Category Archives: marraige

Feeling vulnerable without alcohol

Telling Lynn my marital woes didn’t have the desired effect. I thought freeing my pent-up resentments to an objective therapist would help; but, strangely, the opposite happened. I walked in feeling confident and full of self-righteous anger and I left anxious and distraught. My original anger was directed at my husband for choosing the home and town we’ve lived in for 20 years. I was forthright with Lynn, divulging my frustrations. All that sanctimoniousness disappeared when Lynn asked a simple question, “What would your life be like if you had made the choices in your marriage?”

Lynn touched a sore spot and the truth hurt.  Fear crept in and I couldn’t speak of my own needs. Quietly, with eyes cast down, I sullenly spoke, I don’t have goals. If I had things to aspire toward I would be disappointed and let down. With tears and sadness I realize the reason my life is not different is because I haven’t spoken up about my needs or desires. I own the problem in its entirety.

Okay, so let’s get this straight. First my anger is directed at my husband and I see myself as the unappreciated and unloved victim and when that assertion is challenged I retreat to the safety of believing its my fault that my needs are not met.

Which the fuck is it? The answer to that question isn’t as important as how to stop my mind, no matter what the scenario, from arriving at the same conclusions. I constantly blame myself. I either don’t get something because I’m not worthy or it doesn’t happen because I’m weak.

This is hard shit to swallow because I reject either of those things. I stuff this down with my alcohol consumption and rarely do these feelings see the light of day. My wine signifies a glass of straight up denial.

Where do these ideas originate?

The obvious answer is survivors of childhood sexual abuse learn to feel unworthy. I assumed my mother didn’t stop my brother from coming into my room at night because she loved him more. With every nice gesture or favorable event that happened to this brother, I became more certain that he was worthy of good things and I wasn’t. I didn’t speak up about the atrocity that occurred against my prepubescent body; instead I stifled my voice and learned to endure life.

My therapist reiterated that my childhood left behind a belief that no one loves me but she stated, “You are not a child anymore.” She reminded me I have a voice and people around me do care what I want and need.

I wonder why I’m so stuck in my old ways.

I hate myself for turning the entire resentment issue into something bigger than it is. We “depressives” know how to blame ourselves about everything. It’s true my husband makes a lot of the major decisions but the reality is I don’t speak up for myself; I’d rather suffer in silence and allow resentments and anger to fester. How fucked up am I? I’m not a child anymore; what’s my problem that I wallow in self-pity instead of making changes to get things that I want in my life?

So, I pretty much left therapy feeling angry that my husband doesn’t do or care about my needs and, ultimately it’s my own fault because I don’t speak up.

I have always thought that no matter who I’m with I’m still stuck with myself.

Ideally I would like to learn to speak up for myself without shutting down with anger, resentments, shame, and self-blame locked inside and so, I had the best of intentions to not bring my befuddled feelings home from therapy. I didn’t want to be angry with my husband or have a pity party for myself.

Let’s just say, that didn’t work.

All day long I was a quiet, hateful, sulking angry wife. I tried to manage my feelings, but eventually I headed for the door to buy a mood altering bottle of wine. I honestly felt the need to drink was as strong as the desire a suicidal person may feel while they prepare to jump. I saw no other options to relieving my anxiety. The self-berating thoughts that play in my head were overwhelmingly strong and I did not know how to calm myself. I had no coping skills or tools in my tool box.

Husband stopped me from blowing my 90 days of sobriety by talking me down off the cliff I was dangling from. When he asked, “Where are you going?” and I replied, “I need a bottle of wine.” He responded sympathetically and was very calm as I’m sure he did not want to upset me further. During this interaction I was unsettled and anxious but not angry.

My husband listened to me complain and then he heard me berate myself for not speaking up about things I wish for in my life. He said I haven’t changed or gotten better in all the years I’ve been in therapy. He meant I continue to give myself a psychological beating. We’ve been together for 30-plus years and I didn’t want to believe him but a part of me felt he was right. I thought I was making progress in my life but he thinks I live in the past and can’t let it go.

My husband reassuringly told me everyone has pain from their past but it doesn’t define them or continue to be the driving factor in their lives. His words were like a gentle caress to a baby bunny. They felt compassionate and forgiving.

I had backed off the ledge by this point and my anxiety was reduced to a manageable level. My husband hugged me and whispered, “I love you. I want you to be my wife and tell me what you want.” I shrugged and stood limp and lifeless, drained of all emotions.

I didn’t drink, though and I’m grateful for my husband who helped me through a tough time.

I’m afraid I still won’t know what to do next time. I need tools in my toolbox. So, I called Lynn and asked if she was available for a session on Saturday. This is monumental in my life. Me asking for help. Lynn agreed and said it would be good to talk while the conversation and events were still fresh in my mind.

Daylilyœ 

Aside

The decrease in Celexa did the trick.  I’m not as tired which translates to not feeling like a freaking zombie.  When I’m numbed out on antidepressants it’s the worst feeling to forget half of what I or other people say.  I’m so glad that … Continue reading

Therapist betrays me (or so I feel)

I truly believe Lynn wanted me to breakdown and cry in therapy today. There was some crying but I did not breakdown. It wasn’t because she didn’t try her hardest. She absolutely did! Contrary to what she hoped, I got angry.  I’m so pissed off I am thinking of ways to get out of therapy.

Before proceeding, I must point out that this is my perspective. By no means am I accusing her of crossing ethical boundaries but my retelling will make you think so. My perception is one-sided and self-protective.

Lynn purposefully challenged my thinking today. It came on the heels of last week when — for the first time — I opened up to her, admitted that I missed therapy and divulged a great deal of painful feelings regarding my past.

I feel trapped because now she knows I trust her so she went in for the kill.

I know I’m skirting the issue. You are probably asking yourselves about now, “What the heck is Daylily talking about?”

How I opened up. How I exposed my weakness and how my therapist turned it around and pushed my problem right up to my nose.

