How My Parents Have Contributed To My Issues – Introduction [1/?]

In the crowd of pain

St. Jimmy comes without any shame

He says, “We’re f***ed up”, but we’re not the same

And mom and dad are the ones you can blame

                                                    – ‘Homecoming’ by Green Day

While I’m not here to blame my mental health issues solely on my parents, and I don’t think that anyone is responsible for overcoming those issues except me, I can’t deny that my parents have likely contributed to my anxiety and depression. I have been sitting on this post for a while because I don’t want to seem ungrateful towards them for raising me, or like I’m blaming everything on them. And I’m not saying that I had a bad childhood. It was good for the most part (though my teenage years were fairly horrendous). Nonetheless, writing this series of posts at all feels like a betrayal. Putting them on my blog (even though neither of my parents are likely to ever stumble across it) feels like an even bigger betrayal. I’m anticipating that I will probably get a lot of hate for this – people telling me to grow up and stop being so ungrateful/ disrespectful towards my parents, or telling me that what happened wasn’t a big deal/ that I’m being pathetic or over-dramatic. I’m beginning to work through a lot of stuff surrounding my parents (mostly to do with the way my dad treated me when I was younger) with my counsellor, so probably this series of posts will read as if I’m just spitting vitriol about both of them, because the anger is very raw right now.

I’ve been having real issues with anger these past few weeks and I think a lot of it is to do with finally feeling the anger around my dad and around being bullied that I had repressed for so many years. To be honest, as pathetic as it might sound, I’ve been really struggling to manage such intense anger and I frequently feel as if I’d rather just go back to repressing that anger and pretending that nothing ever happened because at least I know HOW to do that. I don’t know how to deal with this intensity of anger in a healthy way, other than writing this all down here. My counsellor said that she thinks this may be because when I was growing up, I wasn’t really shown a healthy way of dealing with anger. Either you let your anger build up and then explode and take it out on someone else, or you bottle it all up and take it out on yourself. I’ve therefore only really ever seen anger as something very destructive. I think she’s hit the nail on the head with that one.

I do love both of my parents (as hard as that has been to feel for my dad in particular over the last few weeks) and I am grateful to them for bringing me up, and for all they’ve done for me over the years. Ultimately, they’re two flawed human beings, like everyone else, and (while it in no way justifies many of my dad’s actions) both had their own fair share of issues to contend with. But I needed to write this. I need the catharsis and I need to get this out there/ off my chest. My mum has never done anything abusive towards me, while a lot of people would consider some of my dad’s actions and words towards me when I was younger to be abusive, and I still don’t know how I feel about that. What often complicates things like this is that what counts as “abuse” differs for everyone depending on a variety of different factors, including your own upbringing, cultural background, and generational views. On one end of the spectrum, there are people who think that as soon as a parent hits their child in anger or says something horrible to their child in anger, it’s abuse, while on the other end, there are people who don’t seem to think it’s abuse unless a parent lands their child in A&E or worse. While I’m not sure exactly where I sit on that scale at the moment, I’d like to be on the former end of the spectrum if I ever become a parent myself.

Two of my classmates from my master’s course that I got to know (and who I could technically even call my friends while we still had classes) were both hit by their parents as children. One was Italian and said that she and her sister would constantly be slapped in the face by her mother for misbehaving when they were children. The other was from India and said that her mother would hit her and her siblings with a shoe for misbehaving when they were younger. Both said they had no issues with it and that it did them no harm (though I think they may be demonstrating by virtue of that statement that it actually did). Anyway…this post isn’t (just) about my views on corporal punishment – I’m saving THAT for another (mega)rant.

In my mind, there’s still an element of doubt as to whether what my dad did was really abuse – even though a number of people have said it was – because my parents have never validated me in that sense. (That’s something else I’m becoming more aware of in therapy – how I doubt myself and my own views/ opinions/ choices unless they are validated by other people). And I don’t know if it fundamentally matters if what he did/ said counts (legally or otherwise) as abuse or not. What I can say with confidence is that it harmed me and damaged me as a person, and has contributed towards my low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.

As per usual, I’ve already written an essay here, so I’ve made this a post in itself and will make the next one about my mum. I’ll probably need at least a couple to write about my dad. I found it fairly easy to write the post about my mum but will probably really struggle to write the post/s about my dad, and it will probably take me quite some time. Brace yourself for some long blog posts!

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10 Responses to How My Parents Have Contributed To My Issues – Introduction [1/?]

  1. I have social phobia too, but have come a long way. We should talk about it sometime. I had a visible birth defect, and was also very shy, inhibited, had a harsh, emotionally bullying father, everyone favored my brother, I repressed my sexuality, due to shame, repressed my anger, and became bitter, repressed self expression such as singing, dancing, resisted following the crowd or trying to be cool, etc.

    Do you fear eye contact? Are you aware of the type of automatic thought patterns that you have while making eye contact? Do you have a religious background?

    • Gemma says:

      Hi psychonaut. Sorry to hear you have SA too, and that you’ve also been through some very negative experiences. I’m glad to hear that you’ve made a lot of progress with it. I’d also say I’ve come a long way with my anxiety, though I still struggle.

      I’m much better with eye contact these days, though it does still make me anxious. I’d say that I worry about whether I’m giving too much or too little eye contact, and I worry about how the other person will perceive me. I think part of it isn’t even a fully conscious thing. If you have negative experiences with other people enough times, you learn to become submissive in their presence, in an attempt to avoid any confrontation.

