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  • #377054
    Ilyana
    Participant

    I’m 44 and married with one child (9 years old). I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 26, though I haven’t had real mood swings for a few years. I have been depressed since my son was born though, and my relationships with him and my husband are strained. I had a very traumatic birth during which I almost died, and it profoundly affected by ability to bond with my son. For the last year or so I have been having serious cognitive problems – memory, concentration, and comprehension. This is really devastating, because I have always fancied myself and intellectual and I teach philosophy. Recently I had an MRI on my brain to see if anything physical is wrong, but my therapist and my psychiatrist think there’s a good chance that it’s psychological. I have many bad habits. I drink too much, smoke cigarettes and weed. I have poor eating habits and get almost no exercise. I feel like crap most of the time, both physically and emotionally. I have recently started with a new therapist who directed me to this site. She thinks that by focusing more on my body, I can heal my mind. I hope that she is right. I want to start treating myself with more respect, but it feels like I am at the bottom of an immense mountain, and I have no idea how to get up it. Often times I feel like I want to die, like no one loves me, and like I am doomed to be miserable.

    If you have read this far, thank you. I just needed to share, and am hoping to find a supportive community here.

    #377092
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ilyana:

    I hope that you do experience a supportive community here. You shared in both threads that you were diagnosed with a bipolar disorder at 26, married at 34 to a man who does not get you, a man who gets angry often, is unempathetic and does not support you emotionally, and gave birth to your only child at 35. It was a traumatic birth during which you almost died. Because of that traumatic experience, you have been depressed ever since, did not bond well with your son, and your relationships with your son and with your husband are strained.

    In the last few years, you’ve been having “serious cognitive problems- memory, concentration, and comprehension”. This is devastating to you because you’ve always thought of yourself as an intellectual, and you teach philosophy. An MRI did not reveal a physical cause for the cognitive problems.

    You “drink too much, smoke cigarettes and weed.. have poor eating habits and get almost no exercise.. feel like crap most of the time, both physically and emotionally… it feels like I am at the bottom of an immense mountain, and I have no idea how to get up it. Often times I feel like I want to die, like no one loves me, and  like I am doomed to be miserable”, “I feel so alone so much of the time… I don’t know how much longer I can live with feeling as alone as I do”.

    “I just wanted to share and see if others have gone through anything similar”- I experienced (and still do, but to a way lesser extent) the serious cognitive problems that you mentioned: memory, concentration and comprehension beginning in childhood. The reason: I was anxious, depressed and feeling very much alone. My understanding now is that without adequate, quality social interactions with others, our cognitive abilities deteriorate. Born as social animals, born to need others, we literally can’t think straight when alone for too long.

    You mentioned having bad habits. Clearly, you need to form a new, good habit, such as exercising. Being the habitual, once you form this new habit, it will be difficult to change it back to not exercising. Best would be if you found a way to exercise around other people, such as in a gym. But because of Covid, I am guessing gyms are not open where you live?

    anita

    #377118
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Ilyana,

    welcome! First, your therapist is right when she told you that getting in touch with your body can help you in dealing with your psychological problems. As far cognitive difficulties you’ve mentioned, I believe smoking weed could be a contributing factor because it causes mental fog, as far as I know. It probably helps you feel better for a while, but if you consider the possible negative consequences on your mental abilities, I believe it’s worth considering to abandon it.

    I am sorry to hear about your depression. As someone suffering from bipolar disorder, you’re probably more prone to depression, and then it just got intensified after you gave birth, because it was such a traumatic experience. And if you don’t feel emotional support from your husband, as you wrote in your other thread, it would make it even harder to cope with your feelings alone. It’s good you entered therapy – that should help you a lot!

    It’s also great that you see the need to start loving and respecting yourself more. That’s the first step on your healing journey – the awareness of the problem. It might feel like a huge mountain at the moment, but what’s important is to make the first step. You’ve already made some initial steps, so just keep going.

