Adjusting…

I always felt that I should be part of a family of 5. I don’t know why, but when my second son was born I didn’t feel that the family was quite complete … in contrast when I brought son #3 home, it felt whole, as though this was ‘right’. Subconsciously I realise I still think of us as a family of 5, although we have not been so for some time. I often find myself cooking for 5, buying food as though there were 5 people here… Now of course we are only 3 at home; and this is taking some adjustment.

Suddenly I have a lot of space. The absence of son#1 leaves a big physical hole, as well as a release of a lot of stress. Hard though it is to admit, I was so ready for him to GO AWAY. I was very, very tired of an adult child doing nothing productive, making mess and being generally unhelpful. With him gone, I realise exactly how much energy and anxiety he was creating for me. Some part of wanting him to go , must I think, be ‘normal’ – there comes a time when our offspring need to leave home and set up on their own… this is after all the whole point: from the moment the umbilical cord is cut our children begin to grow away from us until they can take their place as functioning adults in society.

He’s in touch, pretty much every day I get a message or a snapchat – but the immediacy of him, the worry of his day to day ‘management’ is no longer mine.

So there are three of us at home now, and the dogs.

Son#2 is deep in a teenage angst phase, strumming his bass guitar endlessly, headphones permanently in his ears, ready to argue every single point – reluctant to engage with the essential programme of study this academic year. My heart sinks at the thought of another unmotivated, immature young man sitting around the house because he WONT make an effort to study. Sigh.

There is more space to pay attention to him. This should be a positive. Trouble is he doesn’t want more attention, he wants to be left alone to do the bare minimum, and Mum with her ‘ridiculous expectations’ and ‘pressure’ is an unwelcome intrusion into a world of band practice, anxiety, despair and teenage hormones.

Dad seems slightly more palatable to him, but only slightly. More acceptable because he puts less pressure I think; and less because son2 is looking with a critical eye on his achievements as a father, his efforts … and is angry as he finds his father wanting .

Son #3, dragged into a meeting with his form tutor at the beginning of term, seems to have taken seriously the comments on last years end of term report. He at least remains sunny and uncomplicated. He has a focus, a career in mind and he knows it will take work and commitment to get there.

And I? I’m struggling emotionally watching J decline. No more of that as its not my story, but its hard. Nothing like as bad as it is for K, but painful anyway. I’m wondering what my life will look like in 5 years? in 10? I don’t have a Plan any longer. I don’t know where I want to be, to live, how I want to work / not work, all my adult life I’ve had a plan, something to work towards. Now I dont. Now Im not a family of 5, and I wont be again.

It sounds more gloomy than I feel. I think im just adjusting. Trying to work out where my boundary lines are – with everyone. Son1 wanting $1000 to go to Everest base camp next week (nope) ; Son2 wanting money for  a trip to town on a school night (nope) ; son3 wanting yet more video games (nope)  …. Just adjusting. I’ve shifted to not looking very far ahead at the moment – a week or two at a time. Focussing on small goals, trying to re establish some routine….

Very sober. And both very glad to be, and very very bored of it. That makes no sense, but its how I feel. I want some escape from humdrum. I want a purpose. A goal. Or escape so that the lack of purpose doesnt really matter any longer …

 

 

Reflection

I’m much better now (physically) , after recovering from the drama of last week – I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on my daft behaviour.

It’s often said that doctors are the worst patients, and I think that’s true

1. we ignore symptoms that we would take seriously in our patients

2. we have a tendency to bypass impartial medical advice; diagnose ourselves and get help from colleagues in an informal way

3. Most of us find it really hard to prioritise our own health / well being.

All of these things are true of me. Even though I have a lovely GP, and I do consult her about long term issues; when something acute happens, or the correct option is to go to hospital, I try to manage it myself. This backfired quite spectacularly on Wednesday.

I’m fortunate that more harm was not done.

