Friday, January 21, 2011

What if?

Saw a post on Fiona and Twig yesterday that really started me thinking. The post was about the quote, "What would you do, if you knew you could not fail?".

So much of my life has been dictated by fear. In fact, for a couple of years, I was pretty much entirely agoraphobic and rarely even left my house except when I absolutely had to. As a child, I remember always feeling small and afraid. I had a terrible time making friends and would often sit by myself at lunch and play outside at recess alone. Even as I got older, when I was in college, I'd often go into the bathroom, lock myself in a stall and eat my lunch alone.

Today, as a 34 year old adult, I have to push myself to do even the most mundane things. Going to the grocery store, walking around the mall, going out to a movie or dinner with my husband, these are all things I'm too anxious and afraid to do. And of course getting a job or going back to school are out of the question. The mere thought is enough to induce a panic attack.

It's hard for me to imagine a life without having to worry about failing. It's almost dangerous to contemplate, lest I get too caught up in the fantasy and get hurt falling back to earth when reality sets back in. At the same time, I am so tired of living in constant fear of failing.

Perhaps 2011 will be the year I finally confront some of that fear and step out on a limb. I'd very much like to start my own home-based decor business. I'm told my work is quite good and have been asked to do many custom pieces. Maybe this is the year I'll get one of my dreams off the ground.

What would you do if you knew you wouldn't fail?


  1. I think that is a fantastic new year's resolution! I am looking forward to hearing how your business progresses :)

    Fear has also held me back - I can relate to not making friends and being so ashamed of being a loner I just wanted to hide. It is still hard for me in social situations to quell those negative voices and just interact with people without fear.

    I would write a book if I knew I couldn't fail.

  2. Hi Disturbed Angel;

    This was a great post.

    I am 21 years old and an American college student. I am a junior now, and really can relate to a lot of the things you mentioned in this post. I find myself withdrawing from life, and have picked up the habit of eating meals alone in bathrooms. I actually feel sort of disgusting, like I am breaking the ultimate taboo doing this. Daily living is incredibly difficult... brushing my teeth, going to bed at normal hours... everything is colored by my fear of 'whatever.'

    One of the things I often wonder about is how anyone can survive when they feel the way I/we/others do. I am talking about a particular sort of suffering; the one that many young Western women seem to deal with (and blog about). Viewing myself the way I do, I really wonder how I will ever manage to find another person to have a functional relationship with. Rather, how am I to have a functional relationship with the world when I can't even relate to myself? I read about you and your husband, and I read other blogs too, and wonder how their relationships work. From my point of view, I see someone who has a husband, (and I assume it's satisfying), someone who has a very good grasp on the English language, is well spoken, has aesthetic taste (blog design) and I wonder, they must not be suffering that bad... It just adds to the curious nature of this Suffering that seems to plague us, (is it okay if I use the term 'us'? I can only deduce so much from what you have written).

    Sometimes I peek my head out from behind the veil that has been pulled over my eyes, and I sense a life of fearlessness and courage to do the things I love. It is so shocking that I quickly pull the veil back over my eyes. What if I lived without fear... what a foreign concept! I thought life WAS fear... or so I was made to believe... If I could not fail... if I could not fear... I think I would speak my mind and tell people what I really believed in. I know that some of the things I believe are really outlandish and bizarre. I think if I could not fail, I would begin to talk about some things I have been experiencing and I would begin to express myself in a sincere manner. I would not be afraid to tell people what I really thought... Maybe that's a weird answer, but that's what comes to mind. I am afraid that I would 'fail' or be 'wrong' in how I felt.

    Can I ask you a question? You have a husband... someone must love you, right? I operate under this assumption that if I am suffering the way I am, then I will not be able to be in a healthy relationship until I can sort things out within my own self. Then I can "properly" relate and connect with others. Until then, I am on my own...

    What do you think of this feeling? Can you relate? Do you have experience that has taught you otherwise?

    If I am being obscure or weird, let me know and I will try to clarify. In the meantime, happy 2011... Here's an idea: take your copy of the dictionary, wherever it is in the house, and black out the entry for the word 'fail.' That won't exist anymore. ;)

    Talk to you soon,

    Meghan M.

  3. DA, thank you so much for writing this post. It hit so close to home for me. I'm 51 and have felt alone, afraid and like an outsider most of my life.

    I'm back to being agoraphobic, since I went No Contact with my NF and EM and Low Contact with my GC older brother Sep. 2009. My DH gently encourages and entices me to get out the door, almost daily. I'm afraid he'll give up on me, because I have so many issues from my bad childhood that are taking so long to work through, even though I've aggressively tackled them for 30 years!!

    We are also NC with my DH's NM and EF, since last Easter, literally. Great day for a major family explosion caused by my vicious NMil and witnessed by my appease-at-all-costs SIL.

    DH didn't move a lot as a child like I did, but he sadly knows exactly what it's like to be "raised" by selfish, cruel cowards who put on a good show for the outside world. We both practically raised ourselves...both buried our heads in books and hid in our bedrooms to keep away from mean parents and siblings.

