Monday, November 26, 2012

The Baby that Made me a Mom

25 years ago - when I was just 17 - I fell in love (true and real love) for the first time.
With my chubby, angel-faced baby, Hacker.
I had never loved anyone or anything how I loved him.
I wanted to be a better ME for him... he deserved my best.
And oh how I tried to be amazing for him.
I succeeded a lot!!!!
I also failed miserably a lot of the time.
I did some great things and tried really hard not to shame and to encourage and to not compare and to champion.  I also yelled and slapped and dominated/controlled him in my immature parenting.
Plus I was dysfunctional in dealing with my alcoholic marriage and my own codependency and my insecurity and fear and self-protectedness and disconnection (in order to protect myself) and shame and inability to let myself feel feelings (for all of the above reasons).
He was a SWEET SWEET kid.
He had some rough teen years and we actually even had to send him away for half a year to a 'troubled teen' school.
But he righted himself and went back to being the SWEET guy he'd always been.
He is an extrovert like his Mama.
He is a pleaser (also like his mama).
He is kind and loving and fun.
He always tried to be chipper and not make waves... I am sure he will have a hard road of learning to be allowed to have feelings and NOT be pleasing and to accept his frailties (just like I did/am).
He is married and they are getting ready to have their first baby in the Spring.
And now he has taken a job that he is thrilled about - 2 hours away!
It is a good move for him.
It will be awesome for him to stretch his wings and for them to get more autonomy as a couple and a growing little family.
I am happy for them.
And I also know it's not THAT far.
All that said, I am teary as I write this.
He is a delight to my soul and I love having him near.
I love that he just pops by and hangs out... and I love that he now brings his wife to do it with him.
My family has grown and my heart has expanded.
I don't WANT them to be far away... I am sad.
All the above feelings are all coexisting at the same time in me.
I am happy AND I am sad.
And MAN am I gonna miss him.

I Make Mistakes

Perfectionism looks different on different people. 
For some it shows up in perfect hair, perfect body weight, perfect home, perfect children.
One way it shows up in me is my pleasing.  I can be a chameleon and lose myself to make you happy so you will like me and if you like me you won't leave me and I won't be alone.
There is not margin for mistakes - if I fail to please you, that could be the straw that breaks the camel's back and causes you to leave me.
So when I make a mistake I am FLOODED with shame and fear.
Mistakes are lethal.
When you link together my work (MONEY, my greatest fear area) and mistakes, I can go from zero to 60 of panic in milliseconds.
My mistake will not please my client and they will leave me.
And their leaving me will not just leave me alone, it will also take MONEY with it so I will be alone and will not be able to take care of myself.
I will be alone with no money.
I have convinced myself that I would at least SURVIVE if I was alone (it would suck, but I would LIVE).
But deep down, I do not believe I can survive without MONEY.

I just made my third BIG mistake with a third client today.
My human weakness and fallibility is KILLING me!!!!!!
If I can't be trusted to protect myself and keep myself ok, who CAN be?!?!?!?!?!?!
I am trying to be compassionate with myself; "You are human" / "Everyone makes mistakes"/ "You are allowed to be flawed" etc.  I am not being super mean to myself and I don't THINK I am shaming myself a ton, so that is kinda new, but I am still PANICKING!  I am not ok.  I feel terrified and exposed and alone.
Slogging through all this emotion is painful.
I want to numb it or medicate it or something (a drink, a xanax, french fries, ANYTHING).  I am trying to just lean into my feelings and to tolerate the discomfort.  That is why I am blogging right now... to just be present with my feelings.

Sometimes feelings suck.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I have through-the-roof anxiety.
It is about nothing specific and yet everything at once.
Dr. says it is like "birthing pains"... stuff I have been holding down for so long pushing its way to the top.  But the anxiety is another layer it needs to push through.
He said the dream I had about Mr. M loving someone else - and the FEELINGS it brought up - is probably at the root.
THOSE feelings of devastation... abandonment... rejection... not being loved... aloneness... being left for someone more lovable... fear... loss... the DEPTH of those... the profoundness of that loss... that is the stuff I have been burying for years (almost 43, to be exact).
UGH!!!!  I do NOT want to welcome those feelings or lean into them.  So I can SEE where the anxiety comes from.
I am NOT ok.
I am unwell.
The level of anxiety I am experiencing is making me quite exhausted because I have this constant adrenaline pumping through my body and my heart is racing.  So I feel like I am tense and stressed ALL DAY.  This fear of loss and not being ok and not being loved and my kids leaving me or something happening to them or Mr. M drinking or leaving me of me losing clients... all the things that would make me NOT OK.
And I am caught in an impasse.
I do not want to move forward into the pain I am avoiding but neither can I leave it this way.

