FThe Lonhgest Journey of All - From Self-Loathing to Self love.

Journey

I lived in self-loathing for most of my life. I really only decided to move to self-love in 2009 when I obtained public housing accommodation in Kiama. I’m now settled.. Occasionally I make the mistake of looking back. I can't help it. The images are not pretty. A failed marriage to the most wonderful woman I've met (Elaine), so much anger, and the self-loathing. I was in a place, a space, where I felt so vulnerable, so threatened, and so insecure. And so sad.

I think I felt pretty good about the world and myself as a child. I loved my parents and they loved me. But something was obviously wrong as I was identified as suffering with "nerves" at five years of age and prescribed Myalanta. Not till I was in my fifties was this correctly diagnosed as "severe GAD " (Generalised Anxiety Disorder). And becuase it had basicaly remained untreated, it had also led to depression. The symptoms throughout the ensuing years had been immaturity, anger and self-centredness. It was shameful. And I hated myself for it.

Partly it was genetic. My father had always displayed exactly the same behavioural dysfunction. It wasn't until he was in his sixties that he was diagnosed with severe depression. And my mother was (not so much now) the most anxious person I've ever known. My sister is mentally ill, as are both her sons. My younger brother was lucky and thankfully didn't inherit our vulnerability to these conditions. And I say "vulnerability" because this something I have learned from my many years under the care of psycologists and psychiatrists. Something in our brain is genetically programmed to react to personal and social dysfunction with the development of both anxiety and depression. In my case it was my ultimate dissatisfaction with my relationship with my parents, which I saw as very conditional. As I grew into adolescence and developed my own view of the world (which was completely different to that of my parents) I felt the withdrawal of their love and approval. The quality of my relationship with my parents determined the quality of my relationship with myself. I’ve often written of the conditional love that I saw as dominating our home. I know you are familiar with my poem called “My Mother’s Voice”. But the significance of those words really only struck me recently. I had almost always defined it simply as pain – a pain I carried into my adult life and unfortunately passed on to those I loved.

I now know it was much more. It was the basis of my self-beliefs and the foundation of my self-loathing. But I didn’t recognise it as such. I felt the pain and reacted with anger, assuming that I was angry with my parents. But I wasn’t. I now know that when we become angry it is almost always with ourselves. I didn’t hate my parents, or the world; I hated myself. I began to open my eyes after I was diagnosed with my heart condition. But it was after beginning my association with counsellor Pam Gammie that the light bulb was turned on. I think if I had understood it properly I may have been able to address it sooner. Instead I let the weight of my self-loathing steer my course.

As you know, I spent a over twenty years living as part of the pub and club scene (those "please tell me I'm OK" places) seeking approval. They are filled with patrons who most often lack intelligence, self-estemm and hope. Today I avoid such places because I have little in common with the clientele. I no longer need other people's approval. I have allowed myself to accept me - the real me, and to fear nothing in life. I like who I am to the extent that I totally trust myself . It's defined as "self-love". I learned so many important lessons from those years. One was the significance of seeking out positive and genuinely happy people who don't take themselevs too seriously and counter the sad reality of the world with a good sense of humour, and avoiding people of the opposite. I learned the importance of definition - defining yourself rather than allowing others to do so (and they will if you let them). And I learned that looking around a room and fearing people are judging you is ridiculous. It is quite a revelation to finally realise that the world doesn't, in fact, revolve around youself.

My enlightenment (epithany?) meant starting from scratch. Pam Gammie firstly advised me to cease relations with my mother because, rightly or wrongly, she made me feel such guilt and anger. I recognised that it was the most negative influence on my self-esteem. Mum was both unwilling and unable to acknowledge anything positive about my life or my character. With Pam’s encouragement I walked away. It was the best decision of my life. I hadn’t realised the weight of that relationship. It prompted me to write a song called “She IS Heavy, She’s My Mother”. I began the journey of a lifetime. Three years later when I was in a much better place, I reconnected. Our distance had upset my mother so very much. We started again. Today we have an extremely close and open relationship. I visited her last week and it was so warm. But Mum is almost 89 years old and very frail. She probably hasn't got too many years left in her, and I regret the time we lost. But it was worth it.

