Emotional Healing and the Return of Self Esteem

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Self Esteem RecoveryI talk a lot about realizing all the lies that were in my belief system.  I realized that I believed I deserved to be treated the way that I was. But that was a lie.  I believed that I was not good enough, and that I was unlovable. Those were both lies.  I believed that I somehow attracted the abuse and even that I asked for it… and that was also a lie. Because I believed that I had done “something” to either deserve it or attract it, I lived in fear of doing whatever it was that I was doing that was causing me to be hurt!

 

As you can see, this belief system stuff is complicated and takes some detective work to unravel.

 

A big part of the problem was that I was addicted to proving that I was worthy by doing things that would prove to others that I was good enough and that I was lovable. But I was addicted to proving it to others.  Add to that the fact that although I didn’t consciously KNOW it ~ I didn’t believe that I even had self worth. Deep down I believed that I was all that they communicated to me that I was.  Their words and their actions had defined me as unworthy, unlovable and not good enough. I thought that my worth would come when THEY validated it.  I thought that when other people agreed that I was actually worthy, that I would believe it too. I especially wanted to be worthy in the eyes of the people who controlled me and defined me the most.  I invested so much time trying to change ME so that I would be validated by others.

 

It didn’t occur to me to convince myself that I was already good enough. It never dawned on me that I didn’t need anyone else to validate me!  I had always been defined and invalidated by others ~ I was who they said I was… which was NOT good enough, unworthy and all that devaluing and discounting other stuff. When I began to realize all the lies that were at the bottom of my low self esteem, realizing that they were lies wasn’t enough. I had to change them to the truth.  That might sound easier than it really is though because those lies are so deeply rooted in the belief system and because I’d developed and accepted the belief SO DEEPLY, that I was the one that had to change and try harder to make everyone accept me.

 

This belief had its roots in the belief that their worth was greater than my worth.  I had no concept of equal value when it came to myself, which was also part of my false belief system.

 

The only way that I could unwind all this was to see it for what it really was by looking at the individual events that defined me as unworthy and that had convinced me that “they” were more worthy.  (I only had to look at a few of them) There were actual reasons that I had accepted guilt and shame that was not mine to carry.  There was a reason that I believed that I was responsible for the emotional welfare of everyone else. I had to dig down into my belief system in order to discover where the roots of those beliefs had their foundations.  Then I needed to clear them out and build a new foundation.  This was where my emotional healing originated.

 

I wasn’t born depressed. I wasn’t born broken.  I wasn’t born dissociated and with multiple personalities. I wasn’t born with low self esteem.

 

The truth is that I don’t need to be validated by others. The truth is that I was born valid. The truth is that I was born equally valuable to everyone else. I was born whole and emotionally healthy. That is the absolute truth. How could it not be the truth? I had to look at both sides; why I thought the lies were truth, and why these new healthy truths HAD to be true.

 

It was in finding out where I lost that knowledge (the knowledge that I was born with self esteem, that I was worthy, lovable and deserving,) that I found the keys to having that knowledge again. I took my life back. I found my true identity and I live in it today.  I found freedom from depression and low self esteem and I embrace my life and my individuality.  I am equally valuable to everyone else.

 

I live in that truth.  You can too. There IS emotional healing from abuse. There is life to the fullest. There is freedom and wholeness on the other side of broken!

 

Please share with the other readers and with me, anything you wish to share.

 

Exposing Truth one snapshot at a time;

 

Darlene Ouimet

The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

~ For more information on Self Esteem Recovery see the Category above for “Self Esteem”

 

107 response to "Emotional Healing and the Return of Self Esteem"

  1. By: Kate Posted: 10th August

    Renee,
    Sorry that it made you feel that wayI didn’t know how to put in into words in a better way. I struggle in converstion with women some because my mother told me (part of the liturgy in my life) that she didn’t to hear my mouth, and it was very hard to know what to say in som many settings in my life growing up. This year, the “year of withdrawal” the menopause year, the year of reflecting, I have been reliving my childhood, the first memories and getting a better perspective on my whole life, so I feel more awkward communicating sometimes. Sorry.

    I guess I was groping after a conversation I had last night with my daughter, and it was also about her dad, and his personality is so in my face these days through my kids. I kept saying to my husband, “Did I cause this?” you know, those types of questions. He said that I did not cause this, so that helps me in moments of intense frustration.

