Hi, my name is Kelly.

I’m a 33 year old woman and a long time sufferer of anxiety.

I’ve experienced a lot of friction and role reversal in my family relationships and took on a lot of issues that were not mine. I have had to learn to distance myself from negative situations and recognize when I’m becoming involved in problems that aren’t mine to fix. I’ve had to find a new sense of community and learn how to put myself first and develop healthy habits which allow me to better manage my anxiety.  I’ve also learned the importance of having healthy boundaries with those around me.  My goal in sharing this is to connect and potentially offer hope to anyone who might relate.

I always worried and felt somewhat responsible for my parents and their happiness.  They divorced when I was young and never remarried.  I lived with my mother in my early years and visited my father every other weekend.  In my late childhood and early teens, she was somewhat absentee while in pursuit of a new relationship. At one point an ex would call and hang up daily; this went on for months until I answered and told him to stop. He got into our apartment building and knocked on our door and I looked out to him looking back at me. At night I’d check the windows and doors ensuring they were locked and had a hard time sleeping. I’d hide under the blankets and lie still hoping if anyone came in, they wouldn’t see me. We later moved into a house and rented rooms upstairs for income. The police came by and informed me that one of our tenants was a gang member on parole who had recently beat a man senseless at a local bar. My mother’s more passive and I put on a brave face and addressed these situations.  I had my first anxiety attack around 14 and when I went to her was told “you’re fine”.  She was often away on weekends, so I had the “party house” which was seemingly great as a teen, but I was lonely. I resented feeling unsafe and unheard.  I understand that she did her best with what she knew and for the most part I believe I’ve been able to move past it. She did have me in piano, choir, violin, orchestra and theory classes as a child and I developed an appreciation of music at a young age.  It became my solace throughout these difficult situations and still is to this day. I was angry for a long time and closed myself off to her, but as I’ve been working through things and opened up again, she has been supportive, and our relationship continues to improve.

I moved around during my teens searching for “home” and another family member became a big support system. We had spent summers together when I was a child and were always close.  When my parents argued over money they stepped in and bought me a new winter coat.  I stayed there for some of grade 12 and completed correspondence courses. I felt cared for as they stood up for me and gave me a sense of security. We worked together for many years and although I learned a lot and loved my job, the dynamics were challenging. They could be very unkind, and I took it hard as I had always looked up to them and naturally longed for their approval.  My last employee review was extremely personal; I was not working hard enough; had an attitude I needed to adjust and was referred to as “entitled”.  I can hardly begin to describe how insulted I was.  I worked hard and my territory was beginning to thrive.  I decided to accept a new position in 2017 and we haven’t spoken since September of that year when they referred to me as a “competitor”.  This person had been a pillar of strength in my life and is now even hostile towards anyone associated with me.  As our relationship fell apart over the past 10 years the feelings of “less than”, sadness and loneliness I felt as a teen resurfaced, and I’ve felt lost at times.  I’d like to reconnect and miss hanging out, cooking together, laughing at silly things and enjoying family gatherings.  I think maybe things have changed and although we are much alike in some ways, we see things very differently.

Anyone who knows me knows my father and I have always been close, but the past few years have been challenging as I’ve come to realize I’ve very much been the adult in our relationship.  He has a long standing gambling addiction that has created a lot of friction between us.  I first became aware of this when he took me to a casino on my 18th birthday.  After playing the slots a while, I got bored and recall him frantically putting money into machines as we were leaving. I remember thinking – this is not normal.  For years I’ve listened to financial problems, employment issues and assisted with transportation when he was without a vehicle. He constantly ignores boundaries and has said awful things to me over the past year. He had a key to my condo to look after my dog when I travel for work, but I’ve asked that he not let himself in otherwise. Last summer he did this again while I was napping on the couch covered in a blanket but in only undergarments.  When I asked him to leave, he said “you’re becoming a sick f*ck like your mother”.  When I later attempted to address this, he said a lot of hurtful things like suggesting I get a DNA test and that I don’t deserve my last name as they are all about family.  He then asked me to co-sign a $10,000 loan to help him out. In our last conversation after dinner Christmas eve, he decided I was generally upset due to a lack of exercise and poor diet and that I’m “letting myself go”. These exchanges have felt like a blow to the head and I’ve needed distance to get myself together.  I’ve blocked his number numerous times yet felt guilty because I’m so used to worrying about him. He was always so much fun and I always felt loved by him and am sorting out my identity apart from that. I’ve spoken to counsellors, friends, family, read books and tried different ways of approaching things and am at a loss on how to move forward.  Nobody in my family wants to address it; I think they’re in denial and I was, too.  If anything, they seem to worry about him and forget that I’m also very much affected by this.

Honestly, I’m exhausted from trying to figure it out and sick of thinking and talking about it.  I’m just heartbroken in seeing this man I adored as a sad and pathetic version of himself.  It feels like I’m grieving a death because the father I once knew would never treat me like that.  His addiction runs his life and has completely ruined our relationship.  I plan to attend Gam-Anon meetings and was recently on a podcast about gambling that I reached out to in an attempt to better understand. I’m also writing a song about it and it has been really therapeutic yet bittersweet.  This has been a hard pill to swallow but I’ve been learning a lot about myself in the process.  I’m confident that I’ll come out the other end much stronger.  I hope things improve and I will be there if and when he’s ready to get real about things.  If not, I just have to accept it for what it is and continue to put myself first.

I know people struggle and project and that none of this has been about me, and that I am moving in the right direction. Despite this I have wondered – why don’t they value me? Why don’t they respect me? How could they say such hurtful things?  I loved them unconditionally and I needed them. A quote that really resonated with me in Margales Fjelstad’s book – Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist, How to End the Drama and Get on with Life read “If someone is treating you poorly and you’re allowing it, you’re agreeing with that person’s estimate of your value”. To her point, I feel I can’t both accept this treatment and feel good about myself.  I’ve at times felt it was hard to be happy in my new position and in life as I felt somewhat punished for wanting more for myself. Then I felt as though I was letting them win because they don’t want me to be happy.  I feel like I’ve been walking around mad for a long time. I also think because I was used to the caretaker role, I’d hide my pain and not ask for what I needed from anyone.  Vulnerability makes me rather uncomfortable but I’m working on becoming more comfortable with it as I know it’s necessary.  I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and support from friends as I’ve begun reaching out more. It has truly made my sometimes-heavy heart much lighter.

At times I turned to friends and partying to dull my feelings and “connect”.  Of course, this was temporary relief and never provided the sense of belonging I truly longed for. I want to be clear that although these situations contributed to how I felt, I don’t blame anyone for the ways in which I chose to deal with things; I simply didn’t have the tools to deal in a healthy manner. The past few years I’ve been working on self-love and creating the sense of community I needed. I’ve been journaling, reading, took a solo beach vacation, saw Tony Robbins and Oprah live, attended an investment seminar, took up boxing, exercise regularly, see a wonderful therapist and drink rather infrequently.  I was always wondering who would have my back if I needed it and now, I see it and feel it from the people around me and most of all myself.  I got me.

I recently took a tour of NVRLND and came across Unbound By Sound, Trey Mills recording studio.  We had a great visit and I kept thinking afterwards, I really need to get more involved in music.  I’ve lent my voice to a few songs but never really took it seriously myself.  A friend recently passed away suddenly at the age of 34 and that evening I sent Trey a note to set up a meeting.  I decided I had to explore music and am now almost finished my first single.  I’ve had ideas spilling out of me and it’s amazing to connect with like-minded people on something I’m so passionate about and making art out of pain is pretty badass.

I feel like the spark inside me has been reignited.

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