So what of the future. I feel chastened and vulnerable right now, but how will I alter my behaviour? I have two epipens now, and I will keep them in my bag. I will carry antihistamines and steroids. I will probably discus a referral to an allergy clinic for some more up to date testing.

And I will TRY to behave more ‘sensibly’ in the future. At least partially I feel because I compromised my colleagues, asking them for help when I should have been seeking emergency help at the hospital.

Its so easy to minimise things ‘in the moment’ ; and hope that they will just sort themselves out. Longer term things I have taken seriously. like my raised BP – I visited my own doctor and we sorted out medication. But somehow, acute symptoms of illness get brushed under the carpet, under the ‘have to carry on’, ‘can’t take time off’ ‘feel a fraud’ ; this false premise that we , as health care workers, who KNOW what its all about, can therefore control it and carry on without disruption.

Its not that I feel particularly robust, I really don’t. If I were my patient I would have told me to rest and not go to work for a few days. I would have explained that the huge reaction has a whole body effect. The symptoms are caused by the sudden release of chemical substances, including histamine, from cells in the blood and tissues where they are stored. The release is triggered by the interaction between an allergic antibody called Immunoglobulin E (IgE) and the substance (allergen) causing the anaphylactic reaction. In this case some kind of nuts – probably Brazil’s.  This is not a limited condition It affects your whole body. I was close to shock when my BP dropped. I should definitely have gone to hospital as many people suffer a biphasic reaction. i.e. the symptoms return some hours later.

Its more of a ‘I have to carry on’, and not because I don’t think anyone else could do my job, that I am somehow indispensable; far from it. Its more that I don’t really believe that I deserve the care I would give to others. Deep down.

That’s what a lot of this is about.

Lack of respect for myself. Lack of care for myself. Round and round it goes. Poking out in every area.

Sigh

 

 

 

 

 

Anaphylaxis

Yesterday I had a very frightening experience. I’m sharing it here, partly as a reflective entry, and partly because if it encourages one person who reads this post to take their own allergy a bit more seriously then it will have been worth it.

Since I was about 8 years old I have been allergic to Nuts. When I was 8 years old, no one was allergic to anything (!) so I think my mother had to push quite hard for a referral to an allergy specialist in a Central London Hospital. Here I had a series of tests (we have much more accurate ones today) and was confirmed as severely allergic to Brazil Nuts, Hazelnuts and Peanuts, and moderately allergic to walnuts and all the rest. I was prescribed an epi-pen which I expect most of you know is an auto-injecting adrenaline device. Through my childhood my mother diligently refilled my prescriptions for this epipen, but I never had to use it. By trial and error I learned what to avoid (i.e. doesn’t say it contains nuts, but often has nut oil eg all Belgian chocolate, cheesecakes bases, some curries, expensive desserts, etc etc) I never had a severe reaction (by my standards) because I always had an early warning signal that something contained nuts – severe tingling and itching in my lips and tongue, so I stopped eating it. Usually I would then be sick, and apart from taking some antihistamines and steroids for a day or two, everything would be ok.

I, as an adult, stopped bothering with an epipen, I’d never used it, they go out of date really quickly and I’m busy ….

Yesterday I went to a meeting, and at the beginning the Chair handed out some biscuits that he had bought specially. I chose one without chocolate chunks (see above), and didn’t check the packet. I didn’t even want the blasted biscuit and took it only to be polite. I ate the whole thing, two bites really – and only THEN did the tingling start. Lulled into a false sense of security by my relatively contained reaction in the past, I foolishly decided to stay in the meeting. My lips swelled, I developed swelling round the eyes, my soft palate at the roof of my mouth was so swollen I could barely talk, but I stayed ( Why ??) By the end of the meeting, about 50 mins after ingestion, I was bright red and although not struggling to breathe, I realised I needed some medication.

