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Anxious Attachment

After leaving a toxic relationship with a drug addict, I have found that I can get anxiously attached to people. It does not happen with every relationship. For me, it tends to happen with newer friendships where I feel a deeper connection. I came across an article yesterday that really explains what it’s like and offers some ways to cope with it. I recommend taking a moment to read about it. It is my hope that this reaches others who go through this as well as those who are in relationships with those who go through this.

What You Need To Do If You Feel Insecure In Relationships

Please note that I am speaking from my own personal experience. I don’t experience the jealousy that this article mentions, but everything else hits very close to home. For me, being anxiously attached is a phase that I can and have overcome. It takes a great deal of time and an extraordinary amount of patience from the other person to help me move toward a healthy, secure attachment. I think that most people might think that I’m only talking about a significant other type of relationship, but I’m not. I’m talking about all types of relationships.

Last year, I had two friendships that did not start out as anxious attachments. We had been friends, or at least known each other, for years. I got closer and reconnected with each of them after my break up. Within a couple of months, I became anxiously attached to both of them. Thankfully, I was able to be completely honest about what I was feeling with both of them. It took months of consistency and reassurance for me to move to a secure attachment.

I thought that because I had been through it already, that just maybe I was prepared for it. At the beginning of this year, I went through it again with a new friend. This person still has no idea what I went through. Why? Because I refused to say anything about it. I didn’t want to be so open and raw with someone who was just getting to know me. Then, so many things happened that I just didn’t feel I should add my problems to the table, so I backed off and confided in others who helped me move on.

After that experience, I was surely stronger and definitely more prepared to avoid getting anxiously attached. Turns out, I’m not. I’m going through it all over again. I’d like to believe that most days, I’m okay and making progress toward secure attachment. Unfortunately, this is 2020 and stress, depression, and anxiety are never far away. Internal and external triggers can throw me right back into it.

So, what is it? What happens? Again, this is my personal experience and one size does not fit all. When my anxiety crashes down on me, it tells me that my friends might not really like me, that maybe they don’t really want to spend time with me. It tells me that they shouldn’t have to put up with someone who is so broken. It tells me that I’m too needy and no one should have to put up with so much baggage. It stops me from reaching out because saying how much you love and miss them so often will surely drive them away. They’re too busy for you. You don’t need to bug them. Just pull yourself together and back off. All of this overthinking leads to such excruciating heartache. It makes you feel like you’re too hard to love AND that you shouldn’t love people so hard. It literally tears you apart. You are fighting everything that makes you who you are. …and at the end of the day…who cares? What does it matter that you feel any of this? It’s not that important. It’s certainly not anyone else’s fault or problem. You aren’t good enough and should just get used to being alone. Maybe you should just let them go. Fear of losing them. Panic that you’ll push them away. Pain that this is all your fault.

How do I deal with this? Not well. If asked outright, I try to be honest, but it is very hard to be so raw and vulnerable and explain this part of myself that I am ashamed is there (because I should be stronger than this). It’s so much easier to say that I’m fine, except…that method of hiding and deflecting doesn’t work anymore. Why? Because I can’t hold on to the heartache for long, but also because I have a handful of friends who have seen all of me. They no longer settle for “I’m fine.” For me, the best way to handle it is to be honest with the person I’m anxiously attached to. I said that that is the best way, but it isn’t always the easiest way. I’m still struggling with reaching out and sometimes I have no idea what to say or how to explain what’s going on. This is where their patience and consistency make all of the difference.

For those who are struggling with anxious attachment and the reason behind why you are anxiously attached, please know you are NOT alone. Not everyone you meet will be like the person who hurt you. What you feel matters. You are not hard to love, and how you love is beautiful. I see you.

Six years ago…

Recently, I’ve been talking a lot about what I’m currently going through because that’s where I am. In my last post, I opened up and shared what happened a year ago. What I’ve been through takes up a lot of my time as I try to focus on recovering from the past, being okay with the present, and moving forward.

Today, I want to remember some good things. Looking back, May 2014 was a big month for me. On May 1st, I had worked up the courage to email Bonnie from the My Bottom Smarts blog. I had just finished reading her entire archive and it was the first time I reached out to anyone who talked about spanking as much as I wanted to talk about it. From her blog, I found links to several others. As I started exploring, I found a whole community of people who talked about everything from personal relationships to every day life to how they felt about and incorporated TTWD into their lives. A whole new world started to open up.

