They say that it’s a picture that can paint a thousand words, but words themselves also have the ability to spark a thousand mental images. Here’s a little something I prepared earlier..
‘Sometimes to self discover, you first have to self destruct’
This sentence alone sparks some of the most powerful memories in my mind, and a subsequent flood of emotions.
The mental pictures printed in my own mind depict a small woman, snuggled in knitted blankets, on a brown leather couch, rocking a non-matching tracksuit, face and eyes reddened and fatigued. I’d cocoon myself for days and adopt a victim stance for weeks.
I’d throw blame in every other direction that I could, and unconsciously I’d practice my own distorted schema that perpetuated my self-pity. And that self-pity, combined with a severe self-esteem crisis, would dig myself into the very miserable and lonely hole, where I spent much of my early adulthood.
Of course, it was everyone else’s fault, it couldn’t possibly be attributed to me, if it was my fault, why would I keep feeling so bad?!
Ignorant & entirely oblivious to the universal fact that it’s you who has the power to hurt yourself the most.
It is generally during these times- sadly repeated on far too many occasions throughout my life & probably yet to be continued- that my mental defences are far too exhausted to protect me from the self-realisations that I desperately need to confront.
These scenes were my own period of self-destruction, where likely, I have previously caused mass destruction in all arenas of my life. And the truth is, every time, the destruction was focused internally all along.
I certainly didn’t envisage this to be my hand-made path to discovery, I couldn’t see any prospect for the future that didn’t continue to involve imploding inwards. Thankfully, I was wrong. But as a slow and experiential learner, it took me a few goes first.
It’s during these times, where my life seemed to be on repeat cycle, that piece-by-piece I became to realise that I could no longer deny that I had no other choice. Nothing else worked, all the road blocks I constructed continued to fail.
I had little choice left, but to face and learn about the things I do and the ways I contribute to the problems and destruction of my internal resources and external interactions.
I couldn’t maintain a healthy relationship, no matter how adequate the partner. I couldn’t sustain my life for 2 months without some form of crisis or disaster. I’d externalise my dissatisfaction to my closest friends, often sabotaging some of the greatest connections I have ever known. I’d hurt myself regularly, directly and indirectly.
My family, every single time, where left to collect and rehabilitate the scattered pieces that is their daughter and their sister.
It’s not through lack of trying, on their part. I heard the same messages, like a broken record. You need to stop this, you need to change, you need to listen, you need some help, let us in, we can help you, but you need to first learn.
These messages of concern fell on the angriest of ears. Embarrassment and emotional turmoil converted straight to disobedience, defiance and aggression.
Thankfully and eventually, with maturity on my side, it was not possible for me to continue ignoring the repetitive facts that kept being offered to me. I was troubled, I needed help, I needed to learn & I needed to change. And for me, the thing is, once I know something I have responsibility to respond to it.
The realisations that I needed to change and that I required a considerable amount of help were probably the easiest realisations. The subsequent ones were a hell of lot less fun and certainly less easy.
To respond to my late night realisation, I first had to confront them. I had to admit their existence, I had to accept responsibility for the sabotage they contributed to and the harm they cause.
Much of this of course, also involved the foreign task of suppressing the ego that I thought protected me for so long and to accept the inner monologue that regularly reminded me ‘I told you so’.
This process, of course, was and still is a long term piece of work, with multi-layered stages of ‘project management’. But the last 18 months of this project has since allowed me to arrive at a pit-stop destination of really beautiful self-acceptance.
For the first time in all of my years, I am proud. Simply of myself and all of my internal aspects, rather than being proud of something that I have achieved.
There is an enormous, incredible & proud difference between those two states (being proud of self versus being proud because you have achieved) and that is certainly something that has been need to me!
I’ve always (naively) believed that to be proud of oneself, you must first achieve. Even more so for my own self, that I could only sustain a level of self pride if I achieved regularly, that each of my achievements were bigger than the last & that my achievements were also acknowledged by others first. If I was not receiving ongoing external commendation (to which I became addicted and dependent on), than I simply wasn’t good enough and I would have limited reason to feel proud.
That ain’t pride. But for as long as I can remember, I firmly believed that it was. And my entire identity was built around that misconception.
My personal confrontations have since encouraged me to re-evaluate and to challenge these distorted perceptions.
I’ve been slowly learning that the only self-fulfilling and sustainable sense of pride comes from within, and for myself that meant ‘stripping back’ several layers, firstly to find it, secondly expose it and to lastly, bask in its glory.
While trying to battle my demons at the same time.
For a while during my ‘stripping’ process, I was comfortable admitting my self lessons internally, but never before have I been comfortable enough to verbalise them.
After a few opportunities I’ve had to share this process externally, with some of my most trusted confidants, I’m finally willing to whack these bad boys out and to lay them on the table.
I’ve always know there’s such therapeutic capacity in owning your demons and your process of change, but quite honestly I’ve been scared to death of having to do it myself.
But as I preach, personally and professionally, the greatest growth comes from the options that you fear the most. And maybe, just maybe, this can reach someone else too. God knows I needed to read something like this years ago too.
