Tag Archives: Take care of yourself

Speak.

I love my new therapist. For those of you who are in therapy, I highly suggest switching therapists at least every 3 years. A lot of growth and discovery can happen in three years when you’re committed but after that time, it is necessary to have someone else’s strategies, if for no other reason than to shake you out of your comfort zone. I have reluctantly changed therapists three times (and by therapists, I mean the 3 good ones I’ve had). This time, I took a year off and then finally realized that it was time to bite the bullet and “start over.” That is why it took me so long to see someone else – I just could not bear the thought of rehashing my entire life for someone new. I even thought it may be unhealthy for me to do so. Not so! She has an entirely new approach and expertise in areas I didn’t even realize would be relevant for me, such as post traumatic stress. I’ve learned extremely valuable lessons from each of my therapists – but there’s something different about the one I have now. She questions me, which means she’s really listening. She challenges my thinking, which means she’s not afraid to call me on my shit – who doesn’t need to be called on their shit!? NO ONE. The most important thing she has done so far, though, is to validate me in very specific and important ways.

I have come to a place where I tell “my story” as if I’m reading from a script to anyone who will listen. I almost don’t even thing about the events of my life, I just explain them and then ask, “Why am I not over it?” I didn’t have my records transferred to my new therapist because I wanted to start anew, and this was a wise choice. As I am explaining matter-of-factly the huge decision my parents made when I was 15 that I’ve always said forever changed my life, she stopped me and reminded me, “You realize that a decision means they had a choice, don’t you?” My immediate response was “Well, they didn’t really have a choice… my dad would have lost his job if…” She stopped me. “What may or may not have happened with your dad’s job is part of what they had to weigh when making the decision. But regardless of the factors that played into their decision, it was still a choice.” I was somewhat speechless and shocked that I’d never actually believed it was, which had allowed me to pity them and feel guilty for being angry at their decision for so many years. I had to think about it for a few weeks before I could make sense of it. And it seems so simple, doesn’t it?

I started to realize how often my parents, and my entire family for that matter, present scenarios to me as if another choice other than the one they are choosing is just not possible. In fact, every one of these circumstances absolutely do involve the option of a more respectful, less hurtful choice. So, I started to ponder the concept of choice in general. This realization has freed me in a way 200 more therapy sessions of hearing myself talk never ever could have. I’ve told that particular story my therapist heard at least 20 times to various people in my life, therapists and friends alike. Every time I have presented it as a tough situation for my parents in which they had no other choice. Just changing the beginning of the story will now change the way I tell the rest of it. This particular epiphany is quite monumental.

Since I have decided that this new therapy journey I’ve just embarked upon will be the one that heals me apart from my family as well, I have been pushing myself to challenge my self-talk. And, what do you know? I do it too. I make decisions and remain in circumstances as if another choice is simply not an option. “I hate my job but I can’t do anything about it because I have to stay here so my husband has the freedom to change jobs as he wishes because he’s hated his job longer than I have and our benefits are with my job.” Now, it may seem noble of me to make that decision. But I’ve been making that decision A LOT, practically for our entire marriage. I just figured out part of the reason I have such resentment for my husband – because of CHOICES that I have made. It is a choice for me to stay in my job. I have potential that far outreach my day-to-day “duties” and yet I accept that doing anything but collecting that paycheck and those benefits is “impossible.” It’s not impossible. The resentment plays in when I don’t see my husband actively applying himself to looking for a new job as I feel he should. So, he doesn’t spend every waking hour looking for a new job – the longer he spends procrastinating the longer I have to stay in my job, and you see how the tension in my house remains fairly high. What I really need to do is to make a different choice.

A wise friend once told me that taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do, because if you don’t do that, you can’t take care of anyone else. I used to think that was selfish way of thinking – and the reason I felt that was a selfish way to think is in part because I have been surrounded by people who did not take care of themselves my entire life. I was also taught that any attempt to take care of self was, in fact, selfish. I am still being taught that looking out for myself is selfish.

And, here we arrive at the title of this post. This weekend, my parents were to come to town – for their usual 24 hour visit. The details of what occurred aren’t really relevant. My parents made another hurtful and extremely selfish decision. Considering many recent events in my and my sister’s lives, we were both extra bothered by this decision. My sister has always been the peace maker and regardless of how upset she is, she will never stand up and say why. I usually don’t either, but I’ve been closer and closer to the end of my rope in the last two years and I finally couldn’t take it any more. I refuse to enable their behavior, and that is a choice that I’ve been making for my entire life now – mostly subconsciously but now that I realize there are other choices, I’m going to start making them. I called my mother and explained to her that her decision had caused unnecessary confusion, energy, and hurt. I was respectful, calm, and very direct. I am not normally direct. 10 minutes after I got of the phone with my mom, my dad called. I let it go to voicemail because I knew exactly what had happened in the last 10 minutes. My mom called my dad and told him that I was mean. My dad called me to “punish” me. His voicemail essentially said that he didn’t like my “attitude” and that I could call him if I wanted to discuss the situation. Let’s be clear… by “discuss” he meant lecture. I was not interested in being lectured, so I made a choice to save myself the pain that would have come from taking his verbal abuse in that moment. The voicemail was enough.