On May 5th, I wrote my first kink-related blog entry to introduce myself. I had no idea who would read it or what would happen. I just knew that I wanted to share my experiences and maybe find some friends out there. I had fun with it. I shared stories or books that I came across. I shared the fun kinky sex experiences. I shared things that I was hoping would happen. I shared the death of Tom’s dad and his resulting relapse into drug addiction. Then, I disappeared for four years, came back, and have been sharing some of what it’s like to slowly recover from being in love with an addict. I continue to share because I miss this community and because I hope sharing might help others.

On May 23, 2014, I reached out to someone who would end up helping me through some of the darkest times I’ve had in my life so far. At the time, she had already found my blog and commented on some of my first posts! (Talk about being really excited to be noticed by someone so amazing!) I had just finished reading her autobiography and was working through her blog archive when I sent my first email to Erica. I had no idea how important this first correspondence would be. Last year, I only texted two friends the day after I told Tom to move out – Erica was one of them. As my anxiety and depression grew into something I could no longer control and keep bottled up, she was there to virtually hold my hand, calm me down, and walk in circles repeatedly through the things that were consuming me. She encouraged my switch to weekly therapy and helped me open up. She knows everything about me. And would you believe it? She has never left my side. She was there and is still there every day. Our friendship means the world to me.

Going forward, these are the memories that I want to hold on to as I start to find myself again and let go of the past. As this month closes, I am ready for new experiences and new memories. It is time.

One year ago…

One year ago, Tom left home to run an errand. He was supposedly going to pick up a small boat. He said it was sitting on a trailer that had a bad tire, so it might take a few hours. I told him to pick up some fix-a-flat and to please call me and let me know how it was going. By 9:30pm, we had talked three times. He was still having trouble with the trailer and was planning on turning around, leaving the boat, and heading home. He said that he would take a few minutes because he misplaced something, but he was heading home.

By 10:30pm, he still wasn’t home. I called him, but he was no longer answering. This wasn’t the first time he had done this. We had Life 360 on our phones, so I could see where he was. I finally had enough. I texted him, “If you don’t call me, I will head out there.” In order to do this, I had to borrow my dad’s vehicle because Tom was in my Tahoe. Why? Because he had wrecked his truck three months before and I was in the process of buying myself a new vehicle. Of course, he didn’t call or text me back. I didn’t trust the people where he was, so I called his mom and asked her to go with me. She agreed. I borrowed the van from my dad, picked up his mom, and drove 20 mins to where he was. As I pulled up, he was walking toward the Tahoe to get his phone. Apparently, he had decided he wanted to get high with the people he was hanging out with.

Me: Why didn’t you call me or answer your phone?
Tom: (I don’t remember his answer…probably something like I didn’t want to argue or you knew where I was.)
Me: Please follow me home. I can still “fix” this. I’ll just tell my parents that you were working late (they live next door to me).

Well, that pissed him off, after all, why should he have to answer to anyone?

Tom: Stop making a scene, go home, and I’ll be home in a couple of hours.
Me: No, follow me home or I’ll follow you home.
Tom: No, I will be home in a couple of hours.
Me: I’m not okay with this. You need to make up your mind. It’s me or all of this (gesturing at the house where he was getting high and the people that were somewhere around).
Tom: All of this.

Me: Then, I guess you need to move out…
Tom: If that’s what you want.
Me: Are you going to be home in time to take me to work in the morning? (He had been taking me to work and picking me up.)
Tom: Yes, I’ll be there in a couple of hours.

I think we talked on the phone around 1am. He said that he would be back soon. At this point, I’m still thinking I might be able to fix this if he does make it back in time…but I knew he wouldn’t be there to take me to work.

I called him at 6am. No answer. His phone was dead. I called at 6:30. Nothing. By 6:40am, I called my dad, “Can you take me to work?”

Tom called at 6:55am: I’m on my way.
Me: (sarcasm) Good. I’m on my way to work. Are you going to pick me up from work? We need to talk.
Tom: Yes, I’ll be there.

I got through the day. No idea how. I just did. He picked me up, and we headed to the house. We talked in the kitchen. I told him I couldn’t do this anymore. He decided that he would leave that night. I helped him pack a suitcase, and he left.

Over the next several months, a local friend and I packed his stuff that was all over the house into boxes. He would show up basically whenever the hell he felt like it. He wouldn’t show up when he said he would, he would show up without calling, or he would bring someone with him without telling me. He had stuff all over my property…in the house, in the sheds, and just outside in the open. I let him have access to my Walmart Pay to buy food…because I’m a soft-hearted idiot. I moved my deadline several times from September to October to finally December 31st. In September, I cut him off from Walmart Pay and had to change my credit card because suddenly I no longer had access to some of the bills I was covering for him (cellphone and car insurance).

