The Silence of Passing Time

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Veins stark against skin.

Winter’s shadows, vision dims.

My voice, ticking clock.

The other day a younger friend said, “D, I wonder why your life has been filled with so many challenges.” We’ve known each other for almost four years. It’s a fair statement. It’s true, my life, over the past five years and longer, has seen its share of ups and downs.

Still, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Who I am now is a far better person than who I have ever been. And the person I am crafting myself to be will better than who I am now. This is the process of choosing personal growth above all else.

Challenges can be presented or self-generated. However they present themselves in my life, my goal is to face them and learn from them. Since 2015, I have been confronting the special challenges of my mother’s aging process. It is a delicate and difficult situation for her as well as her children. It is a part of the human experience. As we become elderly, the likelihood of our needing support from those around us increases. Typically, we look to our children, who are likely middle-aged (around ages 40 to 60). I am 42. My sisters are 48, have children and are experiencing being in the sandwich generation, having to provide care to their children and parents. With the pandemic, the situation has only become more stressful for them.

Self-portrait, 2020

Back to my younger friend, who, in her twenties, has yet to but will likely experience the challenges that come with parents aging. Our conversation took place just three days ago. Since then, I’ve spent time pondering about the other challenges I have faced since we met: issues related to fibromyalgia, dealing with seasonal affective disorder, working through likely C-PTSD, rebuilding financial stability after being mostly unemployed for 6 years, and choosing to be in a romantic relationships that included narcissistic abuse.

Those last two points were completely self-generated. So, I’d like to address them.

Yes, I am dealing with the fallout from a 10-year-old decision to leave my position as a full-time employee, move to Italy, and become a full-time student. There are many reasons why I made the decisions, some relating to health, some relating to relationships, and some relating to fear. I do not regret it.

Looking back, would I have made the same decision? Yes. However, I would have gone about the process differently. Thus, I gladly accept the responsibility of rebuilding my professional life and financial wellbeing, and I am enjoying the process of doing so…even if the path is not always easy or clear.

For all the knowledge I have related to psychology, it is true that I have not always chosen relationships that promoted mental and emotional wellbeing. I admit that I have not had clear and healthy personal boundaries. It is easy to find an answer as to why by looking at my childhood. However, my goal is to look forward. I know my past fairly well. I’ve spent decades unraveling it. So, the work now is setting boundaries within self and with others. The challenge for me is learning that I don’t have to deal with abusive behavior just because I am used to it. I can walk away from it. It’s taken me a while to get to this point, but the most important part is: I am here now.

I’ve been hibernating for several years, silently listening to the passing time. I’ve been busy rebuilding my inner strength and outer resources. I am not where I aiming to be. I am, however, much farther along the path than when my younger friend met me.

So, to my younger friend, thank you for your question and concern. Your question positively provoked me to this craft this response.

My life of so many challenges is one that leads me to continue my self-exploration and healing. It would be and will be great when there are fewer. For now, I gladly face each that life presents.

Until Tomorrow,

D

On silence, healing fibromyalgia, dealing with narcissism, and learning a whole heck of a lot about myself

First, thank you to my followers, both new and old, for continuing to bless me with your support.  I have not been around much, nor have I posted much of anything personal. Still, you continue to stick with me. Thank you!

 

“If you have nothing [nice] to say…”

Over the past year and a half, my life has changed dramatically. Some of those changes were good, others were not so good. Still, I try my best to take changes as they come, learn from them what I can and keep taking steps towards achieving my goals. In my opinion, that’s the most effective approach to living my life.

Part of the process of accepting change is observing change. And I truly believe that observation is a silent process. It’s hard to observe and act at the same time–at least it is to me.

So, I’ve been in observation mode, mostly observing myself and my reactions and actions in dealing with myself in my environment, as well as just the environment itself. I’ve spent a lot of time in my head and subsequently in my body, i.e. I’ve been sorting through my mental blocks (negative self-talk/thinking) and how they impact my health and prevent me from quickly reaching my most important goals.

On the subject of health: I’m glad to state that my health has been truly awesome, and that my fibromyalgia symptoms have diminished significantly. I’ve had fewer flares, fibrofog moments and have been getting enough normal/restful sleep (between 7-9 hours). Also, I’ve been walking for about 1 hour almost daily and have recently started the BeachBody On-Demand 30-Day Free Trial that has a great deal of exercise programs for people of all levels.  If you have fibromyalgia and are interested in starting or improving an exercise program, I would say check it out because it allows for you to select programs by type: cardio, muscle building, less than 30 minutes, slim and tone, dance, low impact, and yoga. Personally, I am sticking with less than 30 minutes, low impact, dance and yoga.

