I’ve struggled with anxiety and some depression throughout my life… heavy on the anxiety. But I’ve gotten help and have managed to (mostly) deal with the issues. Am I still screwed up, sure. You betcha. But I think not really so much more than most people. Differently wacked, so to speak.
I’m lucky. I’ve gotten help and I’ve managed not to get addicted to anything or the like. A miracle, considering–I know plenty of people who have struggled hard with addiction and I’m grateful to have missed that problem so far. Things, I think, could have been much worse.
But in the course of all that therapy and reflection, one can’t help but wonder why one has these issues…or at least I do. I’m a very logical person in some ways and I like to understand context as well as the results. Cognitive behavioral therapy doesn’t touch much on the why, and that is most of what I have done (it is very helpful for anxiety especially), but the questions remain and I dance with them fairly regularly.
The more I read, however, the more I wonder that I’m not more screwed up! When you line up some of the early development factors, I look like I’m a control subject for “ought to be completely whacked out of her skull!” That I’m not is a mixed function of luck and inner strength and, I think, an over-developed sense of Midewesternism–that is, not wanting to be a bother.
For example, on the “ought to be more nuts” side, there’s new research saying that moving is hard on kids. Moving repeatedly (3+ times) doubles the risk of teen suicide attempts. I lived in 5 places between the ages of about 8 and 14. Did I think about suicide as a teen? You bet… seriously. I remember plotting out how it would be best achieved with the minimum amount of pain for me and trauma for others (remember–not wanting to be a bother…). It’s a wonder I didn’t really hurt myself in the 8th grade. But I didn’t.
Factor #2, my parents divorced when I was very little. I don’t even really know when, but I only have a couple of memories of my father in the house. We all know now that divorce messes with kids’ heads no matter how amicable. In our case, it wasn’t a very nice post-divorce relationship (at least on one side)–Mom didn’t know that telling me what a horrible person my father was (in her opinion) might not be very healthy for, say, a 7-year old to hear. She didn’t mean to be hurtful to me, but she made almost every mistake in how she handled things. A lot of it was pure ignorance–no one knew what the effects were on kids back then. I have friends who have their own tales of woe from lousy parental divorces. But who knew back then how much therapy that was going to cause? I just knew it was always there, like another character in the movie.
Mom had some very messed up ideas about gender roles too. Bonus points for my future therapists. She had her own issues, of course, but I don’t think she ever admitted most or dealt with them much. For such a brilliant woman in some areas, she was nuts in others, like the gender stuff. My brothers didn’t experience it like I did because, well, they’re male. I was told repeatedly that my role in life was to take care of men and that to do anything else was wrong (like capital W wrong). At the same time, I was told that men are basically pigs. So… logically, let’s see…I’m not worth what a man is in life, and men are pigs, so that means…yes, more therapy. W00t!
My father tried, as best he could, to mitigate some of this–I think he still does. He never yells and never did, though I always knew when he was disappointed. And he could screw up too, pointing out the B on the mostly A report card was not helpful. But mostly, he always believed in equality between the genders and doing fun things like skiing and had a love of travel (until recently)–these he shared with me too. But he wasn’t there for most of the time–I lived with Mom–so he really couldn’t do more. A function of logistics, essentially.
Anyway, somehow, with this bizarre background, I survived. The purpose of this post is, like I said before, simply to point out the fact that it is pretty amazing I’m not more messed up. And yes, I think it is either why I am so strong or I got through it all because I am so strong. Flip a coin…who knows which it is.
There’s plenty more shrinks out there for that.