I saw him on Christmas Day. I helped pack a full trailer load. He was planning on coming back one more time, then whatever was left I would get rid of. On Dec. 28th, he was arrested at the abandoned property next door for allegedly trying to break into the house and steal copper. His new fiancé begged me to help, but I wouldn’t. She apparently got him out on New Year’s Eve.

He has called a few times since then…mostly trying to find out if tax checks have arrived for him. I’ve now told him at least three times to fill out a change of address form. Two weeks ago, he told me that he had changed the address on his license and that he was heading directly to the post office. On Tuesday, a check arrives. He lied to me. Again. I have a choice. I could put “return to sender” on it or I could either contact him or wait for him to call me and give it to him. He has a fiancé and is taking care of her two little girls. Assuming this is the stimulus check…that’s $1,200 dollars. I should not have to make this choice. This is not my responsibility. So, what am I going to do? I was going to talk to my therapist this evening, but that got postponed to tomorrow. I guess I’m probably going to wait for him to call or try to contact him. Why? Because I’m incapable of choosing my well-being over someone else’s. For all those who think I’m this strong, intelligent woman, I’m sorry to disappoint you…I think we might have finally located her, but we still haven’t completely pulled her out of the rubble yet.

Tom ran all over my boundaries for years. He knew what they were; he just didn’t care. I am still dealing with the fallout from the emotional abuse and from being in a constant high state of anxiety. I have been grieving for a while. I lost the man I fell in love with to drugs years ago. I finally had to give up and physically let him go a year ago. Through all of this, I also lost myself. I gave so much of me to this man that there was nothing left. My confidence, strength, love, self-worth, vulnerabilities, and insecurities – everything went into this relationship and I did everything I could to save it.

I don’t love him anymore. I don’t regret telling him to leave. What I do regret is losing me. I am still so angry at myself for letting it go so far, for enabling, for allowing myself to be so vulnerable, for giving him all of me. If given the choice, I would not willingly put myself through this again. However, if living through this was the only way that I would have been able to meet the support group I have today, then I wouldn’t hesitate. While I was still struggling in the depth of my despair, friends (old and new) have opened their hearts to me and are still helping me put the pieces back together. You guys know who you are, but I have to name a few.

Erica– you have literally been there every day since day one. You’ve seen me at my worst and have never turned your back on me. I will forever be grateful for the friendship we have. You have given me so much love, strength, and support through my darkest moments. Holding my hand in spirit, reminding me to breathe, and telling me that I will be okay. I don’t know what I would have done without you, SIS.

Dotty – you and your hubby are the first spankos I’ve met in person. I am so grateful for your friendship, patience, and support you both have given me. You guys are amazing, and I am so excited and looking forward to being able to meet up again. Thank you for helping me make new memories.

Lily, Zack, Prux, and Alex – you guys have been so caring and supportive over the last few months. I appreciate all of you so much. I can’t wait to meet up one of these days.

My local friends – Thank you guys for helping me over the last year. You guys have listened to me repeat myself so many damn times. I know that couldn’t have been easy. Thank you so much for being there.

To those I haven’t mentioned – I see you and know you’re there. Your support, comments, and messages mean the world to me. Thank you all!

I love all of you so much and appreciate everything each of you has done to make my journey to finding my way back and forward just a little bit easier, just a little bit brighter.


Reality of Fear

You’re not afraid of emotions;
you’re afraid of feeling.

You’re not afraid of life;
you’re afraid of living.

You’re not afraid of death;
you’re afraid of dying.

You’re not afraid of pain;
you’re afraid of being broken.

You’re not afraid to be happy;
you’re afraid of losing everything.

You’re not afraid of helping people;
you’re afraid of being used.

You’re not afraid of being alone;
you’re afraid of getting lost in your thoughts and feelings.

You’re not afraid of giving up control;
you’re afraid of losing control.

You’re not afraid of putting your heart out there;
you’re afraid of trusting the wrong people.

You’re not afraid of being vulnerable;
you’re afraid of being vulnerable around those who don’t care what that means.

You’re not afraid of the memories;
you’re afraid of reliving the past.

Sometimes, progress looks like breaking down.

