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bad messages from parents

(43 Posts)
buttheydo Sat 03-May-14 22:21:35

I hope you don't mind if I write a bit about my parents. (I've changed my name!)

I struggle a lot with anxiety and negative thoughts about myself (waking up at night preoccupied with what a scumbag I am). Most of the missteps I've taken in life are down to lack of confidence. Empirically I'm skilled, responsible, am generally a good and thoughtful person. This year, at 39, I just got fed up with it and tried to snap out of it.

I feel a sea change. But part of it is really looking at how things were when I was growing up.

In essence: in a family of nine when things go wrong they go spectacularly wrong. My father could be loving but when I hit puberty he soured on me. He was like that with all the kids. I mean, the bad names were hard but even worse was just this constant attitude like, "Ugh, who is this disgusting person in my house?" There was a lot of fighting between my parents and on a few occasions he hit my mother. I had an elder brother who, when I was 12 and he 17, decided he was "sexually obsessed" with me, which disgusted my parents even more. Brother was an inpatient for a while at a psych ward which gave me a little break.

My mother moved out when I was 14. I think the situation was supposed to be joint custody, but she moved into a place that didn't have room for us. My father moved in with his new girlfriend and her kids. There was a basement couch for me to sleep on there, the laundry room had beds for my little brothers. I think both of my parents were just in this attitude of wanting a new life and putting all the old crap behind them.

I don't spend much time with either of them. I'm not close with any of my siblings either. When you're just sort of stuck in a house with people, competing over scarce resources, you don't develop friendly feelings.

I've tried therapy but honestly I've never really been impressed with it. It felt awkward, mostly. The last therapist said I seemed to be doing fine so we could wrap things up in fewer sessions than usual! Like she wanted me to congratulate her.

I would really like to just go through life feeling like I deserve to be here.

buttheydo Sat 03-May-14 23:13:26

Is healing possible? Or is it just sleeping pills for the rest of my life?

heyho1985 Sat 03-May-14 23:24:38

Didn't want to read and run and I'm sure someone else a lot wiser will be along soon. What I will say is that you are a valid person and you sound amazingly strong considering everything you have been through. My mum is one of 9 and has a similar background to you. She is a constant bag of nerves and doesn't have a relationship with any of her sibling's. She lost her DM at 17 and was kicked out my grandfather.

Healing is definitely possible. If therapy isn't working have you tried it from a different angle? A lot of my friends have been very successful with bhuddism and meditation.

Keepithidden Sun 04-May-14 00:19:37

You've been through an awful lot, and as heyho says you must be amazingly strong to come out of that, even stronger to have the ability to honestly assess yourself too.

No advice to offer I'm afraid, but just wanted to let you know that you deserve to be here probably more than most, you've got a lot of good kharma* heading your way. Or at least you should have!

* Kharma as in the Western definition, rather than the original. Don't want to offend any Buddhists (actually, is it possible to that?) on here!

ButterflySwan Sun 04-May-14 07:36:37

Have you found the "But we took you to Stately Homes" thread here in Relationships? Sadly many of us there had dysfunctional families, you'll find people who understand and who will listen.

You had a horrible childhood and it's not your fault.

To answer your question I do believe it is possible to heal because I am, while it's an up and down journey it's wonderful too.
You are a similar age to me and I think it's common that we start to look at things at this stage in life, you sound ready when you say "I feel a sea change" so I wish you the best of luck.

buttheydo Sun 04-May-14 08:36:40

The "Stately Homes" has some serious stories, but mostly it is filled with mothers who are too bossy at weddings or fathers who give their grandchildren too much ice cream.

It reminds me of the "group therapy" I tried when I was in my 20s. I would describe in detail what happened to me, the others would look absolutely blank and horrified, and then someone would pipe up, "My mother said she's not going to pay for my summer course!" and everyone would chatter and sympathise about that because it was so much easier to talk about. I try to be an empathetic person but that crap is really alienating.

Maybe it'll get better when I'm older.

buttheydo Sun 04-May-14 08:49:11

I think it was a mistake to ask for help like this. Do you not realise how alienating it is to hear how "strong" I am? By what evidence have you concluded I'm strong? Is it the sleeping pills? The desperate posting to an anonymous internet forum? It shows "amazing" strength to have come through all that, meaning a normal person would have just killed herself?

doziedoozie Sun 04-May-14 08:55:15

I heard a useful thing recently on the radio. That it's impossible to think an anxious thought and a relaxed/happy thought at the same time. somehow that had never occurred to me before.

