Who am I? Before I begin my “inner child” work I want to go back and look at critical points in my life to try to understand who was present, inside of me, on a conscious level.
From age 38 to 40 … March of 1996 thru Fall of 1997
It took me writing the below to get there but I would say my “ID” my “inner child” was an empty black hole but I wasn’t aware or in tune to be anything other than that – a big empty spot that I assume was like that because of what I didn’t get as a child. I did at this point become aware of this subconscious need to always perform up to the level that was asked but I learned that there must be balance and after what I just went thru I was bound and determined to bring that balance into my life and I started to push back on my employer who wanted more and more until I was depleted whereby they would just dispose of me like an instant camera. My esteem was still very much in tact other than the hurt felt by those at work looking at me differently as a result of the “mental breakdown”
In March of 1996, so when I was 38, I started to experience some serious anxiety. I would have panic attacks to the point where I thought I was dying and would go to the doctor a few times only to find out that it was anxiety. It was then that I realized how stress can affect a person’s body. Once I even passed out in my office while I was a manager of an accounts payable department and they had the ambulance come. I remember the passing out and that as I was coming to lying on the floor with my entire body shaking as though I was having a seizure and them giving me oxygen and all the gals who worked for me just hovered over looking at me.
I then spent the next year trying one anxiety medication after the other to no avail. Honestly on a conscious level I just chalked it up to all the stress in my life. I was a single Mom with two daughters, age 4 and age 11 at the time, and at this point my entire family now had moved to Florida and my girls’ Dad was not in the picture at all.
He seemed to only pop into the picture when he and his girlfriend were fighting and then he would show up, unannounced and maybe this was part of the stress as it was around that time that we had returned home from soccer practice and I was making dinner and heard my children screaming for me. As I walked outside I saw him standing there, by a tree, with a knife threatening to kill himself if he couldn’t have his family back. It was also around this same time that he showed up at my work with threats because the IRS was going to take his tax refund because of back child support and some may say I caved out of weakness but honestly I just thanked God that I was able to provide for them and was quickly becoming aware that PFA (Protection from Abuse) helped to escalate getting assistance but even then it was still too late. My youngest thought for a long time that Daddy was going to come and cut off her legs and my oldest at times would wake up in the middle of the night insisting he was out there and I would have to walk the perimeter to assure her she was safe. Although she still claims that one of those times he was out there … I vaguely remember this and just making it back inside the front door and shutting it and locking it. Yes he was out there but made no fuss and after a short while he was gone.
My Mother was actually more of a handful for me than my children were. She left my Father when I was 16, just up and took off with the Pagans. It never occurred to me that I would then become the next of kin and the one that the entire world would look to. It was one crisis after another. She was either showing up at my work making a scene demanding money (the government requested that I be her representative payee because she would go thru her money in less than a week and then constantly going into the Social Security office creating quite a scene). I did this for a short while but finally I had to stop because I just could not take the constant harassment. That still didn’t stop her from showing up, demanding the receptionist to call me, whereby she would be in a rage about something …. Wanting to know what I had done to my brother. She would call my office and argue with my boss and insist that he was the man at the Social Security Office. The calls from either the hospital or the Mental Health Office on Janet Ave seemed to come all too frequent as they would try to get my assistance and of course I tried to give it. She was my Mother. I learned in Sunday School and Church and lived by the 10 Commandments to Honor thy Father and Mother. Or the Police would show up at my job or at my house wanting me to drop everything and assume responsibility. Sometimes the crisis could be quite a challenge like the time she hopped in the car with a bunch of guys and went to the beach and while she was inside getting them cigarettes they drove off and left her there with no shoes, purse, or money. It took some creative thinking working with the Western Union Office inside the bus station as to how I could wire this woman money when she had no ID and finally we came up with some secret questions and even then I was so exhausted and praying so hard that the question would not be something that would set her “off” whereby she would again insist that again was the devil and scheming. It just went on and on and on.
The job pressure was also unbelievable. We were going thru a major downsizing at the time and work was coming in faster than I could automate. I was thankful that the Daycare center closed at 6 or that my daughter(s) would have soccer or brownies or girl scouts as it made it so much easier to get out the door those particular days.
