Facing Fears 3: Mommy Issues - Taking Back Your Power
Updated: Aug 19, 2020
After sharing my last post, where I talked daddy issues, I realized I failed to mention my mother. But she has been a significant influence in my life, so I’ll share a bit.
I was lucky to grow up with a loving mom with a beautiful heart. My mom is the kind of person people instantly like. Genuine, kind, and NAIIVE, she fell for my dad, the broken man she thought she could fix. The one she fell hard and fast for, failing to really get to know before marrying.
From a tiny town, my mom grew up living a simple, sheltered, Catholic life, where sex was saved for marriage, and women were taught their role was to get married, take care of their man and have babies.
Marrying my dad after knowing him less than 6 months, my mom dove right into the role of dependent homemaker before truly getting to know herself as an individual or really getting to know what she wanted in a long-term partner. This was the reality for so many in her generation.
Although times have changed, this is unfortunately STILL the reality, for many of us today.
Jumping straight into dating & relationships, before truly taking the time to get know and love ourselves. Choosing partners based on physical attraction and/or the pressure to be in a relationship. Rushing into things, without really questioning whether our core values align. Looking for someone to “complete us”, fill a void, or stroke our fragile ego. Jumping from relationship to relationship without truly taking the time to reflect or heal from the last. So often, we fall into relationships for all the wrong reasons. I’m seeing this more and more as I begin to explore the dating world again - but I'll save this tangent for another post.
Growing up, I saw my mom controlled and repressed by my father. Saw my father disrespect my mother and talk down to her time and time again. Completely dependent on my volatile father, my mom, who didn’t even know how to drive a car, was stuck.
Yet somehow, she put on a happy face and acted as though life was great. ALL THE DAMN TIME. This drove me crazy, because I knew better. Knew the pain of living with my father. Knew she was holding back.
If I didn’t know better, I would have thought she was self-medicating, but she wasn’t. She wasn’t drinking, drugging, gambling, overeating, workaholic’ing, sexing, shopping or numbing in the ways so many of us do when running from pain.
But what she was doing was repressing. And with this repression, she was experiencing physical pain. Experiencing chronic health problems.
You see, one way or another, failing to process emotions, impacts our health. Effects of consistent emotional suppression include increased physical stress on the body, including high blood pressure, increased incidence of diabetes & heart disease. In addition, people who engage in emotion suppression regularly are more likely to experience stiff joints, bone weakness and more illnesses due to lowered immunity.
Research has also shown a connection between avoiding emotions & poor memory as well as increased misunderstandings in conversations with others. This is because people who regularly suppress emotion are often less aware of the signals they are sending to others and less aware of the social cues present in daily conversation.
Finally, those who avoid emotions, especially negative ones, are more likely to experience anxiety and depression in their lifetime.
Yup, those damn emotions catch up to us one way or another. Unless we choose to face them head on, they persist, eventually impacting our mental and physical health.
In my mother’s case, Fibromyalgia, a chronic disorder often linked to psychological stress, trauma and PTSD, was causing her to experience pain - a pain Western medicine treats with addictive pharmaceuticals, masking the symptoms, but never really addressing the underlying cause.
Known as an “invisible disorder”, due to its illusive nature, with no tests able to measure the severity or validity of it’s symptoms, Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain conditions. The disorder affects an estimated 10 million people in the U.S. and an estimated 3-6% of the world population.
In my experience, repressing emotions eventually led to anxiety (which I was unaware of for some time), and a difficulty focusing, because I was always so in my head.
According to the ADAA, 40 million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders. Although, highly treatable, only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. While these are the official numbers I pulled up, I suspect the numbers are significantly higher, with many more unaware, undiagnosed and untreated.
Similar to the treatment for Fibromyalgia, Western medicine treats anxiety with highly addictive pharmaceuticals that again, simply mask the symptoms. While I believe this type of treatment has its time and place, I'm thankful to say that for me, talk therapy, diet modifications, time spent in nature, slow paced yoga & meditation have been key in treating the root of my anxiety, while helping me avoid having to take any pharmaceuticals. Plant medicine has also played a significant role in my journey, but I‘ll cover that in more detail in a future post.
Growing up, I’d often say I never wanted to be like my mom. Never wanted to be the kind of woman who got trapped in an unhealthy relationship, the kind of woman who was dependent on a man, the kind of woman who put up with being treated with disrespect.
Yet somehow, I found myself following a similar path. Somehow, after falling hard and fast, I became the woman who was dependent and repressed – the woman put up with too much, the woman who allowed herself to be disrespected. Somehow, I found myself exactly where I said I’d never be.
You see, often, we grow up witnessing behaviors in our parents we dislike. Behaviors we vow not to repeat, yet somehow, as we move through life, these behaviors manage to persist and creep on into our lives.
Whether we like it or not, we often repeat many of our parents’ behaviors – it’s just the way it is.
For many years, I was in denial of this. Denial that I had the anger from my dad and the learned helplessness of my mom. And once I moved out of the house of denial, into awareness, I began to dwell in it. Overwhelmed by just how impacted I was, I began falling into the role of the persecutor. Blaming my parents, for messing me up. Blaming my partner for my unhappiness. Blaming myself for not knowing better.
