So, what were my problems? What was I so sad about? Why am I qualified to write about emotional pain, at least from a personal standpoint.
Well, it started in childhood as it does with most of us, of course. Except that It took me many years to figure out what had been wrong back then. In short, I was a very lonely, isolated child and had no one to share anything with, least of all my parents, teachers, or siblings. A lone female in an elementary school surrounded by rough farm boys, I was taught by less than compassionate teachers who didn't realize I was a gifted child, so intent they were upon making me "color between the lines."
It didn't help that I was the oldest of four children with parents who were emotionally damaged by their own difficult childhoods, a mother who was quite often ill with migraines, so focused on her own problems and mental health issues that mine were never really addressed. My father was obssessed with his own personal image to the point that he pushed me into activities and competitions that weren't really my interests but his. When I failed it would disappoint him terribly and he would rant and rave about how unfair our family was treated for weeks.
Don't get me wrong. My parents loved me, I never doubted that. I loved them in return, even if they weren't easy to live with much of the time. They simply did not know how to parent because they'd never been parented well themselves. My Mom was the daughter of an alcoholic and suffered the loss of one sister early in life. My father lost his mother when he was 15. She dropped dead of a stroke on Valentine's Day. Grandpa was a good man but he worked his children hard. And both of my parents had polio as children. This affected their emotional health terribly.
Dad died a few years ago at age 87. I held him in my arms. Mother is 88 now and suffers dementia. I miss them both.
But that doesn't change what happened to me, and what happened is that I grew up in a perfect culture to develop a rather severe anxiety disorder, biting my nails until they were bloody and wetting the bed. To escape from the tension in our home I stayed gone from the house playing outside as much as possible, where neighborhood kids looked at and and touched my body inappropriately when I was far too young and impressionable.
I didn't know what was being done to me. Of course, I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone and certainly no one thought to ask. In short, I thought it was all my fault and that I was bad. Of course, as a therapist, I know that children always blame themselves when others do things to them that are wrong. I just wish someone had told me back then.
Later, because I was lonely, confused about myself, homesick at college, and fearful of having to go back home to live with my less-than-happy family, I got married. Of course, that's what girls did back then, girls in my generation. Actually, I was just barely twenty when I married the first nice boy who came along. Thank goodness, Rick was a good man. Of course, I loved him, or thought I did. He was certainly good-looking, kind, quiet, and mysterious, whereas my Dad was loud and overbearing. I know that I loved the way he made me feel, the chemistry between us. And though he was different from my family he felt very familiar. He was a farm kid like me and loved the outdoors, animals, and the land.
But I was too young. I had never really dated all that much before then, and quickly learned just how hard marriage would be, especially married to my opposite in personality, as my young husband would turn out to be. You see, I was a lot like my Dad. I too can be controlling, overbearing, and opinionated. I've really had a long journey learning how to tone it down. What I didn't know was that Rick was an extreme introvert, and had great difficulty communicating with people. Inevitably marital problems developed in our mid-lives.
Actually, I wrote about it all in Trapped in the Magic Mirror, a book that was first published in 2006 by Cook Communications but is now out of print. I will rerelease it as a new e-book soon under my own imprint.
But the big trauma happened in 1990, when my 26 year old brother, Art, committed suicide. I had been his spiritual mentor and the big sister who had helped to raise him. I even got up with him in the night when he was a baby. I was fifteen years old when he was born and we'd always been very close, especially as he struggled with growing up, then later developed problems in his relationships and career that he sought my advice about.
Of course, I know now that it was his untreated ADHD and alcoholism that killed him. But for a long time I blamed myself for not being able to save him. In fact, losing him almost destroyed me, and my parents for sure. For many years after his death, I struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (as does my mother now) and the accompanying depression brought about by the trauma, which manifested physically as fibromyalgia. It didn't help that our finances were tight and that my career as a social worker was extremely stressful and demanding. Parenting two strong-willed teenagers capped it all off.
So it was all of this that finally sent me in pursuit of the creative lifestyle, desperately looking for a way to heal myself. I couldn't find healing in talk therapy or pills. The only thing that helped was art, making things, and writing. Strange that my brother's name was Art, isn't it?
Not to me. I believe his name is a symbol for the gift hidden in the tragedy of his life. Because it was writing stories and music, sculpting, drawing, and finally oil painting that saved my own life. And it has been those things that led to my successful career as a self-help writer, and the many wonderful people I've met along the way.
But I don't credit myself or having the sense to know this at the time. I just did what I had to do, not realizing that my creativity was a gift God would use to heal me, to transform me into his own work of art.
My life is beautiful now. Perfect, no. Beautiful, yes. By the way, I don't have a cushy retirement fund, a big house with a pool, and a perfect body. I struggle to exercise as much as I should. I don't have a perfect, romantic marriage, not by a long shot. We still argue, we still get tired of the differences we must deal with on a daily basis. But we love each other deeply.
So if I survived all this then you can too. Of course, many of you have suffered far worse than I. You were truly abused as children, have been victims of rape or domestic violence. I don't pretend that I'm a real victim like you might be.
But nevertheless I know what emotional pain feels like and I know how to heal. I believe with all my heart that writing, stories, art, music, and making things heals the mind, body, and soul.
Thanks for letting me share my whole story. I've never done it in quite such depth before.