Yesterday, I went to FedEx to drop off some packages. Afterwards, I had to wait for the bus for almost an hour in the cold weather and snow piled up. Waiting in the cold is not fun but that is not what bothered me the most. I started thinking what will the bus driver think when he sees me waiting in the cold. I wondered why that bothered me. A million thoughts crossed my mind and then I stopped at one: I don’t want him to think I am poor.
Once I faced this thought, I was shocked I never realized this but my whole life I’ve been afraid of others perceiving me as poor and I’ve overcompensated for that quite a lot at my financial expense.
I never tried to impress people with money, although some might have gotten that idea. I was always afraid that others will see me as poor and when in social settings I tried not to appear poor by spending lots on food or drinks, not caring about the price of things, sometimes bragging about expensive things. However most of my life I was poor.
I’ve been in school and then I’ve been in grad school. I did some well-paying internships in the summer which gave me an appearance of being well-off financially and status. However, even then I was not rich not even well-off. The shame of being poor was so strong that I would spend my money on things to show or prove that I am not poor./
In my bank account, I’ve never had more than $5-6,000 on very rare occasions. Most of the time my bank account is close to $0 or I have credit card debt.
You see being poor or rich has nothing to do with how others perceive you. However, shame has everything to do with how others perceive you. Shame dragged me into debt because by not wanting to appear poor I became poorer than I really am.
Realizing this core shame, I felt liberated. Once you uncover the shame, admit it, even share it with a friend, it does not have that large power over you. Perhaps, one day it will disappear fully.
People say there are no bad therapists. The usual response is: “It is not a good fit.” I find this response hypocritical. It is easy to intellectualize, have theories, and opinions when you are in a good place emotionally and mentally, however, when you are in bad emotional, mental, and psychological state and you need a therapist you want a good one. A good one means someone that can start helping you immediately or if he or she cannot help you they can refer you to someone that can. That is a good therapist! Period. Exclamation mark! Done.
A bad therapist, on the other hand, will accept you as a client most likely because they have free slots they need to fill them in, in order to make money. In other words, they will do it out of their own needs, not yours. The argument these therapists make is that it is the client responsibility to decide if the therapist is a good fit or not. Also, it is the client responsibility to communicate, be motivated, to do the work, etc. They put the full responsibility on the client. This would make sense if these are two healthy adults deciding whether they want to get married or not. Also, it would make sense if you are hiring a personal trainer. However, this is therapy. The client is not mentally and emotionally healthy and the therapist has more power and more knowledge and experience.
The bad therapist will continue scheduling sessions and will point out minuscule improvements you have made in therapy. In addition, they will project their own beliefs about the world and how things should work. Some might even try an involve you in their agenda to heal the world. Some might even try to teach you how to communicate at a very high-cost undermining your confidence and undermining that in your life you have been an excellent communicator – based on hard evidence, not just your opinions. Some might also try to teach you breathing techniques after you have already told them you’ve completed the full Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program in a group setting and that you already have a full year subscription to Headspace and that you attend Yoga classes. Again, all of this at a very high cost per session. Others might tell you to go out and make friends as homework – another undermining of your confidence and capabilities – you already have friends, make friends easily, and have received popularity awards. Yup!
I don’t want to sound to sound pessimistic because by nature I am an optimist. Bad therapist exists but good and great therapist exist too. It is unfortunate that we as trauma survivors, who have already gone through so much, need to go deal with bad therapists. However, I am convinced that there is hope and there is a light within us. I believe that if we were able to survivor the abuse we are able to overcome the consequences and live full and successful lives. Live to tell.
Today, I went to a Technical Editing class that I am taking and I felt excited and enthusiastic. I remembered that I love learning. It felt so good to remember who I am or who I was.
When I got home I wrote about all the things I missed. I miss:
having lots of friends
grabbing coffee, lunch, dinner
going out for drinks in cozy places talking, laughing, joking
talking about a variety of subjects with strong opinions
waking up excited and hopeful about the future
having dreams and hopes
dressing up and feeling good about myself
enjoying the nice weather and being worry free
being engaged in life, fully and vibrantly
not feel afraid all the time
having a genuine enthusiasm
my intelligence and my brilliance
my opinions and ideas
being able to trust others
not caring what others think of me
not dreading life
feeling connected to others
feeling good in my body
feeling invincible like I can take on the world and make a positive impact
my love for the world – my intense, passionate love for the world
I searched Google for loss of self and loss of identity and it is very common for survivors of trauma especially abuse by narcissists and sociopaths. I grew up with both of these. I feel that every time I was able to create an identity for myself they would come and crush it. In addition, I would also get attracted to narcissistic friends or even narcissistic Ph.D. advisor.
I dislike the term “compulsion to repeat” but it is very true. Until I had my meltdown or breakdown I denied that my parents are abusive. Once I started remembering, the glass castle shattered and things started coming out. The only way to break the compulsion to repeat is to break the glass castle and build a new one made out of stone. Something, that can last longer and withstand throwing stones.
It’s been 3 or maybe even 4 years since my meltdown and I am still recovering. Grief keeps resurfacing. Wounds open up every day to be felt and healed. I don’t know if I’ll restore my lost identity cause I don’t know if I ever truly had an identity.
