Middle child syndrome is real. I have the experience to prove it. I have always been a mediator in my family. But when it came to facing the issues that I needed to deal with, I found it emotionally traumatizing to face them. I was stuck. No one in my family taught me a healthy way to process negative emotions let alone empower me to seek help from a mental health professional. I quickly learned how to ignore my trauma and stick to “surviving” in its shadows.
I started therapy for the first time in the 30 years I have been on this earth. The first 6 sessions (more like 10) were overwhelming, and lots of crying and releasing all the emotions I had managed to not deal with through the years.
I became a “yes man” among my circle of friends, family and even my colleagues. It became such a problem that I would agree to help with projects knowing I would pay for it in some shape or form, which usually involved an emotional or mental sacrifice. Unnecessarily adding stress to my life.
Not recognizing my own limitations and ignoring my own needs was exhausting. I was constantly spreading myself too thin. This issue was gently brought out during my therapy sessions I started last March. I’d hit a wall, figuratively, and felt myself losing control of my life and relationships.
My breaking point finally surfaced in my withdrawal from family and friends.
I become distant and stopped caring about the things in my life that really mattered. Many of my friends and family noticed. My self-imposed isolation took many forms. Longer walks home, working later every night, attending events after work that didn’t require me to delve into who I was or what I was going through, random solo trips that no one knew about, canceling plans last minute on family and friends, and not reaching out to close friends. Over a short span of time, I accumulated 100 missed calls from people I knew who cared about me, but I found it hard to believe that I deserved their attention and love.
The turning point for me was a conversation I had with my therapist and she asked me what were some things that I enjoyed doing and that made me happy. I talked about my love of live music, visiting art galleries, trying a new coffee shop and travel. My therapist recommended that I reevaluate what my priorities were and begin actively working on what made me happy.
“Be gentle with yourself,” became a phrase I would hear often during my sessions with my therapist. It took time for me to realize what “being gentle” meant for me. Slowing my thoughts down, not projecting fear or worry on situations that had yet to occur were tools I learned to practice while working with my therapist to develop healthier ways to deal with situations that came up in my life.
There’s power in saying “No.” As difficult as it’s been saying “No” I’ve gained more control of the choices in my life and have more peace of mind. I still have tinges of discomfort from the unhealthy perception that saying “No” automatically translates to me not loving my family or friends enough. It’s perfectly normal to not be available or decline an invitation. The internal work continues, and I am happy to finally be on a journey to a healthier me.
Creating art, writing more, and selling my photography has been an amazing experience for me and a great way to deal with my anxiety. I am learning the benefits of using my energy to focus my thoughts and actions on things I have control over in my life. I don’t let my anxiety or past dictate how my day goes. I’m actively working on “being gentle” with myself and my expectations.