Growing up in a large family can be fun; it can also be tough when your position is number seven in a family with eight siblings.They were all distinct in their characteristics, but all were intelligent, incredibly talented, beautiful and personable individuals.
Growing up in a large family can be fun; it can also be tough when your position is number seven in a family with eight siblings. As a child, Lise was in awe of her older brothers and sisters. They were all distinct in their characteristics, but all were intelligent, incredibly talented, beautiful and personable individuals.
They were also able to express their beliefs and opinions with ease and confidence. To Lise, they fit together, with each other, their mother, and even at times, with their emotionally distant father. Even her youngest sister had a place in the family because she was the “baby”, the cutest and was sickly from birth. Lise suffered from severe anxiety, highly developed sensitivity, extreme shyness, and a crippling inability to express her thoughts and feelings within her family, her friends and at school.
At home, when teased by her older siblings, Lise would erupt. Her feelings and emotions would come out in the form of a scream. In fact, she would scream and scream until she would lose her voice. Like a volcano erupting, she would release all her anxiety, frustration, anger and pain. In school, she was so shy and anxious that she could not look up, participate or answer questions in class. Her teachers thought she was just shy, uninterested and detached. They mostly left her alone because she didn’t cause any trouble. School was a terrifying experience for Lise, unable to interact normally with classmates for fear of doing something wrong and not being liked she simply shut up and did her work as best she could. At home, she spent most of her childhood feeling tolerated, anxious and unloved.
By the time she hit adolescence, she began to get a handle on her volcano and learned to bite down on her pain and anxiety. She bit down so hard she began to develop stomach ulcers and regular migraines; her anxiety deepened and mood swings started.
The people pleaser
The year Lise’s family moved from the city to the country, her mother passed away. She was 15 and being the oldest girl at home, she assumed the responsibility of taking care of the house, caring for her younger sister and her distant, angry and often depressed father.
Prior to her mother passing away, Lise had a conversation with her. She recalls it so clearly. “My mother was lying in bed with a severe migraine as she often battled throughout her life. I was angry and full of hatred towards my father. My mom said that she understood that dad could be a hard man, but that she was counting on me to look after my dad and my little sister when she was gone. I promised her that I would – without realizing the full implication this would have on me.”
Lise’s mother died a week later. Her mother had been ill for many years and the family knew that her time was limited, but Lise was a 14 year old self-absorbed, angry teenager who had little patience and consideration for her mother in the years leading up to her death.
Full of anger, guilt and hatred Lise bit down hard and absorbed all her pain into the very fabric of her being. She told herself she had responsibilities; she was needed, and had a promise to keep to her mother.
Lise made the commitment not only to look after her father and sister but everyone. She became the perfect daughter, the best sister, the most understanding friend, the perfect girlfriend, the hardest working student hoping that somehow make her mother proud and make up for how horrible she was to her. Everything she did revolved around keeping her promise and looking after her father, sister and family and making her dad proud. She also desperately sought the love and support she did not feel she got as child.
When alone, she would spend hours in the bathroom putting on and taking off make-up over and over again because she felt ugly and unworthy. She cried uncontrollably and fought urges to vomit, take pills or cut herself.
Lise moved to Ottawa to attend university. She earned her BA in Public Administration, Political Science and Policy Analysis. She also became an expert people pleaser. She spent all her time figuring out what the people around her liked and how she could fulfill their wants and needs. If she did this, she thought, she would be wanted, loved and worthy.
Riddled with self-doubt and fearing rejection, she kept her true feelings and opinions to herself. Appearing stupid or uninformed to family and friends or worse, causing them pain, became unthinkable so she never uttered a derogatory word or opinion. She was never her authentic self. Instead, she was a true actress, changing masks for every occasion. There would be the intelligent Lise, the cute Lise, the understanding Lise, the cool Lise and the party Lise. Her ideas and beliefs would also change to fit the various characters. She was so kind and so agreeable to everyone. She became the perfect friend, girlfriend, student, wife and martyr – every mask she wore with perfection.
During her twenties she moved forward in her career quickly, applying all the skills she had developed in her personal life growing up. She worked harder than anyone else, never complained, always looked perfect and always smiled, no matter how sick she felt physically, emotionally or mentally. She was driven, she was needed, she had a purpose and she felt important and worthy. Her personal life was equally as busy, helping her friends and family members, always there with time, money or anything they needed. She never asked anything in return.
She never stopped; she couldn’t stop because it would force her to deal with her anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, pain and she couldn’t. She kept this pace up for years, until one day it came to an abrupt halt.
Lise had been married for a few years and life was picture perfect from the outside: a wonderful career, a perfect husband, perfect son, perfect in-laws, everything she always wanted, or so it seemed. She had become an empty shell, with no sense of self-worth or self-confidence. She saw herself as a jigsaw puzzle — her personality, character and belief system were mere fragments, stolen bits of others, shamelessly pulled together to form some kind of mutated class of sub-human. Physically, she suffered from ulcers, migraines, social anxiety, full blown panic attacks, painful irregular menstrual cycles, depression and nightmares.
Then her beautiful young son got sick. He started having seizures and no one could figure out why. Lise was convinced it was the past repeating itself. Only now it was her husband instead of her father who couldn’t handle the situation, and Lise did what she always did; she went into overdrive. She took care of her son, her husband, her job, all with a smile on her face. Her son pulled through with minimal damage. There was just one problem. After years of keeping the jigsaw puzzle together, Lise was exhausted and burned out.
Unable to talk to anyone around her because she never let anyone really know who she was, she reached out to her doctor. He put her on anti-anxiety pills and medication for depression. She went to therapy for ten years and started reading every self-help book she could find. This led her to take assertiveness classes, anxiety coping classes, and finally yoga, martial arts and mindfulness classes. All of these helped to a degree, but not entirely. She knew there was more to the equation and one day she came across an advertisement for the 7MINDS program and decided to give it a try.
Lise signed up for personal one-on-one training with Master Johnson. The martial arts and meditation training was intensive and Lise committed to it one hundred percent. Her husband did not approve; but she didn’t care. She spent weeks in California and would return frequently to train with Master Johnson. She attended online training classes and used the online tools to train as well. She focused on PI Centering combined with introspective techniques to enable her to understand the essence of her sensitivities, anxiety and fear. She addressed her challenges head on like everything else in life because she knew she was fighting for her life.
About six months into her training, Lise noticed a shift in her physical well-being. She could not remember the last time she had a migraine; she was calmer and could think more clearly. A few weeks later, during a presentation at work, she responded to a question with precision and clarity. She remembers it to this day. “The voice was beautiful; it was calm, clear and precise. As I looked around the room, everyone’s eyes were focused on me and I realized it was my voice. I continued, I did not falter, my voice got stronger and more confident. More questions came and I responded to each with the same level of precision and clarity. After the presentation I was told it was one of the best presentations they had ever heard.”
From this point on, Lise began to rewire the patterns of her brain, one fiber at a time, and overcame her fear of being heard. She found her authentic voice and her confidence and knew she could be herself among her peers. She could be successful just being herself. The masks started to come down. As she continued with her training, she was able to face the emotional patterns of her childhood, address them and release them. Her inner strength and determination that were once spent putting on masks were now spent deconstructing the jigsaw puzzle and figuring out who she was, what she believed and why. She was becoming authentic; she was speaking and living her truth and she would never go back.