Stories of Transformation can trigger strong emotions. Take care of yourself.
My name is Jessica. I am 33 years old. I grew up in Italy and as an 18-year-old young woman with body dysmorphia and low self-esteem, I was emotionally blocked and completely unaware of the dysfunctions in my family. I was also trapped in a toxic love relationship. At the time I sought professional help and received Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which helped me to get to know myself better and to practice introspection. There is no doubt that the assistance I received from my therapist at that time was a precious support to me and enabled me to understand that I can be the protagonist of my own life. I was able to take initial steps to moving away from the dysfunctions of my family and forge my own path. I broke away from the cluster of toxic family relationships and at the age of 28 I left home and started travelling overseas. As useful as my weekly therapy sessions were for me then, in terms of releasing emotions and frustration through talking, I was still finding myself stuck in my own mind. I had a lot of anxiety and fears of being crazy. I was also still using unhelpful strategies such as bingeing on food, alcohol, and sex, to try and escape from the pain and to numb myself.
But having left home, I was now able to begin to really focus on myself. I could be more authentic and go deeper. I was more ready to face my traumas and put the toxicity and dysfunction of my childhood into perspective. Slowly, I began to gain a clearer comprehension of my childhood and upbringing and I gave up the drinking, drug taking, and unhelpful sex consumption. But I was still struggling a lot with my eating disorder. It was the only coping strategy I had left. It was at this point that I was introduced to IFS through a friend. It has been mind-blowing for me! For the first time in my life I have come to the understanding that my thoughts are real. I can visualise all the characters – Parts, as they are called in IFS – that are living inside me. What is more, I have developed the capacity to accept my Parts and I no longer try and push my thoughts and feelings away. I no longer have the sense that I’m going crazy.
Rather, I have learned how to listen to all my Parts, to talk to them, to allow them to feel seen and valued, to recognise who they are according to their story, memories and emotions. Sometimes I don’t really understand them, but my Parts know I value them anyway. All Parts are welcome and through IFS I have built a completely new relationship with myself, embracing all my system, in all its complexity and uniqueness. And most importantly, I can now get in contact with my own Self-energy. That golden light in my core, that is my essence and the source of my healing.
I don’t have a happy-ending story. I still struggle with food issues and have not resolved my problems one hundred percent. I still struggle at times with my relationships and with life in general. But I have gained a clearer awareness that allows me to find the strength and hope inside of me and I absolutely do accept and love myself better. I’m no longer at war with myself. Rather, I have started a process of internal collaboration. I know the Parts that push me to binge eat and I am now better able to talk to them and reassure them. And when this happens – which is a lot less frequently than it used to – I no longer feel guilty. Some days I still feel stuck in my processes and in my life and I wonder if I have moved forward at all. But in those moments, I now know how to get in contact with my Self and I have trust that I just need to be patient. I don’t need to push and I see these times as opportunities to practice patience and compassion – two really important qualities of Self-energy. Along with a more clearly defined relationship with my Parts, I can definitely say that the most important gift IFS has given me has been introducing me to the notion of Self and Self-energy. In this way I have learnt to know my system more deeply and access a level of wisdom which was previously unknown to me.