Category Archives: self-love

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 

Therapy feels wrong but who knows?

Admittedly, I am one of those people who doesn’t look any different from anyone else but my inability to stop abusing alcohol makes me a person that needs some kind of help.  I feel like it’s love, empathy and support that I need but my therapist is acting indifferent and tough.  It may be the right tactic but it feels wrong and hurts.  I want to push her away and isolate myself.

I know the therapeutic relationship mimics my personal relationships outside of therapy and I don’t know how to get help from someone who portrays themselves as indifferent.  To help understand, a total lack of affect and an abundance of intellect is my family of origin.  How can I heal within a relationship that feels so similar to my upbringing, where I hid my feelings from powerful, intelligent people.

As a survivor of CSA I battle the inner demons of self-hate and a sense of not deserving anything good.  I am dumbfounded as to find something inside me that believes I should recover just because I’m worth it.

This leads to my question: How can a person like me, who feels completely inadequate, trust her therapist and be able to get the help she needs?  This is a major road block to my success.  I want to enhance my sense of self which in turn will fuel the desire to stop drinking alcohol for my own good. Is this thinking backward?

My therapist says I must first stop drinking because it is the elephant in the room.  Sounds logical to a person with inner resources but sounds like jumping from a plane without a parachute for a person who lacks self-worthiness.

♥ Daylily

Within Us

What lies behind us, and what lies

before us are tiny matters,

compared to what lies within us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

Your journey has molded you

for your greater good,

and it was exactly what it needed to be.

Don’t think that you’ve lost time.

It took each and every

situation you have encountered

to bring you to the now.

AND NOW IS RIGHT ON TIME.

                     -Asha Tyson-

Child’s Pose

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org

I can’t complain about my life right now. My depression is being treated with the medications I take and I’m becoming a spectator in much of what can bring me down through my own ruminations and self-defeating thoughts. Suggestions from the book, Living with Your Heart Wide Open, are helping me practice being “AWARE” — allow, witness, acknowledge, release and ease up. These are simple words that pack a lot of power.

My body has been fighting an infection since last week. I’ve been low on energy and not as productive as I would like. I couldn’t take being sedentary any longer and I went to a group exercise class, even though I knew I was not feeling well. During the exercise class my body would not perform to my expectations. I literally fell over with a balancing pose and I opted out of much of the strength training, preferring to lie on my yoga mat in Child’s Pose. I was so pathetic that my inner critic berated me.

I felt the weakness in my body and then I witnessed my thoughts belittle my effort. I heard: Try harder. Be stronger. Listen better. You are the only one not doing the exercises. You are different. You are inferior. Stop being weak.

I wanted to cry right there on my yoga mat because I wasn’t living up to my own sense of who I should be.

Then, growth unfolded.

I wiped my brow with a soft hand towel I’d brought with me, took a few sips from my water bottle – all while others where vigorously doing Sun Salutations, Warrior Poses and leg lunges – and curled back into child’s pose. I offered myself compassionate thoughts: Its okay. You are sick. Your body is fighting an infection. You most likely have a fever. Don’t judge yourself by others. Do only what you are capable of. Eventually I joined the class in Downward Dog, modified the difficult poses and went on to enjoy the restorative exercises.

I was fully present in my body when the class ended. I recognized my illness and gave myself compassion for my suffering as I never have before. My history would have had me hating myself and ruminating about how horrible I acted in front of others. Typically those feelings follow me home and, when there’s too much of them, I eventually spiral down into a pit of despair.

Not this time. I offered self-love, compassion and mindfulness. This capacity to be AWARE is completely new to me because in my childhood there was no focus on how I felt. I take pride in my emerging ability to acknowledge and ease up on myself. I like the feeling of responding to my needs and being kind to my inner self.

Daylily 

P.S. My doctor prescribed an antibiotic so I should be healthier for next weeks exercise class!

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

Freeing myself from shame

Wonder and astonishment are the best words to describe what I am discovering about myself. I always felt different from the rest of the world. My intellect told me it was because I suffered an incestuous experience that isolated me from others.  However, knowing the cause of an ailment does not make it better. Instead, I suffered more with the knowledge that I couldn’t get out from under my own self-loathing. As many survivors will tell you, we learn to fake wholeness in order to keep up the façade of normalcy. It is painful enough to hate yourself and it would be more painful to have others know those reasons because they would hate you, too. I know that thinking makes no sense unless you’ve learned to protect yourself through self-loathing; then you too would understand how real it feels – so real that others would admonish you if they knew. But, something is shifting and I no longer feel like that girl who is hiding her sense of inadequacy.

I am immersed in a book that so concisely describes my emotional pain that it blows me away. It’s truly extraordinary! How uplifting it is to read another person’s description of my life. If a book was written that matches my struggle there must be others out there who are buying and reading the same book. You have no idea how liberating this revelation is.

Sounds simple; pretty basic, really. Didn’t I say I always knew what my problem was? And don’t I know that 7 out of 10 women are sexually abused? So what is so special about this book and this moment in my life?

It is as if the stars have lined up perfectly and I am feeling what I’ve intellectually known all along. A new sense of freedom like no other. The emotional work I’m doing is paying off. Practicing mindfulness is putting me in touch with my negative thoughts and emotions in a way that’s allowing me to be aware of the hurt and pain, acknowledge it and then release it. My shame is diminishing and I am feeling stronger.

The following quote is from the book I’m reading.

“As the light increases, we see ourselves to be worse than we thought. We are amazed at our former blindness as we see issuing forth from the depths of our heart a whole swarm of shameful feelings, like filthy reptiles crawling from a hidden cave. We never could have believed that we had harbored such things, and we stand aghast as we watch them gradually appear. But while our faults diminish, the light by which we see them waxes brighter, and we are filled with horror. Bear in mind, for your comfort, that we only perceive our malady when the cure begins.” Francois Fenelon (1651)

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