Towards the last couple years of my married life, I was full on immersed in victim mode, feeling so disconnected and fearful of those around me. Scared of being judged for all those damn emotions I was so desperately trying to run from. Feeling like no one understood my struggle – a struggle I didn’t fully understand because I kept so much inside, allowing this deep-rooted emotion and pain out in bursts. Letting it out in traffic, letting it out internally, letting it out in my relationships.
I often felt I was living one big lie when I was posted up in that big ol’ museum of a house, playing the role of the perfect doctor’s wife I felt so pressure to be. Correction – trying to play the role. I was never really a great actress and even though I damn well tried, I never quite met my perfectionist husband’s expectations.
Cheating, lying time and time again, my partner continued to repeat patterns, developed from his own challenging childhood, even though it was hurting me. And as much as he messed up, I stayed because I knew that man loved me the very best he knew how. He tried. He really did. I tried. I really did – but our relationship was built on shallow grounds that didn’t stand a chance in the storms of life.
We both grew up without examples of what a healthy relationship looked like, both grew up coping in our own ways, avoiding all those pesky emotions we didn’t want to feel. We bonded over this shared pain - were energetically drawn together by it. But ultimately, this shared pain and difficulty connecting with / expressing our true emotions was what eventually led to the breakdown of our relationship.
Towards the last couple years of this relationship, I began avoiding my time at home and filling up my time with distraction after distraction. The only time I truly felt happy and myself was when I was in the mountains, connecting with nature, raging out my emotions; on my yoga mat, flowing through the pain, temporarily forgetting it all, or in the kitchen, getting creative, lost in passion.
Until one day, I reached a point where I had enough. Reached a point where I just needed to get away. So I booked a solo trip to Bali, to study yoga, something I had been contemplating for some time. Looking back, I think I just needed to get away. Little did I know this escape would be a pivotal point in my life.
This experience was a game changer for many reasons. But something that really hit me on this trip was meeting badass women, doing things different. Women owning their stories, standing in their power and living their truth. And while these women scared the shit out of me, they inspired me to want more for myself, inspired me to start looking deeper within.
This trip, was the first time I was really away from my partner since we were married, focusing on myself and only myself. This was also the first time, through writing, I was really able to start admitting just how unhappy and repressed I was. To really start seeing just how much pain, anger and fear I had been holding in.
Free flow writing was such a powerful tool in gaining this awareness. Such a powerful tool in opening the lines of communication between my conscious, cognitive mind and my unconscious, intuitive mind. Seeing those words on the page was a true emotional awakening.
While over-fucking-whelming, this newfound awareness, eventually led me to make the vow to take control of my story and my life. As I found myself, exactly where my mother was, feeling trapped and unhappy, I started to understand. Started to feel the pain of all the women before me who felt scared to leave.
With this, I felt an even greater responsibility to tap into my power and break the cycle. Not only for myself, but for my mom and all the other women who couldn’t. For all the women who were not fortunate enough to have embarked on their own healing journey.
So I made the commitment to do something different. To demand more from and for myself. To return home and re-commit to regular talk therapy with both my partner and individually, and to finally commit to a regular meditation practice & a slower paced, more therapeutic kind of yoga.
Although, the work put in post Bali didn’t save my relationship, it was key in helping me begin forgiving and letting go of all the built-up resentment I had been storing and in allowing me to see life and all around that surrounded me in a completely different way.
Eventually, I began to understand the actions of my partner, realizing his actions had nothing to do with me. Eventually I began to understand the actions of my mother, understanding the fear of walking away from all that you know. Eventually, I even began to understand the actions of my father, seeing how his actions were simply a repetition of the patterns from his own childhood. None of it had to do with me.
And through this understanding, I was able to feel more compassion and a greater connection to the world around me.
You see, nothing anyone ever does to hurt us is truly ever personal. We are all simply living in our own realities, doing our best with the tools we have.
Although our realities / experiences are different, the emotions we feel are the same. We all go through shit, all suffer, all hurt, all fear, all struggle. We all do our best. We are all so much more alike than we like to think. This truly is the reality of the human experience.
Now, as I reflect on all the experiences that brought me to this point, I can’t help but smile. Can’t help but be so damn grateful for all my experiences and growth. It’s been one hell of a journey so far, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As I continue to share my story, I want to reaffirm that my goal in sharing my struggle, is to remind you just how much power we all have within. Remind you, that all these “tough experiences” we go through in life, simply unlock newfound levels of compassion and connection to the world around us – and the more we learn to accept and really feel the hard stuff, the greater our capacity to accept and really feel the good stuff grows.
No matter what you have been through, you are not alone. No matter what you have been through, you CAN work through it, heal and turn your experiences into something positive. There is always help available and you are never alone in your struggle.
Ultimately, we are the only ones who can make the decision to save ourselves, ask for help and make the commitment do something different in order to live a more connected & authentic life. Just like He-man, we have the power.