    After reading your excellent post, all these comments and my own words, I'm thinking, is it really any wonder that we're all afraid to: leave our own homes, mix and mingle, brush our teeth (Me, too!!), eat in public places, say what we're *really* thinking and feeling...even *try* to make friends, and I'm 51 for crying out loud!!!

    I just get sooo tired of being too afraid to do normal, everyday things that so many folks do effortlessly:( So many things trigger anxiety, I freeze up and have a panic attack. Ugh:( I also have serious short term memory problems. Do you guys think all this childhood trauma messes with our long and short term memory?? Just starting to suspect it does...Like our messed up parents tinkered way too much with our wiring.

    Growing up,my narcissistic father made us move about every two years, overseas and here in the U.S. I made and lost countless good friends. My senior yr of H.S., my THIRD H.S., I didn't try to make even one friend...I finally gave up.

    I now realize my NF absolutely didn't care, and probably enjoyed, the huge stress he caused me and my two brothers and my enabling mother. To this day, at 75 yo, he's still a control freak...pouts, rages, gives the silent treatment, brags about himself and my Golden Child older brother. This brother, 53,was an alcoholic for several years and is now sober, but takes rotten care of himself and can't be bothered to work on "family issues"...he gives the usual mob family line: you need to just get over it and put it behind you, blah, blah, blah. How are we supposed to put decades of ongoing, constant cruelty *behind* us? How do you put quick sand behind you???

  4. Meghan M, thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough comment. Sounds like you, too, have had a rough childhood. You really seem to have a good head on your shoulders (ie. you carefully think problems through and try hard to solve don't give up easily).

    It's going to be really important for you to keep doing the hard work...I'm glad I did. It has hurt me a lot to dig down deep in my pain, look at it and try to either repair it or, usually, accept it for what it is--painful, but in my past. I'm here to encourage you and tell you that you will definitely be glad you busted your emotional a** in your twenties (that's when I started examining my family mess). Today, at 51, I am finally comfortable in my own skin about half of the time--super for me:)

    I'm sorry you're going through such a lonely time in your life. I was desperately lonely in my twenties and worried almost non-stop that no good man would ever truly love me. It was excruciating. It would be a lie to say that I'm not lonely now! Sorry to disappoint you on that one. My DH and my 25 yo son can't fix or fill that hole in my heart that my parents created and I don't expect them to. Over the years, I came to the slow realization that we all are basically alone, in a way, and that I want to be ok with that. Ok with me.

    My son and I have talked about dating and loneliness, etc. He was visibly struggling with finding the right girl...I suggested he double date and even invite girls he likes to group activities, you know, take the pressure off, take your time, watch how a girl interacts with groups of people,etc. I suggested he change his thinking from "time's wasting or running out" to thank God I have time to work on myself, so I have a better chance of attracting a great girl. I told him if you're looking for a high quality girl(ie. loving, kind...)you need to be a high quality guy or she won't give you a second look.

    So, my suggestion to you is to continue working on yourself, pat yourself on the back A LOT and look for and listen to people who are loving, kind, encouraging and adventurous. Those words fit my DH. We were both previously married to our Xs for over 20 years each. Back then, neither of us knew how whacked out our relationship ideas were...messed up parents teach their kids messed up ideas about life.

    Meghan, You Can Do It!! You're not weird:) Be your own cheerleader. All through my childhood I kept thinking:" I'm not stupid!" Now I know I was giving myself the love and encouragement normal parents joyfully and easily give their kids. I made sure I talked as openly and honestly as I could to my son as he grew up. I validated his feelings and cheered him on in his endeavors. In a way, helping my son grow up feeling loved and valued just for being him, healed a lot of my own leftover pain from my long ago childhood. Wishing you find and enjoy many warm loving friendships and a young man who accepts, loves and values you as you are:)

  5. @ Meghan - My thoughts as to why I keep plodding along despite how hard it is are that I do it a) for my son, because I want to be the best mommy I can be for him and b) because there really isn't any other option for me. I refuse to lie down and give up and let my abusive N FOO win. If I have to keep fighting for the rest of my life, if I can live just one day in peace and know true happiness, then it will all have been worth it.

    As to my relationship with my dh, I won't lie, it's been very difficult at times. Understandably, my dh can only handle so much sometimes and there have been times where he's said he needs a break and can't take anymore. He doesn't leave or abandon me at those times. Rather, what he's saying is that he just needs a couple days of not having to hear about me complaining about my NM or whatever. During those times, it's been places like this blog and the DoNM board that have helped TREMENDOUSLY. Therapy has also been very helpful, though you need the right therapist in order to make any good progress.

    It was actually blind luck that my dh happened to be such a great guy. At the point of my life when I met him, I certainly was the type to put up with just about anything so long as the guy wouldn't leave me. I look back now and wonder why I put up with so much bad treatment - cheating on me, disrespecting me, etc. The ONLY thing I didn't tolerate was physical abuse. There was one guy that hit me one time and I hauled off and knocked him so hard he actually passed out. Needless to say, that was the first and last time any guy ever tried to hit me.

