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  • #381084
    Ben
    Participant

    This post is a continuation of a conversation that was started on a different thread. A savvy user might be able to link to it, but “savvy” I am not. I’ve pasted in a block of text, below, to which I am responding here.

    I have not tried in-person therapy. I’d love to, but due to my remote location and budget constraints it just doesn’t seem feasible. I tried one of the online therapy companies, but found it impossible to connect and share openly with someone through a screen. That said, this act of exchanging written messages here on the forum seems to be helping.

    I think it’s helping because I’m so uncertain  about the validity of my own feelings. Simply being told “Yes, you are suffering, this is valid and real” gives me something to hold on to. It means that there’s something I can try to fix.

    Isn’t it ironic that I worry about my feelings being “all in my head”? Of course they’re in my head- that’s where feelings happen.

    Regarding alcohol: I have to say that, in the correct dosage, it does provide me with some relief. I recognize that this kind of drinking is an unhealthy behavior. But, like an innocent person confessing to crimes under the pain of torture, I find myself willing to go to any lengths for some relief, even poisonous relief. Trading current pain for future pain feels like a fair deal right now.

    As always, thank you for listening.

    Ben

     

     

     

    Dear Ben,

    you’re very welcome. I see you feel some shame around suffering from PTSD since you say you haven’t experienced war trauma directly. But in fact, there’s a subset of PTSD, called complex PTSD, which occurs as a result of repeated, “smaller” traumatic events, like having a difficult childhood. Complex PTSD (c-PTSD) is also called developmental trauma, because it happens during our formative years and it affects our adult life significantly.

    So don’t feel “less than” or unworthy of calling yourself a trauma survivor. Because that’s what you are – a trauma survivor. A nasty divorce and everything that preceded and followed it can definitely cause trauma for the child caught in the middle…

    On top of that came recent losses and tragedies in your life, which spilled your cup of pain and you cannot contain it any more. You cannot bear it, it’s too much for you. I totally understand.

    You say “Nothing has helped me so far.” Have you tried therapy, and if so, what type? You said you went to rehab too. How is it now with your drinking? Do you have some support, e.g. are you participating in a support group?

    I think it would be best if you’d start a new topic, so that we keep this thread for Sparky64, if she wants to return to it and share some more.  To started a new topic, go to Forums-> All Forums-> then pick a Category (e.g. Tough Times), and then New Topic.

    • I would love to hear more from you.
    #381088
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Ben,

    good to read from you again, glad you started your own thread!

    I think it’s helping because I’m so uncertain about the validity of my own feelings. Simply being told “Yes, you are suffering, this is valid and real” gives me something to hold on to. It means that there’s something I can try to fix.

    Isn’t it ironic that I worry about my feelings being “all in my head”? Of course they’re in my head- that’s where feelings happen.

    Did you have people in your life tell you “it’s all in your head” and try to invalidate your feelings, i.e. your pain?

    If you’d like to share some more about your childhood and your relationship with your parents, please do. It might help understand the unhealthy dynamic and how you were hurt…

    I understand your need to drink – alcohol soothes the pain… And your pain stems from childhood, that’s almost sure. So if you’d understand how exactly you were hurt and how your needs weren’t met, it might help you deal with your pain in a different, healthier way.

     

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 5 days ago by TeaK.
    #381090
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ben:

    I read your two posts on the other thread and your original post here. Your writing has a nice poetic touch to it, and it makes reading your writing pleasant, although the topic is pain. You are welcome to use this online community so to express yourself and to hopefully receive the message from members that your feelings are indeed “valid and real”.

    I was wondering, you wrote: “If my pain were stored in a container, you could say that my container has been 95% full since I was just a kid”, meaning that you have been in great pain since you were a child. Earlier, you wrote: “I am not myself anymore“- suggesting that you were yourself before. I am wondering what you mean by being-yourself and when were you, yourself?

    If you prefer to just share and receive feedback on what you share, without being asked questions, please state so and feel comfortable to not answer the question I asked.

    anita

    #381133
    Ben
    Participant

    This forum has already helped me in a very significant way- I want you guys to know that. You listen and you ask questions, and the questions are opening doors that I didn’t realize I had locked and boarded up. I signed up with an online therapist yesterday. You inspired me to do that. I want more of this.

    Anita, thank you for complementing my writing. It is by far my most comfortable form of communication. I’ve had relationship troubles in the past because of this: when there are words I can’t say, I’ll simply write them. I don’t understand why, but some people have considered this to be less honest or less forthright than verbal communication. I just like having some time to think about what I’m saying, having the ability to refine it, and not having to listen to my own emotion-filled voice searching for words to say.

