Withdrawing From Pain By Withdrawing From Life

Lately, I have had to admit to myself that I need some help. I’m unable to find my way out of my sadness.

10914902_10152692972144053_2774787161618968080_oMaybe this isn’t an earth-shattering declaration for some people, but for me, it is pretty unprecedented. I have a ridiculously complicated thought process when it comes to allowing myself to be weak. Should I find myself depressed, I instantly dislike my weakness, ashamed of how pathetic I am, question my faith, and often decide to avoid asking for help because I assume people will think I’m just wanting attention, and maybe deep down, I really am. I almost never come to the conclusion that I might just be a sick person who could use a little help, but instead, it is always that I am a person who just needs to try harder to  be better. What does it say about God that one of His own is so flawed and weak?

I have a past that includes being molested, and that subject makes me physically sick to my stomach, so I assume people will decide I’m “tainted” or sad“dirty”, or will look at me with pity, which I hate with my whole being. It happened so long ago, it feels pathetic to be affected by it now. The crazy thing is, I thought that way within minutes every single time it happened, and somehow, I always felt I had missed the window of time it would be acceptable to need some help. Decades later, I feel disgusted by my inability to just forget all about it.

Throughout my adult life, I developed a way to live rather contentedly around the parts of me that had been broken, and maybe even took a little pride in having accomplished this all by myself.

Then, my marriage exploded spectacularly, in so many extreme ways, and in such a short period of time, and suddenly I was not only being bombarded by the debris of that recent event, but long ignored emotions and fears from being abused were present as well, as if all that stuff had just happened yesterday. All of it confused me, threw me off balance, and removed any illusion of feeling safe in this world or in my own mind.

It seemed to take forever, but I limped my way through the grief, tears, fear, and sadness. I assumed that because I could make it through a day without crying, I was getting well. I could find things to laugh about again, so of course, I had to be getting back on track, right? Whole days had finally began to show up that I felt reasonably okay. As long as things were beginning to be endurable, I didn’t need anyone’s help with any of it.

I think I was wrong to assume anything about any of this.

psalmsOver the months that followed my separation, I have had to adjust to a whole new kind of life that includes a lower standard of living, a pressure to support myself without help, loneliness, changing plans and goals for my future from “us” to just “me”, and probably the hardest change, distrusting myself, my perceptions of what is real and what is just my imagination, and my innate powerlessness to protect myself from harm. I’m a resilient person, and I do have faith in the Lord, so my decline has been gradual, but last week, I finally accepted, I’m drowning in all of this, and I feel something terrifyingly familiar from a different time in my life — numb.

Since the day I left my childhood home, I have been grappling with different addictions that would pop up whenever I found myself in emotional crises that I felt I couldn’t cope with. I knew I was self-medicating, and frankly, the alternative was simply unacceptable. I would ride out whatever Doc 1-18-2015 9-04 AM6storm either drunk, or high, or asleep, and then I would quit the coping tool. I felt that because I was only using something to get through the problem and found stopping cold-turkey rather easy, I had found a reasonably effective way to deal with things I couldn’t deal with. I still maintained my jobs, and my perfectionism helped me maintain an acceptable level of performance, and my introverted nature kept people from ever really noticing I was impaired. From the mildest to the hardest drugs I’ve ever used, my reaction to being blitzed is the same – I’m silent. Everything is always going on in my head, whether I’m sober or not. So, for decades, on and off a few months at a time, I would crash into these valleys of self-medicating, and no one, even Chef, was the wiser. To further complicate everything, I’m a suspicious, distrustful person. Almost every substance I used was legal — mini-thins, liquor, or prescription drugs that had been prescribed to me specifically. Only a few times did I venture into street substances, and these times were when the drug was offered to me by someone I could reasonably believe wasn’t stupid enough to get caught by the police and give them my name. My fear was being thrown under the bus by someone trying to keep his own butt out of jail. I rarely if ever had to purchase it, and I used such small amounts, for such short periods of time, my finances weren’t affected either. As junkies go, I was pretty high-functioning, which may have been the worst thing for me. It has kept me from truly needing to get well throughout my entire adult life.

