The dangers of feeling the feelings

Happy Families
Happy Families

This mindfulness business is not for the faint of heart, especially when it comes to being mindful of your feelings. I used to be awesome at this, but somewhere along the way, I discovered that it was easier to avoid them and have began using a whole range of avoidance and distraction strategies just so I wouldn’t have to feel or think.

Now that I’m learning all these ACT techniques and they’re becoming part of my life, it’s kind of hard to avoid all those feelings.

For example, yesterday, I discovered just how angry I am at my parents. Still. I thought I had dealt with these feelings through years of therapy, but apparently, I’ve just managed to push them down under the surface and have been doing my best to ignore them.

You might not know that the reason I was finally diagnosed with depression was because of my parents. I was dealing with their issues, as they had, quite violently, separated and I was dealing with the fall out. Trying to protect my teenage sister and listening to both my parents telling me their woes about the other. At one stage my mother took out an AVO against my father who broke down the door to their house (or the police did it on her behalf) and that same day she was taken away by the police to safety.

I remember having to go home early from work as this drama unfolded. Not knowing where my mother was, finally tracking her down at her friend’s place, picking my sister up from school early, sitting with them all in their house with one finger on the speed dial set to 000.

I don’t remember if this happened over one day or several. I know there were several incidents and I know that I was not coping. I had at least one day where I couldn’t get out of bed to go to work and at least one breakdown where I try to pull my hair out and punched myself in the head repeatedly because I couldn’t cope with the emotional turmoil going on inside.

Eventually, I did take myself to the doctor, who quickly diagnosed me with depression (to my relief, because I thought if I had a diagnosis, I’d be able to get fixed), referred me to a psychiatrist and prescribed anti-depressants.

I’m not a forgiving person. I can’t forgive my mother for getting back together with my father, even though they lead very separate lives now. I can’t forgive my father for his ongoing violence, abuse and general inability to be nice to people, especially family.

I can’t forgive them for what they put me through. I am angry at what they put me through and I am angry at their inadequacies as parents.

I know we’re all doing the best we can when it comes to parenting, but I think some things are unforgivable. My children are the centre of my universe and I raise them with the specific aim of not making the same mistakes my parents did. I might not necessarily succeed. They might still need therapy to get over my mistakes. But I hope they never feel as angry with me, as I do with my parents. I hope they never feel as inadequate as I do after every encounter with mine. I hope they don’t feel their choices constantly criticised and I certainly hope that they never feel that they are not good enough.

My life hasn’t turned out the way I expected it to. But every choice I’ve made, I’ve always considered the balance of what would be best for my children versus my own needs. It may be that my parents feel the same way. I guess from where I was sitting, a lot of those choices felt destructive, abusive and neglectful. I wasn’t ready for the responsibilities thrust upon me, especially as an extremely anxious child prone to depression. I never felt the emotional support and affection I so desperately craved.

I grew up with domestic violence. I found it again in my 20s when I met my ex, even though, at that time, I was completely oblivious to his psychological abuse. My father showed me his version in full force as I turned 30 and then after I turned 40 I finally discovered my own ridiculously traumatic situation. No wonder I am angry.

In the unlikely situation that my parents are reading this — it’s about time you knew the truth about the depth of my trauma and anger. I know you consider me an ungrateful daughter, but there is nothing that you can do that will ever make up for the damage you caused me. Maybe you really didn’t know any better and were trapped in a bad situation. Fair enough. But what’s happened can’t be undone. You made me a pawn in your bad marriage.

I can’t talk to you about this stuff, because you conveniently forget what’s gone on and frankly my memories are blurry, too. You insist on talking to me in Polish and I can’t express myself properly in that language any more. Your gaslighting techniques are exemplary. And, frankly, I’m pretty tired of your games. I hate it when I catch myself using your emotional manipulation techniques in my life.

I will learn to live with my anger. I will learn to stop turning it inwards on myself or outwards at my kids. I will learn to let it float alongside me and not cause anyone any harm. Maybe one day it will even dissipate.

Originally published at A blog of her own.