I had tried all the deep breathing/ relax muscles gradually round body/ count sheep stuff when I wake in the night but my mind would wander. Now if I wake I remember the relaxed feeling I get when I listen to a mindfulness meditation (meditating is something I have just got the hang of after too many years) or picture my pfb DGC , something which will def relax me, and the anxiety goes.

I have also read many self help books, I'm sure there are lots you could try (usually v cheap second hand) John Bradshaw is one
www.amazon.com/Healing-Shame-Binds-Recovery-Classics/dp/0757303234/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399189989&sr=1-1

doziedoozie Sun 04-May-14 08:57:49

(obviously the anxiety will come back but it is great to feel in control enough just to quash it with a nice thought). I then read a book in bed and enjoy that instead of worrying.

Keepithidden Sun 04-May-14 08:58:07

Apologies for any offence caused buttheydo.

Hassled Sun 04-May-14 08:59:22

People are saying you're strong because despite that absolutely appalling upbringing you say "I'm skilled, responsible, am generally a good and thoughtful person" and because you write so articulately and show such self-awareness. And that's not down to luck - you've managed to emerge from the shit being "good and thoughtful" through some inner strength of character and I don't think most people (at least me) would have achieved that. I'm sorry if that's alienating.

But you need to address the lack of confidence and negative thoughts - I share your awkwardness around the concept of therapy but I think if you could find someone you liked/respected, it would really help. It's certainly worth talking to your GP about another referral.

Admiraltea Sun 04-May-14 09:17:28

You are questioning.
So you are already on the journey.
It is possible to get to a place that is different.
How that journey will work for you is unknown.

"Awareness" by Anthony de Mello I found very meaningful. (ignore the "he was a jesuit priest" bit...he writes as a philosopher and thoroughly annoyed the Catholic Church) As he looks at the self through a range of thinkings drawing on Judaism, Buddhism and Sufism it is very interesting.

I was introduced to the book by a person who is not yet at the end of their journey and reading your post has made me think how much they have changed over 6 years, no therapy..the phrase "not tolerate fools kindly" springs to mind and being patronised or misunderstood is a real and keenly felt insult. So that as a route has never been approached as it has the potential to create more harm.

Raskova Sun 04-May-14 09:23:30

People are saying you are strong because you are! You're putting yourself down with the latest response because you do not have enough self confidence.

You've been through some terrible things, much more than most and you've come out the other side. Scarred but still on the other side!

Focus on how strong you've been and what you've achieved in spite of your past. I think you need to get closure by speaking to siblings/parents. Is that possible? Could your siblings be in the same position as you?

Hissy Sun 04-May-14 09:23:36

I suggest if you actually read the Stately Homes threads you'd not make such a sweeping and dismissive statement.

To be so is actually insulting to many of the posters on there who have been treated as you have been and worse for that matter.

You're here asking for help, and asking questions that actually are very simple to answer by those who have been there, done that and have sought out proper help and support, not stopping until they get it.

Dysfunctional relationships with our parents are so destructive, and it's not just the big things that are used to hurt us, it's the smallest things too.

You should never have been sent to group therapy, whoever decided that clearly hadn't bothered to find out the issues you faced, or you hadn't told them prior to going.

I suggest that you seek out an appropriate counsellor, one that doesn't insist on making herculean efforts to keep a shitty family together, no matter the cost to it's victims.

I suggest, if you haven't already done so, to go minimal/no contact and to focus on yourself.

This was done TO YOU, not because of you. You weren't to blame.

People here are offering help, you are asking for it. Don't throw this back in their faces, it's rude and ungrateful.

There's help here and in the real world by the bucket load, but by being rude, dismissive and narky, how's anyone going to help you get the help that you need?

You can heal, it's not difficult. Yes it takes courage and commitment to your self, and at times it hurts like hell, but it's achievable when you look at the truth in your relationships and see how they don't define you.

Appletini Sun 04-May-14 09:24:34

Please have another look at Stately Homes. It's really not like you describe - do come over and post if you'd like.

buttheydo Sun 04-May-14 11:38:22

"Hissy," I'm really only addressing your snotty post because you're putting forward some common myths that need to be debunked.

I know it's a pleasing fantasy that family dysfunction is all one problem. I am sure that it's painful to have a mother who refuses to change your children's diapers but it is not remotely like being sexually abused by a crazy brother, for years, whilst your family members look on with disgust.

