Seeking Therapy is a Sign of Inner Strength

20151126Sun
Many people think that going to counselling or therapy is an admission of weakness. I say it’s a sign of strength and courage. It’s admitting when we need help; when we are stuck.

When I was a young mother and struggling with self-esteem, parenting, marriage issues and lots of family-of-origin baggage someone reached out to a group of young mums I was a part of and offered to meet with anyone who felt they would like some support. It was a bit scary to admit I needed help, but looking back I’m so proud of the younger me for finding the courage. I think by that point I was just so desperate for life to change. My sessions with this woman were just the beginning.

Four years and many struggles later my husband and I began dreaming about getting out of New Zealand to work in a foreign country as part of a missions team. The church we attended at the time required us to have a psych evaluation to help them decide if we were a good risk and worth their financial support. Consequently, after filling in lots of forms, we ended up in the office of a psychotherapist. Best thing ever!

FOUR BENEFITS I’VE EXPERIENCED FROM PSYCHOTHERAPY OVER THE LAST 4+ YEARS:

1. Validation

I still remember the feeling I had as my husband and I walked out of the psychotherapist’s office that first day. We had been validated as a couple and felt, for the first time in a long while, that we were okay. Peter (name changed) made us feel that we were on track, our intuition was good and our plans had merit. We both left there with a little spring in our step.

We had been struggling for years with issues with both sets of parents and we soon made an appointment to go back to the psychotherapist about my parents in particular. I’d been trying to make peace with hurtful memories from my past and I shared one of these with Peter. It was a story of shame from when I was just ten years old. I was embarrassed and it was hard for me to tell it, but I’ll always remember the incredible feeling of validation that came when I saw Peter’s jaw drop.

We discussed my experience and for the first time I realized that it really wasn’t my fault. My parents had royally screwed up in the way they had handled the situation. Just having someone professionally trained tell me that I wasn’t bad was incredibly healing. I can now look back on what for years was a very painful memory and feel peace.

2. Belief in Myself

Having someone validating my feelings and intuition gave me the courage to get to work in my own time. I asked for recommendations of books I could read and after reading Changes That Heal by Dr Henry Cloud (good for anyone who has been raised in a Christian environment) I sought out others on my own. I love that once I became open to learning books, blog posts and conversations seemed to come to my attention/happen just when I needed them…and still do.

Having Peter show me (by the way he listened, heard (got me) and validated me) I was worth something gave me the belief that I was worth investing time in.

3. Motivation to Grow for the Sake of my Children

As a result of reading and continuing to work on understanding my past I came to the realization two years ago that I had suffered mental, spiritual and emotional abuse from my narcissistic mother, both during childhood and into young adulthood. Very soon I was saying to my therapist, “How can I avoid damaging my children in the same way?” His answer (as I’ve written in an earlier post) was: “The best thing you can do for your children is to work on yourself.”

I know what it’s like to live with insecurity, fear, conditional love, lack of emotional support, lack of confidence, etc. This year has been a year of discovering more about who I am and who I want to be. Finally, in my thirty-eighth year, I have figured out that it’s okay to be authentically me. I want my children to leave home already knowing who they are, being comfortable in their own skin, and confident in their individual abilities and gifts. This is huge motivation for me to continue to unpack my past even though it can be painful and emotionally draining at times.

4. Better Communication with my Husband

Last year  I found myself growing internally in leaps and bounds and the gap between my awareness and my husband’s awareness was widening. I was feeling very emotionally disconnected from him and nothing I was saying was making sense to him or getting us anywhere. We were struggling with issues that had been present our entire marriage, namely our opposing communication styles and his obsession with computer gaming.

I got to the point where I no longer had the energy to put into improving our relationship on my own. I went to Peter and explained how I saw things and then hubby and I attended 6 sessions of psychotherapy together. Yes, I had to sweet talk him into it, but by the end he was thanking me for organizing it. Peter was able to spot unhealthy patterns that had developed in our relationship and give us pointers as to how to change them. He helped hubby to understand himself more too and why he felt most refreshed when on his own, hence the gaming.

