Mother Hunger and Addiction in Women

Mother Hunger and Addiction in Women

Dr. Kate: Good evening Los Angeles. Welcome to Behind Closed Doors. We’re [inaudible 0:13] every Saturday at 6pm right here on Talk Radio 790 KABC. I’m talk Dr. Kate Balestrieri.

Lauren: And I’m Lauren Dummit.

Dr. Kate: And together we are the co-founders of Triune Therapy Group. A Psychotherapy practice based in LA. Behind Closed Doors is a show about sex, relationships, mental health, addictions, staying healthy and other related current events. And today we’re going to be focusing on a really interesting topic: it’s a construct called Mother Hunger. And we are going to be talking about mother hunger and how it relates to addiction in women. If you have any questions about this topic, give us a call now at 800- 222- 5222. That’s 800- 222 KABC or message us on Instagram or Facebook @triunetherapygroup.

So Lauren, how was your weekend first?

Lauren: I wish I could have had a little more rest, but it was full and good.

Dr. Kate: So true. Same. Well this topic is really interesting. You know, a lot of women that I’ve been working with in our group have been talking a lot about the relationships they have with their mom. It seems like every week there’s a different theme and no matter what the theme of our show is, that seems to be what my patients bring in which is so interesting how our unconscious mind work like that. But this… you know the last week or so, everybody’s been talking about the complicated relationships they have with their mothers, and it’s been fascinating to really hear about all of the different nuances and complexities of mother-daughter relationships, especially as we are preparing for this episode about mother hunger.

Lauren: Yeah. It is so interesting how things just align. I was at my exercise class the other day and I was talking to this woman who’s almost ready to give birth and she told me that she’s having a girl. And she was telling me that initially she was really struggling with that because… she said “well you know mother-daughter relationships are just so complex.” And I already knew we were doing this topic and so I thought why is that? That is so interesting.

Dr. Kate: It is interesting and I find that so many of my friends and patients really struggle with even talking about the difficulties they have in relationships with their mother because somehow it feels like taboo. You know, if it’s not an excellent relationship, you’re not your mom’s best friend, she’s not yours, it seems like a betrayal to even mention that.

Lauren: Right. I think a lot of people feel a lot of guilt when they say anything about their parents because it feels as if they are not grateful for everything they gave them. When in fact we can be very grateful and there is no perfect parents.

Dr. Kate: Totally. [laugh]

Lauren: And like she said, relationships are just so complex.

Dr. Kate: They are so complex. And you know a lot of women I think really struggle in understanding the relationships they have with their moms because when we are young we grow up idealizing our mothers, and as women they become the poster and the model for who we are supposed to be. And when the relationship isn’t always nurturing or is both nurturing and critical, or nurturing and not present at times, it’s so confusing to the development of a young girl.

Lauren: Yes. Especially when it’s extremely nurturing and extremely close and then there is a withdrawal of that which then polar opposites just feel so extreme.

Dr. Kate: Completely. Completely. And you know, those kinds of withdrawals can happen for lots of reasons, right?

Lauren: Right.

Dr. Kate: Maybe right mum is depressed or maybe she has her own addiction, maybe she’s just trying to get by; managing all of the struggles that come with running a household or managing other children.

Lauren: Well, I have seen a lot of my friends having children and it is not an easy job. And I also have noticed through talking with them that having children really brings up all of our own issues, you know. So I know that a lot of times mothers have different intentions than what comes out and often they are triggered in their own childhood stuff.

Dr. Kate: Absolutely. I think that’s so true. I mean when we bring in our special guest in a little bit, we’ll talk more about that intergenerational transmission process. But what we often are presented with in the models of our early caregivers is what we’ve been presented with.

Lauren: Right.

Dr. Kate: And so for not willing to examine and look at the kind of caregiving we had, we are likely to repeat it blindly because we do what we know. We are humans, right? Good, bad or otherwise. And so this segment is not to lambast mothers or point the finger and say you’re bad, you’re bad. That’s so the opposite of what we are trying to do here. But really trying to open a dialogue on what is the intergenerational conversation between mothers and daughters that is happening both implicitly and explicitly, and how can we make the most of these relationships to the people who gave birth to us and loves us the most?

Lauren: Right. I also think it’s important to look at because so many of our clients or just people in general present with these symptoms and they don’t know why. They just feel inherently flawed. And so just being able to trace it back and understand why they feel the way they do about themselves or present the way they do in relationships can provide a lot of insights for the work they need to do.

Dr. Kate: Mhm. Yeah. And I think it also… When we take a step back and really start examining some of the relationships in our lives that are complicated, if we’re doing so with an open mind and an open heart, not only can we build tremendous compassion for ourselves and facilitate that healing process, but we also can develop a whole lot of compassion and love for the person that were in relationships. So in this case our mother. You know, and that can be incredibly healing for mothers and daughters to have that process.

Lauren: Right. I think it comes with an understanding that we are all just doing the best we can.

Dr. Kate: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, I’m really excited to bring in our guest in a few minutes. We’re going to be bringing in Kelly McDaniel who is the author of ready to heal: which is an amazing book that talks all about how women can break free from addictive patterns in their relationships. And then later in this segment were going to be bringing in Amy Dresner, author of My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean. And I have to tell you, I read Amy’s book yesterday from cover to cover in one sitting. I mean I barely got up to use the bathroom or even get refills on my tea it was such a page turner.

Lauren: Yeah. I was trying to go to bed at a decent hour.

Dr. Kate: [laugh]

Lauren: Thanks Amy. [laugh]

Dr. Kate: It was so good.

Lauren: It really was.

Dr. Kate: I’m excited to bring her on. Cause I think Amy has such incredible insights on just what it’s like to be in the throes of addiction and what it’s like to really recognize that pain and then healing yourself through it, which is the task of so many women in addiction. You know, when we grow up and have complicated relationships with either of our parents, or don’t have relationships with our parents, really the task of recovery is about growing yourself back up and learning how to recognize where are we still yearning for that early dependency, those need that never really got met. And asking everyone around us to be a surrogate parent.

Lauren: Right. And then we often regress [laugh] to that age when which it happened. Which doesn’t always look too pretty.

Dr. Kate: No. [laugh] No. I mean I can certainly remember in some of my relationships when I’ve had those three-year old temper tantrums in an adult body [laugh]

Lauren: Oh God! Yes. Me too.

Dr. Kate: It’s not pretty. What’s interesting… you know, to contrast, we often hear a lot of jokes about women with daddy issues, and I think the difference between complicated relationships with mothers and complicated relationships with daughters definitely shows up in how our adult relationships are formed. I’m curious what you observe in working with the groups that we work with.