I'm sorry if that's disturbing to you but I'm not going to pretend any longer.

I'm sorry you find it rude and ungrateful for me to say that unhelpful things are unhelpful. It's actually kind of hilarious that you're advising if only I were nice and pretended to be grateful for unhelpful statements--then maybe I'd get help. Tautology, lol.

The book recommendations are helpful, thanks for that.

buttheydo Sun 04-May-14 11:43:18

Yes, Stately Homes is precisely as I describe. Have a look at the last few posts. Someone was describing severe past abuse but then elected to have their posts removed. Others responded with stories of a lactose intolerant child being fed ice cream by a careless grandfather, and a mother who gives unequal gifts at Christmas.

I get that these are all painful things, but no, hearing about someone's hard-to-buy-gifts-for mother does not help me, at all.

ravenmum Sun 04-May-14 11:45:39

Have you always suffered from sleeplessness like you are at the moment, or is it especially bad right now?

mummytime Sun 04-May-14 11:56:15

Okay but :"a lactose intolerant child being fed ice cream by a careless grandfather" can be a sign that said grandfather cannot obey the simplest request. I've heard worse like the walnut whip being given to the nut allergy child - resulting in hospitalisation.
Just as when the RSPCA when they discover animal cruelty in a household with children - inform SS or the NSPCC; a relative who cannot obey the simplest instructions for the well being of a child is indicative of someone who could (by neglect) cause greater harm.

But if you are so wedded to playing Bingo with your abuse maybe a site like this isn't going to help you much.

Please go and seek help that will. The Samaritans might help, or you could seek a specialist charity.

Healing is possible, but you have to really want to be healed - which in itself will be painful. I'm sorry.

buttheydo Sun 04-May-14 12:06:22

So don't leave child with grandfather? Really, take these nutty comparisons elsewhere. Yes, it's painful to realise that grandad won't listen and can't serve as a babysitter. I've already said that someone telling me a story like that in an attempt to help me deal with sexual abuse--is unhelpful. I'm not going to lie or pretend about that anymore.

The sleeplessness gets worse when I'm stressed. I try to wear myself out with exercise.

I'm a pleasant person (except for this thread, where I've just decided to be blunt!) and have a lot of friendly acquaintances but I always have this distance with people, like I'm lucky they think well of me and any moment it's all going to come crashing down and they see me for the scumbag I am.

ravenmum Sun 04-May-14 12:08:01

Avoidant personality, same here.

Why are you stressed at the moment? is it the same reason why you feel a sea change coming on?

buttheydo Sun 04-May-14 12:17:06

I have a job helping traumatised people (shocker!) and I take it way too much to heart. I don't act emotional at work, in fact people comment on how cool and pleasant I am, but when there's a problem I can't easily solve I take it as a personal failure. I know it's a great privilege to have a rewarding and meaningful job--and what's more, my bosses aren't pressuring me to do more for the client's, it's all me--but still sometimes I want to just go running off into the night. It's been a hard week.

Also, seeing friends around me who have children becoming teenagers.

It's a realisation that my parents weren't just "struggling," or "doing the best they could," but they were in fact bad, selfish people who did not care for me, at all. It's a lonely feeling.

Thanks for asking.

ravenmum Sun 04-May-14 12:26:56

Did you speak to the therapist(s) about how you take things as a personal failure?

What would happen if you acted emotionally at work?

buttheydo Sun 04-May-14 12:34:04

Yes. The therapist said, "Oh." Maybe I'm not acting dramatically enough at therapy.

If I acted emotionally at work my colleagues would depend on me less, and the clients would lose faith in my professionalism.

You're kind to ask, I am not trying to throw it back at you, that's just how it is.

ravenmum Sun 04-May-14 12:42:08

It's good if you say how it is, or how can anyone help you?

No, you're probably not acting dramatically enough. Maybe your therapist was a bit shit, though - I've just started therapy and mine has actually brought up the point that I am doing my best not to cry and that I make light of things. Yours didn't say that I guess?

If your colleagues acted emotionally at work, would you depend on them less? When someone is emotional generally, what do you think about them? Is it "I wish I could do that" or more "What a feeble cow"?

I don't have any answers here, am still trying to work this out myself. Managed to cry two tears in front of the children today but am now busy covering up again.

Others have teenage children and you don't?

I agree with PP who said you are on a journey already.

