April 2, 2022 at 1:22 pm #396709
“It’s good to hear that you’ve recovered from the eating disorders… It’s such a tough feat to beat an eating disorder (I hope this isn’t triggering but please let me know if it is) and it’s so great that you were able to have a better relationship with food” – thank you for your support and for your sensitivity! I still experience anxiety in regard to eating and body weight (fear of gaining weight), but I am managing my anxiety well enough.
“I had severe depression in college and when I told my dad, he said ‘you just need to think positively‘. When my mom found my self-harm scars, she said, ‘you need to stop doing stupid things to yourself‘” – reads like they didn’t want to be bothered by you… no wonder this morning, after you told your mother how you felt, you apologized: “sorry, I don’t mean to irritate you“. Your feelings, your… existence irritate them?
“I still struggle with self-harm” – harming the one who is an irritant to your parents… devaluing the existence of the one whose existence is not valued by your parents?
“In grad school, I became suicidal, and I told my mom. She said ‘you need to stay in grad school and continue on with it‘” – her focus was grad school, not your very life?
“I also had textbook symptoms of depression in high school and got bad grades because of it and my dad would yell at me daily saying I’d never amount to anything in life” – but he didn’t yell at his son, did he? Didn’t tell his son that he would never amount to anything in life? And so, your brother did not have to languish under the heavy weight of their condemnation, was light enough/ free enough to be the “‘popular’ kid in school, had tons of friends, made the dean’s list in college” etc.?
Or did he witness how they treated you, what about you irritated them… and he found ways to be different from you and different, he stayed clear of their condemnation?
“It feels like a lot of the lack of empathy from them came around my depression” – their lack of empathy predated your depression. I think that their lack of empathy caused your depression.
“I realized yesterday in a therapy appointment that all of the regrets I’m feeling is actually self-blame, which makes sense. I think I’ve blamed every part of my life on myself” – if you reconsider who is responsible for what, who is guilty of what, and figure out the truth in regard to the issue of responsibility, you will have the basis for a good mental health.
“I’m sorry for such a long response, I just started reflecting on my life and it all came out on the keyboard lol” – here, with me on this thread, you are not a bother, you are not an irritant. Here you are welcomed and invited to be you!
anitaApril 14, 2022 at 6:19 pm #397952SherryParticipant
I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to reply, a lot of stuff has come up in my life.
I’d like to first respond by saying I truly appreciate the opportunity to reflect on my life through our conversations but I think I painted my parents in a way that I did not intend to do so. My parents didn’t/don’t know how to handle conversations around depression/mental illness and I won’t deny that. But they’re both amazing people and I’m so grateful to have this family.
When I look back on my life, it wasn’t my parents that were the cause of my depression/self-harm/suicidal thoughts, it was partly our society and partly me. I’m so different from everyone else and I’m beginning to accept that I’m different but being different doesn’t bode well in high school but I also didn’t ask for help. In a way, I blame my mom. She put an absolute fear of hospitalization into me that I’ve never been able to be honest with any therapist about how I feel. I’m not currently suicidal but when I was, I was never able to tell my therapist the truth and get the help I actually needed at the time.
My mom and grad school – that was tough. I think that goes back to my parents not knowing what to do with mental illness. In her mind, I think she thought that if I stuck it out and had my own living, and earned my own wages then I’d be happy. I’ve stopped telling my mom anything about my depression because she simply doesn’t understand. I remember one time when I was in the midst of a depressive episode, I self-harmed on my arms a few days before and hid them. She told me that it’s really hot outside so it’s okay to take off my jacket. I said I don’t feel comfortable (it was only me, my mom, and my dad). She kept and kept saying it was fine because my dad knew. She didn’t put it together that I didn’t want to take off the jacket because I was so ashamed of my scars being seen by anybody else. I even wore a jacket in 100 degree weather that summer. My mom means well but she doesn’t know how to understand mental illness. She thinks people see therapists when they’re having a mental breakdown and not when they simply need someone to talk to.
My dad too – he’s so traditional and so set on how people can do well in school and in jobs that he doesn’t know how to see beyond that. He actually did say the exact same things to my brother as he did to me – my brother never let it get to him whereas I’ve let it control my life to a degree. My brother’s able to be civil with my dad because he’s moved on whereas I’m sometimes verbally a bit harsh (get irritated with little things he does) with him because it’s bothered me.