Lauren: Well I think that you know, complicated relationships with either of our parent present within a host of various symptoms that show up in relationships. It’s definitely our parents who teach us how to be in a relationship with someone else. I think they may present differently, but they both have their own complications.

Dr. Kate: Yeah. I tend to see women show up in my office with a lot of really nuanced relationships with food and with money and with their appearance.

Lauren: Yes.

Dr. Kate: And when they have really complex relationships with their mothers, often that shows up in terms of feeling really unsafe around other women but seeking out the company of other women sometimes.

Lauren: Yeah. Absolutely. I think it’s also difficult sometimes because quite frequently people have complicated relationships with both.

Dr. Kate: Right. [Laughs]

Lauren: And so it’s hard to parcel out which is which.

Dr. Kate: Yeah. I think the overarching theme is that there is an inner sense of feeling really lonely and broken and unworthy of real love.

Lauren: Right. I think the biggest symptom is that shame and how that affects one’s esteem. And really that’s the center of everything we do.

Dr. Kate: It really is. I mean when we have such a low… an insecure sense of our own selves, we really kind of go about the world expecting all of these other external things to validate us or make us whole. And I think when we’re talking about relationship addictions, whether it’s a sex addiction or love addiction, a codependence or a porn addiction, or just any kind of repetitive pattern of unhealthiness in relationships ,we’re really trying to master a situation that we felt really helpless in when we were growing up.

Lauren: Right. And it also seems that you know, when we’ve grown up in this type of environment with this type of pain, we develop all sorts of defenses in relationships, so that we don’t have to feel that pain, so we don’t have to be as vulnerable. Those defenses end up becoming really toxic in and of themselves and creating a lot of dysfunctional relationship dynamics.

Dr. Kate: Yeah. They end up creating the very situations that we’re trying to be all safe and protected against.

Lauren: Right. [laugh]

Dr. Kate: Right. Which is the real… well, the real I guess unwelcomed gifts that keeps on giving with relational defenses.

Lauren: Right.

Dr. Kate: Yeah. Yeah. Well this is really exciting. We are going to bring on Kelly pretty soon and hear everything that she has to talk about with mother hunger and that construct. One of the things that we do at Triune to try and help women heal is a program called Revive & Thrive. And this program is near and dear to my heart for so many reasons. I mean I developed this program as part of my dissertation years and years ago when I was working in the prison systems with women. And the women in the prisons that I worked with were so incredibly relationally starving and all of their behaviors were geared toward trying to fill that void. Right?

Lauren: Right.

Dr. Kate: And usually they had a lot of trauma in their background: sexual trauma, physical trauma, emotional and financial trauma. And this program that I built was really designed to help them try and midigate some of the behaviors that were causing a lot of recidivism for them. So, the program that we’ve adapted now at Triune which is really exciting involves psycho-education about how different kinds of relational traumas impact us as women. And then also talk about… it involves a group processing, so the women build a lot of support and intimacy with each other that’s really a new kind of scaffolding to trust in their outside relationships. And then we include a somatic component to really help women get into their body because all of those kinds of trauma live in all of our cells and a lot of people don’t understand the relationship between trauma and our body, but it’s what compels us into these unconscious cycles all the time.

Lauren: Right. And the somatic piece really helps them learn how to self-regulate, so that they don’t have to act out all those feelings that are…

Dr. Kate: Absolutely.

Lauren: So triggering.

Dr. Kate: So we would have to take a quick break, but when we come back, more about mother hunger and addiction in women with our special guest Kelly McDaniel, author of the book Ready to Heal: Breaking Free of Addictive Relationships. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook @triunetherapygroup. And message us with your questions now. Stay with us, we’ll be right back.

[After break]

[Background music]

Dr. Kate: Welcome back. You’re listening to behind closed doors. I’m Dr. Kate

Lauren: And I’m Lauren Dummit.

Dr. Kate: And we’re talking about mother hunger today and addiction in women. One of our two very special guests today is Kelly McDaniel, the author of the book Ready to Heal: Breaking Free of Addictive Relationships. And Kelly, I did not know that today was the 10 year anniversary of your book’s release. Congratulations.

Kelly: Yes. I think it kind of hit me off guard as well. [laugh] How does… Where does ten years go?

Dr. Kate: Right. Oh my gosh! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your practice and how you came up with this concept of mother hunger.

Kelly: Oh! I would love to talk about how I came up with the concept of mother hunger, but first let me just thank you both for giving this topic your time, your attention. And I feel really pleased that women of your caliber are taking this topic and spreading the word. You’re both very articulate and bright and so I’m happy to be here with you today, so thank you.

Lauren: Awww. Well. Thank you.

Dr. Kate: Thank you Kelly. That means so much coming from you.

Kelly: Good. Well, you’re asking about mother hunger and where did the idea come from. And I could do a whole podcast just on this. I’ll try to be brief. I think that what’s important for me when I think about the inception of this idea is to go back to some of the early reading that I did in graduate school. As a young woman I was at Georgetown University and stumbled into a women’s studies class which then became a minor for me. And this was in the early 90s. And I came across the book Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born. This book that she published was actually first published in 1977. So, you know, this is at this point considered a long time ago, and yet for me it was revolutionary to be sitting in a class and read these words: ‘The woman who had felt un-mothered may seek mothers all her life, may even find them in men. Some women marry looking for a mother.’ Now, I’m probably 22 years old, maybe 21 and that still hit me. So I think that says a lot about the mothering I didn’t have. I think it says a lot about my confusion that was already happening romantically. It says a lot about the fact that I was already psychologically hungry for information and understanding, but that really was for me a guiding piece of literature. And… Jean Baker Miller Published in 1976, the year before that, Toward a New Psychology of Women which really turned psychology on its ear. Right after that, Carol Gilligan wrote In a Different Voice which challenged Lawrence Colberg and his whole developmental strategy about how we as humans grow and develop. And that was all based on a male mind. These women were pivotal in turning around the concept that women don’t really develop the way men do. Women develop in connection.

Lauren: Right.

Kelly: Not outside connection. We strive to bond and through the bond develop a sense of who we are. And the male model made that look like a terrible dependency which is just generated decades of shame. So, it’s like I said, I could go on for a long, long time about this. [laugh]

I think mother hunger started its formation in my mind when I was a young woman and took hold when I was able to get back to graduate school and study psychology in my thirties. And then as I started studying addiction, and being trained by some fabulous people in our field, like Dr. Patrick Carnes, I was noticing this missing element of… We were talking about childhood trauma. We were talking about how trauma could impact a young child and create a craving for an addictive substance, but we weren’t talking about culture and how culture traumatizes women. And women are traumatized, they’re probably going to pass that down to their children.

