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How Do I start Living for Myself?

(18 Posts)
LonelyLost Thu 16-Jun-16 08:15:00

As in title really - I have no idea how to do this. I'm in my late 50's, and have 3 kids. I've never lived on my own, went straight from living with parents to marriage at 16. I had what I now see was an abusive childhood, no violence or obvious outward neglect, but my feelings were always discounted/wrong/ridiculed. I was emotionally neglected (no memories of ever being hugged, told I was loved or wanted by my parents. siblings needs were always more important than mine and had to come first - there's more, but that's just to give you the general idea. I was also sexually abused by my grandfather from aged 9 to 12 (he lived a distance away and the abuse only happened when he visited us, visits stopped when I was 12). I never told my parents about this when I was a child and won't now because their response would be to ask why I'm trying to upset them as he has been dead a long time.

My kids are all grown up, 2 left home and youngest still living here but independant. DH is kind in lots of ways - but is unemotional and sits on the fence if needed to step up (had a lot of in law problems over the years and he always tried to "see both points of view" and "not cause a row" )

Anyway (finally getting to the point) I'm starting to realise that I live, have always lived for everyone else IYSWIM. My happiness has been tied up in my DC's and still is. An extreme example - they all always come home for Christmas and we have 10 days of shutting out the world, and loving being together just like when they were kids. They love this and so do I, difference is they live a full life in between but I spend those in between times planning for, and waiting for it to happen. I don't want to bore you with lots of examples but they would all be similar.

Everything I do is aimed at how things will be when DH, DC's are home. We don't have joint friends really just one couple that we see at Christmas (complicated issue as I can see why we don't but it's too late to put that right). I'm not good at making friends alone as I feel boring/unworthy/unlikeable/not good enough.

I do have hobbies, I do several crafts, but they only seem worthwhile if I'm making something for someone else or I have someone to show my finished work to. Otherwise it all seems pointless.

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately and realise I need to start living a life where what I think is what matters to me, but after a lifetime of invisibility and not being good enough or as important as others, I have no idea how to do this. I have to get rid of the voice in my head that continually shouts "it's not worth it just for me".

For background, I don't work due to health issues, but when I did I always felt the odd one out in the office, was never able to feel part of things. I often feel I am responsible for everything that goes wrong (even global warming feels like it's due to some lack in me). When my siblings argue (and they do this a lot) even when I am in no way involved I feel that I'm going to be blamed for it someway or another and that I should fix it.

I am full of unresolved issues where I feel I've never been heard, never stood up for myself. This makes me angry and appear outwardly like a grouch who is nit picking at small things that happen day to day.

My default position is to expect people not to like me. I'm not good at conversation, the best I can do is to tell anecdotal takes from my life past and present, which are mainly not interesting. I have no idea how to talk to people about current events without seeming either aggressive or overbearing. I think this is because I'm unsure about whether the way I see things is right (I usually feel wrong) and am over anxious.

Inside I am still the child who was never picked for teams at school, always laughed at because I didn't have the right clothes or money to join in anything, who never learned how society works (there was never conversation in my home or a chance to practice being a person if that makes any sense?)

I would so love to feel free, to feel normal, to be able to not care if I am validated by others and to believe that if I like something that is good enough!

DontDead0penlnside Thu 16-Jun-16 08:34:54

"My default position is to expect people not to like me. I'm not good at conversation, the best I can do is to tell anecdotal takes from my life past and present, which are mainly not interesting"

I don't want to cherry pick as you have a lot of sadness in your whole post, but this stuck out. I think that would apply to a huge number of us, so please don't feel alone in this. It's "normal" even if it isn't accurate. I don't have an answer, I just didn't want you to feel you were alone in feeling this way.

It's also a great thing you have acknowledged the issues too because you can now CHOOSE how, when and where to make tiny changes for the better, rather than having them thrust upon you.

For instance, I fear that your 10 day family seclusion Christmas breaks won't always be like that, as your children develop relationships and families (and inlaws) of their own. A few years ago I made the decision to stop being at my family's beck and call and do my own thing (which included being quite happily alone on C Day more than once). It was hard emotionally, but it had to be done. You can prepare for this to happen in advance.

