That time when I failed an exam, by two marks.
No hug or celebrations or cards,
just the disappointed look on my father’s face.
The times I’d catch my boyfriend looking at other women that way,
I’d wonder, how can I make sure he doesn’t leave me? How can I make him stay?
Make myself thinner?
That time when my mental health hit an all time low,
and I was broken up with on top of that, perfect timing,
just to soften the blow.
All the times I was left at empty tables in the school dining hall,
no amount of friends at 30 will ever fill that hole.
That time when there was a group chat, for everyone, except me.
That’s happened a fair few times actually.
The times (years) I spent suffering from OCD
1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3.
And wasting my parents’ time and energy.
Being ridiculed every morning for my crying, panic-driven, nightmares and screams,
the night before.
That time he cheated on me for six months,
yet told me he missed me
before calling it off.
To then parade her around in front of me like a trophy.
Every time I look in the mirror and think
“You used to be thinner, prettier. You’ve let yourself go,
and you can try but you’ll never look that good again though”.
Every morning when I wake up and recount,
all the ways I’ve let the people I love down.
2 thoughts on “good enough”
Storms – could it be that you are thinking this the wrong way round?
That actually it is you who has been severely let down by them?
Neglect is a form of abuse.
BPD, OCD, anxiety, depression, and nocturnal crying, panic-driven nightmares and screams, are caused by sustained abusive neglect, that continually thwarted your natural birth-right instincts to nurture self acceptance and self knowledge.
An habitual belief that you let them down, ‘wasted their time and energy,’ only shows the alarming tenacity of gaslighting. It is the most pernicious black echo, a malignant hangover from the childhood defence strategy of clinging to a desperate survival decision to accept their definition of you as bad, so as to afford the opportunity of buying safety by working so hard to be good. The only hope for a frightened powerless child.
We take for granted that an infant of any tribe or culture will adopt the language of where they grow up, rather than where they came from; Eskimo or Aboriginal babies taken to New York would grow up as New Yorkers. What is less acknowledged is that we also take on the emotional language of our surroundings, and could this be the root of your distress? Because challenging the unconscious emotional language is as strenuous as learning a new language in adulthood.
As Dorothy Rowe explains in pp160-2 of ‘The Successful Self’ :
“When a couple set a pattern of communication which includes massive and continual criticism their children, as they each learn to speak, learn this critical interactive style which they then use on one another. This family style of continual mutual criticism is displayed nightly on our television screens in soap operas and situation comedies, and we watch with interest and laugh. In real life it inflicts on all the family members continual and appalling misery.
Because this style of communicating within the family is continual, it becomes like the air we breathe, and thus many people do not consciously realize that they are continuously under attack, involved in a war of attrition which wears them down and fills them with that sense of badness and unacceptability…
As in many families, a child was selected as the scapegoat, the cause and the bearer of all the family sins. In biblical times, the scapegoat, having been loaded with the tribe’s sins, was turned out into the wilderness. Children as scapegoats are not so fortunate. All they can do to escape from their family is to go mad or die…
Children who are scapegoated in middle and upper class families might, if they are beaten sufficiently, be rescued by some outside agency, but scapegoated children in middle and upper class families are not so lucky. The maltreatment of such children rarely comes to light, and when the child responds to the parents’ maltreatment with the required madness or badness the legal and medical authorities conspire with the parents to locate the madness or badness in the child…
If, from earliest childhood, you have been told by your parents that you are the cause of their every discomfort and disappointment, you acquire a very powerful sense of guilt and damnation. This sense of guilt and damnation will prevent you from realizing the injustices which your parents heap upon you, because merely to think that your parents are unjust is evidence of your own weakness and wickedness.”
As some meme has it ‘Most of what burdens you was never yours to carry in the first place.’
‘When can I breathe’ and ‘let go and scream’ are particularly revealing. Breath suppression is typically the sign of something too awful to consciously acknowledge trying to bubble up into awareness, fighting to get out, which you are feeling as ‘nausea slowly killing me?’
The idea that you are at fault, that you let them down, rather than the other way round, is the biggest, baddest, most dangerous black echo of them all, because it is the one most likely to drag you back to the cuckoo’s nest, and sabotage your autonomous adult romance with the unconscious hope that it should assuage childhood emotional hunger.
Storms could this be the biggest fight you now have on your hands?
Could it actually be that as you mindfully experience loving and being loved for who you really are, (for the first time in your life?) you instinctively start to detach from those now redundant survival fears and experience the peace of self-acceptance? Which also feels strange as it is so long overdue?
