This week I thought I’d develop the theme of why depression was the best thing that has happened to me. Because of the depression and anxiety, I had therapy for a long time during which I learned so much about myself, it was like I was reborn. However, I just want to make clear from the beginning of this post that this is not a linear process; I still have moments of struggle and days when I feel like a fraud and that everything I have to do requires the same amount of energy to launch a rocket into space. Lately though, most of the time I’m good.
My childhood was different from that of the other children I knew, including my siblings, as being the eldest more was required from me. My parents had a business and I had to help out from an early age, before school, after school and during the school holidays. So when most children were happy for school holidays, I always preferred the time spent in school, which for me was the equivalent to play time. My father always expected me to work in the business like an adult, he criticised every single action and every single mistake I made; nothing was ever good enough for him and he was never pleased with whatever I was doing. If all that wasn’t enough to make a little girl feel inadequate, he also loved to humiliate me in front of the customers and the other children that lived on our street and were always playing out. When I was growing up in the 70’s, my parents did things to me that make me cringe now that I had therapy and learned it wasn’t right, but all my life – although I didn’t feel good about it – I carried the weight of shame and guilt as if I could have changed things. For example one Summer my family went out for a day in Spain and I stayed at home alone because there was no room for me in the car, I was 10 years old. Can you imagine how a little 10-year-old girl would feel being left home alone waiting for her family to come back home? My parents, my brother, my sister, my auntie, my uncle and my cousin; they all went and I was left at home. What I remember most of that day was that I was at the window all day waiting for them to come back, it must have been one of the longest days of my life. I knew that I was the least worth person in the family because I was the one they left behind without a second thought, or apology, or any kind of bribe, there was no need I just had to accept the fact that there was no room for me. Today this would have been classed as child cruelty, I’m sure. Not only I worked for my parents business without any pay or recognition, I was also the least worth child in the family. This was one of many identical situations. In my parents’ mind, because I was the eldest I was almost classed as an adult, every issue between myself and any of my siblings was undeniably my fault for the simple fact that I was the eldest and therefore should know better. What they forgot was that I was only 18 months older than my brother, so also a child. My brother was good and it wasn’t his fault that he was the only one allowed to play out while I had to work or the one that got a bike while I never had one. I never got given toys for Christmas or birthdays, while the other girls exhibited their dolls on Christmas day, what I got was pajamas and chocolates from our cafe. I always felt in disadvantage and turned into an adult with an immense need for love and acceptance, but with very low standards, which lead me to very bad decisions – but I won’t go anymore into that for now.
What I want to focus now on this post is that due to the depression and anxiety, for the first time in my life I had to face all these ghosts from the past in therapy and learned that my parents were abusive towards me, not physically abusive but emotionally and mentally, which leaves long-term marks that we don’t see. I learned that it wasn’t my fault that my parents didn’t know how to love me and how to appreciate me or make me feel like a worthy human being. I love them, but I hated how they made me feel and that is ok. I learned that I did the best I could with what I had and there is nothing to be ashamed of. I did really well actually and I have raised three beautiful children who I always made sure to feel loved. After the depression, I learned my worth and I know that I deserve to be loved and respected and that allowed me to find the person that treats me the way I deserve, my lovely husband. All my relationships improved after the depression, but most importantly my relationship with myself had a massive boost. It’s still a work in progress, but everything changed for the better.