  2. By: Renee Posted: 10th August

    Kate,
    It made me cry but I am over it. I am very sentamental right now so saying boo would make me burst into tears. It will be fine I just have to do some painful work thats all.
    Renee

  3. By: Kate Posted: 10th August

    Renee,
    I hope that you are not offended, I was not trying to be judgemental.

  4. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 10th August

    I left black and white thinking behind years ago when I was taught about it in my 12-Step days. Black and white thinking is a characteristic of adult children of dysfunctional family. It is a life of extremes with no balance. You see life as one way or another with no shades of gray. Today I see all the colors of the rainbow.

    I have found balance in my life today. No one person is all bad or all good. We are a little bit of both. Forgiveness isn’t given just so that you can take it away with your next words of blame and shame. Anytime that you say, “I forgive you, but this is what you did, this is what you said, and on and on and on.” That isn’t forgiveness.

    Forgiveness doesn’t happen as long as I am still angry and defending my actions. Forgiveness comes when I have felt all of my feelings of anger or rage, disappointments, abandonment and grief. Forgiveness happens when I feel no ill will toward the other person or myself when the forgiveness is self-forgiveness.

    A friend was talking about projection of feelings this morning in my library group. He said projection is when we project what we are feeling onto another person so that we don’t have to admit to what we are feeling. We are all guilty of doing this in varying degrees. We project our shadow side on to others. What we don’t like about ourselves we project on to others. The way to end projection is to acknowledge and to accept our own shadow side. Then we can choose to change that about ourselves. I have learned to look at what others say about me to see if it is true or is it a projection of something in themselves that they just don’t want to see. I have also learned to look at myself to see what am I projecting of myself on to others. If I see it, I can stop projecting and heal that behavior.

    We all have our stories to tell. What we need to remember is that we are not our stories.

  5. By: Renee Posted: 10th August

    Thank you Pat. You are right I beleive I am beginning my new journey. I have to learn how to let go, I don’t know how. I know it is what I have to do. It is like learning how to walk. Part of me doesn’t want to go on this journey the other says it is time. I know it is time, I will have to look at myself, It will be hard but like my other journeys it is also about self discoveries, I will be stronger for it and maybe that is the answer Im looking for.
    Renee

  6. By: Kate Posted: 10th August

    Renee,
    I totally identify with your experience. Yes, I have the same thing in my life. I was just looking for a way to somewhat explain your daughter. I only have one daughter, but more than one son.

  7. By: Renee Posted: 10th August

    Kate,
    I dont know if you are repremanding me because I am talking about my daughters. I wrote in hope that other readers had simular situations. I don’t trust my intuition, gut feelings, etc because everything is warpt. I have no baraometer or any way to distinguish between what is the correct way to look at things. I have had many years of therapy. That has helped me function and to the out side world look “normal”, I beleive this is the place where I need to be to speak. I have no where else to go. No where else I can be heard or grow. I read and learn from other bloggers here. I am sorry if I have offended you or any body else that was never my intent.
    Renee

  8. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 10th August

    Renee, no matter how much it hurts, you can’t have a relationship with someone who doesn’t want one with you. That is especially hard when the other person is your child. Some people don’t like us as we get healthier. I am sorry that you are being hurt by this. You have to take care of you.

  9. By: Kate Posted: 10th August

    Renee,
    Maybe this isn’t where you want to go iwith this topic, in conversation, here, etc., but did the dynamic that her father brought to the table have anything to do with her or bear any resemblence to her?

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 10th August

      Hi Everyone!
      Great comments. I am having trouble answering all the comments again lately but I am reading them all.
      ~ We do deserve to heal and heal fully. There is hope and the hope was the first key for me. To actually think that I might be able to recovery my self esteem and then even my identity. Hope that I might be able to live without the baggage of the past and all the manifestations of that baggage! And I did it, the hope turned out to be true, and that is why I write these articles!
      Thanks everyone for being part of this!
      You encourage me every day!
      Hugs, Darlene

  10. By: Renee Posted: 10th August

    Kate,
    Thank you, I wish I could reach her heart but I cant. I have prayed, bullied, asked, pleaded,begged, and I just set myself up for pain. I have been running and trying to catch her since she was born. She is so different and nothing like her sister or me. I have lost hope that she will ever want a relationship with me. I cant figure out why nor a way to get through to her. I know I need to stop it isant fair to those that know me and love me and see the truth.