de2bc5f8b1dcbd01171766f544557675_largeIf you have been following this blog since the beginning, you know I fell into this same habit again, trying to cope with losing everything. Up and down, back and forth, using, not using, and even being able to maintain a job, pay my bills, write, and basically function. I was up-front with my kids about where I was emotionally, what I was or was not doing, and I was allowing myself a little luxury of leaning on Rebekkah a little. But overall, I was trying to deal with it like I assume normal, healthy, strong people would. It occurs to me now, I don’t think I’ve ever met one of these mythical normal, healthy, strong people I’ve always tried to emulate all my life. I think maybe we are all a little broken.

In September, when I had to put Jake down, something in me snapped. Emotionally, I was more than just a little sad. I was afraid. I was alone, exposed, and though it makes no real sense logically, I felt targeted. I rarely remember my dreams, but often, I wake up crying, or terrified of something I can’t quite recall. As a person who naturally isolates more than other people tend to do, my reaction to life in general has been to Jake 2withdraw inside myself for longer and longer periods of time, and it scares me to find how hard it is for me to come back from so deep inside of me.

I find myself staying numb, even without drugs or alcohol, and I haven’t a clue how I am able to do that. I will admit freely, if snorting a line of hot tar from the street outside could make me feel less emotional pain, the city would have to repave my street. I know myself fairly well, and only once has everything around me felt so hopeless and dark that I didn’t even want to try to fight it. The last time I felt this way, I swallowed a bottle of pills hoping to never wake up. I know when I have crossed into a dangerous place and this place is not good for me.

bird2Ella and the way she died was the tipping point for me, and I haven’t been able to recover any sense of normalcy since then. Where is God, and why has He deserted me? Does He really care about the sparrows? Why let Ella die so horribly? Didn’t He know how much Rebekkah loved that dog? I can’t feel God, or hear His voice, and I’m more terrified by that than anything else. What if God has had enough of this weak child so low on basic faith?

I’m afraid of what I may lose next. I’m broken. I’m so horrified by the world I’m living in. I’m so very angry. I’m afraid of feeling. I’m afraid of not feeling. I’m alone. I’m almost finished trying, and I’m afraid of that, too.

I’m older than I was when I did that hopeless act of selfishness, and I refuse to do something like that again. My children have been impacted by all of 10917201_10152687004769053_6523266361686547603_othis as well, and I’m not deserting them to handle all of it alone, knowing I bailed on them. I can still feel shame, of course, because that emotion could break through any of my walls, and that is not the legacy I want to leave my babies with.

I don’t care what my motives might be in the shadowy depths of my subconscious, nor do I have the luxury anymore of not allowing someone to judge how I chose to cope, either with booze or just becoming a cold, distant bitch. I have no control over the opinions people are going to have about me when it comes to this, nor does it matter anymore that I assume I will be despised for being so pathetic. No one could be more disappointed in me than I am.

I don’t want to disconnect from life and those I love in it; that would make me feel so much more shame in myself than I’m already carrying around. I can’t worry about what people’s opinion of me will be if they knew how pathetically weak I can be about such minor things in comparison to the nightmares other people have had to endure. Ella was a dog; people have had their children murdered!! What is fucking wrong with me?!

I write all of this because of accountability. I need to get help, but left to myself, I would find reasons not to.

ICONDon’t feel sorry for me. It was a long time coming, and I knew all along that eventually, I would need to deal with my inability to deal with life. I chose the easy way all these years through all sorts of crises instead of the right way, and here I am, reaping the consequences.

Because I am hard to read, and because my kids are loyal and private and would never in a million years give anyone a reason to judge me, I felt like I should let people know that I am not a person who has her shit together, no matter how it might seem on the outside. I hope I don’t choose to be intentionally deceptive, but who the hell knows anymore? I’m on auto-pilot, just going through the motions these days.

