How I had been devalued, the root causes of my struggle with depression and anxiety, was hard to see for the longest time. It was like trying to see through a window with shimmery curtains waving back and forth. There were good things in my childhood too. Those things would wisp across my vision and confuse the painful feelings that I had at the same time. I would change my stance to see from a different view but the curtains were still there, still rippling across the window. I had to focus my vision closer and look at the curtains, see them for what they truly were, before I could pull them back and see through the window to freedom.
My Mom had very clear visions of how she thought my life should look (she talks about these in Part Two of this series). She had specific ideas about what would make me happy. I described my Dad as being the Unengaged Gardener in an earlier post. His belief system about himself held him back from cultivating my individuality, from emotional involvement and interaction with me. My Mom was a much more active gardener. In many ways, I am thankful for the work that she did in trying to help me be a happy member of our family and of society. She took the risk of getting her hands dirty in the soil and because of that I had a lot more material to work with as I sorted through her belief system’s impact on me. But my Dad still had a huge role in how my own belief system developed, whether he meant to or not. Together, my parent’s belief systems merged to create what I believe is a very common and often misunderstood inner “tornado” effect: My Dad’s passivity left a huge hungry hole that I was desperate to fill. My Mom’s belief system taught me to try and fill that hole with the wrong soil, soil that couldn’t sustain deep and fulfilling life. The problem was that her ideas of what would make me happy were too shallow and skewed. They weren’t bad things in and of themselves, but they were not the things that would really help me thrive. She planted a false belief system.
My Mom never told me that I had to get married to be happy. She never told me to be thin so I could attract a man. She didn’t actually say that I would only be valuable if I was married and had children. But I saw her belief system lived out in her own life. I saw how she served my Dad, how she made it a priority to teach me how to clean and cook and sew, how she watched her own weight, how she didn’t find her own happiness outside of these enclosing borders. I knew very well the look of concern that would cross her face when I would take a second helping at dinner. I knew that she was very pleased whenever I had a boyfriend or did something good at church or performed well at my piano recitals. I knew she was proud of me, in a sense… But here’s the twist: she was proud of me when I fulfilled her own visions. She was pleased when I lived out her dreams for me. No attention was paid to whether or not Carla herself was really happy in doing these things. And the things that I did enjoy doing were not investigated. In my play, my parents didn’t join in to find out about me. When I would wake up in the early hours of a Saturday morning to prepare a huge spread of food for my family (food is one of my passions) their subtle response was that I had wasted food and made a mess. The things that really made me tick were overlooked. So I learned to overlook them too.
The roots of my own happiness, the deep underpinnings that made me me were not nurtured. The voices that I was born with, deep in my heart, that held the key to what would create a truly fulfilling life for Carla were not given a chance. They were overpowered by the voices from my Mom’s belief system (and eventually, they would come under direct fire within the religious system I became immersed in).
This was the heart of the devaluing that happened to me. The pain of this devaluing was very real and set me up as an easy candidate for depression, anxiety, fear, and abuse of other kinds. My own pleasure, my ability to listen to my own heart, was disconnected from within myself (where it belonged) and implanted into someone else. I was maniuplated to survive by pleasing someone else, by fulfilling someone else’s dreams. Until now, I didn’t know how to live any other way.
Working to part the curtains!….