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Posts Tagged ‘dysfunctional people’

Yesterday, I wrote about some positive things that came out of visiting my hometown over the weekend. Today I would like to focus on the challenging things as part of processing the trip.

I was much more aware than I usually am of the negative energy of most of the people I visited with. For example, when I visited with family (my father’s side, not momster’s), I was overwhelmed by the constant flow of negativity. Every conversation was about how terrible and hard life is. Yes, I am painfully aware of how difficult life can be, but I also choose not to dwell on the negative stuff 24/7.

When I am visiting with someone that I only see every few years, I ask about how they have been and talk about the good stuff in my life. I reserve the venting for my close girlfriends as I need to process the hard things. When I choose to focus on negativity, I try to have a beginning, middle, and end to the process, not experience negativity as a state of being. I used to be negative constantly, and that was a miserable way to live. No, I am not perfect, nor am I saying that these people don’t have a legitimate reason to be unhappy. My point is that I don’t want to spend the majority of my time complaining about how miserable I am, and it is hard for me to spend time with people who live their lives miserable as a state of being.

I do give these people credit for being authentic, though – they are authentically miserable. There were others I visited with whose energy did not match who they presented themselves as being. A huge part of the direction of my growth is being authentically me. If there is not room in a friendship for me to be myself, then I don’t need the friendship. I might not always be pleasant, but I am (or really strive to be) always me. I need and expect the same from the other person.

The energy of people who are pretending to be something that they are not is actually harder for me to process. The inauthenticity messes with me and is so much harder for me to be around – the dichotomy is draining. What is also difficult (and is an issue whenever I get together with people who “knew me then”) is when others say and do the same things they always said and did, but it’s like it is toward a stranger because that person is not me any longer. The dynamic no longer works because I am no longer that person.

These are the people who were in my life as an emotionally shattered teenager. Being around them was my comfort zone. Now, I am so thankful that there are hundreds of miles between that life and me. I don’t mean this in a judgmental way, nor do I mean that I don’t care about these people. It’s just too draining for me to live like that. I found it interesting that it was the people, not the place (where the child abuse happened), that was so challenging for me on this trip. This doesn’t mean I don’t love and care about them — it just means that I no longer fit in there.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have not been back to my hometown (where the child abuse happened) in a couple of years. I have a lot to process after this trip. I am not sure how much I will blog about and how much I will do privately, but I want to get out at least a few things in today’s blog.

Let’s start with the good stuff – I could tell in the moment how much I have grown. Typically, before I make a visit to my hometown, I am triggered and “off” for weeks beforehand. That did not happen this time. This is probably due in part to how busy I was with one of my part-time jobs. (Blessedly, I get a break from that now!) However, I don’t think that is the only reason. Even in times when I was driving or otherwise not engaging my mind with work, I wasn’t triggered or fretting about visiting my hometown. I think this shows a lot of growth. Finally – I am seeing a payoff on this!

I don’t recall being triggered while I was there. I had a few times where I thought, “We are crossing the state line. This is where I typically see things around me ‘darken.’” But that didn’t happen. I actually noticed fewer “anxiety geysers” while I was there than I had in my day-to-day life at home. Another positive step forward.

I was also able in the moment to recognize my growth in many areas and not feel badly about it. Let me explain what I mean by that … While growth is a great thing, it also comes with loss. The more I grow, the more the relationships around me are affected. The healthier I become, the more I become the “odd man out” whenever I interact with dysfunctional people. This includes family (father’s side, not momster’s side) and some of my friends from high school.

Being the “odd man out” was always a “bad” thing when I was a kid, and even as an adult, feeling “different” would trigger feelings of shame. I felt no shame on this trip even though I frequently did feel like the “odd man out.” Instead, I felt grateful to recognize that I am no longer in that painful place.

Here’s one example – My high school friends and I had a huge dinner, and then they wanted to go back to the hotel room, drink margaritas, and snack. As I have shared previously, I have given up drinking alcohol (at least for now) because I didn’t like how it made me feel. I have already spent most of my life being dissociated – I want to stay present. I have also shared that I used to binge eat as a coping mechanism, always needing access to food.

Watching them get drunk and stuff their faces after we just ate a huge meal made a big impression on me. I saw where I used to be. I was thinking, “How could they possibly be hungry after that big meal?,” but I already knew the answer because I was once like that. The eating was not about nourishment. I wasn’t being judgmental of them – I was just noticing how far I have come.

More tomorrow…

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I am feeling a tad depressed at the moment, so I thought I would blog about it, express the emotions, and then put it all behind me.

I spent the weekend visiting with some friends from high school. After I got home, I received an email from a friend from 2004 (who moved away in 2005) and wound up talking on the phone with her for a while. These are all people that came into my life before (or in the early stages of) therapy when I was much less emotionally healthy.

If I ever needed a barometer of how far I have come in my emotional healing, all of these ladies provided it for me. I find it d@#$ depressing to see where they are in their lives today, and it really opens my eyes to the amazing healing progress that I have made. After all, like attracts like, and I was drawn to these people because we were in the same (or a similar) place when we met. Good golly have I grown!!

One of these people has lost custody of her children after bouncing from one abusive relationship to another. Another has been working hard through therapy to heal from childhood issues and finds herself in a home repeating certain dynamics that were painful for her in childhood. A third is only now awakening to her own childhood traumas and has all of this healing work in front of her. Another is living a life that seems very full from the outside but seems to be very lonely and empty from the inside.

I am not saying that my life is perfect, but I am not in any of those places (thank goodness!). I feel amazingly fulfilled in my life. I have some great (and emotionally healthier) friends who I can depend upon. My family life is not perfect, but I have found ways to meet my needs within those constraints. I feel an incredible purpose in writing this blog and in my part-time job (online college instructor for non-traditional students – I am their “cheerleader” who believes in them until they can believe in themselves).

Most importantly, my kid is not paying the price for my emotional crap. I am far from the perfect parent, but my son knows with every fiber of his being that he is loved and safe — the two greatest needs in my childhood that were never met. He might have his own issues to work through, but they will never be the mammoths that I have had to fight.

Setting aside the huge child abuse issues, my son’s reality does not include many of the realities I had to deal with that can happen even in non-abusive homes. He does not brace himself when his father walks in the door in preparation for being yelled at because his father had a bad day at work. He does not receive mixed messages about his value in our lives. I am sure he would tell you that his childhood is not perfect, but he is loved, safe, and secure. Of all of the changes I have made in my life over the past seven years, I am most grateful for providing my kid with the love and stability that I never had.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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