    What I think is also important to stress is that by using substances you’re trying to numb your pain. In order to reduce substance use, you’d need to find healthier ways to express your emotions and feel and process your pain. Therapy is ideal for that, so you’re on the right path. I also hope that Tiny Buddha website and this forum can provide some support on your journey.

    #377146
    Ilyana
    Participant

    Thanks for responding.

    I know that my substance use is unhealthy, and that I do it to numb my feelings. I have tried to quit but I struggle with it. I also know that my substance use is not helping my cognitive issues. It just feels so overwhelming to contemplate stopping. These have been my crutches for so long, I don’t know how to deal with my feelings without them. I feel like self-acceptance is where I have to start.

    I really appreciate the responses. It feels good to be seen, even if only virtually.

    #377147
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Ilyana,

    good to have you here! Yes, you’re right, self-acceptance and self-compassion is where you need to start. We can’t get rid of our negative habits and addictions while we’re judging and blaming ourselves, because eventually it’s love and compassion that help us heal. So have patience with yourself and start working, slowly but surely, on loving yourself and your wounded inner child.

    #377178
    Ilyana
    Participant

    It’s just so hard. My whole life I have hated myself. The only thing I ever appreciated about myself was my intellect, and now it feels like that’s gone. When I look at my life all I see is sadness and addiction and chaos and loneliness. I see nothing worthy of love and acceptance. I am trying to take a leap of faith that doing therapy, sharing on this message board, and reaching out to people in my life will help, but I’m so sceptical. I can’t imagine what it would be like to love and accept myself. It’s such a foreign concept.

    #377185
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Illyana:

    “My whole life I have hated myself”- how young where you when you first hated yourself, best you remember?

    And what about yourself did you hate, when you were a child?

    anita

     

    #377193
    Ilyana
    Participant

    I don’t remember a time when I didn’t hate myself.

    My father walked out when I was three, and I didn’t have any contact with him again until I was 10 or 11. I believe that gave me the idea that I wasn’t worthy of love or respect. I hated the way I looked. Instead of dark curly hair I wanted straight blond hair. Instead of hazel eyes I wanted blue ones. I wanted to be tall instead of short. I wanted to think like normal kids and fit in socially. I felt dumb and did poorly in school. I did really well in university, but before that I was not a good student, and compared myself with others who seemed to effortlessly write good essays and do well on tests.

    I was always so scared, especially of being murdered or kidnapped. Everyone laughed off my fears, and no one talked about my father. No room was made for my devastation about his disappearance. My mom would tell me we were better off without him, that she had given him an out and he’d taken it. But I would cry at night and ask why he left me and why he didn’t love me. I don’t remember ever being reassured that I was good enough, that I was worthy of love, even if he wasn’t there.

    These wounds are so old and yet so deep. I am really hopeful that the work I am doing in and out of therapy will help me to heal. I want a second chance at a happy life. I can see it, but it’s on the other side of that mountain I don’t know how to climb. I think that by writing this, and interacting with you is a concrete step I am taking. But there are just so many of them that need taking…

    #377195
    anita
    Participant

    Dear llyana:

    I read your recent post and will re-read it and reply further in a few hours, when I am able to pay it the attention it deserves. It reads like it was not only the absence of your father that created your wounds, “these wounds (that) are so old and yet so deep”, but also the absence of a loving, attentive mother. If you agree and would like to elaborate on it before I return, please do.

    anita

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by anita.
    #377202
    Ilyana
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    My mother was a complicated woman. She died when she was 47 of breast cancer, about 25 years ago now. On the one hand, it was important to her to be a good mother. On the other, she was emotionally not very supportive, particularly when it came to my feelings about my dad. She also intercepted letters and gifts that he sent over the years, because she said she thought it would confuse me and that I was better off without him. Her anger towards him was incredibly profound. When she had cancer and was going through chemo, she would puke in a bucket with his picture super-imposed on a cancer cell in the bottom of it. I believe that the anger at him was sometimes acted out on me, both because I have some similar features to him, and because I loved and missed him so much.

