When I was in iOP I had problems with anxiety attacks and was over reacting in different situations. The thing is, I couldn’t identify what was triggering those reactions at the time. Sometimes they were explosive which is so not me!! Afterwards I’d feel a lot of guilt and shame. That would trigger my other behavior which is to run. Um yeah, is literally get up and run out of the room. 😳
Spring ahead to the ED program I was just in. During one of the DBT groups they were going over Interpersonal Effectiveness skills. The specific top was something I had no issue with so I flipped ahead in the book and came across a page titled Recovering from Invalidation. I read down the page to the list of when invalidation is painful.
- You are being ignored.
- You are being repeatedly misunderstood.
- You are being misread.
- You are being misinterpreted.
- Important facts in your life are ignored or denied.
- You are receiving unequal treatment.
- You are being disbelieved when being truthful.
- Your private experiences are trivialized or denied.
The other list is where invalidation is helpful:
- It corrects important mistakes (your facts are wrong).
- It stimulates intellectual and personal growth by listening to other views.
Okay, I have to tell you that being invalidated is so painful to me, at this point in my recovery, that I find it very difficult to understand at all how it can be helpful. I mean, intellectually I can I suppose but not emotionally. On the first list, the biggest triggers are 1 – 4, 6 and 7. I wrote in the past about a situation in iOP where I was accused of being the disruptive person, making the group unsafe. I would never make anyone feel unsafe. I would rather sacrifice myself then be disruptive in any way. It was a brand new staff member at iOP and she clearly was misreading me. I still am baffled at the whole situation, as is my therapist who had to spend a month putting me back together. She thinks the new person was intimidated by me because of my age and experience. Well, that could be.
Looking back over my life I realize that feeling invalidated has probably been the culprit of a lot of my reactions. I may not think highly of myself, love myself or even like myself but the one thing I do have is honor. I’m honest and try to speak as plain and clear as possible. I’ve made great efforts in clear communication and because of this I’ve been able to advocate for myself in many situations, even if I didn’t feel like I deserved it. So for someone to completely misinterpret me, as a person, decide my values are bad, and accuse me of the very thing I hold most dear makes it obvious why I reacted so strongly. I’ve since made my peace with that person and the situation. It’s better for me to learn and move on than to prove I was right.
At this point, I’d love to say how much growth I’ve done on this issue, how well I handle invalidation now, how good I am at validating myself, that I’m accepting of myself, on and on and on but nope. None of that. Nada. Zip. I’m still a ball of anxiety with the propensity to become volatile if accused of dishonesty or lying. I still look just like this: 😡. The good thing though is that I’m aware of all this and will continue working with my therapist on it.
It makes me wonder how many of us, this of us with eating disorders and those of us with other struggles, deal with this. During one of my last sessions with my assigned therapist at the program, she validated how hard my life is, that I carry a heavy burden: eating disorder, exercise addiction, 3 different chronic pain issues, bipolar, urological problems requiring surgical procedures every 6 months, and whatever else I can’t think of at the moment. It is a heavy burden. I’ve never really been validated. My therapist probably has in one sense or another but I didn’t hear it at the time.
Do you recognize invalidation in your life? Do you react to it in any way?
Are you able to validate yourself and what you are going through? Maybe even self-acceptance, and forgiveness? This is something else I struggle with.