Once again I stated my modus operandi: change takes time. I not only tell my husband this but I also use it to reassure myself that I’m headed in the right direction. I need time to put a safety net in place for the fall out when I stop drinking. I have no idea what I will do with the feelings and thoughts that I’ve learned to numb and push down with alcohol. Admittedly, I’m scared to be alcohol-free.

I disclosed the contentious marital conflict last weekend.  I told Lynn my husband yelled at me, “Therapy is not working because you are still drinking.”

What felt like a sucker punch, Lynn followed up by saying, “You must stop drinking and then work on the emotions. The drinking is the elephant sitting in the room.”

I expected her to tell me, your husband doesn’t know how hard you’re working. Instead she sided with him.

Lynn threatened to withdraw my medications if I don’t stop binge drinking. She said, “It is the policy at our practice to decrease and eventually cease all prescribed medications if the patient has an issue with alcohol.”

It was then that I shut down. I couldn’t look in my therapist’s eyes. I felt betrayed.

Lynn asked the number one therapist question, “What are you feeling right now?”

My answer, “Cornered. You are threatening to take away my medication for depression.” I began to cry softly but not enough to ask for her help with it.

Survivors of sexual abuse are good at believing no one really cares.

When I feel cornered I want to bolt out the door. I waited as I watched the minutes tick away.

Lynn said things like, “You always have options.” And, “You can find another therapist who will not tell you what I am.”

My nasty response, “I know I have options.”

Lynn said I was angry.

“Yes, I don’t like to feel that you are siding with my husband and ganging up on me.”

She said my husband could come to the next session.

“Right,” I replied sarcastically, “So the two of you can both tell me I’m behaving badly.”

I said, “To get through that session I would need to wear a protective plate of amour.”

Lynn tried to offer assurance that she would be on my side to help explain to my husband the hard work I’m doing. I didn’t believe her. I still don’t feel she was sincere. What she was offering was an intervention. The same thing my husband suggested.

My nasty side came out and I said, “Let’s just invite my whole family and have a true intervention.”

Lynn told me she wasn’t going to take away my medication today. She tried to reassure me that she knows it’s a process. Blah, blah, blah.

My protective inner-self was hurt and I did not absorb any of what she said. She was judging me and that’s all I felt.

Lynn did offer suggestions about what to put in my “basket” to help me when I stop using alcohol as a crutch; but this is not the positive post to express hopefulness. First I need a place to express a sense of betrayal and disappointment.

Please no comments about my therapist being right. I’m a bright woman and I don’t need to be told that. What I need is support and understanding on this journey.

♥ Daylily, in a nasty mood

Retrogression

Encarta® World English Dictionary

My session with Lynn yesterday was the best I’ve ever had. I was open, vulnerable and felt safe being that way. I talked to her about moments when I disassociated in situations that involved my family over vacation. I only remember the events because I consciously wrote them down before my brain worked its magic to lose the memories. This is not a topic I’ve talked about much but it is common practice in my life. I especially “forget” fights that I have with my husband if he hurts my feelings (which can be often because he is gruff and controlling a lot of the time). The other times I disassociate are talking to my mother about my feelings and whenever I feel angry. I don’t like to carry anger. Forcing remembrance of negative feelings will allow me to handle them. Not “handle them better” because I currently just separate my head from my heart and forget.

Lynn gave praise for my efforts and said I should continue to write triggering moments down on paper because even if I lose them on a cognitive level she said I am pushing the feelings that were produced by the events deep down inside of me. I understand this. I need to learn to handle them better.  The feelings are intimately a part of me, causing depression and a need to numb myself with alcohol. Lynn and I will work toward helping me find new ways to manage difficult situations.

I asked Lynn, “What do I do with the feelings if I’m not able to do my usual forgetting?”

Ironically I can’t remember what she said. Whatever it was is out of my grasp right now. Last night I ended up resorting to what I know. I drank too much wine to help myself feel calmer. When I drink I feel relaxed and easy-going. I don’t complain or yell. I get things done around the house and then say good night and go to bed. Drinking is my form of self-medication.

Last night my husband got pissed-off and went into one of his rants. He accused my therapist of not helping me and said he doesn’t see any improvement. Husband stated, “You said you are seeing her to help you with your drinking.” He yelled, “I’ll let her know that you are not better. You still drink. Let me come to your next meeting and I’ll tell her that.”

I tried to explain that change takes time but he was too angry to hear anything I said. A big argument ensued where I walked outside with the dog and my husband followed asking, “How much did you drink?” I didn’t answer and he nastily said, “Do you even know?”

I know it was too much but I felt I didn’t deserve his anger. I’m trying to heal and learn new skills but he is only seeing my bad behavior. I closed myself off from him and I don’t recall much else because I don’t want to. He was mean and hurtful. He said, “What do you need, an intervention?”

What does he think I’m doing in therapy? I am allowing Lynn to help me with my problem. He does not see it.

I admit I drink to cope. I have cut down to only drinking on the weekends and this weekend it was only last night. I’m not condoning my habit because I do want to stop. Drinking prevents me from being the best I can be. In order to change I need alternatives, strength and self-love. Dear God, how I would like to stop drinking because I care and think enough about myself to do it. I am working toward that goal.

I wanted to walk down our road during the heated argument but husband said if I stepped off our property he would call the police. He took out his cell phone to prove it. I work in the same small town where I live and I have a reputation to up-hold. Many people know me, including the police with whom I have a professional relationship. I cannot have the police called. Husband had the upper hand. I felt trapped and I began to sob and cry. I hated myself, my husband, my life.

Husband changed his attitude to be more caring and he wanted me to go inside. The last thing I wanted to do was go anywhere with him. I wanted to run away and be anywhere than with the man who hurt my feelings. I looked at our big house from the driveway and all I felt was dread at the idea of going into it. I cried and husband tried to console me but the fight moments beforehand broke me apart. He was hurtful and turned me into a mess of crying tears.

