It has taken me decades on this earth to realise that I need to spend more time processing the trauma that I experienced. No one did anything bad to me or anything, but I think everyone has this period when growing up where you realise that life in the real-world hurts quite a bit. It’s a natural progression, and the worst thing you can do is run away from it.
This isn’t a sob story, but the fact is my parents were not very nice to me. One left when I was a baby, and I have seen a handful of times since. The other may as well have left because they threw themselves into working and ‘providing’ that the distance between us was insurmountable. I was effectively raised by my Grandparents, particularly my grandfather, and both of them are no longer with us.
I think everyone has some kind of tale to tell about their childhood. You can come from the nicest, most caring family in the world, but you will have something that stands out in those myriad of great experiences that shaped you into the person you became. The people who deal with it the best are the ones that face it, deal with it and move on – I did no such thing. I self-medicated.
Not in the literal sense. The masking of these sots of issues can come in many forms, and inebriating yourself is only one of them – if admittedly and very popular one. If you look at the currently emerging generation, they are choosing to hide away from the world and live out as much of it online instead. To Self medicate their worries and fears by hiding behind anonymity and block lists with the goal, as Freddie deBoer put it, to live out in infancy forever.
I decided to self-medicate myself with busyness instead. To constantly be working on something and make sure I spend as little time as possible with myself. If worrying about doing something was an olympic sport, I would be up there with the best. I couldn’t sit still, I had to be something and to prove to everyone, and me, that I was good. If my parents weren’t concerned about my enough to show me love, how could I love myself?
This all sounds very hyperbolic, doesn’t it. That I’ve blown everything over the top and the adolescent search for attention. That could be true, if it were not for the fact that I didn’t realise this until decades later. In fact, only in the last few months have I processed all of these feelings, prompted by the remarkable book Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver burke. There are so many things to take away from this book, but the part discussing work by psychotherapist Stephanie Brown, who had a practice in Silicon Valley in the 90s, hit me hard.
Her researched showed me that I was not alone in feeling the restlessness that constantly bubbled away deep inside me. These feelings are a form of self-medication and indicated I was doing everything I could to not feel something else. Not being able to sit still, rest or enjoy a basic activity is a defence mechanism against being alone with myself. In the same way a drug addict may be distancing themselves from the world by impairing themselves to deal with difficult emotions, I was doing the same with tasks. I enjoyed being busy so much because my brain was afraid of what would happen when I stopped.
The constant hustle got me absolutely nowhere. Even though I have achieved plenty of things, I didn’t become a millionaire. All I got was obsessions bordering on neuroticism. Thankfully, I learnt to deal with difficult things and became aware of my mind hiding things from me. Learning more about myself and becoming a better person in the process.