    When I was a teenager, she went back to school to do an MA, and at that point she all but stopped parenting me, except to discipline me when I did something wrong (and I did do wrong stuff worthy of discipline). She tried to get me into therapy a few times, the last time it helped.

    I think that in general I can say that you are right, I did not have a loving, attentive mother. I find this all the harder to grapple with, because I know I am neither loving nor attentive with my son. I want to be, I just don’t know how. I am taking steps to repair our bond, but it feels so forced. My greatest fear is that he grows up to be just as anxious, depressed, and traumatized as I am.

    Thank you so much for talking to me. I am finding this really helpful.

    Ilyana

    #377213
    anita
    Participant

    Dear llyana:

    You are very welcome, it is my pleasure to communicate with you. The nature of what you shared in the last two posts is so sensitive that I want to re-read it very attentively first thing tomorrow morning (in about 16 hours from now), when I feel the beginning of a new day.

    For now, regarding you trying to bond with your son and it feeling so forced- here is what I suggest: behave with your son the way you believe is right, even if it feels forced. If you practice this kind of self-discipline, you will gain a sense of respect toward yourself, and that in itself will feel good.

    Also, you are not guilty for whatever it is that you feel or not feel. You are guilty only for wrong behaviors. If your behaviors are right then.. you are Not Guilty.

    *Feel free, if you want to and feel like it, to share more before I return, and I will return to you in the morning.

    anita

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by anita.
    #377222
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Ilyana,

    you had a very difficult childhood, with an extreme pain of missing your father, whereas your mother purposefully deprived you of your father’s love and deceived you to believe that he doesn’t love you and doesn’t care about you. Your mother caused this pain in you, which she could have easily prevented, but due to her own anger and disappointment in her husband, she chose to keep you suffering. Her self-interest was more important than your well-being, than your legitimate needs for your father’s love. In a way, she sacrificed you due to her own blindness and stubbornness.

    In such a constellation, it’s no wonder that you developed intense self-hatred and never felt worthy of love and acceptance. Your needs were denied, your pain was ignored, and “everyone laughed off your fears, especially of being murdered or kidnapped”. It’s only natural that a child whose feelings were denied and ridiculed would develop all sorts of fears, which then you needed to cope with alone, because your mother wasn’t supportive, on the contrary she was one of the reasons you had those fears in the first place.

    Dear Ilyana, what you’ve experienced is severe emotional abuse at the hands of your mother, and it’s no wonder your childhood was such a painful, terrifying, hopeless experience. When you were a teenager, you mother gave you another blow – she went back to school and abandoned you emotionally, only disciplining you when you did something wrong. At the tender teenage years, you were left alone, again. Now it wasn’t abuse, but it was neglect.

    I assume by that time you started developing problems in your behavior (you say “and I did do wrong stuff worthy of discipline“), to the point of needing therapy. She sent you to therapy and I guess she blamed you all along for your bad behavior, not realizing how her bad parenting created it.

    Within you lives a very hurt and deprived inner child, Ilyana. She’s been through a lot and she needs to be finally embraced, protected, soothed, told that she matters, that her feelings matter, that her needs are valid, that she’s not ridiculous, but a beautiful, lovable, precious little girl. It wasn’t her fault that her mother abused her, none of what happened was her fault. You need to know that. And there is hope, Ilyana, because once you start attending to that little girl, your experience of life and of yourself will change. Amidst a dry desert, small, tender buds will start appearing, the buds of new life…

    What’s with your father, Ilyana? Has be passed away too? Did you have a chance to have some sort of closing with him?

     

     

    #377226
    Ilyana
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    I have a pretty good relationship with my father now. I don’t always trust him, because he’s let me down before. But I decided the other day to reach out to him and tell him what I was going through with my cognitive issues, and tell him about my MRI. He was very supportive. He listened to and acknowledged my fears, but also encouraged me to not let them spiral out of control. He even offered to pay for my therapy when he found out I was struggling to pay for it.