    In answer to both of you, my relationship with my parents is/was confusing. The word “confusing” doesn’t actually cover all that I feel and don’t feel about them, but it’s the best I can do. I’m going to try and describe them and our relationships, but I don’t know if I can make sense of it yet. I’m 42 years old and I still don’t understand them.

    My dad lived with us until I was 14. I don’t know what he did for a living- something for the local government. He wasn’t a spy or anything, I don’t think- he just never talked about anything of substance, including his job. He drank a lot of beer and fell asleep in his chair most nights. Mom would do mean things to him to make him stop storing while we watched TV.

    Dad and I lost touch pretty quickly after he moved away, after the divorce. Years later, about 7 years ago now, he got sick from his alcoholism and died. Neither of us tried to contact the other. I didn’t attend his funeral. I never hated him- I just didn’t know him. What I did know what that he looked like a bum to me. He was missing teeth, was small and unhealthy. Bald on top with a fringe of long hair. I guess I was ashamed of him.

    My mother is a religious fundamentalist. I don’t talk to her either, unless she reaches out first, which she does on occasion. I wouldn’t mind just disappearing from her life, but I think that it  would hurt her feelings and I don’t want to do that. But she wants me to share her religion and I don’t. It hurts to be seen as “sinful”. She’s a nice enough lady but she lives in a reality that is different from mine. I’m afraid to introduce her to people- she’s likely to ask them about their souls. Maybe I’m ashamed of her, too.

    Dad was present but absent. Mom is passive-aggressive and weird. The first time I saw them fight, it resulted in divorce. I don’t know what to make of any of this.

    I don’t know how to tell whether it is them or my perception of them that is broken. That’s the scary part. That’s where I start to question what’s real and to doubt myself.

    Thank you again, TeaK and Anita and anyone else taking the time to read this stuff.

    Ben

     

    #381134
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ben:

    Good to read back from you! And you are welcome, I will re-read and reply to you in about 8  hours from now.

    anita

    #381143
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ben:

    About writing and honesty: writing is my most comfortable form of communication too, we have this in common. “I don’t understand why, but some people have considered this to be less honest or less forthright than verbal communication”- writing, and more so, typing a document before submitting it online or printing it into paper, affords the person who is typing (1) the time and opportunity to reconsider, erase and edit, and the final message submitted or printed does not include the pre-erased and pre-edited versions, (2) the freedom from caring about one’s own facial expressions and quality of voice.

    When you speak to a person, once you say what you say.. you can’t unsay it, and if in-person, your facial expressions can communicate what your words do not.  But the opportunity to reconsider, erase and edit does not indicate dishonesty unless the purpose of the writer is indeed to deceive. When typing, I am calmer than when speaking, and this calm allows me to be more in touch with my emotions and therefore, to be more honest, not less.

    About heroes and combat: in your June 4 posts elsewhere, you wrote: “I also suffer from PTSD… it is ever-present and ever-painful. It’s an infection which has spread into every minute of every day.. .I haven’t been shot at, haven’t witnessed atrocities. I’m a veteran and I was taught about PTSD in that context- that it happens to heroes in combat. I haven’t ‘earned’ that label”-

    Maybe you did earn the label Hero for surviving the emptiness and loneliness of your childhood, for winning a years-long combat with Nothingness. Maybe it is an atrocity for a child to not have that Something a child needs so desperately: a feeling and experience of togetherness, of belonging to a group of people (parents, siblings) who get to know and value each other, engaging in meaningful conversations and activities together.

    “My dad lived with us until I was 14. I don’t know what he did for a living… he just never talked about anything of substance.. fell asleep in his chair most nights. Mom would do mean things to him to make him stop snoring while we watched TV… he moved away, after the divorce… Neither of us tried to contact the other.. I never hated him- I just didn’t know him… My mother is a religious fundamentalist… I wouldn’t mind just disappearing from her life.. It hurts to be seen as ‘sinful’… she lives in a reality that is different from mine”-

    Lots of Emptiness and Loneliness for the child in this home of origin. Our childhood years are referred to as our Formative Years. When growing up in an empty and lonely home, the emptiness and loneliness becomes part of us as adults.

    “Dad was present but absence”, “he looked like a bum to me. He was missing teeth, was small and unhealthy. Bald on top with a fringe of long hair. I guess I was ashamed of him…”Mom is passive-aggressive and weird”, “Maybe I’m ashamed of her, too”-

    A young child needs to view his parents as gods: all powerful, all knowing, all loving (the concept of god was created in people’s minds so to substitute for the parents they didn’t have as children). When one’s parents are too far removed from what a child needs them to be, the child is scared: no one to protect him and, no one to know him, no one to love him.

