Emotional Mirroring

I’ve just observed over the last year or so, how obviously my sense of happiness and wellbeing is purely based on how happy or healthy my children are.

Apart from the usual ruminating at night, fighting the negative thoughts of the day just been, plus the many years before, I found myself of late spiralling into what I assume was depression. I don’t think I recognised it until I suddenly had no energy, physically as well as emotionally. Just that flatness. Little things made me teary or down right miserable. Such as seeing a toddler’s innocent enthusiasm, it would just set me up and I’d start crying. I think it connected me to my own children’s sweetness at that age and made me feel remorse for mistakes or grief for things that have transpired.

Physically moving was starting to be an effort, I’d get out of bed because I had to, but would then stand in the shower and cry. Just feeling so depleted and lost and a failure. Mostly as a parent. The exhaustion my daughter’s struggles have brought me were starting to wear me down. Just being so worried for her and at a loss as to how to make things better for her made me feel emotionally unstable, like jelly.

But this has also fuelled my own self doubts in other areas as well. Recently, I bawled and bawled in my car. Cried like I’ve not cried for many years, decades even. Why? A cathartic realisation that I feel I’ve not achieved anything career wise and can’t imagine I ever will. I feel like a child and feel like I’ll never have a career. I had visited an old uni friend of mine that day who had just started working as the psychologist at my daughter’s school. She and I did the same under-grad and post-grad training. She greeted me in the foyer and led me to her office. We chatted for over an hour, trying to catch up on the last 15 years since we saw each other. I was in awe of her, having a real job, an office, all grown up!

In my car afterwards, I felt the desire to contact another uni friend I hadn’t spoken to in ages. Just to drive that nail of inferiority further in. I’ve always referred to her as my ‘daggy friend‘ because I was never afraid to be the real me with her. A ‘dag‘ (an Australian term for being rather uncool). She’d done it tough at uni but got herself through despite what was thrown at her. She also did the same level of training as I. Until recently, she took herself back and did her masters.

When she answered the phone, she was talking softly. “I’ve rung at a bad time” I suggested. “No, it’s ok, I’m just in the middle of teaching a class”. After a rapid comparison of personal disasters, we said goodbye.

I’ve not admitted it quite so keenly to myself before. But I felt empty, pathetic, incapable of being anything, still stuck in first gear, not going anywhere. My friends I’d studied with and travelled along on quite even keels with, were now living the careers we imagined we’d have one day. So I cried really loudly, as I let my disappointment in myself roll out.

However, just these last 2 weeks, my daughter has been able to fight through her anxiety with the help of her Lovan, and get to school (part time) unfailingly. She seems to be coping so much better now. Consequently, when I met with my mother two days ago, she made comment that I looked well, that for the first time in about two years I seemed to have a lightness. Like I was no longer carrying such a heavy load.

I hadn’t realised the toll it was taking. But it appears so obviously how as a parent, my emotional well-being depends almost entirely on the happiness and wellbeing of my children. Whilst things are starting to run more smoothly for the time being, so is my wellbeing. As a parent, I am an emotional reflective pool of my children.

2 thoughts on “Emotional Mirroring

  1. I’m glad that your daughter is doing better.

    I also struggle with knowing that my friends (and my sister) are doing so much more than me in terms of career, and also family and sometimes communal involvement. It’s hard.

  2. Thank you.

    It is hard not to compare. I know we shouldn’t, but when I became so upset, I had to acknowledge that I’m disappointed with my lack of career based on what my friends have done.

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