The ties that bind

My therapist told me I was inspirational. She said it made her feel quite tearful to think of how far I’d come. She could remember when I was so deep in my lethargy and my pit, it was so dark, that she wondered if I’d ever get out of it. Now I’m eating well, feeling stronger, healthier, I’m not longer drowning my brain cells in alcohol, I’m using my brain, I can remember more things, I’m busier, more productive. I’m taking better care of myself, more pride in my appearance. She said all this in one session, and my answer was: “Really?” followed by “Oh, um, thank you, but I wouldn’t go that far.” I couldn’t take the compliment. In her words, I kept batting it away. I was so surprised, and touched to be described as inspirational, but I couldn’t acknowledge it. She set me the task of writing it down, here in my blog, for all to see.

The next thing she asked me to do was to say aloud “I deserve to be noticed”. I fidgeted, giggled a bit and said “I’m always noticed, I’m a six foot, overweight redhead, everyone notices me”. She told me to stop hiding behind humour and to just say it. It was so hard, so hard to say. I felt silly, and arrogant and silly again. I said it into the air. “Again” she said. I said it again into the air above her head. We did this four times and I still couldn’t look her in the eye.

This is co-dependency. This is a “shame existence bind”. Which is a situation where I feel ashamed to exist. (Link will take you to an excellent explanation of this).

One thing I’ve never been able to do is to tell people how I feel about them. Really tell them I mean, in a “You’re amazing, you’re so much fun and I love you” kind of way. I can do it with Tony, and with our cat, I have no problem telling them, but I can’t tell my family. I call it simply being terribly British and not feeling comfortable saying these things out loud, but it’s more than that. I feel like I’ve missed out on stronger relationships with my family members because I just can’t tell them that I love them.

When my birth family tells me they’d like to see more of me, that I’m always welcome, I worry that I’ll be imposing if I just announce that I want to visit. When my aunt and uncle tell me how loved I am and how important, I’m dying to tell them what they mean to me, but I can’t. I’m worried it’ll sound crap and insincere, and I don’t really know how to say it anyway, so I don’t. And they carry on not knowing that I feel that way.

When my sister tells me how nice I look, how brave I am, or how good it is to see me, I feel dowdy and awkward and want to tell her how inspirational I find her and her life. How smart and beautiful she is and how proud of her I am. But I can’t. I’m worried it’ll seem too much, that I’ll embarrass her, and I know I’ll definitely embarrass myself.

When my sister’s sister (it’s complicated) says I’m funny and kind, I want to tell her how great I think she is, how I love her passionate geekiness, her contagious good humour, her sensitivity and her endless enthusiasm. I want to say how glad I am to know her, and how grateful I am that she declared us ‘quarter sisters’ at our first meeting, which made me feel like I belonged.

My cousins, I want to tell them how much fun it was growing up with them, how I seriously loved it. How I wish I lived closer and saw them far more often. That they’re funny, amazing people who mean as much to me as brothers and sisters. That I’m so proud of the kind, good-hearted, successful people they’ve become and that I want to be in their lives. But I can’t. Because it would sound forced and wrong and it would be ‘too much’. So I say nothing and continue to miss out on their company.

I don’t want my nephews to grow up not hearing me say these things to them. I want them to know how much I already love them, these little boys, these incredible little forming personalities. How it’s an overwhelming feeling for me, someone who doesn’t know how to be intimate with people, to suddenly love these little people so much.

So I’ll practice my affirmations in the mirror. I deserve to be noticed. I am enough. I am loving, loveable and loved. I am able to be intimate with others. I can receive compliments. I’ll practice them until I can say them without laughing. Until I can say them out loud to my therapist, and actually look her in the eye. Until I can tell the people who mean the most to me that they do, in fact, mean the most to me.

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