I think my greatest challenge is that I consume news and, as a person of colour, it stresses me out…then again, who isn’t stressed when watching the news. Still, it’s important to stay informed, and I try to do so without being inundated.

So, what have I learned during my silence? A whole heck of a lot. Here is a list:

So, that’s it. It’s good to be writing again.

Until Next Time,

D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Your Family Narcissistic? 12 Ways to Know (PsychologyToday.com)

Read: “The Narcissistic Family Tree” by Karyl McBride, Ph.D.

Does your family…

  1. Keep Secrets (Never air your dirty laundry.)
  2. Focus on Image. (What would other people think?)
  3. Give You Negative Messages.  (You’ll never be good enough.)
  4. Lack of Parental Hierarchy.  (You are made to parent, become the emotional support for your parents, etc.)
  5. Lack of Emotional Tune-In. (Parents have told you that they don’t need you or don’t care what happens to you, etc.)
  6. Lack of Effective Communication.  (Triangulation/Gossping, see last post).
  7. Have Unclear Boundaries. (Personal space invaded. Perhaps even identity stolen, literally and figuratively.)
  8. Have One Parent Narcissistic, the Other Orbiting. (Leaving children with no other source of support)
  9. Discourage Siblings From Being Close. (Does it feel like your siblings are in a constant competition with you or between themselves?)
  10. Negate/Displace Feelings. (What feelings? Who has them? Why are they necessary? J/k…but this is what it’s like).
  11. Give You “Not Good Enough” Messages. (Whether spoken or unspoken, you learned that there was/is/will be a way to match the ideal that your parent already is.)
  12. Thrive on Dysfunction—Obvious or Covert. (Was emotional, physical, sexual abuse a regular part of your life…but no one seemed to know it…even your own siblings?)

Triangulation: Don’t be a flying monkey…

Self-portrait: Today. (May, 2015)

Self-portrait: Today. (May, 2015)

Somehow I missed the fact that April was National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month in the US–do they even have such a thing in Italy? I ought to find out.

As I prepare to return the US next week, especially to my family’s home, I have been reflecting on family and communication.  To be specific, I have been trying to strategize a method to deal with pervasive triangulation.

What is triangulation? Simply put, it is a method of communication that is passive-aggressive, such that information is rarely stated directly between the two (or more) people involved . In a real life family situation, it would sound something like this:

Sister: “So, I heard from Mom that you took her car without asking. Didn’t you know that she would be upset?”

Brother: “Well, I heard from Dad that Mom told him that you didn’t do well on your last exam and that you’re just a failure waiting to happen.”

In other words, information that should be stated directly from “Mom” and “Dad” to the “Sister” and “Brother” is instead being communicated just between the siblings. Neither Mom nor Dad state their (negative) feelings to their children, rather they have the children do it for them, which in turn tends to create disharmony between the siblings.

This method of communication is standard in families where narcissistic tendencies feature actively in either (or both) parent.  Triangulation serves to control communication, foster distrust between siblings, continue drama and undermine self-esteem.  The idea that parents can be trusted to maintain privacy is annihilated, and a lesson is learned that information is a useful weapon.

I’ve experienced three decades of this type of communication…enough to know that there is only one person who benefits from it: the parent(s) with narcissistic traits/tendencies/personalities.

Approximately 10 years ago, I decided not to get involved in it anymore.  When family members approached me to listened to “what so and so did,” I declined the conversation and redirected the person to speak directly with that person instead of me. I have no interest in being a flying monkey for anyone.

What pray tell is a flying monkey?  Well, let’s do it this way:

You know you’re a flying monkey if…

  • You listen to gossip about others and then spread it (usually from a family member about another family member).
  • You take up arguments on the behalf of someone (usually a family member).
  • You bully others on the behalf of someone (usually a family member).
  • You feel a sense of belonging when you gossip/argue/bully others for someone.
  • You take an intense interest in keeping tabs (spying) on the doings of others for someone, and then spend time gossiping about the “failings” of the people upon whom you have spied.
  • You are invasive. When visiting other people’s homes, you will go through their belongings and then report back to someone about it, particularly focusing on what the home lacked.
  • You are inauthentic in your dealings with other people. You seek out information from them to share it with someone else…and you are more than likely to use it against them.

