The Washington Post

A successful woman grapples with demons


Dear Amy: I am a successful woman in my early 30s.

I am happy in my life. I have a good job. I have accomplish­ments and aspiration­s. I have a loving husband. I take care of myself and feel cared for in my day-today life.

But I also have some demons from the past that try to creep into the scene.

I experience­d sexual abuse when I was a young child, had some very rough relationsh­ips in my young adult days and was in a very abusive relationsh­ip while I was in graduate school five years ago.

I have gotten distance from these events, and I’m proud of the person I am today. But at the same time, I experience this incredible cognitive dissonance between these images of myself as a proud, confident, successful woman at the top of her game and this helpless, depressed, insecure woman at rock bottom. I feel disgusted by the second view of myself. Ashamed. Angry!

I see a therapist every week. But most of the time I am so ashamed to bring up these things, even though he is well aware of them, that I focus instead on my forward thrust, rather than my ugly past.

I worry that bringing up my past will reignite those traumas, and I’ ll end up back in that scared rock-bottom place.

Where would I start? Is it better to focus on the positive in front of you, or delve and dive into the ugliness behind you?

— Afraid to Rock the Boat

Afraid to Rock the Boat: This is such a great question, and you could start by asking your therapist a “process” question: “Do you think it is better for me to continue to focus on my forward motion, or do I need to dive into my past trauma? It scares me to do that.”

You are hard on yourself the way survivors often are. It goes with the territory.

Please understand that your therapist is offering you a place of safety where you can be brave, frightened, unsure, upset, confident, confused and emotional.

All of these feelings and reactions are legitimate because they are authentica­lly yours.

He might point out that you needn’t “delve” or “dive,” but that you can safely allow yourself to “visit” the places that scare you the most and learn to allow these negative emotions and memories to flow through you, instead of staying with you.

Self-awareness and selfaccept­ance will allow you to soften, and although it’s something of a cliche, “making friends” with the vulnerable and hurting younger version of you will help you to close the loop and move forward as a fully integrated person with a tough past and a very bright future.

Dear Amy: Is it rude to yawn while talking to someone if you make an honest effort to hide/ stifle it, and apologize or say, “Excuse me?”

I suffer from depression and often don’t sleep well.

I also have sinus issues, which can make it difficult to breathe.

My boyfriend knows these things, yet he still becomes irate when I yawn during conversati­ons.

He says it is dismissive and rude, even though I use verbal and physical cues to show that I’m still listening.

I don’t think it’s any different from sneezing during a conversati­on.

What do you think?

— Tired

Tired: I agree with your boyfriend that seeing someone yawn during a conversati­on is off-putting and seems dismissive and rude in the moment.

However, your boyfriend knows why you do this. He should understand that your yawns are a frequent occurrence and bodily function that you cannot control.

You could probably understand that it might take him some time to adjust to this habit of yours, but he should NOT become irate or lash out at you when this happens.

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at washington­ Write to askamy@amydickins­ or Amy Dickinson, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, N.Y. 13068.  You can also follow her @askingamy.

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