Bad Dream

I dreamt last night that Mr. M cheated on me.  The dream SEEMED to last forever.
I was HEARTBROKEN!  (Just like I am when Mr. M relapses.)
I SOBBED and sobbed throughout the dream.
I didn't try to hold it together in front of friends and others I just pulled the blanket up over my face and cried.  (NOT what I do.)
I thought of ways I could finagle to make it work, stay together, fix it (exactly what I do when I find out he is drinking/using again).
All the feelings we profoundly the same.
But there was even a new level of loss because there was another woman.
She was pleasant and appealing (not super hot, not super young, nice body though) and I could see why he was attracted to her.
He felt bad and tried to apologize and make me feel better but he wasn't necessarily trying to get back together.
I was walking across the street with my heart BREAKING and sobbing and I said to myself "You told yourself if he ever did this to you again" - referring to how I feel about if he drinks again -  "you would be done.  You weren't doing this again.  You have strength.  You can leave.  You do not need crumbs." That resonated with me and I knew it was true.  many times I have longed to be free and felt bound.  (More times I have definitely wanted to stay and been abandoned.)  I made a decision, walking across that street to hold my head high and stop groveling and be done.
I woke up at this point.
I was SOOOOOO tremendously sad.
It is devastating to think of losing something I have worked SO hard to keep alive for SO long... to have to finally give up and throw in the towel.
I snuggled over in bed next to Mr. M.  He semi-awakened (very unusual) and hugged me.
I told him I had dreamed he loved someone else.
He asked if that was why I was hugging him.
I was melancholy and anxious all day.  Because I emotionally felt like I had lived through another relapse.
This is the loss we live with when we love addicts and choose to stay with them.
Staying can be emotionally exhausting work.
One day at a time... Tonight Mr. M is sober and tonight he loves me, not someone else.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The FUN in dysFUNctional!

To my knowledge, I was not abused or molested when I was a child so any memories I delve into are not going to be long-buried tales of abuse.

I just know I was very adult (parentified) at a young age because somehow, somewhere, I got the message that I was on my own and had to take care of myself because no one else would.  (By 3, I would hurt myself and not let anyone hug or comfort me.  Once, at 9, I thought our house was on fire and I knew it would be up to me to rescue my little brother and I had to make the decision to let my parents burn up because they didn't listen to me warn them that i smelled smoke and I couldn't save everyone, so I chose my brother and knew I would have to let my parents go.  I had a plan to RAISE my brother and provide for him after that.  Side note - my house was NOT on fire and my parents did NOT burn up.  It is more a story about how alone I THOUGHT I was... I will have to explore those feelings in another post.)

Most people would wonder WHERE my little brain got this idea because I had a very stable and loving household.  We lived in a planned, suburban community with cookie cutter flamingo pink homes.  My dad worked and supported us so my mom could stay home and take care of us.  My mom made dinner every night with a protein and carb and a vegetable, she planned birthday parties, she was my girl scout leader.  My dad traveled a lot.  He would be gone for up to 2 weeks at a time.  But we knew he would come home, he CARED about us, and he worked hard for us.

I felt guilty for a long time and felt disloyal being critical of my upbringing when my life was so great and my parents had tried so hard.
But that didn't get me anywhere.  I was still stuck in painful cycles and isolation.  Don't get me wrong, I had friends.  Maybe even what you would consider a lot of friends.  But I didn't let anyone IN.  I didn't TRUST.  I didn't ask for help.  I held people at a distance.
I should actually - if I were being honest - make those all present-tense.  Because even though I am doing MUCH better, I am still stuck in painful cycles and isolation.  I have friends.  Maybe even what you would consider a lot of friends.  But I don't let people IN.  I don't TRUST.  I don't ask for help.  I hold people at a distance.


