So I’ve rewritten this piece like five times now. I keep trying to write my life story but no one needs to know that much about me. Simple is better and gets the point across. So the point is that I have not really explained the coping mechanisms I’ve developed to deal with life. I mean I’ve conquered the mountain and confronted my parents but that doesn’t mean that the problems just disappeared.
Abuse creeps into every part of your life whether you realize it or not. Once I started facing the problem the deep seated damage began to recede. I am able to lead a more functional life. I recently completed another group therapy program and it reminded me of how far I’ve come and that I still have some more work to do.
I think I’m going to list coping mechanisms and the benefits I’ve experienced from building on them haha. So cheesy and it’s different for everyone but I’ve talked to some people and sometimes it’s just nice to hear about how someone else deals with their problems.
Positive Reinforcement– I thought the worst things about myself. I was taught as a kid that I was never good enough so as an adult, I thought I was undeserving of the good things in life. This even led to darker thoughts of ending my life at different points. My negative self-talk was out of control. My brain was wired to be negative and self-loathing so it needed to be rewired to be positive and loving.
I felt ridiculous but my counselor had me write nice things about myself. Then she had me write key phrases and repeat them out loud every day. Slowly, I started to feel less awkward about saying these things about myself. I began to actually believe that I wasn’t a bad person. Then I thought that maybe I was a decent person. Then I began to like myself. And then I began to accept my flaws and realize that they too, make me the person that I am. Now I love myself. I still think negative thoughts and occasionally call myself stupid or an idiot but I immediately pick up on it. I stop and realize that I am only human and just because I made a mistake, it doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. Sometimes this is a daily struggle and sometimes it’s not a problem at all.
Becoming aware of and accepting my emotions– I was once described as being excessively concerned with self-preservation. I fiercely protected myself from being hurt emotionally by anyone. I made myself numb so that I couldn’t feel and I became numb to other’s emotions and needs. My go-to bad coping skill is to go numb. Push it all down and feel nothing so that I can move through the day. If I don’t face my feelings then I don’t have to face the problem. In group we talked about basic and complex emotions. To be numb, I functioned on basic emotions. I could tell you if I was unhappy, angry or ok. I didn’t feel much else and sometimes I couldn’t even tell you why I even felt those few emotions.
I don’t know when it happened but I realized that if I was ever going to move forward, I was going to have to start feeling again. I would have to feel it all. I had to let out all the pain that I had been stuffing down. It was like the flood gates opened. One minute I’d be crying and then the next I’d be laughing. I was a little hard to handle for a while. Now I try to identify how I’m feeling regularly. I try to identify why I’m feeling that way as well. I count my blessings when I’m happy and I try to figure out a solution when I’m feeling anxious. It can still take me some time to figure out the cause of my anxiety but it has really helped to assess the problem and see if there’s anything that I can do to make it better.
Having a wider breadth of emotions has made it easier for me to be more aware of other’s emotions. It’s not always right away but sometimes I try to think about how my behavior will affect others. How will it make them feel? What should I do to be as respectful as possible of their feelings?
Boundaries– Boundaries go both ways. You have to follow them and so does the person you’ve set them for or vice versa for that matter. I had no boundaries. I allowed my friends to walk all over me. They could blow me off and there would be no repercussions on my part. My parents could ask me private things about my life and I would feel obligated to answer. Pretty much anyone could tell me to do something and I would do it, even if I knew it was self-deprecating. I hated myself for not being able to say no and I hated others for thinking they had the right to ask whatever they wanted of me.
Almost none of my established relationships were healthy. First I had to decide who I needed in my life and who I needed to let go of. Then I had to decide the kind of relationship that I wanted to have with that person. I also had to take into consideration what they might want from me as well. After that I had to figure out the steps to get to that point. Finally, I had to start changing the way I dealt with these people so that they saw the kind of behavior that I expected in return. Most importantly, I had to speak up when I was unhappy with something. This was scary at first because the fear of rejection and displeasing someone was ingrained in me but I had to realize that if I didn’t assert myself, then I’d just be in the same boat I was in before. Setting boundaries was tough and I still struggle with them but it’s worth it.
Me Time vs. Isolating– If I wasn’t numbing myself to a problem, I was straight up running from it. I ran from so many problems that I completely isolated myself. I stopped talking to a lot of people, I stopped going places and I spent a lot of time by myself. Sometimes I still struggle with trying to isolate myself and not deal with stress and problems. I’ll hide and make myself numb, maybe eat my problems too. I’ve started to learn that I can take time to myself when I’m overstressed or trying to work out a complex emotion. I’m just getting the hang of living again, it can be kinda overwhelming. So the most important thing I’ve learned is that ‘This too shall pass.’ I try to allow myself one day to feel the disappointment or the hurt or the pain and then I decide if I can do anything or not and then I move on. I can’t always do this right away but once I fully acknowledge my emotions, I can come out of hiding and live my life.
So that’s how I try to live now. I’m not always the best at accepting my emotions or focusing on the issue at hand or living in the now but I’m trying. I’m building techniques to help me live a fuller life and I’m not letting the setbacks or the remnants of the abuse take me out of the game. Life is too good.