I eventually did go inside and my children hugged me; I kissed them goodnight and went to my bedroom with my dog and climbed into my bed. I cried as if I were 10 years old. My house felt void of love. One thought kept repeating in my head, Shelter and warmth is all I have. I had a flashback to my childhood home around the time I was sexually abused. I was overcome with the sensation of feeling completely alone and emotionally neglected. The roof over my head and the blankets around me was all I had. I felt self-pity and sadness. No one cares about me. I am not worthwhile. 

I connected how my husband treated me to how I felt growing up in my own family. I’m always alone in my emotional struggles. No one who cares about me has ever known how badly I want to feel emotionally steadied by another human being. Even when my husband tried to calm me down outside all I felt was unloved and scared he would hurt me again. He told me I have so much good in me and he will stand by me forever; but his inability to understand the work I’m doing in therapy put a big wall between us.

I fell asleep by myself, literally sobbing into my pillow.

Here it is the next day and the tears are still perched on the edge of my eyes. My heart is heavy with self-hate. I feel even my blogging friends think less of me. You are probably sickened by my lack of resolve. How can I be such a failure?

Please don’t think that of me. I do not intend to harm anyone. I want most to be the peace keeper. When I fail I am my worst critic. I hate that about myself. Why can’t I care for myself enough to take care of my body and emotions as well as I try to take care of everyone else’s? I quit drinking for years at a time for my babies because I didn’t want to harm them. I quit drinking for months when an illness and surgery forced me to. Why oh why can’t I stop drinking and just cope with my feelings? I don’t like my husband to be upset with me. I don’t like it when I inflict self-abuse. I have no way out of this funk. Hence, the title of this blog post: retrogression. I am stuck in the past without a clue how to get out.

I work tomorrow and I will put on a happy face and act intelligent and professional even though inside I feel like a lost puppy who wants nothing more than for someone to love me who will not emotionally harm me.

The world does not feel like a friendly place right now.

♥ Daylily

Family dynamics

My husband, kids and I have been home for Christmas vacation. Husband and kids are having a grand old-time but I am busy cleaning, organizing, doing laundry and keeping the kitchen up. To my kids credit they helped clean their closet yesterday (because I forced them to). There is some pride in getting that nasty job done; but last night I was pissed off that I was not enjoying the same vacation as my husband. I expressed my displeasure a few times and each time my kids and husband say, “Don’t do it.” That’s easy for them to say. If I don’t do it everything will pile up for me to do later. I have ignored the kitchen for 24 hours and the counters are piled with dirty dishes because the dishwasher is full and someone needs to empty it. The roaster pan from Christmas still sits on the stove top, waiting to be cleaned. It’s been there for 4 days. (During this writing I hear the sounds of my husband cleaning the kitchen and making the kids pancakes).

Last night I was angry enough that I wanted to run away. This coping mechanism is totally a mental escape that allows me to not feel trapped. I learned it as a young girl who suffered in silence with the shame of incest. Maybe getting older is not such a good thing because I realize I can’t simply “run away.” I have a house, husband and kids.

So I did the second best thing I know to cope with a shitty situation. I opened a bottle of beer and then had a couple of glasses of wine. I went to bed at 8:30 pm just to get away from everyone. The alcohol worked by easing my anxiety/anger but I wondered why I’m afraid to demand my needs get met. What would happen if I told my husband to help me instead of what he does, which, when he is not working, is hobbies or sitting in the recliner and watching TV.

Earlier in the day I tried to express myself in a non-confrontational way. I asked my husband, “Will you do me a favor?” His answer was an immediate “No.” I responded, “Why would you answer that way?” He laughed and said, “Because it’s the way you ask it.”

I’m not even going to go into the conversation because it triggers a sense of helplessness. I really should address this issue in therapy. Well, I have and Lynn tells me to make lists but I can’t get my husband to do anything on my lists. That would be a topic for therapy.

I am writing on a new laptop I received for Christmas. My husband surprised me with the gift even though we had agreed not to spend money on each other. I know that was sweet of him and I shouldn’t be so angry. He knows a lot more about computers so he spent hours on Christmas day installing Microsoft Office 10, updates and virus protection. When he transferred all of my files from the old laptop, I became nervous that he would open one of my blog posts that are kept in a folder called “Weblog.” He passed right over the specifics and I worried for nothing.

I had to enter a password for access to my new computer and so I typed it in without showing my husband. It asked for a hint in the event I forget so I wrote “flower.” Husband needed to get into my computer so he asked for the password. I said, “It’s a flower.” The children guessed sunflower and Mayflower (that’s my younger one who was thinking of the pilgrim’s voyage to America). Husband guessed daylily, typed it in and got immediate access. “How did you know that?” I asked. His answer, “You told me you had a handle by that name on some website.”

I felt a wall of self-protection go up. Oh crap, what if he has been to my blog? Quick, think, do I say bad things about him? I wondered, Is he the one who visited the day I had one visitor read almost all my posts. I quickly decided he hasn’t been to my blog because he really doesn’t have an interest in what I write. He’s never liked my ramblings on paper and the times he has suffered through listening to me express things similar to what I write about he looks bored. He spent all day on my computer and I know he didn’t read my documents. Emotional stuff is boring. I know this about him.  (I changed my password anyway).

Tomorrow we are traveling to visit my mother and step-dad. They are both 78 years old and live a few hours away by car. We have a reservation at a hotel and will hang out with them most of the time. I look forward to the break from all the things I do around my house. My mom lives in a retirement home and wants to show us off to all her friends in the dining room. She also said her place needs a snowman out front. This is how my mother is. She likes to show others she has the perfect family and so I will play along. I do love her and I like to make her happy. So, I’m bringing along a scarf, hat, carrot nose and my kids snow gear (We haven’t thought of what the eyes and mouth will be yet). My boys will be instructed to build a snowman and just as I was the dutiful daughter so shall my children be the dutiful grandsons. I know I sound sarcastic but all kidding aside; I want my boys to make Grandma happy. I am bringing my Sony Handycam to get some video. Life is short and she is getting older. I want to have video to look back on as a way of remembering my mom.