Dr. Kate: Absolutely.

Lauren: Right.

Kelly: It right? And that mothering was being misunderstood. It was not being given the cultural context that would allow us to not blame mothers but rather understand this intergenerational transmission of self-loathing, of shame and of body hatred.

Lauren: Yes.

Dr. Kate: That is such a key point. And Lauren and I were touching on that before we brought you into the conversation, about how it’s so complicated for women to have this conversation because oftentimes there is a taboo about starting a dialogue that might somehow contaminate the image of motherhood, when in fact that’s not the purpose of this conversation. It’s to acknowledge all of the trauma that women so often carry and unknowingly and unwittingly pass along to their children.

Lauren: Right. And I think that brings up an important point when you talk about like the shame and you know, body shaming that parents… mothers pass on to their daughters and that was passed on to them and it’s so interesting to follow that inter-generationally.

Kelly: It truly is. And I believe that… writers such as Mary Pipher who wrote Reviving Ophelia which was a pivotal turning point from mothers who were raising adolescents and even mothers raising themselves as they try to raise their adolescents. Right? And she really talks about how… and this is before epigenetics was proven. We didn’t have the science to prove this inherited body template, this inherited heart template, this inherited brain structure that what our mother believed about herself, we are going to believe as well. Unless we can consciously change those thoughts.

Dr. Kate: Yeah. It’s interesting in your writing Kelly you mentioned a lot about what various prominent researchers such as Allan Shur have mentioned that the brains of children who were lovingly nurtured in childhood look markedly different from the brains of children who have been starved for affection, even if their mothers were present. How do you think this shows up for women in their adult lives?

Kelly: I think this is the key question and the core question if we’re going to be talking about addiction in women. I really feel that the changes that happen in the brain for an infant female child if she’s not touched, if she’s been neglected and abused are so profound that she would find a substance very early in life to self-soothe. And her first access is to her body. Whether that’s some sucking or accidentally discovering the pleasures from her genitals; so she learns to masturbate. And she’ll have access to food generally to fairly early on, much before drugs and alcohol. And so when that infant brain is deprived of its basic need for touch, safety and being cherished, she will adapt strategies to feel… well, I should say to numb out the terror, to numb out the terror of being alone. And what an infant would do is have to really dissociate if she’s being terrified. This is where her brain is becoming changed. How we see this in adulthood? She’s thoroughly adapted to this dissociation by having the external personality and an adapted persona because she can show the world that her true self is hidden from everyone including herself. And addiction is usually providing that mask. And if it’s a love addiction, it’s particularly challenging to treat because it can look like a healthy search for intimacy. It sort of becomes destructive.

Lauren: Right.

Dr. Kate: Yeah. So, can you define a little bit more about some of the core beliefs that show up when someone has a mother hunger?

Kelly: Sure. You know, and I want to differentiate beliefs that comes from mother hunger and beliefs that come from living in a culture that devalues women. Right? A culture that has inherit unwritten rules that men are superior, and men deserve things, that women don’t deserve. Those create all kinds of terrible cultural beliefs and sometimes they merge with the beliefs that also can come from mother hunger.

Dr. Kate: That’s a really good point.

Kelly: What I predominantly see that I think I can tend to distinctly mother hunger. And again it’s hard to differentiate this from culture, because it’s been transmitted; women to women. But is a real… knowing that something to the core of me is unlovable.

Dr. Kate: It’s a belief…

Kelly: But if my mother couldn’t love me… This is not conscious, right? This is unconscious until a woman really does some deep work. But if my mother can’t love me, something is so profoundly wrong with me. So I get with women that there’s been this lifelong pursuit of something, right? And that could come from work, that could come from relationships, that could come from body image. Something that will just finally help us feel okay. That we just deserve to take up space on the planet.

Lauren: Yeah. Right.

Dr. Kate: Well, that’s just so profound what you said. Just the feeling of inherently… well, believing that you’re inherently unlovable and flawed, and that you have to constantly be proving yourself as worthy throughout your life, really set the stage for women to be performing throughout their lives and aligning with a construct that doesn’t really feel authentic to themselves just to get love.

Lauren: Right. And I think it’s an important topic that you’ve brought up as well about how these processes are subconscious. Because a lot of people could “say no I know my mom loved me you know, but just felt like the validation or the attention, it just always felt like it wasn’t enough you know no matter what they did, it wasn’t enough.”

Dr. Kate: So, Kelly one question that I have for you: what would you say to mothers who might be listening to our program today who are either feeling themselves get angry or feeling defensive like that didn’t happen for me, I was a great mother. Or and might be questioning like oh yikes! Did I do some of this with my daughter?

Kelly: Yes. I’m so glad you brought that up because I do think as a woman and as a mother, this is a very triggering topic if you have children already, you’ve already raised your children. You might be facing some of… watching them struggle, and I think if we watch our children struggle and we feel their pain and we have the capacity to fit with that, we can’t help but go back and ask ourselves could I have done something better? what did I do wrong? I mean, mother shame and mother guilt so hard anyway, let’s add more.

Dr. Kate: Right [laugh]

Lauren: Right [laugh]

Kelly: That is so not my intent. Right? It’s the last thing I want to do. And so I always like to remind mothers to think about the fact that you first and foremost are a woman, and you first and foremost were a daughter. And the world is coming along way with helping mothers learn to become mothers.

Dr. Kate: Absolutely

Kelly: Just because we have… Yeah.

Dr. Kate: On that note, we have to take a quick break, but when we come back, let’s finish up that thought and discuss more about mother hunger and addiction in women with our special guest Kelly McDaniel, author of the book ready to heal, and we’ll be hearing from Amy Dresner, author of My Fair Junkie. Stay with us, we’ll be right back.

[After break]

Dr. Kate: Welcome back. You’re listening to talk radio 790 KABC. This is Behind Closed Doors, I’m Dr. Kate Balestrieri.

Lauren: And I’m Lauren Dummit.

Dr. Kate: And if you’re just tuning in, we are focusing our topic today on mother hunger and addiction in women. We’ve got with us special guest Kelly McDaniel, author of the book Ready to Heal: Breaking Free of Addictive Relationships which is a book that any woman who has struggled with addiction or dissatisfaction in her own skin, in my opinion should read. And we’re also bringing on with us right now Amy Dresner, the author of My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean. And we’re so excited to have Amy on. Her book is a page turner, it is so raw and so honest, and so concisely paints a picture of what it’s like to be the woman who is healing and all of the bumps that come along the way. Welcome Amy.

