Even after a year in intensive psychodynamic therapy, various (and some kind of crazy) self-therapies before that, spirituality, and blogging for two years, there are times when I feel like I’ve made no progress at all.
So many things still upset and trigger me. I’m still hypervigilant, even to the point of paranoia at times; hypersensitive to criticism, don’t have a very good handle on my crippling anxiety and depression; and am envious. I’m still socially awkward and avoidant; and terrified of rejection, abandonment, and disapproval. I don’t handle other people’s anger very well, and often find myself automatically jumping on the defensive, even when there’s no reason to. I still apologize for things that weren’t my fault, and take things too personally. I still fret about what other people think of me. I still have very low self esteem and feel like a complete loser much of the time. I still do and say things that tend to self-sabotage and keep me from moving forward.
At least I know now where all this comes from, and at least I’m aware these feelings are just feelings and not facts. They were part of my programming in my toxic family. But knowing this doesn’t stop me from being triggered easily and resorting to primitive and self-sabotaging defense mechanisms.
But some things really have changed. While I still have difficulty regulating my emotions sometimes, I don’t feel emotionally “dead” as often as I used to and I do regulate my emotions better than I did before I acquired that thin protective narcissistic defense layer (which I think accounted for the “dead” feeling). I also don’t have as many (or really, any) scary and disorienting dissociative episodes anymore (those disappeared along with the emotional numbness, which is interesting). I’m less angry than I used to be and I don’t act out against others the way I used to. I don’t drink too much, do drugs, eat junk food compulsively, or otherwise try to “self-medicate” the way I tended to years ago. While I can still be envious, it’s not as painful or crippling as it used to be–it’s something I can handle now. I have more motivation and feel like my life might actually be leading somewhere. I feel like I’m not completely useless and don’t think of myself as a “bad person” or a “useless person” anymore.
I’m also seeing the good qualities I’ve always had that I either couldn’t see before or didn’t think were good qualities. After losing the thin protective narcissistic layer (“fleas,” I guess) that disconnected me from my own emotions, I realized I actually have a great deal of empathy. That surprised me. I never thought of myself as particularly empathetic before. Part of the problem was also that I was always so focused in on myself and my turbulent and constantly changing emotions that there was simply no room left for me to care about anyone else. I have a great sense of humor, which fortunately is something I never really lost and the ability to laugh at things might have kept me from going completely insane. Now my sense of humor has gotten even better and is less bitter and cynical. I’m open-minded and don’t think I’m very judgmental at all. I’m also coming to realize that my innate sensitivity– which I used to be so ashamed of–is really a great thing once you know how to use it.
I’ve come to accept that I may never be completely healed (after all, it took my whole life to get that way), but I think I can live with that. No one is perfect. So I’ll just keep working at getting better and try to be the best I can be. That’s all I can do. That’s all anyone can do.