We’ll see my oldest brother, who was the perpetrator of sexual abuse upon my prepubescent body. Ironically, he has always been my mother’s favorite. I feel slightly sickened by the reality of such facts but otherwise I’ve forgiven and moved on with my life. My brother has admitted his mistakes (been counseled by his pastor) and we have made amends. It took years of therapy but I no longer think of what he did to me when I was a young girl. My boys like to see their uncle and all of this will make my mom happy.

I have been open about the sexual abuse within my family (with my siblings, not with my children) but my step dad has never been told. I sometimes have the desire to disclose this family secret because he has been part of the family for over 10 years. I love him for the wonderful grandfather he’s been to my kids. He is also so good to me and my husband. What would it serve for me to share this? I wonder why I want to. If my mother hasn’t told him would it be wrong for me?

œDaylily

Bedroom secrets — antidepressants and sex

My blog gets many inquisitive hits about the use of antidepressants and sexual satisfaction. From time to time I do write openly about this topic. Here’s one of those times so be forewarned; exit now if you don’t want to read an honest post with regard to my sexuality and depression.

Many antidepressants have made it nearly impossible for me to achieve orgasm. All I can figure is antidepressants mess up my hormones and they don’t allow the tension to build to the point of being able to climax.  On Paxil I enjoyed manual stimulation but I couldn’t come. This wasn’t satisfying because sex didn’t feel right to me if I couldn’t complete the act. I would frustratingly try to get-off and all I would get is sore from trying too hard.

I took my prescribed medications and suffered with a poor sex life for a couple of years because I understood the benefits to my depression. During this time, life evened-out for me.  I learned to not be in a constant state of flight or fight.  I didn’t have to disassociate my feelings from my thoughts because they were basically under control.  Eventually, I missed the enjoyment of a healthy sex life so I sought out a psychiatrist to help me find a medication that did not have negative sexual side effects. During this time I was able to achieve orgasm but Lexapro, Effexor, Pristiq and Zoloft decreased my desire and having sex was more of a chore than something I desired.

I should mention that prior to getting on antidepressants, my sexual desire was strong. In fact, so much so that early in my marriage I was the aggressor and my husband would turn me away because he didn’t have the same level of desire. I could get off pretty easily with him and I wanted sex often. Because of these differences, I learned to use a power massager to have an orgasm on my own. The massager was made for sore muscles but I found it was useful in other areas.  Talk about quick. When I’m in the right mood I can come in less than a minute.

Husband started showing more interest in me once I didn’t “need” him anymore. He joined me in the bedroom and overtime bought me a couple of different dildos to complement the pleasure from my massager. Truthfully, I was embarrassed by these gifts but also intrigued. Husband continues to like to satisfy me with my “toys” before he and I take care of him. I used to feel embarrassed that he was watching and helping me masturbate because it was ingrained in me that good girls don’t do that. Husband made me feel sexy and loved when I played with my toys so it began to be a part of our love-making. Ironically, Husband initiates sex more now and the tables have turned and he has the stronger sex drive.

This change is probably because of the nasty effects of antidepressants. They definitely lowered my sexual desire and my pleasure.  I began to feel like I could take it or leave it. Last November I sought out another prescribing professional to help me find a better antidepressant. I wasn’t as concerned about sexual function as much as my obsession for carbohydrates. Paroxetine worked best on my depression but it caused excessive weight gain and a desire to drink too much wine. I wasn’t sure if the wine was a craving or a way to self-medicate depression. (That’s another post but basically it was both plus a habit that is difficult to break). My newest therapist writes prescriptions and she currently has me on Wellbutrin and Celexa. This is a good balance of medications that treats my depression, lessons my craving for carbs, gives me more control over my drinking and allows me to be multi-orgasmic once again. My husband is initiating sex almost every night (we’re both on vacation) and I am eagerly responding to his advances.

I believe couples have to get creative when our bodies do less than what we want. My husband’s high blood pressure medication makes it hard for him to sustain an erection so getting-off by making love is nearly impossible for both of us. He helps me use my toys and I help by jerking him off and giving him oral. Even a guy with erectile issues can usually get hard if the woman doesn’t pressure him to penetrate her. (This is where my toys come in handy). No two people are the same so I can’t promise the medications I take would work for anyone else but my advice would be to keep looking for the ones that have the least amount of negative side effects.

I hope this post was helpful to those that visit my blog looking for answers about depression and sexuality. I recognize it’s unabashed and bold but in reality we are all sexual creatures. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse I can honestly say I have healed from how the early trauma affected me sexually. It didn’t happen overnight. I became confident and self-assured in the bedroom because I have a great guy in my life who sincerely wants to give me pleasure and sex usually begets sex.

♥Daylily

Learning self-compassion

I will attempt a post about self-compassion, for the sake of growing in my ability to focus on being mindful. My tendency is to be unaware of emotions which allowed for my inner critic to have full reign for the past 40+ years. The patterns have repeated themselves since my childhood, within a family of intellectual perfectionists, I felt less than perfect due to my personal experiences with incest and depression. It is time to stop carrying shame and blame and expose them in order to limit the power they have over me.

Am I losing some of you? I will find a quote that describes this better than I ever could.

Mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994, p. 4). When we begin to make contact with the present moment using the tool of mindfulness, the world gradually begins to look and feel different.  It is as if we are slowly becoming awakened to the reality of the constantly unfolding present moment in a new way.  Worries about the past and the future begin to fade away as you realize that you are only truly alive in this moment… right now.

My life is on a positive path. I have been exercising, meditating, drinking less and practicing mindfulness. I am beginning to recognize my marriage triggers negative emotions. My pattern has been to close-up and walk away, never to acknowledge my feelings. Yesterday an incident occurred and I pushed aside my instinct to escape and I stayed with a challenging topic. I tried to see my husband’s side, as well as my own and ultimately realize the result doesn’t matter as long as I allow myself to feel things. This is not easy, if you’ve been married, you know what I’m talking about. Conversations can easily metamorphasize into a blame-game.

So, yesterday Husband brought up our finances.  I felt like running away and not partaking in or being responsible for his worries. He rightfully complained I avoid the topic of finances which led to an argument where he became so frustrated he was throwing around the f-bomb in close proximity to our children.

