January 15, 2004
Hi Dr. Irene,
I recently found your site and recognize a lot of the
stories here as my own. Can we say my name is Hope?
You bet! Dear Hope, I like your choice of
screen name. I think you chose accurately. There is lots of hope and you
can certainly feel much better than you do now. Good for you for
recognizing that you don't have to cart this heavy load of baggage
everywhere you go!
I'm not even sure what my question is. I guess I just
need to know how I can start to change abusive behavior patterns.
Where to start: You already have.
You begin with the recognition that these patterns may exist. Your goal is
to monitor your thoughts and feelings so you can become mindful about what
these patterns look like and how they express themselves - without
becoming defensive that you have them, and certainly without beating
yourself up for having them!
Please do not make the mistake of
recognizing the patterns and hating yourself for having them! That is
repeating the abusive pattern! And I promise you, you will repeat this
self-abusive pattern - and it is OK that you're repeating it because
repeating it and beating yourself up is all part of learning not to...
So, each time you notice yourself putting yourSelf through the ringer, you
need to remind yourSelf that it is OK to feel what you feel. You have
a right to feel what you feel, whether you like it or not. Over and over
and over again, allow yourself to feel what you feel, remind yourself that
there is no need to beat yourSelf up for feeling what you are feeling. You
will repeat these lessons until you've mastered the syllabus and are no
longer beating yourSelf up.
Understand that one of these lessons is
that you, and all of us - we are human. You are doing the best you can.
Your mom did the best she could. So did your dad. Recognition of and
acceptance of and empathy for the aspects of self (and other) that you may
dislike or even abhor, is a good "where" to start. Easier said than done,
but very doable.
A few good books to help you get started
along this road are:
earliest memory I can remember my mother being verbally abusive, angry &
emotionally abusive. Moms teach us by
"modeling" behavior. Not only were you taught how to behave like mom, you
were also taught that you deserve to be treated the way mom treated you...
None of this was either fair or true.
I am the youngest of 4 kids, the first two (my older
brother & sister) are from my mom's first marriage...then she remarried and
had me & my twin sister. She favors my sister over me. I
wasn't suppose to be born she said and that "I snuck in."
So, you're feeling unwanted. :(
She was constantly
yelling and angry....and I was suppose to "fix" everything and "do
everything" to please her. Ouch! That's a tough,
if not impossible role for any human being, let alone a little kid!
She was (and still is) very controlling. Everything I did just wasn't good
enough. She was never satisfied. She would use anything to keep control,
humiliation, embarrassment, yelling, anger, belittling, degradation, intimidation, guilt ,constant negativity.
Everything except physical abuse. Have you read this
So it's no surprise my Dad left home when
I was twelve....leaving me with her. Now I am in my mid thirties.. I have
been married for about seven years. I have three kids who are
great kids! Excellent! About a year ago my husband left me because we could not
have a healthy relationship. I'm sorry. I'm constantly trying to control and turning
into my mother! The difference between you and your
mom - and it's a big difference - is that you know that. She didn't.
I feel like I can't talk to people without getting angry
and feeling very irritated and full of anxiety. I am easily intimidated and
I feel like I have to supply everyone's needs and perform in order to be
loved. He was only gone for about two weeks, but it was a flashback of my
dad leaving home and I went into deep depression this past year.
I'm so sorry... You're talking probably Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder and definite anxiety and clinical depression.
recently I didn't even realize that I was so angry.
I'm glad you realize it! You have reason to feel angry! (But that doesn't
mean you need to allow your angry feelings to translate into angry
behavior.) Until God had to show
me, and I realized what I was doing. I need help to change these
patterns. I want my house to be a loving home, But where do I start?
Let it be said that I'm glad you've allowed God into
your life. Let it also be said that having a loving home starts with loving
yourSelf, and that's why I suggested you begin to love and to forgive
yourSelf in the first paragraphs of my reply.
Next Step: You will need a therapist to
guide you, otherwise you're likely to keep banging your head against the
same wall more times than you need to. There's a lot to sort through.
Also Next: Please see a psychiatrist or
talk to your family doc about screening and treating you for depression and
anxiety. Doing this can make your psychological journey a lot quicker and
less painful. You've describing an anxiety disorder and a depression, both
physical disorders which often walk hand-in-hand. Depression
and anxiety tend to vary in their intensity over time, so don't not seek
help if you're not feeling particularly icky this minute. Both disorders
can be modified by therapy alone in many cases, but they tend to respond
better when medication is combined with psychotherapy. Medication
gives you the ability to better work with your therapy.
Chances are mom (and/or dad) had some
variant of depression/anxiety and passed it on to you. Even if they didn't,
abuse in childhood is enough to create the chemical pathways
leading to depression and anxiety in adulthood. So, please don't interpret
what I'm saying to mean you a mental case. Far from it! I'm asking you to
recognize that these conditions are physical and have a high treatment
So, dear Hope, there is lots of hope!
Let's get the show on the road lovely lady. Post here about how you are
doing, what questions you have, whatever. I'll be by next week to answer
your comments. God bless you, Dr. Irene
Dear Readers, you can no longer post, but
you can read the posts.