April 5, 2021 at 11:22 am #377246
Dear Teak and Anita,
Thank you so much for your input. Sorry, Teak, that I thought your post was from Anita.
The more I think about it, the more I believe that my cognitive problems are psychological in nature. I am still waiting for MRI results, and I need a second one on Wednesday. It is not impossible that something is wrong, possibly caused by my substance use or history of being on a lot of psychiatric medications. But as I learn more about the likely cognitive effects of my depression and loneliness, it is really resonating with me.
I see that I need to parent my inner child in order to achieve the relationship with my son that I want. I also need to find self-love and acceptance before I can know whether my relationship with my husband is salvageable. I cannot expect to feel loved in my relationship if I am not giving love to myself. I am feeling very overwhelmed by the magnitude of that task. I have such a hard time visualizing a me that accepts and respects herself and her needs. But I also feel like I am seeing a tiny glimmer of light at the end of a very long tunnel.
Thank you again.
IlyanaApril 5, 2021 at 11:37 am #377247
You are welcome.
“I have such a hard time visualizing a me that accepts and respects herself and her needs”-
– if you have a photo of yourself when you were a child, try this exercise when you have a private moment: place the photo in front of you and gently touch/ caress the image of you with your fingers, and tell her (the image of the younger you in the photo) that you want to love her, that your intent is to love her.
anitaApril 5, 2021 at 12:33 pm #377252
I am glad you feel seen and validated here. It’s wonderful that you also feel hopeful that things can change for the better and that you can have a different, happier and more fulfilling life.
Regarding your father, I am sorry he wasn’t really there for you when you were a child, since he left you alone with your mother and her anger, and refused to pay child support. You said you didn’t have any contact with him from the age of 3 till you were 10-11. Did he change for the better after the reunion, e.g. did you see him more often since then? You mentioned he was sending you gifts and letters that your mother intercepted – was it before or after the reunion?
It’s good that you’re starting to see that things weren’t black and white, and that your mother was no saint, and that your father was no villain either. Also, it’s nice that he’s supportive of you now, both emotionally and financially. I guess it feels good, even though he wasn’t there for you earlier.
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.
Well, one of the first things you can do is realize that you’re not a bad person, and it’s not your fault you had such a difficult childhood. You’re suffering today because you were deprived of love and care and appreciation and compassion. Your needs were not met, neither by your mother nor your father. You have substance abuse issues not because you’re bad, lazy or undisciplined, but because you’re hurting. So that’s the first thing to realize, which can allow you to have compassion for yourself.
I imagine you also have a pretty strong inner critic, which is criticizing you all the time, telling you nasty things about yourself. That voice is blaming you, telling you it’s all your fault and that you’re good for nothing. Part of it is your mother’s angry, judgmental voice. Well now, as one of the first steps on your healing journey, you can start developing an observer self, which notices all your emotions and thoughts, both positive and negative, without judging them. It’s just observing, watching neutrally and noticing what is happening inside of you. That part of us is necessary in practicing mindfulness, which Anita was talking about. It’s key for developing self-acceptance – accepting whatever is at the moment inside of you, whether good or bad, whether positive or negative.
And then there’s the third voice – a voice of a good parent, or a compassionate therapist. When your harsh inner critic would want to start its tirade of judgments and accusations, the compassionate voice says: “it’s not your fault, you’re not bad, you’re just hurting”. It’s a voice full of understanding and compassion for your inner child.
Your task would be to develop both the observer self, and the compassionate inner parent self, as key parts of a healthy adult personality.
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.