We’ve continued to learn and grow together since then, we just needed a tune up to help us get back in sync!

~~~~~

I’m so excited to be on the verge of embarking on my own journey to becoming a psychotherapist. I’ve just found a psychotherapist here in England in preparation for beginning a counselling course in the new year. I haven’t felt stuck lately and likely wouldn’t have considered spending money on therapy if it wasn’t for the course. However, it’s become quite clear in my first two sessions that there is a lot more work to be done! Instead of seeking help for my son it makes sense for me to be supported in my role as his mother. It’s really comforting to have found someone to support me both through the 3 year course and my continued journey of healing and personal growth.

My parting thoughts on this subject…you are worth an investment in therapy! Not only will you benefit by learning to love and understand yourself more, but those around you will benefit too! If you’d like to start looking for a therapist, you might want to follow this link: How to Find the Right Therapist.

“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.”  ― David Richo

Advertisements

Actions Speak Louder than Words

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Maya Angelou

I often find myself sharing this quote with people. Probably because it has been one of the toughest lessons I have had to learn in my life so far. Have you ever experienced inner confusion because of inconsistencies between a loved one’s words and actions? I did for many years in regards to my parents, but because I was raised to never question them I didn’t really see or start trying to analyse the discrepancies until my mid-twenties.

My mother and step-father “became Christians” when I was 3 years old, so I grew up believing that this was true. Many of their actions did match up with this claim of theirs. We attended church every week, they held family devotions daily and they home-schooled my siblings and me using Christian programmes. Most of their talk was about their beliefs and world view and the fact that it was the only right way to live.

Being taught by them from an early age I believed them and took everything they said at face value. I admired teachers they endorsed, I read books they recommended and I tried to live my life as I had been taught a Christian should. To me that meant being a person of integrity, a truth teller; it meant being loving, showing compassion and kindness, encouraging others and giving.

Within a year of marrying and having my husband’s perspective on interactions with my family I began to see things that didn’t add up with who my parents said they were. Our relationship with them became fraught with challenges. The opposing messages we were getting from them created a lot of emotional stress for me and my husband. We knew there was something wrong, but we couldn’t put our finger on what. As hubby liked to say, “It’s insidiously subtle and subtly insidious.”

Fast-forward through a decade of trying to resolve the issues between us and things finally came to a head when I read my Dad’s journal of the year I was born. Suddenly I was confronted with a completely different truth about my parents than what they had led me to believe. It was shocking to discover the infidelity, yes, but more that they hadn’t been truthful about it. I went to them again and asked them for an adult version of their past; no longer believing I would get the truth, but hoping nonetheless.

Sadly, they were unable to be honest with me, instead choosing to continue to lie and twist the truth in an effort, I think, to maintain their image as ‘godly, righteous people’. I have been able to verify my Dad’s story and in fact observations he made about their character in the ’70’s are consistent with what my husband and I have lived through with them. It was an incredibly painful time of discovery, but also a freeing one. Finally, I was able to see them as their actions showed them to be and not as the people they had made themselves out to be.

After years of making every effort we could to find a way to have a healthy relationship with them I finally realized that it was not going to happen. I cannot change them, but I can choose to protect myself. For me and my family this means no contact. I wish it were not so, but for our family’s emotional health it is necessary.

My mother and step-father may not be people I can trust or want to be around but I do feel compassion and forgiveness towards them. I just choose to live my life without them in it, and have found peace with that decision. Do you have people in your life who cause you stress and anxiety? Do they say they love you and care about you but treat you badly? If yes, please do start to give yourself permission to choose whether you want them to play an active part in your life.

We could have saved ourselves so much grief and pain if we had believed who my parents were as soon as we began to see the inconsistencies. For too long we allowed ourselves to be taken in by their words, giving them way too many second chances. It is my hope that in writing about our story others might be spared some unnecessary pain and heartache. When someone shows you who they are, believe them!

Home

20151103PegsNovember is turning out to be a month of writing! Sometime in October I signed up for two Blogging University courses: Blogging 101 and Writing 101 – and then quite forgot to write myself a memo regarding their starting dates.

Some days later I had a flash of inspiration thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert and signed up to participate in Nanowrimo. I spent the next two weeks preparing for this and began on the 1st of November to write my first novel. It’s a challenge I’ve set for myself to help me get past some of the hangups and excuses I’ve been feeding myself for years now. It feels good to finally have the courage to make some headway.

On the 2nd of November I’m sure I groaned when my inbox filled up with emails with the Blogging and Writing 101 Course information! What a busy month it’s going to be, but I’m also quite sure that I’m meant to be writing. The time is now!

The one word prompt from Writing 101 that I have chosen today is HOME.

