Category Archives: healing

flashback

I got a glimpse of myself tonight.

Not myself now, but maybe a year and a half ago…that was me, then.

Before I arrived tonight, I was already expecting some heavy stuff at the meeting.  One of the other “professionals” who was there had sent me an email, letting me know about some recent events for this family.  And these events didn’t come out of the blue.  I knew their past, I knew why their husband and father no longer lived at home, though he’s still around.  I knew about his temper.

The topic came up, I asked her if she would be willing to get some help now (she wasn’t ready before).

She started talking, it seemed like she couldn’t stop.

And I heard myself in her words.

The denial, the fear, the doubt that she would be taken seriously by the domestic violence counselors—it was all so familiar.

She mentioned PTSD, and in an apologetic way said that the incident the previous week had brought it all up for her again, the way any number of things can do.  Triggers, I said.  I knew because I was experiencing my own.  I could have finished her sentences.  I know about feeling unsafe.

There were some other things that were hard about the meeting, details about the “incident” that I won’t share (you’re welcome).

Something I found interesting was that though she has experienced physical violence (which I never had to deal with, thankfully), that wasn’t what she wanted to talk about.  She kept telling us about the things he would say to her, the things he still says to her.  She didn’t go on about the bruises he left, but she went on and on about how stupid he tells her she is, how weak, how worthless.

The one bright moment of the meeting was when, as the three professionals were working at convincing this woman how strong she is, her child told her mom she was like a Rottweiler, while he is just a Chihuahua.

Male Rottweiler, 1½ years old

Image via Wikipedia

I started crying when I was on the freeway, headed home.  My hands shook a bit, but I didn’t go down the rabbit hole.  I cried because it was sad.  I cried because I remembered how I used to feel.  This time, though, it didn’t feel bottomless.  This time I could feel the ground beneath me.

And as I realized how glad I was that I could go home after a meeting like that and not deal with X, I thought about Chihuahuas and seemed to hear my inner Rottweiler give a satisfied little growl.

scapegoat

Thank you for your kind comments on my last post.  When things seem better with my sister I will let you know.

The thing is, for a really long time, I blamed all the dysfunction in my family on her illness—on her, really.  She was a pretty convenient scapegoat for my discontent with the dynamics in my family—for my sense of over-responsibility, for my parents’ leaning on me more than was healthy, for any number of things.  When I stayed at my parents’ house last year for a few months, it was not always the most pleasant experience, but it was invaluable to me for the things it taught me about myself and my family, particularly as I could observe my parents raising a child (my 12 year old niece lives with them).

One of the big things I realized back then was that even if my older sister didn’t have bipolar disorder, my family would most likely have the very same dysfunction, a very similar way of coping, a similar way of dealing with each other.  So much for my sister, the scapegoat.  I would hear the things my parents would say as they were dealing with my niece, and I realized that who they are and the way they see the world goes back a lot farther than my sister’s illness.  And my over-responsibility and hyper-self-criticism would likely be there no matter who my siblings were or the state of their mental health.

It was almost too easy to blame it all on my sister.  If it’s her fault, the rest of us are off the hook, aren’t we?  My parents are off the hook, and what child doesn’t want parents who are not the cause of her pain and insecurity?

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

There’s another scapegoat in my life.

He’s not exactly the same as my sister, but I definitely found it very easy to place all the blame for my unhappiness at his feet.

And he’s no angel.  He’s done plenty.  I’m not letting him off the hook here.

What I realized a couple of days ago was that I am the same.

A huge X-shaped stress is out of my life, but how I respond to stress is the same as when we were together.

I have been trying to be more aware of how I hold stress in my body and the other day I noticed that a response to stress I had—holding every muscle in my body tightly, my breath frozen—felt very much like what it felt like when I was with X, but this time  he was nowhere to be found.

I take myself with me, apparently.

I didn’t suddenly become a different person the moment I was away from my abuser; I still have that over-responsibility and hyper-self-critical nature.  Life will not stop serving me up experiences to challenge my equilibrium.