Yes, if we try to change from the position of the judgmental inner voice who says “look at yourself, you’re horrible, be ashamed of yourself, you need to change ASAP!”, it never lasts for a long time, because in order to truly change, we need love and acceptance, rather than judgment and condemnation. The strict disciplinarian voice that pushes us to exercise or quit smoking is a part of the inner critic, and the inner critic is the opposite of loving and compassionate! That’s why after a while, we rebel against this strict disciplinarian (which often sounds like our strict mother, btw), and we go back to soothing and numbing our pain with substances and addictive behaviors. Until the change comes from the place of love for ourselves, it can’t be long-lasting.April 5, 2021 at 6:52 pm #377262
Yes, if we try to change from the position of the judgmental inner voice who says “look at yourself, you’re horrible, be ashamed of yourself, you need to change ASAP!”, it never lasts for a long time, because in order to truly change, we need love and acceptance, rather than judgment and condemnation. The strict disciplinarian voice that pushes us to exercise or quit smoking is a part of the inner critic, and the inner critic is the opposite of loving and compassionate! That’s why after a while, we rebel against this strict disciplinarian (which often sounds like our strict mother, btw), and we go back to soothing and numbing our pain with substances and addictive behaviors. Until the change comes from the place of love for ourselves, it can’t be long-lasting.
This describes my experience exactly. I make changes from a place of shame and self-judgment, and eventually I get sick of it and give up. It’s like I just run out of steam on self-control.
I have a very critical inner voice, have had for as long as I can remember. I beat myself up for beating myself up. My inner voice is always harsh, always judgmental, never compassionate. I am finding little glimmers of compassion lately, but it is very recent. I would really love to find a way to be nicer to myself. It just hurts so much to be always finding fault with myself.
I have a new, trauma-focused therapist, and although I have only had three sessions, I can feel that she is a good match, and I believe that she will be able to help me with developing self-love and self-acceptance. I badly need the help. I have had lots of therapy before, but this therapist seems to have a very different approach, which is more focused on healing than insight. Of course I need insight into my past and my thought patterns, what I really want is to feel better in myself, better enough to not turn to so many substances.
Thank you again. This is so helpful.
IlyanaApril 6, 2021 at 12:36 am #377265
you’re very welcome.
I would really love to find a way to be nicer to myself. It just hurts so much to be always finding fault with myself.
What can help you to be gentler with yourself is to remember that there’s a wounded inner child in you, and when you’re judgmental with yourself, you’re actually judging and condemning her. When the child is in pain, she doesn’t need your scolding but your soothing and compassion. This helped me a lot to develop self-compassion and tone down my harsh inner critic.
I have had lots of therapy before, but this therapist seems to have a very different approach, which is more focused on healing than insight.
I’ve had experience with body-oriented therapy too, and it definitely helps to process emotions and create a new emotional and bodily experience, rather than just staying in my head. Because we may know and understand everything, all the reasons for our trauma, but still be unable to change our behavior. That’s usually because the inner child – who is stuck in the past, in a particular emotional wound – needs to be healed first. For that, we need to get in touch with our inner child and give it a corrective emotional experience, which helps her get unstuck.April 7, 2021 at 4:25 am #377320
How are you, llyana?
anitaApril 7, 2021 at 12:39 pm #377342
I am doing a bit better. I had a second MRI today, and talked to my doctor. It’s too soon to have any results, but we are pretty confident that my cognitive problems are due to my long-term depression. He said that if that’s what’s happened, my brain can heal. It might take a long time, but I might get better if I can get my depression under control.
I have been trying to reach out to people more, friends, my father, and especially my sister. I have let people in on what’s going on with me. I am actually feeling right now like the depression attacking my brain was the best way to get my attention and say: “YOU ARE NOT OK”. It feels like a giant wake-up call, one that I am hoping is the first in a series of steps that leads to a happier and more peaceful me. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, and I still have all my bad habits, though I am working on reducing my substance use. I know it will be hard, but all I can do is push forward.
My son seems depressed to me. He keeps saying that life sucks and that more bad things happen than good things. I am worried about him. But he is talking to me about it, and last night he said I helped him, which made us both feel good. We are in family therapy to help heal the fractured connection we formed after my traumatic birth, and I am hopeful that if I get better, it will have a positive impact on him too.
