August 20, 2020 at 7:35 am #365178
I have written on here before and got some really great advice. Right now I am struggling with my identity. I turn 28 in a week and I feel I have been stuck in my healing journey for a long time. I am often really disassociated due to trauma I have experienced in my past, and I am not sure how to return to my body. On the surface I have some good things going for me: I didn’t lose my job like so many others, I recently moved to a new apartment and I am working on my master’s and have taken up running and piano playing. Before the pandemic all I did was eat junk food, watch TV, and drink alone, but the quarantine allowed me to slow down and slowly start to take care of myself again. But for some reason I am still plagued with negative thoughts, especially around people I used to know, like my abusive ex and a bad experience in therapy. I also feel a lot of guilt because although my family talk regularly through a group chat & video chat, deep down I have no desire to interact with them.
I guess I am struggling to separate myself from other people’s projections and expectations of me, and I self judge my emotions a lot, because almost everyone in my life has dismissed and invalidated me, even my former therapist. I really feel I have so much potential and I would love to build a healthy self image and ultimately healthy relationships, but I’m not sure how to go about freeing myself from this mental prison. I am very reluctant to go back to therapy because of the expense and because I don’t want another terrible experience like last time. Just writing this down helps a great deal but I am wondering if anyone has any suggestions for me. Thanks so much for reading.August 20, 2020 at 1:15 pm #365201
Welcome back. You wrote today: “I also feel a lot of guilt because although my family talk regularly through a group chat & video chat, deep down I have no desire to interact with them”.
In 2017, you wrote about your family: “I grew up in an emotionally abusive household.. with parents who also screamed, shamed and criticized me constantly.. As a result, I developed a very deep sense of shame, perfectionism and self loathing and have battled depression and anxiety for most of my life”.
Fast forward three years, you wrote today: “I am often really disassociated due to trauma.. I am not sure how to return to my body… I am still plagued with negative thoughts.. I’m not sure how to go about freeing myself from this mental prison”.
My input today: when you were a child growing up in a home where your parents screamed at you, shamed you, and constantly criticized you- that home was your physical prison. In that prison you experienced endless times of anxiety, shame and depression, and in that prison, you disassociated so to survive the trauma.
Fast forward, you are sitting in your apartment, looking at the computer at your family’s group chats, seeing the names, the words, the photos of the same people who screamed at you, shamed you, etc. This very activity, and even the thought of turning on the computer and seeing their group chats, is keeping you imprisoned in that anxiety, shame, depression and disassociation.
Every time you are in contact with them, and every time you expect the next contact, you can “hear” and you can feel them scream, shame and criticize you. And just as you disassociated as a child in that terrible physical prison, you are disassociating now, as an adult, living in a mental prison.
Adult children are most often very reluctant to end contact with their parents, feeling too guilty for doing that. But ending contact is a necessary first step in freeing yourself from that mental prison and re-associating with yourself, returning to your body and emotions, becoming one.
But it is a very difficult first step to take, it requires that you have some adequate social support, that you are able and willing to endure those guilty feelings, and it requires you to practice endless patience with the process that I wish was quick and easy.
anitaAugust 20, 2020 at 1:37 pm #365203
Thanks for responding, I had hoped you would. Regarding my family, I agree with everything you said. My happiest and calmest of times was when I was in college building a life away from them, when I did not speak to my parents. Now as I have gotten older it has become more difficult to keep that boundary. When I was younger the pain was fresh and present, and I had friends in college to support me so it was easy not to feel guilt. Now I don’t have many friends, and I have found the people in my life as of late have all shamed me or hurt me in similar ways. My parents are not a part of the group chat, but I feel the same negative feelings around my siblings. During the video chat they always want to “discuss” our toxic family dynamics.It’s weirdly formal, like a college seminar. My former therapist thought this was great and healing, and I subscribed to that thought because therapists are supposed to know what’s up, supposedly. But my siblings often make excuses for the way our parents acted, especially my mother. They are still attached to her and see my father as the one with all the problems. However deep down I believe they are both at fault.