'Strong' can be shorthand for all the things you clearly have going for yourself: you're articulate, you are searching for help/ways forward, you are able to function in what wounds like a v demanding job.

I agree that the 'Stately Homes' thread are nothing like what you are describing and I think you are seeing the 'granddad - ice cream' situation through a rather angry filter.

You have been hurt, badly and repeatedly, but those who should've been the ones to protect you and who you were dependent on.
You have not found a type of therapy/therapist yet who you've jelled with. This is sadly often the case and I am not sure that there is a simple solution other than trying again and again.

Have you heard of The Survivor Trust?
Or this? Based in Nottingham, I am not sure how useful this might be.
RapeCrisis might be able to point you in the direction of a specialised therapist.

I don't think that a bit of short-term counselling is likely to do the trick for you. You may well need to find some long-term therapy, but you don't have to feel the way you feel forever.

thanks

IWillIfHeWill Sun 04-May-14 12:48:15

Get some more therapy. Counsellors/therapists are people, they have failings. I'm waiting for my ninth round, I think, so I have some experience. You have to chip away at big things, over years.

My therapist 8 told me i' seemed to be ok' about my mother not loving me. She's a nice woman but I had to break it to her, as gently as possible, that you never, ever get over your mother not loving you.

You are living, you belong in this life, you deserve to be happy because you exist. That's the bottom line.

You deserve better. Keep looking for it.

buttheydo Sun 04-May-14 12:51:59

What would I think if a colleague acted emotional? I know this sounds awful but I would think less of them. I would act understanding and sympathetic and say all the right things but I would think, "Thank God it's him freaking out and not me."

I don't want to get emotional in front of people because I feel very very needy, and I don't know where it would stop. Are you worried your kids would stop respecting you or feeling safe around you if you cried?

Your therapist sounds insightful, I hope she's helping you.

The Survivor Trust sounds like a great resource, thank you.

Counsellors and therapists are like shoes; you need to find someone that fits in with your own approach. There are far more rubbish therapists out there than decent ones and joint therapy was never advisable in your circumstances.

There are no references to either ice cream or lactose intolerant child in any of the recent posts on the Stately Homes thread. You've misappropriated that information to that particular thread.

"I don't want to get emotional in front of people because I feel very very needy, and I don't know where it would stop. Are you worried your kids would stop respecting you or feeling safe around you if you cried?"

No in answer to your question but there again I have not had the completely messed up and dysfunctional childhood that you have had and still suffer from. This impacts on all aspects of your life including your professional life.

buttheydo Sun 04-May-14 12:58:44

My therapist 8 told me i' seemed to be ok' about my mother not loving me. She's a nice woman but I had to break it to her, as gently as possible, that you never, ever get over your mother not loving you.

Damn! You are a better man than I am. I wouldn't have had the patience to point out something so blazingly obvious but then again I suppose it's like going to a GP for a non-MH complaint: you have to advocate for yourself a bit.

ravenmum Sun 04-May-14 13:27:10

Yes, same here, afraid of being needy. I think I've had it drilled into me that being emotional is being needy, and being needy is a bad fault. My mother would see a child crying and say "look at all that self-pity", and though I don't agree with that it's coloured off somehow. When I cry I feel bad because I think I am feeling self-pity, and shouldn't.

Is being needy a bad thing, and if so, how?

I read a book (not sure which) that said that when you ask people to do you a favour, they hold you in higher esteem. This is because when they agree to do something for you, they have to explain to themselves in their head (subconsciously) why they would go to such trouble for another person. And their subconscious explanation is that you must be a really nice person, otherwise they wouldn't be helping you out. I wonder if showing a little neediness also makes other people think better of you? (I'm not sure.)

ravenmum Sun 04-May-14 13:29:13

You generally see emotion as a weakness, but is that the right way to see it? Why might you see emotion as a weakness?

ravenmum Sun 04-May-14 13:30:53

What happened when you showed emotion as you were growing up?

DIYapprentice Sun 04-May-14 13:45:57

I feel for you, you had the misfortunate of being born to not just one, but two major fuckwits who absolutely did not deserve the right to have children. They were crap as parents, and I think it's amazing that you have anything at all to do with anyone in your family.

Perhaps rather than 'strong', you would prefer 'survivor'?

But survival isn't 'living', it's just that, surviving.

To survive you can't show weakness, which is probably why you're afraid to show much emotion.