My dad was sexually abused as a child.
My mom never remembered having been molested but went through some 'intensive regressive' therapy years ago and said she had some 'body memories' of having been molested.
This may ruffle a lot of feathers and offend and cause discomfort, but I am a big believer that "water finds its own level" - meaning we marry people with like levels of dysfunction.  So, if on a scale of 1-10, I think my husband is an "8" of dysfunction, there is no way I am a mere 2.  I PICKED him for a reason.  Our levels of dysfunction are similar.  Our attachment injuries are similar.  We are familiar to each other (and with our levels of dysfunction)... it feels like "home".
Many times one person in a relationship is the most 'obviously' sick one (addicts, alcoholics, obese, ragers, porn addicts, gamblers, cheaters, etc.)... they are called the "identified patient".  The other person is usually JUST as sick but they often don't LOOK as sick to the outside world.  They hold it all together while the other person falls aart.  They are the rational, adult person.  They often fix, save, enable and control.  But keep in mind, they PICKED that "sick" person... they were familiar to them!  (Maybe repeating relationship patterns of Mom or Dad etc.)  All this to say that even if my mom WASN'T molested, my dad with his 'level 8' damage from molestation (please know that I am randomly making this whole "level" thing up for sake of illustration) was who she was attracted to and wanted to link her cart to and bring children into the world with.  This was not because she was a "2" weirdly attracted to an "8".  It is because her level of injury from her childhood (molested or not) matches my dad's, who WAS molested... so regardless, she was one hurt and wounded and alone little girl.
(My dad's only sibling was abused by the same abuser and has been married 5 times and is currently single.  She has never said she is gay, but I suspect she might be and MIGHT be happier if she would just embrace that part of herself.  My mom's siblings are much more "high functioning" but there is a lot of heavy drinking, anger, family feuds, jealousy, depression, suicidal thoughts, etc.)

Those were the 2 people who raised me.  They were injured, hurt, emotionally abandoned people doing the best they could with what THEY had been given.  And they gave us WAY more then they had been given!

I am the oldest of 4 children.  You can see some evidence of our wounds by how we are turning/have turned out and the choices we have made;
* I am married to an alcoholic addict (again, if he is an "8", then we can safely assume I am in that range as well).  I am the firstborn "hero" child.  I am controlling, high functioning, and a performer.
* My brother married a girl who has cheated on him multiple times and even got pregnant with on of her affairs.  They are still married.  (If I gave you the background on HER and her family, you would gasp.)  My brother lives in a home my parents bought him and didn't work for 2 years (even though he has his own kids plus more they are raising) while my parents supported him.
* My other brother is still an alcoholic and addict albeit functioning.  He currently lives at home with my folks while he pays off debt.  He does have a job.  He is still single and has a tough time with relationships; he has unrealistic expectations and inappropriate connections.  (he will date a girl for a week and be talking marriage and then turn angry, rejecting and volatile when she backs away a little because it is feeling a bit smothering and weird.)
*My sister married a verbally bullying man who didn't work (he let my dad support them) and surfed the internet looking at gay porn (13+ bookmarked sites, none hetero).  She divorced him.  She lives in a home my parents bought her and pay for.  She works for my dad.  She drives a car my parents bought her.  She has a GAS card from my parents.  My mom still has a clothing and hair budget for her.  (She is an adult woman.)
We are all smart and funny - I know I don't WRITE funny, but in person, I am :)  - and socially delightful 'performers'.  (I am a public speaker, my brother wants to be a senior pastor, my brother is in the entertainment industry and dreams of making it big, my sister is trying to be an actress.)
We keep the FUN in dysFUNctional!

This is all background for some of the stuff I am working on in therapy right now.
I want to delve into some feeling and memories in my journaling here on my blog and I think it will be helpful if I can refer to THIS background post for background to my story.
My memories are not going to be groundbreaking (to my knowledge).  They are going to be "little" memories of things that happened when I was young that are SYMBOLIC of deeper feelings that resonate throughout my childhood.
So for example, if my dad missed my birthday when I was 6 - he didn't actually, it's just an example - and I remember that and I write about it, it might seem trivial (trust me, it does to me too!... that is partly why I am embarrassed to delve into it... it is so "nothing" compared to other peoples' "real" pain - this is what I tell myself to minimize myself and devalue my own hurt).  However, if I let myself FEEL my feelings (how that felt to little 6 year old heart) maybe I will see that at the core of that I have deeper issues of feeling unseen and unloved and abandoned - feeling that have resonated throughout my my WHOLE life, that I grapple with today (that drive my feelings and choices and treating myself with low value).  Also, perhaps I am my brain is letting out "smaller" memories to see how I handle them and if I am loving, accepting and kind and safe before delving into harder ones... I have NO IDEA... but I am going to work with what I have and what my hidden self chooses to reveal.

I was going to journal a memory today, but the need for background rose up stronger.  (Necessary?  Or a defense mechanism because I don't WANT to look at or feel???  THAT is open to interpretation! :)

So I will journal some memories next time and see where they lead.

How to Find A Good Therapist

Because over the past few years people have watched my growth and change in therapy and because it looks SO different than what a lot of therapy experiences look like, I OFTEN get asked HOW to find a good therapist.  People get discouraged... they say "I have TRIED therapy before and it didn't work".
I agree!  It IS discouraging to try something and have it not work!  
Not to minimize the pain of this, but I have eaten at bad restaurants before and didn’t give up on restaurants.  There are good ones and bad ones.
I need to try others.
It also helps to ask for recommendations.  (But in the therapy world, only ask for recommendations from people who you can tell are getting healthy… that you are IMPRESSED by the progress they have made.)

