Thanks for sharing all of that, dontpanic. I feel like I say this a lot on TAM, but this post hit a nerve with me. Not because of your issues with your H, but because of your feelings about yourself and taking care of yourself.
Since you've spent so much of your life cementing all of these (literally) self-defeating behaviors, it's going to take a lot of time to undo them. It will come incrementally. I'm still struggling with this myself. I've spent more than 1/2 my life literally taking care of needy people - my mom and my STBXH. On top of that, I spent my childhood and teens being parentified by my mom. I attempted suicide when I was in high school, and somehow nobody in my household even noticed. It prepared me well for a life of feeling like I wasn't worth taking up space on the planet if I didn't 'earn' it by overachieving in school, at work, and taking on way too much at home. Many things I'd start and not finish, making me feel worse. Sometimes, I let myself go, thinking there was no point in trying to win a losing battle against my ugly body. Unluckily for me, STBXH also has a lot of depression, OCD and anxiety issues, and possibly personality disorder issues as well. He was predisposed to treat me as the cause of all of his issues (including the ones that were present before we met? But I digress...
When I look back on our nearly 15-year relationship, my number one gut reaction is exhaustion. Mental, physical, spiritual exhaustion. I never felt worthy of him, and that fed into a very bad dynamic -- he ended up feeling that way, too. It made me feel horrible, but at the same time, I couldn't objectively disagree with him. When he had multiple EAs, it didn't occur to me to leave
, I just tried harder
. I couldn't even love myself enough to realize I didn't deserve to be lied to and cheated on.
I am in IC, plus a DBT-based coping skills group, plus a support group for women recovering from abusive relationships. I am lonely and hurting, but terrified to get involved with someone. I am afraid what will happen when a man sees what a mess I am inside. When I feel better, it doesn't last and doesn't go all the way to my soul. I think I understand what you're feeling.
There is no easy answer to feeling better about yourself. You were abused as a child, at a time when you were learning how to interact with your world. Part of that was seeing how people treated you -- our self-worth comes a lot from that -- as you know from being a Psych major.
Problem is, what you saw from your parents when you were growing up is at the root of your problem now. Your mind is still replaying that script that was encoded in your childhood. What may help is a therapy that is specifically designed to help adult children of abuse to grieve the loss of childhood and 're-parent'. You look at the specific thoughts you have about yourself, and learn where they come from, why they are not actually true, and how to replace the old script with a new one. Some of the mindfulness practices in DBT are meant to help when we start with automatic self-judgement, too.
Simply repeating mantras like "I am a good person" doesn't help. You and I both know that. Taking care of other people doesn't help. We both know that, too. Just going through the motions doesn't work, either. The reason we don't love ourselves is that we were never taught to. We were taught the opposite. And since we're such smart women, we learned that lesson well.
Hang in there, dontpanic. You can do this. You've hung in so long because there is a strength inside of you that doesn't really want to let go of life. ((hugs))