    “I don’t know how to tell whether it is them or my perception of them that is broken. That’s the scary part. That’s where I start to question what’s real and to doubt myself”-a young child never misperceives  his parents because a young child does not have pre-existing experience with other people, previous relationships that can distort his view of his parents. A young child is a clean slate, his parents are the first people in his life: he perceives them with remarkable accuracy.

    anita

    #381162
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Ben,

    my relationship with my parents is/was confusing.

    Perhaps a part of the confusion is that they never fought, at least not in front of you, but once they had a fight, it resulted in a nasty divorce:

    My parents divorced, loudly and hatefully, when I was a child. It’s something I’ve never faced down or fully processed.

    The first time I saw them fight, it resulted in divorce. I don’t know what to make of any of this.

    It seems you didn’t really form an emotional bond with either of your parents. It’s not a child’s fault, but the parents’ fault. It’s like you observe your parents from the outside, almost like two strangers, but don’t have any emotions towards them. You’re not angry or resentful – that’s not the reason why you never reached out to your father (or vice versa) or didn’t go to his funeral. Rather, it seems like the lack of emotional bonding.

    Your father felt like a stranger to you. He probably showed minimal interest in you, he was physically present but emotionally absent. You said he drank a lot of beer – so he was probably a drunk already then, but a functional drunk – he went to work every day. But beyond that, he seems not to have been involved much in family life, nor in your upbringing. He had a relationship with the bottle, it seems, and there didn’t remain any interest in you.

    Your mother was passive aggressive, you say. She didn’t dare to challenge his drinking openly, but would do “mean things” to him while he fell asleep drunk in front of the TV. If you never saw them fight, it means your mother must have suppressed her anger for 14 years, until she couldn’t any more. Maybe she disassociated from her pain, but she disassociated from you too? Maybe that’s why you couldn’t form a bond with her either?

    When did she become religious fundamentalist? After the divorce? Because it seems that a “righteous” person wouldn’t tolerate a drunk and useless husband, unless she was taught to be obedient and look away?

    As anita says, it seems there was a lot of emptiness, a lot of emotional neglect going on. Would you say this is true? Emotional neglect can be as devastating as emotional abuse (“sin” of omission vs commission…). Perhaps that’s why you’re confused, because there was no direct abuse, no one yelling at you and beating you up, and yet it felt abusive and hurtful, so much so that your “cup” was filled to 95% already in childhood. Does this sound true to you?

    #381170
    Ben
    Participant

    For as long as I can remember, I have taken it for granted that I was simply a weird and unloveable kid, who became a weird and dysfunctional adult. I’ve gone so far as to suspect that I’m autistic, because although many of the symptoms aren’t there, how else could I explain my complete lack of an emotional bond with my parents? And what about my paralyzing fear of confrontation? Why is it hard for me to love and be loved? These issues are so fundamental to who I am that I assumed they were genetic. I assumed that I was born broken.
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>You’re both telling me that I could be wrong about that. I don’t know if I can internalize that yet. We’re talking about the foundation of my self, decades of knowing that I was sick and less-than.

    </p>
    I need to chew on this for a bit- I’ll write more soon.

     

    Thank you

     

    #381172
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ben:

    You are welcome. Take all the time you need to chew on this and post again when you are able and willing.

    anita

    #381185
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Ben,

    you’re welcome. This seems to be a new perspective for you, one that is different from your view of yourself so far. Take as much time as you need to process it. Looking forward to hearing more from you when you’re ready.

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 2 days ago by TeaK.
    #381190
    Ben
    Participant

    Up to this point, you’ve guided me toward a simple yet pivotal realization about myself: I may not have some fundamental genetic flaw that makes me incapable of having appropriate feelings and managing my life. There may be a logical explanation for why I feel the way that I do. My first reaction to that was joy and relief.

    My second reaction is, What do I do now? My stress and fear are still here, as are all of my oddities and inhibitions. I used to blame those things on a broken brain. Lacking that excuse, it’s just me out here, a grown man who doesn’t know how to manage his feelings.

    It’s hard to pin down exactly what I’m searching for. I know that there’s more in my past that can explain my present. But explaining it and actually fixing it are two different things. I’m having an anxious morning today, and it has brought with it a strong dose of “nothing can fix you”.