Of course you will want to ask/research the basic questions:

Before anything else, do you feel like you can talk easily with the therapist?  Do you feel comfortable with them?  Can you picture yourself feeling safe with them? – If you find yourself not connecting with or feeling safe with ANY counselor, then the issue could be yours and you may want to just stay with them and try working through your fear of therapy.
What kind of license do you have? You want to see that they have extensive postgraduate counseling experience which may include up to 3,000 hours of required supervised experience and have passed a licensing exam.  (You can check with your state’s licensing board to verify.)
How long have you been practicing?
What is your area of expertise
What are your fees?
Do you accept insurance? (If yes, then check if they accept your insurance.  Are the in or out of network?)
What methodology do you believe in?
How quickly do you think you can help me? Honestly – and you are going to see my bias here – I wouldn’t pick anyone who says they can help you in 12-24 weeks, unless you are just there to quit smoking or deal with grief after the death of a loved one, something very specific.  If you are going to get help for lifetime patterns and wounds from the past, ask yourself “How long did it take me to GET this way??”  If it took you 30 years to develop these hurts and hangups, how can you HOPE to be “healed” in 12 sessions?  It is just not realistic.
Have any complaints been filed with the state licensing board?  (What are the complaints?  Have they been resolved?)
Have the done their own personal therapy?  This is important… you do not want a therapist who thinks THEY are healthy and YOU are sick and who has a  ”do as I say, not as I do” mentality.  You want someone who is working on themselves too.
Can the therapist clearly define their approach, and can even give an indication of how you will know when therapy is finished.
This are some of the business-type questions.  The “tangibles”, if you will.  The intangibles are harder to define.
Good therapy is like a good marriage.  It is not going to be perfect of problem free.  Your therapist (even the best therapist in the world) is an imperfect human being with unhealed parts of themselves.  So read this list realistically and use it as a guideline, not as law, because good therapy is imperfect.
Does the counselor encourage your dependence on him/her?  Or do they encourage you to be independent?  A good therapist isn’t trying to solve your problems, they are helping you be equipped to solve your own.  They shouldn’t be trying to soothe your feelings, they should be helping you learn to soothe your own feelings.  If your therapist provides advice, solutions, answers, or emotional support without encouraging you to access your own resources, it is more likely you will become dependent on your therapist to help you feel better, rather than learning to depend on yourself.  Sometimes I will share an issue or problem with my friends and they will ask “What did your therapist say???”  hoping he gave me the magical cure-all answer.  It is kind of a going joke now that makes us laugh because we ALL know what he said was something like “So you felt scared and upset when your son said he wanted to drop out of school…?”  (hahaha!)  HE helps me process my feelings and he is a safe person with whom to FEEL my feelings and grow, but he does not “fix” me or save me at all.
In that same vein, a good therapist should trust you to know yourself (or have the potential to know you) better than anyone else, to access your own wisdom, and to attend to your wounds yourself.   There should be a “togetherness” in the process. Albert Schweitzer said, “Each patient carries his own doctor inside him…. We are at our best when we give the doctor who resides within each patient a chance to go to work.”   This approach will put YOU in the driver’s seat of therapy.  Sometimes this is frustrating to me because I want my therapist to PUSH me (or drag me) to places I do not want to go… but if he did and I wasn’t ready, I wouldn’t go there any way.  As it is, he lets me lead.  This has taken a LONG time, but it has built trust and I have gone as I have been willing to go.  [He says he will "jiggle the door knob" to SEE if I want to open it... but if I don't, he will not force the door open.  He will wait for me.  And I DO do it... just S L O W L Y.]
