Feeling like there is something wrong with me

So apparently I have spent my whole life feeling and believing that there was something wrong with me. You know I always felt like somewhat of a misfit wherever I went. I spent good part of my twenties believing that if I look hard enough I will find some environment I belong to. Then I spent other part of my twenties addressing this feeling of misfit in therapy never quite understanding the deepest reasons for it. I feel I am finally getting it….

The thing is I never felt like others around me….They always seemed to find it easier to manage, to adopt, to work for their dreams, whereas I felt like there was some deep seated reason as to why I will never be like them. Almost like there was a reason why should have never been accepted to this world….

I have not yet explored the core reasons for feeling that way, but I suspect they go back to my mum comparing me to everyone else and finding me lacking in every aspect. She even regularly told me that she wishes X or Y would her child and that I should have never been born. So I am guessing there is quite easy connection to be made there…

But interestingly I never acknowledged the amountof self-punishment in me. Namely I punished myself for believing that there was something horribly wrong with me. I found different ways of punishment starting from eating disorder and ending with pinching pimples. It all felt satisfying. I know it must feel pretty bad as you are reading it.

I never really fully understood that this was one of the main issues. I just thought that if I spend enough energy to be like everyone else, I would somehow escape this feeling. This included trying to become what several ex boyfriends wanted me to be. I thought that as long as I am what they want me to be, I cannot be wrong or dysfunctional because someone else approves of me. Well I mostly failed because, oh surprise, you can never fully become what others want you to be. However there are different ways of interpreting the situation and of course I chose the one that entitled me feeling bad for myself.

So this is my current struggle….facing my feelings of wrongness and admitting that I have felt defective my whole life….

 

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Helplessness and codependency

I am currently starting to question myself as a person in different kind of relationships. Few days ago I complained to a friend of mine that I feel I am not bringing much to my relationships and that I am mostly taking. One would say – a typical codependent relationship where I am someone who is being taken care of. And yes, I have been in this place several times before. However, at this point I was still under the impression or was trying to somehow please these other people as well. Now, when the masks have fallen I just feel plain selfish. Other people keep telling me that I am not, but I really cannot shake the feeling that somehow they don’t even comprehend the extent to which I am.

My ex, with his many flaws, I think got this evaluation right on me. He complained that he was giving me much more than I returned. I think I need to agree with him, however the reasons behind it are probably more complicated than just me being selfish.

I am realizing that I don’t think I have much valuable to give to people. I have grown so used to seeing myself as helpless and somehow non functional that I really see myself as this tornado causing harm to other people. Yes, I have several good qualities and I am a quite tornado, I am not a needy, demanding, drama causing tornado, but I feel I am the kind of, I am too helpless to take care of myself tornado. Seeing yourself from this perspective is not the most flattering thing.

I think in the end, why I feel that way and why I have adapted such behaviors throughout my life is because my mum felt so afraid that she will be abandoned unless she makes it clear that I am absolutely helpless without her. That involved different strategies. It involved doing some simple things for me and questioning my abilities to do that, like ordering taxi when I would go to the airport. But it also involved telling me that without her help I would have never learned things, for instance take her statement that I would have never learned how to read, had it not been for her. She painted this image of me as completely talentless and helpless struggling person who was in desperate need for someone to be there for her. And then she used this to manipulate me, by counting all the favors she had done for me when she needed me to do something. She threatened to abandon me, knowing fully well that because of the dependency she had created, these threats would be much more effective. Mind me, I doubt that it was fully conscious strategy, but stil….

So to this day I am someone who is used to seeing myself as helpless and prone to mess things up. I have built my life around this idea, being afraid to immerse myself fully in a grownup life and looking for partners that would be willing to take care of me. To be honest I am not sure if this belief is even fully reversable, because it seems to be the bottom layer of my whole personality. See dysfunctions can be the building grounds for most of your personality. In my case, I have developed my social skills, my empathy, my charm, my humor and my cuteness to compensate for this helplessness and to find such caretakers. I have no idea how far I can go with changing my belief in terms of helplessness and how it might affect the rest of my personality.