So, this is my 100th post for this blog. I had thought about sharing fun posts from the past, but instead, I’m going to stick with being open and honest. I warn you that this post is long and emotionally raw…this is me and this is where I am today.

Last night in therapy, I was actually able to breakdown and cry for the first time in months. I’ve mentioned before that I have the ability to appear strong and stoic. With my friends and family, I haven’t shed a tear in person since all of this happened…my eyes have watered, but not a single tear escapes. I don’t typically cry easily, but I’ve also never had a problem crying before. I cried a lot during the last few years in my relationship with Tom (both in front of him and not) and also for the first couple of months after the breakup, but only when he would come over to get his stuff. Then, suddenly, I just stopped and couldn’t cry anymore. I still hurt like crazy, but no longer had a way to release it.

I told my therapist that I have been experiencing some rather painful heartbreak again over the last week. She caught me off guard by asking me how I knew exactly what it was that I was feeling and to describe it. (Umm, because it hurts?) But, I took a moment and thought about it. It physically feels like my heart is breaking. It’s how I felt right before I started telling her about everything that was going on. She asked if I thought it was also loneliness. Yes, I do. But, it’s also the same type of really intense pain I get when I’m holding on to too much, like when I’m holding back what I’m feeling because I’m trying to not be a burden on someone. It’s all of that type of pain.

I told her about the concert, which I had written about in my last post, about how I couldn’t feel anything except disappointment. She asked if there is anything I could think of that I want to do that would make me feel good. I told her, “No, not at the moment.” I’ve gotten into a light exercising routine recently and that isn’t even helping me feel better. Her next suggestion was to try walking into a room and pretending to be happy to see if it forces a change in your mental state? Seriously?! Every damn day, I smile at everyone I meet, and it’s not like I walk into meetings as if the world is going to end. No one knows what I’m going through at work. My parents don’t even know how bad I feel. And, no, faking it does not help improve my mood. This is how I stuffed things down for so long.

I have also still been experiencing bouts of moderate to severe anxiety. One time this week, it was triggered by Tom’s step-sister texting me. We’ve always gotten along. She was being nice, and she’s very sorry for what happened. Unfortunately, she will always be tied to memories with Tom. And, I guess sometimes it is harder to talk about him. Another time within the last week, it was triggered by revisiting some old emails to a dear friend where I had just started going into detail about what happened. Apparently, I can no longer look at what happened objectively like I have been doing this entire time. Additionally, I seem to be experiencing general anxiety around the same time every evening somewhere between 6pm-9pm. The meds I have are as needed, so I typically take 1-2 half tablets a day…assuming I don’t stubbornly decide to not take anything.

Then, I decided to bring up the new video game that I am trying to use as a distraction. It’s called God of War on PS4, and it has a good, emotionally involved storyline. Now, I won’t go into all the details of the game because I don’t know how many of you are gamers, but I do want to mention something that I noticed. My mind treats everything like a logical puzzle to solve, as such, you just need the right pieces to see the big picture or to find the right keys that fit into the correct locks (like an escape room). So, why would a video game be any different? Typically, in these role playing games, you have a map. When you first start out, the map is covered in fog or obscured in some way. All you know is where you are. As you meet other characters, you are given advice, items/tools that will help you, and hopefully a direction. So, you head off and slowly the map opens up as you meet new characters, take on more tasks, and finish side quests as part of a bigger main adventure. As you reference your map, you see where you’ve been, you know where you are, and you are more comfortable with the direction in which you’re going because of the choices you’ve made. I told my therapist that I am stuck where the map is covered in damn fog – I don’t have pieces or keys or a direction to go in! I have ideas and thoughts about what to do and what to plan, but I feel like everything I try isn’t working and I have no idea what to do about it. 

Therapist: Yes, you do. I’ve told you we can do accelerated resolution therapy, EMDR, or a couple of other exposure therapies. That’s how we treat PTSD. (At this point, I’m thinking – yes, and I finally agreed to try those even though I have my reservations…but I have no idea what you’re waiting on.)

She went on to describe a situation where someone wasn’t able to process the grief of losing her first husband and it was now affecting her current marriage, but with EMDR, she was able to process and finally move forward. Then, she mentioned another situation where someone lost a child after a horrible accident while they were on the way to the hospital in a helicopter.

Therapist: Why do you think this mom wouldn’t want to try to treat her PTSD?

Me, I know this answer very well: Fear. She’s afraid to feel. She’s afraid to experience the loss of her son all over again. She’s afraid to forget. Fear. I realized through some help from friends a couple of months ago that fear has too much control over me.