So I drove about 5 mins up the road to the local health center where there is a pharmacy, got some antihistamines which I took, then decided they were unlikely to ‘cut it’ in terms of getting on top of a IgE medicated anaphylactic reaction, so I trawled the corridors looking for  GP I knew. Really doctors never learn. I found a colleague, he gave me a prescription for some steroids, I collected them from the pharmacy, took them immediately and sat down for about 30 minutes. At the end of that time the intense itching had started to subside, and my soft palate was less swollen. Still no problems breathing apart from a slight wheeze, definitely no airway obstruction.

I decided to go back to work, about 15 minutes drive away. Walked to my car, started out, and about 1/2 way realised I couldn’t see properly, there was a definite feeling that I was about to pass out, and I really felt very unwell indeed. I tried to subdue these symptoms by sheer force of will. It didn’t work. In fact it got worse. I vomited, completely unexpectedly, all over my (new) car. My dizziness got worse and I really thought I was going to faint. I have never ever fainted… I pulled into a side street, lay down – thank goodness for modern cars with a push button seat relaxer …vomited again, again no warning (YUK) and tried to think what to do.

Had I been my own patient, I would have called 999 without hesitation. I should have called 999. But I didn’t. I called a colleague… Duh! Fortunately she had the presence of mind to call the emergency services who arrived about 3 minutes later to rescue me. Even after they had assessed me and I was able to initially sit up – about 30 mins later and then stand up, about 45 mins later; I refused their suggestion to take me to hospital. Did I NEED to go ? Well I’m still here, so strictly speaking I guess not, but I’m sort of realising that this might be more due to good luck than judgement.

Today I’m chastened, tired, aching all over, headache-y and honestly a bit scared. I don’t know why my ‘failsafe’ early warning system that has served me so well for the last 44 years should have failed, and it scares me. Because I know what the consequences were from eating a small biscuit, what might they had been if I had eaten two? Or if I again eat something that contains nuts and I DON’T KNOW till its too late…

I now have two epipens and will get a third later today. One thing I will promise myself, If this happens again I will be a LOT less cavalier about the whole thing …

 

Adjustment Reaction

I’m so tired of struggling, I’m so tired of the rollercoaster of emotions and the physical reactions to anxiety that come and go. In general I AM positive about all the changes I have made in the last 18 months, but all this change and loss (of the me I know, of my partner and our dreams for the future, of son #1) is hard.

Yesterday I had a text from son #3 saying that son #1 had “locked him out with both dogs” in an attempt to MAKE son #3 walk them. Son #1 had been asked to walk the dogs on three days in the hiatus between his two (completely funded by me) trips. I don’t think thats unreasonable. Between them, the two dogs weigh in excess of son #3, and can pull him over, Its not appropriate for him to be walking them alone. I had to leave work, go home and ‘deal with the situation’. I’m sorry to say I shouted at son#1 who was idling the day away with his on/off female ‘friend’… and he shouted back before storming off. Not ideal.

Then i went to my therapy session and Angela reduced things to some kind of order for me, pointing out that it is a stressful thing going away, that son#1 is probably nervous, that I am probably a bit anxious and that this is all pretty normal. Indeed if another parent told me this, I would think it was pretty normal. When I got home we had a hug and a chat, and order was restored.

I think all this gloom could be called an adjustment reaction

An adjustment reaction is the psychological reaction to profound change in a person’s life such as divorce, separation, immigration or bereavement .

An adjustment reaction is characterised by anxiety and depression. The timecourse of the disorder allows a distinction to drawn with an acute stress reaction:

  • symptoms appear soon after a life event (within 3 months for DSM III-R or 1 month for ICD 10), however the onset is slower than in an acute stress reaction
  • symptoms last longer than in an acute stress reaction”

(see how I like to have a diagnosis for everything.)

I’m way past being the person who felt invincible, as young people so often do, and as I did in the past. I used to feel I could cope with anything, and manage to carry on. Now I feel frail and vulnerable and only too aware of my own weaknesses. I wonder how I coped in the past, without feeling as dreadful and dispirited as I do now? I wonder if I did just bury my sadness in drink? or maybe I ‘had’ to do that or I would literally have collapsed and fallen apart. I dont know.