Once I shared with my siblings how my mother had hurt me far worse because she is my same gender parent. They told me I was being unfair to expect her to be better because she is a woman. That’s not what I meant. Also, there is always a feeling of competitiveness, maybe I imagine it but I feel it every time I speak to them. My younger sister basically emulated all of my career and education choices and constantly goes on about her accomplishments, discussing all of her feelings, ranting about politics, etc. She is also very close to my mother. I find myself feeling very inadequate around her and I blame myself for feeling that way, but my mother always hated and belittled me and glorifies her. Now my parents are “nicer” to me, meaning they don’t scream at me but I believe they are only “nice” because I have a decent job and can pay my bills. I feel there has never been anyone in my life to validate me which is why I disassociate. It’s confusing because the same patterns always repeat even with people outside my family, and within my sibling group there is this “us vs. them mentality”. I used to have a good grasp on how all this was affecting me but my therapist confused me, she always said I need to talk to them and open up to them so I have been but it’s done more harm than good. I barely feel comfortable sharing my accomplishments with them but I feel guilty for feeling the way that I do. It’s tough because the idea of family first is so entrenched in society,
August 20, 2020 at 2:10 pm #365206
- This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by Rachel.
You are welcome. Because your siblings make excuses for your mother, they are maintaining your mental prison. A different angle to it: you are maintaining your mental prison by communicating with your siblings on the topics of your parents and your individual and combined experiences of childhood.
Within a family, siblings “fit” together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Any one sibling (piece of the puzzle) needs the other siblings (the other pieces of the puzzle) to remain the same, so to not change the overall jigsaw puzzle picture.
So as you try to heal= change, your siblings will fight against you healing/ changing, so that you remain the same, and they remain the same, and the overall picture remains the same.
I believe that your former therapist was wrong to suggest that you open up to your siblings because of my explanation above. Your siblings (unless they are healing) don’t want you open up, they want you closed/ the same as before.
anitaAugust 20, 2020 at 3:29 pm #365216
Thanks again anita. I appreciate your insights and talking to you is helping to calm me down. I notice, the incessant chatter in my mind and tightness in my chest dissipates when I read your words. I hope we can continue communicating as I don’t have anyone else to talk to about this. My former therapist really messed me up, and I’m just starting to really come into that realization a year after I stopped seeing her. So talking to you is helping me shed some light on my issues.
I agree wholeheartedly about your comments about the jigsaw puzzle. Where did I fit into the puzzle? Well, I was always the fixer as well as the scapegoat. Even now, I’m the one siblings turn to for advice, but not in a way that makes me feel good. One of my sisters sees herself as the “truth teller”. She is always demanding that we respond to her questions about things, and gets mad when people don’t engage in that chat. The sister I mentioned above sees herself as perfect, all knowing. My older brother sees himself as the father figure, so on and so forth. I don’t know what my role is now. I guess I am still supposed to fix: for example, my father moved in with a much younger woman from another country. He brought her to my sister’s graduation uninvited, and everyone was mad about it. (it was highly inappropriate). My mom then tells me I need to confront him and tell him he’s making a mistake. Why? It’s none of my business what he does. Whenever one of my siblings is acting up or in trouble, my mom contacts me to vent about it and to ask me to fix it somehow. I have never vented to my mother in my whole life, the relationship is entirely one sided. My youngest sister has been in a lot of trouble. Most recently she crashed the car my mother bought for her and started selling drugs. My mom asked me to talk to her and somehow force her to act differently. This was after I paid for her to visit me in the city I am living, constantly tried to reach out to her to offer her support, etc etc.
I realize this is a lot of information, but I’m just saying this to further prove your point. My family members and 99% of the people in my life want something from me, and I serve a function but I am not a human being. So I go somewhere else and I feel I am essentially a robot. It’s hard to feel sane when you’re surrounded by insanity, and sooner or later you absorb the insanity. And then I always feel I am the problem, somethings wrong with me that I need to fix, and spend a lot of energy and money and time fixing.August 20, 2020 at 3:58 pm #365217
You are welcome and we can continue to communicate on and on.
“My mom then tells me I need to confront him and tell him he’s making a mistake.. Whenever one of my siblings is acting up or in trouble, my mom contacts me to vent about it and ask me to fix it somehow”-
– you think that she wants you to fix the situations she vents to you about, but did she ever take your advice? For example, if your fix-it idea was that she should confront your father herself- did she take your advice?
Was anything ever fixed according to your suggestions to your mother?
