It sucks when people don’t validate feelings. Right? That’s probably the MAIN reason I’m in this field. I learned how to validate everyone else because I wasn’t getting any of it myself. I have great parents, awesome parents, who I love very much, and they supported whatever I did with unconditional regard. But when I had to cry? No, toughen up, don’t cry. When I was angry? Calm down! When I was hyper? Stop bouncing off the tables. When I was scared? There’s nothing to be afraid of. No wonder it’s hard for me to express emotion nowadays. I’ve never been allowed to do so.
In a sense, by internalizing this message, I wasn’t allowed to have problems. Because why should i? Problems meant that they were doing something wrong. And I quickly learned that if I complained, I was acting entitled. Problems meant they had somehow failed as parents. Problems meant I wasn’t appreciative of what they did. This isn’t a post to bash my family. I love them. There isn’t a perfect person in the world, and I am on the very lucky end of the spectrum as far as family-of-orginis are concerned.
But yes. I had problems. I still have problems.
But, here’s the thing. I was a complicated kid. Over-anxious, paranoid, overly-shy, and perfectionistic. I distinctly remember feeling like an outsider in the world; as if I was always at a slight distance from everyone else. And I was intense. Wise for my age. Hyper-smart. That’s what people used to say. I’ve since grown into myself. My anxiety mainstreamed into an eating disorder, which I am working through, my paranoia is nonexistent, my shyness has mostly disappeared lest for the occasional social anxieties, and my perfectionism has seriously diminished. I like who I am. Even better, I embrace it.
My dad doesn’t really believe in therapy or mental illness. That’s just how he is. He sees the world in black-and-white and believes any problem has a solution and can be fixed. Alcoholics should just stop drinking, depression can be cured by doing things that feel good, and, if you have an eating disorder, just eat. It’s highly simplistic and, in my opinion, ignorant. We argue about it constantly, and it’s hard for me to accept that he thinks so differently from me on this aspect. If mental illness could be explained in such primary terms, why would people be suffering? Why would these diseases be so chronic and complex? It makes me feel invalidated, as if my own experiences with therapy and mental illness were just about me complaining and being unable to fend for myself. As if I had much of a choice.
He thinks my going to therapy is a waste of time and money. He was pissed when he found out I was on Prozac. I can’t really talk to him about my eating disorder without feeling insecure. I think his anger stems from fear and a place of perceived helplessness, as if he feels guilty he could not “save me” from this distress. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a conversation we will someday have.
I was talking about this with the boyfriend today, because he may start therapy too. He’s also a training therapist and thinks it could benefit his insight and self-awareness. His parents are all for it. They think it’s a great idea! MIne are like, how much are you paying? When are you going to stop? Do you even need it? I wish they understood how much it helps me to just have a safe place to express. I love my child/adolescent clients’ parents when they are supportive of treatment, and i instantly feel protective over my clients when they have parents who do not think therapy is necessary.
Anyway, if anyone saw a teary-eyed girl talking to herself to vent out her anger on a Southern California freeway today, that was me.
I would like to say that I know I have everything to be grateful for, because I do, but right now, I’m going to really try and honor my feelings and just experience my sadness fully. Because it’s there for a reason, and it’s okay to have it there.