I just know I have to keep going, and have faith that the days will get lighter.

why am I on my own at 52?

As the time since the ending of my last relationship increases, and the emotional carnage left behind is partially healed,I begun to wonder, “will I be alone for ever?”

I started using the ‘bumble’ dating app for a while a few months ago, but though I had a couple of dates I quite quickly realised I had neither the energy nor the appetite for dating at that particular time. I deleted the app and carried on.

Despite the apparent ‘failure’ of this experiment, it taught me a couple of interesting lessons:

  1. Dating sober is ok. It’s not like dating drunk- or even a bit tipsy, but it has some distinct advantages
  2. I have got very picky. This is also not a bad thing, and for now it’s just an observation. There were many more men interested in ‘meeting’ me than I was prepared to consider.
  3. One can set ones own rules . And that’s ok, even expected. Saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ after dinner is not only fine, but providing it’s done politely and kindly , completely acceptable.
  4. I can’t be bothered at the moment. Dating requires energy. It requires time and a willingness to be available, leave home and try …. I’d rather be home with the kids /dogs and sewing /TV at the moment.

So with all these provisos I wonder why I am even wondering about the future, possible future, possible partner I might want/ choose if the option were there ?

Maybe because I’m still an optimist by nature. Maybe I still believe, or hope , that it’s possible for life to be enhanced by a partner – that someone loving you could be a positive rather than a sad, soul destroying descent into miserable, aching sadness. I do see it around me. I see couples who have weathered difficult times and come out together stronger- at least that’s how it looks to me from the outside. Certainly they have been together for many years.

I don’t lack companionship. I’m not lonely (any more) I have some great friends, a job which involves a lot of contact with others, a family and other more superficial acquaintances I can spend time with should I feel the need. I don’t even really feel the need for a partner to confide in – right now I can’t imagine trusting anyone’s advice more than that of K or my brother (female and male input) or my close sober sister (for those bits) …. I have Angela to pose the difficult questions at me , ….

If I think about it, it’s the future alone I don’t really fancy. When the kids have grown and left home – when I have retired, so less / no daily contact with colleagues … or maybe that special person for whom I would be the number one – as they would be for me ?

I think I’m in a much better position to chose wisely now. The last two relationships I embarked upon were both driven by psychological needs that I was only partially aware of. From a place where I am A) sober and b) painfully wiser , I think I could make a better choice – as long as I’m careful, listen to my gut instincts and am honest with myself .

Regrets and how to process them

I think my post yesterday says something quite important for me.

I have lived as though I have no regrets and ‘put a brave face’ on so many things. I have ‘got over’ things such as the breakdown of my marriage, and ‘moved on’.

But have I ?

Or have I buried my shame and regret, my heartache, in a nice bottle of white wine, drinking steadily and heavily to blot out the pain of a smashed up family, the disappointment of divorce and the subsequent pain of an emotionally abusive partnership?  Have I really ever dealt with just how rubbish the educational failure of my eldest son makes me feel ? How guilty I feel for allowing ‘stuff’ to happen to my kids. How sad I feel for the wasted years? How lonely I have been and how fucked up the subliminal messages I have sent to my children?

The way I feel now makes me question all these things.

And then I look around me and see how bloody lucky I am. I have my health (at least for now) I am employed and solvent. My children are alive. I live in a first world country and take my security for granted.

I need to try and balance these conflicting feelings in my head; two weeks ago I went to the funeral of a 19 year old youth who died suddenly of natural causes. Seeing his devastated parents and a church full of sobbing family and close friends was a harrowing and sobering experience … That family will never recover fully from the loss of their son /brother… through no fault of anyone’s, their lives have been shattered. And in comparison I am so, so lucky.