I am guessing not. Maybe you felt flattered by your mother allegedly looking up to you as a fixer, but I don’t think she really looks up to you as one able to fix what she cannot fix. I think that she is giving you an emotional reward (a feel-good reward) so that you will continue to listen to her intently (trying to figure out a solution) while she vents to you, providing to her an attentive audience.
In other words, I don’t think that she wants your guidance and wisdom. She wants to vent to an audience who will listen attentively. She gives you a motivation to listen to her attentively: to figure out a solution (that she is not interested in).
The benefit that she gets from venting to you is relieving her tension, feeling calmer after venting. She is helping herself to you.
“It’s hard to feel sane when you’re surrounded by insanity”- like I said, I don’t think that your mother has been interested in your fix-it ideas. When it comes to your sister, she told you “to talk to (your sister) and force her to act differently”- that was her fix it idea. And it didn’t work out, did it, not for your sister, not for you and you are still “surrounded by insanity”.
anitaAugust 20, 2020 at 4:17 pm #365218
That is a great point, and something I didn’t consider before. You’re absolutely right: I momentarily get a “feel good reward” for her supposedly looking up to me. Subconsciously I feel that maybe this means I am not as worthless as she always claimed me to be. But you’re right, nothing was ever fixed. She ended up confronting my dad after ranting to me about it and he got angry at her and told her to leave him alone. She showed me all of the texts and conversation and of course I gave her empathy, saying she did the best she could etc etc. I had no idea I had fallen back into this trap of her extracting energy from me. Of course my dad continued to do whatever he wanted. But did she really expect he would listen to her? Maybe it was just a show to get empathy. She always would do stuff like this: talk about how hard her life was, how hard she works and how my dad treated her so badly. But she never takes responsibility for her part: no one forced her to marry my dad, no one forces her to live in an expensive house and spend so much money on material things. No one told her to buy my sister another car when she already got into 2 accidents. I realized as I was reading that my sister does the same thing! She rants and complains and asks for advice but she never does what I say. And I feel a false reward, but the truth is she doesn’t look up to me either. So I’m left spending this energy on people who don’t appreciate it and it does no good. But who can I rant to when I am in trouble? I have to figure everything out by myself.
People dumping their emotions on me has happened to me my whole life. A friend I had from high school would do the same: every time she was in trouble (which was all of the time) she would call me to complain, and I would be supportive. I gave her money when she needed it. Even in the middle of the night I would wake up and listen to her complain about whatever predicament she had got herself in. Finally one day she borrowed money and didn’t pay me back. When I asked for the money back she paid me less of what she owed me. I told her she didn’t pay me back the full amount and she laughed it off and said she would pay me, but never did. That’s when I separated myself from her. And one again, I got the reward of her saying I was such a good friend, I was always there for her etc. But she was never there for me. She would talk about it, but not actually follow through. Even my ex did this, all throughout the relationship and even after the breakup. She talked about how bad things were for her, she got sick, her family was mistreating her, she’s disabled, no one cares about her, so on and so forth.
I have never been in a relationship with someone who actually genuinely cared about me. It’s always been people draining my energy. Maybe that’s why I am so tired all the time.August 20, 2020 at 4:22 pm #365219
I will be back to your thread, read and reply to you tomorrow morning, which is in about 14 hours from now. Feel free to add anything you want to add before I return to you.
anitaAugust 21, 2020 at 11:58 am #365278
Putting together what you shared in your current thread, and in previous threads, as well as what I read in a Wikipedia entry on Western Africa, this is my input today:
Your parents grew up in Western Africa. (Wikipedia:) The “scramble for Africa”, also called the Conquest of Africa, was the invasion, occupation, division and colonization of African territory by European powers during the “New Imperialism”, 1881-1914. In 1870, only 10% of Africa was under formal European control. By 1914 90% of the continent was under European control.
The European colonialists were motivated by a desire for valuable natural resources, religious missionary zeal, and a quest for national prestige among the European nations, competing with who gets more of Africa. Great Britain and France got most of Africa.
Following World War 2, nationalist movements across West Africa rose up. In 1957, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan colony to achieve independence. By 1974, West Africa’s nations were entirely autonomous, but many Western African nations have been submerged under political instability, with notable civil wars in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Ivory Cost, and a succession of military coups in Ghana and Burkina Faso.
