Stories of Transformation can trigger strong emotions. Take care of yourself.
Since I was a young teenager, I used to scan psychology books and the internet, looking at mental disorders in an attempt to put a label on myself, with
the hope that I would be able to ‘fix’ myself.
It’s not until recent years that, thanks to IFS therapy, I’ve realised that there was never anything wrong with me, except the consequences of a childhood trauma of having a schizophrenic mother and an absent father, who was imprisoned. My childhood was chaotic to say the least. I was constantly feeling dangers and threats, either at home in my own family, through financial constraints and poverty, or even at school where I was largely ostracised because I was different.
This had resulted in me exiting high school early due to mental health issues. I was unable to cope anymore and, instead, needed a complete break from life. However, as I saw my peers graduate and go on to university, I couldn’t help but feel completely left behind. That’s where I began to develop a self-defence mechanism “failure” part of me, that would push me to strive to be the best and above all else. Almost ten years later, I went from a high school dropout, working in fast-food restaurants with no qualifications, to an Australian barrister with multiple bachelor’s degrees and almost 10 years of full-time study in Higher Education.
Even though my childhood was far from normal, I’m now thankful for all the Parts that supported me and enabled me to survive my most formative years.
I learned that these Parts were stuck in the past, as younger versions of myself that just wanted love and compassion. Instead of pushing these feelings away through drugs, alcohol, and other forms of addictions and escapism, I instead learned to look inwards and provide the love to my Parts that they never knew possible.
It wasn’t until I actually appreciated the Parts for trying so hard to protect me, for then working so hard to exercise each day and meditate, read, and then also do IFS therapy, that I started to feel like I improved. Normally, I would be pushing myself harder, trying to overcome anything through brute force. However, this time, I needed to just stop and listen.
Since I started IFS therapy almost two years ago, my life has changed irrevocably.
I had tried counselling and seeing general psychologists in my younger years, but I found dissatisfaction in the results. I’ve always been a big advocate for mental health awareness, and this did involve spending countless hours a week exercising, meditating, reading, and keeping myself busy. However, it felt like most of the time none of these methods really worked, or when they did, it was only a short-term effect.
I always believed that I had to keep changing my external world and only then would I eventually feel satisfied and somewhat normal. It felt like my whole life was just chasing a carrot on a stick, with a false hope that one day it would work.
The real changes only began when I approached a psychologist who specialised in trauma. I was introduced to the IFS method, and how I can provide myself with love and compassion to fill those inner black voids that I had spent my entire life running away from.
The catalyst of my journey was a toxic relationship I experienced in 2019-2021, with a woman who knew how to control and manipulate me through the vulnerabilities of my Parts. I couldn’t go on anymore and started to question why I felt like I had symptoms of PTSD when I had never experienced a major catastrophic event in my life, like being in a car crash or going to war. It was during a sleepless night of curiosity that I looked inward and made the realisation that I needed answers. From there, I reached out to a trauma specialist and have never looked back since. I was able to successfully leave my toxic relationship despite the effects of trauma bonding withdrawals, and then I worked on myself and learned to love and appreciate my Parts.
Now I can happily say that my external world has finally followed my internal world.
I have my dream job, dream apartment and I’m in a relationship with a beautiful healthy woman.
I have also recently begun IFS therapy in a group setting, which has also proved to be beneficial to my Parts who seek a sense of validation. I’ve found this important as certain aspects of group therapy cannot be reproduced in a private one-on-one session. IFS therapy has been life-changing in not only my personal life, but also in my career as a lawyer. I am able to more effectively deal with vulnerable clients and provide them advice in a way that satisfies their needs and expectations. This is especially important given I work in areas of child protection and crime, where many of my clients either remind me of my own family or my own upbringing. It’s common for my own inner parts to have some kind of input in the process, or for me feel easily blended in some situations. But thankfully, with all the work I’ve done with myself over the past two years, I’m able to handle the situations that arise much more effectively than otherwise.