Can the therapist accept feedback and admit mistakes?  A healthy therapist isn’t defensive if you need to share that something hurt or offended you.  They will be willing to look at themselves, to check their feelings, and to honestly and openly admit mistakes.  I have had to share a couple times my therapist hurt me (SUPER hard for me to do!!!!!!!!!, but I fund if I don’t do it, I end up pulling back from him and not feeling safe and that harms MY feelings about him and therefore my therapy).  I can’t tell you how awesome it is that he is a grown-up.  He can handle my feelings.  I don’t have to worry about him being defensive or having a shame reaction that will hurt me.  He is secure enough in himself that I can be safe to have my feelings.  What a relief!
Remember that your relational struggles will surface in therapy (if you are in good therapy).  For example, if you are a people pleaser and like to always be a “good girl” (or “good boy”) and do things “right”, you will find yourself trying to please your therapist and be a “good client”.  If you pick fights with friends or loved ones when you feel yourself getting too close, you will find reasons to be mad at your therapist when tough, painful, scary feelings come up.  Your protective mechanisms will surface and try to convince you to quit therapy or shut down and distance yourself.  So be aware if you find yourself wanting to quit therapy because your therapist did something wrong etc., it COULD be you.
When a therapist enters into a therapeutic relationship with a client, he or she should not have any other relationship with that client (such as teacher, friend, coworker, employer, or family member - in other words, you should not see your daughter's best friend's mom for therapy).  This is to protect you – YOUR needs (counseling-related) should be getting met (needs for empathy, understanding, support, guidance, unburdening, and healing).  A therapist should not be getting their OWN needs met by the client.  My therapist has another principle he uses in his practice that I thought was a maybe a little overboard when I first started seeing him; he will not even see any of my friends, family members, coworkers, etc.  (no one too close to me).  Now, years later, I can see the value and wisdom in that.  Since good therapy is kind of like being re-parented, it is very SAFE to feel like I am not sharing him with anyone.  He does not “like” my friend better than me, my brother is not a better client than me, etc.  I am a pleaser and I would want to share my therapist with EVERYONE I know (I would not want to selfishly keep him to myself)… He took that burden away from me… I didn’t have to handle it.  He did.  Once again, I love that he is a grown-up who can set boundaries.  Ahhhhhhhh!  What a relief!  This is another pretty stringent guideline he sets for himself; he gives me his vacation schedule for the whole YEAR in February.  Again, as a pleaser, I would say “Oh, that’s not necessary… it is ok if you want to go out of town, just let me know”… but there is actually a lot of safety and security in knowing when I can count on him being there.  I couldn’t have known this would be important to me, but deep down, if I am honest, it has been.
A good therapist is not just trying to help you get rid of your “symptoms” (anxiety, anger, stress, fighting, money fears).  They should be joining you (partnering with you) in exploring its depths/roots… THIS is where your true healing will be found.
First and foremost, therapy is a relationship.   In that relationship, when you feel safe to more fully and completely feel the presence of your “Self” while in the presence of another, healing occurs.
Is the therapist willing and able to help you go deep and to be with you while you are there.  Many of our extreme beliefs, feelings, and behaviors are maintained because we have – in an effort to survive – avoided the painful wounds and burdens buried deeply. A good therapist helps you process and complete whatever wounds (both hidden and obvious) you have carried.
This ia a LOT of information, but if I could summarize, I would say that you need to feel SAFE with a therapist, they should not judge or condemn or blame you (if you FEEL they are, tell them – because maybe it is YOU, not them – and see how they react… look at my points above about if the therapist can accept feedback or admit mistakes).  You should know they have the tools to guide you, but that they will help YOU get there yourself, not TAKE you there or force you somewhere you don’t want to go or try to fix you.  If you can find a good therapist, it will be worth every penny and hour you spend there.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Therapy Update (11/12/12)

