I found this opinion piece on the real causes of depression/anxiety and found it very interesting. It’s a good read for anyone who is open and willing to digest this sort of information. It later links a study and its findings onto a pdf document that I’ve yet to fully comb through.
I’ll update this post later after I finish reading and digesting it.
Even if the original author of this article isn’t a world-renowned psychologist with tons of credentials, it resonated with me. Maybe due to my gullible nature and perchance to fall for such thoughts because I feel similarly, but either way it rang true for me.
I’ll quote bits and pieces of the article and what resonated with me the most:
“When you’re a child, you have very little power to change your environment. You can’t move away, or force somebody to stop hurting you. So, you have two choices. You can admit to yourself that you are powerless ― that at any moment, you could be badly hurt, and there’s simply nothing you can do about it. Or you can tell yourself it’s your fault. If you do that, you actually gain some power ― at least in your own mind. If it’s your fault, then there’s something you can do that might make it different.”
I’ve been told and have personally realized that I’m a “control freak.” There are many situations where my anxiety and panic attacks kick in when I don’t have any sense of control. I mean I’m not controlling in that I must control other people, but rather I like to have some semblance of control over any crazy situation. When I lose my footing with something, I completely freak out and cannot grasp what to do. I oftentimes end up hyperventilating and crying uncontrollably until I pass out due to exhaustion. Then I usually try to work my head around the situation… although by then it’s usually too late to do anything. Then I sink into an even more depressed state. It’s a sad cycle, but it’s just something my body/brain will automatically kickstart when things get out of my control.
I couldn’t move away or change my environment. My parents, especially my mother, was very abusive… both physically and emotionally. She’d take out her frustrations primarily on me, but sometimes she’d go after my sister (who I noted in another post is her favorite/golden child). That was only when her rage was so severe she blindly just hit whoever she could. But I was always her target. If she didn’t start out angry or upset at something, she’d dig something up from the past and just yell and scream at me, putting me down, saying stuff like all bad things happen because I was born. That if I wasn’t here then her life would be better. That I’m the cause of all the rotten stuff that has happened to her. After the shower of berating, she’ll get so worked up and start finding some sort of weapon. Her usual choices were metal coat hangers or a wooden handle from the duster. To this day I cannot be near a metal coat hanger. Whenever she did this, I’d try to find a hiding place. When I small enough, I’d crawl underneath my bed and tuck myself in the corner so she couldn’t reach me. Of course, that only lasted so long since I eventually got too big for that spot. Eventually, I’d just try to hide so she’d have to put effort into finding me, which in retrospect was probably a bad idea since it only fueled her anger as she hunted my hiding spot down.
Since I had no control of that situation, and my fight-or-flight mechanism kicked in almost daily at home, I eventually just owned that everything was my fault. I was a miserably depressed child. There were two people who’d occasionally save me from this: my A-yi and Clifford. They’d usually take me away from that home and bring me to stay with them for a few months over my summer vacations from school. To be honest, I’m not sure if they were fully aware of what was actually happening at my home or to me. Or maybe it was due to my mother complaining to A-yi about how bad of a child I was to her. Either way, it was a lovely reprieve for my sanity and depression. I made some lovely memories from those times, which I still fall back on when times get really tough.
The conflicts I struggle with these memories are the thoughts my sister and cousins planted in me. Because of the “unfair” treatment that Clifford would reward me for some strange reason, they planted in my head that he was Hannibal Lecter since he kinda resembled the guy from the movies. Also, they made him out to be some sort of child molester. They painted such an ugly image of him for whatever reason. My thought today was because they were jealous that he would dote on me and not them, but I’m not certain. I have vague memories of how Clifford interacted with my sister and cousins. I do recall him telling me that they were “not [his] kind of people” to talk with and would whisk me away from home to wherever. I have no memories of being touched inappropriately by him, and obviously, he’s not Hannibal since I’m still here and not eaten.
Clifford taught me many interesting things, such as how to draw. He’d teach me the fundamentals of 3D drawing. I still remember how he taught me to draw a cube. He taught me how to sew and even made me a sewing kit. He wasn’t your average adult male. He would proudly state that he isn’t an adult and prefers the mind of a child. I mean this guy was educated at Harvard with something to do with psychology, I think. He’s viewed as strange by our society because he never believed in following the trends that society expects from us. He didn’t want to be part of a molded expectation of how our world wishes we all were. And he taught me to try and embrace this belief. I tried my best, but I think I fell short of his expectations. I didn’t turn out how he wished I would, so I felt like I was a huge disappointment. On top of the nonsense my sister and cousins would fill me in about him out of jealousy, as well as the different gender norms that society places on us, I eventually distanced myself from him. I felt I was not good enough anyway. My head was confused and unsure of what I was to become. I was constantly teased and bullied at home and school, yet only felt safe to just be me around Clifford. Since he was only around for short pockets of time during my childhood, I kinda gave in to society in that I just wanted to be accepted. It’s really sad what peer pressure can do to a person.
The other issue which made it hard was that I am an Asian female growing up in a dominantly caucasian society in a very conservative part of the mid-west (Indiana/Western Michigan). Clifford wouldn’t understand what that’s like because he’s your average Anglo-Saxon white male. I feel that alone allowed him to get away with being different and going against the norms of society. It’s a bit more difficult in my shoes for multiple reasons, at least compared to him.
