Mark: Finding Identity and Self-Esteem
When asked about what helps him to get his self-esteem back, Mark explained how he benefited from validation given by others.
Just hearing people—coming from somebody that you respect. When they tell you that you are a good person—that puts you on cloud nine. Growing up, I guess I really didn’t have a lot of that. My mom was the only one. You think your mom’s always going to say everything good about you and be on your side anyways. When you have third parties like coworkers or people out in the community that say you’re a good person, I think that has more weight than family members saying it.
Although Mark experienced many challenges because of his father’s mental illness, he also recognizes his own growth. He knows he can handle a lot of stress because he had many stressful experiences while growing up. Also, he has learned to be responsible for his life.
I felt like me and my family were very much alone. If we didn’t do something, it didn’t happen. We were responsible for our lives or future. In school I always strived to do the best academically I could because I was scared of what would happen if I didn’t. Kind of lit a fire under me more than anything else.
Mark encouraged his sister to do well in school and today is proud of her academic and professional accomplishments. He now realizes he can make his own choices and others do not have the power to make him feel bad. He can choose how his day goes and his life path.
It might not be what everybody else likes, but to me it makes sense and I’m comfortable with that. I don’t need anybody else to make me feel good or make me feel bad even though people do have influences on choices you make in life.
He observed that he now knows how to better handle social interactions and can more easily avoid conversations he does not want to have. With becoming a husband and father, Mark realizes he has not had a good male role model. But he does know there are things he does not want do.
With my daughter, I don’t want to be yelling at her. I don’t want to be reprimanding her. I’d rather let her run and go get hurt than me yelling at her almost. I want her to make her own mistakes. Granted you’re going to give her some direction in life. But I don’t want to be the one telling her what to do, how to do it. That if she doesn’t do it my way, she’s a failure or anything.
Mark has pushed his wife to do things on her own because he believes, “When you depend on people too much, they let you down quite a bit when they go away.” He is adamant about moving forward beyond the shadow of his father’s illness.
Nothing positive comes from him anymore. It’s more of a burden. The way that impacts me is I obviously don’t want to be like him. I just want to shut the door and live my life. I know his illness has changed things in my life. I don’t want to be like him. I don’t want it to affect me in the future. I don’t want it to be part of my life. I want to start, new, fresh. Don’t look in the rearview mirror kind of thing. My day to day hope is that I don’t become him. I don’t go down his path or even close to anything that he’s done. I want a future without him.
Mark realizes his family experiences from the past have shaped his approach to relationships. He also knows he did the best he could in the face of daunting challenges in his childhood. Now he looks forward to enjoying life together with his family. He sees a bright future for his daughter and “calm” in his family life. He is self-aware and honest in facing the lifelong challenge of having a father who lives with mental illness. Mark now knows he is making choices in his life that are good for him.