I was out with a friend last Sunday, and we were talking (as friends will). I was talking to him about some incident where I had, once again, questioned my decisions and actions as a mother, wife, and woman, and he said something that just blew my mind.
First, let me preface: I’ve mentioned before how I have a tendency to always assume I’m both wrong in my knowledge and in the wrong in my actions, and I have a really difficult time standing up for myself when someone tells me I’ve screwed up, or blames me for problems in their world. Two classic examples would be:
- When I nearly gave up full custody of my son because I listened to people who didn’t know me very well or interact with me often, instead of following my heart or even just listening to those who know me well and had my best interests at heart.
- When someone I thought was a friend cheated on her husband, and lied to me in order to use my husband and I as an unwitting and unwilling cover for her actions. When we discovered her perfidy, we confronted her and told her to tell her husband. She refused and (despite involving us) told us it was none of our business. We notified her husband, and she blamed us for for the end of her marriage. The most disturbing part is, initially I accepted the blame she assigned me for their marriage ending.
I just (weirdly) have a tendency to think I am always wrong and everything that sucks is my fault because I’m a massive screw up. I don’t like this tendency. I don’t mind apologizing or admitting when I’m wrong. It’s part of being an adult, of learning and growing from your actions.
But I do mind, very much, when I apologize and cringe and beg forgiveness for a “wrong” I didn’t actually commit. I always feel shame and anger and resentment once I’ve had more time to think on it, and I really, really hate this tendency I have to always take the blame, even when all logic and reason dictates there is no possible world or way the blame could be assigned to me (as in the case of the adulterous “friend”).
Besides the shame I personally feel, it also causes harm to my loved ones. Sometimes this harm is emotional, sometimes it’s physical. For instance, every single time I’ve questioned my worth as a mother and yielded to the well-meaning advice of someone who says they know better than me (excluding, of course, advice from medical personnel), it’s been damaging to my son. The most recent incident would be that of the wrongly-sized shoes
, but there are several other incidents similar in scale that directly relate to me second-guessing myself.
So I was discussing this personality trait with my friend, and he pointed out that I had basically spent my entire childhood being told I was crazy for questioning the world I was sold. Initially, I thought he was talking about how I was raised LDS
and how they not only discourage questions, but actively revise and obscure church history
. But nope, he was actually talking about my experience with the bipolar misdiagnosis
. I made a sound of negation, but even as I tried to deny it, I suddenly and overwhelmingly remembered how helpless and voiceless I felt whenever my parents would respond to strong emotion by taking me to the psychiatrist. I hated it. I used to cry, to beg and sob:
Aren’t I allowed to get angry? Happy? Sad? How can you tell if it’s normal or bipolar emotion — they all feel normal to me!
I used to feel like no one was listening or paying attention to me if I got angry about anything deemed “unworthy.” For instance, if I got upset or angry because my best friend (a non-mormon stoner) stood me up, or because my pack of cigarettes got crushed in my backpack, that wasn’t “necessary” anger. Those things weren’t worthy of my anger, which meant I “needed” my medications adjusted because I was getting irrational.
If, on the other hand, I got upset or angry because a mormon friend stood me up, or because a treat I’d been saving for myself was eaten by a sibling, that was perfectly rational and the anger was understood because those activities were deemed “worthwhile.”
I also often felt like my emotions were interpreted all wrong, blown out of proportion or minimized according to the context. The examples from above hold true here, too — I felt I showed the same irritation and frustration over a crushed pack of cigarettes or the accidental theft of a treat I’d been hiding, but my parents seemed to interpret my expression of frustration between the two events as wildly different rather than comparable.
Anyway, long story short — I realize my friend has a really prescient point, and I’m a bit stunned I never connected the persistent unvoicing of teenage-me with the personality trait I now possess to always assume I am essentially and completely wrong. On one hand, this is actually a pretty cool realization, because his insight gives me a starting point to be able to rationally work through my reactions and come to a consistently applicable solution in addressing my repeated behavior of taking unnecessarily and unhealthy amounts of blame. On the other hand, I am now dealing with this uncomfortable mixture of anger and grief and guilt that I haven’t felt since the weeks after mom’s suicide. I want to confront my mom about this, but I am (obviously) unable to, and I can’t help feeling guilty that I’m angry about this. It’s all very confounding.