I have this tendency to react without emotion when anyone gets angry and this time was no different; I built a fortress around myself. My husband was saying if the finances were up to me we’d be living in squalor and we wouldn’t have money for retirement. I fought back by blaming him for needing everything bigger and better. Our house is 5,000 square feet and I tell him let’s downsize. We don’t need so many flat-screen tv’s, a swimming pool, 3 acres to live on. It’s way more than I wish we had. He argues back we can afford all of it if we stay on budget. I dig my heels in and stubbornly believe he’s entirely at fault.

He storms to his office and I go talk to my 14-year-old. I recently heard of a study that reported children who live with parents that argue have a greater probability for depression. Son 1 is particularly sensitive but thankfully he is confident and driven (unlike me, depressed at 14). I say to Son, “I know you don’t like it when we argue and I’m sorry.” He says, “Why do you get Dad riled up? You know he is a finance guy and spends a lot of his time making spreadsheets and xls documents.” As I listen to the wise words of my son, I busy myself picking up laundry on his floor while he plays Xbox and we continue the talk. I admit I don’t understand finances and I tell him that in a marriage, couples balance each other by taking on the areas they are good at and allowing the other spouse to take care of other things. Son tells me I should at least try to listen to him and look at the budget. Son says, “I hate it when you argue.” I ask, “Don’t you think all couples argue?” Because to me the fight with Husband was nowhere near as bad as the way my parents fought. Son surprises me by answering, “When you and dad argue it is much worse than other parents.” This gives me pause. Wow, I feel like I hold back and remain calm during the fights. Son continues, “You egg him on by the things you say and how you say it.” I tell Son, “I will go and talk to Dad right now and learn all about his financial plan and our budget.” He seems pleased and puts his Turtle Beach headphones back on as I carry the laundry basket out of his bedroom.

My eleven-year-old is not as sensitive and, as I walk by him on my way to Husband’s office, I joke, “Wish me luck as I go learn all about our exciting finances.” Son 2 says, “Have fun. I’ll see you in 3 hours.” He and I smile knowing this is not far from the truth.

I pour myself a rather large glass of Pinot Grigio and head to Husband’s office. (The tidbit about the glass of wine is not really part of the story except, in a way it is.  I recognize I depend on alcohol to cope but that’s a whole other post). There Husband sits, in front of a giant flat screen, working on a self-assessment for work.   Husband is pleased I’m there and gives me the full tour of everything, from tax bills, our paperless accounts, his retirement plan, our projected social security income and how many more years he must work in order for us to retire comfortably. When he shows me how little I contribute I get defensive and feel like a non-essential member of this family, in fact I feel insignificant in every way. (I do work but nobody could live on the social security I will receive at retirement). 

My self-loathing is pervasive and I say something depressing about how little I contribute. He immediately gets angry and says, “I’m not saying that so if you want to go there that’s all in your head.” He knows me too well. I am the queen of feeling bad for myself. I explain that my mom always wanted me to be more than I am and I feel depressed looking at those numbers because it shows just how worthless my life is.” Husband says, “If you want to get a higher paying job, go ahead but that’s not what I’m saying.  I’m just showing you what we have right now.” He takes all of the emotion out of it and so I stop my pity-party while he continues to discuss the giant spread sheet on his flat-screen.

The bottom-line is he wants to live debt-free and we spend way too much on sports, compared to the amount allocated for that line item on the budget.  I take responsibility for my part in loving all things sports and getting my boys into every opportunity that comes up.  Husband points out Son 1 didn’t have to participate in the winter training, for which I recently wrote a check for $540.  This option hadn’t occurred to me until now.   I say, “Fine, I will tell Son 1 that this is his last year with a club soccer team (where the fees are outrageous – close to 2 grand a year). Husband tells me not to do that – it will give him nothing to strive for this coming spring (which we already paid for). Then I tell Husband Son 2 wants to join a club basketball team. Now, instead of saying no, he says, “Son 2 needs something like that” and tells me I should look into it. WTF? Where will that money come from, Mr. Financial Wizard?”  (Excuse my sarcasm but I couldn’t help it.)

About an hour later, with his anger diffused, I manage to cut him short and go toward the office door. Husband is visibly relieved after sharing everything that’s been on his mind. I, conversely, feel like crap. My fervent hope is that once the kids are grown I die first so he can have his carefully planned retirement and I won’t have to be a burden.  I say something about how I will tell the children we made-up and he says, “Not completely yet.” He gets out of his office chair and hugs and kisses me. I go through the motions but I am emotionally shut-down. I feel like a useless human being that nobody could really want to love and be with and all I want is to get away.

I tell the kids I talked with their father and everything is okay now.  Then, I go to my own office and try to stay in the moment. I recognize that my inner-critic is coming down hard. I feel my old pattern of self-blame and become aware I don’t feel worthy of all that my husband does to support me and the children. I barely feel like I’m worth a dime. I recognize how awful it feels to encumber myself with these negative thoughts.  But I also know that my feelings are real.  Not realistic but nonetheless, real.  I consciously release them and turn my focus to right now. The good things I do have.  My marriage of (almost) 24 years. The love my husband and I have for each other. Our wonderful children. I see how I contribute to the household. I am worthy of having a good man who loves me. I don’t need to carry around old stories that just sabotage my self-image 

I must appreciate and be grateful for who I am.  These baby steps of self-awareness are monumental in terms of the long-term benefits.  If I can re-learn how I think of myself, life will be good.

Daylily

How childhood sexual abuse affects my marriage

It’s not news to anyone that a child who was sexually abused suffers long-term effects that carry over to adulthood. The early trauma is not an event that can be isolated because abuse touches all parts of a person’s identity, their social-emotional lives as well as the perceptions of themselves and others.

I have written about my experience of incest. I was prepubertal and research shows that the onset of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) factors into measuring the extent of trauma. Some studies show that younger children are somewhat more vulnerable than older children to trauma. I don’t need research to tell me this; of course a brain that has not developed (especially in terms of maturation and puberty) would be more affected. Other research shows that if the survivor lacks a sense of being protected by their parents, which is especially true with incestual CSA, the trauma can be worse. When I say trauma, I broadly speak of all the ways a child could be hurt; the more trauma the more far-reaching the effects and the harder the road is to recovery.

