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I wanted to post an update on my post below “Repeating my Childhood” because a few wonderful people commented on it for which I’m grateful.

During my “unmanageable” moment I was thinking things such as “Here goes another weekend down the drain”, “I hate my life” , “I’m so weak” and “The sewing machine is broken you won’t reach your goal again – FAILURE”.   I was stuck in the problem and didn’t know how to do things differently.

However one particular comment got me thinking differently  “…action, activity against the pull of inclination….the mind often follows the body”.

I started to urge myself to get up and see if I could fix my sewing machine and to at least try again to reach my weekend goal.  I used self talk such as “You’re not a failure”, “You’re having a pity party – stop feeling sorry for yourself”, “You’re not a child anymore, things are different now” and my favourite “Nobody’s going to save you except YOU”. 

With a burst of tremendous willpower (and Higher Power on my side) not only did I fix my sewing machine I threaded it and wound a new bobbin too (both painstaking arduous tasks for me and hurdles in themselves).  I then went on to half finish my project and I felt so PROUD of myself.  I was on an emotional high, nothing could touch me and I could feel the satisfaction pumping through my veins right through to the next day!

Every once in a while I could feel my negative side trying to overpower my joy.  It was reminding me that I had just had an argument with my dear partner and I was meant to be depressed and suicidal – I was a failure remember and not allowed to be happy!  But I told it to stick it where the sun don’t shine and kept basking in my internal limelight.

It didn’t matter that I didn’t finish the whole project as I could do that next weekend.  What was important to me was that I got up and I did something about my problem.

Sometimes  it’s that one message that stands out from the rest that provides an “Ah ha” moment.

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So my little sister’s wedding is over. Thank God is all I have to say about it!

Tonight is the photo viewing night of her big day and honeymoon and I’ve bailed out. That’s OK, I know now I am allowed to. I don’t have to put myself in situations that will trigger me.

What behaviors did I see in myself leading up to the big day? I saw the way I communicated my annoyance with people. I learned from my family of origin that the way to communicate was to ignore, isolate and flash the evil eye at others instead of simply coming out and saying how I felt in a naturally assertive tone.

It was the sniping from the bride to be towards me for no apparent reason (aside from bridal stress?) that triggered my reactions which in turn saw her respond back to me in the same way.

I couldn’t find the strength in me to simply say “please do not speak to me that way” or “I’m not liking your tone right now”.

I used all the strength I could muster on the wedding day not to bomb the event. I wanted to scream “why are you marrying an ACOA, wake up!”.

You see, all the sh*t I’ve been through in my life seemed OK provided that my two younger sisters could learn from it and not repeat the same mistakes as me.

I was working hard to keep the dysfunction from travelling down the family line. I wanted it to stop with ME. Now what has she gone and done? Can she not see what her future holds?  I know the groom well enough to know it’s history repeating itself and there’s stuff all I can do about it except sit back and watch the show. A little part of me hopes that it won’t pan out the same way.

Anyway, to the topic of this post – Happiness, What is That?

As I was walking my dogs around the block tonight the answer came to me. I’ve never seen happiness in my family of origin. I’ve never closely been involved in someone’s wedding before to know what it’s like. Watching my sister was like watching a stranger or a movie. I could not relate to her happiness. I stared at her and thought something is wrong here, who is this girl. I cried at the ceremony but I could not get in touch with what it was that I was crying about.

I am certain my sister turned into someone else in the months leading up to her wedding. I witnessed controlling behavior in her that I’d never seen before (except in myself). I heard her bicker badly about her mother in law (they were so close before the engagement), I saw her strive for everything on the day to be picture perfect (at the expense of others) – right down to her smile and battering eyelashes.

Who was that girl in the white dress? or am I so out of touch with reality I couldn’t recognise my own sister’s true happiness? I’ve known for her 27 years. Damned if I know – when I find the answer I’ll let you know.

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I received an email yesterday and thought I’d share it with you together with my reply:

“Dear X,

My name is X. I am almost certain now that I was born with a mental illness. I was diagnosed when I was thirty-five I am now forty-one.

I realised something was wrong when I was sixteen,and so began my personal war,I have fought with everything I have.But upon reaching the age of thirty-five it became worse, last year I had a nervous break down and at the same time lost my job my partner and my daughter moved to X  ,though my daughter now resides in X  again.They tell me I have a chronic depressive anxiety disorder but to me these are just words,words from doctors who cannot even begin to imagine what I have been through and continue to experience every night and day.There words don’t describe the hallucinations I have when my condition worsens the thousands of nightmares I’ve had since I was a child and continue to have, the living your life-like a frightened animal,the frustration and pain that never seems to leave,the unending list of things I could describe to you.Last year something changed inside me I got so sick I could never have imagined my illness could strike me so hard,I got worse,again.I went somewhere last year and parts of me didn’t come back and I know those parts,whatever they are,are not coming back.I am an alcoholic now,I have trouble going to work,some times I can’t go because the nightmares are so severe it’s like not sleeping at all I can’t go out, when I’m not at work I don’t leave my residence very much only when i have to.I am liked, I have family and friends without them and the fact I have lived with this thing for so long i probably wouldn’t be here.I havn’t slept well for nearly two years the thought of having a girlfriend again is unimaginable to me now,losing the last one,whom i loved with all my heart,to stand back and watch my beautiful girl change from the most wonderful woman I’ve ever known into an abusive blindly selfish hypocrite,along with my illness nearly destroyed me.But I fought it even when I felt I had no fight left in me,I survived something so disgusting within myself,but I don,t know how I did it.

