Tag Archives: personal growth

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

The next step in healing…

Why have I’ve moved on from My Depression Chronicles to the new blog about emotional drinking?

Simply put: the depression is under control.  If I were to take a self-test for depression, I would pass. That doesn’t mean I don’t have depression; it means I am asymptomatic.

What’s the magic? My therapist is a prescribing registered nurse and experimented with dosages to find the perfect cocktail.  I take Wellbutrin, Celexa and Klonopin. (I am one of the lucky ones who respond well to antidepressants).  They have calmed my negative thoughts and allowed me to feel in control of things. The benefits of depression being properly treated reach into all areas of my life. I feel in control and I was able to lose weight, lower my blood pressure and reduce my drinking.

So, what’s the problem? Why the new blog?

My therapist rightly said that once we have one piece of our lives in order we are ready to tackle another area. How true that is. I’m ready to take the connecting flight to the next item on my list of personal areas to heal.   The next stop is to look at my drinking habits but first a walk down memory lane…

The beginning of my healing journey, back in my twenties, was focused on reducing the effects from childhood sexual abuse and learning to let go so that I didn’t continue to suffer PTSD and dissociation. Living in constant “fight or flight” with a wall up was exhausting. During this time, I developed the eating disorder anorexia. I exercised obsessively and ate barely anything. Reliving the pain of CSA was hard work and an eating disorder gave me a sense of control. I was in talk therapy but hadn’t been diagnosed with depression. The therapist told me I had PTSD and later dysthymia.

I quit smoking and starting eating healthy again when I turned 30. A few years and 2 kids later, the stress level grew and I suffered with insomnia and little desire to eat again. At age 37 my doctor diagnosed me with major depression. Paxil improved my mood and so began my adventures with antidepressants, experimenting for the next few years to find one that didn’t make me tired, hungry or dispassionate about sex. Nothing worked like Paxil for my depression so I went back to paroxetine about 5 years ago. The trouble with that drug is its side effects make me crave carbs and alcohol. Fortunately, I wasn’t depressed so I landed a decent job and made some positive connections in my community. However, from age 35 to 38 I ate too many carbs during the day and drank too much wine at night. I sincerely believe the antidepressant caused my 60 lb. weight gain.

This blog began when my weight was up, my drinking was what I call “self-medicating” and my health was beginning to suffer, with the most obvious signs high blood pressure, perceptible changes in my blood sugar and the beginnings of an ulcer.

One year later I’ve lost 30 lbs., resolved my stomach issues and reduced my blood pressure and most importantly I’m not depressed. I still have a good job and many social ties. BUT, I am still drinking to “self-medicate.”

It’s like the curtain getting pulled back to expose the wizard. What’s left is my drinking. Why do I drink? What am I so afraid of? I know the answer in its simplest form; I don’t want to feel any negative emotions. I drink to numb my feelings. That’s where the “emotional drinking” name for my blog comes from.

I stopped drinking 11 days ago and I’m prepared for the fallout. I’m not going to run to a wine bottle. I plan on facing my emotions. My head is in the right place and the time has come to uncover all that I am and discover all that I can be.

Now boarding for www.emotionaldrinkingdotcom.wordpress.com.

♥ Daylily

Upcoming events – first AA meeting and back to my therapist

My therapist hurt my feelings last time I saw her. That sounds stupid even saying it, but such an admission shows just how sensitive I am. I began with Lynn so she could help me with depression and what I defined as my use of alcohol to self-medicate. Ignorantly, I believed that if I changed my depression medications then my drinking would stop, too.

That’s not how it went down.

I withdrew from all medications, under Lynn’s watch, and spiraled into major depression. Lynn wisely prescribed a cocktail of medications and my mood improved. Unfortunately, my drinking hasn’t improved. My therapist threatened to withdraw all medications if I don’t stop drinking. She said I am mixing medications and it’s dangerous.

Our relationship had only recently begun to feel safe. Over a long stretch without seeing Lynn, I told her I missed her. Instead of answering the same Lynn said, “That’s good it means you trust other people.”

It was the very next session when Lynn played tough love and gave what felt like an ultimatum. I don’t do well if I feel unsupported by people I trust.

I shut down and accused her of giving me a threat about my meds. It hurt my feelings that she doesn’t understand my emotional sensitivity. When I withdrew in our session she tried to reassure me it wasn’t a threat and she would give me time. But the damage was done.

It’s been 2 weeks and I am scheduled to see Lynn in 2 days. In all honesty, I’d like to bring in my medications and throw them at her. What pleasure I would get watching them spill all over her carefully organized chair, table and office. And with that I would say, “Take your fucking medications and your sense of superiority and stick it up your ass.” What would be the point? To show her I don’t need her pills or her kind of therapy.