Regret is pointless, It achieves nothing, just encourages me to go on blaming myself and beating myself up. I know I should instead focus on the positives. I still have son 2 and 3 who I can influence, son 3 is only 12 and so I have quite a lot of influence. We have had some really good times, some great holidays and I have a plan to go to Africa next Summer (I hope) with all three children…

I don’t have a balanced view right now, I swing from regrets to trying to be positive, seeming to find no peace or middle ground. I hope this is yet another ‘phase’ that will pass in time… I have planned a visit to an exhibition that I want to see with a friend I haven’t seen for AGES, this is positive and I’m looking forward to it, I expect we will have lunch afterwards and time for a catch up.

I had no idea, literally no idea when I started out 541 days ago that ‘being sober’ would have this profound an effect on me. I’m glad I didn’t know, because its scary enough walking the path without knowing whats round the corner. If I had known, I think I would have been too terrified to take that first step. Now its an act of faith continuing on this path – because I cannot go back, I cannot ‘unknow’ what I now know …

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So, I’ll uncap a Becks Blue lemon beer (0% alcohol)  this evening and watch ‘Dragons Den’ with the youngest and plod on …

Discombobulated

I have not written anything for a couple of weeks. It’s been hard to catch hold of anything long enough to think it through – let along long enough to write it down.

Son 1 has returned from his trip to Scotland- the wilderness therapy programme. Is he “different” ? Has it changed him ? I don’t know really. Certain things are different, he says he has recognised the negative effect that all his cannabis smoking was having on him, and says he intends to remain abstinent. That’s great, and if you had told me, before he went, that this is what would come out of it,even that this would be ALL that would come out if it, then I would have been happy I think. Now I feel that i hoping for, expecting ? More. He is a bit more aware of things that need doing, a bit more willing to help out, he seems to have worked out that the home doesn’t run itself… but the general pattern of excessive screen time, little purposeful effort at anything and hours playing on the PS4 haven’t really changed. He says inside he feels more confident, which is obviously good … I thought two weeks between Scotland and the big volunteer trip to Nepal would be good, now it feels like a LONG time with nothing purposeful to do …

I’m struggling with so many things right now, internally, I feel like I don’t know who I am any longer. If I’m not the heavy drinking, chill out, impulsive, disaster prone liability any longer- then who AM I ?

My kids are growing up and away from me. It’s hard to get everyone round one table for dinner without pressuring them. I feel like I’ve lost the opportunity to have the family I wanted. It’s been miserable for them,for the most part, at the hands of first their father and then my ex partner, neither of whom are any kind of role model. All I wanted was a happy family – and I tried so hard to provide that… I’ve worked my ass off to support them all – and what I have achieved is basically very little.

I’ve been on holiday from work – at home- for the last two weeks. Taking away my identity as a doctor – my identity as a successful career woman, my identity in a place where I am respected, confident and capable has been a bit of a strange experience … normally I’m “away” during time off work .. and that’s an adventure … at home there are long hours to fill .. and my inadequacy as another, and the failure of my family life is very obvious … we have managed one trip to the cinema together in a week ….

Last day off today. I feel both fed up at the thought of no more time off as the winter draws in, and relieved to be able to escape back into my professional life.

I feel like retreating to the safety of things i know; alcohol. Impulsivity. Recklessness. That man.

Because without those things, I don’t know who I am any longer. Everything is broken down and needs to be remade… I need to be remade, I am not any longer who I have been all my life …I’m someone different, someone I don’t know or understand. I fear she is boring, serious, no fun. She (or me) prioritised her career- felt she HAD to work full time to provide a nice house, stuff and holidays … but maybe she therefore neglected her kids? Neglected to be there , which in the end would have been much more valuable?

I’m going to stop now. I don’t think this is helping… and I need to take the dogs out.

Busy

I’ve been on annual leave this week and very busy with a combination of settling the puppy back home ( he is transformed in all the best possible ways) working with him and Lola to reinforce that training , cleaning out junk from the house and sorting things out.

