38 years old and I never stop ‘trying’ to do better, be better and feel better. For a long time it was trying to appear better, but I didn’t feel better. With my background of absent parents and family addictions, I had assumed that the therapy I received as a teenager and in my early twenties healed all hurt and made everything A-OKAY! This idea that I should have just dealt with everything life threw at me. But the truth was, when I was younger I couldn’t even access the full level of pain, I had locked it away and thrown away the key so long before that I didn’t even know exactly what this pain was, I had never felt fully okay. I never fully accepted myself. I always felt as though I didn’t fit in anywhere. In fact the biggest challenges came along when I became a Mother. At that point my awareness changed and I started to see things in a very different light. It was as though my subconscious made me aware of this deep rooted damage and pain and guided me to a place of where I could slowly and careful search for and reach into these deep dark places of immense hurt. I made a commitment to myself and my children to spend my life healing from my pain and helping other hurt people feel valued and worthwhile.
But back to the earlier days, the insecurity that sat within me was in every second of every day of every week of every month and year of the first 30 years of my life, even around my closest friends, I didn’t believe they truly liked me (we’re still friends now, so it was completely my own insecurity, abandonment issues and not feeling enough for anyone). This constant self-deprecating aura that I seemed to feed off filtered into all areas of my life. As I grew up, endless negative thoughts manifested within me which led to me attracting and accepting negative behaviors towards me. Meeting people who were not good for me or who treated me badly, but those who treated me the worst, were those who were meant to be ‘closest’. All of this continuously reaffirmed to me what my mind already believed, that I was worthless and I didn’t deserve any better.
I was always the yes person. I never spoke up for the things that really mattered to me or that big things, so I stopped valuing what mattered to me and cared about what other people wanted. Because clearly my values, and thoughts were not worth anything. But as I’m human I would hold it all in and push down all of this hurt and feeling of un-importance and finally get annoyed and kick off over minor things instead. I thought I’d be the ‘bigger person’ by allowing things roll off my back. I truly believed that by not forgiving people, by letting people see they hurt me, I allowed them to win. So I never, or rarely allowed people see the true hurt they caused me. But this action on my part only allowed more of that behaviour. Because I didn’t remove these people from my life. Especially as children, even adult children, we always hope that somehow we’ll get the ‘perfect’ parent, I can only assume it’s the same for everyone. But when you don’t know your parents well, when they live in different countries, or even continents, you just paint a picture of this fantasy. If or when you do see them you try to act in accordance to this ‘fantasy family’ that you have spent your live convincing yourself that they are. That you’re missing out on this ‘incredible’ person. Until you finally become a parent and realise, HELL NO! This is not good enough! Good people don’t treat their kids that way, not under any circumstances, and if they really do feel sorry for how they treated you, they should really powerfully own up to it and make a mends.
However, after years of study and research and my own therapy, I soon realised that you can’t expect anyone to change their perception of the reality they partly created for you. Even if it is someone who helped ‘create’ you. They were not there, maybe physically or emotionally, when you were 6, and wondering what was as wrong with you as a child. That Mom and Dad want to leave and or hurt you, or ignore you. They aren’t by your side, comforting you, cheering you on, teaching you right through your life for the big things or the little things or the confusion or the questions. They aren’t there to instill self worth within you. However they will shower you with excuses and reasons and your innocent child self-absorb what they say as truth, because you trust them and they love you and wouldn’t hurt you, would they?
They may not be there in person, or they may emotionally attack you or abuse you, and all your child self craves is for them to give you that ounce of positive attention and love. Sometimes they apologise and give you scraps of their attention, which of course you cling to and turn it into a scene from ‘The Walton’s’ in your head, feeling in your heart that this time things have really changed and you’re going to finally have an emotionally stable relationship with these humans who are meant to be your biggest champions. Until the next time…. And here lies the beginning of the turbulent relationships you invite into your life, as you don’t deserve any better. This is life, this is how it’s meant to be. Your forgiving nature gets worked time and time again. Thankfully for me, I reached a point in my late 20’s when I realised that something wasn’t quite right, but it took a long time of learning and exploring parts of myself that I didn’t look at since I was a child. Even still, I slowly heal those deep parts, as they are tightly locked away and buried deep. Little by little, bit by bit it became easier to reach into these areas. It’s equally liberating and heart-breaking, scary and empowering.