 

Feeling like you are all wrong

So I have made some pretty big discoveries lately and hoefully also big leaps in terms of my recovery. I had a fight with a friend that made me feel like a weeping toddler and pushed to figure out why I felt so out of control. There it is…..

You know these people that make you feel like you are some knock-off copy of themselves. Like you are the Chinese version of whatever technical product there is….Yes, my mum and my ex where those people. It was not only that they criticized me, they wanted me to become them. They scolded me about things they were good at, letting me know how horrible I was compared to them. They did not pay attention on things I actually excelled at. Furthermore, when I said something good about myself, both were quick to put me down.

Essentially I think there are two reasons why someone would do that. The first one is, that probably both have so low self esteem that they needed to constantly put someone down in order to feel good about themselves. They also needed to rationalize that the way they are, is good. Their character traits are the ones one should aspire for. So naturally admitting that someone else would have character traits that are valuable, but which they did not possess would make them so insecure that they could not let it happen.

The second reason is that it is about control. You are making the other person part of yourself. You push them to aspire for becoming you, through critizing the things you are good at and they are not. By focusing on your natural talents, you are always one man up.

So I realized, I have spent my whole life feeling like there was something wrong with me. Like somehow I did not measure up, character wise. I still have little belief in my positive traits, the ones which neither my mum nor my ex acknolwedged, and I tend to treat them as worth very little. I have spent my whole life trying to focus on things which I was perhaps not naturally the best at, just to please someone (or not even please, because they were never pleased). I am instantly critical about any of the good traits I possess which my mum (and my ex) did not. For instance I know I can be pretty charming if need be, but I just see it as superficial and vain.

To be honest, correcting this seems like quite a bit of work from my end because I will need to start actually analyzing and acknowledging what I am naturally good at.

How self hate can be good…

It has been a while since my last post and I have mainly been busy with both work as well as with therapy. So today I thought I will write a bit about something which I am currently working on. Namely anger towards oneself.

Self hatered actually makes a lot of sense and is a perfect protection mechanism. If you were a child that was unfairly punished and had to deal with a lot of parental behavior which did not make sense to you (because it was never about you), then learning to hate oneself was probably the only way to gain some control under such circumstances. See, admitting that your parent is unfair and is unleashing their own issues on you would have made you very vulnerable. Suddenly you would be admitting that you are living together with an irresponsible sadist (at the extreme). It is much easier to believe that there is indeed something wrong with you and you have somehow caused your parents anger. I mean then you have at least some hope for change….

There is however a drawback. It is not like hating oneself is easy or nice….It will probably make you relentlessly trying to change yourself. I mean, I have invested my whole life into self development, pushing myself to mainly be someone else. The problem was that whatever change I did achieve, it never really made me feel better about myself. Quite the opoosite. Each change was just a testament to how this feeling of self hatred never left. But, heyyy, at least I felt like I was in control. But with what price…

So now I am starting to accept the fact that I was never in control and this has created some serious anxiety. Admitting that the punishments you received were random and somewhat sadistic must have been one of the most difficult things I have done in this life. In a way, my self hatred protected me till now from this absolute feeling of lacking control.

The bottom line is that I assume that like for me, for a lot of other people, self hatred was very functional under the circumstances they grew up in…

It is Ok to want to be loved

I think current self-development literature is often counterproductive towards those with low self-esteem and feelings of unlovability. Namely you can read from everywhere how you need to love yourself first, how other people cannot be solutions to your self-esteem issues and how in general you should just work harder on yourself if you feel that way. Let me tell how these sentiments have impacted me.

First, they have made me feel ashamed for wanting to be loved. You feel as if there is something so deeply wrong with you for not feeling it inside you and for seeking other people to love you. Second, they have me be stuck with guys that were either totally unavailable or ultimately did not love me. I just assumed that me feeling unloved in these relationships was my deep personal problem and maybe, actually these guys did love me, I was just too needy. Furthermore, since I was notoriously broken and had this deep ingrained issue of not being able to provide for myself, what other people did, maybe I did not even deserve a loving man?

