jessica: Lost in a big family

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Jessica was a middle sibling in a big family.

Her dad struggled with alcoholism when she was young, and she grew up both scared of him and hungry for his affection. Her mother held the family together but was overwhelmed and often short and demanding. Jessica felt overlooked and misunderstood. From an early age she decided the way to be noticed in her family was to be perfect. She made her identity about getting good grades and being a member of color guard. She liked the attention she got for her accomplishments, but never felt like she got enough. People paid attention to her when she was emotional, and so over time she expressed more and more of her angst. Her parents eventually told her they didn’t know what to do anymore, and she began to feel hopeless. She began turning to boys and girls at school to make her feel better, but when things wouldn’t work out with them she felt worse. She was confused about what was going on, and more and more overwhelmed by the way she felt.

In counseling she began talking about the way she felt. Putting her feelings into words and conversation had been difficult and very frustrating for Jessica up to this point. It hadn’t worked before and she didn’t think it was going to work now. Not surprisingly she had felt very lonely and misunderstood. She talked about the pain of being lost in a big family. As she talked about her life she realized she had a terrible opinion of herself. Most things she said she didn’t like. She would sometimes be overwhelmed with self-loathing. She began to see that insisting she was worthless was taking a toll. The undeniable value people were telling her she had she slowly began to consider. Her relationship with God was important to her, and she heard Him tell her to start caring about the people in her life. Building friendships brought up a lot of insecurities. She didn’t think people would like her and she didn’t think she had anything to offer. But she didn’t give up either, and came to have a lot of love and wisdom for her friends. Receiving her friend’s love gave her the support she needed to accept her family as the ‘crazy family we are’, reconcile with her parents, and commit to being a big sister again in her younger sister’s lives. She has some confidence in her new identity that keeps her going when she is overwhelmed or gets hurt in relationship.

Jessica works at Panera and goes to school. She recently got a promotion and is deciding what exactly it is she wants to do with her life.