I’m physically exhausted. We have CLEANED the boys den – untold sacks of rubbish there, cleaned out the cellar , reboxed stuff to keep and disposed of the rest. I have cleared out the eaves of the house , again retaining what I need / want to keep – providing space for ‘things’ that don’t need to be out but hadn’t a ‘home’ away somewhere. I have reorganised my bedroom – removing every trace of my ex partner- and orders new bed linen and a new mattress so it really feels like mine again. I have done 3 runs to the dump with ‘stuff’ that domestic waste collectors won’t take , got a new bed assembled in son 1’s room (thanks to my brother who lent it to me) and generally organised my life. 

Mentally I feel Good. Clean sweep. Sorted all the tools ex P left (they are mine now) and put them away. 

Have spent some time with sons 2 & 3 – and generally maximised my awake time … 

I also attended the funeral of a 19 year old boy- the awful pointless waste of his potential and the suffering etched on the faces of his family – I have no words for this. I went because I was asked, to pay my respects and to demonstrate by my presence that though I can do nothing to alleviate their pain, I acknowledge it. It was unspeakably dreadfully sad, but I had to go and I’m glad I did. 

I could never have achieved this much if I had been drinking . Never have cleared cleaned and sorted with demonic energy, never have found words – or no words / to onbey my heartfelt empathy to the bereaved parents. I wold have had to have been at least a bit drunk to face the raw emotion in that church , and worse the extreme vulnerability of the young mans parents.

I did a better job sober, all round , a much better job. 

cognitive dissonance

In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort  (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values. I describe it more as doing or not doing something that YOU believe to be wrong. It can be a small wrong, like eating chocolate when you have given it up for Lent; or big wrongs like living with a man who you believe is damaging your children.

The occurrence of cognitive dissonance is a consequence of a person’s performing / accepting an action that contradicts personal beliefs, ideals, and values; and can also occur when confronted with new information that contradicts said beliefs, ideals, and values.

The above is partially lifted from Wikipedia (with my own inserts.)

I’m writing this post because the Absence of cognitive dissonance in my life now is one of the most positive aspects of my sobriety and of my separation from my ex partner.

I have lived with the psychological stress of this for 16 1/2 years. Sometimes I think its no wonder I drank.

But my drinking cause untold stress and cognitive dissonance too. because I KNEW I was not a ‘normal’ drinker I worried about it constantly. The mismatch between what I believed – drinking excessively is bad for your health, bad for your kids and just bad. was totally mismatched  with the bottle of New Zealand Sav blanc that I drank every night, or the pissed person I was at the weekend.

My ex husband used drugs. When I met him, it was no big deal.  He didn’t drink, but had a spliff in the evening. My son no1 was 18 months old, so asleep in the evenings when ex H came round and not exposed to it. I’ve never really bothered with cannabis (thank God) but I had no real problem with this. Lots of his friends had the odd spliff too. We were in our mid 30’s ; It didn’t seem so weird. Or wrong,

Fast forward five years. By now we have three young children and he is smoking weed morning noon and night, and in front of the kids, and most of his friends (all of the ones with children) had stopped using weed because they realised it was a bad influence on the kids. Cognitive dissonance , being forced to live with something you feel deeeply uncomfortable about. That was easier in a way, everyone knew he took drugs, and everyone had seen his aggression to the kids in one form or another … so I had support from the beginning.

Same feeling, different issues, with ex partner. On the one hand “love” or at least “perceived love /need” and on the other “I’m afraid of your temper, I’m afraid of your anger, I don’t think you treat my kids right, etc”

Again my solution was to hide from those feelings in a bottle of wine. I was not the perpetrator of emotional abuse of my children, but I sat by, with my bottle, and Let it happen….

Dissonance increases with:

  • The importance of the subject to us.
  • How strongly the dissonant thoughts conflict.
  • Our inability to rationalize and explain away the conflict.