I have had a lot of anxiety lately.  A lot.  Like profound, pervasive anxiety.

Over the years, when I have it, I can usually trace it back to something external and specific like "Oh hey, I have been drinking coffee every morning for 6 weeks, could THAT have something to do with it?"... I cut out the coffee and within 3 days, I am back to my "normal" anxious self :)  I have had it happen with certain supplements I tried and a new "green" drink etc.  This time, I couldn't think of anything new that I was doing (except taking 'miralax' - haha!).

I started to wonder if it was my reaction to feeling 'obligated' to delve into some childhood issues in therapy.  I have alway been pretty detached from childhood memories.  I mean, I can REMEMBER some stuff (there's a lot I don't remember), but it is detached from emotions.  I was telling my therapist about this and I had JUST finished saying "I don't have any EMOTION attached to my childhood memories that I can tap into"... but then I thought that when I had closed my eyes recently and pictured a small memory and really ket myself REMEMBER it - as that 7 year old - I could feel a bit of emotion coming up (which I quickly pushed down :/ plus I started shallow breathing (borderline hyperventilating) and my heart was pounding and fast.  So I said to Dr. "I mean, I guess if I close my eyes and REALLY focus and see the memory and get into it, feelings come up".  So that led to us talking about "going there".

So then I think I knew that is what I should be working on in therapy.
Now, to clarify, Dr. will never take me where I don't want to go.
Sometimes I want him to FORCE me to go somewhere.
He won't... it is not his methodology.
This is why I have been in therapy 1x per week for 4.5 years (with one 6 month break when Mr. M was out of work).  We go at my pace and I am HEAVILY defended and shut down. But slowly, but surely, I have grown to trust Dr. and myself and to naturally GO places and FEEL feelings I never would've imagined before.  (Side note, which is a whole different entry - I have actually ATTACHED to my therapist recently... it only took 4.5 years, but I LOVE him.  I am attached to him and feel loving feelings toward him and "miss" him/get homesick for him. I am actually pretty stoked about this as I am not an easy truster or lover and I can see the evidence of my defenses breaking down.  And if I can learn to do it with him, then I feel hope that I can do it in 'outside' relationships too!)
So I am in session and I am telling Dr. about my profound anxiety but I don't know WHAT it is from. I name some things (legitimate things) going on in my life;
Hacker & Wifey are moving 2 hours away and having a baby!!!! - I am going to be a Grandma!
Drummer is getting married and he and Sweetie are moving an hour away but he is going to be travelling for work a LOT.
Bub is out of state at university.
Girlie is DRIVING.
Mr. M has almost a year sober and I live in terror that he will relapse (I think because I am afraid I have reached my limit and will actually want to leave him this time - Huh!  That is something else to explore; what if I didn't set that 'rule' for myself?  What if I just acknowledged that I would stay with him?  Would I feel any better?  I don't think so... because I am REALLY tired  - exhausted - and DONE.)
My job is going to be basically gutted by ObamaCare and making money and being able to support myself when Mr. M goes off the deep-end is a DEEP DEEP comfort to me.  Losing that is TERRIFYING.
That is my list of anxiety producing stuff.  Again, all legitimate, but I wondered aloud if those were kind of red herrings so I could avoid what is REALLY plaguing me; the fear of looking at my 5-year old (or 3 year old/ or 7 year old/ or 13 year old) feelings.  I said I wasn't sure.  Dr. said it sounded plausible.

I have that internal clock that kind of tells me when session is going to be wrapping up soon, and as we crept up on that time, I had a brief a wave of relief dart through my brain like "Phew!  I got away clean!".   I ALMOST missed it, it was so fleeting, but I grabbed hold of it and dragged it back and pulled it out into the light and told Dr. about it.  That meant I was actively and purposely avoiding it.  [SIDE NOTE - I am SHIVERING as I write this... it feels lik I am COLD, but I have learned this is a response to suppressed emotion... I am giving myself away.  - A lot of times I do this when I am confronting someone which is breaking a rule or when I am standing up for myself which is also breaking a rule... INTERESTING!]

So Dr. said we still had time.
But I said I didn't want to go there.
But I did.
But I didn't.
He said "OK... well maybe we can talk about what you are afraid will happen if you do."
That was good... to talk around it a little.
I honestly wasn't sure.
I just knew that if my heart was racing and I was shallow breathing, it was SCARY and those symptoms were telling me I didn't want to lean into it any more!
I might be afraid of losing the relationship I have with my parents (which is a little shallow on my side, but they don't seem to mind?)... we do Christmas and Thanksgiving and birthdays and I enjoy that.  I don't know WHY I am afraid of that... maybe just that I won't WANT to stay in relationship with them? (Not sure.)  Dr. wondered if I didn't trust HIM to be there to walk through it with me (because I can't trust my parents or anyone else).  That didn't resonate at the time, but I am sure it is probably true.

So my session ended there.
I go back tomorrow.

In between, I started reading "Hiding From Love" by Dr. John Townsend... it is kind of old but a lot of it is resonating with me and encouraging me to TRY to come out of hiding and be seen.  Because it is IN RELATIONSHIP that we heal.

This is all extremely anxiety producing, but GOOD.
I KNOW KNOW KNOW that these buried feelings of aloneness and abandonment are what drive me into hiding and drive me 'underground'... they drive a lot of the sick relational choices I make.  They are what I have been avoiding (to survive) my whole life.  If I can press in and FEEL these feelings which feel SOOOOOO big (because they WERE when I was little), I feel HOPE that I might finally be FREE.

I SO want to write this journey down in case it is helpful to anyone else out there asking;
Should I go to therapy?
Should I quit therapy?
I have been going to therapy for 1 whole year... I should be "better" now, right?
Is therapy worth it?

Sometimes I get embarrassed;
Why is this taking so long?
I should be done by now.
I am making a mountain out of a molehill.
I had good parents who cared and tried hard, what could be so wrong with me?
Am I just a self-obsessed navel gazer?  Should I just suck it up and put on my big girl panties and move on?