There are few things I know about myself though:
I am incredibly resilient
I love art, music, literature
I have a deep sense of empathy
I have deep love for the world
I love life even broken, bruised, and selfless – I still want to live
Revenge is one of the high-octane feelings that we like to avoid but also very human emotion: not noble but human. We, survivors of trauma, feel it often although most of us deny it. It was two days ago, I was feeling revengeful towards a therapist that dropped me over email after 2.5 years because I got angry at her for the lack of progress and her on several occasions suggesting more sessions because it benefited her financially. I wrote her few not flattering but honest online reviews. The thing is I wanted to hurt her and get even at least a bit.
Instead of denying that I am doing it out of a feeling for revenge, I decided to acknowledge the feeling. I kept telling myself: It is normal to feel revengeful, revenge is a normal human emotion after we’ve been hurt and betrayed. Things started changing a bit. I message a friend that comes from a healthier family than mine and asked her if she feels revengeful and she said yes. She too has problems sometimes letting go of feelings of anger or revenge towards people that have hurt her in the past. My first thoughts were: I am not alone, there is nothing wrong with me. Afterwards, I felt a natural state of high and connectedness. I could not believe the difference these few text messages made in my mood. She did not give me a preachy answer instead of an honest answer and I felt less alone.
I managed to work through some of the feelings of hurt and betrayal caused by this so-called trauma therapist. A big one was that in a moment when I felt very vulnerable crying and realizing that my mother was a really sick person she asked me “Do you want to have her back in your life?” This was a poor therapeutic intervention. I spent so much time telling her the horrible things my mother has done. I went no contact with my parents after few months in therapy and I assumed that she as a therapist will have my best interest in mind. Instead, she betrayed me by suggesting I should have that monster in my life.
I don’t know if I am done with feeling revengeful towards this therapist but I know that talking about revenge helped me let go of some of the pent-up emotions. I’ll talk to my really good T about revenge next time. He manages to resolve things in few minutes.
I leave you with this quote by Rudy Giuliani:
Revenge is not a noble sentiment, but it is a human one
Since my meltdown a few years ago, after I realized my mother is a full-blown narcissist and she has been draining me for years and that some of the people in my life were narcissists too, I have been worrying and thinking obsessively about abuse and how to protect myself. Some worry is normal but for me, it has been unending.
Trying to find a therapist that can deal with children of narcissistic mothers is way harder than I ever imagined. Many therapists don’t believe in narcissistic mothers or think that we should just leave the past behind and focus on the present. Also, they don’t tell you this upfront. They believe they can heal you by getting you to forgive your parents and take them back.
Today something shifted in me and I said there is no point in worrying. The key has been having a great therapist that is familiar with narcissism and sociopaths and can help me not the “cheap” therapist that only tell you to breathe or stay with your feelings. Now, I can give worrying a break.
I started cleaning up my apartment. I am following The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She says keep the things that bring you joy. I can hardly find anything that brings me joy but there are plenty things that make me break down and cry. There are piles of old magazines and vintage books I’ve bought the past few years to do collage artwork. Nothing wrong with doing collage artwork except I did it out of fear that I am not good at doing art like drawing and painting so I used it to avoid facing my fear: what if I am not good enough. So I keep doing the smaller stuff because my mother told me not reach for the big things. Always keeping myself small, staying little so that others don’t get jealous, so that I don’t upset someone, so that I don’t provoke others.
I can’t stop crying. All the time keeping myself small, little. Supporting other peoples dreams but not even allowing myself to dream. Never reaching out for things – as if my arms have been cut off like Venus de Milos:
Excerpt her hands were lost in transport, her pose is still graceful. Mine feel like they have been cut off by my narcissistic mother so that I don’t reach out for things. Always keeping myself small and gazing at the ground and given so many talents. No wonder, I stayed 2.5 years with a therapist who enabled me to stay small. Not much progress except safety in her office. You can’t expect someone who is blind to show you the way out of your own blindness and this therapist was blind and insecure in many ways. I have a theory that insecure people cling to each other and keep each other small.
I am afraid to keep discarding stuff because I wonder what will be left of me but perhaps I need to get rid of a lot of the junk to become who I was meant to be. Finally, I’ll be able to clear some of the clutter in my head and to open up space for my authentic self and to live life more boldly and freely.
I do not know what got into me, but when I woke up this morning I thought of rebirth and creating a blog. The theme of the blog is Winter Solstice and the text said: “Rituals to help you reflect and rebirth”. I was sold. I need both self-reflection and rebirth. Why?
It’s been few very rough years for me recovering from childhood trauma dealing with therapists who did not know what they are doing but still took me on as a client and made things worse. My epic Odyssey of recovery started in the Silicon Valley, then continued to West Virginia, then Los Angeles, back to West Virginia, and finally, I found the help I needed in Montreal by one of the best therapists out there. Now, I am back in West Virginia but still having phone sessions with the T from Montreal and another T in West Virginia.
As many people with childhood trauma, I grew up in a dysfunctional family. However, as Tolstoy’s quote goes:
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way
Mine was quite unique – my mother a full-blown narcissist and my father a sociopath. I know hard to believe and very rare combination. Until recently, I thought sociopaths are only in the movies or in prison but it turns out there is a higher percentage of them among CEOs (about 1 in 5). My father was a director at an automobile company. My mother a “devoted, sacrificing” stay at home mom to the outside world but in the privacy of our home, she was the wicked stepmother from Cinderella. You think Joan Crafford was scary in the movie Mommy Dearest? Think twice.
I intend to share here some of my personal struggles, recovery from trauma, and artwork.