Isolation

It’s quite easy to feel isolated.

I think most of this is due to not reaching out, not being honest with people about how lonely or sad or broken we feel. Most of our friends and family want to help, want to be supportive and kind. But they are not mind readers, and won’t know that we need support unless we ask for it.

Yesterday I met up with three of my oldest friends from University. We met on the Southbank in London and visited the ABBA exhibition there. As young women we danced and sang along to ABBA at full volume in our dingy student flat, and over the years our regular meet ups, (frequently alcohol fuelled) were great excuses to relive our carefree youth along with its soundtrack. Of my three friends, two are married with children, all are working doctors and one has just fallen in love 😊. The two with daughters were accompanied by their children, and we were a cheerful party of 7 who experienced this immersive , hour long tour.

I enjoyed the day, we had lunch afterwards, and spend a couple of hours at the restaurant catching up. I felt really exhausted afterwards, not helped by another cold wet day (and inadequate clothing!) and also somehow separate. It wasn’t about alcohol. No one was drinking, I felt almost so damaged and scarred, so cynical and anxious that I had no business being amongst the happy innocence of the girls or the unbridled excitement of my newly loved up friend. I just felt very separate, and detached, which is the opposite of what I want. I tried to bridge the divide, clumsily, by mentioning that I learned that Benny Andersson had stopped drinking in his 50’s. This is strangely important to me – for reasons that I previously explored.  Here and here   The cue was not picked up, I guess to those who drink (or not) normally, this information is NOT interesting. They will simply not get how enormous a role alcohol played in my life… and thus cannot grasp the complexity and enduring consequences of sobriety for me. That despite my 750 days sobriety, it’s still new, still huge and still current.

So today, I’m a flat as a flat thing. It’s raining (again) cold (still) and miserable outside. Son 2 has gone to his fathers till tomorrow (no study then) son3 is surgically attached to his PS4, and son 1 messages me from Nepal to say he’s stuck at 3,900m with a headache (acute mountain sickness) and what should he do … counselling patience and acclimatisation to a fit, frustrated 19 year old !

my sober sister reaches her two year soberversary today 🌟🌟🌟🌟. I’m seeing her at the end of April , I wish it were today. She gets it, just as I get it for her …. back to the question of other connections via AA or similar. I havent yet taken the plunge, despite having identified a possible meeting, women only, a short distance away …

sigh. I’m so bored of winter, I’m bored of cold and rain, I’m bored of sobriety (but I don’t want to drink), I’m bored of being “bored”,I’m bored of being responsible for my children,., Actually that’s something to think about …it just came out as I was writing …. I AM bored of being the nagging parent, when nothing I do is good enough (or produces results I can be proud of) … I’m bored of endless cleaning up, sorting out, for grunts and bad temper ….

This is probably something worth exploring a bit further when Angela gets back from her holiday. It’s shameful I expect to be bored of being a parent …. but bugger that …

Being single

Several people have suggested to me that its time to get ‘out there’ and start dating, and I know they mean well and want to see me happy.

A while ago I would have said I definitely don’t want to be alone for the rest of my life, but now I’m not quite so sure ! Having spent the last 18 years of my life (pretty much) in one relationship or another, I have now been resolutely single for 18 months. I have been on a few “dates”; one with a nice chap who came to interview me about an insurance claim – we had a nice evening , but no real spark; and three dates with a divorced man who lives locally. I enjoyed his company, but had no desire for any physical relationship; partly because my alarm bells were ringing when he told me he had little contact with one of his kids, partly because I detected more bitterness about his marriage breakdown than I was comfortable with and partly because I just didn’t “fancy” him.

I have always wanted to be in  happy relationship. And never managed it for any length of time. Indeed I have never been more miserable than in my marriage or in my last relationship. That awful feeling of being utterly trapped with no way out, the endless ‘trying to make him understand’ the unacceptable compromises (one way compromises) the self doubt, the questioning, ugh. Utterly soul destroying and made me much more unhappy than I have ever been on my own

There are a number of significant advantages to being single.