So, blogger friends, this is a giant step in the right direction for me. I like this study on the power of choice. I like the perspective it’s given me. The realization that my parents have had a choice in how they treated me and still treat me gives me the freedom to take back the power of my own choices. And I choose not to sit by and let their choices affect my daily life any longer. It will be and has been a long journey, but I am getting there. The first step was today, when I made the choice to SPEAK. And I think I’ll be doing that much more often.


My brother: Chapter 1: Shotgun

My brother just had a shotgun wedding.

1. shotgun wedding
where one or both parties are forced into marriage due to an unplanned pregnancy
– Urban Dictionary

Everyone must know what that is, but for some reason I felt the need to google it.  Gotta love the Urban Dictionary.  So, I have a new sister-in-law!  That I barely know!  This is all fine and well.  My brother and I have always had a unique bond and I’ve always felt that he has some kind of 6th sense when it comes to me.  Well, maybe not always.  He came to live with my husband and I for a while after he almost drank himself to death and could not go home to live with my parents because after 3 times of this happening before, they finally shut their door to him.  My husband and I were happy to welcome him into our home with just a few adult rules, including “no drinking” for the alcoholic who wouldn’t admit he was an alcoholic.  My mother begged me not to let him live with me, swearing up and down that it would ruin our relationship.  “That’s impossible,” I’d tell her, “Me and my brother have a bond that no one understands… it is impossible to ruin.”  He lived with us for four months and witnessed a lot of the same problems between me and my husband that we still deal with.  At one point, he made the gigantic mistake of inserting his 2 cents into the “problem” that he presumed he understood.  He’s always really looked up to my husband for many reasons.  He said to me, “Sometimes you just have to let things go.  I hear you talking about the same one issue over and over and it’s exhausting.  That’s one of my pet peeves!  I hate it when people do that!  Just let it go!”

Maybe that was the point things started to change… but over the course of the last month he lived with us as he completely ran out of money and as a result became very anxious and unappreciative, he finally told me to “Shut up” and that was it.  I told him to get out.  My brother and I hadn’t fought since we were kids.  Adult fighting really is so much worse.  I hated it.  I had hated the last two months he was with us, because he had turned into someone I didn’t recognize again.  You can never really know a person until they live with you, though.  It’s the truth.  Living together as children, again, is very different from living together as adults.  He would sit on my couch and watch South Park and Reno 911 for hours.  I would come home from work, at a job I could not stand, and he’d be on my couch, laughing as if he didn’t have a care in the world.  I’d find myself asking his permission to change the channel on the TV that I paid for… the channels on the cable plan that I paid for.  He had ultimately no respect for what we were doing for him towards the end of his stay. And, much to my mom’s heartbreak, it definitely did ruin our relationship for a couple of years.  He never called me.  I didn’t exactly seek him out either, it was pretty hard to swallow the disrespect in the end mostly because I had never experienced anything but the utmost respect and friendship from my brother.  When he finally got himself back together and moved back in with my parents, he would always call my sister first if he needed to come to our town, which was quite often as he was prepping for the NAVY and had frequent check-ins.  It was painful – I’ll never know if it was painful for him because he has re-entered a shell over the years.  He pokes out now and then, usually when he’s drunk.  I’ve gotten an email or a phone call about how wonderful I am and how much he loves me in the last two years since he’s been in the NAVY now.