    He has definitely done a lot to hurt me in the past. He was in and out of my life, and there was child support battle with my mother in which he refused to pay and was pretty awful to me. But I can see that he’s trying now, and I am also coming to understand what a big role my mom played in our not having a good relationship. I always thought in black and white – I had one good parent who raised me and then died a saint, and one bad parent who abandoned me. I understand now that that’s not at all accurate. He should have fought to stay in my life – I know that if I gave my husband an opportunity to walk away from my son, he would never take it. But he also was no match for my mother’s anger with him, and I don’t blame him for retreating from it.

    In therapy, we are talking about the little girl I was and how alone she felt. I want to give her what she needs now, but being good to myself is so foreign to me. I don’t know how to do it. The coping mechanisms I developed are not working for me – the substance use, the sedentary lifestyle, the dissociation. I am checked out of my life.

    But I have started to allow myself to see that they may be a second life for me in the future. If I can heal, I could learn to love and accept myself and I could spend so much less time suffering. I want that so badly. But I feel frozen. When I try to make changes, it never sticks. I will quit smoking or start exercising and do well for a few months, but I always fall back down. My default position is sitting still and ruminating and poisoning myself. I just don’t know any other way to be. It is so frustrating.

    Do you have any suggestions about how I can attend to my inner child, and finally do things differently?

    Thank you again for talking to me, Anita. I really appreciate it. I feel seen and validated.

    Ilyana

    #377228
    anita
    Participant

    Dear llyana:

    First, a time line: at 3, your father left your home, at 10 or 11, you had contact with him again, at 19 your mother died, at 26 you were diagnosed with a bi-polar disorder, at 34 you got married, at 35 you experienced a very traumatic birth and have been depressed since (no real mood swings for several years).

    As a child your cognitive abilities suffered (“did poorly in school… I was not a good student, and compared myself with others who seemed to effortlessly write good essays and do well on tests”), then improved greatly at university (“did really well in university”), but declined in the last year or so (“For the last year or so I have been having serious cognitive problems- memory, concentration, and comprehension”).

    Currently, you are 44, married for 10 years with a 9 year old son, experiencing lack of bonding with son and strained relationships with son and with husband. You practice poor eating habits, hardly exercise, drink too much alcohol, and smoke cigarettes and weed. You teach philosophy.

    As a child (and still, perhaps), you hated the color of your hair and eyes, the texture of your hair, your height, you felt dumb, not normal, not like others, not fitting in (“I wanted to think like normal kids and fit in socially”).

    “My whole life I have hated myself… I don’t remember a time when I didn’t hate myself”, “I can’t imagine what it would be like to love and accept myself. It’s such a foreign concept”.

    Hate, Merriam Webster definition: intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.

    I looked for the origin of your hate toward yourself in the little that you shared about your childhood, and I think I found it at the bottom of a bucket: “When she had cancer and was going through chemo, she would puke in a bucket with his picture super-imposed on a cancer cell in the bottom of it”.

    About your mother’s anger: “Her anger toward him was incredibly profound… the anger at him was sometimes acted out on me”, “My mom would tell me we were better off without him, that she had given him an out and he’d taken it”-

    – he, your father, took the Out and got to live away from your mother’s anger, but you were In, living with her and her anger.

    You did poorly in school, while In with your mother, but after she died, when you were 19, you got your Out and your cognitive abilities greatly improved.

