It now seems so peculiar to me to have existed for 34 years without a true understanding of who I am. To have coasted with my behaviour and feelings, and being very driven by factors I was yet to recognise or understand, now amazes me.
Low self-worth, sadness, frustration and never really belonging, compounded by an overwhelming sense of being ‘wrong’ at times, was how I used to describe myself. I never doubted or questioned – I just blindly accepted that this was the way everybody lived, and what everybody believed.
To say there wasn’t happiness and joy or that I wasn’t successful despite those feelings would be a lie, but buried deep down inside me I always felt I was running a race with something holding me back. It was a feeling I would try to shake off and at times I found incredibly hard to weather and manage.
When I became aware I was struggling I’d distance myself from those who loved me, pushing them away, regretfully at times quite unkindly. Hurting those who I cared for was never the intention.
There was just so much raw emotion, sorrow and frustration in what I understand now to have been cries for help from a boy who felt so incredibly let down and hurt by the world without him even knowing. Figuring this out, as life changing as it was, was purely by accident.
Initially I sought out therapy after my divorce, which had taken a heavy toll. Therapy in this instance allowed me to successfully navigate this, which then left me feeling so incredibly empowered. I harboured no ill feeling, just pure pride and energy for my newly found direction.
Even in the months prior to seeking help I had begun to make good choices, cutting out alcohol and junk food and regularly exercising. My newly found self in combination with the sense of pride in my achievements was a glimpse of who I had always felt I could be.
Sadly this faded all too soon, and my previous insecurities were in the driving seat again – but this time they stood in such contrast to who I knew I could be that I had the strength to challenge them.
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I was lucky to have found in my therapist someone who I instinctively trusted and connected with, someone to help me challenge the negative emotions and behaviours I now recognised. The proceeding weeks and months saw me navigate my early life and adverse experiences while understanding the resultant emotions and behaviours that had become rooted in my existence.
There was a lot to pick through. My father leaving when I was incredibly young, the poor surrogate fathers I sought in his place, being groomed as a young boy, my father’s imprisonment and other adverse experiences had taken their toll.
My self-worth and confidence were non-existent. I never viewed myself as an equal or valued and had huge problems trusting – I always had an expectation I would be hurt. My behaviour was a combination of poorly constructed cries for help and defensiveness from the hurt I expected to come.
We worked through the myriad of experiences that had left their mark, in order to recognise them, understand the behaviours they instilled and ultimately learn how to challenge and change them. The value in being able to navigate such experiences with a professional is immeasurable.
The culmination for me was the realisation that I was a victim of physical and sexual abuse at an age where no memory exists, just the emotional bruising and awareness, hidden in my everyday interactions with the world. For the first time in 34 years my box was empty, all its burden laid out in front of me, processed, understood and the tools I needed to manage them at hand.
There was huge sorrow at first but more importantly and overwhelmingly a sense of relief and excitement for what lay ahead. That is the true power of therapy – to be able to confront such painful experiences in such a way that you are left with nothing but optimism and hope.