My apologies for rambling on,the reason I contacted you is.I was wondering if you could tell me where i might go to find others like me in X. I live between X  and X .I think sometimes it may help because no one I know has any idea at all,this I have learned.I do realise I don’t do enough to help myself,partly because a part of me has given up and doesn,t care anymore I’m tired and I’m scared and I’m sick of fighting myself and having to hide from the world because I’m different and because I feel like I don’t belong.Would appreciate anything. X. ”

MY REPLY:

“Hi X,
 
Sounds like you have a lot of issues from childhood. My thoughts are that most issues we have as adults stem from childhood anyway – especially addictions.
 
I can suggest that if you are an alcoholic or you have issues with your drinking then you really need to join AA. There you will find a great bunch of people trying to stop their addiction (or their demons) and working on their issues that stem back to childhood. AA is a program that works if you work at it. I am in other 12 Step Programs and my life was always unmanageable and full of depression and anxiety every day until I joined a 12 Step Program and realised where my thought patterns (self-defeating) came from.
 
If you get your drinking under control you can focus more on your depression and anxiety. Alcohol is a depressant, it will make you worse and will hamper any other drugs from working that you are taking for your mental illnesses. You might also want to get some counselling in conjunction with AA. Find a counsellor or psychologist who understands mental illness and addiction for you are self medicating.
 
You will always be living in a hole until you decide it’s time to get out.
 
First things first, go to an AA meeting X – there you will find hope. AA will teach you healthy ways of behaving and dealing with your problems/worries. You can get a sponsor, someone to call when you feel like a drink or simply just feel like hell. 
 
Good luck with it all, I am confident it will work for you. ”

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I was reading some Twelve Step literature yesterday and related to a member’s share about wishing themselves away to another place or wishing they’d never wake up.

I remembered when I was young and had returned home from staying at my grandparents or my aunt’s house that I’d try and wish myself back to where I’d been. I’d dream of being in the room where I slept or being around the people I’d been with. I’d want to be anywhere but at home with my parents.

As an adult I did that too. I often dreamed/fantasized I was in a sanitarium taking a break from all the pain in my life or in hospital where I could just forget what was going on at home and take a break.

My memory made me wonder why as a child I would want to wish myself away from home so often. I must have hated it there so much and that troubles me as an adult today.

You see, I am like many other adult children, I can see some of my past but I can’t feel it. The memories are like a moving picture in my head with no emotion attached. Lack of feeling I believe is why many adult children say their childhood “wasn’t that bad”. They can’t remember the pain, they learned to stuff their feelings down inside themselves to cope, they minimised, denied or dissociated from their feelings/their reality.

There must have been a trigger in my readings last night for after I had finished sharing on Step 1 my partner and I went off to a new hotel that had just opened in our area. We did a little tour of the venue and as I walked into the pokie room I felt immediate anxiety. It was out of the blue, I am certain I was cool, calm and collected prior to entry for I would never had agreed to go out had I felt anxious.

My eyes averted from everyone in the room, my head went down, I felt a fear that someone would recognise me in that room but I had nothing to fear for if anyone did recognise me they would most certainly not be from my childhood nor a threat to me for I was on the opposite side of the city from where I grew up and it was now 26 years later!

The pokie room connected to the sports bar – uh oh! I could see all the men sitting at the table watching the various gambling results on TV, I could smell the beer in the air and I was terrified one of the men would gaze at me. Next stop was the bar – I couldn’t get away, I had to keep walking forward to get out as the hotel was circular.  The smell of beer was revolting and the eyes that looked my way drew a lump to my throat.

I drew a breath of air when we hit the bistro area and decided to sit down and have a cuppa. I was tense but I tried my best to hide it. A woman kept looking at me – did I know her? What was she gawking at! A man with his pants hanging down showing his crack walked past – a reminder of my father’s drunken days. I wanted to yell at him to sober up and pull his finger out!

My Bach Flower Remedy wasn’t working too well and I couldn’t get out of that place fast enough.

I tried to think of other things when I got home that night to calm my anxiety.