Reality check! Indifference is this therapist’s mode of operation. She would shrug her shoulders and think to herself, “There’s nothing I can do. This patient wasn’t ready to hear the truth and do the hard work.” She’s just such a hard-ass, I hate it. I wonder if this is how all addiction counselors are?

So, I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I know what the right thing is but it is difficult for me to trust this therapist. I have an urge to run instead of expose myself. But, I am going to try to do what she’s asking on blind faith. Tomorrow is Friday and instead of opening a bottle of wine I will go to my first AA meeting. It’s what my therapist thinks I need. Sounds scary but I will do it and go to therapy knowing I’m trying to do the work. I haven’t ruled out finding another therapist but for now I will see if our relationship can be restored.

Fern (formerly known as Daylily) 

Join me on my new blog.  Daylilies live for only one day and ferns can flourish in the right climate for a long time. 

http://emotionaldrinkingdotcom.wordpress.com/ 

Being married to a survivor of childhood sexual abuse

There are two sides to every coin

Good Evening! If you read my last post then you know I emotionally broke down over the weekend. What a crying mess I was. I spent all Sunday in bed, restoring my equilibrium. I am feeling so much better. It is not hard for survivors of sexual abuse to fall off-balance. Fortunately for me, time settles things and makes all the difference. As I go deeper into my issues there is less recovery time – which is a relief! 

My husband took the brunt of my rage but in truth I was triggered by seeing my brother who abused me, telling my step dad about the abuse and then re-telling Lynn in therapy. Only a person with trauma would know how bringing too much to the surface can put a survivor into a tail spin.

I regret how hard I was on my husband. Admittedly there are issues in my marriage, any marriage, really. What does it do to a guy whose wife wants to run away every time she feels slighted? Either physically run or mentally check out by drinking wine. Yes, he said some mean things but I didn’t tell you about how I told him, “Fuck off” and “You don’t control me.” When he didn’t want me to walk on the road at night it was because he cares. Our road is rural with no lights, no sidewalks and right now there is snow up to the edge. I was being stubborn and felt trapped and wanted to do something stupid like stumble down the road. He was angry that I was drunk. We were both at fault but I have to concede my part, that life with a survivor of sexual abuse is hard on the spouse. I can be unpredictable with intimacy and trust and half the time I don’t even know why I act the way I do.

I met my husband when we were in college and we’ve been married for 24 years. Although the relationship seems especially strained right now, most likely it’s because I am trying to grow, change and improve. There have been a lot of backslides during the past year. My emotions are up and down, left and right. My husband does try to get some control and it’s not always been that way. I have directed our relationship by pushing him away or needing him so desperately that it’s overwhelming for him. He has stuck by me through years of a tumultuous relationship. I give him credit and I recognize everyone has their limit. He hit his limit when I was drunk (again) on Saturday night. Even though I “only” drink on the weekends, I keep saying I’m going to stop. He’s tired of hearing my promises. I don’t think he’s a bad guy, I think he’s stuck in a tough position.

I’m still going to work on our relationship issues. I want to track when situations trigger anger. That is when I disassociate. I may find my husband is over-the-top with his criticisms and controlling ways but I must also see my part in our marriage dance. I’m a real bitch most of the time. I complain about everything. The house, the chores, his lack of help, the long list of things that need to be fixed, how I need help with the children’s busy schedules and that I hate to go food shopping and I wish I didn’t have to cook meals and clean up afterward. I am not the easiest person to live with. That’s the reality.

Yes, my husband is showing frustration and impatience. In some ways, I think it is his right. I’m not the warmest wife or happiest homemaker.

Thanks for reading this one. Journal/diary blogging has a way of being partial and imbalanced. I needed to try to show both sides of the coin. I know this side doesn’t make me look good. In order to make changes I must be rational and balanced.

♥ Daylily

Incest sufferer or survivor?

The past is coming to the foreground because I disclosed the fact my oldest brother molested me when I was a child.  This time I told my step-dad who was not around when it happened.  We’re talking about forty years ago and yet it still has the power to derail me. Twenty years ago I told my siblings and confronted my brother.  The dust had settled (or so I thought) until I talked to my step dad this weekend.   My step dad cried and hugged me and today I got an email in which he wrote that I’m brave.  I won’t go into all of that except to say I felt loved and supported.  It was the right move to tell him.

However, I am inundated with images and feelings that continue to have a firm grip on me.  The incest, the shame and guilt, the ways I misbehaved in the aftermath.

I wish I had the courage to do more.  I should be protecting others.  Courageously speaking out in public.  Sharing my story to help others.  Stopping the pattern of childhood sexual abuse.  But I can’t because I still carry shame and a prevailing sense of unworthiness.  I should, I should, I should… Oh, the guilt of it all.

