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Do you think if your family of origin was very unhappy you can ever truly be happy as an adult?

(54 Posts)
lonelyredrobin Sat 22-Dec-12 22:34:41

This is the first time I've posted on Mental Health. I wasn't sure whether to do so as I can see some of the posters on here are in real turmoil and this thread, well, I suppose is a more reflection on my situation and wondering what other people's thoughts were iykwim (sorry, badly expressed!).

Anyway, I'm 35. Throughout my adult life, I've had long periods of discontent, emptiness and alienation - but weirdly, I wouldn't call it depression. It almost feels like my default setting. There are times in my life I've been happy: when I fell in love for the first time, when I did well in exams / jobs, when I was pregnant, times with my children (although, only times, I find it very difficult with them at times sad ).

But the "default setting" always returns - and gets really bad at times so I feel totally alienated from everyone and just want to be alone. Everything feels hard and stressful. I drink more (not loads but too much for me), don;t take care of myself (food, exercise, maintaining friendships etc). I'm in one of those periods at the moment. I've been trying to understand why I'm like this. I've had a little therapy in the past - it helped a bit but not really as much as I thought it would - maybe the therapist.

The thing I keep coming back - the only explanation it seems to me - is my very unhappy family (of origin) life. My mother and father had an extremely unhappy marriage but as practising Catholics would never have divorced. They seriously dislked eachother. My childhood memories are of them either having screaming rows (never violence afaik) or silent treatment for weeks.

I have 3 older brothers (2 much older). None of them were really any support or provided any solidarity to me though this (and nor to eachother). It was like we were 6 people under the same roof but all separate and alone - there was no unity or sense of family.

My weekends as a child were spent in my room, trying to enter myself. We never did anything together as a family and there was no expectation whatsoever that my parents would do acitivities with us. We would all "go our separate ways" under the same roof. We would have our meals together, and then it was like we were cast adrift: look after yourself.

As an adult, I have found close relationships difficult. I hate group situations. I only really tolerate socialising one on one or one on two. I find team work at work difficult. I find my children's neediness for me suffocating - I push them away and crave being alone.

I don't want to be this sort of person. I don't know how to change. I don't know if I can. Is my past so deeply engrained there's no way to break free?

Any thoughts welcome. Thank you.

RandomMess Wed 26-Dec-12 20:20:51

Salbertina that's what happens to me when things go downhill I just withdraw because I can't cope and they either don't notice or don't care enough to bother. They are good friends because I've known them for 30 years tbh

sensesworkingovertime Wed 02-Jan-13 16:41:30

To try and answer your question I think you can find happiness but I am sure as you say your family has a lot to do with how you feel and behave.

I had a similar situation in that my parents just seemed to tolerate each other, were never particularly chatty, friendly or enjoyed doing anything together and they are still the same now I am in my mid forties. It does get me down a lot at times and I've feel ashamed about it. you sound like it has made you a stronger person to have got through it but it clearly bothers you and it would probably help you to talk with through with someone who understands.

It is difficult aswell not to have time to yourself when you have DCs ( how old are they) esp if your tendency is to worry about them most of the time, that's what I do anyway! What are your relationships like now with your parents/siblings? Do you feel like you are succeeding with your DCs where your family failed you?

orangeandlemons Tue 08-Jan-13 20:30:29

I understand how you feel. If you learnt to behave in a certain way when very young to deal with adverse events, them that is your default setting. You may be able to change this through therapy or meds, but that is how your brain learnt to behave when faced with certain events. You obviously learnt to distance yourself during the rows

I often feel similar, and also had nasty childhood. I have found medication much much more helpful than any therapy

Muttonboon Wed 09-Jan-13 11:13:15

This thread has struck a cord with me. I did not have the best of childhoods and now have no contact with my family - for the last 15 yrs or so.

I don't know the answer to your question. I suspect that the aim is for a contentment and an acceptance. We all know people who are light, smiley, fun, for whom life appears (and it is only appears) not to weigh heavily on them.

I think, as others have said that if your default setting, developed through years and years as a child and then reinforced as an adult is not like this then that cannot completely change.

I have on and off taken ADs and am now having pyschotherapy. My aim is to come to that acceptance, that is how it was, it was not ideal. Contentment and being at ease with oneself is my goal.

In terms of the children, I have treated my children to some extent as I was treated and i am ashamed of that. I have shouted at very small children, I have not regarded their feelings when I have been frustrated. Anger was so much the currency of my childhood that it is so difficult to break free. I too understand the suffocation, I have no recollection of being cuddled, listened to or felt that I was loved.

Yet the children are my salvation, they love me as no one else now will. It is through our children that maybe a part of us can be reformed.

So I think it is possible to gain a sense of contentment and appreciation for now. It is hard, what comes naturally to others will not come naturally to you.

I have a library of self help books so I am reluctant to recommend, however my therapist recommended "The Whole Parent: How to Become a Terrific Parent Even If You Didn't Have One " by Debra Wesselmann.

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