Amy: Thank you.

Lauren: Thanks for coming.

Amy: Thanks for having me.

Dr. Kate: Yeah. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what prompted you to write this book.

Amy: Ahhh! Just sort of digesting what she just… what Kelly? Kelly said “wow. I should have read her book before I wrote my book.” [laugh]

Dr. Kate: [laugh]

Lauren: [laugh]

Amy: I had been an addiction calmness for the an addiction recovery magazine online for about six years and readers kept saying write a book, write a book. And then some things happened in my life that sort of precipitated me into a very… well, you know I was married and it was going awfully and I was at a chronic relapser. And I pulled a knife on my now ex-husband cause no one really likes to be stabbed. And so…

Dr. Kate: Well, unless that’s their thing [laugh]

Amy: Naturally into that. I think that’s something discussed together as a couple before. So I was arrested for felony and domestic violence with a deadly weapon, and I went to jail and I lost everything. And this was in my forties after you know, struggling with 20 years already of addiction and I ended up penniless in a psych ward and was sentenced to 20 or 48 hours of community labor; that’s sweeping the streets and living in you know, sober, living for two and half years and just rebuilding everything. And then I had an epiphany about my life and me and my addiction and…

Dr. Kate: What was the epiphany?

Amy: That it didn’t matter who had created the problem; genetics or my parents, it was mine to solve and that I needed to take full responsibility for my actions and my behaviors, and that I wasn’t a victim that I was doing this to myself to a certain extent and that I needed to grow up. For me addiction was really about not growing up. And the more I stayed broken, and the more I stayed relapsing, the more I stayed sort of crazy, as I’ll say it. I was in the psych ward a bunch of times and you know, diagnosed with a zillion different mental illnesses, on lots of different meds while shooting cocaine or smoking crystal, you know. Everyone kept taking care of me. I married someone that took care of me. My parents were taking care of me until everyone was like I’m over it. And it was… and I thought I’ve got to grow up and I’ve got to take care of myself like it’s… you know.

Lauren: So you’re really speaking about that developmental immaturity that is so much a product of having grown up with traumatic dysfunctional dynamics.

Amy: Traumatic dysfunction and also with money. I mean, I grew up with money and everything was thrown at me and given to me and I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t have to take care of myself. And so I thought… so I grew up with this weird empty entitlement which caused me to have no self-esteem because I had never done anything for myself. And then I was absolutely sort of crippled cause I didn’t think I could. But a lot… there’s a lot of addiction and mental illness in my family. And I’d been a comic for five years, the book is funny. [cross talk]

Dr. Kate: The book is so funny [laugh]

Amy: Right? It’s funny. You have to make it funny cause when people are splitting their wrist and shooting open their neck, you have to make it funny otherwise people are going to throw up themselves. You know, you gotta, you have to. And… Yeah. So I wanted to… I wanted other addicts to feel less alone and I wanted people who had friends or family who were addicts to understand addiction better. So I brought you into the addict’s brain and let you live my life with me just front seat, full throtle.

Lauren: And you certainly did a good job with that. [laugh]

Dr. Kate: You did. I felt like I was living inside a tiny nook inside your brain, just watching everything from the driver’s seat. It was so well written. And really I said to you earlier, just punctuated with sarcasm, wit, humility and the kind of levity that you need to really just learn.

Lauren: And so much authenticity and vulnerability.

Amy: Yeah. I pretty much laid it all out on the line.

Lauren: You did.

Dr. Kate: You did.

Amy: And you know people are like “you’re really brave.” I’m like “or stupid.”

Dr. Kate: [laugh]

Lauren: [laugh]

Amy: I’m not sure but… You know I just think if you’re trying to look good in an addiction memoir, you’re really not being honest enough. [laugh]

Dr. Kate: [laugh]

Lauren: [laugh] So true

Amy: But. Yeah there was definitely some you know, hearing about what Kelly was talking about. My mother was raised by a schizophrenic and my mother was also an alcohol and drug addict. Although she was sober. So, I think I was three when she got sober.

Dr. Kate: You were three. Okay.

Amy: But she was emotionally very unavailable. She had a very flat affect; almost schizoid-affective and she was a workaholic. And she left when I was thirteen to go to Mexico. She was going to have a nervous breakdown. So I was raised primarily by my father. My father was my mommy.

Dr. Kate: He was your mother and your father.

Amy: Yeah. In one. And that got really complicated and confusing when I hit puberty.

Lauren: I bet.

Dr. Kate: Yeah.

Amy: You know, crawling into his bed, having nightmares. I’m 14 and he’s naked and use kind of like putting a sheet, but he has to be my mom and it was like very… you know. And I was raised to be sort of his emotional life. And so I can play poker, I can ride a bike I can play basketball. I can’t cook, I don’t know how to put makeup on. It’s like I’m sort of… I identify… I mean I’m a straight woman but I have a lot of masculine energy if that makes sense. And took me a long time to embrace my femininity and my nurturing side which I did through working with a quadriplegic which I did through working… taking care of a baby and which I do through helping other women get sober.

Dr. Kate: Okay. You mentioned in your book. One of the things that was really hard for you is you made the migration from a child into an adolescent was remaining asexual so that you wouldn’t run the risk of losing your father’s love. Can you say a little bit more about that?

Amy: Yeah. I mean so I’m 15/16. I remember I got my period around fourteen, and it’s just me and my father living in a house. And I you know, I was so embarrassed and I thought if I grow up and become a sexual being, he will push me away and he’s my primary caretaker and I can’t let that happen. I wrote a note and I said ‘I got my period. Please don’t think I’m a grown up’. And I threw it on his desk. I fold it up, I threw it on his desk and I ran up into my room and I was crying in my closet. And he came in and said “hey Ams. Do you want to go to the pharmacy or something? Was that what we do? I don’t know.”

Dr. Kate: [laugh]

Lauren: [laugh]

Amy: But I didn’t have any… I didn’t kiss anyone until I was eighteen. I didn’t have… I didn’t lose my virginity until I was nineteen because I felt that sexuality was an area that was not for me. Because I could not afford to go there in myself cause my father would push me. I was afraid my father would push me away.

And so developing a sex addiction later on after I got sober was so not what I ever expected would happen to me. That was… [cross talk] that’s not on the card.

