I’ve always tried to be as open and honest as possible without crossing that invisible line of “this is just too personal to share.” I was in a relationship and definitely had to consider his feelings and never wanted to humiliate him by over sharing. Ultimately, I chose to stop sharing entirely. I could no longer see the line and I had no desire to pretend like everything was going great. I pulled away from my support system and focused on what I thought I could do to work on our deteriorating relationship. Since he is no longer physically in my life, I have to start dealing with the emotional and psychological wounds he left behind.
This last week has been one of my more difficult weeks. The anxiety had become overwhelming and unmanageable again. On Wednesday, that gave way to panic. I texted a friend who virtually stayed with me. She had me breathe, told me to eat something light since it was lunchtime, and encouraged me to take a walk around my office building. Slowly, I calmed down enough to attend a somewhat important work meeting. This meeting is what I thought had triggered the anxiety and panic, but that really didn’t make sense because there was nothing expected of me in this meeting. That logic apparently did not matter and I internally lost control. (Believe me, no one, not even my co-workers I work closely with, suspected anything was wrong.) In reality, the meeting went fine, just as expected, but, although I’ve tried to, I should not deny how bad things did get and can get for me.
My anxiety used to be mostly physical and emotional responses – rapid heart rate, shallow and fast breathing, tightness in my chest, tension in my neck, back, and shoulders, and panic. Recently, I’ve noticed something different. The physical reactions are mostly the same, but what goes on in my head has changed. It is no longer only panic and fear. There is now an uncontrollable surge of racing negative thoughts and emotions about myself that completely flood and take over my mind. These things, these personal demons have been with me for a while, but they used to be very quiet. So quiet that I could easily discredit and not be overly bothered by them. That is until everything went downhill with Tom, and they’ve been growing steadily louder ever since.
Here are some of those thoughts (copied and slightly edited from an email I wrote to a dear friend dated 8/28/2019)…
I’ve been trying to figure out how to voice some of my emotional reservations and insecurities that have been whispering in the back of my mind recently. I sort of brought it up with a local friend last weekend, but I don’t think I dived in deep enough. I know I shouldn’t put much stock into what Tom has said to me, but…it’s hard not to listen when things are repeated over and over again. And, I’ve probably mentioned some of these things to you before, so please just bear with me.
1) Being repetitive. One of Tom’s biggest complaints was the number of times I would talk about the same shit over and over again. I would nag him about being late, “obsess” about keeping his phone charged, and remind him about everything multiple times. I heard this so much that now I hesitate and even stop myself when I want to reach out and be honest about how I’m feeling, especially if I’m going through the same things every damn day.
2) Being insecure and too needy. Tom always thought that because I wanted to spend time with him that I was insecure. He thought that I must have some abandonment issues from my childhood or something happened in a previous relationship. He would always mention that we don’t live in a perfect world where everyone is on “Jay’s Time”…that he couldn’t control when he would come home or what would happen during the day, always blaming other people. He also couldn’t understand why I appeared to be this strong and always in control woman, yet I also wanted so desperately to be taken care of and cherished. To be held and comforted. To be able to relax and count on someone else to handle things for a while. Being insecure and needy makes me feel like I’m bugging people to get a little attention for no (good) reason. There are times when I just need a reminder that someone is still there.
3) Being too giving. This one really messes with me. I have always been a giver. I pay attention, especially if I care about you. You may not even think about it, but I catch the little things that you might mention in passing. I make a subconscious effort to know when your birthday is, and I attempt to keep a list of your favorite things. I also make a note if someone says things like, “It’d be great if I had this” or “I really like that.” When I go shopping, I pick out things using my heart that are in some way meaningful, whether it was something they need, something that is thoughtful, or something that’s just funny to brighten someone’s day. I never do any of this because I expect the other person to return the favor or act like they owe me. Tom had told me that his whole family had never met anyone like me, and that they all thought that I wanted something in return for everything that I did for them. Eventually, they realized that this is who I am. Some of them appreciated it and moved on when they could. But, some of them started to take advantage of the situation. Now, you would think that I should have learned to not be so giving and would protect myself…and with respect to strangers, that is definitely the case. But, somehow, what I actually got out of all of that was a strange sense of fear. While I do greatly appreciate and am truly touched by any returned gestures, I don’t want the people I care about to feel obligated to do something for me because I did something for them. I am not trying to manipulate people. I think, I believe that when people feel better about themselves and feel like other people care about them, then they will have better days which can lead to living fuller lives. What if you’re the one person through some act of kindness changed a moment, a day, or started a turning point in someone else’s life. But now, there’s a shadow, a fear that someone will think I’m being weird or overstepping.
4) I guess all of this, in some way, leads back to acceptance. This relationship has cast so much doubt into every aspect of my being. It’s probably the major source that’s feeding my anxiety and depression. In fact, I had another anxiety attack last night. I didn’t say anything to anyone other than tossing up a quick tweet. Didn’t want to bother anyone. I knew it would pass. I did a few breathing exercises that I remembered from my band days, and eventually, I fell asleep with my heart thumping entirely too loudly. I got up a few times during the night but was able to go back to sleep each time. The logical side of me says that this is all temporary and I will move on – just fake it until you make it. The other side of me is running in circles trying to dodge the same obstacles, never staying still long enough to work through anything. I even fight with myself about going to therapy…I want to go, but I feel like I keep wanting to bring up the same stuff, so instead, I try to talk about what is going on at work or the progress that is actually being made rather than me stubbornly not letting go or whatever it is that I’m doing or not doing. Sigh, let’s just stamp “lost and confused” on the file and close it. Way easier than trying to figure out why this feels like I’m carrying around the weight of the world when in reality, this is just a damn breakup, not the fucking end of the world – just get over it. (*shaking my head* I would never invalidate or say that to someone else.)
Adding to all of that are heartbreaking thoughts of being a burden, not being enough, and not being worth anyone’s time including my own.
In counseling tomorrow, I’ve been told that we are going to do something different. My therapist wants to try accelerated resolution therapy (ART) to tackle the anxiety. I am nervous and have no idea what to expect, but I do hope it will help.