I was getting better at coping with the anxiety. I was learning about breathing and ALWAYS had a brown paper bag with me for when I would start hyperventilating. Even so none of the meds they were trying were working and the last one was Valium. Nasty nasty stuff. I recall one night staying up till 3 am putting some charts together and the next morning, against my boss’s wishes, went storming up to our CEO’s office and sat and shared with him my charts. I knew that in order for him to pay any attention to me that I needed to show him proof. Of course at some point I started to hyperventilate and needed to use the small brown paper bag. By the time I got downstairs my boss called me into his office and I was order to take two weeks off. I was also given a message by the CEO that I should have just said NO to all the work??? Now I was a basket case and I really thought I had suffered some kind of brain damage. I was forever checking everything 3, 4, 5 times. I couldn’t even read the newspaper. I could read the words on the paper out loud but could not put them together to make sense of anything. I recall it was February 1997 and the kids had a long break and I sent them to FL with my Father and that actually had a wonderful time with Grandma and Pop Pop while I was trying to “get it together”. I joined a Gym and was doing all I could think of to “get it together”. My Human Resources Office was calling me throwing severance packages in my lap. Finally, FINALLY I miraculously ended up sitting in Philhaven having an assessment done by a Psychiatrist and crying hysterically that I had brain damage. He came over and sat down next to me and took my hand and said. You are going to be okay. You just blew a lid to a Major Depression and we need to get your on the right medications and I want you to come to our intensive outpatient program for 2 weeks.
It turned out to be 3-1/2 weeks and it was the WORST AND BEST 3-1/2 weeks of my life. The first thing they did was called my job and told them to stop harassing me and started citing out of the American Disabilities Act (which by the way was only changed in 1993 to include mental illness). Next I was told I couldn’t start on antidepressants until I got off the Valium and they gave me a “weaning schedule” which I went home and tore up and over the weekend basically came off of Valium cold turkey except for the one or two times I had to lick, yes lick a pill, to settle me down. My doctor was not very pleased on Monday to know that I had done this because of the risk I put myself in but the job was done. It took trying a few different meds but I finally found the right one and I am still on it to this day. I also learned so much over the course of the next 3-1/2 weeks. Worst and Best 3-1/2 weeks of my life. Part of what came out of that 3-1/2 weeks was that I needed to let my Mother go. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. She was my Mother. She had no one. She was severely mentally ill. Letting her go was not in any way shape or form something that was open for discussion by anyone on my treatment team, not even the Chaplain.
I returned to work and they did not make it easy. My first day back I was handed an outline 3 pages long with due dates and told “If you cannot complete these tasks, you will be let go”. I did them all in record time and over some months the uncomfortableness of how others looked at me started to go away.
As I step back thru this journey …. Was I caught in a cycle of trying to win my Mother’s love and affection? Even now I say I don’t think so. I was a daughter who had strong values and I was just trying to fulfill what I thought God wanted me to do. It had not even occurred to me that I was taking the commandments a bit too literally. Sure it hurt that she always wanted to hear or know about my brother but I always knew that she hated me and that she thought I was the devil. I was still her daughter and expected nothing from her. There is nothing in the commandments nor do I ever recall hearing any sermon about what a child needs or should have, according to God’s law?
As for being in touch with my emotions? Other than falling apart I still really couldn’t be angry? I recall an exercise we did in the gym and we all were in a circle and the ball was our anger and the exercise was to hit the ball as hard as we could and I even had one or two from the treatment team trying to talk me into being angry and I’m sorry I just could not get there. No matter how many times they tried to convince me that I had a right to be angry I just could not feel it nor could I ever pretend to feel something that just was NOT there.
We had an exercise outside that was geared towards building trust and we had to walk across a shaky bridge that was balanced by others in the program. I couldn’t do it. I wanted to. I tried so hard. I felt like a failure because I could not do the exercise but I gave it my all.
I definitely learned a lot about bringing some balance into my life. We did a collage in art therapy and mine hung for the latest time on my wall and it was a great reminder to me to balance my life. I was trying out different hobbies and reading books about how to connect with my inner creative side and from that learned I loved gardening, photography, painting, and watching a good movie on a Saturday afternoon.
As for my inner child … there was a big empty spot always there but I didn’t know what it was.
I slowed down and enjoyed more but pretty much went back to resuming my life “as normal” and trying to bring balance in. I had pretty good esteem in that I never looked to others to make me feel okay nor did I feel the need to compete with the Jones or brag. I just felt very okay with me. The empty spot I probably thought was the love I never got but was really not “in tune with it” Not yet anyway.
I was very much aware of my need to always accept the challenge and do it and from that point on g to see it more as a strength to recognize we all have limitations and to respect those and that I certainly could not count on anyone to do that for me and especially not my employer. I learned the hard way that they would take what they want and anything extra they could intimidate me into giving and when I was all used up they would just toss me out the door. I never ever gave that much again.