1. You can do what YOU want….

Now I am a bit limited in that I cant just decide to bugger off for a weekend because I have the boys and Lola the dog to consider, but I can decide to attend a cookery class or a mosaic workshop on a Saturday just because I want to. I can go for a walk, or meet someone for lunch without having to fit in with a partner’s needs. I can see whom I want, when I want. I can spend MY money how I want to. I can plan my life how it suits me … and although I have to consider my children… its a lot easier than considering the needs of a partner who never considers mine …

2. You can work on yourself.

It is awfully tempting to get complacent when you have a partner. Not only does change seem to take loads of effort when there is someone else to consider, they may have a vested interest in things not changing. At the moment I need quite a lot of time for ‘reflecting’ and developing my sober life. I’m pretty happy there is no-one around me pestering me to have ‘just one’ drink, or getting pissed in my space. Now I know a kind respectful partner wouldn’t do this BUT …

3. You can save lots of time.

Relationships take effort and time. Especially in the earliest days of dating. I actually don’t HAVE that much time, and whilst I could of course MAKE time if I wanted, such time as I do have is currently better invested in my children, my friends and family, my home, my garden, my work and developing my interests.

 4. You can sleep in peace and quiet.

I Do really, reallyREALLY miss cuddling. I miss someone to give me a hug. I miss affection and reassurance from an adult. But I recognise that being with someone does not always mean this will happen (no intimacy at all from ExP for 2 years really) and living with someone, sleeping with someone and NOT getting any cuddles is much worse than being alone. The boys can be persuaded to hug their mum, and I get to sleep alone. In my great big lovely bed with a new mattress. The room can be as dark as I like, I can listen to the radio all night if I like… no snoring, wriggling or duvet pinching. I can make the room warmer or colder as I choose. This is definitely a luxury !

5. You become more self-reliant.

My last breakup was so emotionally devastating that I couldn’t function for  months afterwards. I’m really only just beginning to pick up the threads of my life and LIVE – and I know I am still very raw and vulnerable.   This has scared me and reminded me that love is a chaotic force that can be both beautiful and terribly destructive. I’m not sure that the risk of falling in love again is actually worth it. The fall out from failure is SO awful. But I am coping alone. I’m lucky that I can pay people to do what I can’t in the house, and I can rely on myself for pretty much everything I NEED

6. You can build relationships with friends.

I have reconnected to quit a few people  since I have been single. Old friends, who fell by the wayside when ExP blazed into my life, (He didn’t like ‘people’ around and wanted me all to himself) and a few new people.. such connections bring me pleasure. Its a quiet type of pleasure, but its genuine and honest… and it has potential

7. You can avoid settling for a bad match.

This is the biggest

More than 1/3 of marriages in the UK end in divorce. Of the remaining many, many are unhappy. People stay for ‘the children’ ; because its impossible to manage financially if they split; due to inertia; for religious reasons; for social reasons… still unhappy with no potential for anything to improve. Ugh. Being single is 500x better than being in an unhappy marriage/ relationship. I’ve tried both and I KNOW this is true!

It would take someone VERY special to make me interested again. There is a LOT to lose and someone one who have to offer something pretty amazing for me to consider letting them into my life …

So. I’m not ruling it out. I might meet a really nice person… but I’m not going looking. And if I don’t ?

Life is ok on your own.

It really is.

Cautiously optimistic

The days are getting warmer. The clocks in the UK have switched to BST which means the evenings are longer. The buds on the trees and plants in the garden are forming, and my mood is improving slowly, slowly.

There is a lot of ‘stuff’ going on; son#2 has very bad anxiety at the moment, to the extent that hes vomiting every morning before school and closed and withdrawn much of the rest of the time. Last week he disappeared for the day, causing me huge angst and worry about his whereabouts. He has public exams coming up soon and the worry about his performance (and entry to the next stage of education) is definitely not helping his low self esteem, negative perception of the world and fretting about his future. I have been very worried about his lack of commitment to study, but on the day he went missing, when all I wanted was to find him safe, helped me to see that , in the end, his well-being is far more important than good exam grades. If he needs to he can always go back to formal education – but right now he needs loving, attention, soothing and support. We have an appointment with the adolescent mental health services, and I have found a highly qualified, kind, woman psychotherapist who will see him weekly from today .

I have been surprisingly successful in expunging my ex Partner from my conscious mind. Since I decided that further reflection / rumination was unhelpful to me, and begun making a conscious effort NOT to dwell on past hurts, I have managed to largely draw a veil over the ‘what if..’ questions. I seem to have, at last, accepted that this is who he is, and at least partially forgiven myself for not seeing it sooner. My reflections nowadays are more about myself, what I need or want, both in the present moment and in the future. I feel that this is progress

I seem to have more headspace as well.