The latest call that made me think he was truly “back” involved the latest news.  He was drunk, and shaky and scared out of his mind.  The details don’t matter – what happens next does.  My brother and I have a wonderful talk and he admits for the first time that he knows he’s an alcoholic and that it is harder for him not to drink than it is for him to drink.  He tells me he is afraid of failing and afraid of screwing everything up – afraid of not being man enough to raise a baby or be a good husband.  He tells me all his fears and I pump him with the confidence I know he needs although inside I am crying in my fear.  I was so honored that I received that call; that he had reached out to me first.  He told me that he loved me and that he knew I would know just what to say to make him feel better about things.  I told him that I would do anything to help him because he had always been there to help me in my darkest hours.  I relied on him for my only support system many times.  And, he’s my little brother.  But numerous times when my mom and dad did not have the emotional capability to mother and father me the way they should have, my brother stepped up and did his part to be sure I knew I wasn’t alone.  The fist time I ever experienced major depression and felt trapped (because I pretty much was) in my parents’ dysfunction emotionally and physically, my brother invited me to go on a date with him… out of the blue.  He just asked me one day if I’d let him take me on a date.  It was honestly the first genuinely no-strings-attached nice thing anyone in my house had asked of me for as long as I could remember.  So, I said yes.  We rode the bus to the movies downtown, he bought me a single red rose, and we even held hands.  People probably thought we were actually on a date, it was so sweet.  I’m sure my parents gave him money and admired his gesture… they had told me just weeks before that I should consider how my depression was affecting my “little brother.”  It didn’t seem to be affecting him at all; he seemed to simply understand that I was very, very sad.  Sad enough to want to end my life.  He understood that I needed some positive human interaction.  He probably saved my life that night.  I’ll never forget it.  I didn’t really understand why he was being so nice to me – he was only 14 years old and I didn’t comprehend how he could be so tuned into the situation.  Especially, because my parents obviously had no regard for his emotional intelligence because they had no concept of “emotional intelligence” at all themselves, and certainly a 14-year-old child could not have the ability to think rationally for himself.  We’ve surprised our parents, many times over the years.

About 3 years later, I had to be hospitalized because I calmly explained to my roommate that when she left to take her exams the next day, I was going to take my entire bottle of Ambien sleeping pills and call it quits.  I was scared to call my dad to ask for the insurance information required for my stay, so my roommate did it for me.  I am pretty sure I have an idea of what he said to her that day, but she never told me.  She just told me “Your dad’s an ass hole, no wonder you’re here.”  Somehow we managed to get the insurance information, which means someone was able to convince my dad that I actually was in need of some serious medical intervention… that depression is actually not something people just make up for fun or boredom.  What I didn’t know at the time was that my brother was home the day my roommate called him and got to witness and hear out loud my father’s thoughts after learning that his daughter had been hospitalized for wanting to end her life.  I would come to learn that the words he first uttered were “What are people going to think of our family?”

Eight days later, my family was required to come in for a family meeting so that the doctors could be sure that I was going home to a safe environment.  Here’s out that played out: two therapists sat in the room with me as my family entered one by one, a small room full of chairs placed in a circle.  I stood up to greet them but every single one of them walked past me without even acknowledging my existence, except for my brother.  He was last to come in and he gave me the biggest hug you can imagine.  Again, he’ll never know that hug saved me because there’s no way to verbalize that to someone.  I’ve told him many times how much it meant to me… but there is no way that he could ever know how powerful it truly was.  It will not surprise you that approximately 60 seconds later, the head social worker/counselor looked at me and asked me to come outside the room.  “That was all I needed to see, honey.  Your entire family needs to be committed, save your brother.  You’re the sanest one among all of them.  We’re not going to have that meeting because what I just witnessed was enough for me to know that it is not safe for you to go home with them.  But you are ready to go home; do you have anyone else who you can stay with for now?  Is there anyone that you can call?”

And there it was… maybe for the first time in my life… some solid validation that I needed in a major way.  There were actual reasons for my depression, particularly this episode, that had nothing to do with my family.  They just couldn’t separate themselves or their need to “keep up with the Joneses” long enough to comprehend what was actually happening and what horrific parents they were proving to be in this particular situation.  But, my brother could and did.


Courage and Cravings

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”
― Maya Angelou

Blogging can be lonely as hell.  So can marriage.  Let me tell you, I don’t know what keeps me writing or fighting sometimes.  Is it courage?  Or insanity?  What makes me so scared to start saving money and making this divorce happen?  What makes me believe that there could still be hope?  I feel these days like I’m slowly coming apart at the seams despite my incredible determination not to.  I believe it’s just exhaustion… shear exhaustion.  Exhaustion from years of trying to explain myself and the problems to my husband.  Years.  YEARS.
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” ― Dale Carnegie

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher

“Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be.”
― Samuel Johnson

He is trying.  I can tell.  In the last few days there have been some signs of a fundamental change.  I know it will not happen over night.  The only problem with it is that it is so incredibly late.  I want to feel grateful and relieved and “back to normal.”  I want to crave him… but I don’t.