Lauren: Well, the pendulum swings one way.. [laugh]

Amy: It was really…Yeah. For sure. And that was the thing. I had been very sort of into purity in high school, it’s like, “drugs are a cop-out.” . And then you know, fast forward four years and I’m smoking meth and people were like huh? You know. And so, it’s… You know, when Kelly was talking about all of the self-soothing, I remember masturbating very very young when she said that. Was the first time that really came to me. And I had… I felt like I shouldn’t be on the planet, very young. And that there was something innately wrong with me which were… you know, I always thought was the addiction, but I think that there’s something else. It was like… I was I’m like I’m too ugly I shouldn’t be on the planet, I shouldn’t be allowed to breathe. And that was like at fifteen when I started to get depressed. I had a nervous breakdown at nineteen, became anorexia bulimic and that was my first addiction was with food and withholding food.

Lauren: Right.

Dr. Kate: You know, it’s interesting that you say that because one of the quotes in your books that really stood out to me and it’s something that so many of my patients who are struggling from addictions say. “It is the same thing about sex”, they say. “All of my addictions are the same formula.”—This is your quote. “I put something in my body and I change my feelings. It doesn’t matter if it’s a doughnut or a Xanax or a penis.” So, I mean it really speaks to just that constant searching for something to fill the hole that you had.

Kelly: Yeah. It was like. So, then… I mean I realized once I got sober and I was going through sort of a divorce and a criminal trial. And I had to stay clean and sober, but I had to get out on my body. I had to get out on my feelings. And all of a sudden, there was this way… And I knew I was looking for love, I knew that. Right? But I was… I thought I’m liberated, I’m free you know. There’s that whole like you know, slut walk and da da da. I was trying to really embrace that. But I would go and have these like you know two-hour encounters and never talk to these people again and drive home crying and go “I don’t ever want to do that again.” I feel so debased and just so urgh! You know, just be in the shower just sobbing. Then I will just do it again because it felt you know, was that same excitement and it was a chance. And of course I was thinking… I was hoping that each of these guys would become my boyfriend; save me and you know marry me and blah blah blah, but. You know, and it was also just I needed a check out, I needed a connection.

Lauren: And to be seen.

Amy: Yeah. And addiction is like… the core of it is feeling lonely I’m disconnected and unlovable. And this was you know me feeling validated as a beautiful sexual woman. Although men will have sex with someone with a wooden eye and a pole leg.

Dr. Kate: [laugh]

Lauren: [laugh]

Amy: It doesn’t really matter you know, so…

Dr. Kate: You mentioned in your book that you could have great sex with people that you didn’t care anything about, but you couldn’t even have decent sex with someone that you did care about. How do you reconcile that dichotomy when you’re saying that you really were searching for love?

Amy: Uhmm. I think it was the… that was the fear of being seen. That was a fear of being vulnerable and really being seen. I’ve worked through that and now I fell madly in love and I was just in a relationship for 2 years. And since that relationship has ended, I’ve actually been celibate for almost a year and a half. I don’t know if that’s healthy or not, but I guess you know.

I can’t… Now the idea of having sex with someone I don’t know is like repulsive to me. But for me, the idea of the emotional and sexual intimacy together was too much. It was too much to be seen that way.

Dr. Kate: Good. Thank you for that. We’re going to take a quick break here, but when we come back more about mother hunger and addiction in women with our special guest Kelly McDaniel, author of the book Ready to Heal: Breaking Free of Addictive Relationships and Amy Dresner, author of My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook @triunetherapygroup and message us with your questions. Stay with us, we’ll be right back.

[After break]

Dr. Kate: Welcome back. You’re listening to talk radio 790KABC. If you’ve just turned in, you’re listening to behind closed doors. I’m Dr. Kate Balestrieri.

Lauren: And I’m Lauren Dummit.

Dr. Kate: And we are here with Kelly McDaniel, author of the book Ready to Heal: Breaking Free of Addictive Relationships and Amy Dresner, author of My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean. And today were talking about mother hunger and addiction in women. So when we left off, we were talking about the impact of mother hunger on relationships and on our ability to regulate and…

Lauren: Yeah. I’m really curious. You talked about how your mom left at an early age and you became really close with your dad. Then you talked later on about your relationships with men. I’m really curious how it affected your relationships with women and what that was like for you.

Amy: I’ve always felt… you know my father had a lot of wives

Lauren: [laugh].

Dr. Kate: [laugh] Including you.

Amy: Yeah. And I felt… so I had a lot of sort of a sub-maternal figures like a god mothers and step mothers. But I found them… I considered them a threat and I didn’t consider them in maternal figure at all

Lauren: Oh I can see that.

Amy: I was very threatening by them because they were going to take my father and my father was everything. I have always had close female friends. I didn’t particularly like women. I felt very unfeminine and so I felt other women are like hi and I’m like hi. You know, and I felt I didn’t feel feminine. I felt like I was this weird other sorts of species and felt less than. So I just was very jealous of other women, but I was nice to them. You know, it wasn’t until I had ended up at a female sober living for two-and-a-half years that I really had to bond with women and learned the power of sisterhood in amazing women who could really empower you and love you and encourage you without feeling threatened and all of that kind of stuff. But even now you know, most of my therapists have been men. I’m in a 12-step program. My sponsor is a man. I’ve had a lot of male sponsors because I… that to me… that authority voice is what I can hear.

Lauren: You identify with that energy.

Dr. Kate: Yeah. That’s so interesting. Kelly can… do you have any thoughts on that and why it’s difficult for women with mother hunger issues to really bond with women or let them in?

Kelly: I have so many thoughts about that. Yes. And I think Amy’s done a beautiful job of speaking to the difficulties that women with mother hunger will have trusting other women, attaching to other women or even respecting other women. In Ready to Heal, like I outlined it for women that struggle with addictive issues. They pick women for a few reasons. None of this is conscious of course, but there’s either the acting out friend: so this is somebody that can kind of go on the hunt with her. There’s the crush, cause women with mother hunger do develop crushes on other women. They may question their own sexual orientation and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with that. It is that primal yearning for a woman that you could role modelled yourself after, that you could study, that you could… that wants to be around you. And then there are the woman that just kind of bore you, but you tolerate them and put up with them because you don’t want to face your own loneliness.

So, how to actually have a friend for women with mother hunger is a lifelong learning process and I love Amy that you’ve got two years in a sober living with women. I think that is probably one of the best training grounds for learning to relate without men around, without other substances around and you get to go back to being little.

Amy: Right. It’s so reparative.

Dr. Kate: It’s also one of the big gifts about going to gender specific recovery groups. Right? Because so often women with addiction, men with addiction really struggle with same gender relationships and getting those intimacy needs met in a way that is non sexual.