I’m beginning to see how much my capacity for good parenting was undermined, that the constant struggle to ‘protect’ the kids from exP’s ill temper and bullying meant that I was unable to put in effective strategies to manage some behaviours because I felt so guilty that I allowed him to do that. A chance comment from Angela has been running round my head, that the “kids know that I love them”. I think I have been under the impression that they would not KNOW that I loved them, and therefore any conflict / boundaries provoked by me could lead to a catastrophic breakdown in our relationship. That me not letting them largely do what they wanted would lead to a permanent estrangement. Of course this is what I saw as a child (I was pretty estranged from my emotionally absent and critical father and I am certainly not able to be emotionally open or vulnerable with my mother) This is also what has happened to ExP’s kids who avoid him as much as they can, because the critical, overbearing, bullying parent is not someone they enjoy spending time with. But of course, I can set boundaries and expectations calmly and still have fun with and support the kids. This is a bit of a work in progress, but as my mind slowly clears of its overwhelming, all encompassing heartache and preoccupation with my failed relationship, I am more emotionally present, and more able to parent effectively. It will never be easy for me to be stern / consistent with sanctions etc, but I think I can do a better job than I have been.

There is also the brain space to have a bit of fun and engage more. The kids don’t want to spend much of their leisure time with their mum, but I’m trying to find stiff that we CAN do to together so son3 and I made lots of cookies and decorated them on Sunday, and I have a plan to take son2 to the theatre during the Easter holidays … small things to make connections. I’m trying to get away from the rather flat, self absorbed introspection, coupled with mindless TV that has occupied much of my non working time.

I do feel cautiously optimistic. I’m hoping its not another ‘false dawn’, but I feel like the boys and I are doing better, I’m finding my feet again and regaining my confidence; there is no need to let anyone else into our bubble and every opportunity for us to do well in the future.

I am SO happy that I decided to stop drinking. I really really don’t want to drink now, which is something I could never have imagined feeling 2 years ago. I can only see alcohol as the route to more trouble and quite definitely not something I want to risk again.

Hallelujah!

 

 

Married at first sight

Don’t all groan!

This ridiculous programme has just had its third series aired in the UK. Reality TV at its most intrusive. For anyone who has not seem this, the participants are ‘matched’ following a series of psychological emotional and spiritual examinations by ‘experts’.  They then meet at the alter in full wedding regalia and legally commit to marriage within 2 minutes of meeting each other. The only criteria for participation I believe is that you must have not been married before, have no children (and be a bit desperate). Apparently thousands of hopefuls sign up for each series, and the final selection of three compatible couples is the subject of the first programme in the series. The programmes follow the hapless couples though the selection, pairing, wedding,honeymoon and 6-8 weeks of ‘living as man and wife’ before asking them to decide if they wish to stay married, or seek divorce.

The programme airs in The UK , America and Australia, and it’s interesting to compare the cultural differences and expectations in participants from different nations. To some extent they seem to conform to stereotypes- the Australian weddings and more informal, often outside; the American couple relationships with the ‘experts’ are much more involved, the Brits seem closed and superficial in many ways. Maybe it’s just produced like that.

The most interesting h part of this programme for me is watching the relationships develop, positively and negatively. I’m aware, of course that what we are shown is a tiny  snapshot of thousands of interactions both on and off camera, but there is a wealth of ‘stuff’ to interest me.

1. The ability to articulate your feelings in the moment is really valuable. If you can do it in a non critical way, using I statements, even better. Watching the build up of unspoken resentments is quite painful, and extremely damaging to developing relationships.

2. Knowing who you are, what you need and what you will not tolerate – this is essential. More than one union crashed at least partly because one partner was not honest in the beginning about what they needed. The woman who said she “didn’t mind if a man smoked occasionally” turned out to mind very much indeed. The man who said he would be happy to relocate for a partner – well he wasn’t. End of relationship right there.