For me, The most difficult but empowering guided meditation I have ever done was where I was brought to my childhood home, and into various scenes around the house, where I met myself as a baby in my cot and as a child at various ages, and speaking to that ‘child’ version of me, telling her that I’m here now and ready to protect her and that I’ll always be there for her. Telling her not to be afraid, that she’s safe now I’ll protect her. and that I love her. It’s an extremely powerful thing for anyone carrying childhood pain, because it removes you from that child version into ‘protection’ mode. Suddenly you want to protect this child at all costs and give her (or him) all of the unconditional love and safety she deserves. Which in turn, makes you stronger in the Now.
For me, the role of being a Mother hit me with a lot of big unfamiliar feelings and emotions, when I looked into my sons eyes, my heart would burst with love for them and then sink, because all of a sudden the story I use to tell myself about my parents emigrating without me just didn’t seem to add up. I knew there was no situation that I would ever leave my children. As Mothers we instinctively strive to protect, love, learn more, do better, make mistakes, learn, make more mistakes, try again…. We’re human, beautiful and flawed but so full of intense love for our kids.
But with the onset of PND, I soon realised that my issues ran much deeper than I could even understand. It felt as though they were part of my DNA. All of the questions and hurt around my parents absence growing up, how could they leave me? Why did they not come back for me? What was wrong with me? Will I do the same to my kids? How can I make sure to be the exact opposite parent that my parents were to me? What were these feelings I’ve been carrying and trying to ignore for my entire life? Was there just one answer to reach to ‘fix’ myself?
The truth is, my parents, like all parents back in the day, always had their ‘reasons’, and I mostly accepted them growing up, they viewed it as though the choice was taken from them, they had no option but to live on different Continents to me. But the older I got, the more I realised how untrue that was. They made these choices, and life seemed easier for them somehow, they somehow managed to shift the blame and lose their guilt, and that’s great for them. But I guess the accepting, hurt child within me grew up and knew that what they had done to me was unforgivable and the cause of so many deep rooted issues for me. For so long it damaged all of my trust in any other humans, I found it impossible to let anybody in, becoming emotionally closed off to anyone who tried to get too close. As a child, every time my father would visit and return to the US to his ‘every day family’, it was confirmation in my mind that I was never enough for him. Whether it was his intention or not, that was my feeling, my experience. We never had a deep connection, despite my visits. I was close to my uncles, my grandparents and my siblings over there. As a teenager I would have conversations with various family members asking how to gain a deeper connection with my Father. It just couldn’t happen. It felt as though he could not allow himself get too close to me, not like with his real kids. But that’s just my opinion, I don’t know how close he really is with my siblings. It was just a perception I gained from my visits.
The relationship with my mother was never smooth, unlike mothers who make their kids feel unconditionally loved and supported, my mother was incapable and even still has a true bitterness towards me, which still surfaces now. Her moving to Australia when I was 5 until I was 18 was truly mind-blowingly intense in how I viewed myself. Sometimes I’d go months not speaking to her, sometimes we’d chat for hours on the phone, while I’d sit at the bottom of the stairs, other times I’d listen to her, intoxicated, calling me names and telling me how I ruined her life down the phone and so many other things. At age 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and further these were the messages I received from people I loved. I remember being so scared on the phone at times, but I never knew I was actually allowed to hang up on my mother, because I was afraid I’d hurt her feelings, until finally a non–family member told me I should do just that. From then I stopped listening to those words over the phone. There’s an endless cascade of events around this relationship I could speak about, but it’s too much and too intense to share, but needless to say addiction played a huge part in my core childhood relationships.