Note: my sister and cousins also contributed to bullying me while we were growing up. They were being enabled, encouraged and coerced to do so by my mother. My mother wanted me to suffer as much as I’ve made her suffer (her words). As a child, I didn’t even know what that meant or how it came to be that I’ve made her suffer. Looking back now as an adult, I feel she suffered through PPD and I was the target she took it out on. She lumped me in as the sole reason why she was miserable inside. The male cousin, Hao, eventually turned his fists on me and would give me black eyes and bloody lips. I still remember one of the times it happened. My mother and sister were by the doorway of the room, grinning and even looked satisfied as it happened. They didn’t step in or try to hold him back. They just watched. Kinda like how the evil stepmother and stepsisters would watch Cinderella as she suffered. That knowing glare. I’m not trying to paint this picture of me being Cinderella, but more paint the image that is burned in my head of seeing my mother and sister look on as if they were enjoying it with grins smeared across their faces, while I was being smacked around by my older, bigger male cousin.
Anyway, I’ve gone off tangent. Back to the article.
“But that comes at a cost. If you were responsible for being hurt, then at some level, you have to think you deserved it. A person who thinks they deserved to be injured as a child isn’t going to think they deserve much as an adult, either. This is no way to live. But it’s a misfiring of the thing that made it possible for you to survive at an earlier point in your life.”
Yes, I deserved it… or so I felt. I internalized all of this as being my fault. I was and became an easy target to be bullied and abused because I allowed it. To this day I still believe that everything bad that happens to anyone in my orbit is because of me. It isn’t a way to live, it really isn’t. And because of this, I’ve made two attempts at my life when the depression became too much. Obviously, they’ve failed but I still long for a release on this life. A release from my thoughts. A release from my life.
I don’t deserve my supportive husband who has put up with me for the past 16+ years. He’s been there for me when nobody else has, in his own way. I’m not sure how he puts up with me and my crazy outbursts. He takes the brunt of my problems and even tries to help by taking them on. I hate how I’ve made him suffer because of my own struggles.
“I see you went through this bad experience as a child. I am sorry this happened to you. Would you like to talk about it?”
Deep down, after reading that, of the multiple times I’ve sought counsel through therapists, I’ve always wanted to hear this. But to no avail. They usually wish to address the here and now rather than dive into my past. One therapist even wanted to talk about my marriage. I told her it has nothing to do with that. But she kept insisting to have couple therapy for some reason (which coincidentally cost extra since it’s 2 people rather than just me). I’ve come to just believe that most therapists out there aren’t seeking to help anyone but themselves through payment. Whenever I sat with her, she didn’t give much feedback, but when time ran out, she was quick to ask for how I’m paying.
“Felitti wanted to see if being able to discuss this trauma with a trusted authority figure, and being told it was not your fault, would help to release people’s shame.”
I know that after reading that, I’ve only ever wanted to hear that from an “adult” (authoritative figure) in my life. That all of what has happened wasn’t my fault. That I’m not at fault for their actions. I’ve sought it time and time again, with no luck. Hearing it from somebody like my husband just isn’t the same. Hearing it from my peers isn’t the same. Each and every time I’ve sought to trust who I considered in my mind as an authoritative figure, they’ve shot me down in various ways.
My aunt told me that “blood is thicker than water” and that no matter what, they’re still my parents and I should still honor them. It made me feel like to her, this situation that I poured my heart into explaining was still inevitably my fault. I’ve tried talking with my mother-in-law as well. She just tells me that she was abused too and that many people are abused all around. It’s in the past, just get over it. I’ve even tried talking to the parents who adopted my biological child. She told me something similar to what my MIL told me; that she was also abused and that I’m too sensitive and should just get over myself. Also, she knew my mother and that my mom wasn’t that bad.
Every woman I sought to try and receive some sort of comfort and counsel from have only deepened my feelings of guilt and sadness. I’ve given up on ever conversing with them about this, but it also makes me wonder if the mechanism they have instilled in them and others like me is their coping mechanism. I just can’t do it the same as them. I guess I’m not strong like they are, or too overly sensitive.
The people who I trust the most have shunned me more, making it feel like I’m still to blame, so just own it. Own my blame. It’s my fault and always will be my fault. I wish I could have a better outcome. I wish I could have more “adult” (somebody who is older than me, not my peer) support. But I don’t think that will ever come to be.
I plan to buy the full book and read through it. I have horrible comprehension so I read very slowly, but I’ll eventually get through it. It seems very interesting just from the excerpts of this post alone. Maybe someday, I’ll find closure on this subject. Until then, I’ll just ride my wave of depression and own it… or something.
On the official website for the book, he closes the “If You Need Help” section with this:
“But a key point I make in Lost Connections is that it shouldn’t be left only to depressed people to solve the problem of depression. We don’t say that the problem of road accidents can only be solved by people bleeding from car crashes. It’s the job of all of us – depressed and not-depressed – to come together to challenge the causes of depression that have been rising all around us. In the medium to long term, the best way for all of us to get help is by coming together to make these targeted changes to the way we are currently living.”
If only more people felt this way. I know that at least in my select minuscule microscopic part of the universe, expressing that you struggle with depression and with an abusive past with “mommy/daddy” issues, it pushes people away. They treat me as if they have a 10-foot pole between themselves and me. Wearing baby mitts. When I leave a job for whatever reason, contact with said colleagues is non-existent; it’s as if I never existed to any of them. Confiding in them was just a waste of mine and their time and also the catalyst to create a chasm for my inability to interact with people.