We are all on our personal journey and can tell a unique story about life. Your life….the only one you get. And the challenge is to make it work for you, in your way.
My journey has been tough and often very challenging. I didn’t feel at home in my life until I was about 37. That is when things started to change for the better.
At this time in my life – passed the magical 60’ish – I am happier than ever, confident beyond belief (but not cocky), and feeling free as a bird. I know who I am, what I want, what I need, what I am grateful for and what contributes to my happiness. I am looking forward to the adventures that are coming my way…..
Let me tell you part of my story. Because the story hasn’t ended yet.
Where it all started
Was I a happy bunny from birth? Certainly not.
Did I find a magic wand to create my happiness? Certainly not.
My life started off in a very dysfunctional family. Abuse was at the core of things, but not physical abuse. Emotional abuse, which is more subtle and more difficult to point out.
My mother is the blueprint of a narcissist and I know now that this was the source of the unhappiness for me and my siblings. A huge challenge for my mother was the fact that my eldest brother, the firstborn, was a special needs boy: never formally diagnosed (until he was in his late fifties). He has elements of Asperger, autism, cognitive issues and physical imbalances, which could not be hidden. My parents were not able to face the reality of my brother’s condition; they were in denial and as a result felt continuously frustrated by his lack of achievement as he was never able to meet their expectations. Anger and bitterness were part of the daily messages my parents sent out. As a little girl, I didn’t recognise what was going on. I only noticed that whatever I did, it was always wrong. In order to protect myself against the negativity and to stay sane, I developed the skill of positivity.
A gift for life!
Very often, negative experiences can lead to beautiful outcomes.
I also learned from an early age to tune into the moods of others and find it very easy to pick up signals from body language. I needed to gauge the mood of my mother, to protect myself for what was going to happen…. If she was not happy (within the brackets of her unhappiness), she made sure that I was even more miserable. And I took on board that it was actually my fault when she was not happy and tried to act in ways that would make her happy.
In psychological terms, I developed an external frame of reference – my happiness was created by my mother’s responses to my behaviour. Both my thinking and feeling were focussed on her feedback. If she responded with kindness (which hardly happened) I felt I had done the right thing. If she was dismissive, which seemed to be the default response, I crumbled inside and felt like a piece of dirt, a ‘nothing’. Because of my fear for dismissal, I continuously walked on eggshells.
Now I can see how I closed myself off.
I stopped thinking, as I never got a respectful response.
I stopped feeling as it was too painful to feel.
I was just an empty barrel, a lost soul, with a positive outlook.
The emptiness I subconsciously experienced was being filled with an obsession on food and body image and grew into a full-blown eating disorder. Calorie counting, meal planning, good days, bad days, beating myself up, shame, desperation, disgust and anger were all part of the obsession. But…………… nobody knew.
I studied and worked hard. Once I was able to afford therapy, I discovered that my ‘darling’ mother was actually a ‘first-class narcissist’, who never should have had kids. But hey, that could not be reversed.
My career progressed and people around me thought I was doing great: international career, setting up my own business, great cars and holidays to the Caribbean…… It looked great, but I was suffering from Imposter Syndrome (that little voice in my head, continuously telling me I wasn’t good at all, wait till you are being found out, you are a fraud). And then, in my late thirties, I met my prince! He was from England and I moved to be with him and check out if we could make it together. We did. We even multiplied! After the birth of my first boy, I had to give up my corporate job and started training as a psychotherapist. Instantly knew this was my professional vocation!
I had arrived professionally. I thought. Of course, that was only the starting point. I was always into exploring the deeper layers, interested in theories, in what makes us tick, what will help us human beings to improve our lives. The job of psychotherapy gave meaning to my experiences because they made me great at helping others. I kept studying, and I kept on sharing that as a ‘service provider’.
How Dr Destress came to life
And then…… the lightbulb moment when I realised that all emotional turmoil, life’s challenges and difficulties, came back to stress as in, feeling out of control. And if you learn how to deal with stress, you learn how to deal with life.
That’s the story, up till now. I hope there is a lot more to follow and I will keep sharing my discoveries and ideas via this blog, my weekly emails, talks and the book I am currently writing.
Life is an adventure if you choose to make it one. Open your mind, while on your personal journey and make life work for you, in your own way. I hope I inspired you, but this story is definitely inspirational.