3. If you keep your ears and eyes open you can spot an emotionally abusive man almost at the beginning. In the American show, a man who called his wife’s tattoo ‘trashy’ ; I saw it straight away – not in that comment, but in the way he reacted when she said that the comment had upset her. This cheered me a LOT. Not of course that he turned out to be a volatile, abusive, cheat, but that I’m pretty sure if I was ever in such a situation again, early in dating, I would walk right away. I have learned something !

4. Happy relationships develop when both partners are generous. With their time, their thoughts , their effort. When both partners are honest, kind but honest. Another relationship portrayed a man , trying so hard to connect with his aloof spouse who bleated how she felt ‘awkward’ and ‘uncomfortable’ (what do you expect if you marry a stranger and refuse to talk to him? I know, judgey pants, and I don’t know all the facts) That one went down the pan very quickly . Sadly another woman who took blisteringly honest communication to the other end of the spectrum alienated her husband so completely that, although she ultimately fell in love with him for his many qualities, he decided not to stay with her.

Trash TV? Definitely. Unrealistic – yes of course. But I have learned quite a lot from watching – and that’s all good

🌷🙂

Onwards

Sorry to have been quiet for the last week. A lot has been going on in “real life “, and I’ve been pondering ..

last Monday, March 12th, was my two year sobervesary. It’s a really good feeling to have achieved this, in a low key kind of way. I’m not shouting from the roof tops, but I feel very secure in my decision not to drink , and both grateful and quietly happy that I really don’t WANT to drink again. Somethings are hard without alcohol, perhaps they always will be, but these things are far outweighed by the massive advantages. Clarity of thought and loss of self hatred being the two most obvious benefits. I think I will take the boys out for a burger this weekend to celebrate. Quietly, and without necessarily telling anyone, I will raise a glass of coke to the future. Sober.

So, last weekend I went to Florence. After my travel adjustment,it all went pretty well. I arrived on Saturday morning at the hotel where we were all staying, and joined in the days planned activities. My friend, who’s birthday we were celebrating was totally surprised and touched by how many made it over to see her, and Florence is a beautiful city. I really enjoyed connecting with my oldest friends (from medical schooldays) and meeting some people I hadn’t seen for years. Saturday night we all went to a restaurant. I will draw a veil over some aspects of that evening, alcohol related. I came home early, but it taught me a couple of very valuable things. Listen to my own intuition, be very clear what my expectations and boundaries are, and be true to myself. I was sober, so no harm done …

in the last couple of weeks, since I decided to put ‘him’ behind me, I have been more successful that I expected. In my heart there is a peace that I had feared I would never reach, and I can honestly say I have not wasted much time on fruitless speculation. I know what I know, I believe the whole thing was a fabrication on his part and nothing I could have Done would have changed that. End of. Before I came to this conclusion I was searching desperately for answers, I ordered a few books from amazon about narcissistic PD, I joined a forum for others who had been in such relationships. Now I find I don’t need them, the books I AM engaging with are the ones that focus on me… on how to strengthen my self worth and boundaries.. so that I am not hoodwinked again. I think this is a much better use of my time and energy.

One of my oldest friends, who has been single for 10 years recently met someone. She is excited and giddy with the hope and optimism that goes with a new relationship. It was heartwarming to see, and when we talked about it, we were sharing a room , she reflected that although she is happy to have met someone , her own life is now so fulfilled and busy, she is not too worried if it doesn’t work out. Over the 10 years she has built herself a network of friends, family and activities that she loves. A partner is only worth it if they can add something to that package. A good starting point I think!

The days are getting longer, the end of the financial year is nigh (always a very busy time at work) but after April 1st, I will have time to draw breath and start to build more of a life for myself, within my limitations. I feel quite optimistic about this, and in a nebulous intermittent way, vaguely optimistic.

Boundaries

Eye opening , jaw dropping moment of clarity last night.

Woah ! 👏👏👏

Moving on, and deciding to focus on the future I bought myself this book.

It’s very thin, about 50 pages of wide spaced type, I read it in an hour. But 😮.

All those of you with good boundaries will be like “duh”, but this is stuff I have never considered. And it’s so obvious. And so important.

So, that list of characteristics I have had in my head that I would like to find in a partner? Those are not ‘I hope he will be like this’ , those are, or will become, a list of essentials, in other words non negotiable boundaries.