  11. By: Susan Kingsley-Smith Posted: 10th August

    Thank you Lynda for your compassion for my circumstances with my son. I do have to tell myself, as you do, that I did the best I could and now I can do better. Doing better now is about being a good example by living my new life and hope that he too finds his own path to healing…and maybe that will include a healthier relationship with me but that is only possible if I keep working on me and not enabling his abuse to continue.

    I’m so sorry to hear that you and your children have struggled. Hold tight:) It will be ok. I’m always glad we can share our truth here on EFB and support one another through the journey.

    Hugs to all here today:)

  12. By: Kate Posted: 10th August

    Renee,
    I feel for you, such a drain. I feel like just creating a peaceful place for myself and staying there.

  13. By: Renee Posted: 10th August

    Pat,
    Hello it has been a while, I’ve missed you! I had a heart to heart with my oldest (Lisa)and I cried and cried. My youngest (Alena)doesn’t think twice about hurting me. My girls were raised the same yet they are as different as night and day. Why do I run toward a daughter that has lied,manipulate,and has stolen from me for years? I look the other way and have an excuse for every mistreatment. I have gotten hurt over other family members that would say horrible things about her, yet what they say in reality is true. I just can’t handle others voiceing the truth about her. Lisa asked me why do I cling to Alena when all she has ever done is disrespect me. I just can’t release Alena and let her go. I guess I don’t know the “why” question. Lisa will not have any thing more to do with her sister. I don’t know why I can’t, I wish I could. Every time I have a run in my chest hurts. She has denied me the right to visit with my beautiful grandaughter. She has brained washed her to the point my grandaughter now fears me, it breaks my heart. I beat myself up constantly because I must have done something so terrible wrong to make her so angry at me. I just can’t figure out what it is. I have asked her and she goes into a rage. So many people that she has lied to about me also hate or refuse to have anything to do with me. It hurts I just don’t know how to say goodbye and know I need to. This beats my self-esteem down and I feel so inadiquit as a parent. Which is not fair to Lisa who has been a very loving caring person.
    Renee

  14. By: Lynda ~ Out Of The cRaZy Closet Posted: 9th August

    Oh YES, Fi, you deserve to heal. As you said, We ALL deserve to heal.

    I was thinking about this post topic, “Emotional Healing and the Return of Self Esteem,” as I was driving to and from my therapy appointment today. I was thinking about the false identity we are taught by our abusers in childhood, and how easy it is, during our healing journey, to fall back to that old default way of thinking that we are worthless and bad, especially when we make a mistake of some kind, as all humans occasionally do, particularly during times of severe stress, or when our trauma memories are badly triggered. As Susan recently told me, there is a difference between a REASON, and an EXCUSE. Understanding the reason for our mistakes does not excuse them, but it does give us a place from which to learn, and grow, to make appropriate amends if possible, owning our part of the wrong, and to work on not making that same mistake again.

    Not only is it very easy to fall back to our old default way of hating ourselves when we mess up in some way, it also can happen when someone comes along and, for whatever reason, judges and berates us, perhaps because something about us has triggered one of their own unresolved issues, or because they have caught us in an error, and now we are a pure villain in their eyes. Some people can only think in black or white, all good or all bad, with no in-between, no shades of gray. They will put you up on a pedestal one day, telling you there is nothing whatsoever wrong with you that needs to be changed, and then, a week later, when they catch you in a fault, now they have decided that you are a very sick, damaged person, with a deep-seated, serious fault that you must acknowledge and change immediately. If you disagree with their sweeping judgment of your horribly flawed character, they may take it upon themselves to disparage and humiliate you among your friends and acquaintances, as a “public service,” to warn other people to avoid you.

    When someone presumes to judge me in this way, I can do one of two things. I can simply say, like Susan said, regarding her son’s judgments: “I Disagree.” That is the healthy, grown-up way to respond to a character assassination.

    But…. that old, sick, self-defeating default position of hanging my head in SHAME and agreeing with my accusers that YES, LYNDA IS ALL WRONG, ALL BAD, 100% AT FAULT, CRAZY AND WORTHLESS AND TOXIC TO BE AROUND, IGNORANT, AND TOO STUPID TO KNOW IT ~ when those old messages, that I learned as a child from my abusive parents, and BELIEVED for almost 50 years, start playing in my head like a bad horror movie ~ PART of me, the still-broken, unhealed part of me, wants to just curl up, give up, and DIE.

