When I was a kid, there was a particular struggle I dealt with. It was nothing terribly unique or earth shattering, and it wasn't anything so bad that I'd blocked it out of my consciousness, just a fairly common struggle that a lot of kids grapple with, especially sensitive kids like I was. As I became an adult, my struggle faded away, so there was never a satisfying sense of closure to it. I'd spend short bursts of time thinking about it but always brushed it aside and even tried to make it comical in my head, deep down knowing that something about it all still bugged me a bit and that I'd probably have to explore it at some point. Well it only took me about 17 years and then 9 months of therapy for me to realize that not only does it still bug me but it's played a major role in the woman I am today.
Although I've become pretty good at putting on a brave face, deep down I have this ugly worm of an inner voice that constantly tells me I'm a big joke. I have a terrible habit of emotionally cutting out friends (and family at times) with an "I'll ditch you before you ditch me" attitude (only noticed by me because I've made the break before the other person has a chance to even notice I'm gone). I quit a lot of things/abandon new ideas and inspiration because I eventually tell myself I'm not smart/experienced/talented enough to achieve anything and then I beat myself up for ever actually thinking I could achieve anything. Whenever I meet a new person, I feel like I lucked out if they seem to like me and then worry that it's just a matter of time before they find out the truth: that I'm a big fat loser. I've spent my whole marriage thinking on a deep, hidden away level that Nathan thinks I'm a flake and incapable of making a mark on this world, despite his constant words of encouragement, support and admiration.
I can tell you that as I've gotten older, especially since becoming a mother, I've worked hard at quieting those demons with some success. It's a tough road though, because trying to get a handle on this stuff without asking for help has been like swimming in a giant dark sea of hidden away, seemingly random and baseless emotions. Whenever this stuff came up and I was forced to deal with them, the sensation was so overwhelming and claustrophobic that I would just hold my breath and paddle frantically toward the surface. Once I would catch my breath again, instead of finding some scuba gear and diving back down, I chose to find ways to stay afloat as long as possible: connecting with Buddhism, running, hard work, generosity, total immersion into motherhood, spending time with friends, humor... When I was a teenager and especially in college, these dark thoughts and emotions completely ruled my life but thankfully I've managed to grow into a fairly laid back, confident adult. No matter how well I was doing though, those demons, although much smaller and quieter, were still lurking deep down in there and when they decided to make an appearance, man did they come crashing on through.
Now that I've suddenly made the connection between my personal childhood struggle and these habits I've developed as an adult, I feel like I'm swimming in a sparkling blue Carribean sea. I'm shocked to realize how much of an impact one struggle while you're young can make on the rest of your life. I'm being careful not to explain all of my weaknesses away and place blame, but it sheds such brilliant light on so much stuff that I can't help but feel the most relieved I've ever felt in my whole life. I know those demons are still lurking in there, but I'm almost overjoyed to know that I now have the most powerful weapons I've ever had to fight them: self-realization, reflection, truth, clarity and forgiveness.