“As a child I had been a great dreamer bordering on hallucinations… After years of trying to discover who and what I was, I suddenly awoke one morning and realized I didn’t care. I didn’t want insight. I wanted to escape and forget.”
William S. Burroughs
I know people who combat stress and anxiety by drinking anywhere from 2-4 glasses of liquor a night. By all accounts it makes them feel better. It can act as a form of magic.
Stress, good riddance!
Of course that happy drunk window will close. It always closes. Morning and all its ugliness will arrive eventually.
In my late teens and early twenties my own anxiety started to grow. I couldn’t focus. I was fearful of everything. I was doing the bare minimum. Unlike my college friends, I still looked like I was fifteen even as twenty-one approached. So bars and consuming those magical anxiety-reducing beverages were not an option.
I lived closer to home to reduce college expenses. And after years of fighting with my mom I hit a point where I had enough. When I graduated I wanted nothing more than to be rid of that place. At the time, my cross-country move was empowering. But after the initial period, things started to feel the same, despite the sunshine of my new city. As Stephen King said, “You take yourself with you wherever you go.” I was trying to prove my worth through work and a graduate program that didn’t interest me much, but looked good on paper. I was always panic-stricken at whatever office job I was fortunate to have that month. I was surviving, not thriving.
“If you had an engulfing mother, she is telling you how to talk, how to dress, how to feel… and she’s not encouraging you to be yourself. This lost time in development is crucial. Separation-individuation is an important part of development. Most adult children don’t get to do this until much later in life when they work on recovery.”
Karyl McBride, Will I Ever Be Good Enough?
When I was a teenager she would have violent fits when I would talk about friends or anyone I was growing close to. When my mother moved to follow me a year later, things started to deteriorate again. She insisted that we do almost everything together. When I would resist or say I had work to catch up on, she would call me a liar. She would get hysterical or frequently come over to my place anytime I tried to set boundaries. In more extreme instances she got violent. Total compliance is what she expected from me. After her episodes, we wouldn’t speak to each other for a few days and then she would pretend everything was fine.
My therapist said that I had been living in response to those volatile family issues for a long time. I was in an unhealthy, overly enmeshed relationship with my narcissistic mother. Living in a constant state of nervousness, raging insecurity and panic were typical. Even now, I’m still on edge a lot.
It gave her power to control me, to terrorize me. In her world, this was what a normal relationship looked like. She never got tired of it. She loved the drama. Therapy became a necessity. I was terrified of my rapid heart palpitations, the migraines, the flight or fight responses.
Most people turn to temporary pain relievers every day. Alcohol, drugs, television, overeating and overspending are all ways people cope. It is what we do to forget, to escape. When I started therapy last year, I started to do all the recommended treatments and “homework.” I was determined to feel better. I needed to find permanent solutions. My depression and anxiety are still present, but I think I’ve made progress. I’ve learned to set boundaries (repeatedly), I’ve moved, and above all I’m learning to take better care of myself. I’ve asked my therapist what else can be done? How do I continue to move forward?
How do you move forward?