    I thank God that today, there is only a relatively small part of me that feels that way. Today there is a bigger, stronger part of me, the healthy part, the part of me that KNOWS BETTER. That part of me, KNOWS that I am NOT worthless, I am NOT horrible and bad. On the contrary, I am a very deeply loving, kind, caring, compassionate, giving, and honest person. Yes, I know that I am not perfect. I know that I am not a SAINT. But, neither am I a HITLER. I can be imperfect and make an occasional mistake, and still be, overall, a GOOD, WORTHWHILE, VALUABLE human being.

    When I realize, after the fact, that I have made a mistake, I always do whatever I can to apologize, to make amends, to admit my part of the problem ~ but, like someone here said, I will not take 100% of the blame in a situation, if I honestly do not believe that 100% of the blame is mine. I also am limited in my ability to say that I was wrong and I am sorry, and to make amends, if the person I am trying to apologize to, is refusing to talk with me ~ like my son ~ or has blocked me on facebook. In cases like that, all I can do is tell others who are in contact with the person I have wronged, and let them know that I am sorry, in the hopes that my apology message will be passed on.

    But, the bottom line is: If someone, like my elder son, decides that I am worthless and bad, for whatever reason, and for whatever mistakes, real or imagined or grossly exaggerated, that I may have done ~ does that make it TRUE? My therapist asked me, “If I call you a refrigerator, does that mean that you ARE a refrigerator?” “Of course not,” I replied. “So, if someone declares that you are a worthless human being, does that make you a worthless human being?”

    The answer, again, is: “Of course not.”

    So…. now my question to myself is: WHO AM I? Am I a good person, or am I a bad person?

    If I do a good deed ~ such as surprising my husband by buying him the motorcycle of his dreams, which I did a couple of weeks ago when he got some back money from his VA disability claim, and he told me that, out of love for me, he was going to use all of that money for “practical” things, like paying bills and making repairs to the house, like he knew I wanted him to do, rather than take the money and buy himself the nice 2005 Kawasaki motorcycle he really wanted…. when I made that decision, back on July 18, to sneak out of the house while he was asleep, go and buy the motorcycle I knew he wanted so much, even though I am afraid of them and don’t like to ride on them, and I despite the fact that I REALLY wanted to pay off our bills, and fix up our house, with that money, instead…. when I made that decision to put my husband’s desires first, ahead of my own…. does that single act of love and kindness, make me a Good Person?

    WHO AM I? Am I a good person, or am I a bad person?

    If I do something wrong, such as losing my temper and telling someone off who didn’t deserve to be told off, but at the time, I mistakenly thought they did deserve it, because my rape trauma was being triggered by the conversation, and I was recently bereaved and seeing the whole world through the distorted lenses of my grief, trauma, and pain, and in my temporarily distorted thinking, I misunderstood where the pother person was coming from, I thought they were being cold and snotty and mean, when probably they were not…………….. am I now a BAD, HORRIBLE PERSON, because I got angry and told someone off who did not deserve to be told off?

    As I was driving to my therapist’s appointment today, I kept asking myself that question: WHO AM I? Am I a good person, or am I a bad person? As I drove along, I thought about some of the really bad things I have done in my life, such as having an affair with a married man, because I was so starved for love, and I told myself the lie that what his wife did not know, would not hurt her… yes, I did that. Yes, I was the horrible, evil, selfish, rotten, “other woman.” That happened many years ago, and still the memory of it will make me hang my head in shame.

    But then… as I was thinking about how horrible and selfish I have been in my past desperate search for what I thought was love, I remembered something I did one time, that was the complete opposite of selfishness, something far greater, than giving my husband a motorcycle because I love him, and I knew he really wanted it, and most of all I knew that he deserved it, because he earned his War Veteran’s disability money the hard way, fighting for freedom.

    The year was 1992. I was 39, which I now know was still very young. I was a brand new grandmother, and I was thrilled with my beautiful baby granddaughter. I was also newly-married (to my now ex-husband), and we had just bought a lovely 100-year-old, renovated Cape Cod-style house, overlooking a river, just a mile off the bay on the coast of Maine. I was driving our nearly-new sporty red car, with the sunroof open and my favorite music blaring, heading back to our charming new/old house, after an exhilarating day of shopping in the city of Bangor. Shopping for new things, for the new house. I was feeling on top of the world, loving my life.

    I was driving along a long stretch of a 2-lane, 2-way highway. There was no shoulder along the road, and no passing lanes. The highway was hilly and winding, fun to drive in my sporty car with the 5-speed gear shift on the floor. A large tractor-trailer truck was a short distance behind me. We were both driving the speed limit, perhaps a little over the speed limit, flying over the hills and around the curves, with ease.

