Monday was my fourth (5th?) session with my therapist. It’s become the norm that I once we are past the small-talk, hello’s, and how-are-you’s, Heidi proposes a question that startles me. And in that moment, diving into the painful, and even subconscious, emotions of my past (and present), I have the internal reaction to bolt. I want to run out of her office, screaming. She vocally digs in under my skin and reaches the very core of who I am and who I once was. Each session brings at least one new discovery of my motives and realizations about others, as well. Yesterday was probably the most uncomfortable, yet refreshing, experience in therapy yet.
Heidi has a very comforting, yet professional look to her. She’s mother-figure, experienced business-woman wrapped into one. I like that from the very beginning, I felt like I could trust her. And looking back now, she knows much more than anyone in my life. Ever. But I can be completely vulnerable because I know none of it will ever leave her office.
So, Monday, we dove into my role in my dysfunctional family growing up. For those of you who have studied Behavior Modification or psychology in college, you’ve probably gone into Dysfunctional Families. I took the behavior mod class three semesters ago and when we began covering the chapter and I heard the full description, I almost lost it in class. Now, mind you, I really don’t cry easily. With-holding a select few people in my life and closest friends, no one has publicly seen me cry. I usually can force it back down, keep a solemn face and keep it hidden behind my bedroom door.
When starting to describe my Dad, who he is, his traits and what we endured, he perfectly fit into the mold as Addict in our DF. His business was his everything. His days were long and spent at his office or with “clients.” When he was actually home, he was on his cell phone, pacing around the floor, and then back out the door again. Part of me wanted to proud of him for working so hard, being so persistent. Most of me wanted to excuse myself from the silent dinner table and run out the door. He experienced a full 180 degree flip in his life. I didn’t have my Dad anymore; the one who’d take the afternoon OFF work (even with project due dates looming) to surprise me with flowers at my ballet recital. This new guy would come home and immediately start critiquing the house my mom spent her day cleaning, commenting on dinner, nitpicking on us kids, making us feel worthless. If we tried a little defense, he’d immediately raise his voice. We were all on edge and there was always this tangible tension in the air. I could no longer look him in the eyes.
My mother played the role of the co-dependent enabler. As much as it hurt her, as much as she was dying inside, she continued to let it happen. My brother Marc was the jokester. He’d go out of his way to be energetic, keep the focus and blame on him. He got in trouble for everything. He was still persistent to make my Dad proud. Soccer games, football games, student body office, high school prom chair, you name it… Marc did it.
I wasn’t anything special from age 8 and up. I was lucky if I made B grades in school and had friends over occasionally. I spent so much time in my bedroom with my stereo turned up, reading, and writing poetry. I looked up
to at my brothers and their success and wallowed. I just wanted my parents to notice me.
Food became the vehicle to get some recognition. My increasing weight became a place to put the blame of our unhappy family. With each pound, I hoped that perhaps I’d finally become visible. Being someone’s problem felt better than being absolutely nothing at all. I was getting recognition for breathing [and too much eating.]
And I did, but in a bad way. Suddenly, I was something to fix. In a strange way, I wanted to take the attention off of Marc and off my Mom and have some of the spotlight on my own, even if it was negative.
I was getting noticed, all right. I still feel the stings of the endless torment in elementary school, in junior high, and also in high school. When the cute guys were looking past me in favor of someone much thinner, the bitch squad were making sure to level me into the ground with their comments. At home, I wanted to be seen. At school, I wanted to hide. I wanted to die.
A cliched comment came to mind: Don’t worry about being noticed by everyone. Not everyone will ever like you. But the ones who matter will see you, just as you are.
I struggled to see this at first, as the tears were flowing, but I’d been caught. It was true. I just wanted to be acknowledged for being around, for being their daughter, his sister, their school peer.
Our routine is now meeting on Mondays. This is my hour where I can finally focus on healing. I have eyes that fully see and appreciate me, ears that are listening intently, and a chance to finally grow up. I’m not that little girl anymore.
ps. My new business website is finally up. Take a peek and let me know what you think, please. 🙂 http://www.amynielsonfitness.com