Lauren: I think it’s really important when we are working on intimacy to develop them within our gender specific groups because we really get to practice in a way that not sexualized.

Kelly: Well, you’re exactly right. And I find that a lot of women with mother hunger, they don’t come to work with me for a 2 or 3 day intensive until they’re very much older. Most women are fifties sixties and seventies. By that time, they can’ tolerate the concept of being this close to a woman, giving her a sense of maybe you could help me for a few days because it’s terrifying.

Lauren: Right.

Dr. Kate: That is. Amy You look like you wanted to…

Amy: Why just… I’m so blown away by everything you’re saying I’m just like me too! Me too! Me too! You know. Yeah I got a crush on a woman and I thought I was gay.

Kelly: Sure

Amy: And I got really confused and….

Dr. Kate: You mentioned in your book because she had very masculine features and had an energy about her that was really… I’m imagining safe for you because she wasn’t traditionally female.

Kelly: Yeah. She didn’t like me so I punched her. [laugh]

Dr. Kate: [laugh]

Lauren: [laugh]

Kelly: [laugh]

Amy: During… this is during my violent stage before I got arrested. And I don’t punch people or pull knives anymore. But yeah. I just… it’s interesting when I had all these women roommates, I had to kind of deal with it. They’re sleeping 20 feet away from me. But what really shifted me, and it’s in the book, is the house manager. The house manager had a baby, and all these women that I was living with were mother’s; they all her children. And so she went around and she was like this is my first baby, she won’t stop crying can you do something? And everyone tried their tricks and none of them worked. The baby would not stop screaming and so she came to me and said Amy. And I said I’m the most…. I’m the least maternal person. And I’ve never had a child, I don’t want a child. And she goes, “please just try something.”

Lauren: Wow

Dr. Kate: What did you do?

Amy: And I slung the baby over my shoulder and I started doing what my mom I remembered my mom did when I was a little girl called the [making rolling r sound] cause I grew up in Mexico also. And I started to just [makes rolling r sound]. And the baby passed out on my shoulder. And everyone was like what? You know, I was like yeah I’m the baby whisperer! And I nannied that baby for an entire year. That baby was strapped to me. I had an incredibly intense connection. And being able to be nurturing to a child allowed me to open up that space in me. And after that I was able to have a really beautiful relationship where I was a terrific partner and a very nurturing partner.

Lauren: Well it sounds like that positive experience with your mother was also in your cells. Like on a primal level, you just remembered how to do that.

Amy: I mean, my mother you know, she also was the person who kind of rescued me during all of my relapses and seizures. But you wanted me to talk about something. You know, when I was a little girl, I would have nightmares when I would sleep at my mother’s house. So, and I always slept with my bed… in bed with my mother till I was thirteen which is really weird. And I would do… did I tell you I did all those stories. Oh my God! Right? Too many relapses and seizures. [laugh] Okay. She’s like do you tell this story? Yeah. But I use to sleep on my mom’s chest while she was reading cause it was the only time I could be close to her cause she did not like to be touched. And I’m very very touchy. I need to be touched a lot.

Dr. Kate: Yeah. I remember reading in your book how when your mom would come, and you were little.

Lauren: Oh, It’s so sad.

Dr. Kate: You would run up to her and give her a hug, and her first response would be let me change first, so that you don’t wrinkle my pants.

Amy: Don’t wrinkle my Armani honey. And I just couldn’t wait. And it’s like that sort of weird eager neediness is what fueled all my addictions. Was like I felt discomfort and I had to get out. And I… that was with drugs and stuff.

Dr. Kate: Was your father affectionate with you?

Amy: Very. Overly. There was times when it almost got… like people… I was seventeen holding my dad’s hand and people were like, “are you his girlfriend or his daughter?” Because he was my mommy. So it got… that got really confusing.

Dr. Kate: Well Kelly I wonder you know, for all of our listeners out there who are struggling with some of these issues around mother hunger, is there hope? I mean, can they go on to heal this wound? Can they go on to have healthy relationships with their mothers?

Kelly: I think that even Amy is answering that question beautifully. Amy your story about this infant and how even the little bit of touch you did get from your mother was hard wired into you. You were able to expend that. It’s one of the most beautiful stories of hope I’ve heard in a long long time. Yes. Healing this does happen. We know now that the brain is able to be re-wired and neuroplasticity thing, but we have to do that in connection. We can’t do it by ourselves.

Dr. Kate: That’s so key. Well, I just want to say thank you to both of you. Kelly it has been such an honor having you on our show today to talk about mother hunger, especially on the tenth anniversary of your book.

Kelly: Yes. I know.

Amy: That’s so exciting Kelly. Wow. Congratulations!

Lauren: And it really is an honor to share that with you today.

Kelly: Well, I feel thrilled and really impressed with how well you all have organized such really poinent information for your audience.

Lauren: Thank you.

Kelly: For the great service.

Dr. Kate: Thank you. And thank you Amy for showing up, being real, telling it like it is and…

Lauren: Keeping us laughing.

Dr. Kate: Yeah [laugh] I encourage everyone to go pick up both books: Ready to Heal and My Fair Junkie. They’re available on Amazon and we are going to be offering a sweepstakes on our Instagram and Facebook pages to win free autographed copies of both. So follow us social media; on Instagram and Facebook @triunetherapygroup. We’re going to be having a sweepstakes; giving away autographed copies of My Fair Junkie and Ready to Heal and a couple of other goodies this week. And next week, join us. We’re going to be talking about narcissism with our returning guest Debra Kaplan, the author of For Love and Money. And don’t forget to give us a call at 310-933-4088 or visit our website at to catch this episode again and learn about how you can contact Amy or Kelly for additional information about the work that they do and what they’ve got to offer.

Thanks so much everyone. We do this for you and have a great weekend.

Lauren: Thank you.

Amy: Thanks for having me.

Dr. Kate: Thank you.


Ask the experts

Often, when anger is the first response, it’s considered impolite, crazy, bitchy or dismissed as overly emotional. Yet, there are many instances in which one’s anger is stirred, and the key is putting it to good use. For instance, when a loved one is unfaithful, or when insensitive remarks are made concerning one’s ambitions or dreams, when feelings are questioned or when a woman is told to be more vulnerable and subservient. Though family and social expectations place unnecessary burdens on women (and men too), they can channel their anger-filled responses into action by going against the grain, pursuing their own interests or business, going to graduate school and much more. In turn, they’re encouraged to surround themselves with like-minded individuals, committed to supporting and cheering on one another, and ultimately helping the other discover their true potential. This system of support will continue to help individuals convert their anger into action, and perhaps enjoy a few laughs, too.

