Q I have very low energy levels and feel exhausted almost all of the time. My doctor says there’s no physical cause that she can find, and that I should see if there’s a psychological reason. I’ve felt like this for as long as I can remember. As a kid I had to look after my younger brother and sister since I was about 9 years old because my mum was often depressed and she was a drinker too. I was more like her parent! Everything was so serious and tiring, there was no time for playing with friends. All this put me off having kids of my own – I just couldn’t cope. I feel old before my time, and wish someone would just take care of me for a change. Do you think my childhood could be linked to my low energy levels nowadays?
A Yes, it certainly could be. What you describe from your childhood is called ‘parentification’ when a child has to take on the role and responsibilities of being like the parent. This deprives the child of their own childhood, and some natural developmental stages can be weakened or even missed.
The consequences may be that as an adult that person then continues to take on the role of looking after everyone else – at the expense of their own well being. They can seem ‘old for their years’ as they wipe themselves out in the service of others.
Or, they may be stuck in childlike behaviour as if making up for what they missed out on as a child.
Their inner child is overwhelmed with responsibility and also feels guilty for the anger and resentment they feel towards their mother – who wasn’t behaving like a good enough mother (for whatever reason).
Your inner child, or the little girl who still lives deep inside you, needs you to re-parent her by yourself now – to have fun and loving times, with lots of self compassion and care. You need to come first – at least until you have completed this self re-parenting process.
Your early experiences may be seen as being emotionally abusive – because you didn’t get your emotional and social needs met in appropriate ways.
If there were other traumas in your childhood these will also have increased the likelihood of your physical depletion, as a result of the earlier emotional and psychological distress and overwhelm.
I suggest that you get my free resources about recovering from a troubled childhood and see how this resonates with you (see below for the link). You might also be ready now to process your feelings towards your parent(s) – whether they are alive or dead.
It’s time to speak up for your inner child and unblock the words and feelings she wasn’t able to express all those years ago. The energy she held deep inside which now blocks her outgoing energy too.
After this you would then be able to see and feel for yourself any changes to your overall energy levels… as you reconnect with your inner child’s passion and vibrancy that she wasn’t able to show in childhood.
If you’d like some help along the way then please get in touch or find another suitable qualified and experienced psychotherapist to support you on your steps to emotional, psychological and physical well-being.
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)
www.maxineharley.com – where you’ll find a page of FREE RESOURCES to help you on your road to self awareness, empowerment and growth