I'm sure others will be along with advice and experience too. Take care.

barnet Thu 16-Jun-16 08:41:53

I'm sorry you had such a tough sad childhood Lonelylost. I am no expert, but it is a great first step that you have realised you ARE the centre of your own universe. I have no direct experience but I have heard that CBT /talking therapy is useful to explore what it is that is important to You in life, and learn techniques to combat the negative inner voice.

LaurieFairyCake Thu 16-Jun-16 08:52:45

Pretty much everyone I see in the clinic is like you in their 40's/50's - they've given over their life and time to family/dh's and stopped thinking or putting themselves first.

When you put everyone's needs before yours it starts a cycle of thinking you're not good enough/not worthy/boring/dull/grumpy.

There's fuck all wrong with you. You are an interesting person in your own right. I read every word of your post. You're insightful, deprecating (too much) loving to your family. You are interested in the same things I'm interested in like crafts and politics.

YOU are interesting smile

You are likely introverted, or you've spent so long not being extroverted that you've lost how to do it. You're clearly reasonably happy in your own company but also recognise you need a bit more contact with the outside world.

Make a list of everything you want to do - join a craft group/visit somewhere/sky dive - I've no idea what your list might contain.

Then start to do it. Yes, you might need to practise social contact. You could consider therapy ( just a few sessions) to help resolve some of your issues.

Self esteem is often boosted by doing. Find a political cause that interests you and do
something for that ? or maybe Home Start, help someone who is struggling with family life and do a few hours a week. Remember, you're good at family life - you've successfully raised a happy family of independent children! That's the goal.

Therapy will help you reflect on your impact on others, get a therapist who is good at feeding back how you interact.

Good luck flowersflowersflowers

tribpot Thu 16-Jun-16 09:08:16

I think I would tackle this on two fronts.

1 - certainly therapy for your historic child abuse. If at some point that involves disclosing it to your parents, this will be because it validates you and the fact that it happens. If they choose to ignore it (as I fear they may have done at the time?) - that's on them and has nothing to do with you. However, before you even consider that, you need to be much stronger and with more self-esteem, and I think (and hope) therapy can help you achieve that.

2 - what to do with the next act of your life. If returning to work isn't possible, what about university? Is there something you would like to study - politics, perhaps?

I also fear that as your kids grow away from their childhood routines you will find the loss of the Christmas period almost unbearable if you don't start now to build up a life of your own.

In terms of crafting, I think most of us mostly make for other people (although I am on a bit of a sock knitting bender for myself) but I wonder if there is some dream project you've always wanted to tackle and it's never felt worth it because it would 'only' be for you? If you have something in mind, I guarantee the MNers of Arts & Crafts will cheer you on as you work on it. I feel like believing you are worth the effort involved, then wearing it (or displaying it or whatever it is your craft allows) will be a fantastic boost. If it's a fabric art and you want a basically unlimited supply of projects to work on, MNers run a charity called Woolly Hugs.

Keep talking to us here - you've taken the first step on the journey to a fuller life. You deserve to be happy.

goadyfuckersgetmygoat Thu 16-Jun-16 09:12:44

There's fuck all wrong with you. You are an interesting person in your own right. I read every word of your post. You're insightful, deprecating (too much) loving to your family. You are interested in the same things I'm interested in like crafts and politics. This!

Have you thought of going off to university. Study something that you really love and enjoy. This should give three to four years of doing something you love and it would be constant.

Have you thought of a different career or an activity that is long term but only because you like it.

goadyfuckersgetmygoat Thu 16-Jun-16 09:15:02

Tribpot yes to what you have said.

LonelyLost Thu 16-Jun-16 11:49:19

Thanks for all the replies and suggestions. I can't see myself going back into the workplace or university due to my health issues. I have an incurable cancer, that is curently in remission but which has left me with virtually no immune system so I avoid being with groups of people as much as I can.

I appreciate the nice comments

redexpat Thu 16-Jun-16 11:54:31

I think you should get some kind of counselling to work through your childhood. You need to discover the real you, and I'm going to recommend a book that helped me remember who I was pre-DC and get some of the old me back, but also develop a new me. It's called How to Do everything and be happy by Peter Jones. I saw it recommended on MN and have been recommending it here ever since. It is very good at making you sit down and work out exactly what you want from life, and how to go about doing it. I re-read it every summer.

Are you on facebook? Are there any local groups related to your hobby you could join?

redexpat Thu 16-Jun-16 11:57:38

Oh golly x post with your update. Well that puts a different spin on things, but doesnt make it impossible. Dont rule out studying, there are distance learning courses. OU springs to mind. I think you just need to come up with some more creative solutions. How about a life coach? Is that something that you would consider?

