I had another session with my psychologist the other day and something she said has been going around and around in my head.
She keeps saying the things to me that I would be saying to anyone who came to see me if they had the kind of background I have hehehe. I like it.
She more or less said it is not possible to be as severely damaged in childhood as I was and expect to end up with no scars. She said the best you can hope for is that you will learn to cope with the after effects. She said even then you will most likely only reach that point after 20 years of intensive therapy.
She said I have done well, remarkably well, healing myself but the very experiences that make me so valuable as a therapist have left their mark. I am vulnerable to falling apart when things trigger me but so is everyone. What really matters is I am able to recover quickly and prevent myself from doing too much harm to myself.
She is right. In a perfect world I would be able to heal so completely there would be no marks left from the wounds inflicted on me as a child but this world is not a perfect one.
I carry the scars of childhood abuse. I have problems trusting people. I have a lot of trouble believing anything I do is ever good enough. I am vulnerable to paranoia and pessimism and I often feel unsafe. When I feel threatened enough I fall apart at the seams and believe I cannot cope. Every once in a while I come completely undone and end up in a blubbering heap of irrational, extreme, distress.
It happens. It always has happened. The main thing is I am now able to recognise it is happening and deal with it. I suffer but not for long. Not for anywhere near as long as I used to. Twenty years ago it would take months for me to regain my composure and, during those months, I would behave in ways that always made things worse for me. Now I can get back to normal in a matter of minutes or, at worst, a couple of days maximum and I rarely do anything to make things any worse for myself now. Quite the opposite. I have finally learned to reach out and ask for help so things are going from strength to strength.
She is not saying anything to me that I did not already know but, somehow, hearing her say them makes them more believable for me.
She knows my deepest, darkest, most shameful secrets and she does not judge me. I know my secrets are not as bad as I once thought they were but, somehow, seeing her react to them the same way I would have reacted to anyone sharing such secrets with me has taken the pain out of them.
I think I am ready to let them go. I think I am ready to close the door on the past and be satisfied with the work I have done on myself in that area. I think that is why I have followed through on taking the prescribed anti-depressants and getting counselling. Because I am ready to move on to the next phase of my life.
She asked me when was the last time I felt joy and I had to confess I never have felt that emotion. Constant, chronic, anxiety has robbed every good time of any joy it might have given me by tainting it with fear.
She administered a test to measure the level of my depression and said it is in the moderate range. If I am currently still classified as moderately depressed I hate to think what I would have scored before. On my personal scale of depression I am currently happier than I have ever been before in my entire life!
She seemed to think there is something we can do about both those things. I hope so. I long to know what it feels like to be joyful even if only a little bit and even if only just once before I die.
I saw my Mother the other day and she also said something that keeps replaying in my head. She said I had made her very happy.
All through my childhood I was never able to make my Mother happy. Nothing I did was ever good enough for her. No matter what I did or how hard I tried she would criticise my efforts. I gave up trying to please her and I accepted, somewhere deep inside, that I was not good enough and I never would be.
Now my Mother has, at long last, said she is happy with my efforts to please her.
It came as a massive surprise. All I did was visit her for the first time in close to two years and make two of the four phone calls I have made to her in all that time. I know my efforts to stay in touch have been poor. They always have been but this time my Mother did not complain about what I have failed to do. She was just happy about what I finally did do.
My Mother is in a nursing home. She has Pick’s disease. It’s a form of dementia and it has changed her. It has changed her a lot. The sad thing for her is that I think it has changed her for the better. She can’t remember the things I do wrong. She can’t arrange her thoughts well enough to criticise me. All she can do is tell me how she is feeling at the time I am speaking to her. Every time I speak to her it makes her happy and she tells me, over and over again, how happy she is to hear from me.
My Mother is easy to please now. I wonder if that is also helping me put away my life long belief that I am not good enough and I never will be good enough?
It is certainly helping reduce my reluctance to have anything to do with her. I am liking her approval very much and I intend to call her every week from now on. I will also try to make more of an effort to visit her when I can.
I feel like all the pieces are finally coming together for me but I wish, with all my heart, it wasn’t happening at such a huge cost to my Mother.
Upon reflection I can see this is a very self-centered view of what is happening to my Mother. The woman she was has gone completely. She does and says things that I know would cause her old self unbearable pain and shame. The woman she used to be would not approve of the woman she has become.
I try not to be selfish and self-centered but I grew up with the woman my Mother used to be. My Mother was extremely cold, childish, selfish, and self-centered. I did not like that woman and I had as little to do with her as I could manage. I’m very sorry she has this disease but only because it will cut her life short.
I am not at all sorry the disease has stolen her real self from her and I do not miss the woman she used to be one little bit. I like the woman she has become and it feels good being able to love my Mother the way I am supposed to. This attitude is, in some ways, a blessing for her now because I relate to her with no grief, no regrets, no distress over the change in her.
I don’t wait for her to know who I am. I make a joke of it. “You remember me Mum”, I say straight away, “you couldn’t possibly forget someone as wonderful as your eldest daughter Kim now could you?” She gets to laugh and pretend she would never forget me instead of having to ask me who I am. I could not make her laugh if I was consumed by grief over who she has become.
There are people out there, however, who have lost someone they loved very much to this disease and I apologise if my attitude offends or distresses them.
The woman I knew is not the same woman my younger siblings remember. She mellowed over time but it was too late for our relationship – it was ruined already and I never got to know the Mother they knew. If this entry offends or distresses any of my siblings I apologise to them too.