path that requires lots of social media activity that involves people with whom you argued a lot in the past, having a record of conflicts with people”, there being- “so many people whose lasting impression of me is negative”-

    – it will take you learning to no longer behave passively (a doormat), nor aggressively, but assertively. Assertiveness is a set of skills that you can learn, practice and perfect. Once you are comfortable with being assertive, having confidence in your ability to get what you need in ways that are fair to you and to others- you will no longer be trapped in the pattern of being a doormat and .. being angry at being a doormat.

    I put a lot of time into this post- please take your time reading it, re-reading parts of it, making notes for yourself, perhaps, before you reply. When you reply, if you choose to reply, please make an effort to focus on one or two issues. Let’s tackle things in smaller portions. Over time, we can address all that you want to address here, with me.

    anita

    #369289
    Z
    Participant

    Thank you so much, Anita. I’ve read this and took some time to digest it. You make a lot of really good points (for some reason I never questioned why my other family members didn’t talk to my sister about the blog), and your description of the ‘doormat’ cycle of being passive then getting angry is very accurate. It’s really only in the past couple of years that I’ve been really trying to reverse this tendency and learn to be more assertive and calm, and people around me have noticed a change in my happiness. I definitely had an issue of stuffing down my feelings in favor of prioritizing other peoples’ feelings, and trying to solve everyone else’s problems and make them happy, and it was making me really resentful.

    I still have a ways to go… I think I’ve gotten better at communicating honestly and having boundaries, but I sort of feel like I don’t really know myself that well and I deal with a lot of insecurity and anxiety. I struggle to feel confident and make peace with my past.

    I’m trying to think of how to word this, but it’s like there’s an internal courtroom battle happening in my head. I have an ingrained belief that I’m a “bad person,” because that’s how so many people have made me feel since I was little. So any time I act in a way that’s “bad”–losing my temper, making someone upset, etc–that’s more evidence that I’m a bad person or that I’m still the aggressive person I was when I was younger. It increases my “debt” to the world and the steps I have to do to repay that (by doing good) aren’t really clear, so I hold on forever. But I think on some level, I don’t think I’m bad because I really try to be good, and I know I could be doing infinitely worse than getting in some verbal fights with people, and if a friend told me exactly what I’ve been saying in here and asked me if I thought they were a bad person then I would say no.

    But I ruminate, because I’m not confident in myself and my brain dislikes uncertainty. I ruminate and comb over things I did versus things the other person did, and try to figure out where I stand and if my belief that I’m “bad” has basis. I’m not using the greatest language because I know the vast majority of people aren’t really “good” or “bad,” and everyone is flawed and morality is relative. But I use this language because I feel like that’s how my self-esteem tends to work. I truly don’t view anyone else this harshly, only myself.

    So I guess the things I’d like to talk more about are just learning to believe in yourself and forgive yourself. There’s some sort of emotional wound inside of me that my brain is trying to handle logistically, but that clearly isn’t working… I want to feel peaceful and confident and not so afraid of people, or so concerned with what others think. I’m not sure where to start.

    Anita, I want you to know that I actually posted some art on social media recently and reconnected with an old friend (not anyone I’ve mentioned here), and applied for some jobs. I was panicky, but felt good in the end. I think our talks have been really helping me. So, thank you again for listening to me, now and also a year ago when I was first posting about that guy. You do amazing work on these forums and I’m so grateful for your time, patience, and insight.

    #369292
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Z:

    I will be back to your thread, read and reply in about nine hours from now.

    anita

    #369317
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Z:

    You are very welcome and thank you for your kind words. Good to read that in the past couple of years you’ve been (1) learning to be more assertive and calm, and that people around you noticed this change in your behavior and state of mind, (2) that you’ve gotten better at communicating honestly and having boundaries, (3) that recently you posted some of your art on social media and applied to some jobs.

    You shared: “I sort of feel like I don’t really know myself that well.. it’s like there’s an internal courtroom battle happening in my head. I have an ingrained belief that I’m a ‘bad person’… So any time I act in a way that’s ‘bad’- losing my temper, making someone upset, etc.- that’s more evidence that I’m a bad person or that I’m still the aggressive person I was when I was younger.

    “It increases my ‘debt’ to the world and the steps I have to do to repay that (by doing good).. I ruminate and comb over things I did versus the things the other person did, and try to figure out where I stand and if my belief that I’m ‘bad’ has basis.. So I guess the things I’d like to talk more about are just learning to believe in yourself and forgive yourself. There’s some sort of emotional wound inside of me… I want to feel peaceful and confident and not so afraid of people, or so concerned with what others think. I’m not sure where to start”-

    – it so happens that the core-belief of being a bad person has been my core-belief for many years, ever since I was a child. I very well know how it feels to believe that you’re bad: there is no peace of mind or heart in believing that. Believing this is an emotional wound in itself.

    I know the internal court battle, the second-guessing of my behavior- alternatively blaming others and blaming myself, and overall, finding myself desperately alone and lonely in between rare, short-term and conflicted almost-relationships.

    This core-belief changed for me, but it didn’t happen randomly, or just because time passed. I learned of the term core-belief in 2011 when I attended my first quality psychotherapy, and it took me nine years to change it. I will be glad to share with you all that I know about this process of changing such a devastating core belief, but it will take time.

    At this point, I will point to two items in this process:

    1. It will take you understanding that none of your feelings, including anger, makes you a bad person. It is only behaviors that can be bad, not feelings and not thoughts. It will take then identifying bad behaviors and making sure that you do not practice those. It will take you not accepting such behaviors from others as well.

    2. It will take going back in time, so to speak- to where and when this core belief was formed, back to the time that you were 100% good. Let’s refer to your mother as your primary care-taker (for simplicity sake, let’s not look the roles your father and older siblings played in the forming of your core belief):

    Your core belief that you are a bad person was formed in the context of your early-life interactions with your mother. In the context of those interactions, you assumed the bad, and gave her the good. You did that because a child needs to believe that she is in .. good hands, so to speak. A child is invested in viewing her mother as good. After all, if the mother is bad.. she may reject and abandon the child. So, the child assumes she is bad, and figures.. I can change this, I can become good  later, but for now.. I need my mother to be good.

    To change this core-belief you have to go back there, to what happened then, reclaim your goodness and give the badness to her. Changing this core belief means that your current relationship with her will change as well.

    I will stop here for now.

    anita

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