As I’ve mentioned previously, our family has recently moved from New Zealand to England. We’ve been here almost three months now and I can honestly say that I am feeling the most settled I have ever been. I feel like I’ve come home.

The last time I could have called England home (if I’d been old enough to be aware) was when I was a toddler. I was born in York in March 1978 to my married parents. Just months later my mother began an affair with a man who later became my step-father. My Dad had to say goodbye to me when I was only 7 months old as my mother was leaving England with her lover and returning to her homeland of New Zealand.

Within six months we returned to England and wandered about various communities before settling in Wales for a time. Dad was trying to get social welfare’s help for me, but my mother skipped the country against a court order before they could catch up with her. I was 23 months old.

A lot has happened in the intervening years and I am now starting to write about it. The 9th of November, 1978 was the last time I saw my Dad (or rather, he saw me) and apart from a very brief visit in September 1998 I didn’t see him again until September 2014. We spent 10 days with him then and had such a healing and special time together that after all the years we have missed out on I knew it was not nearly enough.

I’m so grateful to have a husband who has been willing to make the huge move around the world so that I can be near my Dad. It feels so good to finally be able to spend real time getting to know him. I believe that subconsciously I always knew that someone very important was missing from my life and that I was always searching to find what I’d lost. Dad is very precious to me now and he is a very big part of why I’ve been feeling so much like I’ve come home.

Image

From Caged to Free

20151019Caged7

I was sad to see this Zebra Finch and his friends behind wire yesterday. They seemed content enough, but do they even remember that they were born to fly free?

It reminds me of how I used to be. Content and secure in my cage.

I was raised in what I thought was a Christian family, but now call pseudo-Christian. I inherited my beliefs about who God is from my mother and step-father and from others in the myriad of churches we attended. The Bible was portrayed as a book without error. I was to read it every day, memorize it and obey it without question. I was taught that being gay was an abomination to God, that divorce was wrong, that I needed to evangelize and help others to see the Truth.

We had The Truth. Anyone that didn’t think and believe the same as us was wrong. It was my responsibility to help them to see the error of their ways so that they could be saved. I was told that we weren’t religious as it wasn’t about following rules and regulations but rather a relationship with God. I believed all this and did my best to follow God and be all that I was meant to be.

The sad thing was that I held on to those beliefs for so long. But why wouldn’t I? Seeing I had The Truth, why would I question it? Why would I seek to understand more of who God was if I had him defined already? Yup. I had him in a box.

Problem. I didn’t realize that I was also in a box. Or rather, a cage.

Over the last two years I’ve been coming out of that cage. A big catalyst for me has been conversations with my Dad. He has challenged my thinking and belief systems in ways that no one else ever has. It has been really difficult at times – having the foundations of my world view rocked. However the biggest thing I’ve realized is that the God outside the box of religion is so much bigger and more amazing than I ever imagined.

Religion, race, roles we play…none of them matter. They aren’t what life is all about. We are souls first and foremost. We are all interconnected. How we treat one another, love one another and connect with one another is much more important than having a so-called monopoly on the truth and/or following someone else’s interpretation of ‘God’s rules’.

We were born to be free. Free to love, free to be.

 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

 

Questioning Everything

Another historical post, written 14th December 2014.

I’m questioning a lot of things these days.

Not surprising seeing as last year [2013] I realized that my mother has been lying to me. Mothers shouldn’t lie and add to that I distinctly recall her teaching me about the importance of honesty and sincerity.

I have a plaque that my son (with help from Dad) bought me last Christmas. It says: MUM is love, warmth and comfort….the SPECIAL person in our life that is always there for us, SHARING our ups and downs and filling us with hope and joy. That’s what mothers are supposed to be like, right? Though I know I certainly don’t measure up to that 100% (can anyone?!), I do desire to be the best mother I can be to my children. I endeavour to keep learning and growing so that even while I’m not the perfect mother, I can become an ever better one.

And so, to discover (with proof!) that my mother has been lying to me all my life…that hurt. That her lies kept me from a meaningful relationship with my birth father for 35 years is gutting, heartbreaking, emotionally stressful, betrayal of an excruciating sort….is it any wonder that a year on I’m still questioning?

What in my life is real? What of my past is truth and what is fiction? The foundation of my internal beliefs – about the world, God, life, death – is it rock solid, or based on fairy tales?

I have a feeling that there are others out there asking similar questions. Some of you will be encouraged in this, but others may be in environments where questioning is discouraged, or even punished. I know from being raised in churches, that questioning one’s faith is considered dangerous or even backsliding! I don’t care! I’ve come to realize that questioning is healthy, and necessary for growth!

I have a hunger to learn and grow so I’m going to keep questioning!

~~

Back to 2015 and I’ve managed to unravel a fair amount of my beginnings. I’ve found a wonderful relationship with my Dad and have moved halfway around the world to live close to him. I’m still keen to process my past more fully and so I’ll likely be writing more of my back story. My spiritual journey seems interlinked with the unravelling of my past. When I think back over the past two years I’m rather excited by the enormity of the discoveries I’ve made and the difference they’ve had in my life. Yay for growth!