I’d like to address how CSA has affected my marriage of 23 years. I struggle with the ability to trust and be intimate with my husband. I fear re-traumatization if I stay in any relationship with the potential for emotional harm. When my fears over-power my rational thought, I want to escape. Yesterday in my blog I shared that I felt my husband does not respect or value me. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve had similar fears? More than I can count. Just about every time I don’t get my needs met.

My marital relationship is a concern but I am awakening to a realization that the bigger problem is that I continue to replay the same stories in my head. Recovery is hard because I keep my shame, guilt and sense of unworthiness hidden.

My thoughts regularly turn pessimistic and I fall into an all too common space in my mind that is self-protective. The proof is in every journal I ever wrote. I go between drastic states of believing that my husband is safe and loves me to an overriding sense that he hates me. Realistically, I am not in a relationship with a man who hates me. The relationship is unpredictable because I cause it to be so. A published piece of scientific literature about CSA says that dysfunctional family dynamics may occur in the families of survivors. These include “denial, unpredictability, lack of empathy, lack of clear boundaries, role reversal, a closed family system, incongruent messages (body language differs from speech) and extremes in conflict (too much conflict may result in abuse, too little may result in hiding problems and not dealing with them).” (Engel, 2000)

This is my reality — I do not think or react normally. CSA causes extremes in the quality of my intimate relationship with my husband.

My past shoves its way into the present and I re-live feelings of trauma and express myself in an extreme manner. I’ve never been diagnosed with a personality disorder of any kind, so this behavior is your standard post traumatic stress disorder. The reality is that my husband does not hate me nor does he think I’m stupid.

Yesterday, on Thanksgiving, I believed he hated me. I admit throughtout the day, I was recalling my childhood and I suspect it triggered my thoughts to go into protective-mode, hence the previous blog post threatening divorce. I have similar journal entries from the past 30 years, stating my husband doesn’t love me and I would be better off without him.

He proved me wrong yesterday by working in the kitchen all day, cooking the Thanksgiving dinner, from stuffing the turkey, to peeling potatoes to heating up rolls in the oven. I showed up just in time to set the table. He didn’t complain and in a sense proved he is good to me, to the kids and to my emotional health.

Dinner was followed by some television and then mutually satisfying sex that left me completely satiated. So much so, I forgot to take Klonopin at bed time and slept well regardless of missing my medication. This morning, my husband initiated more sex and I responded positively because he proved he could be trusted yesterday and so I felt safe.

This flip-flop in my thinking is the aftermath from CSA. It’s so paradoxical that half the time, I can’t trust myself. Is my husband loving or is he full of hate for me? My distorted thoughts aren’t reliable and so I’ve learned to go into isolation-mode when I feel unloved and low on self-esteem. I don’t want to do anything rash or sudden because I think it will hurt me more in the end to not be with this man I’ve loved for 30 years.

My instincts are good because it protects me from doing further harm to myself. Otherwise, I would still be living out my adolescence with sexual promiscuity, an eating disorder and drugs. I realize that when my thoughts turn to self-hate, I should isolate myself in order to stay safe. This defense mechanism has kept me in a good marriage, allowed me to raise well-adjusted children and kept me employed.

Things are beginning to change. I’m recognizing these stories and past patterns of thought are hurting me. No doubt they impact my relationships, and especially my marriage; but I count my blessings. I’ve never threatened divorce, I’ve only fantasized it would be best. I know it wouldn’t be the answer to my problems. My husband is aware of my past CSA and has stuck by me. He is a good man and I am ready to change my thoughts so that I can both give and accept love fully.

Daylily

Am I just “settling”?

Is my marriage healthy for me? Is it allowing me to be the best that I can be?

Huge questions.

Life changing answers that I admit I’m dreadfully scared of.

There’s so much buried anger and resentment in my marriage of 23 years. If I were to complain to my husband, he would respond “How do you think I feel?” He would go on to list things I don’t do for him, ways in which I don’t show love, behaviors of mine that make him feel isolated from me.

I have the same feelings of resentment for how he talks to me and how he responds to simple requests. I can list numerous ways in which he sounds bitter, angry and hateful toward me. It seems he always answers me by being snotty and angry.

He could say the same about me. We both feel unloved and unsupported.

It’s a vicious cycle of our emotional needs not getting met.

Did I marry someone with the exact likeness to my parents? I feel constantly criticized just as I did as a child. Brief interactions cut me down everyday – it’s no wonder I continue to have a low sense of myself. My husband treats me like I’m stupid. The same way I felt growing up.

Why have I been in a marriage to someone who can’t offer empathy for my emotions unless they are spilling out with sobbing tears?

I know why – because when I make a commitment, I stay with it. I tell myself I must endure, regardless of whether the relationship supports me or not.

The following are deep-rooted excuses that I believe down to my core, ways to justify staying in my marriage:

I would still be stuck with myself, no matter who I was married to.

That’s one of my classics. But doesn’t that thought hurt me? It takes the blame off my husband and puts it all on me. I recognize self-blame as my lifelong pattern, learned in childhood, as a way to avoid abandonment. If I entertain thoughts that others are not good for me and I, God forbid, voice those feelings – I could very well be left alone and abandoned.

Children cannot survive on their own so the thoughts were justifiable when my parents divorced and I feared being alone.  But, I’m an adult now and I could survive. Why do I blame myself instead of my husband who hurts me constantly with his tough, hardened exterior?

My husband doesn’t physically abuse me nor intentionally hurt my feelings. He is a good man and I am just sensitive to how others speak because I live with a sense of unworthiness.

Which is it? I’m too sensitive or my husband is an egotistical hard-ass who doesn’t think before he speaks? My perspective is so distorted that I just do not know the answer. My dad was the same way and my brother’s grew up strong, ambitious and competent. They didn’t feel the criticism that I did. I truly could be over-sensitive.