RiceCrispieTreats Thu 16-Jun-16 12:01:56

What's on your bucket list, OP?

AristotleTheGreat Thu 16-Jun-16 12:05:50

What Laurie said.
You need to start small. One thing in the week that you will do for yourself, not for someone else.
Whatever floats your boat. A craft club, counselling etc etc.
Don't try and do too much at once. One small step at the time is good.

LonelyLost Thu 16-Jun-16 12:07:05

Thank you redexpat, I've looked and found a copy on Amazon and it's ordered already. What is a life coach please? and does anyone know what the aproximate costs of counselling are and how to go about finding the right counsellor?

RiceCrispieTreats Thu 16-Jun-16 12:07:08

I think the clue to learning to live for yourself is to identify what has meaning for you, and then giving yourself permission (and the practical means) to do those things.

Go for the things you've always wanted to do but never dared. If there are no dreams or ambitions that spring to mind, start thinking: What makes you curious? What have you done in the past that felt good and right? What is it about those activities that made them interesting to you? What similar things are there, that you could pursue.

LaurieFairyCake Thu 16-Jun-16 12:27:47 - click find a therapist

And shop around, find one you like and you think is supportive - there's likely to be dozens in your local area smile

Cost depends on where you are in the country - £25-£over a 100

LaurieFairyCake Thu 16-Jun-16 12:35:21

Also, don't forget therapy through a charity if you're low income - rape crisis, women's centres often offer free or very low cost therapy.

Your doctor is not likely to be able to access anything apart from cbt which you may not find as helpful for your issues from a long time ago.

LaurieFairyCake Thu 16-Jun-16 12:35:22

Also, don't forget therapy through a charity if you're low income - rape crisis, women's centres often offer free or very low cost therapy.

Your doctor is not likely to be able to access anything apart from cbt which you may not find as helpful for your issues from a long time ago.

greenleaf1 Thu 16-Jun-16 13:26:55

LonelyLost flowers

I can relate to so much in your post. I had an abusive childhood too - I know very well that feeling of thinking everyone else's needs, wants, and opinions were far more important than mine. That it was my role in life to make people happy. Never being able to stand up for myself. Feeling like a bit of a waste of space, if I'm honest. Feeling like the outsider looking in in most situations.

I managed to cover it up with bluster for a very, very long time until I had a huge depression about ten years ago and looked for help.

I'm writing all this because I had some CBT sessions, and saw a couple of "life coaches". Maybe I was just unlucky, but I found the experiences worse than useless. FOr many people it may be fine having "just a few" sessions, and looking at your thought patterns, and behaviours, but for people like us the problems are so deep-rooted and fundamental that it takes an awful lot more than that. But please believe me when I say it's worth it. Really life-changing.

I found with the life coaches and one CBT counsellor I felt like an utter failure. I couldn't just turn my life around by writing lists, or setting goals, or changing my daily routine, so I thought I must be some sort of hopeless case. I wasn't - I just needed a different sort of help.

What really did it for me was finding forums for other people like us to share experiences. Once you tap into that you will realise you are most certainly not alone. And that's really empowering and comforting. There are also some fabulous therapists out there who won't shy away from childhood issues, and will slowly and compassionately work with you. Definitely line up as many as you feel you need and pick the right one. This is so important, and for people like us who may have issues with people pleasing, it can be tricky to tell a pushy therapist that they're not the right one for us! But you have to, and you'll feel great for doing that! I chose at least one bad one, and felt dreadful. Like my upbringing wasn't such a big deal, I should shrug it off. Just no.

There's also an excellent book called (I think) Running on Empty by a psychologist called Jonice Webb. It looks very specifically at the legacy of emotional neglect in childhood. I guarantee you'll recognise so much of yourself there - I actually found it quite overwhelming.

It's a big deal, and it can feel so daunting tackling it, so I really agree with other posters who say you should make little day-to-day changes as well. Even something as simple as speaking your mind, or sticking up for yourself in a situation where you would have previously just kept quiet. Or doing little things for yourself - like getting together with other people who share your passion for crafts.

It's brilliant you're reaching out for support. You'll get there, you really will. Just little steps, putting yourself first for once, and remembering that you matter. A lot.


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