At about the same time I also reconciled with my friend of thirty plus years, Bob Neilson. Bob and I had been close but had a falling out sometime after I married my second wife (Anne). It was my paraoia that caused the problem, my warped sense of the world and my relationships. Today Bob and I are very close. We are quite different, but that sort of thing no longer gets in the way. We accept each other for who we are. If I'd only known how to do this so many beers ago.

Two years ago I fell into depression again. I felt agitated and angry. I didn’t know why, but immediately made an appointment with Pam. It was all so simple. There were still relationships that I needed to heal. I hadn't spoken to my brother (David) in almost twenty years. He has an 18 year old daughter who I've never met. Again, we are now like real brothers and communicate regularly. He lives in Melbourne and I still havenot met my neice (Beth), but they are all coming to visit me next month and I am really looking forward to it. Unfortunately I have been unable to establish a relationship with my sister (Dianne). Maybe one day.

One person who influenced me negatively as a child was my Uncle Ron. He was a man who so significantly contributed to my self-loathing. He was the husband of my father’s sister (Marge) and had two children, Lorraine and Ian, my cousins. Ian is 18 months older than me and was my best man when I married your mother. We were close, but it was a poisonous relationship in so many ways. The entire Mooney family was filled with insecurity and they compared themselves to each other constantly. Uncle Ron was the first to secure a white-collar career, becoming the Personnel Manager for Hawker-De Haviland at Bankstown. He lauded it over all the other males in the family, but particularly my father. Ian and I were set up as rivals in everything from sport to academic achievement. When I began to excel at both, the battle really began. Ian even followed me to university to do exactly the same course after working for two years as a bank teller. Uncle Ron seemed to put me down at every opportunity and twice got me aside to privately assure me that I was of little worth. The ridicule I can remember clearly going on for a good 15 years. In the early 1980’s your mother and I attended a Mooney family reunion. By this time Uncle Ron had suffered a severe stroke and was unable to talk. Just after lunch, Aunty Marge called me aside and took me over to her husband. He blinked and smiled and Marge said “He wants to say he’s sorry”. I really appreciated that, but unfortunately the damage had been done.

I write this in the hope that you may better understand me, yourselves and others. And to reinforce the fact that the most important thing in your lives is the quality of your relationship with yourself. Learn to completely accept yourself, to respect yourself, to love yourself, and everything else will be simple and joyful. I am motivated to write another song – “All You Need Is Love – Love, Love, Self-Love”.

Today (2015) I have resolved so much of this stuff. I get on with everybody, have learned the value of empathy, renewed my relationship with Bob Neilson, and have a wonderfully warm and functional relationship with my mother. And I think I have established loving and meaningful realtionships with my children. Recent years have been good to me. Well, psycologically anyway. Physically I have aged markedly. Oh well, I am proud of the distance I have travelled.

As a final observation, I ask myself a sincere question. Why did I change so much at puberty? Was it simply the facft that I discovered I was very different from most people, especially my parents? Was it because I subsequently became so rebellious ("Rebel Without A Clue")? Or was there something else? At that exact stage of my life I suffered a severe head injury. Before classes, at lunch time, and after school we used to play touch football. Initially it was on a grass surface, but the school (Ashfield DLS) paved that area and put in two basketball posts at either end. Frank De Luca passed me the ball in open space and I toof off, dilligently watching the pass as it approached me. I hit the steel basketball post at great speed - OK, at my speed. I was knocked out and remained so for about three minutes, so I was told. I still have the bump on my forehead to remember it by. But I do wonder if any brain damaged resulted.

I am not my memories. I am my dreams.” -Terry Hostetler

Geoff Mooney

Journey