It is easy to stress on self-sufficiency and the need to love oneself and not be dependent on someone else’s love if you have had a good loving family. It is clear that if you felt support throughout your childhood, you also developed self-compassion, empathy and healthy self-esteem, so you probably do not need to seek for these feelings in other people. However, coming from that position and telling to people that spent their childhood feeling unloved, that they should not look for other people to feel loved is pretty short sighted. It is almost like telling to a five year old kid that they should just love and provide for themselves and be more independent and not rely on their parents. Usually that was how these kids that felt unloved got treated. They got told that their dependency needs as well as ingrained wish for love from their parents was inappropriate or downright bad.

So here is my suggestion as to what people that have felt unloved their whole life need. Instead of telling them to learn to love themselves, I think we should tell them that they in fact did miss out on something big. It is OK for them to feel unloved and look for love, because they in fact were never coddled and loved. There is nothing and absolutely nothing wrong with how they are feeling, because it is rather an accurate representation of reality. Hence, there should be no shame around feeling unloved. It should be acknowledged that there is a strong reason why someone does feel unloved and there is a strong reason for them to look for love outside. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be loved by other people, because most people that judge you for being needy or feeling unloved had the very same desires, the difference is just that those desires were met.

The gifts of child abuse

I think one of the signs that you are getting to the final phase of your healing is when you actually start noticing that your early life difficulties have brought you some innate gifts. I am not sure I am completely ready to write about the gifts I have gained through my experiences yet, but let that be my first attempt.

I feel that I can actually see the two worlds. It is difficult to explain this to a person that has not experienced it all. I can see the world of depression, self-hate, anxiety attacks and dysfunctionality. I can relate to all kinds of dysfunctional coping mechanisms starting from alcohol abuse and ending with suicidal thoughts. I can also now after years of therapy experience and see the world on the other side. The lighter being (I am still not finished with my therapy), the feeling of self-love etc.

I think there have been two radical changes of experience during the last year. The first one is moving from feeling incomplete and unlovable into actually feeling whole. This deep feeling of emptiness and sadness and wanting someone to love me so that this sadness would go away (only it never did), it is actually gone. The second change of perspective is moving from being terrified of being alone and being certain that I will never cope alone into being OK with spending time alone. Being OK with living alone and enjoying my evenings in solitude.

Most people that have two aforementioned gifts take it for granted and fail to ever understand other people that suffer from abandonment fear and unlovability. That is how you get stupid advices such as – you should just be yourself or have you thought of exercising more or drinking warm tea. The experience itself is soo alien to the ones that have never gone through it. Not often they also judge and look down on people that lead dysfunctional lives. The compassion is missing and even if it is there, there is a lack of understanding as to what one is compassionate about.

So, I feel I have been given a gift of seeing both worlds. This means that maybe once I have gone through my struggles, I can actually help someone else. I can definitely function as a non judgmental guide already now, but I think I still have a way to go. Not only can I understand and help others that struggle, but I also value the feeling of being complete, the feeling of being able to be alone. I have had to fight so hard for it that it feels nothing but sort of amazing. I doubt that average person gives much meaning to it at all.

Finally, I think that with child abuse and therapy comes a different kind of way of viewing your life. I see my life as a lesson. I am not looking for happiness, I am looking for growth. I am not sure if that is better or worse, it is just different. It is the way I have managed to handle therapy all these years, even when it was very difficult. I just kept comparing myself with myself one year ago and felt proud of my development. I still hold this approach. I think if nothing else, it helps me to make sense of other life difficulties as well. I see a lesson everywhere. I analyze a lot. I think ultimately this is going to make me me. This is who I am going to be and this is maybe how I can be useful for others as well, by helping them to make sense of difficulties as well!