I have seen this in action, but not recognised it as such. For example, a long time ago my friend K and I were discussing cannabis use by our husbands. My husband was a LOT heavier user than hers, but having recently had a child she was adamant that she did not want her son growing up to normalise drug use. It was clear from the discussion that she was considering the future of her marriage if her husband was not prepared to stop his recreational use. She asked me what I thought, and I remember my answer. I said “I’m not prepared to risk my marriage over cannabis”. She was clearly surprised, and the conversation moved on.

Why did I say that? I hated it just as much as her, I could see just as clearly the potential impact on growing children,

My brother once told me that, early in in his relationship with his now wife, they were discussing children. His then girlfriend laid something out about the way in which any future children would be raised, a a non negotiable. He considered it, was ok with it, and so the path to the future had not met a dead end.

These are boundaries. Deal breakers. They are not optional behaviour patterns like preferring beef to lamb, or leaving the loo seat up. Fundamental stuff … and by setting the boundaries you save yourself a whole heap of heartache further down the line.

I have been doing this the wrong way round. My sister in law set this dealbreaker early on in her relationship with my brother, before they were engaged, living together, or married. If it had not been acceptable to him, they would have both moved on. I see now, don’t laugh- I know it’s fucking obvious – meet someone, get to know them. Observe their ACTIONS, note , be clear if your boundaries are pushed , set out a consequence, and see it though.

No wonder I have been terrified of ever risking a relationship again. Taking a chance that someone will subconsciously understand my boundaries, and finding out that they don’t when you are living together is a sure fire way to relationship hell. I fell in love first. Failed to be clear about what was and was not acceptable to me when I had an opportunity to get out easily, failed to even realise how miserable I would be if I were forced to accept things that are contrary to what I believe.

This is pretty huge for me. But it’s SO obvious.

I know where it comes from too.

1. I never saw this behaviour as a child. My mother tried to set boundaries with my father but he ignored them and there were no consequences. Of course I thought I would too be treated like this.

2. Huge fear of being alone and unloved, “no one will be able to love me as I am, so I’d better accept whatever behaviour is dished out to me or I will be alone”

So.

I have some work to do. On my shiny new set of boundaries. This will take some time, and learning to ‘defend’ them, may take practice, BUT for the first time in ages I feel quite excited and positive.

A line

A line is drawn today.

I had a very helpful therapy session last night. Angela reads my blog, and it was a good day to go!

She picked up on the triggers I had identified in my post yesterday and we discussed some of them. The practical ones I have sorted, but the emotional ones needed some picking apart.

She encouraged me to dig a bit more in the my triggers around this email, around the feeling that’s it’s arrival and my decision not to respond evoked.

I have come a long long way since August 19th 2016 when I finally lost my temper and changed the locks on my front door. A long way in understanding the destructive dynamic, the personality and behaviour of the narcissistic person, and a long way in recognising how my weak boundaries, poor self worth and past experiences set me up for that relationship. I have worked hard on forgiving myself and trying to treat myself with the kindness that I would show to anyone else in my position.

But now it’s time to move on.

This is obviously a symbolic decision, because I’m not so deluded as to think I can just decide not to think of him again and it will just not happen. But a decision to accept that I will not get the answers I want from him (I already saw that back in December) and that I am unlikely to aid my recovery by poking over the carcass and ruminating endlessly about the past.

So, from today I am going to make a conscious effort to put the ruminations out of my mind. To consciously replace those thoughts with others as far as I am able. To accept that this relationship was destructive, damaging and painful in so many ways. But it’s over now. I have him 5 years of my life, I will not give him the rest of it by being unable to move on. There are no ties, no reason I need to be in touch.

Today I turn my back on him, disengage and move forwards.

And now I’m going to make a fish pie.

.

Self care

Thank you all for you kind, supportive and helpful comments yesterday.

I’m pleased to say I managed to incorporate some of your ideas and thoughts, reached out a bit to friends and I’m a bit less anxious today.

I saw my own GP this morning and have been told to take these three days off work, that’s quite hard for me to do, but it would be stupid to ignore that advice, so I now have three days at home. Actually that’s something of a relief; not having to mange the demands of work leaves me more brain space and time to practice self care.

I have decided to spend Friday night at a hotel in Bologna airport rather than trying to drive from there to Florence in the middle of the night. I realised yesterday afternoon that the anxiety about driving on the continent, at night, to a place I don’t know, that is in a restricted part of the city so no parking, when the car hire company cannot guarantee me a sat nav, was increasing with every day, and so I will travel to Florence on Saturday morning on the train.