So I came here for hope, and I found it. My struggles aren’t over, but they don’t feel insurmountable anymore. My sister suffered a terrible trauma 5 years ago, and things looked very dark. But she took a long series of very small steps, and now she is flourishing. I am hoping that with support I can get there too.
I find also that I am thinking more and more about ending my marriage. Now is not the time to make big decisions, and I am committed to trying to make things better with my husband. I would like for my son to grow up living with both his parents. But the reality is dawning on me that it is possible that no amount of therapy and talking will make my husband capable of giving me the love and support that I crave. I don’t blame him for how he is, it has to do with his own old wounds from childhood, and I empathize with him. But at some point I will have to decide whether I can accept a relationship in which I feel unsupported. I believe that before I can make that decision, though, I have to learn to support myself and surround myself with other people who love me. I admire my husband a lot, and I think we make a good team. I would ideally like to stay together. I just won’t know if that’s possible for a while.
Thank you for checking in on me, Anita. It is greatly appreciated
I hope you are doing well.
IlyanaApril 7, 2021 at 1:53 pm #377349
I am very pleased to read your positive update: your cognitive abilities are likely to improve once your depression is under control, you attend family therapy with your son, he talks to you and told you that you helped him, you are realistic about your marriage but still willing to try and work on it because you make a good team in some respects!
You are welcome and thank you: you made my day!
anitaApril 8, 2021 at 11:06 am #377368
I want to share again.
I had therapy today. During my session, we did a visualization in which I held little girl me in my arms, told her what she needed to hear, and flew around our history and future together. When I was done, I wrote her a short letter telling her that it wasn’t her fault, and that her daddy did love her. It was very powerful.
I am feeling optimistic today. I have so many steps to take, but the journey has started. Big and little me will travel together to the mountain, and we will get over it to a happier life. I feel like I can sustain belief in this image if I keep taking steps.
I want to keep reaching out to the people around me, and I want to be able to sit with the discomfort of having my marriage be a question mark. My instinct is just to leave, but I know that the way to manage future regret is to see how a happier me feels in the relationship. If future me doesn’t think she can stay and be happy, she will leave. But present me just can’t know.
I am feeling almost grateful for the cognitive problems I am having, even if they are not reversible. The only thing I valued about myself was my intellect. The only way to get through to me and push me to make changes was to threaten it. Of course it might be that something more serious is going on than I understand. Maybe it is even something that will kill me. But even if that’s the case, maybe especially if that’s the case, my new goal of a contented life is worth pursuing.
Thank you both again for your support. It is very meaningful to me.
IlyanaApril 8, 2021 at 11:42 am #377372
I am so happy to hear that you had a powerful therapy session and managed to get in touch with your inner child. That’s precious! I believe you’re doing the right thing by staying a little longer in your marriage – that is, unless your relationship is toxic and harmful. If it’s not toxic and dangerous, it makes sense to observe how it is in it now, as you’re gaining more and more of your inner wholeness. If you see it’s not functioning, you’ll leave.
Your cognitive problems might have been just the push you needed to step on the path of healing. I don’t think it’s something serious or life threatening, but it’s wonderful to see that you’ve recovered your spirit of optimism and hope for a better life, and that’s so precious and valuable!April 8, 2021 at 1:21 pm #377376
You are welcome, great to read another positive update. Thank you for once again making my day!
You had a wonderful, powerful experience in therapy, don’t forget how good it felt: maybe you can draw or put together some art work, such as a child would make, and attach it to the refrigerator (or elsewhere), to remind yourself every day of the experience you had today, in therapy (?)