Over-estimating the potential interest of opposite sex

I read about an interesting study on men frequently over-estimating the interest of a woman. It turns out that men that had anxious attachment were more often guilty of guessing that the woman was more interested in them than she actually was.

I have been soo often guilty of this. I have even made up relationships solely in my head. I have also convinced myself that the guy I was into was actually not happy with their girlfriend and harbored secret feelings towards me. All it took was really some flirting from guys side. Today I dare to admit this, even though I still feel that it to a degree shows me as desperate or at least as this girl with some fixation on chasing guys who are not really that into her. More importantly however, why do I do that?

I do not have a clear cut answer, so this will be more of a tentative discussion. So I think one of the reasons is me seeking approval. I want to be liked and appreciated. So if someone gives me even a tint of appreciation, I make this important in my head. I start fantasizing. It becomes a challenge to get more of this appreciation.

However, if it was only about appreciation, I would not dismiss guys who show obvious interest in me. But I think it is ultimately about challenge. I need to feel that it is not an easy appreciation. Otherwise, it looses its value. I imagine that guys whose interest is hard won, somehow are more special. If one really needs to work to be liked by them, then this liking is worth more, right? That means that I have more value???

I am sure that half of the time, if I actually did have a possibility to have a relationship with any of these guys, I would bail out. I would realize that I have grossly over-estimated my interest in them, just because I was so unsure about how they felt about me. So I am left to guess that it is all about winning the love of a distant and judgmental caregiver. Trying to gain the attention of someone who never really gives you enough, but might give you some hope at times.

Of course, people that actually really like you, hardly ever behave like that. But see, my caregivers, who stated that they loved me, did. So this is what I from now on equate with love. My mum would probably to a date not want to admit that her love is more of a selfish – what can I get out of you – attitude than any form of unconditional love. SO essentially there was a gap between her words and actions. As she continued to claim that she loved me, I learned to find really small signs meaningful. Meaning for me it is enough if someone flirts with me or says something nice. I mean, this is more than my mum has ever done anyways.

So my guess here is that people who were trained to accept little and who adapted for pleasing their caregivers in order to get even tiniest amount of appreciation, might end up overestimating the interest of the opposite sex. See, they never knew that their parents did not strictly speaking love them and that this is not by all means how most of the population expresses love. So thinking that the guy who sent you a smile and looked at you longer or a guy that added you to facebook must be into you, does not really seem like over interpreting the signs. After all, they were trained to be the detectives in finding the smallest clues in order to prove to themselves that their parents did not lie to them when they told them that they love them.

Dating ‘normal and healthy people’ after childhood abuse

I dare to say that an average person, by my age, has still not endured a lot of trauma and drama in their lives. I feel that some people are slowly getting there, having their marriages falling apart, dear ones dying etc., but…. Why do I care about the extent of trauma someone has gone through? Why would it even matter?

See there is this guy that is interested in me. He is pure and innocent. I can see that he has had a good childhood. One can see this from how a person behaves. There is certain optimism and idealism to him. Decency. All really nice qualities….but…..

I feel dark compared to him. No, I am not a bitter person, but I feel that my childhood and other traumatic experiences have left me with this darkness. This corner of knowing what bad people are capable of. Knowing what bad I am capable of. I have gone through personal hell and back. I have been extremely dysfunctional and fought my way through it all.

It is not that much that I believe he cannot understand. I believe that as an empathic person, even if one has not gone through it all, one could potentially understand. It is more like I am afraid I will make him corrupt. I will somehow spread the disease of darkness and trauma and rob him of his chance for someone who is as light as he is.

I don’t think he will reject me because of what I have gone through, it is not that. It is more that I am afraid that this darkness in me is looking for a way out and I will end up hurting him. Getting bored of him. Looking for some dysfunctionality. Wanting some strong emotions and wanting some messedupness. Wanting someone who can reflect me my messedupness and my past hurt.