The only thing I crave these days are my dreams.  I’ve been having recurring dreams of the one that got away; rather, the one that almost was.  The one that was my best friend.  The one that wouldn’t leave the room unless he knew that I felt at least better… until I felt understood and heard.  The one that could hug me and make the world disappear.  In my dreams, he’s been doing that.  He’s been hugging me, and I’ve finally been able to feel his intimate touch and his lips against mine.  It has been my saving grace in the middle of the night… compensation for the lack of affection and security I feel with my husband.  A good friend told me that he is showing up in my life to remind me that it is possible for me to be loved that way – that it’s out there.  Of course, I spend a lot of time (too much time?) imagining that he sometimes dreams of me as well… that he wonders if he made the right choice.  I wonder if he thinks about me and longs to know what it would’ve been like to grow and travel the world with me.  It seems like he’s living the life I was meant to live, somehow.  Whatever the reason he has come back into my life, even if only fantastically, I am so grateful for it.  I am grateful for those dreams that feel so real I wake up feeling comforted and loved.


“I’ll do anything.”

I’ve been waiting to hear these words for quite a long time.  Writing my last post was pretty important for me.  I needed to release all of that tension and call it like it is, if you will.  Since then, things did get better for a few days and then, of course they went back to what has become our “normal.”  I never remember what argument triggers it because it’s not the argument, it’s the communication pattern we’re stuck in.  We ended up having another talk about the state of things, which started out cordial and ended in tears.  I said the same things I’ve said a million times, again.  I don’t know why I keep repeating myself.  I think it is because I feel so stuck that it only makes sense to keep trying.  Perhaps… perhaps I’m just a good example of insanity!  I walked away from the conversation when he started to get extremely aggravated that I brought up counseling again.  He is adamant that he will not go and has been since I’ve known him.  This has always been a problem of pride also tied in large part to his culture.  Of course, I know that in general, men have a hard time with it.  I finally told him that we should just call it like it is and accept that things can’t change because we both aren’t committed 100% to doing whatever it takes.  I told him that I would clean out the guest room and move my things and we’d just be as friendly and accepting of each other as we could be until our financial situation changed enough for us to separate.

I went to the guest room and ripped it apart.  I put my favorite pictures in it, I removed things that had been driving me crazy since we moved here; I bought myself a new comforter.  I made it my haven.  It is my haven… I walk into it and I feel relaxed and comforted by my artwork on the walls, my intention in the air.  It’s my space and I have needed a space that is mine for quite some time.  Of course, there is more I want to do and it’s depressing how much I’ve been sleeping here, but that was the plan.  It’s depressing because that evening as I was preparing dinner, he approached me and finally said the words I’ve needed to hear for so long.  He put his arm around me and said, “Honey, I don’t want you to leave, I don’t want us to separate.  I want to be married to you for the rest of my life.  I’ll do anything.”  Again, tears.  I really hate my tears these days.  I told him, “Anything?  I don’t think you mean that.  What is ‘anything’ to you?”  He proceeded to tell me he’d take me on dates and try and bring some romance back, pay closer attention to me, etc.  I did tell him that was one thing I thought would help us earlier, but that isn’t all.  Maybe I should’ve been happy with that.  But my heart is so hard and I have so much anger built up in me, and resentment that I could not just fold and tell him, “Okay, I’ve waited so long to hear you say that…”  It just isn’t that simple anymore.  Nonetheless, we ended up having a good couple of days again, until the next argument when we started from zero again.

I guess I still have a bit of hope because he seems to respond and listen better since I made the solid decision to sleep in the guest room when I need to.  He doesn’t understand and still repeats the same things, but not as often.  He still says that I think counseling will fix everything, but it won’t because I’ve been wanting to leave him for years.  I can’t really go into everything he told me because I am exhausted.  I am sick of being so exhausted.  I get up in the mornings and muster every bit of strength I can to let the sadness drip out of me so I can get through my work day productively.  I am taking care of myself by exercising and keeping up with my doctors.  I know how important this is and I take pride in doing it and knowing that.

Last night, my son was going to sleep and was particularly clingy.  He did not want me to put him down and he clutched my neck and seemed to be somewhat scared and insecure.  I was pretty sad last night and I think he could pick up on that.  I’ve had enough training in child development to know that he is already affected by all of this.  And it kills me.  I promised myself I would never put him or keep him in this kind of tension.  It is not fair to him.  I pointed this out to my husband this morning – maybe he heard it, maybe not.  But this is one of the reasons I have to do whatever I have to do to bring back peace in my heart.  I owe that to my son.  He does not deserve to already feel that he has to comfort me.  I asked him, “Do you want mommy to rock you a little bit longer?”  He has just started to appropriately answer, “Yes” like a big boy.  “Yeah,” he said.  It broke my heart and comforted me at the same time.  We rocked for about 5 minutes and then he went right to sleep, secure again.

And, so did I.  In my “new” bed, under my new comforter.  Life is strange and hard, but I’ll make it through this.  I know I will.  Thanks for reading.