When I reflect back, I think that yes, my parents could’ve done better. The signs of eating disorders were right in front of them – taking a “shower” after every meal because I purged everything I ate or not eating/drinking very little water for many days saying I wasn’t hungry and then binging (although the binging was often when they weren’t home) or the hundreds of “I’m just tired” and then “happily” calling out my dog’s name whenever I was asked if I was fine. But they were also amazing parents too – mom has been my rock in some health problems I’ve been dealing with, she’ll literally let me vent to her even when she’s sick or has had the hardest day, she’s always there for me no matter what, and she’s so understanding with most things. My brother and I are incredibly close too and he was actually the most understanding with my depression – although I don’t talk to him about it. My dad and I have had our hard times but we used to go on a weekly hike and it was some of the most therapeutic days. It’s easy for me to talk about my depression when I’m behind a screen talking to a stranger, but it’s incredibly hard talking to anyone who might know me – which apparently is common with depression. It just feels like nobody would understand so what’s the use.April 14, 2022 at 8:04 pm #397953
I am looking forward to reading and replying to you, in about 10 hours from now.
anitaApril 15, 2022 at 12:26 pm #397963
You ended your recent post with: “it’s incredibly hard talking to anyone who might know me – which apparently is common with depression. It just feels like nobody would understand so what’s the use” – in the context of this post (which will be very long) I will try to understand and get to know you better. I re-read all your posts for this purpose. First, I want to note that when addressing me, you repeatedly expressed exceptional empathy, sensitivity, kindness and appreciation. I’ll get back to this point later. I will next quote from you, comment (sort of thinking out loud and typing whatever comes to my mind), quote some more, comment and eventually arrive at a better understanding of you than I had before. I hope that you have patience with this developing-as-I-go reply.
“I had eating disorders… for most of my teenage and young adult life and severe depression… Then (25) I went into another depressive episode… which lasted about 2-3 years” – most of your teenage years and most of your adult years (now 30) is a long, long time to experience severe depression and eating disorders. There has to be a reason, or reasons for that.
“I still have disordered eating with that I find comfort from food… I can totally see how eating the donuts would have a sense of helping with the anxiety – it sugarcoats the anxiety… Even after the diabetes diagnosis, I would get donuts and have them because they would calm my anxiety… I fell into a depressive episode (this was after my diabetes diagnosis), and I ate sweets and drank soda to help calm the depression” – you suffered from significant to severe anxiety and depression for many, many years, for at least half your life, and the aim of your overeating and binge eating, particularly carbs, was to comfort and sugarcoat your anxiety, as you put it.
“I haven’t thought so much about why the depression started. I know it started when I was younger – maybe between 13-15” – considering that very anxious teenagers and young adults think a whole lot, there is a reason, or reasons why you didn’t think so much about the reason for your depression.
“I think the thing that makes it hard about diabetes is it’s a ‘silent disease’ so I don’t feel the effects of what I eat which makes it harder to eat well” – connecting this quote to the one right above, I am thinking that your anxiety and depression is a silent disease because you didn’t yet give it an adequate voice (“I haven’t thought…“, above). This fits with the last part of your most recent post: “it’s incredibly hard talking… It just feels like nobody would understand so what’s the use“.
“I’m just not sure how to live in the present when I’m regretting so much of the past with this disease” – you focus now on diabetes as the disease, but another disease, or dis-ease; a severe dis-ease preceded the diabetes, a dis-ease that required desperate efforts to ease/ comfort it.
“I’m just really regretting not taking it more seriously or not doing enough… (I) reflect on my life and how unhealthy of a relationship I have with food” – you’ve had a relationship to food, not with food, because food is not a living thing, it does not talk or express itself. There are relationships with people in your life that need to be taken more seriously and reflected upon: what did they tell you and express to you and how did it affect you.
On March 31, I submitted a post to you which you responded to two days later, on April 2, this way: “You are so good at getting to the issue! What you wrote in your second message is exactly correct to the tee… you posted exactly everything that I felt in my life going back the last two decades or so“.