Your parents’ motivations, particularly your mother’s, has been similar to the Europeans who invaded Africa to take personal, selfish advantage of Africa’s natural resources. Your mother invade your mind, robbing you of your valuable, natural mental resources, so to have power over you.
Invaded and robbed of your valuable mental resources, you feel that you “serve a function but I am not a human being.. I feel I am essentially a robot”.
A human being robbed of her valuable mental resources is a robot that serves a function.
What is the function you serve for your mother: “Growing up, they always stressed how important it was to have a real career and make a lot of money.. so I can support them and the rest of my family”. Your mother lives “lives in an expensive house and spends so much money on material things”.
She “screamed, shamed and criticized” you, “always hated and belittled” you, claimed that you were worthless (“I am not as worthless as she always claimed me to be”)- she did that so that you will be forever chasing her for a sense of worth, chasing her to give you back what she robbed from you: a right to your own mind, your own heart, your own person, your own life.
“She always would .. talk about how hard her life was, how hard she works and how my dad treated her so badly”- her purpose has been to make you feel sorry for her, misusing your empathy, so that you will be motivated to treat her “right”, which means to do what she wants you to do, and to forever owe her. She wants your money, she wants your empathy and attention when she rants to you, she wants to remain in power over you.
“I have never been in a relationship with someone who actually genuinely cared about me. It’s always been people draining my energy. Maybe that’s why I am so tired all the time”-
– like the Africans who rebelled against the colonists, tired and drained, fighting for their independence, it is time for you too, to rebel against your mother, to claim your independence, to free your natural resources (your mind, your mental health) from your mother’s power and control.
You wrote: “My happiest and calmest of times was when I was in college building a life away from them, when I did not speak to my parents”-
– that happiest and calmest time was temporary because you did speak to your parents again, and to your siblings, and you got back to being colonized, so to speak. Just like the Africans freedom fighters went through (and still are going through) political and economical instability, so will you have to go through some instability as you proceed to free yourself.
But you will need some support to do that. I hope you make it.
Do you think I am being too dramatic here, Rachel?
anitaAugust 21, 2020 at 1:59 pm #365299
No, I do not think you are being dramatic. On the contrary I think your analysis is 100% correct. But it’s taboo in this society to place responsibility on parents. People think just because someone brought life into this world they can do no wrong. People especially think mothers are always good, loving, kind. It’s okay to blame fathers but not mothers. I remember as a young girl my aunts yelled at me if I ever confided in them about how my mom treated me. My college essay was how I loved my camp because it was the only place I felt loved. When I asked my aunts to review it for me one of them got mad: “this is a lie, your family loves you”.
I have known for a long time that my parents have internalized racism and have subscribed to a colonized belief system. They never wanted us to be “too black”, we grew up in a majority white town to escape blackness, things like that. I tried to escape physically but I haven’t been able to escape mentally. I think because my abusive relationship wore me down so much, and I felt so much guilt because I stayed away from home for 4 years. During that time my parents sent me guilt trips for not coming home (unsurprisingly, when I told them I couldn’t afford to go back home which I really couldn’t, they never offered to pay for me to come back). The guilt is how they keep power over me, and how other abusive people have kept power over me. Also, the projection onto me that I am not a good person. So I try even harder to be good, but it’s like I am chasing my own shadow. No one ever said anything to mitigate this guilt. so it remains hoovering over me like a dark cloud. Sometimes I think about moving even farther away, like to Europe. But physical distance isn’t enough, I know that now. I already live halfway across the country from them, they guilt me about that too. Everyone complained about attending my college graduation because it was so far. The intermittent reinforcement is also confusing: they are nice to me when I do what they want or succeed at something. So my inner child thinks “finally! i will get the love I need!”. But it’s just an illusion. This trap is what kept me chained to an abuser for almost 5 years. She’d scream, be abusive, then be nice and pretend like nothing happened. Even now she is still trying to contact me out of “concern for my well being”. This is why I am so foggy headed all of the time.