I have a job helping traumatised people

I've seen this again and again, and I think it's heartbreaking. Why did you choose this line of work?

A friend from uni who went into a major depression at the stress of university exams wanted to work in a field dealing with a lot of emotional trauma - I was pretty blunt with her and said I didn't think she was emotionally strong enough to deal with it, day in and out. Yes, her background would have made her a great person for the job, but over time it would have destroyed her soul, simply because every 'loss' would have been taken too personally. As though she had failed again, and taking her right back to her own bad times. Yes the wins are great, but you can't win them all. And I suspect the wins would never make up for the losses.

Do you think it might be doing that to you?

Also, dealing with someone else's trauma is a great way of trying to ignore your own, but it never quite works, not in the end.

I feel for you, you had the misfortunate of being born to not just one, but two major fuckwits who absolutely did not deserve the right to have children. They were crap as parents, and I think it's amazing that you have anything at all to do with anyone in your family.

ButterflySwan Sun 04-May-14 13:56:56

I was the one who advised the Stately Homes thread, from your comments you're not reading the right one.

ravenmum Sun 04-May-14 14:03:02

I can't imagine having to help people every day when what you really want (and can't ask for) is for others to help you. It sounds sad.

Banoffeepiefan Sun 04-May-14 14:52:40

Change your therapist.

It sounds like you have somebody attempting to do supportive counselling, whereas you would reap major benefits from intensive psychotherapy. I would recommend a relational modality.

My childhood was a very peculiar and confusing mixture of intense treasured good but appalling bad that warped who I was growing up. I am not going to go into details here, but I survived some extremely damaging emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of somebody supposed to be a caregiver, as well as another mixed bag of various family relationships that were inadequate and inappropriate.

I started therapy a year ago with an ingrained and unshakable belief that I was subhuman, disgusting and just somehow wrong. Despite knowing cognitively that I also have a lot going for me, in terms of being a kind, intelligent and talented individual. At the end of my tether from trying to conceal this all the time and pretend to be 'normal'. Never thought I'd get there, and at times it has almost broken me - but I can honestly say now that my sense of self worth has changed. I don't believe I'm a monster anymore - that was the first change. Then I began to realise I'm not irreparably broken anymore, either. My suicidal thoughts have stopped. I just can't think of erasing myself anymore.

It is fucking wonderful and I cannot recommend therapy enough. It has literally changed my life.

IWillIfHeWill Sun 04-May-14 17:25:57

hear, hear! I'm just beginning to heal, after years and years of suffering and making everyone else suffer with me. Therapy is the way to go.

Appletini Sun 04-May-14 21:25:29

OP I'm sorry you feel this way but you are being extremely rude about Stately Homes. It's not a competition.

If you were this rude at group therapy I'm not surprised you got the reaction you did.

Neglect and emotional abuse are not "better" than sexual abuse, just different.

And I say that having experienced all of the above.

I am hiding this thread now.

doziedoozie Mon 05-May-14 09:34:18

The OP sounds angry to me, not really rude. If this is so then that is what I felt after realizing that I was only half living my life because my emotions were so repressed after a difficult childhood.

I was seething with suppressed anger with the rotten deal I'd been dealt and that no adult had helped and that it had taken until well into adulthood to realize how much was wrong. All those wasted years.

I saw one therapist who was v good then I moved away, but mostly read self-help books. It has been a long haul but probably at the best place I have ever been in life.

tiawalters Mon 05-May-14 10:55:57

OP, I think your post is about a lot more than bad messages from parents. It's about serious neglect from your parents, and sexual abuse from your brother.

These are very traumatic experiences and I doubt that anyone in an open forum like this one is fully qualified to give the kind specialist help that you need.

It's understandable that you might find some posts unhelpful and irrelevant to your particular situation but I think that's more to do with the nature of this online space than with people trying on purpose to be unhelpful, or obtuse.

I think most posters try their best to give constructive advise, but your issues deserve more indepth and sustained attention, and that's why they should address them with a fully qualified professional.

Posters are right to point out that books, meditation and counselling might all help deal with past abuse and neglect, and the subsequent anger that all that brings about later in life. But ultimately we all know that there aren't magical solutions and that the healing is an ongoing process that might take a whole life. And there's nothing wrong with that.

DistanceCall Mon 05-May-14 19:00:25

I don't know where you are, but you can get a referral here. They have a sliding scale, and I can recommend them.

www.cfar.org.uk/clinic.htm

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