First of all, those are mean negative self talk.
Second, I have a really good therapist... they aren't all that good.
Third, I am growing and changing and SEE the evidence in my relationships.
Fourth, I have KNOWN I was broken and stunted and hidden my whole life... I am not making this up.
Fifth, I am reasonably sure I am using the embarrassment and shame above as MORE self-protection to stop therapy and avoid feeling.  (If I can SHAME myself out of it maybe I will stop.)

So, I am writing this down for ME too.
A 'travel journal' of my growth - which admittedly is often 2 steps forward, 3 steps back.
I don't think I will ever regret writing it, but I think there is a risk that I WILL regret it if I don't.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Crying Video

I just watched this video and found myself crying and crying over it.
This mom thought she was miscarrying but it was a rare, very aggressive cancer.   She almost bled to death on the operating table and had to have an emergency hysterectomy.  She had 2 different chemos that did not work and the last one was HELL but seems to have worked and she now has no evidence of disease.
I wasn't dying because she had cancer because she is NED right now.
I wasn't crying over her loss of hair - hair grows back.
I wasn't even crying over how SWEETLY they included their little girl.

I was crying because her Mom shaved her head with her.  What a great mom!  THAT'S the kind of Mom I want to be.

I was also crying because her husband was SO there for her.  She was not alone.  He looked so deeply affected and sad... yet he was there and supportive.  I think I was crying because I was moved by that.  And I also think I was crying because I do not know WHO would be there for me like that.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lost A Client Today

About 6 weeks ago I as helping a client with a big project.  They decided to put off the implementation until the first of the year, which was an unexpected turn.  Switching gears on a dime, I (in a conference call) worked with the client to come up with a laundry list of things I needed to do to make that happen.  With how fast everything happened, I missed one important detail; the price I quoted could possibly jump significantly by moving to 1/1/13.  I caught my oversight and went back to the client right away.  He was LIVID that I missed that in our meeting.  It was "unacceptable".  He wanted to look to hire someone else instead of me.  The contacts I work with at his company valiantly defended me and tried to salvage the relationship and for a month I have been working my @$$ off for them living in an almost constant state of near panic HOPING that they would stay with me, but today I heard the news that they signed a new contract with a competitor.  I held it together for the conversation when my contact broke up with me the promptly got off the phone and burst into tears.  I can't usually sustain crying for very long, so it only lasted about 90 seconds, but I was morose all day.  I felt as if someone died.  I was grief stricken.

I am trying to make space for my emotions and feel them and maybe even understand them a little.
I know the loss of the income (10% of my annual income) is HUGE for me.  Money is a BIG deal to me.  It is the basket I put most of my emotional eggs in.  If I have money, I am ok... if I do not, I am not.  Period.
(Growing up, I think money was love.  My dad is not very good at loving but he is good at buying stuff and throwing money at a problem and that needs to be enough to suffice for love.  My siblings and I have always accepted that.  In fact, in bread a lot of laziness and under-functioning where my dad needs to rescue and save and fix and support.  My dad doesn't really know what do do with people when they are doing ok and do not NEED him.)
That said, I am fixated on money.  If I feel ok today about money, then I am more free and unburdened... I will buy my child that new video game.  If emotionally, I am NOT feeling ok about money today, we should never go on vacation again.  And it is completely subjective.  It is often driven by my moods.  So imagine how big it is when it is NOT subjective, but based on a real loss!

Add to that the fact that I am a pleaser and this hits at the core of my identity (my false self) that I can work hard enough and tap dance fast enough to be pleasing to ALL people and you have the perfect storm.  I failed at pleasing my client AND I lost a lot of money.  When I am not good enough (pleasing enough), I am not OK.  When I don't have enough money, I am not OK.  When both happen at once, it is breakdown time.  I have TONS of fear plus not being pleasing (and making a mistake) make me feel shame.  PLUS, having this much of a meltdown over money makes me feel shame too... I "shouldn't" have this much fear and anxiety about money.

Then, my dad instantly jumps in to make things better.  He is DYING to have me work for him. So he can make up the extra lost income for me.  Great... that puts a bandaid on my money panic, but doesn't really address the deeper, core issue of me using money as a false filler of the void and false love.  Also, I feel ashamed that my daddy is going to come rescue me and I am going to let him (makes me feel like the loser he likes to rescue).  Plus, I feel hurt and jealous because he rescues my siblings with no real expectation that they ever earn it... but with ME there IS that expectation, plus I have that expectation of MYSELF.

So i am going to sleep tonight with feelings of grief and anxiety and sadness and hurt and shame swirling around and I feel so alone in them.

I thought of calling Dr. today to come in for an "emergency" appointment. but I didn't... i figured I could package it away until next tuesday when I see him.  (Partly because I didn't want to spend extra money and partly because I am just not in the habit of going to someone with my need when I am so raw... it is WAY more familiar to wait until I package it away and pull myself together... it would've been a REAL growth step to call him and need him.)