    I came around a corner and up over a hill ~ and there was a school bus, stopped dead in the lane right in front of me! I have no idea why it was stopped there, there was no sign for a bus stop, there were no houses or buildings nearby, nothing but thick forest lining both sides of the narrow highway. I knew that if I stomped hard on my brakes, I would, BARELY, be able to stop my little car without running into the back of the bus.

    But, I also knew that the big heavy truck that had been driving a couple of car-lengths behind me for the past 30 or so miles, driving as fast as I was, would NOT be able to stop in time to keep from plowing into ME, when it came around the corner and over the hill that I had just driven over. I knew that truck would be coming up behind me, within just a few seconds. If I slammed on my brakes, I could stop my car without hitting the school bus ~ but then, I was sure, the truck that was about to come around the curve behind me, would plow right into me, and I would be smashed in my little car, pancaked between the truck, and the bus.

    It’s truly amazing how many thoughts can fly through your mind, in just a split-second of time, when you are faced with a sudden life or death situation! I instantly saw that I could not go around the school bus, because there was a line of cars coming toward me in the only other lane. If I tried to go around the bus, I would hit that line of 3 or 4 vehicles, head on.

    Although there was no shoulder along that part of the highway, there was a narrow, shallow ditch, between the road and the thickly wooded forest. I thought that I could steer my car to the right of the bus, drive down into the ditch, and thus save myself from the truck that was sure to plow into my car, IF I slammed on my brakes and stopped behind the bus.

    I could see several wide-eyed grade-school-aged children looking at me, out the window of the back door of the bus. If I saved my own life, by running my little car off to the right and down into the narrow ditch, the huge heavy truck that was close behind me, would have no where to go, but to plow straight into the back of the school bus….

    In that split instant, when I was deciding what to do, I remembered a story I had head on the news a few years earlier, about a stopped school bus full of children, with a car stopped directly behind it, and a big tractor-trailer truck coming around a curve in the highway, and not being able to stop. The truck had slammed into the car, pancaking it almost flat, between the truck, and the school bus. The elderly couple in the car were killed instantly, BUT ~ none of the children on the bus were seriously hurt.

    If I slam on my brakes and stop behind this bus, I thought, in a couple of seconds, the truck that I know is right behind me will come flying around the curve, and it will have no where to go ~ the ditch between the highway and the forest was much too narrow for the truck to drive into, it was barely big enough for my little sports car. If I slam on my brakes, and stop behind the school bus, I will have maybe 2 or 3 more seconds left to live ~ but, I may save the lives of these children, who still have their whole lives ahead of them. My one life, for their many lives. The life of one 39-year-old, in exchange for a dozen or more grade-school children.

    I didn’t want to die! But, MORE than that, I didn’t want the children on that bus to die. So I made my split-second decision, slammed on my brakes as hard as I could, and stopped my car just inches away from the stalled school bus. As I stared into the eyes of a little boy whose life I hoped to save, by giving up my own life, I waited for the impact that I was sure would come any moment. I, the big chicken that I usually am, didn’t even feel any fear ~ there wasn’t enough TIME to feel fear!

    One second, two seconds, and in my rear view mirror I saw the big 18-wheel truck careen around the corner behind me, and then….

    The truck-driver immediately swerved into the lane that had the line of 3 or 4 oncoming cars. He apparently had made a split-second decision to drive his truck head-on into the line of oncoming cars, rather than hit the school bus ~ even with my car there to provide some cushion.

    And, this is the truly amazing part: the line of on-coming cars immediately drove down into the narrow ditch on their side of the highway! The truck flew past me, flew past the school bus, flew right between us and the cars that had driven into the ditch, and no one was hurt, not even in any of the cars that had run off into the ditch, they all drove right back onto the highway and continued driving as if nothing had happened!

    A moment later, the school bus started up again. WHY that driver had been stopped in such a crazy dangerous place, I have no idea.

    I am not a saint. I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I am fallible. I am human. I get angry sometimes when I shouldn’t. I have been very selfish in my past.