      I have no religious background and I’m not a religious person. I respect the rights of other people to their own religious/ spiritual beliefs, but personally, it’s not for me.

      • Hello, Gemma. I’m glad to hear that you are doing better than before. Do you know how and when your SA started? Mine began with body shame. I was also bullied on the first day of school and times afterwards. I always felt like a misfit and and outsider. I went to a very small school with very small classes. I remember trying to join in with other kids, but they weren’t a friendly or respectful bunch. I wondered if there was something wrong with me emotionally that made it hard for me to connect with others in a natural way, which led to them rejecting me. I also have struggled with unwanted, absurd, obsessive thoughts associated with certain social taboos, and the fear that others may pick up on this through my facial expression and eye contact. Many of those unwanted thoughts are sexual in nature or have to do with the fear of people thinking that I don’t like them or are glaring at them. I also had a very controlling, angry, unhappy father who was emotionally distant. I also had a super popular younger brother that everyone loved and practically worshiped. What a contrast! And what a combination of unhealthy variables! I was also religious (in the toxic sort of way) and tended to judge my unpleasant thoughts very harshly.

        I used to think the problem was completely me, but now I realize how messed up modern civilization is and how selfish, competitive, unloving, indifferent, and hurtful so many people are. I now realize how crazy “normal” is, and that “ways of being” that most people choose, and that is often reinforced through various forms of conditioning such as the media, is inauthentic, alienating, toxic to the human spirit, and destroys the chance for true community, true friendship, and a true sense of love and belonging.

        I did come to terms with how self absorbed and narcissistic of a person I had become, and how I had overgeneralized others, and become judgmental, angry, bitter, cynical, and rejecting of others in my heart, at times. I’m finding that forgiveness and changing my general people concept to a more compassionate one is slowly helping me break free. I’ve also been trying to work on improving my self concept. In doing this, I’ve had to critically evaluate our society’s values, priorities, norms, and metrics of worth—including my family’s—which I believe are a big part of the problem and why I toxic shame, fear of rejection, and the desire to hide behind masks, pretenses, and avoid eye contact, emotional vulnerability and emotional contact or connection, and social situations.

        I was wondering if you had more trouble with certain types of people than others. This is something that gives clues into underlying, unconscious or repressed issues.

      • Gemma says:

        I’ve been very shy as long as I can remember, and I remember having anxiety symptoms at four years old. My SA became far once after I started high school though, as a result of being constantly bullied and not fitting in. I think my anxiety was caused by some combination of bullying, a predisposition towards shyness, an overprotective mother, and a critical (and sometimes abusive) father. Where did your body shame originate from, if you don’t mind me asking? I also found it very difficult to connect with other kids and to know how to make friends/ interact with others.

        I agree to a large extent that many aspects of modern society are toxic to our mental health and wellbeing, and don’t allow us to be authentic.

        I’d say I’m considerably more anxious around most men than I am around women, and I’m more anxious around groups of teenagers than around other age groups. I don’t think there’s anything particularly unconscious or repressed about this though – it’s just a result of negative life experiences involving those two groups. Do you struggle more with some kinds of people than others?

      • My body shame revolved around a birth defect of my right ear, called microtia. It also revolved around me feeling too skinny for a boy, as well as having very crooked teeth until my parents got me braces. I also felt ugly and undesirable to females (though, I have since learned this to be false). The ones I liked never liked me back, or I was too expectant and afraid of rejection to ask.

        I was also afraid of other forms of self exposure/expression such as singing, dancing, acting silly, expressing attraction to certain girls, etc. I was also very ashamed and embarrassed by the natural changes of puberty. This eventually become unconscious and haunt us later until we face our fears.

        I feel more anxious around more attractive, confident, successful, popular people, tending to view them as fake, shallow, judgmental, privileged and unjustly favored.

      • We all have rejected parts of ourselves that we repress into our unconscious minds. The unconscious terror that these socially inappropriate things may surface before the eyes of others is the root of our anxiety. Modern society does not accept the whole human being, but rejects parts of it. So we hide and repress these parts and do not give them expression or get help to heal them for fear of judgment and rejection. So we agree with society’s or our parents or early peers narrative that we are unworthy, weird, inferior, undesirable, etc. and reject ourselves or parts of ourselves. We must decondition ourselves and learn to unconditionally love ourselves and others, without judgment. That is the only road to true healing of self and society, I think.

      • Gemma says:

        I also felt ashamed of my appearance when I was younger (and still do sometimes). I was overweight as a teenager and was bullied for this and other things related to my appearance – such as being quite pale and having eczema which was very noticeable on my eye lids for a time. This all led me to believe that I was ugly and totally undesirable to the opposite sex. I still feel that way much of the time now actually, even though I have a boyfriend and am now a healthy weight.

        I also tend to feel more anxious around more popular/ socially successful people and I’ve always been afraid of dancing/ playing a musical instrument in front of other people.

        I think that’s an interesting take on social anxiety. It can be so difficult to relearn everything we were told about ourselves when we were younger.

      • Hello, Gemma, I really appreciate your transparency. I feel for you. I plan to get back with you shortly. I’ve been super busy, but should get some time shortly.

  2. Sorry about the typos. I hope it is still understandable.

  3. Towards the end of the second to last paragraph, it should say “why I struggle with toxic shame….”

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