I have had the flu for a few days now, but I did call yesterday and make an appointment to see a shrink. I hate therapy, primarily because I have spent my entire life avoiding having to address this shit, and that’s all they ever seem to want to do. And if I want to get well, I have to have someone to help me. I’ve reached a real crossroads, and I’m choosing to live.

Feel free to nag me, insult me, love me, or hate me. But please, also forgive me.

~ Bird

My Rock-n-Roll Life Went Country Overnight

Every relationship is as unique as the people in it, who each bring, amongst other things, a collection of experiences, wisdom, and personality to it. No matter what, only the two people in an intimate liaison can know fully what it looks and feels like. Like a child’s DNA, something unique to only two people in the world springs up into existence. If it self-PIXECT-20130315055221destructs, the experience can leave one or both parties struggling with a grief that cannot be easily understood by anyone but the other participant who is now either causing the pain in the first place, or reeling from the shock of the destruction a breaking bond causes. I learned firsthand that the stronger the bond, the more miserable the breaking of it would be. A frustrating and traumatic journey began for me, and I grappled desperately to understand what had just happened to my life.

I knew logically that no one else would have the exact right advice when I first set out to understand what exactly had just happened in my own relationship. I just needed a starting point. I’d had what looked like a fairy tale marriage for over 20 years; suddenly, in a twinkling of an eye, something changed. I needed to know why. My husband suffered a very, very intense midlife crisis, and in a span of only a month or so, everything was different. A warped version of my beloved husband revealed itself, and my best friend became my sworn enemy. My rock-and-roll life instantly became a battleground, littered with the heartache that country songs are made of.

Grief-stricken and panicked, this wife set out on a quest to understand. WHY?

I sifted through piles of articles, and crawled through website after website, blog after blog, looking for the answer. I read anything I could find about midlife crisis’s, drug addiction, infidelity, pornography, motorcycle clubs…all the things that had sprung up in our relationship seemingly overnight.

Looking back now, what I probably should have done at the beginning of this whole nightmare instead, was examine the reason I was looking for those answers in the first place. The answer to the question “Why?” can be positive in aspects of a relationship while negative on others.

At the root of most of my husband’s grievous actions was an addiction to a street drug. Anyone with half a brain could figure that one out; but, I’m obsessive of about knowledge, and I dug deeper and deeper in to the characteristics of that drug. At its conclusion, my quest had revealed that my entire relationship with my husband had been woven primarily in my own mind. My husband had always been selfish, arrogant, entitled, and mean-spirited, though primarily he directed those personality traits at others, not me. I believe he honestly had tried to curb some of those behaviors when it came to me, but they had always been there for me to see. The drug had not made him someone different. It had simply made him unconcerned with consequences of his actions. Those tendencies had been there all along.

The knowledge was rather disturbing for someone like me. First of all, I hate that I could deceive myself so well. Self-deception is one of those things I don’t care for in others; that I could be just as deceived was humiliating. Secondly, it cast a dubious shadow over all of the memories that I had treasured from before my world came crashing down. Questions about motives arose where only happiness had once bloomed. Did he really send me those flowers just because he was thinking about me, or was he feeling guilty about something? Mentally, my mind began to pull back and question memory after memory, and when the process finally grinded to a conclusion, the life and love I believed I’d lived the last 23 years no longer existed at all. In it’s place a more realistic, less wonderful history emerged. A quest to understand and maybe even romanticize the death of something I considered beautiful and tragic, my marriage, had instead shown me that the real tragedy all along had been that relationship in the first place.

I’m a firm believer that everything done in the dark will at some point become exposed to the light. I had lived fairly happily for decades ignoring some pretty evil things done to me as a child. Always on a quest to research and understand something, I had simply chosen to never address being sexually abused for years by a family member.