Dissonance is often particularly strong when we believe something about ourselves and then do something against that belief.  E.g. I believe it is very important to me to be “the best mother that I can”  but then I allow my partner to live with my children and treat them in a way that I think is wrong – then the discomfort I feel as a result is cognitive dissonance. Very strong and very uncomfortable cognitive dissonance.

On the positive side Cognitive dissonance a very powerful motivator which will often lead us to change one or other of the conflicting beliefs or actions. This reflects how I felt about my ex partner – torn between supporting him or supporting my children. (And sometimes son #1 did things that were so wrong it was impossible to disagree with ExP’s evaluation of his character) hence more dissonance . The discomfort felt like a massive internal tension between the two opposing thoughts. Something I could NEVER talk of, never reveal, try not even to THINK about, and so of course never resolve.

To release the tension we can take one of three actions:

  • Change our behaviour
  • Justify our behavior by changing the conflicting cognition.
  • Justify our behavior by adding new cognitions.

Dissonance is seen to be most powerful when it is affects our self-image. Feelings of shame, immorality, affecting my self image as a mother …. are dissonance in action. And it was so strong it drove me to the edge of my “sanity”. I can see this now, but I could not then. In April 2013, when I was really Mentally unwell with intrusive suicidal thoughts, it was because I was sober – and therefore could no longer ignore the feelings of dissonance (the issue at that time was between ExP and son1 – he didn’t start picking on son 2 till a bit later) – and I could not

  • change any other persons behaviour
  • justify either persons behaviour
  • add new cognitions to justify either persons behaviour

So I was stuck: being stuck , seeing it, and seeing no way out – I just dissolved myself.

I did not see the psychological dissonance clearly, and I did not / could not dissect it as clearly as I have above.  Although I saw the option of splitting with ExP , I could not imagine actually doing it. I don’t know why, I could say I loved him, but that would not really be the truth (I HAD loved him certainly, but actually I quite disliked him by then) I think it’s closer to the truth to say I believed I needed him…. and I thought he would still turn back into the lovely man he had been when we first met  if only I could solve ‘this problem” (son1). I considered trying to send son 1 to boarding school, I considered lots of options, but none were possible. Above all I could not change any one else’s behaviour, how ever hard I tried.

Looking back, I’m not surprised at all that I broke. In fact I’m astonished I managed for as long as I did. And of course getting “well” again involved medication, rest, and burying my head in the sand bottle again….

Dissonance increases with the importance and impact of the situation / decision along with the difficulty of reversing it. Discomfort about making the wrong choice of car is bigger than when choosing a meal from a menu… e.g.: I want x car but it’s more than I wanted to spend … if you buy it, you will experience dissonance, but will probably change your beliefs to justify it .. e.g. Well I can just cut back on coffees out etc , I can manage that, it’s worth it etc …

I wonder how I changed my beliefs to accommodate the horrors in my home ? Or how I tried to change them..? Or why I did that? Why I allowed myself to carry all that burden without unloading it anywhere.

i will need to think more about this. One thing I do know, the absence of dissonance right now is a massive, enormous relief and I will never go back to it again.

 

How very far I have come

Its is now 12 months almost to the day since I ended my relationship

I have come a LONG way since then

Back then it was a huge burst of frustration and anger: the culmination of several years of unhappiness, increasing frustration, and inability to communicate that drove me to change to lock on my front door and call time on what I had hoped/ believed would be my relationship for life. I knew it was right, a bit like stopping drinking, but It had been very hard to do.

I surprised almost everyone with that decision. Even my closest friend K, who had listened and held my frustration and anxiety over the destructive elements at home had not expected me to be so abrupt and determined; I think my brother (perhaps) was the only one who was less surprised. He knew, to some extent, all was not well and he knows that I can be pushed a LONG way, but that eventually I will snap.