I’m looking into learning new ways of dealing with life’s disequilibrium, with my emotions and responses, and I feel hopeful about seeing progress.  It is too easy to give X the blame for all my unhappiness.  If it’s his fault, then I’m off the hook, right?  The problem is, keeping the focus on him keeps me from finding a real solution.

here, now

I read a joke today that seems particularly apt for me:

What does a codependent see flash before her eyes right before she dies?

Somebody else’s life.

That hits a little close to home in these parts.

During the last year I have hunkered down and done all that I could to feel safe in my own skin.  Mostly that meant hanging out by myself a lot, or going into “hermit mode,” as I call it.  I am not going to scold myself for doing the best that I could, but at the same time, I am choosing now to evaluate how I want to be living my life, how I want to change my life.

My life.  For a long time (maybe forever?), I’ve allowed the idea of my “real” life to be something that will happen just around the corner—when I get thin, when I meet a guy, when I have a baby, when fertility treatments work, when I miraculously no longer grieve the loss of my marriage.

Needless to say, it’s very easy to pretend that the current situation is not “real life” when one’s focus is so much on the “if and when” of the imaginary future.  It’s also very easy to avoid one’s one life when by focusing on what someone else is doing with theirs.  And when one’s life feels full of pain and dysfunction (to borrow a phrase from my previous post on the subject), it’s so much more comfortable to take the focus off of that pain and put it somewhere, anywhere else.

I have allowed X’s life to be more real than my own.  As I have observed him from a far distance, I have imagined what he is doing, where, and with whom.  I have obsessed about what his next move will be, and how it will affect me.

When we were married, this tight observation of him was done out of a desire to be safe, to avoid the next battle.  It’s been hard to lose that habit.

Since I found out he was getting married (yes, by Googling him, a nasty habit, I admit), I have been obsessed preoccupied with checking his wedding website and also with finding out whatever I can through the face place.  The thing is, it doesn’t make me feel any better, in fact, it usually makes me feel worse.

So, now, as I’m working on building friendships and a social network in my own life, I will work on pulling away from my obsession preoccupation with his life.  My therapist suggested I try to go a week without searching him out online (more specifically, checking his wedding website for any bits of new information).  At the time (yesterday) that felt impossible.  Strangely enough though, rather than being difficult, it feels a bit freeing.  I still get that urge, but then I remember.  I remember that I’m letting him go, that I am here, now, that looking there doesn’t help me, it just holds me back.

And I want the only life flashing before my eyes before I die to be mine.

rewriting my dictionary

Last week I posted about the deep-reaching nature of my healing process.  In that post I explained how perhaps the most difficult task for me is self-acceptance.

At the root of this struggle are some very rigid ideas about what it means to be successful, to be happy, to be good.

I first realized what my ideas about success and my beliefs about what a “good” life looks like were back when I was married to Mr. X and we were in the midst of dealing with infertility.  Suddenly, I realized that not only had I always thought I would be a mother, and not only that I had always thought that I should be a mother, but also that I must be a mother in order to have a meaning in my life.  It’s pretty heavy stuff to face the idea that you may never realize the path you thought was necessary for a meaningful life.

I don’t know how much I was actually able to challenge this belief of mine before the Great Escape and subsequent months of agony leading up to my divorce.  I do know that I realized somewhere in those months that I also had very harsh ideas about what it means to be divorced, and even what it means to be single past a certain age.  Ouch.  There is nothing more painful than being the object of your own rejection.

I don’t want to believe that I think a good life requires a (happy) marriage with children.  I don’t want to believe that being childless and divorced makes me somewhat pathetic.  I am becoming more and more aware all the time of the system of beliefs that under-girds much of my pain and want so badly to start over, to rewrite my dictionary of ideas, to release all that no longer serves me.*

I have a very difficult system set up for myself.  It’s a no-win way of living, and I’m tired of it.  It’s taken going through this last year (or thirty) of loss and angst to become cognizant of how much of my pain radiates from within, from my own worldview, and not from my circumstances.

More and more I am hopeful that I can change that worldview, that I can rewrite my internal dictionary, that I can learn a new way of being in the world.  It’s hard, but not as hard as not changing would be.