    But, I am NOT BAD. I am a person who was born equally valuable to every other human being, born that way, not because of anything I had done or said to give myself value, my value was built into me, from infancy on, by my Creator. I am a person who was badly, horribly, broken by an abusive childhood home, and from there, groomed for abuse, I went into horribly abusive relationships and marriages that were doomed to fail before they began. In my brokenness and pain and confusion, I made a lot of mistakes. I made mistakes as a mother. I made mistakes as a friend. I made mistakes as a wife. I made all kinds of mistakes, and I still sometimes make mistakes.

    But I have always done the best I could, with what I had. Maya Angelou said it best: “You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better.”

    WHO AM I? Am I my good deeds, or am I my bad deeds? Am I worthy, or am I worthless? Does my value depend on how good or how bad my behavior is on any given day? Does my value depend on how recently I have done a good deed, or how recently I have done something wrong?

    I believe my value is inborn, God-given. I believe my value is EQUAL, to every other human being. I am not more valuable than anyone else, but neither am I less valuable. I was created equal. I may sin, I may do good. I may get angry and hurt someone’s feelings very badly, and I may, in a moment’s decision, choose to lay down my life, to save the lives of a school bus full of children that I don’t even know. I don’t think I am that extraordinary for doing that, I believe that most human beings with a heart and a soul, would have done the same thing.

    I believe we need to have more compassion for each other, and for ourselves. We need to allow ourselves, and others, to be imperfect.

    If I have learned one thing, I have learned this: We need to give ourselves, and others, a break. Give ourselves and others the benefit of the doubt. Forgive ourselves, and forgive others. Know that none of us is going to be perfect all the time, in this life. And know that that is OK.

    Anger, rage, judgment… it needs to go. I need to let it go. God help me, I will never again post an angry response to anyone online. Not even if I think at the time that they deserve it. I will keep my anger to myself, write it in my private journal, share it with my therapist, maybe talk about it with my husband or a close friend. But no more anger written online, no matter how provoked or discounted or trauma-triggered I may feel. God help me to keep this resolution!

  15. By: Pam Posted: 9th August

    Patricia, As long as we keep trying and continue to grow, I think our children will see that and hopefully, be encouraged to keep trying and grow as well. That is my hope, anyway. On thing for sure, they know their mom is a fighter and that I never give up. I have a feeling that is true for you too.

  16. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 9th August

    Learning to love myself is when my real healing started. Letting go of the lies, surrounding myself with people who loved me and believed in me helped me to start to love and believe in myself. Getting the abuser out of my life because he was still toxic and willing to abuse if I let down my boundaries that kept him out was the most frightening, most healing thing that I did.

    I am blessed that both of my children know my story and are accepting of the new, healthier me. They didn’t always understand what I was going through in the beginning of my healing journey and at the time, I didn’t know what I was feeling so I couldn’t explain it to them if they had asked. They were teenagers before I began to find some balance in my emotions. In each of them, I see some of the traits of dysfunction that I passed on to them, some of the same fears. Today, I am glad that I can show them that I have gone beyond the fear and the rage that I once felt and so can they if they are willing. I believe that most of what we teach our children comes through the modeling of healthier behaviors and the way that we handle conflict. It hasn’t been a gentle journey but I am worth it.

  17. By: Fi MacLeod Posted: 9th August

    I remember my disbelief and confusion last December while in a mental health assessment meeting when one of the people said to me “I wish you well in your healing journey, you deserve to heal”. I remember saying “what do you mean I deserve to heal?” It was quite key turning point in my healing journey. I keep going back to that when my self esteem gets knocked. But yes I deserve to heal – we all deserve to heal – and healing is possible. When I think of how far I’ve come during the last few months it is quite breathtaking. Thank you Darlene for the encouragement and hope in this post. Even just the title is so full of hope that it is possible to get our self-esteem back! Wonderful!!!!

  18. By: Lynda ~ Out Of The cRaZy Closet Posted: 9th August

    Susan, my heart is right there with you, in what you are going through with your son. I have 3 grown children, 2 sons and 1 daughter. My daughter is the middle child. My daughter and I, and my younger son and I, get along just fine. We’ve had problems in years past, when my children were much younger and they were apparently in survivor mode, and siding with the strong abuser against the weak broken mother. But we’ve talked these issues out, and come to a mutual understanding, forgiveness, love, and respect, which is awesome.

    But my elder son…… yesterday was his 40th birthday. My heart aches because he is not in my life at this time. I have tried, and continue to try, to reach him, with my love and understanding and by making amends for my part of what has gone wrong between us. I haven’t given up on him yet, but, like you, I will not allow him to continue to be disrespectful or verbally abusive toward me.