I could go on with this list, but let’s leave it here for now.

I imagine some people wouldn’t even know themselves if they stopped being flying monkeys or stopped using triangulation, etc. And not knowing yourself can be a very scary experience.  Still, if you are either instigator of triangulation or complicit by acting as a flying monkey and perpetuating this type of communication, please work to find another way.

It is possible to speak directly to someone about your feelings.  You don’t have to use others to do your bidding.  At least, know that you are choosing to triangulate, especially using your children or other family members, you are engaging in an emotionally abusive act.  Children, particularly, need to learn how to express their feelings in a direct way.  This type of communication breeds secret-keeping, low self-esteem, and a compromised ability to trust self and others.

It is possible to allow other people to do their own dirty work.  It’s not your job to speak on someone’s behalf (unless that person is a child and is somehow unable to speak).  It is never your job to engage in aggression for someone else.  Why should you? Why would you want to?

Just to wrap this up (finally), please, take a moment to consider your method of communication today. Do you triangulate? Or are you on the receiving end of it? Or do you foster it?

Until tomorrow,

D.

How to be a ghost without really trying… (+ FibroArt Monday)

Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn via CC Flickr

 

Happy Monday! 🙂 (Hope your day& mine is pain-free)

I’ve been thinking a lot about my tendency towards silence.  Actually, let’s back that up, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I am as I am and how to change some core self-beliefs.  Seriously, ask yourself right now, Why am I me?

Some of us tell ourselves that we are too busy to think about such nonsense.  Some of us know that it would be better for us to think about it, but are afraid of what we might learn.  Some of us have asked the question, but have no answers. Some of us chuck ourselves into therapy, but with no intention finding answers, etc., etc.

You get the idea. It’s not an easy question either to consider or answer. Still, this is a question that I believe that we should try to answer throughout our lives.  This brings me back to my original statement about being silent.

Just over a week ago, I moved into the place where I’ll be staying until I leave Rome on the 21st.  My landlord is an amazing science fiction author, who reminds me of a cross between Bukowski and a much slimmer Santa Claus. Yesterday, he said to me, “So, is everything okay with you? I’ve not seen you for the past 10 days.”  Mind you, I’ve been at home.  Still, he was right. He hadn’t seen me.  I had made sure of that.  It wasn’t because I wanted to avoid him, but because disappearinghidingremaining unseen is second nature to me.  I erase my presence, even when actively in the lives of others, which may be related to my object permanence issues.  That, however, started way before the memories I can access.

What I do know is that growing up, my silence and lack of presence was something that was valued in my household. I did not stir the proverbial pot.   When I did try to express myself, I was often shutdown and compared with others who I understood had undesirable qualities.

In other words, I was encouraged not to share my thoughts, express my feelings, interact with the world around me, have friends, and generally be a socially-adapted member of society.  I’m lucky that I decided to become a therapist because I learned many of the interpersonal skills that I ought to have when I was younger.

Yet still, I have yet to unlearn that core household rule, which has become an unsettling self-belief: I must erase my presence.

And why must I erase my presence? The answer is rather simple, because the statement comes from my childhood thought: I should not speak or my family will hate me even more and I will have no home.

So, how do you undo the belief that being “present” in the lives of others means that you will lose whatever place you have?  Well, I have no definitive answer, but I’ll let you in on what I am doing.  😉

What I am doing is actively giving myself permission to:

  • Exist – I have the right to take up space on this planet, even if it means that others may be discomforted by that.
  • Speak – I have the right to speak my personal truth, even if it dispells the myths of others.
  • Love – I have the right to love and be loved just because I exist. My loving or being loved is not synonymous with my forfeiting my identity and goals in life.
  • Dream – I have the right to create goals for myself separate from the desires of others. I can dream as big or as small as I want to about my life.
  • Feel – I have the right to my physical and emotional experiences, even if they counter the needs of other people.  If I think the sun is freaking hot today, then it’s hot. If I am sad, then I am sad. It’s that simple. No one can dictate my feelings to me.
  • Be – I have the right to be whatever I am and whatever I am not.  It is my choice.

I could go on for a bit longer with the list, but there you have it. This is my first step.

Perhaps this may be helpful for someone else, especially if you grew up in a highly narcissistic family environment, or what I might call a house of non-self mirrors.

Take a look at yourself today. Smile at who you are, love who you are, acknowledge you are here and no matter what you have the right to be.

Until next time,

D.