*Thanks to Lavender Luz for this phrasing.

just below the surface

The divorce group/class is a good thing.  Right now I’m thinking it’s a good thing like going to the dentist is good when you have a cavity, but maybe I’ll think it’s good in a more enjoyable way by the end of it.  First night was a bit more emotional than I had expected.  It was basically an overview of the seminar, and was conducted differently than the next nine weeks will go.  Former group members who are serving as volunteers in my group presented on some of the different topics that we’ll cover.  One guy got to me when he talked about his divorce as losing his best friend.  Well, it was either him or the woman sobbing in the row in front of me.  I teared up a bit and realized I was among my people.

The thing is, it kind of stirred up some stuff, I think.  I started thinking about things I hadn’t thought about in a while, and haven’t gotten much sleep the last two nights.

Last night the thought that was haunting me was the image of X holding hands with her.  For some reason that image bothers me so much more than the thought of them having sex.  The holding hands, the best friend…

This sucks.

I know I am just “looping” (a term used in the class to describe cycling through some feelings—there’s a chart to explain it but I’m not that talented with this here internet thing).  I’m not in the pits of despair.  I just get used to feeling really happy for a couple of days and it’s hard to find the willingness to touch the hot stove again.

I was worried that I would be the person in the group who had been out of their relationship the longest.  I’m not.  A little on the long side, but there are several people right about where I am, and at least one who’s been out significantly longer.  And then there’s the woman who was sobbing in the row in front of me.  Her husband told her last month that he had been having an affair and he wanted a divorce.  Nice.

Her emotions were so raw and in your face.  I remember being there, when I first left, before I left.  Now mine are mostly just below the surface, though they do come up for air every so often—often just after I’ve gone to bed and turned out the lights.

Today I was at a work thing, and for some long and complicated reasons, I was in a “less stress” session in which part of the time was used for guided breathing/relaxation.  Just the act of breathing slowly and imagining I was a tree…I didn’t cry or anything like that, but it was very achy in my chest.  Oh, hi, feelings.  That’s where you’ve been hiding.

I am trying to be more present, even to the hard stuff, even to the uncomfortable stuff, even to the ache that wants to cover up it’s head and hide somewhere.  Presence is not easy, especially when so much of my energy has been spent trying to be somewhere else, anywhere else, for the past few months years.

So for future classes we will met at members’ homes and share a meal.  We’re also supposed to call three other people in the class each week.  Um, no, I haven’t done that yet.  There’s some other homework, which I’ll talk about if it gets interesting.

In other news, I have just committed to (paid my money and everything) a few sessions with a personal trainer with two of my friends from work.  The group training is to help with the kick-start (accountability), and to make it cheaper.  We start on Saturday.  I’m sore already, in anticipation.

In other other news, it’s gorgeously spring here.  Just heart-breakingly beautiful.  It’s kind of hard not to feel hopeful in the face of such greenness against blue skies, with warm spring winds and blooming flowers for a bonus.

The other thing that makes me feel hopeful?  Knowing that, at least sometimes, I am able to hold both pain and hope at the same time.

real

So I was very antsy tonight.  I was watching a DVD on my computer (Nurse Jackie, if you’re interested), but I kept pausing it about every five minutes or so to check Face.book, to check Bloglines, to get a snack, to open the fridge and stare blankly at it’s contents before closing the door, to check the laundry, to do nothing.  I had had kind of a down feeling all evening (actually, since the afternoon), and the good part is that it feels different than it felt before, I could just notice it, it didn’t engulf me.  Still, it was there, and I kind of wondered what it was about, but not too much, I mean, not to the point that I actually tried to figure out what was going on.  Right.

So I was away from the computer and the DVD for a few moments and it hit me, square between the eyes:  I miss him.

And I don’t have to remind myself that I’m so glad to not be with him, and I don’t have to remind myself of how awful it could be to live with him, to be tethered to him, because that part never leaves me.  I don’t forget that part.

What I forget is that I had fun with him.  What I forget is that the most exciting times of my life were spent with him.  What I forget is that I was in love with him.  What I forget is that I’m probably still in love with the person I thought he was.