Therapist: Do you know when people are finally ready to try something different?

Me: Umm?

Therapist: When it finally affects every part of their life – home, work, when they are with friends, and when they’re alone..

Me: Well, hell, I’m at that point…been there for a while.

Me: I wish I could just allow myself to be angry at Tom. I always told him I didn’t want to be angry with him, so it’s something I always tried to push down.

Therapist: Why do you think being angry would help?

Me: Because it helped me get over my first long-term, long-distance boyfriend. I was angry with him for being more and more disrespectful, for not choosing to move closer for a couple of years (he stopped one class and finishing his thesis shy of graduating grad school), and for not considering what I wanted out of life. There were other factors that made me see I did not need to put up with him, so I ended it. Hah, then I met Tom two years later, and we see where the hell I am now.

Therapist: So, you said that you would cry and get angry with Tom whenever he would finally get home…

Me: Yes…he would pull up under the tree in the front yard so my parents wouldn’t know when he was coming or going. (They can see my driveway from their house.) He would walk up to the door, and I was always there to meet him. By the time he would finally walk in the door, I was relieved that he was alive and not in jail. Sometimes, I could patiently wait on him to tell me what happened. Sometimes, I would be crying and yelling at him. He knew what was going on with me. He watched me change from trusting him to being in so much pain, fear, anxiety, and sadness. There were times when I wanted to flip the latch on the door and not let him in.

Therapist: You really have won the award for being the most enabling person in the world. (I nod in complete agreement to this statement.) You had a choice when he finally would come home. What were your choices?

Me: I could do what I did and let him in, or flip the latch and kick him out.

Therapist: Why didn’t you flip the latch?

Me, Shit. I do not want to admit this answer aloud. (eyes start watering): Because…(starts crying)…because I knew he wouldn’t stay. He wouldn’t choose me. I knew that then.

(Pause…after all, I hadn’t cried in front of her before…)

Therapist: What would you have said to a friend if she called you and just told you what you told me?

Me, I know this answer too…because…this is what I’ve been holding out hope for. (Please note: I am not trying to put pressure on or make anyone feel bad. Everyone who has been there to support me through this has done everything they can, and I fully appreciate everything you guys can do.): I would tell her, “Honey, hold on. I’m on my way over.” (crying harder) I’d tell her that you are not alone, and you do not have to do this alone. I’ve got you. I am right here.

Therapist: But, what if she tells you it’s not you that she wants.

Me: I’m there as one friend supporting another. And…this is what I want, what I need… People don’t want to feel so alone. They want to know and feel that someone is there. To have someone there while I feel this. (So, I don’t have to be strong for once.) I knew, on some level, Tom wasn’t going to come back to me. I…was so angry at his dad for dying. (more crying)

Therapist: That event is probably what started it, but Tom continued to use drugs and then it altered his thinking so much that he is not who he was before.

Me: Yes, but he had a choice before it completely took control.

Therapist: You’re right. He did have a choice, but he chose drugs. You knew about his history and a bit of his family history. Why didn’t you just walk away from him in the beginning?

Me: Because he wasn’t entirely truthful about how much drug use was in his history. But, besides that, I fell in love with what he did and who I thought he was. Our first date, we didn’t even eat. We talked so much. We spent every afternoon together, then we slept over on weekends. He would make me lunch, and we would eat at his jobsite. (crying again) I never had to ask where he was or who he was talking to because he told me. We were open about everything. He knew when I was upset. He could just tell if I was holding something back. (crying even harder) I had been more honest with him than I had with anyone in my entire life. He could hug me, and I felt loved and safe. And, he just threw me out with the trash.

At this point, the hour was up, and we needed to leave. She looked at me as we walked each other out, “well, you can’t say you haven’t cried in a while anymore.” I smiled shyly, feeling just a little lighter, “I guess you’re right there.”

As I finish typing this up, my anxiety is most definitely still present. I know I’m still a long way from completely moving on, but I think this was a breakthrough step in my book. When I tweeted about last night’s therapy sessions, I didn’t expect it to even be noticed let alone receive the likes and replies. I am truly touched by the support I’ve been receiving. Thank you all so much…as someone whose self-worth has taken a severe hit, it really means the world to me. ❤️

Denial & Dissociation

In the past, if anyone asked me how things were going, I always tried to sugarcoat or gloss over the negative stuff to protect Tom. I didn’t want to worry people, and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I always hoped that he would come back to me and together we could fix things. I was also in denial.