I hope my two boys don’t feel their father’s judgmental attitude and turn it against themselves. Perhaps that is how men raise children and as a girl I am overly sensitive in close relationships with men.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

I try to follow the word of the Lord and not be selfish. I have intentionally never written down the numerous ways my husband’s words have hurt me because that would be keeping a record of wrongs.

In my childhood, as a survivor of sexual abuse, I learned to rise each morning and shut out how I felt about my brother molesting me each night.

In my marriage, comparably speaking, I do the same thing and block the painful interactions and have learned not to remember.

My childhood patterns helped me master the ability to separate from painful emotions – to the extent of not being able to retain information that caused emotional pain only moments before. In my current life, this allows me to go to work, raise the children, do the household chores and stay married.

No marriage is perfect because no person is infallible. Any marriage has times of neglect because humans are not faultless creatures.

I must stay in my marriage and accept culpability for my part.  I can grow from this relationship.

That is true but I can only grow so far and no further — if my partner chooses to not see the part he plays in the relationship. Each person comes to a marriage with a past wrought with baggage. I’ve gone through a lot of therapy and I’ve been working hard to release my past baggage and learn to live in the present. Can I say that is so about my husband? Would my husband admit to his faults and accept he is not blameless?

That’s the question I’m dreadfully afraid of.  He most likely would blame me, depression, my history of sexual abuse, my inability to let go of feelings, my sensitivity and my self-imposed isolation.

The answer I would most like to hear from him is, “We both play a part in this marriage and we are equally at fault for the anger, resentment and lack of intimacy.”

This ideal is not far-fetched because my husband does care about me. He tries so hard to give me the love I need but over the years I have been unpredictable and he has rightfully used caution.

Where does all this lead me? At this moment, as I look truthfully at my marriage, I feel beat down. I don’t honestly know how much more I can improve in terms of building up my sense of worthiness and ceasing my behavior of drinking to numb my feelings, while I’m in this marriage with a guy that when I pull away the blinds, I see as playing a part in me continually feeling a sense of shame and guilt. I am perpetuating my past and something has to change. I can not continue to disengage from my emotions and think I will develop self-love and the ability to stop the negative thought patterns from my past.

If every relationship is wrought with fault and built-up resentments then I seriously wonder if I would be better off alone? At least until I could work out my own issues within a healthy atmosphere that doesn’t continually replay past patterns.

But, I must ask myself, why would I bail on a good man who has gone with me this far in my journey of self-discovery? He is painfully aware of my past and my present. Am I hiding from my own issues and wishing I could be alone so I don’t need to make those final steps to finding intimacy and real love?

Seriously, why would I want to start over after 20+ years?

I must talk to my therapist about this revelation and eventually discuss it with my husband.

Really big questions with no clear answers.

Daylily

Reaching out during a depressive episode

The bottom of despair is a shitty place to be; I know because I spent the morning there. Schools were cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy so I took advantage of this day off from work to settle deep into depression. I didn’t consciously do it but the opportunity arose and I took full advantage.

Why am I talking like I did something helpful when I felt like such crap last night and this morning? Well, that’s where the silver lining comes in. There may even have been a rainbow.

I have never, ever climbed into bed and expressed my feelings of depression while there. My pattern is to wallow alone and then pull myself together, all the while hiding how awful I feel – to myself and those that love me. No bullshit. This is one of my learned behaviors leftover from childhood.

This morning I passed the hours curled up under my down comforter crying that I was so pitiful. I cried that I didn’t have the strength to get out of bed; I cried that I wasn’t hungry and that I had no desire to eat. I was alone in my misery for what felt like forever. I determined that I was really bad off because I could neither lift my head nor could I find the strength to eat so I should call my therapist. Isn’t depression the reason I was under her care? I contemplated this for a long time as I huddled under my covers with my cell phone. Eventually, I just did it.

Lynn answered on the second ring and I casually said who it was and then, “I see you’ve returned from your vacation.” She responded, “Yes, just in time for the hurricane.” Small talk out-of-the-way I said, “I called you because I’m really not doing well.”

I haven’t seen Lynn for close to a month due to her 3-week vacation. “Is it something that just came up or has it been building for a while?” asked Lynn.

“Well, I have to tell you, this is a first for me, to call my therapist and talk about how I’m feeling. I have never called for help before but I am really low right now.” I cried that I couldn’t get out of bed, that I wasn’t hungry and that I’m failing my family by not cooking for them, by being distant and isolated and I threw in something about my husband saying I didn’t know how to be intimate.

Then I stopped talking and asked, “Is this a good time for you? I don’t want to keep you from anything.” How stupid of me, as if she could hang up now. I’m just standing on the edge of this cliff but I can wait for you to call me later. In hindsight, that was a “duh” moment. After a brief pause from her, she said she certainly had time for me.

I quickly caught her up to speed about how I went to this “radical forgiveness” workshop to release feelings of self blame. She agreed that was quite a big step for me and when I told her I got overwhelmed with emotions and I couldn’t get away so I went into auto pilot, she asked about the facilitator. I told her I emailed the facilitator and I was reassured that I hadn’t done anything wrong although Lynn said usually a psychologist will tell you what to do in the event things become overpowering. I don’t know what to believe but it’s been 3 weeks since the workshop and I still feel like crap.

One major trigger to my sense of despair could be a book I’m reading because it hits so close to home. Living with your Heart Wide Open is exposing so many open wounds that every chapter is like getting re-traumatized. It’s all about self-criticism and a prevailing sense of unworthiness. I can’t get to the part about self-compassion because I’m busy beating myself up over negative patterns the book says I’ve developed and that I must learn to break.

Lynn asked if I could talk about the one thing that is upsetting me – is it feeling unloved. “Can you tell me how you’re feeling?” I was still buried under my covers and I said, “I don’t know,” while I audibly sobbed.

For me to be without a word is rare; I typically control the ebb and flow of our therapy sessions. Of course, she was trying to figure out what was going on with me and, I’m guessing this response was a red flag that I was depressed and not thinking straight.