For about a week or so I’ve been having these really good memories of X and me.  Memories that make me happy to remember them.  Very bittersweet.  Memories of feeling happy with him.  (And again, no need to remind anyone of who he really is, and what he really did, because that’s the part that doesn’t go away.)

It’s been kind of amazing to reconnect with the happy pieces, because, well, without them it’s like the six years or so we were together just becomes a black hole, pages ripped out of a diary.

I was talking to my friend, Cherry, about this earlier this week, about how I’ve been remembering good things, and not feeling awful about it.  She said, good, this is more real.

Real.

The thing is, it’s so much easier not to miss him.  It’s so much easier just to focus on the waste, on the sadness, on how much I have left to heal, on how much he took from me.  That’s easier, believe it or not.  To only see the shadows of our time together.

That’s easier, because then I don’t have to miss him.  I don’t have to miss how it felt to share so many inside jokes with him.  How I would just say a couple of words, and he would know the whole story behind them.  How it felt to laugh with him.  How it felt when we were happy.  How good it was when it was good.

But this is real.  This isn’t a fairy story where things are strictly “good” or “bad.”  This is not black, is not white.  This is starting to see the picture as a whole—the shadows, the light, the color, the darkness.

And it’s sad.

And sometimes it feels like such a waste.

And I know I have much left to heal.

And I know that he took so much from me.

And I miss him.

change

The first thing I have to say is that I don’t really want any advice.  The thing is, when I get unsolicited advice from people I can’t see right in front of me, people I don’t know very well (and knowing you only on the internet means I don’t know you very well), without the benefit of tone of voice, facial expression, etc., etc., I tend to take it as criticism.  I recognize that this is my issue, not the would-be advice givers’, but there it is.  I don’t want to be paralyzed by my fears of “what you might be thinking,” dear reader, so, please, unless I ask for it, please give no advice here.

OK, with that out of the way, maybe I can blog.

More and more I have noticed lately, that I have been feeling bored and lonely.

This is progress.

If I’m feeling lonely, it means that I actually want to spend time with people, and not just holed up in my room reading or watching DVDs and snuggling with the dog.  Though that’s good, too, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.  I think I’ve been overcompensating for all the years that I couldn‘t do that, that’s part of it.

The other part of it?  I’m scared.

Way before I lost relationships when people were offended that I converted to Judaism, way before Mr. X and all of his confidence destroying ways, way before all of that, I was the kind of person who was fairly careful about who I let in.  I have always been cautious about who I choose to be friends with, and (quite ironically) even more cautious about who I would date.  Well, the two things I referred to at the beginning of this paragraph have only served to carve into stone my previous tendency toward caution in relationships.  Before, at least, I thought I was pretty good at judging character.  Well, we’re not so sure about that now, to put it lightly.

So now I find myself in somewhat of a bind.  I’m wanting to start hanging out, having close friends around, but, alas, I am now overly cautious, which translates into spending a lot of time alone.

Of course, I’ve talked to my therapist about this.  At the root of all of it is a fear that I will get stuck in a situation/relationship that I won’t be able to easily extricate myself.  She thinks that that’s all about my not liking to tell people “no,” not liking to set limits with people.  It’s fairly easy for me to set those limits when I don’t know you, but once I let you in, well, I don’t know.  In the past I’ve had a hard time saying, “no.”  (See: Mr. X, our entire relationship)  I hope that I’ve learned a thing or two about boundary setting, but, see, I don’t really trust myself so much in this regard.  I’m uncertain of how I would respond in an actual friendship situation, and so, I find it easier, safer really, to just opt out.  I’ll just sit over here on the sidelines and observe, thankyouverymuch.

The problem with that is, well, it’s no fun.  No fun, kind of lonely, and starting to get pretty boring, too.  Like I said before, this is progress.  A couple of months ago, hell, a couple of weeks ago I was pretty content to just play the part of the hermit.  Now, not so much.  There’s a quote, and I couldn’t find who might have said it first, but it seems pretty big in the Alcoholics Anonymous world:

Change occurs when the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of changing.

Staying the same, i.e. avoiding life, is beginning to become more painful than my fears of changing my patterns.

I’m making progress.  Who knew?