If you haven’t yet noticed, I have an overwhelming tendency to ramble incessantly and to try and shove as many words into a sentence that I humanly can. I am going to defy the odds and explain my next section as succinctly as i can.
Over the last 18 months, this is what I have found to be very true. For some, I have found remedies, and for others, I’m still searching.
– I’m not sure there’s ever been a time where I could describe my self image as ‘healthy’. I’ve had a terrible time building any level of self confidence with regards to my image, or in relation to my personality. I was disgusted by myself, so how could anyone else love that? I’m not sure I even wanted to love it, just wanted a million others who would instead.
-my insecurities were like a plague that flooded every area of my life & desperately I tried to mask them in every possible way. Whether that meant I acted confidently and pretended as if I didn’t need validation, when that is what I really craved. I went to extremes in so many areas to build this false image, all the while, the people I was trying to impress simply looked at me with pity.
– From this, and other problematic self messages, I developed significant issues with attention and the desire for every kind. I viewed attention, mostly from males, as my one and only saving cure. If I was not able to obtain a constantly increasingly level of attention, I felt ugly, lonely, unwanted, not worthy and essentially desperate. Of course I could never admit that at the time, nor did I allow myself to develop the insight to realise that this is what precipitated so many moments of acting out.
– As a ‘partner’ in my early adult years, I was in fact anything but a partner. I was destructive and dangerous. I was a person largely with my own agenda, often self serving, only self interested, non-negotiable, emotionally erratic and highly problematic, covertly and overtly controlling, jealous, insecure and extremely, extremely manipulative. The whole thing was a game, and I always had to WIN. I was horrible, I’d isolate and emotionally manipulate, and someone make it feel like your fault and I’d turn into a mistreated victim, who of course ‘deserved better’.
– My issues with self-pride, as previously mentioned. I was addicted entirely and completely to external commendation. Desperate to be envied, because I truly loved in a state of envy of others so much of the times
– All arenas of my life were considered by me to be a vicious competition. If I didn’t perceive that I was leading those ‘competitions’, my insecurities, jealousy and sense of inadequacy would spiral into a tornado of uncontrollable emotion, mostly aggression, resentment and vengefulness and would sabotage the hell out of NEARLY ALL the relationships I’ve ever had around me.
– Everything I did, said, planned was motivated purely by an image I wanted to reflect of myself and my lifestyle, based on what I believed would demonstrate that I was attractive, successful and carefree. In some areas maybe I was, but not in the ways I tried to portray myself to be.
– Once I was made aware that I experienced problems with depression and anxiety, they quickly became my self-proclaimed ‘ticket out of jail’. I’d throw around these diagnoses and past trauma to justify and excuse my foul attitudes and behaviour. All without the intention of ever addressing it.
– I tried on so many different forms of identity, to try and be everything but who I was- cause I had so, so, so many things to confront and to address and it seemed so much easier and quicker to just be something else, rather than hauling myself through brutal self-development and having to admit so many tough truths. I tried to be the victim, tried to be the sook, tried to be the hero and the martyr, tried to be the damsel in distress, tried to be the party girl, tried to be tough and heartless. Just a whirlwind of pathetic acts, one after the other.
What an absolute mess.
I’m honestly not saying these to receive any sort of praise- after a few decades it appears I can finally give that to myself, I’m also not trying to profess that I’ve undergone a transformation of change.
I’m outlining these things, as I said, for my own therapeutic outcomes, but also in the attempt to resonate with others, who may be experiencing similar internal struggles. It’s actually okay, once you admit these things, it makes sense, to you and to others. It’s certainly not going to shock anyone to the core, these things are fairly transparent and everyone around you have seen this long before you have.
You will not receive backlash, or judgement, maybe you did through these problematic stages, but certainly not during your journey of realisation and change.
It’s with a comfortable level of easy that I can briefly outline this summary of my issues. I’m fairly familiar with them now and they start to become less shameful the more you address and move away from that period in your life.
I view a chunk of these issues as if they are now in ‘remission’ and there are some other areas that still require my active attention, so as to not reinforce of further perpetuate.
Maturity has been my friend throughout this journey, time has absolutely helped, developing insight & awareness has been a treat and learning to be okay with myself has been a life saver!
The ‘relationship’ component of my issues has been my biggest and first priority, because that is where I have been most problematic and where I have caused the most harm, to myself and to others. But it’s taken years of reflection, and expensive supervision and therapy to get to a place where I can become a partner in the true sense of the word.
Let’s not be foolish, there’s still a hell of a long way to go. I believe this will be a lifelong adventure for me, and probably also for the people who choose to be around me.
It’s less comforting for me now, probably because I’ve learnt that I can take on these demons and I can turn them into more angelic creatures.
I’m keen to devote some time to my process of addressing the problematic elements of my development, but that’s a whole blog post of its own!
I know that shedding my layers from the inside out revealed for me shiny, glowing, and radiant new layers that I’ve worked super hard to develop and embrace and I’d love to show others how they can D.I.Y too, despite how long and how ugly it may appear at first.