Biggest Regret

I know it has been a long time since I posted here. I think I am ready to start posting again. I hope my posts will continue to benefit others.

When I look back on my childhood I realize how deeply I felt emotions. Due to other people reacting to me and shaming in general I trained myself to suppress my emotions. I came to believe that the honest expression of my feelings was somehow wrong. This led to many years of depression and anxiety.
If I could go back and change one thing it would be this. To not fight the social pressure to conform into being someone I am not was the biggest mistake of my life. To feel deeply and express it means we are really experiencing what it is to be alive.

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A Story of Child Abuse by a Stepparent.

By guest contributor: Georgina Capetillo

My story of child abuse is one that many have heard of. In fact, there have been movies, fairy tales and classical literature on the matter. Now there is even an evolutionary theory about it too. That is why it is surprising to me that a support network has not been established, which is exactly what I intend to do. I am talking about suffering at the hands of a stepparent. When I was 14 I moved to Boston from Nicaragua to live with my father and my stepmother. It was not very long until she became very abusive. The mental anguish, psychological abuse, embarrassment, emotional distress, hopelessness, neglect, and forceful isolation I have suffered because of her has left permanent scars, and that’s something I will always have to deal with. In many ways being abused by a stepparent is very much like being abused by a biological or intended family member or guardian. There is the notion of authority and care-giving as well as simulated closeness. Yet, there are issues that are somewhat unique- these issues are deeply important and must be addressed. As always, coming together and supporting one another is always the solution. Although this is an infinite list, I will describe the most common problems:

1. In many cases, the abused child wonders why a parent would choose a spouse or partner that is so abusive and blames their guardian for not protecting them. There are also feelings of betrayal- why did our guardian choose their partner over their child?

2. Forgiving our guardian is a frequent issue because of the issues mentioned above. Our parent might still be with the person who abused us. Or in many cases, the parent will not recognize the abuse.

3. Having stepsiblings: in some cases the abused child has in some form, contact with the stepparent who abused them for the sake of their sibling. It is incredibly painful. In other cases the abusive stepparent has created a family imbalance by isolating the child they are abusing from the rest of the family- this can lead to sibling conflict.

4. Being the only person who is haunted by the stepparent. In some cases a guardian’s partner comes in, does irreparable damage that is so dark that they are thrown into non-existence by everyone else. This is problematic because those who are abused can never forget what happened to them. The fact is, no one knew how bad it was, because they were removed from the situation. This is very isolating issue.

5. Self guilt: why let someone who is not even your family upset you much?

I could literally go on forever. I need to hear other people’s stories to gather more information on which situations are more common. I need to hear other people’s stories to heal. I think we can heal together. I have started a website and facebook group. Please join. I need all the help I can get. I am also looking for board members if we progress, which I hope we will.

I must add, this is not an organization that vilifies stepparents, but rather is a support group where people share experiences. There are wonderful stepparents out there, they are welcome to support us as well.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StepNetworking

Website: http://sites.google.com/site/stepfamnet/home

Who Are You?

I often hear from my clients that they don’t know who they are. Part of the process of counseling is helping my clients define who they are and what that means. It is important to understand that our identity (who we are) is not stagnant. We are constantly changing and evolving as human beings. It is also important to understand that people are complex beings containing many dimensions. A combination of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and experiences combine to make us who we are.

It has been my observation that most people identify who they are by the roles they play in life (father, sister, wife, parent, a profession). In reality, these roles do not define who we and are not stable over time. They describe what we are doing at a given time in our lives. If we define ourselves by our roles and one or more of our roles change, we lose our identity. I have experienced this and I found myself searching for an identity. Our identity cannot be tied to only what is currently happening in our lives.

Our identity cannot be tied to one event or period in our lives. This leads to being tied to the past. Example: the person at the high school reunion who identifies him or herself by their time in high school. Our lives are not a snap shot. Our lives are more like a feature film lasting many decades that include our accumulated experiences. We have our successes and our failures. We have all made mistakes over the course of our lives. It is important not to define ourselves any specific events.

Our identity is not determined by how others define us. Some people will like us and others will not. Some people will agree with what we say and do. Other people will not agree. Their opinions in many cases have little to do with who we are and more to do with who they are.

Who we are is an internal process and not about the external. For me, identity is what my values and beliefs are (and those have changed over the years). It is my thoughts and feelings as well how I perceive things (and myself) to be. From this I can determine my purpose in life and not have it determined for me.

