I feel, as a child, I was neglected. Not maliciously. It’s just people around me had limited emotional resources to support me. They didn’t have weekly sessions with wonderful practitioners to shed the layers they have outgrown. They didn’t attend an annual ‘Grow the Grown Ups’ family camp in Embercombe which offered parenting support. They didn’t read books on parenting and they certainly didn’t have time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. They did the very best they could do.
Nevertheless, the pattern of neglect has imprinted in me at a deep level. On reflection, my grandma’s stories about my childhood do not amuse me anymore.
One of her favourite stories about my childhood is this:
‘When you were six months old, I stood and watched you from the distance. You cried once, twice and when no one came, you reached for your bottle, drank from it, and then patted your chest like I did to soothe yourself into sleep.’
Until I had a child of six months old, I didn’t think anything of this story. I was flattered that grandma thought that already then I was clever and could take care of myself. I was self-sufficient before I could walk or talk.
Having a child of six months was a revelation. Children are not meant to reach for their bottle while adult watches them from a distance. It teaches them that when they need support it won’t be there.
I must have memorised this lesson by heart. All of my life, I prided myself for being independent and self-sufficient. So much so that earlier this year, even in the High Dependency Unit of Women’s hospital I was neglected. Perhaps, my vibes said: ‘Oh, I am fine. I’ll cope. You go attend to others who can receive your care and support.’
The most painful part of this revelation is that I reinforce this pattern by neglecting myself. It requires a great deal of emotional or physical discomfort for me to attend to my needs. If all is well, I slip into unconscious habit of serving others and abandoning myself.
The back pain I developed while I was in Embercombe has subsided since we were back. When each day is over I remember that I still haven’t booked that massage I promised myself 10 days ago. Making the pattern conscious without beating myself up is one way to gradually change it.
So, today is the day. Massage parlour, here I come!