Let’s revisit that second message, the post you referred to as “correct to the tee“. In that post (second message that day) I suggested that perhaps the origin of your regret is not having made your parents happy with you as their daughter, I wrote: “you are stuck in your original regret, the painful and depressing regret of not living up to your parents’ expectations, or not living up to what they needed you to be? … I am guessing that you have had lots and lots of empathy for your parents, but they did not express empathy for you, and as a consequence, you have little to no empathy for yourself… your dominant feeling is that you are at fault, that you are to blame…?”
Following that post, you wrote: “I love my parents, but I think you’re right. I had severe depression in college and when I told my dad, he said ‘you just need to think positively’. When my mom found my self-harm scars, she said, ‘you need to stop doing stupid things to yourself’ and shamed me and my parents mocked me for saying it’s an addiction” – like I suggested in the quote right above, you have a lot of empathy for your parents. I am sure that your parents have empathy for you too, but not at all times. When they ignored and dismissed your depression and self-harm, and when they shamed and mocked you for reading about addiction (so to try to understand your own suffering), during those times, they had no empathy/ love for you.
Notice, I am not saying that your parents never loved you or that they don’t love you. I am saying that at times (and some of those times have been when you needed their love the most), they had no empathy/ no love for you (I am using the words empathy and love interchangeably).
When your mother found out about your self-harm scars, she didn’t say to you something like, you must be in pain, Sherry, what is hurting… what’s happening, tell me? saying this with concern in her eyes and in her voice- that would have been empathetic. But instead, she said: “you need to stop doing stupid things to yourself” – suggesting that you are stupid, not a girl in pain, but a stupid girl. This is not empathy; it’s quite the opposite of empathy. Mocking and shaming a person is indeed the opposite of love.
“For almost a year after, I couldn’t wear long sleeve shirts without my mom asking, ‘did you do something stupid to yourself?’” – it was not on one occasion that she did the opposite of love, it was repeated and for a long time.
“In grad school, I became suicidal, and I told my mom. She said ‘you need to stay in grad school and continue on with it’… I wanted out of the pain of a depressive episode and especially the day my mom told me this” – she dismissed your pain, as if… it didn’t matter to her that you were in pain and all that mattered to her was that you stay in grad school. As a result of her dismissal, her lack of empathy, you were even more in pain.
“it’s just anytime I reach out for help for my depression or anxiety, I don’t receive the help I need” – like I suggested before, it is at the times you needed your mother/ parents the most, they responded with lack of empathy for you, or with the opposite of empathy.
“I also had textbook symptoms of depression in high school and got bad grades because of it and my dad would yell at me daily saying I’d never amount to anything in life” – in this case, you received the opposite of empathy from your father.
“It feels like a lot of the lack of empathy from them came around my depression” – there is a famous riddle: which came first, the chicken or the egg? I say, the repeated lack/ opposite of empathy came before your depression, having caused or greatly contributed to your depression. But they weren’t aware of this, and they shamed and blamed you for what they caused.
“My mom volunteers as part of her church that deals with mental health and it really irritates me because she doesn’t understand the first thing about mental illness” – the core issue is not her lack of understanding, but that she repeatedly failed to feel and express empathy for you when you were in pain. A person can feel empathy for another without having an understanding about mental illness.
“I realized yesterday in a therapy appointment that all of the regrets I’m feeling is actually self-blame, which makes sense. I think I’ve blamed every part of my life on myself” – your parents blamed you=> you blamed yourself. As a rule, when something is significantly wrong in a child’s life (even when the parent does not blame the child), the child automatically blames oneself.
And now, back to your most recent post:
“I’d like to first respond by saying I truly appreciate the opportunity to reflect on my life through our conversations, but I think I painted my parents in a way that I did not intend to do so. My parents didn’t/don’t know how… But they’re both amazing people and I’m so grateful to have this family” –
– it is always very, very difficult for a child (and an adult child) to see her parents as anything but loving-all-the-time. There is a strong resistance to such view, and the adult child rushes to defend the image of the parent and to reject anyone who suggests a non-flattering image of the parents.
But even though I presented an unflattering image of your parents, you did not withdraw (not for long) from our communication, and you didn’t express anger at me; instead, you expressed appreciation. This is what I meant in the beginning of this post when saying that you repeatedly expressed exceptional empathy, sensitivity, kindness and appreciation of me.