I cannot pinpoint the exact problem behind my reaction in the hotel however it is possible it was something to do with when I was bullied as a child. I have determined this because when I walked into the pokie room it was the females I was fearful of being known to, not the males. It was a small group of females who bullied me at school when I was a young teenager and who also lived a few streets from my childhood home. I felt I could not even go out to the shops around the corner from my home because I would be spotted and taunted or beaten up. The fear of being seen by my bullies haunted me for years and still can from time to time. As an adult I looked over my shoulder  for years and even now I still don’t feel safe around the places where I grew up. I can drive through them but hell would freeze over before I got out of the car!

I am now living in the opposite side of the city from my old home.  I feel safe here and I feel safe in the fact that 26 or so years later my face and the faces of my bullies have changed and are most likely not recognisable.

Bullying not only cripples the child but goes on to affect them in adulthood too. I understand there is minimal research into this claim however when I was facilitating an adult mental health support group, a good portion of members had been bullied as children.

Schools have a lot to answer for however I do believe our coping mechanisms begin at home.

Thanks for reading 🙂 

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As an adult, I’ve held onto a dream that I wanted to have a career that was dog related.

If I could turn back time I’d probably study to become a veterinarian.

I’ve come to the age where I’m realising that I only have one life and I should get into doing the things I really want to do before I hit the casket!

I’ve started a pottery course and am creating some dog and cat bowls by hand and designing and painting various graphics on them etc. I’m into my second term of classes and I’ve come to realise that my work seems rather child like, especially the graphics.

After doing a bit of work in my 12 Step Program I have learnt a little about trying to get in touch with my inner child. Some activities that were suggested in order to accomplish this were doing child like things such as playing with play doh, running under a sprinkler etc etc.

Last week I had a look at the various forms of pottery that my classmates were creating then looked at my child like work and felt a bit embarrassed because I wasn’t making platters or vases (adult like items) but dog and cat bowls with puppy dogs and pussy cats and mice and cheese and painting them in wonderful bright colours that appeal to my eye.

When I was in my teens I used to write letters to my friends and draw and colour in cartoons on them and I thought I was really creative in the work that I did.

Somewhere in adulthood I lost my creativity so perhaps I am unconsciously connecting with my inner child and creating work at a child like level but then again I simply may not have any adult artistic abilities at all!

I’ve been told that a good book to learn about getting in touch with your inner child is John Bradshaw‘s Homecoming – Reclaiming & Championing Your Inner Child which you will be able to purchase from Amazon.

I attest I do revert back to child like behaviours at times, especially when under stress, such as isolating, fantasizing (now love addiction), self harm and my social skills can become less than desirable at times too. I am known to get very jealous of friends who have other friendships aside from me and  I often prefer to be the centre of attention and can end up sabotaging my friendships by being cold because I have formed a grudge against someone about one thing or another.

Through my 12 Step Programs I am learning to be more open and honest in my communication with others as well as looking at my unsavory weaknesses, where they originate from and how to correct them.

If I didn’t have my 12 Step Programs (online and face to face) and a sponsor I think my life would still be up the creek without a paddle!

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Have you ever heard anyone say they don’t know who they are anymore?

Losing your identity is losing sight of what you like doing, what you think  or what makes you happy for example.

At this time in my life I don’t know who I am or what I like (to an extent) and I don’t know if I ever knew these things.

In a recent 12 Step meeting  a member shared that their favourite colour used to be red because that was their mother’s favourite colour but now they had decided they liked the colour blue and that choice was theirs to own.

It was then that I realised what it meant to really not know who I was.

Going way back to when I was 5 years old, my grandmother asked me what my favourite colour was. I instinctively said it was “purple”. My grandmother happily replied  that purple was my mum’s favourite colour too and I remember feeling pleased with myself because my grandmother was happy with my reply.

For years thereafter I used to say purple was my favourite colour but I don’t think I ever thought very deeply about it until some 32 years later when I found myself staring at a purple jacket in a shop thinking how ugly that colour actually looked and subsequently hearing that member’s share in the 12 Step meeting.

I had been bought up to believe that what I wanted was irrelevant and my thoughts and opinions were of no importance.  I had to do what I was told regardless of whether I liked it or not. Often if I verbalised a different need or opinion I was publicly humiliated and punished by my father.

As an adult, if anyone asks me what I want to do, I instinctively turn it around by saying “whatever you want”  because I am uncomfortable with the focus on me and feel guilty choosing what to do incase the other person is not happy with my choice.

I recall another share where a member relayed that they had got to such a point in their life where they believed they were too useless to change a light globe.

While I can change a light globe, I do recall being shown as an adult the correct way to open and close curtains and being forced to change a dessert spoon for a soup spoon because I had served the wrong spoon with soup.

It is probable that because I was regularly criticised as a child by my parents, as an adult I relied on other people to tell me what I should or should not be doing and got myself into another codependent situation because it was all that I knew.

Now my journey begins in learning to believe it’s perfectly OK to choose green as my favourite colour and change my mind if I want to without feeling guilty about it along with learning to figure out how to trust that my thoughts and opinions are valuable without seeking approval from others.

Apparently it all starts with “self love”.

As they say, easy does it, one day at a time!

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