So I really do not know. I think dating after dark experiences in life is tricky. Especially when you have spent so much time trying to overcome those and feel you have succeeded. You consider most of your previous pals to be annoyingly dysfunctional, but the new people are just too untainted.

People for whom “NO” means “MAYBE”

Yesterday, because of some events ,I started thinking about borders again. I finally understood why I feel so unsafe around some people. Namely, there are people for whom “NO” means, I just need to convince her some more.

In the worst case scenario people who cannot take “NO” for an answer threaten to leave you or go into silent treatment, trying to ‘show’ you the consequences of you being so rebellious. In the more moderate case they just try to guilt-trip you by making you responsible for their feelings or convince you that you actually want to say yes.

To be honest, I have mostly encountered the border violations in connection to males that are interested in me. I can give you a standard situation.

A guy is asking me out.

I say, no I cannot, I am busy etc. (polite way to say I am not interested but OK, they do not have to read my mind).

They start convincing me that maybe I am not busy at this date and tell me what I am loosing when I do not come out with them. Or…they say how sad they are and how I should want to make them happy…..

I thought I must have some intimacy issues because I feel so uneasy around so many guys. But yesterday I started to understand that NO, actually there is a reason why I feel uneasy. Naturally I might overreact in such situations, because of my previous experiences. I am still wondering what would be the best way in terms of reacting or how to deal with these people in the future. Mind me, some of these guys I need to meet regularly either through work or hobby groups. So my verdict would be that since I am oversensitive, I need to observe person’s behavior a bit longer, to make sure my own fears do not push me to overreact. However, even a situation as small as the previous one seems to me a serious alarm signal. That because imagine the conversation:

I want to have sex.

No, I am not ready yet.

But I want to, you are making me sad now. We have waited for so long.

I still would not feel convenient….

A guy pushing himself on you…..

I am not making up this situation, this actually happened to me. What more, I continued dating the guy after that situation. Needless to say that the pattern that was visible in this encounter continued. I on the other hand could not understand why I felt so scared with him all the time. I had been just so conditioned trying to obey and please in such situations by my mum. At the time, nothing about this situation felt alarming, I was so used to going against my will. I thought I had issues feeling all anxious around this guy and that I should really work on being convenient with intimacy. Namely, I blamed myself. Like I probably blamed myself for my people-pleasing behavior my whole life, not really understanding that it was the reaction to all these violent acts which my mum threatened me with unless I comply.

Intellectual friendships and avoiding intimacy

Today I understood something. I have quite a few intellectual friends. You know, people with whom you can discuss the matters of the world. You can analyze. It is exciting and interesting….. Sometimes I feel I am mentally exhausted however. I feel I would just want to be with someone who does not ask me to intellectualize things. Someone for whom I would not have to constantly be interesting and exciting….

So I was thinking about it and about myself and reached to the conclusion that I have used this same intellectualization in order to protect myself. It is much safer to talk about some random intellectual topics where you do not really have to give much of yourself. I mean, you can even talk about relationships in an intellectual manner. The topic is absolutely irrelevant, the point is that you are scared of revealing too much of the real you, because then people might either reject you, or in my case even worse, hurt you.

I never really understood before how these friendships were there to protect me from really opening myself up and becoming vulnerable. I still have a lot of fear around exposing myself to any kind of harm, because of familial relationships and years and years of bullying. Because of this very intellectual quality of my relationships I have a lot of male friends. I guess males feel safe around me, because I am not trying to invade to their safe zone and force intimacy on them. I allow them to be intellectual if they want and do not necessarily push them to something else.

I think intellectual friendships are fine and necessary. This is not the question. The question is, can you also do something else than intellectual friendships. When people ask you personal questions, do you freeze or become uncomfortable? I know I do. I know I also become uncomfortable when people seem too excited or interested in me. All of this is just pushing on my walls which are there as a result of so many negative experiences from the past.

So I guess I will continue to work on myself and try to overcome the intellectualization and actually be open to other types of friendships as well.