Is the self-acceptance that accrues from loving and being loved for real now powerful enough to allow conscious awareness of the pain of your formative years that your mind has hitherto suppressed for self-protection?
The internal guardian of your conscious awareness that blocks the bubbling-up of threatening recognition through breath suppression is probably in a quandary now – is it now safe enough, are you robust enough, to deal with the harsh family scapegoat truth?
You say ‘I love how she makes me feel’, but is this also the wrong way round?
No-one can actually ‘make’ you feel anything ever – in reality you create or release your fears according to your conscious and unconscious perceptions of your circumstances which are obviously influenced by your milieu.
We can unconsciously seek in our partners what we didn’t get from our parents, and so the picket fence is vulnerable to collapse from the strain of impossible expectation, but fortunately this is not inevitable. The way of decoupling the toxicity of past trauma from current romance is to confront, to consciously acknowledge, all that happened to you as a frightened powerless child, that is was they who let you down, not the other way round, so it can no longer unconsciously attach to the adult you are now, today, and therefore disrupt your current adult relationship.
This is not mere pedantry – it is mission critical, because it is precisely this realisation that releases your relationship from the pressure of rescue, the potentially catastrophic unconscious expectation that the the picket fence will meet the unmet needs of childhood.
Whilst no partner can make you make you feel safe – or anything else – releasing the grim truth of your childhood will enable their benevolent acceptance and enjoyment of what and who you really are, and allow you to be, finally, after all you have been through, comfortable in your own skin.
The paradox of recovery is that people often feel worse when they start to get better. As they gradually find the courage to disengage from whatever defences they were using – intoxication, addiction, psychosis, gambling, over or under eating, shopping, cutting, all the usual suspects – the full horror of what actually happened rears up into awareness.
Personally, speaking as the fly on the wall, I think you are safe, but just not in the habit of feeling so; or of recognising how far you have come. One of my many therapists once explained that suicidal people mostly do still want to live, just not ‘live like this’ – only wanting to pull their own plugs out because other exits do not seem to be available.
Your latest posts are replete with a heartwarming awareness and realisation of your own beautiful worth, and one by one, the black echos are falling silent.
No part of you is ever dead and gone for good, because we are ongoing dynamic systems of all that we have experienced, but what can and does change is that experiences can become more or less important, up onstage with us, sharing the starring role, or front row, or at the back of the stalls, or even out in the car park. [Where my family should be for sure!]
You are not to be found anywhere, because you aren’t actually lost. The Storms that you truly are, how you exist, is the Storms that holds hand at 3.00 am and kisses in cold spring water, the Storms that reached out for that first kiss in the car. You say ‘you don’t know what came over you,’ but again, is that getting it the wrong way round?
Rather, could it be that your increasing success in seeing off the black echoes makes it easier you to act on the beautiful truth of your own self-interest?
Could it be that the reason it felt strange is only because so much of your life was stolen by the struggle to survive under the concrete duvet of other people’s prescriptions, the onerous responsibilities of the family scapegoat?
I surmise like me you were simply denied the chance to experience and practice your own self-interest and learn to do it automatically; effortlessly, to accept yourself as worthy, so when you did it felt strange. Most importantly, it is not primarily who you were with, it was you at long last feeling safe enough to take the chance to exist in your true self.
For myself, one of my worst experiences of recovery and getting my life back was acknowledging all the years I had lost, forcibly squandered on struggling to survive in an invalidating environment, and major jealousy of those who had been able to get on with building their lives in relative safety. Like those people who effortless negotiate the school canteen.
I also felt two steps forward and three steps back, but in retrospect the problem was more the thousands of futile meandering sidesteps in abject confusion.
It is very unlikely that you are in any way complacent – you fight tenaciously against the most daunting opponents and win. I surmise your partner can see this too – and like me is able to see the beauty of who you really are, even if you do get clouded by black echos sometimes. You let her talk you out of threatening bleak thoughts, because deep down, you known they are not what or who you really are. When the truth is presented, you recognise it and accept it.
To put it all in perspective, Storms you have been through things that can kill, so please, be proud of yourself for your amazing fortitude and sheer tenacity. Despite being put through some of the worst experiences possible, you still seek and choose romance – and that is the most attractive a human can be. And that is who you are.
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Thank you so much for your long and thoughtful response to my work. Again, it reduced me to tears, as you so eloquently put into words the reality of how I have been feeling. I cannot express enough how much it means to me that someone would read my work and read so much into it and have something meaningful to say about it, something that makes me question the belief systems I have been brought up in. Thank you again, I really truly appreciate your support and your words of wisdom.
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