When Isobel was nine years old her adoptive father died. He had been ill for a year and the seriousness of the illness had been kept from her. To protect her. She was sent to school the next day as normal; as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. The message she learned: carry on as normal – stiff upper lip attitude.
When she was seventeen her adoptive mother died. She missed her undoubtedly, but got on with her life. She was married for seventeen years and prone to some spells of postnatal depression.
At thirty-four, she entered into another relationship, an aggressive relationship. At this time, she also felt bullied at work. She sought counselling, talk therapy, and highly praised the counselling she was given.
Although Isobel was attending sessions with regard to relationship issues, on her first visit it was suggested that she had not dealt with the death of her adoptive parents. She was completely and utterly surprised by her reaction: she just howled. She said she was surprised by the noise she heard herself making; she sounded like a wounded animal. She could not believe she was harbouring all this pent-up emotion.
On her second visit, she howled and cried again, releasing years of pent-up emotions. She realised that she had missed her parents enormously.
On the third visit, she saw a different man and was delighted to work with him too. It was suggested she was clinging on to the aggressive relationship because she was frightened of losing people. She had not been allowed to grieve when her parents had died and so had never really healed. She may have been holding on to this abusive relationship as a source of having someone to love her.
Her message: ‘Love yourself. That is vital. Don’t rely on others to love you; start by liking and loving yourself. If you can’t or don’t love yourself, everything else will just eat away at you.’
‘You may have to work at this. Try to speak to others. Counselling is really a very good way to offload’.
Isobel did not want someone to be judgemental with her. She wanted people to listen. When they did and she was allowed to speak, her confidence grew.
Interview published with Isobel’s approval
When I wrote my book Survive and Thrive after Trauma in 2012 a section shares interviews with those now thriving after an emotional challenge. Those I interviewed who shared their message will have continued along their path of increased learning, self joy and self awareness. We are not alone; should we choose we can learn from others, take and use information generously shared, be encouraged and in some cases, be enlightened.