The problem is I don’t have any support and I don’t know where I would get it. It’s tough to find a decent therapist. A few months ago I tried online therapy, but it was more of the same unhelpful stuff. Every time I’ve tried to make connections with other people it’s always more of the same, which is why at this point I’m almost always checked out from life.August 21, 2020 at 2:20 pm #365301
“People think just because someone brought life into this world they can do wrong”- this is what parents say, a very self serving thing to say, isn’t it. A parent says to the child: I can do no wrong; you can do a lot of wrong, and every time you do a wrong, you owe me.
“People especially think mothers are always good, loving, kind”- mothers say that because it serves them well. Fathers say that because they don’t have patience for their children, so they say to the child: go to her, go to your mother, she is good, loving kind.
I relate to your parents having internalized racism. My mother too, having grown up in colonized North Africa felt very ashamed of her darker skin and admired Europeans.
“I try even harder to be good.. No one ever said anything to mitigate this guilt” – because guilt is a weapon people use to have power over others, and keep that power. The message in guilt is: you are a bad person. For a child, that message is devastating because the child wants nothing more intensely than to be good, for the parent to say: you are a good daughter/ a good son!
Your 4.5 years relationship with that woman was terrible. She was very abusive to you! “Even now she is still trying to contact me out of ‘concern for my well being’. This is why I am so foggy headed all of the time”- I wish you blocked her from contacting you in each and every way; involve the police or take a restraining order against her, if that’s what it takes.
“The problem is I don’t have any support and I don’t know where I would get it”- in the context of this thread, I can be your support.
anitaAugust 22, 2020 at 4:47 pm #365344
Yes, it is horribly selfish. It’s funny in a not funny sort of way: when I was a teenager and starting to find my own independence, meaning doing things for myself and not for my family, my mom called me selfish. Something as simple as getting myself something to eat after work. Then for years I felt guilty doing anything for myself. Thankfully I am trying to change that now, trying to feel okay with self care and doing things that make me happy for the sake of it. It was just her projecting onto me. I guess all of these toxic people have just been projecting on to me. Parents should love their children unconditionally. Now I get some sort of intermittent backwards approval, but it’s not unconditional. And if love isn’t unconditional it isn’t real. That doesn’t mean we always have to approve of what our loved ones do, but we should love them by always treating them with kindness and respect.
You’re right: toxic mothers say what serves them, and people who are in denial about the toxicity of their mothers say things to back them up. Flying monkeys is the term I believe. My father absolved himself of all responsibility, believing just what you wrote: go to your mother, it is her job to take care of you, not mine. But unfortunately my mother didn’t want the job either. So she tried to dump it on me. When I moved away, she dumped it on my older brother and he got glowing accolades for bending to her every will. They think providing food and shelter is enough. It isn’t enough. It’s interesting to hear you had a similar experience with your mother around internalized racism. The principles of racism and all other forms of oppression, that one human being can have power over another…it’s the same principle that exists within toxic families. It all comes down to the same toxic root.
I had forgotten until this moment, how badly I wanted my parents approval as a child. How I longed for affection from them. I remember I used to pretend to fall asleep in the car, hoping my mom or dad would then carry me into the house because they never touched me affectionately. I also remember working hard to clean the house perfectly when they were at work, hoping they would notice and be happy. But they only ever found something to criticize. I remember making a card for my mom for her birthday as a little girl. Secretly buying ingredients to make a cake to surprise her. Buying her chocolate for Christmas. But she’d only complain I was making her fat. Studying hard into the night, getting an A only for my dad to yell at me for not getting a perfect score.
Sooner or later I stopped caring what they thought. But deep down, I never stopped caring or else I would have distanced myself for good. It feels cathartic to type this out and I’m happy to hear you’re willing to support me in this thread. Thank you. I am always the one giving support, not getting it. And if I am “getting it”, it’s from someone who wants to control me. Somehow my childhood experiences have become lost the more connected I’ve been with my family. I can remember the experiences of my siblings, those are ingrained in my mind now. But not my own. Because in the context of my family I have never been first. I have never been important.
Thanks for saying that my ex was abusive. Over the years I have heard mixed messages from people I have talked to about her. My former therapist even called me rude when I intially stood up to her a few months after the breakup. She had rapidly moved on to someone else and then was still bothering me, saying the new person was just a rebound. When I told the therapist how I was confused because sometimes she would be nice, the therapist said “it doesn’t have to be all bad, you can focus on the good”. I think I spoke in my other thread about this so forgive me for repeating myself. So somehow my mind shifted from this 100% being an abusive situation to it not being so bad. I gaslighted myself, so to speak. And it’s hard to know what even happened. I blocked out a lot in my mind.