    I should pause until this mood passes. I have to make a phone call this morning to cancel an appointment, and it’s a call I could have made two weeks ago. But I didn’t, and now we’re approaching short-notice territory and I’m afraid that they’ll be mad. I do this kind of thing all the time. I’d say that I feel an inappropriate level of anxiety because of it and a thousand other tiny things just like it.

    Off to work.

    #381194
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Ben,

    I am glad you realized that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with you, and that it was your upbringing that resulted in certain limitations that you may have – limitations that can be fixed though.

    My stress and fear are still here, as are all of my oddities and inhibitions.

    What are you afraid of most at present? What do you feel most inhibited about?

    It’s hard to pin down exactly what I’m searching for. I know that there’s more in my past that can explain my present. But explaining it and actually fixing it are two different things.

    True, they are two different things, but if you know what caused a certain pattern of behavior, it will be easier to transform it. For example, you mentioned your fear of confrontation. It might have been caused (and you might already be guessing it) by your parents never having had a confrontation, and then once they did have one, it resulted in a divorce. Conclusion: confrontation is dangerous and leads to irreparable damage. Just as an example…

    I’m having an anxious morning today, and it has brought with it a strong dose of “nothing can fix you”. I should pause until this mood passes.

    That’s a very good attitude – you have a lot of self-awareness to know that “nothing can fix you” is not the entire truth. It’s a reaction of the anxious part, but there’s more to you than the anxious part. So when you ask “What do I do now?”, my first suggestion is to keep practicing what you’re already doing: pause and take a break when the inner critic starts judging you. Don’t trust the inner critic, don’t identify with him. Step back and tell yourself “there’s more to the story than this”. So keep things in perspective, don’t judge yourself – would be my first suggestion.

    #381195
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ben:

    “I may not have some fundamental genetic flaw… There may be a logical explanation for why I feel the way that I do. My first reaction to that was joy and relief. My second reaction is, What do I do now? My stress and fear are still here, as are all of my oddities and inhibitions”-

    – the particular nature and extent of your stress, fear, oddities and inhibitions are still part of you even though you recently gained a logical explanation that you didn’t have before. As a child, your brain/ body adjusted to your childhood by forming particular neurological and chemical habits (involving neurotransmitters, hormones and more) that create your particular experience of stress, fear, oddities and inhibitions.

    For a person needing significant emotional healing, whatever logical explanation and understanding  you gain can not make a dent in the long-established neuro-chemical habits of the brain and body. Here is a very simplified image to make my point: let’s day your brain is the size of the computer screen you are looking at right now. Your recently acquired logical explanation is the size of 1 square millimeter at one of the corners of the screen. It is only a beginning.

    Emotional healing goes beyond logic and thought because life is about living, not about merely thinking. Therefore, it will take making changes to your daily routine, taking on certain new practices and activities, making better choices in all areas of your life, and a lot of time, persistence, rest and patience.

    anita

    #381264
    Ben
    Participant

    Anita and TeaK-

    You are so perceptive and so wise- I feel lucky to have found you.

    I went through a brief down-cycle over the past few days. It seems that even minor stress can invade every corner of my mind and reduce me to a cowering, trembling lump. I received a couple of voicemails about financial matters that I’m worried about, and not only could I not listen to them, I couldn’t even look at my phone or have it near me. I do the same thing with paper mail- I’ll often throw it away, unopened. I can’t bring myself to look at it, and then I can’t look at myself. I’m so ashamed of my cowardice.

    Anita, I like your pixel analogy because it describes how and why I feel so overwhelmed. So much feels wrong that I no longer have an idea of what “right” looks like. I’ve been staring at this broken screen forever and it’s all that I know.

    TeaK, I’ll try to describe what I consider to be my most fundamental flaw: I am not the man that I’m supposed to be. I am supposed to be assertive and confident. I’m supposed to be able to solve problems with grace and to be a reassuring presence. Instead, I’m afraid of opening the mail and I can’t even say No to someone. I feel like a scared kid, not a grown man, and I hate it.

    I fear that, even when I feel good, it’s only because I’m ignoring and burying everything that’s bad.

     

    What on earth am I going to do?

    #381269
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ben:

    “What on earth am I going to do?”-

    “I’m so ashamed of my cowardice… I feel like a scared kid, not a grown man, and I hate it”- peel the shame and hate off the fear: don’t shame and hate yourself because you are afraid.

    Think of a child who is afraid, what will work better for the child: (1) saying to the child: I am ashamed of you! I hate you, coward! or (2) I like you very much and I understand that you are afraid, so I will help you. Together, slowly, patiently, we can do what you are afraid to do alone.  ?

    anita

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