The Happy Family Game…

As usual my therapy session last Friday was very illuminating.

The session begins when I brought up some of the issues that came up over the week: (read this & this).  I then shared with him my “major light bulb moment”:  The most painful thing about my childhood was the consistent failure of all involved to acknowledge that I was hurting.   At home as well as school, all involved, I am the problem, and it’s solution.  Context didn’t matter and the role others played in the perpetuation of my own misery were irrelevant.  I was the problem, it was my fault.  Healing and moving forward has involved examining the context of the problem and that the issues were much bigger than me.

As I progress in therapy, I’m beginning to understand the depth of the unresolved crap that I carry inside me from my childhood.  There was never an opportunity for me to express how I felt, or share with someone what was  happening at home, at school, or with the extended family.  My misery was an all encompassing thing 24 hours a day that defined the reality of my existence.   I struggle, at times, with a doubt in the reality of my experiences, since all involved refuse to hear or acknowledge what I’ve been through….

Something happened at work that really disturbed me quite a bit….

I find myself, in a knee-jerk, matter complying with this bullshit idea that I must protect others from what they don’t want to see.  This habit is so automated that I can tend to do it quite a bit.  I hold within myself the reality of my emotional experiences, in order to get through my day.  I present a pleasant demeanor the majority of the time and appear pretty “even-headed” with such adeptness that it scares me at times.  In fact, a patient I cared for complemented on my pleasant and patient attitude.  He’s actually a very sweet individual & I enjoy caring for him.  However, the floor he’s on is always short-staffed and the nurses are clearly all “on edge”.  The lights are blinking like a Christmas tree and I’m trying to keep up with patient’s demands while getting vitals.  He calls often asking for small things and I know he’s lonely and needs to talk.  I become stressed & overwhelmed inside but try not to let it show.  At some point in the evening he states his sincere appreciation for me and how I always made time for him when nobody else did.  I smiled and responded with a quick thank you.

On the way out the door, I recall feeling dumbfounded and perplexed.  My mind was jostled by this complement & I instantaneously “snapped out of it”.

Until this moment, I was just feeling annoyed that I had to be on this particular floor.  It was a very heavy floor that was always short-staffed.  As the float pool tech, I felt I was being shit on and seething inside.  I began my shift with an internal piss-n-moan rant running in the back of my mind.  It wasn’t until I received a bit of acknowledgment from a patient that I started to reflect on my own thought processes that evening.  These thoughts had been acting as an internal narrator of the events of the evening:

“I can’t believe I’m dealing with the same person’s crap again for the fourth day in a row.   Why is it they have to shit on me & assign me to the stuff nobody wants to do?  If only they knew what I have on my plate,  I just don’t have the patience.”  My eyes began to well up with tears as I began to realize how good I was at “smiling and taking it like a man”.

By about 1:00 a.m. things start to quiet down & I’m able to sit down and have something to eat.

I found a quiet place so I could process what I learned from the meeting with my psychiatrist yesterday.  This pervasive tendency to suppress my emotions into the subconscious level of awareness was truly all-encompassing.  This just happens to be yet another consequence of the happy family game crap that I participate in.  This desire to create a certain public image involved hiding certain things and accentuating others things.  When my parents tell me they remember a happy girl, I believe they are sincere in this assertion, (however incorrect).  I came to realize, they were the beneficiaries of my coping mechanisms.  I protected them, and the family, at a huge expense to my own well-being.

The fact is, denying my truth was unhealthy.  Today, I’m so good at keeping things inside that it is almost a knee-jerk action.

This is why today, when I talk about my childhood with the family, they have such a very different memory of things.  I kept the reality of my day-to-day life out of their view.  I protected them from what I knew they were incapable of handling.    I would like, at some point, to tell the truth of my experiences as an act of defiance.  It would be a useful and essential opportunity to state publicly the reality of my life experiences.  However, before doing so, I need to prepare myself with the frustrating reality that some people might react very negatively to my story.  I would need to carefully weigh my options and consider my true motives for doing so….

My biggest struggle today is with a slow grieving process.  Neglect is a painful, yet frequently overlooked experience, in some respects just as painful as abuse…

Underlying everything that I’ve gone through is just the idea that I was alone.

There was no one there for me at home or in school.  The consistent message that I received is that context was irrelevant.  My own perspective wasn’t as important as is the idea that the problem is me and I need to fix it myself.   And the funny thing about this assertion, are how I react to it differently at varied levels of awareness….

In fact, I believe there are different levels of knowing.

I can take in the logic of what someone says and filter it against my own experience.  Yet emotionally, my feelings betray me.  When re-experiencing old trauma, I don’t care about logic, all I know I feel shame, hurt, and invalidation.   I ask myself about the purpose of this secrecy and why I’m not supposed to say anything.  Why are they so insistent on not seeing certain things?  There is fear, pain, and simply a desire to avoid those things that hurt to much to look at too long…

…So the frustrating thing is I’m left to figure things out on my own.  Like the serenity prayer, I focus on what I can change and let go of the rest.  It feels so lonely simply because there is no one in my life who was there that the way things went down. Instead, when the past comes up, it was me and my problems.

My mind is like a safety bubble within which I reside reside in order to avoid the body’s messages of the unresolved emotions I’m not ready to deal with…

I have a pervasive and f-d up tendency to separate the goings on in my body from an awareness in my mind

I am starting to appreciate the real consequences of this coping mechanism. It has repeatedly slapped me in the face over the last several weeks.  I am going through stuff throughout the week that impacts me.  The emotions and thoughts don’t present themselves until I am at my final straw.  Emotions bubble over & become too much to handle.  The cycle has been repetitive over the last several months…

I spend too much of my life with this happy smile on my face that allows everyone to believe that Kathleen’s doing just fine.  The happy game I play is now my own.  My outer presentation never fully justifies the reality of what I’m feeling in the moment.  I know that the reality of my childhood was a perfectly crafted performance.  They acted like they were fine and I had to act like I was fine not so we could seem like the perfect happy little girl & everybody we were okay…

HOWEVER, below the surface my dad had checked out, my mom was stressed, my sister felt alone, and I was depressed….

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References

Van Der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score. New York, NY: Viking.

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