    It isn’t easy for him, I understand that. My eldest was born when I was 18, and less than 2 years out of that horrible state mental institution where my mother put me mainly to get me out of the way when she married my stepfather, because “no house is big enough for 2 women,” as my mother told me at age 14… I see now that she was afraid that her new husband, who was always a gentleman around me, might become sexually attracted to me, as my real dad had done, when I was 12 and didn’t know what was going on, I didn’t even know what sex was, then. So anyway, after 2 years in the hellhole institution, which has since been closed and torn down, I married an abusive husband when I was 16 to get away from my mother, and in that abusive marriage ~ I’m talking verbally abusive, physically abusive, and sexually abusive ~ me, a very broken teenager, became pregnant and gave birth to my now 40 year old son. I loved him and did the best I could as his mother, but my best was pretty lousy, I know that now. He has reason to be angry and resentful and hurt. But if he will not accept my apology and amends, there is nothing left that I can do. I will not allow him to beat me up emotionally and verbally, for things that happened when I was very badly broken and sick and in so much pain, 30 and 40 years ago.

    Lately I have really had to fight against falling back into the default position of hating me and blaming me for everything. I keep reminding myself of one of my favorite quotes, by the poet Maya Angelou: “You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better.”

    That works for doing what you knew how to do 30 or 40 years ago, and it works for doing what you knew how to do, 2 or 3 months ago… now, with the help of my therapist and loved ones, I am not nearly so emotionlly unstable as I was in June, after my cousin died, and I thought it was my fault. I know Elaine would not want me to destroy my own life and relationships, with guilt over her death. I will not give up on me, not while I am still living on this earth.

    Lynda

  19. By: Lynda ~ Out Of The cRaZy Closet Posted: 9th August

    Thank you, Darlene, for your persistence! I do have some good loving understanding people in my corner, I am very blessed to have that, after NOT having anyone in my corner, for most of the first 50 years of my life. My husband, he is always for me, no matter what. My aunt, who recently lost her only daughter, has been in my corner for the past several years. Since Elaine drowned, my aunt has told me that she considers me her adopted daughter. I’m not sure how I feel about that… of the two sisters, my mother and my aunt, I have always longed to have my aunt as my mother. But I know that I can never take the place of her only daughter, my cousin Elaine.

    I guess I’m having survivor’s guilt. My therapist has helped me to understand that one of the reason my cousin’s death hit me so very hard, is because she was more like a little sister to me, than a cousin. As the eldest child, when I was 12 and my mother was doing insane things like trying to gas us all to death, I felt totally responsible for keeping my 4 little pre-school siblings out of my mother’s hair, and ALIVE. For the 2 horrible years between my mother’s first and second marriage, when I was 12 – 14, I truly felt that keeping my 2 little sisters and 2 little brothers safe, fed, alive and well, was entirely up to ME. My therapist has helped me to understand that I had transferred that caretaking feeling to my much-younger cousin. 4 days before her drowning death, my cousin Elaine told me that if she “only had the energy to do it,” she would kill herself. I immediately went into full big sister life-saver mode. I told my cousin that my husband and I would get in the truck immediately, and drive to her house to be with her ~ a 200 mile drive, which would take at least 3 and a half hours. Unknown to my cousin, my husband and I were both sick and on antibiotics at the time, him with bronchitis, and me with an infected tooth. We didn’t feel up to making such a long drive, and our budget at that time didn’t have the money for the fuel for the trip, we would have had to put it on our emergency charge card. But none of that mattered to me, or to my husband, compared to saving Elaine’s life! But when I told her that we would get on the road immediately to be with her, she said NO, she did not want us to do that, and she told me that she had a friend staying with her and looking after her. So I asked her if I could talk to her friend. I heard Elaine tell him, “Would you mind talking to my cousin? She is really worried about me.” Alex, her friend, got on the phone and told me that he had been staying with her for about 3 weeks and was keeping watch over her. I told him that Elaine had told me she wished she had the energy to kill herself, and Alex said, “I know, she has told me the same thing. That’s why I’m staying with her, and trying to help her.” So then I talked to my cousin again, and she assured me that she was NOT SERIOUSLY suicidal, she was just “having that thought,” and felt like she needed to tell me. She promised me that she would go for professional help within the next day or two, which she did do. I also got Alex’s phone number, and gave him mine, and asked him to call me at any hour day or night and told him we would be there for Elaine, it would just take us a few hours to drive there.