Trying to heal from, forgive and mend these relationships is something I always wanted, it’s probably why I’ve forgiven time and time again, but the more you learn, the more you heal yourself and the older you get, you really reach a point where enough is enough. Anyone with Anxiety, knows how intense it can flare up out of nowhere, and just how distressing those moments are, the attacks. Identifying triggers is sometimes such a minefield, so when you can identify big ones, it’s a big win! Even if it means cutting people out of your life, it’s vital for your own sake to do just that. Nobody should ever feel entitled to hurt you or entitled to treat you badly or overstep boundaries. Eventually, enough is enough and it’s just time to accept and rid yourself of the fantasy relationships with your parents, it’s highly unlikely they will ever become a reality and you’re wasting your own love and energy on something that is simply not worth it.
For me, learning to set boundaries was a game changer, boundaries with confidence and knowing I’m doing the right thing. Obviously with family members, we still have to deal with each other from time to time, and for me I have to mentally prepare for these events because it’s almost inevitable that I will have some form of mild or extreme/ severe anxiety. Even speaking of, remembering or reliving events around these individuals could create such intense and anxious feelings for me. When anyone has that effect on you, you have to ask why you put yourself through it. Is it worth it? Surely you deserve better. It’s so important to have access to a range of tools within yourself, to help your anxiety pass quickly, especially ones attached to memories/ triggers/ traumas.
For some of us, it’s been unavoidable growing up around or influenced by people who do not care about anything but themselves and their own gain. Sometimes even parents are like this. As adults, we learn and deal with it, but for any child out there right now experiencing this, it’s extremely dangerous and damaging. As adults, when we reach our limit, it is a very bitter pill to swallow before acceptance comes. But with this acceptance comes freedom. Accepting that parents can say the words ‘I love you’ to you and not know what it means because they do not know the meaning of it themselves. Or at least not in relation to you. These people who don’t know how to put their child first, or how to go above and beyond to make sure to put their child first, some parents just don’t know what it even means to create a happy environment for their child. Some parents just don’t see the effect their behaviour had on their kids, even one child can experience a different version of a parent to his or her siblings, and that cannot be dismissed. But, as adults, we learn that it’s okay, that they are simply and fundamentally broken and hurt and can’t heal from their demons and we must make the decision to completely walk away. Finally! Making sure that we heal that hurt so we don’t continue the cycle with our own kids.
Learning the type of people you deserve in your life is so important, holding onto those good friends, even if your circle is exponentially smaller by the end of it, you’ll begin to attract the right kind of people into your circle, because that’s the energy you give off and you won’t allow anyone disrespect you or cross the line with you again.
Never live with regrets, some of us will have to heal from and possibly continue to manage the damage done from childhood or adult traumas, being hurt, being betrayed or abused by those who should have loved and cared for us the most. But you can live a perfectly happy, fulfilled and healthy stress free life, once you eliminate those people who don’t deserve a moment of your time.
For me, I’ve accepted the whole part of me, which is why I love to help others find that light again inside them. It really starts with healing your inner child and taking your power back. Because nobody deserves to hold your power but you.
Sure, during this journey you’ll lose people along the way, especially in a family situation, some people love to take sides because they really have no idea of your side of things, but in order for you to heal, you just have to accept that you can’t change them, you shouldn’t even want to try. They have not lived your life and will not understand your perspective, engaging with them will bring you pain as they will only offer their unwanted opinions, disagree with your feelings and possibly try to invalidate them. So just see it as part of the healing, in your mind you wish them a happy life and cut ties. Know that having 1 person who fully loves, accepts and respects you in your life, is more important and valuable than having an entire family who holds judgment. You need to love yourself before you can love others, and you’ll find it hard to love yourself if you’re surrounded by people who don’t love, accept and support you fully.
It’s all of this pain and healing over the past 38 years, along with becoming a Mum, that made me realise that I will do anything I can to make sure my kids get the best version of me, that I would learn the importance practice of self-worth, self-acceptance, unconditional love, self-belief and resilience so that I could finally live a life of values and teach my boys. I may not have been raised knowing these values, but I absolutely learned them despite that and I’ll make damn sure my kids shine with them.