    Then along came dh and, lo and behold, he was a great guy. Despite that, being so messed up from all the crap going on in my life, I subconsciously tried my best to run him off. I suppose I felt I didn't deserve such a great guy. I was overly-clingy and smothered dh to death. Then, when he went away to NJ for a year to go to college, I'm ashamed to say I cheated on him a couple times with some guy I worked with who, quite honestly, while I thought he was cute, I didn't even like all that much. But dh, being the great guy he is, knew that behind my actions lied something deeper. He knew that deep down I was really just scared and felt unworthy but he was determined to prove to me that he wasn't going anywhere. When he came back from NJ a year later, he asked me to marry him and several months later, we were married.

    As I said before, it hasn't been easy. We've had our ups and downs. But with a lot of open communication and a WHOLE lot of prayer, we've now been together 17 years as of this coming September and happily married for 11 of those years.

    My advice to you is don't try and push it. When you're meant to meet the right guy, he'll come along. Until then, focus on healing yourself. As I said before, I feel a good therapist is key to working through such difficult issues. There is a therapist finder tool on the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers board online that can help you find the right T. In my personal experience, I've had the most success with those who specialize in abuse and trauma. Don't be afraid to fire a particular T if you don't feel they are right for you either. Any T worth their salt knows that the key to success in therapy is feeling you can trust your T and they won't take it personally if you aren't feeling it and need to look elsewhere. Don't be willing to settle!


  6. @ Meghan cont'd. -

    If anxiety is a big issue for you - as it is for me - CBT therapy can be an AMAZING help for you. I had started doing CBT or "cognitive behavioral therapy" a couple years ago. I'd been going for about 2 months when I had to stop because my dh's employer canceled insurance coverage for me and our DS and we couldn't afford the payments out of pocket at that time. But in those two months, I had AMAZING success. My anxiety level, which previously had been about an 8+ on a scale of 1 to 10, became a daily level of about 5. I've no doubt that had I been able to continue the therapy, my anxiety would now cease to be an issue. In fact, I'm planning on going back into CBT therapy end of next month, though with a different T this time round.

    Meds can also work wonders but I tend to see them as putting a band-aid on a deep wound. It might help a little but it's not getting to the root cause of the problem. CBT and exposure therapy actually helps GET RID of the anxiety and panic by making you not afraid of it anymore, thus eliminating the problem at the root.

    I wish you lots of luck Meghan and I think you're going to be just fine. Things WILL get better and probably a lot sooner than you expect or think. Until then, be kind to yourself and do all that you can to help yourself succeed.


    DA xx

  7. @ Jasmine - I would have to say that going NC with all the N's in my life is probably THE single best decision I've ever made in my healing process. Since cutting them out of my life, I've progressed in leaps and bounds. It hasn't all been easy of course. There are times I question myself as to whether or not I made the right decision or am I right in labeling my NM an N but, ultimately, I know it was the right decision and feel in my gut that I truly did all I could to try and fix things between my NM and I before finally walking away.

    At the same time, the whole process has been much easier than I expected. I guess that's because I'd known for some time that things were headed that way and had maybe done most of my grieving before it actually happened.

    As to your question about whether our childhood trauma messes with our memory, I can't remember where specifically but I read somewhere years ago that when a person is exposed to constant chaos and trauma, that it actually changes our brain chemistry.

    Actually, come to think of it, there was a post on the DoNM board about a recent article along these lines. I thought I'd written about it here but I guess I neglected to do so. (Will have to do that in just a sec!) Anyway, the article states:

    "A series of studies by a group of psychiatrists and brain imaging scientists lead by Martin Teicher, of Harvard Medical School, shows that even hostile words in the form of verbal abuse can cause these brain changes and enduring psychiatric risks for young adults. In a study published in 2006, the researchers showed that parental verbal abuse was more strongly associated with these detrimental effects on brain development than was parental physical abuse. In a new study published in the July issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, they report that exposure to verbal abuse from peers is associated with elevated psychiatric symptoms and corpus callosum abnormalities. The main causes are stress hormones, changes in inhibitory neurotransmitters, and environmental experience affecting the formation of myelin electrical insulation on nerve fibers. The most sensitive period for verbal abuse from peers in impairing brain development was exposure during the middle school years. Why? Because this is the period of life when these connections are developing in the human brain, and wiring of the human brain is greatly influenced by environmental experience."

    So, in answer to your question, YES, enduring such trauma and abuse most certainly DOES change our brain chemistry.



  8. @ OAD - I think you are an AMAZING writer. In fact, I'm always comparing my blog posts to yours and I always feel that mine fall short of your level of talent. Your posts always read to me like they were written by a professional whereas mine always seem to be just kind of haphazardly blurted out and/or ramble on.

    I think you should go for that book. Maybe make it your resolution. I know I'd buy it!


    DA xx