    Wikipedia on Anger: “A person experiencing anger will often experience physical effects, such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and increased levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline”- adrenaline is also released when scared, and when experiencing manic episodes. Growing up threatened by her anger caused your body to experience an ongoing, chronic and damaging hormonal and neural arousal aka stress.

    help guide. org/ stress symptoms, signs and causes, reads: “When you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which rouse the body for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper…

    “the common warning signs and symptoms of stress overload, Cognitive symptoms: Memory problems, Inability to concentrate, Poor judgment, Seeing only the negative, Anxious or racing thoughts, Constant worrying. Emotional symptoms: Depression or general unhappiness, Anxiety and agitation, Moodiness, irritability, or anger, Feeling overwhelmed, Loneliness and isolation, Other mental or emotional health problems, Physical symptoms. Behavioral symptoms: Eating more or less, Sleeping too much or too little, Withdrawing from others, Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities, Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax, Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)”.

    I am sure that you can see a whole lot of your state of mind and life in this quote. I have no doubt that the first thing you need to do is to lower your stress level/ undo your chronic neural and hormonal arousal and overload. This will take a lot of time, practice and patience because this overload is your body’s physical and chemical habit that has existed for decades.. The terms for this kind of practice in psychotherapy are Emotional Regulation and (incorporated into therapy later), Mindfulness.

    The practice of emotional regulation skills and mindfulness will greatly improve your cognitive function, and it will make it possible for you to eliminate some, if not all of your harmful habits, with time.

    “It feels like I am at the bottom of an immense mountain, and I have no idea how to get up”- start with the practice of emotional regulation skills/ mindfulness. We can talk more about it later, if you want.

    Your mother was very angry at your father at the end of her life, 16 years after your father left the home. That’s a whole lot of anger for too long. Figuratively, throughout your childhood, she was looking at the bottom of that bucket, not at you. She did not see you. How did it feel to live with a mother who did not see you: “like crap most of the time.. like I want to die, like no  one loves me, and like I am doomed to be miserable”.

    You wrote regarding the responses you got on your thread: “It feels good to be seen, even if only virtually”. You still need to be seen.

    “I want a second chance at a happy life. I can see it, but it’s on the other side of that mountain I don’t know how to climb.. But there are just so many of them that need taking”-

    – After enough progress in your practice of emotional regulation and mindfulness, you will become accustomed to the slow pace of healing, to the principle of one step, one day at a time, and to the fact that it is not going to be a complete healing.

    You mentioned that you teach philosophy. I looked up Socrates quotes that may be relevant to you quest:

    Regarding you hating yourself, finding it therefore the hardest to love yourself: “Those who are hardest to love need it the most”.

    Regarding the process of healing that requires forming new habits in addition to examining the past: “The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”.

    *Following writing the above, I noticed that you posted half an hour ago, answering TeaK’s questions (but addressing the post to me, by mistake perhaps). None of what you posted in your most recent post changes what I wrote above.

    anita

    #377242
    anita
    Participant

    Dear llyana:

    I want to paraphrase my recent post to you and add to it: it is my understanding that when you were a child, your mother was consumed by anger, and therefore, she was not available to love you. Your father was physically absent from your life, and so, you were not loved by either parent. You needed to feel loved, so you imagined that your father loved you, and you missed that imagined love.

    You experienced fear of your mother’s anger, and you feared how terribly it felt to be so alone and lonely day after day, night after night, months and years that felt like eternity. At times, I imagine, you probably felt anger at your mother as well. The fear and ongoing distress led to your body forming a neurological and chemical habit that is keeping your body currently highly stressed. This chronic stress caused your cognitive abilities to decline, and is keeping you from being available to love your son.

    It so happens that I lived with a very angry mother myself, a mother who was not available to love me, and it so happens that my father too was out of the home before I was six. Living with my mother and her anger, feeling too alone and lonely for what felt like eternity, negatively affected my mental health and cognitive functions in significant to severe ways, causing my body chronic, damaging stress.

    Your son is  now nine. I can tell you for sure, that if my mother did all she could to to heal when I was nine- that by ten years old, I would have been in a much better mental health than I was at ten and throughout most of my life. It is not too late for your son to benefit from having a healthier mother. Please do all that you can do to heal, one step at a time, a little every day. You can do it, you will see!

    anita

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