Yes. One hundred percent. Women are socialized to put relationships before themselves, and this often leads to stifling anger or any feeling that might compromise the bond between two people. This is especially the case in their relationships with men, or in competition for men, and over time, women’s anger and aggression has become more user wraps, or covert. Passive aggression seems to be both the only “acceptable” means of communicating anger, but women are also labeled “manipulative” when they attempt to express themselves indirectly. It becomes a vicious circle of anger, denial or minimization of anger, and then make ourselves smaller just to avoid being a “problem.”

While it is becoming more acceptable for women to show anger, progress is slow. Most of the time, female anger is couched in comedy or parody, and only accepted in small soundbites. Those invested in a patriarchal perspective, men and women, hold firm in their beliefs that women ought to act a certain way, or not make waves. The vary act of saying “we’re angry!” is a bold and pioneering move. Further, some women hold more internalized oppressive views, and refuse to participate in a movement that is labeled feminist or angry. For some women, to do so would compromise their social standing, romantic relationships, financial security, etc. It is scary, because the backlash is real. To take a stand is mark of bravery, and not everyone is ready to avail themselves to the fiery response of those in opposition. My opinion is that over time, the backlash will subside and change will take place. Cultural growth is a slow moving process, and with every voice heard, the collective voice of a paradigm shift grows louder and more effective. I don’t think women (or men) should care about acceptability. The more those who are angry attempt to hustle for the approval of their oppressors, the more power is given away. From my perspective, those who are angry a well suited to unite and establish new norms, refusing to tolerate mistreatment any further.

There are so many way to channel one’s anger constructively. I do not condone any violence (unless in self-defense) and instead think about using anger as a collaborating force within and with others. Being of service to others is one way to channel anger. This is especially relevant because so many women today do not have strong female role models, who they can turn to for advice. Get engaged. Mentor younger women, get a mentor, get creative. How can you pass along the resources (i.e., emotional, financial, logistic, etc) that were not available to you and resulted in your marginalization? What do you wish existed that could have helped you through a particularly challenging experience? Create it. I did, and it changed my relationship with anger and helped me take it for what it is a healthy emotion that lets us know when we feel disrespected or mistreated. This is key information that keeps us psychologically and rationally healthy. Anger is invaluable and an essential part of the human experience. When we embrace that, we can make it work for us in myriad ways.

As a psychologist, patients, friends and family are always asking me advice on their relationships and, let’s be real, everyone else’s relationships. One of the biggest questions they have, is why are there no good men or no good women out there? There are good people out there, I reassure them, but they inevitably come back with some retort about having to settle or face being single forever; for some, a fate worse than death. So herein lies the conundrum stay single forever or settle. Well, let’s back out of the black and white thinking that keeps us stuck for a moment and think about what it means to settle. Most of us have arbitrary ideas or checklists we drag around to assess our swiping situation. Does he make a certain amount of money? Is she pretty enough to take around my friends? Is she/he tall enough/too tall? Is she/he fit enough? What kind of car does he/she drive? Do they like dogs? All-important questions, but what do they really mean about a person’s character or how well you’ll get along? When considering the question of settling, it is important to ask what we:

  1. need in relationships
  2. want in relationships and
  3. won’t tolerate in relationships?

No two relational blue prints will look the same, and there are no right or wrong answers. Let’s look at needs first. We all have intimacy needs, like support, trust, security, communication, touch, respect, etc. They may change over time. That’s okay. Its hardwired in us. We also have relationship wants, the qualities that might ignite our fire a little more intensely. Physical appearance, fitness level, similar hobbies, values, job, financial standing, etc. are examples of wants. There is nothing wrong with wanting whatever you want in a partner. But many times, we mistake our wants for needs and then we feel like we’re settling if the want boxes are not checked, because we’re ignoring the meaning we assign to these traits. For example, consider meeting someone who is two inches shorter than your preferred height in a partner. He or she is funny, witty, charming, consistent, honest, and generous with their time, all of the other wants and needs you’ve identified. They just happen to be a little short-changed in the height department. What does height mean to you? Does it represent strength? Safety? Protection? Status? What does it mean about you if you date this person anyway? Whose judgment do you hear in your head? Why is their judgment so important? Asking these tough questions can help you decide if this is a want or a need, and if the underlying meaning is a need, can that need be met in other ways by this partner or other people in your circle? We often expect our partner to meet all of our needs, and overlook the inevitable disappointment in that expectation. Many people do not know what they need or want in relationships, because they are so eager to be in a relationship that they haven’t stopped to consider what they are looking for in their other half. They accept what is available, to avoid being alone. One day, they wake up and think, “Hey, I think I want more than this. I wish my partner would….” and realize that they might be settling but are afraid to leave. This brings me back to the last point, knowing what you won’t tolerate in relationships. It is just as important to know what doesn’t work for you when considering whether to start, stay in or leave a relationship. For some, deal breakers might include violence or infidelity. For others, perhaps smoking or liking heavy metal is the end of the line. Knowing yourself is key in defining your needs, wants, and deal breakers for relationships. If you don’t know some answers to these three factors, perhaps you’ve been neglectful (and settling!) in the most relationship of all, the relationship you have with yourself. Only when you set intentions and cultivate a relationship with yourself can you invite in the kind of love you are seeking and deserve to have. Until then, you’ll be running in circles, chasing ideas and looking to define yourself in the reflection of another.

Obsession, a thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind, is often what drives addiction. Obsession is about hypervigilance. When we feel the object of our affection (whether real or in fantasy) may not feel the same way, we perseverate about them, ourselves and the relationship. This rumination and over-focus is an emotional survival strategy that keeps our brain playing out all of the what-ifs and looking for answers to the sometimes unconscious ques- tion, “How can I make sure my partner doesn’t leave me?” A milder version of obsession can look like ruminating thoughts. “What if he likes her more than me?” “Did she talk to her ex-boy- friend last night?” “If only I lost those last 10 pounds…” Perhaps you find yourself checking their social media accounts for proof they are with you, or have moved on. Maybe you enlist your friends or family to investigate or check on your desired. At the extremes, obsession can morph into stalking and domestic violence. If we feel threatened at the loss of someone, and re- taliate with this level of possession, it can be dangerous for everyone involved. Contrary to what may be glamorized in movies, extreme jealously and stalking are not healthy courtship behaviors, and can lead to emotional and physical trouble.