Any choice to remain ignorant about anything simply is not part of my make-up. I’m a fountain of useless knowledge about the most random of things. I’ve worked at so many different jobs with so many different titles and interests, unemployment for me does not exist. I have always used knowledge to protect myself somehow, and understanding this about myself, the inability to look at how being sexually abused would affect me as an adult was too monumental a thing for me to have missed.

Truth be said, looking back now, I don’t think I really missed it. I just decided to ignore it. Subconsciously, even at the very beginning of my marriage, I knew that I was attracting a pattern of people in my life that couldn’t be healthy. Unfortunately, that kind of knowledge was something that would have to be addressed, and I felt unable to cope with those changes. I chose the familiarity of being someone’s victim instead of something healthy. Then I protected and justified the choice with lies I told myself. I sold myself on the lie that I’d been fortunate to not have been as scarred as most people. The truth is, those acts of depravity and supreme selfishness by my abuser had colored every single important decision I’d ever made as an adult, and the taint had rolled over into my children’s lives as well.

A woman who’d been abused as a child; that child had married someone who created an atmosphere that she’d become comfortable in, albeit negative, and she’d ignored some very glaringly selfish, somewhat abusive characteristics, choosing instead, to see only the positive traits in the one she loved that she so very much wanted to believe were true. Small acts of kindnesses were elevated to massive proportions in her head, used subconsciously to balance out the very troubling abusive behaviors, and allowing her to believe what she wanted to believe.

Had anyone advised me a year and a half ago, when my husband began using drugs, that this next experience would be the most painful, yet the most revealing and freeing one of my life, I would have scoffed. I am very familiar with a person’s inability to stop himself or herself from doing or saying something in the midst of severe stress. For me, searching tirelessly for “answers” helped me believe that I was in fact, doing something constructive towards rescuing my beloved husband. Really, I was doing what I’ve always done, using knowledge as a child would a precious blankie or favorite stuffed animal. My world didn’t feel safe or secure anymore, and I ran immediately for what would make me feel better. I emerged from the journey with answers. They just were not the ones I had hoped for.

I would never advise anyone to choose to remain ignorant about anything, most especially about themselves. Instead, I would challenge everyone to ask themselves “why” right now, instead of waiting for everything to fall painfully apart first. Not everyone will conclude with negative answers about ourselves and the decisions that have led them up to this very moment. For those who have emotionally healthy lives, it is a chance to appreciate how things are for you, and for those who benefit from your good choices. But for the ones like me, who have somewhere along the way, suffered a wound that goes so deep it instantly affects every aspect of your life with its existence,  maybe there’s a chance that your life could feel a little better..happier, or more peaceful. The first step towards any kind of healing is the acknowledgement that something is wrong.

I can’t really put a finger on my exact reason for setting off to understand all the behaviors of my husband that had hurt me so deeply, nor can I honestly tell you what I had hoped would change by that information. I can only tell you that my quest ended up showing me more about myself than anything else, and for that, I can be thankful to my ex-husband. It hurt like hell to realize this great love was all a big fantasy I’d spun for myself. So much was affected by knowing that. I felt stupid; I felt shame for letting my kids grow up in this mess; I felt anger at my husband for being exactly who he had always been all along and for not being what I had spun in my head; and I felt so very sad that so many years were invested in something that would never have been anything but what it was… a troubled union.

To my husband:  Even before you ripped this whole diseased fantasy open, it was getting hard for me to keep believing in that illusion of marital bliss. I’ve read my journals and diaries. I knew things didn’t feel right. Holes were showing almost from the very start, but the questions were really starting to trouble me a year before all this happened. I know myself, and I probably would have continued trying for many more years anyways to keep our marriage together. I also know, I would have eventually had too much evidence of the truth, and the lie would have collapsed regardless of my wishes. I appreciate not having to watch my marriage die slowly, like a comatose victim on respirator. This experience was horrible, painful, illuminating, and blessedly, over. Next time I enter a relationship, I’m going to make them sign a Marital Do-Not-Resuscitate form.

You didn’t change. I did.

Bye, honey.