Over the years of communicating with members I learned that it is the children of unempathetic parents who become most empathetic. I compared it before to the following imagery: a plant in dry ground (lacking water/ lacking empathy by parents) grows the deepest roots (empathy for parents/ others), trying to reach water, trying to reach the heart of the parent.
I also learned that children need so much that the great majority of parents don’t have what it takes to adequately take care of their children’s needs.
“When I look back on my life, it wasn’t my parents that were the cause of my depression/self-harm/suicidal thoughts, it was partly our society and partly me” – a child’s parents (and an adult child’s parents) are the core of society for the child, or said in other words, the most important, most powerful society by far, in a child’s mind and heart, is the child’s parents. Of course, the greater society, including the child’s parents’ parents, have a lot of power over who the parents are, but a child is exposed primarily to the parents, they are the ones who interact directly with the receptive, moldable, trusting child.
“I’m so different from everyone else” – not in my experience of getting to know you, in the context of this thread.
“I’ve stopped telling my mom anything about my depression because she simply doesn’t understand… My mom means well but she doesn’t know how to understand mental illness… My dad too – he’s so traditional and so set on how people can do well in school and in jobs that he doesn’t know how to see beyond that“- this is what I am not suggesting in regard to your parents: I am not suggesting that they meant to cause you harm: they never intended for their daughter to suffer depression etc., that wasn’t their intent or goal. What happened, as I see it, is that some topics makes them feel anxious or distressed so they don’t want to pay attention to what distresses them, they ignore it, and they don’t want to talk about it, so they don’t. And when you brought up to them the topics that distress them, they got annoyed with you, angry at you for inconveniencing them, so they discouraged you from ever doing that again by ignoring and dismissing what you told them, and by shaming and mocking you.
When they ignored, dismissed, shamed and mocked you, there was no way for you (or any child in your place, including your brother) to not be harmed. And so, they indeed harmed you. But their intent was not to harm you, but to not be bothered by topics that distress them, or otherwise inconvenience them.
“The signs of eating disorders were right in front of them – taking a ‘shower’ after every meal because I purged everything I ate or not eating/drinking very little water for many days saying I wasn’t hungry” – they ignored that which made them anxious/ that which inconvenience them. It is similar to you ignoring your own diabetes because it made you anxious or it inconvenienced you to be aware of it and to change your eating habits. In a similar way, they ignored and dismissed your depression and disordered eating so to not be bothered with the need to change their parenting habits.
“But they were also amazing parents too – mom has been my rock in some health problems I’ve been dealing with, she’ll literally let me vent to her even when she’s sick or has had the hardest day” – there were times, many times perhaps, that your mother was your rock, and looks like at times, even though it made her anxious, she has let you vent regardless of her discomfort (?)
“she’s always there for me no matter what” – do you mean that she changed her ways of not being there for you from time to time, and currently and for some time she’s always there for you? Or did you get carried away in this sentence with how perfectly wonderful your mother is (putting your mother on a pedestal as children do)?
Closing thoughts: I mentioned earlier in this post, that you didn’t give your anxiety and depression an adequate voice yet. I think that an adequate voice will have to address that lack of empathy and the opposite of empathy (indifference, disregard, disdain, disfavor, dislike, animosity) that you received from your parents through no fault of your own.
Seems to me that you place your mother on a pedestal (more than you do your father), and so, sometimes you open your eyes and look at one or two of her faults, but you close your eyes too quickly, rushing to put her back on a pedestal. The purpose of giving adequate voice to Sherry, is not so to hurt your mother but to help yourself. You will have to be willing to take her off that pedestal.
Notice: it will not hurt her to be taken off the pedestal because it is only within your brain that she is situated on a pedestal. In her real-life experience, she is not situated on a pedestal, so… in real life, she will not be demoted or hurt.
Also, it is very common that parents fail to express and practice empathy for their children and express the opposite of empathy instead. Sadly, it is very common, and this is why there so many millions of people all over the world (including myself) who suffer or have suffered from severe anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other disorders and illnesses.
This is a very long post which took me more than four hours to put together. I hope that you give it some time and that you reply to me whenever you are ready, if you are able and willing.
- This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by anita.