I have a comment on something you wrote yesterday regarding your marriage: “it is possible that no amount of therapy and talking will make my husband capable of giving me the love and support that I crave“-
– I don’t know anything about how your husband behaves specifically, what I do know, from personal experience and from my experience communicating with members here over the years, is that when a child grows up without love, the craving for the love that is not there, is so intense, so raw and painful, that as an adult- the person is not satisfied with any other person as being loving- enough, not loving enough to satisfy such deep, intense, early-life craving.
anitaApril 8, 2021 at 2:27 pm #377378
Dear Anita and Teak,
Anita, I think that you have hit on something really important here. My craving for love and affection will hopefully change over time, and as I grow, assuming my husband grows as well, I may find being with him more satisfying. I know he is trying, and maybe we can grow together. I am going to reflect on that and talk about it with our therapist.
Something wonderful happened this afternoon. I am in a Facebook support group for people who have been through a traumatic birth, and today someone posted asking if anyone had given birth in my area. I replied that I had, and we ended up chatting for a while. It was so wonderful to connect with someone from that group one on one, since it has been a great source of support for me. We decided to try to get to know each other better and help each other out. Interestingly, she also suffers with addiction problems but is in recovery. There is something so helpful about sharing with someone who has been through a traumatic birth. It is such a specific experience with such profound emotional consequences. I am really grateful to have had the opportunity to talk to this person, and I look forward to getting to know her better and hopefully be a source of support to one another.
I love the idea of doing some artwork around my inner child. I used to pain a lot and I stopped when my son was born. I have been thinking about restarting. My initial idea was to paint myself as a monster. But I like this idea much better. Thank you.
I hope you are both doing well, and again thank you for this discussion.
IlyanaApril 8, 2021 at 2:41 pm #377380
I am doing well, thank you, and you are welcome. It sounds wonderful, getting together with another mother who experienced a traumatic birth and who suffers from addictions and is in recovery. There is nothing more uplifting than teaming up with another person with similar challenges and helping each other!
anitaApril 12, 2021 at 11:23 am #377549
Thinking of you. I hope that you feel comfortable to share anytime, in a good day and in a bad day. Progress is never linear when it comes to emotional healing, you go up then you go down, and so forth. When going down, many give up, not understanding it’s part of the process, and it is after months of enduring and persisting in the healing efforts every day, regardless of how we feel, that the progress becomes evident.
I am also wondering about your MRI results.
anitaApril 13, 2021 at 2:09 pm #377635
Thank you for asking about me.
I am doing pretty well. I just taught a class, and I noticed that during both the prep and the teaching, my thoughts were more clear and my ability to speak was greater. I am still not where I used to be, and I have trouble focusing on what students are saying, but I am definitely seeing improvement in my cognitive abilities compared to a month ago.
One main thing has changed in that time period: I have hope now. My therapy is going well, I am journalling every day, I am speaking often to both my sister and my dad. Today when I was writing, I had a breakthrough. Just like I can visualize giving my inner child what she needs, I can also visualize my inner birthing mother and try to give her what she needs. I am hoping that working with my therapist I can do this and heal from some of the trauma surrounding my experience giving birth to my son.
I have had some setbacks too. I went two days without smoking cigarettes and then picked them back up again yesterday. I really want to stop, but I am struggling with it so much. I have started to tell myself over and over that I deserve a healthy body and to not feel like I am poisoning myself all day, but it hasn’t been enough. I am trying to have faith that as I start to feel better in other areas, dealing with all my various addictions will be a bit easier. I have more or less cut my alcohol consumption in half, though, so that’s progress. Eventually I’d like to reduce it by much more than that, but one step at a time.
I feel that I am making progress in a way I never have before. As I said to you earlier, I think that the depression attacking my cognition was really the only way to get my attention and force me to make real changes.
I am still waiting for MRI results. If there’s nothing catastrophic in them, I will hear from my doctor about the results on May 6 (if there is, I will hear earlier). It feels like a long ways away, but I am managing the uncertainty. The depression explanation is so much more likely than anything else. Unlikely things happen all the time, and I have had unlikely medical problems before. But the philosopher in me looks for the simplest explanation that explains the most about a phenomenon, and that’s that depression caused cognitive decline.
So things are going more or less well in a very weird and uncertain time.
Thanks again for checking in.