Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ignore the woman behind the curtain.......even when it's me.....

"I'm starting with the man in the mirror,
I'm asking him to change his ways,
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself,
Then make that change" Michael Jackson

When I reconnected a couple months ago with friends I grew up with, one of the things we talked about the most was how all the families in our home town were so good at hiding what was really going on at home. How teachers didn't know in many cases that children were being abused, that many of our class mates had no clue what was going on behind closed doors. It was an incredibly dysfunctional town that on the surface looked like Mayberry!

My parents were the best of the best at pretending things weren't what they truly were. My father was a deacon in the church, refereed little league and softball and yet was abusing his family at home. My mother worked at the school, attending every event going on in the community and yet was incapable of being a loving, supportive parent and allowed my father to do the horrible things he did.

I will never forget as long as I live the great ease my mother could transition from screaming at us full tilt to picking up the phone with when it rang (mid scream) and all of a sudden becoming the most sweetest sounding person in the world. It used to infuriate me. And she could go back to hysterics the minute the receiver was back in the cradle.

One of my dearest friends growing up used to call my family "The Waltons in Libya" because from the outside we had the most idyllic looking life...the house, the pool, the cars, the money, three very smart children, involved in everything around town, but once you were in our home more than a couple times it became clear it was only appearances, that bad things were happening. But we all did so well covering for the world!

It wasn't until the last 24 hours that I realized just how much of that I have inherited and how good I have become at hiding. I have always known I was careful about who I let in, but I am coming to see now that even those I thought I was letting in probably weren't getting far.

The last 24 hours have been incredibly draining on me, I feel very raw and unsure what to do with all this that has been opened up, but as I said yesterday I don't regret having gone here. It is a growth experience I needed, and I fear shutting it back down before I have fully dealt with it (another of my great skills...pretend I have it figured out, that I am good with it, and move on).

As I have started to really examine who I am, I am realizing there are at least three levels to me...

1) What the world gets...
This is the "cards up on the table" blunt Pam. This is the work horse, problem solver, solution finder who can handle it all. This side is analytical, to the point, confident and capable. This is also the sarcastic, smart, sharp witted person who can handle any situation life throws my way. This part of me is perfectly fine with being alone, of handling it all and never shys away from a challenge or a puzzle. It is also fiercely protective of my friends, loyal, determined and would do anything for anyone. This part of me is also the perfectionist, and incredibly critical and demanding of those around me. This is the "little less talk and a lot more action" part of myself. The part who is often misperceived as bitchy, self centered, a know it all and narcissistic.

2) What those I let in get...
This is definitely a softer version of the above. Still fiercely loyal and protective of those I care about, probably even more so than the day to day part. I would die for my friends if I had to at this level. This part of me is very sensitive, sentimental and wants to cure the world. I want to make it better for everyone else at this level. Some insecurity and emotion exists at this level, but it is kept in check as best I can. I can be sappy and all that, but when the emotional stuff is about me it is limited. I would say this is the level I write the blog at most of the time. This is also where I keep most of being hurt or let down in life. It is where I put my failures and what I perceive as being slighted by those around me. My expectations of others is lower when I am at this place (I am more open to them being human also) but I still get hurt here, and that hurt is a lot more personal, because it is by people I have let get closer to me.

Until yesterday I really thought that was about it. That I had those two parts of my personality.  I am starting to see that probably isn't the case. That there is another deeper part of me that I try to hide from myself as much as I try to hide it from others. And that a lot of the stress and fear I feel lately is because a couple people in my life keep moving close to crossing the boundary between what I want them to see and what I don't even want to see. That when I am told "you go so far and then you shut down" by my friends that this is that wall we are hitting.

3) The part of me I wish wasn't...
This is the part I do all I can to pretend isn't part of me - to myself as well as the outside world. The part I fear people will discover and abandon me over. This part of me is insecure, emotional, scared, needy and quite often lonely. It is also controlling (a huge lesson from yesterday) and hard to satisfy (things I used to think were coming from what the world does see level). It is where the tears live and a lot of the baggage from my childhood, from my years fighting PTC and as I am learning slowly, where a lot of the weight and food issues, come from. It is the part of me that takes over when I am overwhelmed and that I usually curl up on the couch to hide from.

It is also the part of me I fear being unable to keep in check. I was asked yesterday why I have such a hard time letting others see me get upset (no crying rules apply!). I didn't have the answer then, but as I am writing this I am "getting it". It is because crying means this part of me exists, and I fear once that is open to someone I won't be able to hide it again!

It is the part of me that has never really found my place in the world and is struggling so hard right now. Because one of the realities I was not ready to face until yesterday (ok wasn't ready to face even then but had shoved in my face by someone trying to show he cared) is that the more weight I am losing the harder it is to hide this part of me - which is why I feel so emotional at times lately. That my weight, and food, was helping me hide this part of me and that is working less and less now. And also that this part of me is also getting in the way more and more with me making progress on the changes I am trying to make to my life. That this is that part of me who also sabotages the rest.

Its kind of (ironically) funny to me, that I spent the better part of 5 years in therapy (back in the 90's), sometimes multiple times a week, worked with at least 5 different therapists in that time (at least one of which I would consider world class) and I end up feeling like I know more about myself after one stupid conversation at a picnic table than I did after all that. Particularly since it was a conversation I did everything in my power to end.

The greatest irony is I spent a lot of that conversation telling this person he had no right or reason to help me. That it wasn't his job or his problem. It is only in hindsight that I "get it" that those were my last ditch attempts at protecting this part of myself from an invasion I wasn't ready for. That I am still not sure I am ready for, but feel like I have little choice about now. That the only way to face this is to let others in to help me. That it is too much for me to go into alone.

I have said before that people cross our path for a reason, I have always tried to control that reason or the boundaries on it. Maybe this time I don't get that decision, as I feel like it was already made for me. And that TERRIFIES me!

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