Friday, June 22, 2012

Emotional Baggage: It's Time to Repack!

I discussed the evolution of my issues with boundaries from childhood to the present in a recent post. In response to that post, an online friend posted the comment shown below. Also included is my response to the questions she posed.

Until fairly recently, I have tried to compartmentalize painful life experiences and view them as entirely separate entities. However, my efforts to do so have proven impossible because, as I finally acknowledged, if you don't address pain as it comes to you, it carries over into other experiences regardless of whether you are consciously aware of the emotional baggage you are totting around.

Now, I am working on integrating life experiences rather than denying them in hope that doing so will provide me a greater understanding of myself and how to move on. I decided to post the comments below because they provide a nice overview of some of the emotional baggage that's been weighing me down.

I can see how even in these comments I am still minimizing certain aspects of these experiences, and in all honesty, I'm beginning to realize that I haven't even exposed the tip of the iceberg on some of these issues. Going forward, I hope to chip away at the layers of denial and drop off some of the extra weight that's been keeping me from going forward in my life along the way!

As always, thank you for supporting and keeping me company on this journey!

Photo taken from "Issues in Your Tissues"

From Jaime:

I don't know what to think about your parents because their actions seem so unusual to me on so many levels. I just can't imagine that a parent would put their own social status and popularity among their own friends above their own child's happiness and emotional security. I am sorry they gave you such bad advice in regards to the A55hole you knew in the 9th grade. 
Why in the world would your parents not allow you to leave the table until you finish your plate. That's the kind of things a parent does with a defiant child who is younger than 13, but to demand that from a 19 or 20 year old college student makes me wonder about them. What is your grandparents like, which on of your parents is the alpha parent (I'm thinking your mom)? I get this impression that your mom bossed your dad around a lot, and your mom was bossed around a lot by her parents or a previous abusive relationship. I also wonder if your parents has trouble accepting that you were an adult that didn't need permission to getup from the table. Did they refuse to accept that you were growing up? I get a weird vibe from your parents. I hope that isn't rude of me for saying. 
I wonder how often your parents become the target of discussion while you are i therapy. (You don't need to answer.) It is my personal opinion that much of the damage their refusal to let natural boundaries evolve within you and between others opinions have caused at least as much long term harm as any other thing that happened. Somethings bite more, but others are like toothaches that won't go away. The boundary deal is like a small tooth ache that is always there, but after a long time even a small tooth ache can wear us down. I think a lot of the past 9 1/2 years could have been much better or at least not as emotionally trying if your parents treated you like an equal. 
You have changed a lot in the past 9 months since I have been in contact with you online. You seem more confident and sure of yourself, and that my dear is a good thing.
My response: 
First off, thanks so much for making it through this incredibly long blog post, and secondly, thank you for providing such a thoughtful response! I'll do my best to answer your questions - if I leave out something, just let me know, as it wasn't intentional. 
I have been seeing my current therapist for almost 3 years. The first two years were spent talking mainly about my relationship with them. Then, I finally admitted I needed to talk about sophomore year, and then my world came crumbling down as soon as I tried to open my mouth :) It's like I can deal with my family issues if you take the rape out of the equation, but as soon as it is introduced, everything becomes too much, and I get swallowed up in emotional chaos. 
My father is an alcoholic, and though he no longer drinks, our family, in many ways, displays typical family patterns for families with alcoholics. I think it was particularly difficult for my mother to let me go because she became so used to taking up the slack when my father was a mess. Keeping me dependent was likely a way to keep her from dealing with her own pain. Of course, this is a major oversimplification of my family dynamics, but I think you probably get the drift. I cannot speak for previous abuses in my mother's life outside of our immediate family, but I imagine there were other unhealthy relationships in my mother's life that led her to develop such a controlling demeanor. 
It was tough growing up with so little acknowledgment for my personal boundaries, but no matter how bad things got, I always felt loved and important regardless. It wasn't until my parents encouraged me to stay in the verbally abusive relationship that I started getting really confused. I couldn't understand why my parents, particularly my mother, to whom I spoke candidly about my unhappiness, wanted me to stay in a relationship that was so dreadful. Still, perhaps because I went to boarding school and had such an incredible support network there (and a lot of independence), I was very resilient to the confusion that surrounded my home life.
Of course, because I was getting older, and my parents continued to attempt to interact with me as though I was not getting any older, a lot of friction started to develop between us. For me, the friction felt healthy - I just figured it was because they hadn't had an opportunity to watch me grow up in the traditional sense since I had been away at boarding school.
This all changed sophomore year of college. I was so insanely vulnerable when I went home. I was a sponge. So so confused and just disoriented. It was the initial trauma response that I think would have subsided within 6 months to a year had I received support during that time. Instead, even the mental health professionals stripped me further of control by tricking me into the psychiatric ward. Literally, it was like one day I was a strong student ending the semester on a positive note, and the very next day I was walking around a psych floor not knowing when they would release me. It's like that whole experience broke me.
The spark inside me that made me resilient to family issues was yanked away because I had zero self-confidence left following my rape. I needed someone to fight for me in those initial stages, but instead my voice was stifled even more by the ones I thought would protect me. I think in some ways I minimized my experience with rape in my mind because if I didn't, I couldn't justify my parents reaction, and if I didn't justify my parent's reaction, I would come face to face with feeling emotionally abandoned in my time of most need. I think it's been so hard to heal because I never truly acknowledged the situation as rape because doing so would make me admit how hurt I was by my parents' response.
So now I'm going back and working through what I should have done sophomore year - labeling my experience and moving on - but doing so is bringing up additional unresolved issues for me. 