I did block her though and I am proud about that. She then went and contacted my sister and the friend I mentioned above trying to reach me by proxy. I have no idea how people can act like this. I know if she were sitting in front of me she would say it was because she loves me so much. After a fit of rage and screaming, she would say she did it because she loved me too much. Interestingly, my dad would say the same. I yell because I love you. It’s confusing to say the least. It confuses me how people punch you and then act offended when you bleed (figuratively). Am I always supposed to be someone’s punching bag?August 22, 2020 at 5:33 pm #365346
I will read and reply to your recent post when I am back to the computer, in about 13 hours from now.
anitaAugust 23, 2020 at 10:09 am #365360
As I re-read our recent communication, before reading your most recent post, I saw the word “monster” but then corrected myself, the word I saw was “mother”. The words are similar, I got confused.. but in reality, it happens that a mother is a monster.
And now, to your recent post: you shared that when you were a teenager and you did a simple thing for yourself, such as getting something to eat after work, your mother called you selfish. As a result, you felt then and after, guilty doing anything for yourself.
“Parents should love their children unconditionally”- to love a child on the condition that she does not take care of herself is not love at all. What it is- is training the child to take care of her mother/ family instead of taking care of herself. We have to distinguish between loving a child and training a child– two different things.
Regarding my offer to support you in the context of your thread- you are welcome.
“I am always the one giving support, not getting it. And if I am ‘getting it’, it’s from someone who wants to control me”- I do not want to control you. But at any time in the future of your communication, you might feel that I am trying to control you. When that happens, let me know that it happened, and let me know what of what I wrote to you feels controlling. When you do that, I will consider what you say, and communicate about it honestly with you.
Your former therapist was a bad therapist, just as your former girlfriend was a bad girlfriend. It is as if your therapist at the time supported your girlfriend, instead of supporting you!
Good to read that you blocked your ex girlfriend. I suggest you tell your sister and that friend to no longer tell you if she contacts them, that way she will not be able to reach you by proxy.
You wrote that if your ex sat in front of you, “she would say she did it because she loved me too much.. After a fit of rage and screaming, she would say she did it because she loved me too much”- that’s a lie: her abuse of you has never been about love- not about a little love, and not about too much love- love got nothing to do with it.
Same goes to your father (“my dad would say the same. I yell because I love you”).
“Am I always supposed to be someone’s punching bag?”
My answer: no. I have an idea: if you want to, define love in simple words (not in an academic kind of way), so that you are able to clearly see what is love, and what is not love.
anitaAugust 23, 2020 at 10:52 am #365362
Thanks for saying that I can let you know if I feel you are trying to control me. I doubt I would ever feel that way, but it makes me feel respected that you would say so. It reminds me of the best therapist I ever had. Even though he didn’t share my identities (he was a white man) he let me know right away that although he didn’t share my identities and might not always understand, he would always try to. That made me feel respected and I healed a lot with his help. He was always on my side, and viewed me in an unconditional positive light. On the contrary, this other therapist that did share my identities did not respect me or empathize with me. She enjoyed me being weak and depending on her. She wanted to feel powerful, not help me help myself. I got worse under her care.
What is love? A hard word to define as it is misused all the time. Love is caring for someone at the same level, and at times more, than you care for yourself. Sometimes it’s easier to define something by saying what it is not. Love is not keeping score. There is no obligation in love. Love is respect at all times. Love is allowing a person the freedom to be who they really are. To allow space for them to grow into their highest self. Love does not demand, threaten or invade. Love requires us to do no harm, and in those moments of human weakness when we do harm, to apologize sincerely and take steps so it never happens again.
Yes, my former therapist and girlfriend were bad. Thank you for saying that. It feels validating and makes my heart feel at peace. My inner child feels happy to hear this. For years my heart has been hurting from confusion. People say we shouldn’t judge that we should forgive. But these notions if used wrongly keep us chained to suffering. There has not been anyone on my side, to validate me or my humanity. Often I’ve thought to myself over the past few weeks that I don’t exist. Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and think, who are you? It’s hard to feel like a ghost.