I grew up with a father who was an unmedicated rapid-cycling bipolar with narcissistic personality disorder. I say that he was his diseases because that's all he was to me. That might seem unfair, especially if you suffer from mental illness. I don't normally identify people by their diseases, but honestly, my only interactions with the man were interactions with his disease processes. I have no idea who he might be under all that and little motivation to find out.
When you grow up with a person like that, family dynamics get warped. A person like that can end up ruling the family with their moods, their rages, their never ending need- need for attention, need for approval, need for validation. It gets abusive quickly, abusive to the mentally ill person in that the enabling prevents them from getting help, and abusive to everyone else, whose needs get steamrolled by the dominant illness.
As a child, your only possible defense is to cater to the crazy*. You learn to be hypervigilant, always on the alert for dad's quickly shifting moods. You learn to crush down your own feelings, because expressing them could cause dad to become angry or sad, and it will certainly take attention from him, and that will trigger a narcissistic rage the likes of which I hope you are unfamiliar with. Narcissists cannot handle not being the center of attention, not even for ten seconds.
So I learned quickly to stuff my actual feelings down somewhere dark and only express acceptable feelings. I learned that other people's feelings are of prime importance and directly affect me and everything about me and my life. I learned that I am only acceptable as far as I can make the crazy accept me. I learned that love means submitting completely to another person's every mood and whim and that having my own feelings and needs is simply not an option. Ever.
Even thoughts were a danger. The narcissist is always right. About everything. Always. Other thoughts are an affront, a personal attack upon the narcissist.
So by age 20, I was a fucking mess. It confused me to be asked what I thought or felt. I thought what you thought. I did not disagree. As to what I felt, what do you want me to feel? That's what I'll feel.
First of all, you can't actually do that. You feel. You're human. That's what we do. So I had feelings, I was just suppressing them. They bubbled up in other places and I became self destructive. And thoughts? Hey, I'm really smart. I think thoughts, I can't help it. I am perfectly capable of observing the world and seeing it is different from what the narcissist says it is. This was upsetting at best.
So I ended up in traditional talk therapy. Which was good for me. Talk therapy is all about discussing your feelings and I needed that. Very, very much. I needed someone to tell me that feeling my feelings is acceptable. I needed someone to react to "I feel [blank]" with a neutral "Okay, then, let's talk about that".
After a year of that, I was all about feeling my feelings. So you can imagine how I reacted to CBT, which is about controlling your feelings. "Fuck that noise, you need to feel your feelings!" would sum it up.
It's true, you do need to feel your feelings. Feelings are valid, always. They may not be reasonable or acceptable or particularly useful, but they are valid. However, when your feelings get in the way of living, control is a good thing.
That's where I'm at. I need some control. Clearly, I cannot do it myself, or I would have by now.
Anyway, the Lyrica is still tamping down my general anxiety to the point where I can think thoughts. In a row. For more than 3 seconds. Which is A Good Thing. The side effects are tapering off, though I think the morning grogginess is just something that has to be lived with.
We were going to start CBT by learning how to separate my body's reaction to anxiety from my emotional response, i.e., recognizing that a racing heart is a physical thing and I don't have to panic just because my heart is racing.
Ha! I'm chronically ill. I learned how to separate physical feelings from emotional feelings a long time ago out of sheer self defense. I could teach graduate level courses in how to do this.
So I'm feeling like the most successful therapy recipient ever when Therapist asks me, "What is something that causes you anxiety?"
Me: My boss. I never know what I'm getting with him. Could be Shoutyboss, could be HappyJokeyboss. It's a bit nerve wracking.
Therapist: How do you want to feel about dealing with him?
Me: *mind blown* (Normally people tell me to get a new job, or something equally unuseful.) Like my other boss.
Therapist: What do you mean?
Me: Niceboss just shrugs it right off. Meanboss starts ranting, and niceboss nods his head and goes on with his day. I'm upset and jumpy for the rest of the day.
Then the therapist told me something amazing: I could be Niceboss. I could shrug it off, I could have a nice day anyway. I just needed to pretend to be calm, practice being calm in the face of The Shouty- because in pretending to be calm, you're being calm.
It's not as easy as that, of course, but it's possible, and I'd really like to live in that world, as opposed to ZOMGStress!ville. So I'll give it a try.
*Yes, I am using that word. In my story, about my childhood and my own mental illnesses.