  1. You are doing the work and it's hard and painful but when you focus on the healing rather than the wound, it will help to ease the pain. Much love to you xoxo

    1. Hi Graceful Lady, thank you for reading and commenting. I think for me part of the healing process is taking a look at the wound since I have ignored it for so long. Almost like I need to look at it so I will know how to repair it :) Right now there are good days with some really hard days packed in - looking forward to increasing the good ones! Thank you for your ongoing encouragement! Hope you had a nice weekend. xx

  2. I can relate to this so much with my relationship with my parents. I like how you wrote addressing the pain as it comes to you. It really is a process, every day can be different. A friend of my mine says to ask myself what is this really about? It can get to the core of those wounds, I feel like I have to dig, write, talk a lot but it is healing. This was good to read, we are not alone. :)

  3. M, I am sorry it took me a week to see this post.

    First I want to thank you for explaining in such detail. I know it isn't easy to face the emotions that permeate the core of who we were, who we are, and who we are trying to become. The more you understand these emotions, the more you learn how to process them because you understand how each event affects each other event in emotional terms.

    I wish you had more support too.

    So now I'm going back and working through what I should have done sophomore year - labeling my experience and moving on - but doing so is bringing up additional unresolved issues for me.

    This is my opinion and I know it is sort of contradictory to what is considered to be acceptable. Also I am basing this off of only my own experiences. For me putting a label on my experiences is a double edge sword. At first it was important for me to accept that I was rapped, but once I accepted that, the label ended up being nothing more than a reminder of what happened to me and has often helped make me feel like a victim, not a survivor. I think it is important to accept what happened to us in all its horribleness, but slowly we have to say to ourselves, not "I was raped", but "a while back I was raped". Later change it to "Way back then I was raped", and then, "a long time ago someone made me a victim, but I have since made myself a survivor." Ultimately we get to a point where we no longer use the label, "rape", and simply say, "I have survived".

    This transition in labeling is something that I in so many ways am in the beginning steps of, but I can see the path, and I can tell that you are mapping out your own path. This path is designed to root out these unresolved issues so that when we get to the peaceful destination at the other end of this path, we get there at the right time. Timing is a problem that I have. I get in such a hurry and I try so desperately to convince myself that I am all better, and for a few days I think I am.

    I guess I am telling you all of this because I want you to understand that we understand your struggle. I so very much with that you has the support you needed back then. Although we can't change the past, we can try our best to be the support now, that you needed then and the support you still need.

    Again, I am sorry it took me so long to see this post.

    Many hugs to you.