Back then, I was so sad about it. Back then I thought I had a loving partner who although he had some problems with my children; problems with his business / earning a living; problems with his relations with his own children; was basically a lovely man who I just couldn’t get through to.

I see him very differently now. Now I see what others saw. I see what K saw, my brother saw, and bless them for their diplomacy in not ever trying to force me to see what I could not, until I was ready.

Now I see a bullying, insecure man who at least borders on narcissism. I see a man with delusions of grandeur and arrogance that mean that he listens to NO ONE, talks a LOT about respect and integrity but has none himself. Now I see a man who probably had such an issue with my eldest son because he saw reflected back at him some of his most deeply unattractive traits. I see a man who had so little regard for me, that despite the fact I had 100% financially supported him for 5 years, refused to even TRY and support himself financially when I struggled to service the debt I had incurred by taking on HIS responsibilities. I see a critical, unkind, self absorbed person, unwilling (or unable) to compromise on anything, and I shudder.

The best decision I made in the immediate aftermath of the split was to find a therapist I could work with. I saw one, who I am sure was perfectly competent, but I felt no empathy. Then I saw Angela, my current therapist and knew that here was someone who could ‘cope with’ me (Because I recognise that I’m not the most straightforward, with my alcohol addiction, eating disorder, propensity to attract men who are damaged / damaging) – but ‘cope with’ me in a kind and supportive way. I knew I needed this support and space to be honest, to be able to hold on to the decision I had made.

In retrospect I can’t believe I was only about 24 weeks sober when I did this. Of course I was committed to being sober, and of course I had negotiated the very hard early days.. but 24 weeks ?? That seems very early in sobriety to me now, to make such a big change to my life and expect me to see it through. Reflecting on it, I’m proud of myself that I did it, and prouder that I a) stuck to it and b) stayed sober.

For several months I struggled with the decision, I ‘knew’ in my heart it was right (at least for the children) but struggled to recognise or accept that I too had been badly treated, that I deserved better. With patience, lots of conversations, reflective discussions, and time –  I came to see exactly that. That he treated me very badly – the emotional abuse he dished out was not confined to my children ( not by  along chalk); that expecting to be ‘fully funded’ by another adult rather than pulling your own financial weight is a form of abuse in itself (if not a negotiated and shared decision between a couple), I tried ‘seeing’ him a bit in the early part of this year –  coffee here and there, the odd day out / walk with the dog. One part of me enjoyed this, but there remained a part of me that felt uncomfortable; and eventually at LAST I recognised that there were things done (or actually not done) that I could not forgive. More than that, it was ok that I could not forgive them. That I had a right to my own boundaries and he had crossed them, I had a right to say ‘no’ that is not acceptable TO ME.

Oh yes, I have come a LONG way. And this shows in many other aspects of my life. I dont always find it easy, but I’m learning to set my boundaries with my kids, my mother, and my work colleagues. Im learning (about 30 years late) that it is healthy to respect yourself, your time, your person, your beliefs.

Angela said to me, early in my therapy with her that she had heard a good expression, that when you are psychologically ‘well’ with good boundaries and a healthy self respect ‘What is not good for you wont LOOK good to you’. All through the Winter and Spring I wondered why ExP still ‘looked good’ to me… it was because I was focussing on his negative features with respect to my children, not with respect to ME …. once I “got” the latter – he no longer looks ‘good’ to me in any way, shape or form.

 

Life is immeasurably better now. I have learned to be more open with  people close to me, and to ask for help when I need it. I have been on a couple of dates, and decided I can’t be bothered at the moment! My kids are happier, my home is calmer, I am restarting painting classes next Month. I will continue with my therapy – I don’t know how long for, but you don’t correct the poor self esteem from many years in a short year… I will stay sober and I will build myself, am building myself, a contented, safe, peaceful home.

I do, actually genuinely feel proud of myself for achieving this. HE said I would never cope without him… well I have, I am and I will continue to do so.

bleeding eyes

Not any more……