Book Review: Self-Care for Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents

Self care is the basis of recovery from Trauma, Addictions, Depression, and many other psychological issues. It is an absolute must for a healthy, comfortable life. Often, this is what we never learned or what we forgot because of what happened to us.

I once believed that self care meant buying myself stuff, or taking a hot bath with candles. I don’t know where I picked up this idea (probably from people who have an investment in me buying stuff, like women’s magazines): shopping or taking a bath are not my thing. That’s not what self care means for me.

Self care means we are able to identify our needs, we believe that we deserve their satisfaction, and we take action to get these needs met. It took me decades to understand this, and I believe I still have much room to grow.

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When you want not to want the one you want

I recently listened to Martha Beck’s podcast, the gathering pod, and it felt like connecting with an old friend.

With Melody Beattie, Martha Beck is one of the authors who unknowingly helped my right at the beginning of everything. I had just decided to do what it took to get better, and what it meant initially what reading a lot of self help and psychology books. (I was right to do that by the way. Reading was not enough, but proved to be immensely helpful.)

With Martha Beck, we have a lot in common. The most important common experience, of course, is to have grown up with an incestuous father. We then both proceeded with the foreseable consequences: depression, anxiety, perfectionnism, PTSD, various physical problems, you know, the usual stuff. We also share the unfortunate situation of a late down syndrome diagnosis for our second child, and a strong bond to South Africa (where I found her book Finding your own North Star, that I still recommend). It’s kind of weird, I know.

Anyway, I can say now that I managed to find my way towards a reasonably fulfilling, pleasurable life. But at the time, I was not sure it was possible. She showed me it was, even though her books were not about recovery. Since then, I’ve kept an eye on her books, podcasts, articles, whatever she comes up with professionally.

Since I am currently investigating love addiction and limerence, I though I would listen to one of her latest podcast episode, “When you want not to want what you want” with the perspective of wanting not to want a person (but failing, of course; where is the fun if you can just chose to let go?).

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How long does therapy take?

I started my recovery from sexual abuse more than 2 decades ago, with the help of a therapist. Before that, I had been reading psychology and self help books for a few years, looking for answers already in my adolescence.

At the time, one of my most pressing question was: how long will my recovery take before I feel better ?

What I wanted is to be over and done with as soon as possible, as something I could cross on my to do list. I wanted to move on. I would have loved someone to tell me, you know, it is going to take two years, two years and a half, max. Then you can go on and live a normal life.

Fast forward to now, coming back from a few weeks of holidays: wether I like it or not, it is never over and done with. My recovery is still happening now, even when I decide that it is not because I’m on holidays and I’d like to relax.

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Am I codependent ?

Codependency

Codependent no more, from Melody Beattie, was one of the first self help books I bought. It has been very, very useful, all these years.

I have read it once again recently and it has stood the test of time. It’s still great, and it is still relevant for survivors of violence. Especially at the beginning of recovery, when we are completely lost.

Strangely enough, it is not about recovery from sexual abuse. Beattie defines it mainly as a consequence of being involved with alcoholics, even if she widens her definition somewhat.

The thing is, I have never been involved with an alcoholic, or any person caught up in a chemical dependency. My family of origin was dangerously dysfonctional, but no trace of alcohol at home.

Still, I could recognize me on each page of this book. This confused me for a while.

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Recovery: where to start

Me too : Recovery works

I do consider myself in recovery for more or less 25 years. Yes, it is a long time, and I realize it can seem discouraging.

It does not need to be. I started to feel better relatively quickly – granted, considering the state I was in, it does not seem such a feat.

But still, it was important to see my situation improving. It created the space for a lovely feeling: hope. One day, I will be fine. And sure enough, one day I was just fine. Not “happy ever after” fine, but fine most of the time.

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