Ellen’s story – Case study

From Surviving To Thriving: Ellen's Story

The final straw for Ellen was her mum yet again picking her up on her choice of outfit, before even greeting her. Years of never measuring up to her mum’s impossible standards, the subtle and not so subtle put downs had worn away her confidence to paper thin.

It was years since her last serious relationship. She dreaded falling in love or even the stages before. At some point, she felt, her new partner would realise what a worthless and unlovable person she was. It was easier to not even get over the starting line than risk that.

Repeating The Cycle

Now she had a young daughter and was terrified of inflicting on her, what her mum had inflicted on her. A continual sense of not measuring up and disappointing her. And an expectation that she drop everything whenever mum had one of her moments. Yes she loved her dearly, but she felt imprisoned in their relationship.

This worry also manifested as a continual low level anxiety. At stress points or even just randomly, the anxiety would ramp up. Sometimes it played out as social anxiety, with Ellen feeling a fraud and deeply self-conscious in social situations.

Much of her life she’d spent second-guessing her decisions and feeling like an imposter at work. She had good friends, thankfully, but it was hard to be completely real with them. They saw her funny, good time girl side. The vulnerable, self-doubting, sensitive to anything and everything side rarely got seen. Far too risky. Far too shameful.

Longing For Change

She felt desperate for something to change when she came to see me. Our work started with really understanding the hurts and harms in her life. Getting them witnessed, normalised and understood.

Over the weeks and months of our programme, she started to recognise the deep resources and resilience she had developed from her life experiences. Some of what had been so painful now seemed like a gift: her ability to read immense subtleties in others; her skills at mediating conflict and managing difficult characters; independence and resilience.

Reclaiming The Lost Parts Of Yourself

She learned about the different parts of herself, not just the critic and frightened child, but her creative and passionate self, her good mothering self, her comedian, her smart self, her explorer self and many more so that she could use all their gifts in service of her, rather than working against her.

She began to be able to reach out to trusted friends and ask for help more, and share more of what was really going on, without fear of rejection and humiliation.

As she did this, her deeper concerns about her life direction and purpose began to emerge. She asked herself deep questions about her values and her place in society and her community.

Playing By New Rules

She started a relationship with someone she knew her parents wouldn’t approve of, but who met her deeper needs in many ways. Her relationship with her daughter softened. She was less demanding and more available to her emotionally. Just as she was to herself. 

Her anxiety started to lessen and she also learned to tolerate it, rather than wishing it away.

At the end of the process, she was the same person, but also completely different. Her hard edges has smoothed. Her self-belief was ignited. Her creativity and passion for life returned. She was more real with herself and those around her.

Accepting And Thriving In A New Reality

Her relationship with her parents shifted. It was tough. She didn’t accept everything. She stepped back from time to time and didn’t come running at the first request.

There were times of doubt, but her deeper resources were so much more solid, she could bounce back without meltdown or collapse. She felt immersed in her life, rather than a spectator. Connected to her joy and her values. In short, she’d come alive.

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