Lynn said I must ask my husband to help me. Explain to him how I don’t like to feel a lack of intimacy. I cried that I couldn’t, that he and I were berating each other.

Lynn suggested that I stop reading the book but continue with the mindfulness cd, which has been helping me to fall asleep at night. She said that it sounds like I’m aggressively trying to fix my problem through forcing it. I can’t recall the exact word but she insinuated that I’m trying to direct my healing by micro-managing every piece of it.

She’s absolutely right. I felt as much and it’s backfiring; I’m worse and not better. Self-help groups, self-healing books, yoga and a sense of being broken have exasperated my depression.

Lynn thought I should increase the Celexa to 20 mg (I’m on 10 now). I agreed and I made an appointment for 2 weeks out because of my busy schedule on the weekends.

After hanging up, I whimpered quietly, under the safety of my blankets and soft pillows. In the back of mind I was thinking of the “radical forgiveness” workshop, how emotionally charged it was and I recognized that I never released all of the stuff that was brought to the surface. Intellectually I thought I should have cried but I couldn’t – until today. It was like opening the flood gates! I have not cried in years and, as much as I didn’t like how it took me over, the release was good for me.

Well, I still couldn’t lift my head or consider going down to the kitchen to eat something so I called my husband (who works in his home office). He said he was in the middle of an important presentation (everything is tele-com these days) and he would be done in 15 minutes.

My husband walked in the bedroom and there I was, in bed, crying with my elbow covering my face. I felt so ugly I had to hide but when he asked what was wrong, I spoke. I didn’t retreat inside my shell or tell myself he doesn’t really care (which is a well-worn pattern). Instead I told him I was depressed and I couldn’t get up. He told me just do it for the kids downstairs. I said, “They are enjoying their day off from school and don’t even care where I am.” Husband said, “They know you are not downstairs with them.”

I swore I would never get up and he looked flustered. He was rubbing my arm and telling me nice things that I don’t remember. He leaned down and hugged me and my arms felt limp like spaghetti. I accepted his hug but couldn’t give back. I said I need to eat something and he said he’ll cook and I should pull myself together and come down in 10 minutes. Again, I said I can’t get up and pleaded with him to bring me something. I told him I wanted toast and grits (I’m not southern but I love grits, anyway). He came back and demanded that I sit up but I just couldn’t do it. I made him put the plate and bowl on the bed 3 inches from my mouth and I fed myself as if I were a sick bird or a dying man. Husband went back to work and I sniffled in my bed. With every bite the food tasted better and I gained strength.

How could I have missed that my depression was back? The tell-tale signs are night-waking, lack of appetite and emotionally distant from the family. I misconstrued all of that for necessary paths to inner compassion and mindfulness. This experience highlights how directly my childhood thought patterns correlate to depression. With each day that I focused on my past “stories” my depression grew worse. It’s uncanny.

Next I did the bravest thing of all. I called my mother, from my bed, in a deep depression. I prayed she would pick up and not my step-dad and my prayers were answered. I said, “Hi Mom.” Her quick response, “What is going on, it sounds like you’ve been crying.” I snuffled that I have been crying and went into the whole I can’t get out of bed thing. She asked about my depression, my medications, my therapist and my husband helping me. To the last part I told her, “Husband doesn’t even believe in depression.” She’s known my husband for 3 decades and she said, “Well you should take him to your therapist so he can get educated.”

The reason I called my mom is I’m having extreme guilt that she wants me to host Thanksgiving and I don’t have the energy. I always try to do what is right and please her and I didn’t know how I would manage it this year. My mom recently moved to a retirement home and part of her down-sizing was dispersing things. To me, she handed down a large oriental rug for my dining room and her set of wedding silver. It is all beautiful and generous and I feel so obligated to use it for a family gathering. I told her I can’t host anything because I’m feeling like a failure in everything I do right now.

My mother’s response was better than I hoped because she was thoughtful and caring. She said she would stay at the retirement home for Thanksgiving. She offered to come and help me if I wanted her to. I told her I have so much going on with family, kids, sports, school, and work that if they came down it would be one more thing on my plate.

Then my mom asked me, “How did you get depression?”

I take the plunge and offer full disclosure, “It was caused by childhood trauma. I learned to tell myself things that weren’t true but that allowed me to grow up. I am still stuck in childhood thoughts that I’m not worthwhile or good enough.”

“Oh, honey,” she lovingly responds.

I reassure her, “It’s nobody’s fault, not my parents or my brothers; it’s just how things happened.” I stumble with words and say, “I learned to tell myself I wasn’t worth it.”

I tell her not to worry about me, that I will be okay. This is when she told me something that broke my heart in a good way.

My mom said, “I will worry about you every minute of every day. You know you are my favorite child.”

I quickly deflected her kind words by saying, “All of your children are your favorites.” But, I heard love and caring in her words. We said good-bye and I love you and when I hung up, I retreated back under my covers to cry some more. But, this time I was crying because my mom and I connected on a deep level. I was touched that she said I was her favorite child. Never in a million years did I ever think she would tell me that. I’ve got brothers who are successful, talented, intelligent and relate to my mom on an intellectual level where as, I fall short on all of those things that are important to my mom. Perhaps those thoughts could be part of the “stories” of my childhood that I made up and learned to believe. I just heard with my own ears that my mom thinks I’m special. I will try to hold on to that and use this silver lining to my advantage.

I slept after the phone call with my mother and awoke ready to get out of bed around 3 pm. The news stations cautioned that no one should be out on the roads so I was securely stuck in my home. We lost electricity around 4:30 pm and darkness set in. My husband set up our generator and so we have a few lights, heat, water and the refrigerator working, plus we have internet. I sit here typing and uploading to Word Press via backup generator. It’s nice to feel removed from outside forces after completely breaking down today. It looks like I have work tomorrow although many schools are closed for another day. I best listen to Lynn who said I must eat and get a good night’s sleep. The increase in my antidepressant will take a while to kick in. I’m hopeful because I do respond well to SSRI’s.

Daylily