Here are some examples that hurt deeply because it is not fair that I still feel guilt around incest:

I stole from my brother’s coin collection when I was 10 or 11 years old.  Just as he snuck into my room at night, I would go into his room and unlock this tool chest that had stickers all over it saying, “Keep Out.”  I took the coins that were old but still in circulation such as silver nickles, dimes and quarters and used them at the local penny candy store.  My heart fills with shame for my actions.  It was not me doing that.  It was the violated girl getting her payback.  Sometimes I feel he deserved it but other times I get this surreal feeling that I was driven by outside forces and I feel shameful. I never ever would have done such a thing if I hadn’t been sexually abused and so the shame in intertwined.  What I did and what he did.

I got into a car accident and totaled the vehicle my brother was to get for his birthday from my mom.  He was so mad at me and I felt guilty for it.  I wonder if I subconsciously wanted to screw him out of the car.  Again, I can go between feeling vindication and feeling shameful for crashing my mother’s car.  What I did and what he did.

There should not be any sense of shame or guilt on my part when it involves the brother who committed incest upon my prepubescent body.  But there is and I’m struggling right now.

Each time this brother brought up the things I did (and he did have the nerve to blame me!) I wish I had the courage to say, “You took away my innocence which is worth more than any coin collection or vehicle.”

I never said that.  I should have.

My life is in a flashback.  I feel weak.  I was abused and I should not carry shame.  This fight with myself that I judge what I feel is the inner critic speaking.

I’ve written about my desire to be mindful and compassionate and it must begin with me.  I’ve got to quiet the inner critic that allows for a continuing sense of shame and guilt for something that happened so long ago.

Tears are bubbling at the surface because my feelings are so raw.  Fuck the shame and guilt.  I want them out of my life.  2013 is the year I recognize the ways I make myself suffer and focus on how to rid myself of feeling like a failure.  I will be the survivor I like to call myself but right now I do not feel.

♥ Daylily

Old patterns revisited

I like to be upfront in my blog and – as much as I wish I could say all this self-compassion and mindfulness is helping – right now – it’s not.

Things suck. I’m getting over a sinus infection and I’ve been experiencing a migraine for 2 days. These are physical and can wreak havoc on my emotional stability.

I fucking hate being unstable. I fight it or fake it until the feeling passes.

My home life is wrought with anger because I feel burdened with the household chores. I have two growing boys and a healthy husband yet if I go out for the evening, the kitchen remains as messy as when I left. I angrily make clear how I feel, “I’m not the only one in this house who knows how to clean a kitchen. So, why am I the only one doing it?” As you can probably imagine this reaction makes everyone clear the room and grow further in distance from my rage.

My family knows when I’m not feeling stable and they joke about my anger and interruptions. “Not funny,” I say. They really don’t understand this is my worst and I need them the most.

There’s a break down in communication because I never learned how to express uncomfortable feelings. Survivors of sexual abuse either take it out on themselves or get angry with the world. It’s seems there’s no normalcy or middle ground.

I can’t fix my emotional self until the physical self is better. I took charge of my health and called my doctor three times in the last week. Once to get on an antibiotic for my sinuses, the second time because the first antibiotic didn’t work and again because my migraine was not responding to a potent medication that I can only take every twenty-four hours. The medication (Imitrex) lasted 15 hours and I called my doctor. She said I was experiencing a cluster migraine and prescribed a tapered steroid.

So, I’m taking antibiotics, steroids and my usual cocktail of Wellbutrin, Celexa and Klonopin. This is positive because I’m healing the infection, knocking out the migraines and treating my depression.

I wish I could feel optimistic. But, the stress of not being on top of my game has made me lose focus on mindfulness and self-compassion. Somewhere along the way I heard the voices telling me, “You’re sleeping too much.” “You need your doctor too much.” “You haven’t put up one Christmas decoration.” My head has been  full of self-defeating thoughts that I can’t run from.

I fall back on my old way of numbing the pain – both emotional and physical. I self-sabotage with a bottle of Pinot Grigio. I know I binge drink. I hate myself more for the lack of self- control.

My appointment with Lynn this week was focused on my emotional health and how I’m striving for mindfulness. I told her I recognized moments where I beat myself up with an inner critic that no one would want as a friend. She asked about my drinking and even after I told her I am drinking as a way to disassociate, she told me I’m making progress with the work of being present with my feelings.

I cannot believe she praised me even though I feel defeated and weak. Lynn told me to keep working on my emotions and allow those feelings to come to the surface.

I wanted to hug and thank her for recognizing my effort. Never have I expressed all of my vulnerability and had someone say, “Good for you.”

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