Dear Miss Dinna —
I'm a 42 year old single mother with a 9-year-old daughter. I will spare you all the details, but let's just say my life has not been the easiest. My mother died when I was 8, and my father, who was an addict, died when I was in my early 20s.
My relationship with my daughter's father ended pretty quickly after she was born, and I would say that during her younger years, she didn't witness me in any significant relationships. However, in the last 5 years (the years she probably remembers most), she has seen me be in one relationship that ended with the man dying of cancer, and then more recently in a relationship with an old childhood friend that ended in a lot of rage and some violence.
I left that relationship about a year ago and it was very dramatic and tragic. Not only did she witness some of the disrespect and violence and the loss of a great family friend, she also was part of seeing me struggle with poverty, a small stretch of homelessness, and basically trying to get us back on our feet. This past summer, she also had to contend with an infant death in our family — her cousin.
In the last 3 months, I have started to date a new man and I can see that she is having some feelings of jealousy. But more importantly, I am afraid that she has developed a negative outlook on relationships — believing that they will all end either with death or loss and/or aggression.
I want to desperately get her therapy, but seem to be paralyzed in the act. Something as simple as calling the insurance to get a list of eligible providers seems completely overwhelming.
I am under a lot of stress, still struggling with finding work and keeping us afloat — but I don't think that's what is exactly stopping me from making this phone call. Every time I am about to call, I get overwhelmed with anxiety and become paralyzed. Why is this so hard for me to do?
Any advice would be greatly appreciated,
Dear Paralyzed —
Our children, and especially in a daughter-to-mother relationship, often times reflect and hold our own anxieties. When I hear you speak of your fears of the development of a negative outlook on relationships for your daughter, I instantly feel as though I am actually listening to your developed fears.
Ask yourself: Do you have a fear that all relationships will end in death, loss, aggression? It's important to be clear on what is yours and what is hers.
If you have not worked through some of your dysfunctions and anxieties and come to a peaceful place with your past, you can be sure your children will hold those anxieties and dysfunctions for you and act them out in their behaviors.
A prime example is when functional addicts soothe their anxieties through the use of prescription or over the counter drugs, including alcohol. They may think nobody overtly knows what is happening internally for them, but you can bet that their child will develop generalized anxiety disorder (constant anxiety).
If you are hiding rage and have not addressed your rage issues, no matter how you contain it, you can be sure your child will begin to act out with anger issues, etc.
Paralyzed, I think you are feeling stuck in making the move to call the therapist for your daughter because you know it will force you to address your own issues of loss and hopelessness and fears. Although, funny enough, that's probably exactly what you need to do.
Call a friend. Disclose to them that you are paralyzed in this act and ask them to come over and hold your hand for you and make the call, the appointment etc. If you need them to escort you and your child to the therapist, then do so.
There is not shame in this — this is the way life works. Sometimes, having massive anxiety is a sign that this is exactly what you need to face and do and work through.
A good therapist will work with both you and your daughter and will identify that your healing is the first step, and is directly coincides with your daughter's healing.
Ask Miss Dinna a question — any question— regarding relationships, sex and sexuality by emailing her at: firstname.lastname@example.org, Subject: "Ask Miss Dinna." She may answer your question personally or in a future column (your name will be kept anonymous).
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