This journey can sometimes feel like 2 steps forward, 3 steps back.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Married to an Alcoholic; "True Love"

I recently went and visited Bub at college.  I got to stay for 6 days and it was mostly just him and me.  Mr. M didn't come.  (I went with a girlfriend who was visiting her daughter so we mostly went our separate ways to hang with the kids.)

I could write for WEEKS on Bub and his blossoming and evolving:
After a musical "MOM! I want to be on broadway!!!"
After a trip to a museum "MOM!  I want to be an art historian!!!!"
After visiting China town "MOM!!  I want to go to China!!!"
After seeing me interact with a zillion strangers and being embarrassed "Mom, I wish I had the courage to just engage in conversation like you do!  It is scary for me and I have to THINK of things to say, but you just jump right in!"
After me asking if he wanted to invite friends to sightsee with us: "No Mom.  This is mother/son time. We are having a great time all by ourselves."  He said he didn't want to share me with them.

I can't express ENOUGH to you how much this kid (excuse me, young man) melted my heart this visit!

But what got me ruminating was how he told me none of his friends believe in "true love".  
"Really?" I asked (not even entirely sure what he and his friends meant by that term).
"Yeah.  I am the only one who does!"
He proceeded to explain that all his friends' parents are divorced but he believes in true love because he hasn't lived through divorce and has SEEN true love with me and his dad.
Wow!  So much to unpack there.

I mean, first off... if he looked at THIS hot mess of a marriage and calls it 'true love', the poor kid has se the bar pretty low! (I am not sure whether to laugh or cry - probably both - at that.)
But more than that, this was one of the main reasons I STAYED for 24+ years of a lot of pain and loss and abandonment and hurt.  I HOPED I was giving the kids SOMETHING.  But I never knew if I was actually GIVING it or if they were receiving it.  I got a bit of a tear in my eye when he said this because - although that is a skewed picture of 'true love' - IT MATTERED!!!!  My sacrifice and suffering mattered!  My child SAW it and maybe it wasn't all in vain!

This past couple of weeks since I have been home several friends have pulled me aside to tell me how much of an inspiration I have been in THEIR marriages.  
"If YOU can stay, then I can stay!"  
"If YOU can love Mr. M again then I can love Karl again!"
Now, I am not saying people should always stay.  Because there is no guarantee that our alcoholics/addicts/cheaters/abandoners/ragers/non-providers (fill-in-the-blank) will ever change... in fact, it is more likely you will get more (and more) of the same.  You know what Maya Angelou says "When people show you who they really are, believe them the first time".  If your spouse/parent/child/sibling/friend/cousin (fill-in-the-blank) has shown you who they are... THAT is who they are (not our figment of who they COULD be in our fantasy... not their "potential").  They are PROBABLY not going to be different than that.  There is a grandiosity and profound disfunction in thinking that OUR love is going to save or change someone.  
No, I am not saying that our alcoholics/addicts/cheaters/abandoners/ragers/non-providers WON'T change either.  Mr. M has plenty of friends with 16, 25, 37 years sober in the program!  It CAN be done!!!!  
But if we stay, we have to stay ready for either.

My friends said they not only admired me for staying and for the inspiration I provided but also for the way Mr. M and I are still able to love each other and that I don't stay stuck in bitterness and rage and "owing".  I appreciated them saying that because I work HARD not to dwell there.  I have been (and continue to feel the ebb and flow of feeling) hurt, abandoned, disappointed, angry, lonely, and regretful, but I really DO make an effort to say that IF I am going to stay with Mr. M and take him back after a month-long binge, a job loss, pissing on the sofa, hospitalization, stint in rehab, year out of the home etc., then I need to do it not out of a sense of charity or nobility or grudgingly... I need to do it for free.  No strings attached.  I don't think someone can stay sober if they are always in a 'lower' position, owing us. (To clarify - It is not a completely "clean slate".  We have to work through hurt feelings that crop up a LOT!  I am in therapy.  He is in therapy.  He goes to 3+ AA meetings a week.  I am in a couple different support groups.  I have boundaries to protect myself.  He can have boundaries to protect HIMSELF.)  Again, it felt validating to have someone NOTICE.  Because it IS a lot of work and effort and commitment.

Sometimes when things feel particularly hard and long, I forget to notice how far I (we) have come and where we have been vs where we are now.  So it is pretty nice to have people who have known me along the way, for a long time, compliment me and SEE me and the hard work I have put in.  It makes it even more worth it.