Obsession with another person may be a symptom of love addiction, which is essentially an ad- diction to the experience or “high” of being in love, and generally appears on the form of putting another person on a pedestal, creating the fantasy that they are perfect or the one, ignoring their faults or certain red flags that point to the contrary. Love addicts often expect their partners to care for all of their needs. Love addicts often neglect to care for or value themselves while they in the relationship. There often exists a toxic bond or an obsessive attachment in love addicted relationships. Love addicts often continue to engage in the relationship, trying desperately to connect as they search for their self-worth in the relationship, even if the object of their desire is pejorative, hurtful, or abusive. Inappropriate boundaries, abuse, neglect, intimacy issues, chaos, drama are some of the deleterious characteristics of these relationships. Love addicts suffer from profound feelings of shame, anguish, and fear of abandonment.

Since love addicts typically suffer from an anxious or preoccupied attachment (hypervigilance about their partner or the relationship), some signs to watch out for would be someone who is wanting speedy closeness, says “I love you before the first argument, has poor boundaries, is constantly expressing insecurities and worrying about rejection, is often very unhappy when not in a relationship, plays games to keep your attention, has difficulty with direct communication, struggles to effectively express their wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings, expecting you to guess or read his or her mind, acts out, tries to make you jealous, always makes things about him/her- self in the relationship, lets you set the tone of the relationship, seems preoccupied with the relationship, calls or texts excessively, stops by your home or work unexpectedly, fears that the small acts will ruin the relationship, seems to be trying too hard to keep your interest, and is extremely jealous.

If you suspect that the person you are getting to know has obsessive or love addicted tendencies, this does not mean you have to cut them out of your life completely. However, it is important to take things slowly, establish very clear boundaries, assess what works for you and get consulta- tion from friends and loved ones about your experience, pay attention to any attempts to get you to change or disregard your boundaries or needs, use direct, clear communication, and effectively verbalize your wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings. – Dr. Kate Balestrieri, Psy.D., CSAT-S, Licensed Clinical and Forensic Psychologist, and Lauren Dummit-Schock, LMFT, CSAT, CoFounder

The first step to getting help from this type of toxic relationship is to recognize narcissism in your partner or spouse. This involves identifying the traits and warning signs of this disorder, which you may have been living with for quite some time. At Triune Therapy Group, we have skilled clinicians who are highly trained to treat those that are in a relationship with a narcissist.

To help you understand the condition and how you may or may not have been affected, please explore the following Frequently Asked Questions and Answers provided by Licensed Psychologist Dr. Kate Balestrieri: Read More FAQs About Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Perhaps the greatest hope surrounding the #MeToo movement and other similar movements is that it will generate an awareness of the magnitude of sexual assault and harassment, particularly in the workplace. In doing so, maybe it will initiate and rebirth conversations regarding equality that have since gone underground. This is important, because many people fail to see the ways in which others misuse power and privilege, and how this leads them to engage in predatory behaviors. In another sense, the #MeToo movement could educate people on how to avoid being exploitative, while enlightening them on affirmative consent, power imbalances and how to classify and pursue intimacy and happiness in a authentic, healthy manner.

I work with new mothers and I have on multiple occasions worked with mothers who have experienced a the loss of a pregnancy close to becoming a mother. It is indeed a double whammy. There is so much that gets stirred up, and it intensifies the transition into motherhood and the processing of these loss, exacerbating common life-cycle events, and resulting in undue pressure on new moms, emotionally, physically, spiritually. When we’re trying to understand how motherhood and losses affect us, it is imperative to remember that the transition into motherhood and assimilation of loss are multi-dimensional and encompass physical, social, emotional, spiritual aspects of humanity. Although we mostly associate motherhood with new beginnings and joy, the questions of loss and death and endings actually also come up. Becoming mothers is a definite end to our earlier self, our pre-motherhood bodies and relationships, and mothers must mourn how the idealized fantasy of motherhood is never matched with the reality of the day to day. This is all considered “normal” to go through unless it gets complicated with trauma or major stressors. But if the transition to motherhood coincides with a loss, mothers get all of this thrown at them at the speed of light. It’s like existential pressure overload. – Helena Vissing, M.S., Psy.D. Clinical Associate, Psychological Assistant

The mental health of mothers is a major public health concern. Research demonstrates that depression and anxiety in mothers impact their children. The exact ways children are impacted by their mothers’ mental health involves a complex interplay of factors. We always have to look at the unique combination of risk factors and protective factors for each mother-child couple. If you grew up with a mother who suffered from postpartum depression, you are not necessarily determined to suffer. But we know that on a large public health scale, there is a clear connection between mothers’ mental health and lifelong mental health of their children. The immediate effects of mothers’ depression is that babies become withdrawn and irritable. This is happening at a sensitive time when babies are beginning their lifelong development of emotion regulation. Development is layered and scaffolding throughout life, so a baby who is experiencing these challenges already during their first years will be What we often experience in the consulting room is adults who struggle with feelings of shame and inadequacy or “never being enough”, even when they are normally functioning. They might describe a vague sense of unworthiness that has always “haunted” them. Although it’s widely acknowledged now that our sense of ourselves is rooted in our earliest relationships, it is still overlooked how issues in this area can stem from the emotional pain the child of a depressed mother experienced. This pain does not just disappear as the child grows or if the mother’s mental health improves, as it has influences the very core of the child’s sense of self. Infants and children are developmentally unable to make sense of the intensity of their mother’s depression, but they still feel it. This is because our earliest sense of self is built from our early nonverbal and physical experiences of being cared for. The only way and infant can interpret the signals from a depressed mother is to internalize it, which manifest as a sense of never being enough. Even when the child grows up to be an adult who can rationally separate their mother’s emotions from their own self-worth, the early experiences can still linger and manifest as issues with unworthiness. For each person, it’s a unique story of with all the risk factors and the negative impact on one hand, and then all the mitigating factors and strengths on the other hand. The adult who describes feeling shame and unworthiness might struggle to pinpoint the root of their issues, especially if their mother’s emotional issues were hidden, denied in the family, or minimized. The mother’s emotional state during the crucial early years is often that missing piece to help an adult fully understand their development and life story. Often they are not in a position to communicate about sensitive material with their mothers. This is why it’s crucial that maternal mental health is addressed clearly at all levels of society. The taboo still surrounding motherhood and postpartum emotional issue has devasting consequences for the entire family. I know this is a lot. Feel free to use what makes sense, and let me know if I should clarify things? I tried to use language for laypeople. – Helena Vissing, M.S., Psy.D.