I have also ordered a couple of books from amazon about narcissism & recovery from relationship breakdown. Part of my anxiety stems (I think) from being terrified I will NEVER get over this, and maybe further understanding / and knowing that I am not alone will help me feel more settled. I want to believe this is just another ‘phase’ and will pass, but it’s been a long time ..

Several people, IRL and online have urged me to seek support from AA or similar, something I have strongly resisted thus far. Reflecting on my aversion, and the reasons behind it, I realised that’s it’s a) being recognised and b) I do not feel comfortable being vulnerable around men. The fear of recognition is not because I am ashamed, after all I have been sober for nearly 2 years, it’s because if I were known as my professional role, I would not be open, and I would find it impossible not to present my professional front. This would negate the whole point of trying to connect with others. So, I have found a women only meeting in a nearby town. I’m thinking about it. It might be good …

lastly, considering why this has happened right now, I can only think it’s because I received an email from him earlier this week. This is not the only cause, i was very stressed out before that, but I think it might have been the last straw. The communication itself was innocuous, simply a belated reply to a sympathy note I have send him about 4 weeks ago. But it definitely stirred something and more significantly, the decision NOT to reply has been a trigger I think.

There is nothing to be gained by replying. He is absolutely unhealthy for me, and our relationship was destructive and toxic. I am sure there was a reason why he replied so late, and just as sure there is a reason that he chose to do so now. But I need to not engage, not reply, just withdraw. It’s not logical, but that decision feels huge emotionally, and I expect that has been the straw that broke the proverbial camels back.

I will see my therapist later, take some time, read a bit, and I hope that I will soon be feeling more stable.

Thanks all

I don’t know what to do.

I seem to have hit another emotional crisis. I do not know why, but I feel dreadful. I’m anxious, I’ve lost my appetite (a sure sign of emotional destabilisation) I’m struggling to function. I can’t sleep, I’m ruminating and my concentration is shot to pieces.

I feel on the edge of a panic attack several times a day. So far, it has not materialised. But work is piling up because I can’t attend to it, the house is a mess, my friends are neglected and I’m really really anxious.

I have no idea why. And worse no idea what to do. I cannot cope, but I have to.

Pretty crap

Sorry folks, I’ve been trying not to write this post, trying not to feel how I do for a whole week now. It’s not working.

I remind myself of all the positives; son1 is doing good, we have a great holiday coming up, I’m going to Italy in 4 days, in the Summer my older brother is planning to visit from Australia, yesterday an old friend contacted me from the USA to let me know she is visiting the UK in the Summer .. soon I will be TWO YEARS sober …

but ,… but …

I’m just so low.

In fact I’m a horrible combination of agitated, restless, sad, frustrated, angry, defeated. I hate this.

I cannot stop thinking about that man. Missing him? No, I don’t want to go back there… and he has nothing to offer me. But I think about him incessantly, round and round my head go these repetitive, pointless thoughts. He is the last thing I think about at night, the first thought in the morning.

Im so fed up with it. My head KNOWs , my heart also knows … but my brain … my brain regurgitates endless emotion, endless memories, endless want if’s. Anger, sadness, longing, loss, sadness, loneliness, fear chase tirelessly round my head … no answers, and no resolution seems possible.

Alongside that I HATE myself for this. I berate myself for feeling this way, beat myself up for still being stuck in the past when I know there is nothing for me there. Is it that I miss the misery ? Is it that I got so used to being churned up and battling against despair that the absence of that extreme emotion ?

and I hate that too.

I want this OVER. I want to move on. Leave the past, the sorrow , the hurt, the pain … just leave it behind and move forward. And there should be no reason why I can’t do this … logically . But it’s not happening… I have been separated from this man for more than18 months … why why why can’t I just put him in the past and STOP rehashing stuff ?

He hurt me. He used me. He lied to me, he stole from me. He hurt and damaged my children. He abused me so much, emotionally and verbally, financially and by trying to physically intimidate me (and succeeding) .. how can I be so unbelievably DUMB as to still allow him space in my head ?

What the fuck is wrong with me? And more importantly how can I move forward?

i just don’t know. And I’m SO tired of it ….