Time to start writing again.

After a significant amount of time away from posting in my blog, I have decided to put my mind back into writing more posts. I think the thing that holds be back the most is trying to say something profound every time I post. That is simply impossible.

I think that only serves to keep me from providing my readers valuable information and a better understanding of themselves and others.

On a More Personal Note

I have been writing my blog for a few years and I have rarely spoken about myself and my own struggles. Having started my own journey of recover nearly 30 years ago, I have a great deal of experience and knowledge about all the skills I have shared with my readers. I have also learned from all the people I have counseled over the last 20 years. I hope that some of you have benefited from my blog.

One thing I have to keep in mind is the phrase: progress not perfection. No one, including me, has ever done this perfectly. I am a work in progress like everyone else who is in the process of change and growth. I suffered from chronic depression and addictive behaviors for most of my life as well as poor self-esteem. Although I have experienced a tremendous improvement in the quality of my life, I also have my struggles. I sometimes find it difficult to apply all the coping skills I know. There times I have to work hard to focus on the things I need to and stay in the present.

I have my own philosophy of life: Life is to be enjoyed. I work every day to make that a reality. One of the ways I stay focused is by writing this blog. It has great value to my life. I hope it has value to yours.

Experiencing Loss and Overcoming It

One thing we have in common is the experience of loss. No one goes through life without experiencing some degree of loss at some point. Sometimes the losses are minor (a small amount of money, changing jobs, moving from one city to another). Other times they are more significant (the death of a parent or spouse or child, loss of a relationship, a betrayal, loss of something we are unable to replace, economic reversal). No one wants to have these experiences, and rarely are we prepared for them.
When we experience loss, what we feel is pain, but often we cannot identify exactly what it is about the loss that is causing the pain. We miss whatever we have lost and it just hurts.
This emotional distress comes mostly from two sources. First, the realization of how little control we have over what we experience in life. This realization is both frightening and depressing. We feel helpless and are powerless to control the situation. We want to regain a sense of control.
Secondly, what was lost occupied a part of our lives. It had meaning for us and took up space in our day to day living that was either physical or emotional or both. This leaves a void, and a longing to fill it. We feel empty inside and it is deeply upsetting. Many of us try filling the void with activities, a new relationship and/or, material things. Many of us turn to substances or addictive behaviors in order to avoid these feelings, but nothing we do can replace what we have lost. We struggle with our feelings and want the pain to stop.
The only way to heal is to allow the grieving process to run its course. It is important to avoid pushing those feelings away no matter how much we want to. Feel them for as long as you need to. Cry until you stop crying. No one can tell you how long this process will take. We will eventually release the pain and other people and things will enter our lives to fill the void. We will also begin to feel we have more control over what happens to us.
Allow yourself to heal. Repressing or denying your feelings will only lengthen the process and could result in prolonged depression and anxiety. Allow yourself to feel your feelings without judging them or yourself. Find ways to express them. Keep a journal and write as often as you need. Rely on friends and family for support. That is what a support system is for. The use of drugs and alcohol really won’t help and might make things worse. There is no timetable for grief. But, remember that you will heal. Those feelings will not last forever.

Living In the Real World

Whenever someone famous commits suicide people are affected in different ways. There is usually the surprise and shock associated with the sudden death. There are the questions of why and how could they? Most of them have achieved success and wealth and have adoring fans. Why would a person who seems to have it all want to end their life? They live in the real world just like you and I.

When these people appeared in the public eye they seemed so happy and positive and full of energy. It seemed their lives were so easy and they were able to have whatever they desired. What we saw was just a snapshot of their life. What we saw was only what they wanted us to see. What we saw was actually fantasy and not reality. These celebrities lived in the real world as we all do. They all had a history of life experiences, tragedies, losses, as well as the happy times and successes. Some had medical issues. Others had mental health and substance abuse problems. It is not easy living your life in the public eye. It affects how others see them as well as making it more difficult to have stable relationships. They lived in the real world and what the rest of us see is merely an illusion.

Just like the rest of us, life sometimes gets to be too much to deal with. Feelings of desperation and helplessness and hopelessness take over. It seems there is no way out other than to put an ending to it all. They lived in the real world.

If you look at what you think their lives have been and compare them to your own remember that you live in the real world too.