    After I got off the phone with my cousin, I then called her mother, my aunt, and told her what Elaine had told me. I also told her that her friend Alex was staying with her, and that I had talked to him. I told my aunt that Stan and I were ready willing and able to go to Elaine, and had offered to, but that Elaine said she did not want us to do that. My aunt then told me that her daughter Elaine had also told her recently about having suicidal thoughts, but that Elaine had told her mother very emphatically that she really would not go through with it, and that she did NOT want her mother to go to her aid… my aunt lives in Michigan, about 1,000 miles away, and she has a fear of flying. She often drove from there to here in New Mexico, to visit her daughter, usually 2 or more times per year. But she was respecting her daughter’s wish that she NOT go to be with her at that time……. and, I also respected my cousin’s wish that my husband and I not go to be with her at that time.

    I feel so guilty when I remember how relieved I was, that Elaine already had a friend staying with her and did not want us there, because of the fact that Stan and I were both sick, I was having a bad reaction to my antibiotic, AND we really were tight for money, so making that trip would have put us in a bit of a financial bind. Still, both my husband and I assured my cousin that we were keeping our truck filled with fuel, and were ready and willing to go to her at any hour of the day or night, OR to bring her here for a time, if she wished…

    Four days later, my cousin Elaine drowned. Her death is still being investigated, due to what the state police call “suspicious circumstances,” and we still are waiting on the toxicology reports, before we can get a final ruling of the cause of her death. MEANHWHILE, I not only lost a very dearly loved precious relative, one of only from my family of origin, who was “on my side” and who saw my mother for the abuser she is….. in addition to losing the only blood relative I had in this state, and someone I loved so much, I FELT LIKE I HAD LET HER DIE, by not going straight to her side, when she told me during one of our final phone conversations, that she would kill herself if she had the strength.

    This is why it hit me SO HARD. I truly believed that my cousin’s death, was MY FAULT. I am still struggling with this… I have another appointment with my new therapist in a few hours, so I am working on my issues ~ like you said, Darlene, the PERSISTENCE, not giving up, that is KEY. Life is life, there will always be set-backs and losses and people who shun us and bad-mouth us and block us on facebook or whatever… life is good but life is also hard, and we never know what is coming next around the corner. The key is to NOT GIVE UP, no matter what.

  20. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 9th August

    Pam
    In Comment # 32 ~ that is almost exactly my story and my feelings about the whole family/kid thing too.
    Thank you for sharing that…
    Hugs, Darlene

  21. By: Susan Kingsley-Smith Posted: 9th August

    Pam – I like the way you put that in your last paragraph. Me too. By doing my work and modeling this new way of being I think that is the best thing I can give them right now. I can’t fix what I gave them but I can now give them something different.

  22. By: Susan Kingsley-Smith Posted: 9th August

    Kate; thank you for your encouragement:) I do believe that by insisting that I be heard and treated as though I have value that in the end he will benefit as will I. What I meant by sacrificing is that by not standing my ground I would be perpetrating the dysfunction and that would not be helpful for me or him. The journey is sometimes bumpy and I think thats where we are right now. As long as I keep working on me and let him work on himself I have a lot of hope. 🙂

  23. By: Susan Kingsley-Smith Posted: 9th August

    Hi Darlene; yes. For a long time I allowed him to treat me badly because I felt responsible for him being hurt to begin with. But he’s an adult now and almost 30 years old and he’s not interested in learning or supporting my changes so it all comes down to boundary work with him it would seem. He very much identifies with the rest of the family that still needs me to be the “sick” one. Its definitely a delicate dance to engage in. We seem to keep our distance then come together again and this seems to allow for some gently changing while I practice not being intimidated by him and holding my confidence. I also see the changes in us as a family in the broader sense as we have made some big changes by making small changes over time. Its just right now we seem to be in one of those times where we may need to step away for a bit. I always worry that we won’t have another chance to do more growing and changing because he is an adult now and I can’t make him talk to me or understand, listen to or respect how I feel. So I try to have patience and am grateful to be able to share here where everyone “gets” it and it helps to hear how you’ve dealt with these issues. 🙂

  24. By: Pam Posted: 9th August

    Kate, I’m really not sure who teaches who in the parent child relationship but I know it is a continuing adventure. We aren’t a perfect family but we do have a lot of love for one another and that does much in smoothing out a bumpy road. I’m glad that my words encouraged you.:0)

    Love,
    Pam

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