To this day, I’ve always felt some degree of denial. Even when I first started reaching out to a couple of friends about what had been going on, I still felt that it wasn’t that big of a deal. Their responses and encouragement to tell my therapist what happened very slowly started to open my eyes – none of what I went through, what I had been living with, or what I was dealing with was normal or remotely okay. Up until that point, I was only feeling the direct impact of Tom’s actions, particularly when he wouldn’t answer his phone or would come home really late (after midnight or sometime the next day). Everything else (stupidly) didn’t matter to me…including his drug use, the money he was spending, and the emotional turmoil he was constantly putting me through.

When I finally started opening up, I was never actually able to breakdown and cry. My eyes have watered, but I never felt a release or even allowed myself to really feel everything. There was relief that I could talk about things – that I was no longer keeping everything to myself, but there was still a lot of denial, numbness, heartbreak, and lack of being at peace. There is a lot of stuff I still haven’t fully processed – complicated grief, anger, fear, more pain than I care to admit, etc.

In addition to being in denial, I also felt very dissociated from events. I could describe every situation with very little emotion – in some dark way, I could even joke about a lot of it, like “can you even believe that happened?” Some things might be more of a struggle verbalize, but I’ve still managed to keep my emotions in check.

Things that have been harder to talk about were/are

  • feeling like I lost the part of me that finds peace and release in being spanked and taken care of,
  • feeling like all I did still wasn’t enough when all I wanted was stability, consistency, and a little attention from the man I loved and thought loved me,
  • and begging him to stop doing the things that were tearing me apart (these conversations, I remember vividly).
  • It’s also really damn difficult to talk about those moments in the middle of the night when I woke up and he wasn’t there…when anxiety and panic were my only company.

Every time I talk about any of this…I feel like I’m talking about someone else. That person over there went through this – I just watched. Which in some gut-wrenching way makes me feel even more powerless and heartbreakingly guilty because I stood by and did nothing. This dissociation has allowed me to be mostly in control of my emotions and reactions and pretend like nothing is still bothering me.

It’s very difficult to compare situations with others when the reasons that cause PTSD can be so different. For instance, I did not experience sexual abuse, yet I can’t deny that I identify so much with the woman in the following article.

Denial Won’t Help Me Recover From Trauma

Because I did not experience the same type of abuse, I feel that my experiences were somehow “less than,” and therefore, I shouldn’t feel as bad as she does. But, when the woman in the article describes how she had been dealing with everything, it resonates with me on so many levels, even to this day.

Now, if I compare my situation to the next article which talks about an addicted partner, I feel like my experience was far more severe and involved. I have quite a bit more to deal with because it wasn’t only that he was using drugs.

Living with an addict in denial: Coping with depression and anxiety

I know that I shouldn’t be comparing situations at all, but I am too filled with my own self-doubt, self-invalidation, and avoidant coping mechanisms. Sometimes, I don’t even trust my own feelings, and I project that distrust by thinking others won’t care or believe me either. My friends have had to call me out and remind me of what the hell I went through for me to even pause in my self-sabotaging cycle. I had to and still have to be reminded that I need to feel and it is okay to feel, but I’m still too wound up, overwhelmed, and afraid to breakdown that wall.

This next link that I came across is a rather long slideshow for those who are interested. It hits on so many things I can relate to. It is interesting that an addict can have so many narcissistic tendencies – they are really all about themselves when it comes to the drugs and their next fix.

“Why can’t I move on?” Narcissistic Abuse: A Complex Trauma

Tom would do all of those emotionally abusive things when we were together, and he was very passive aggressive. He is finally no longer coming around to my house or communicating with me, but the emotional damage runs deep. I haven’t been able to breakout of doing the same emotionally abusive things to myself.

Last week in therapy, we decided to push trying something different to this week. Instead, we talked. How is that different from every other week, you might ask. Well, I still tend to be less emotional and more logical when I talk to people in person. But, this time was different. I was able to talk as if I was writing to her in an email, which is where I’ve always had an easier time expressing myself. I was able to be more open, and we finally talked more about PTSD.

I told her about a recent television episode of 9-1-1 where all of the first responders were in therapy trying to talk about what they were experiencing. They were all dealing or not dealing with various things associated with PTSD. I told her that I could agree with something each one of them said when they were expressing themselves and talking about what they were going through. She said that like those characters, I am going to have to move through and release those emotions. I can’t/don’t know how to do that. I said, “[my therapist’s name], I’m too afraid to feel any of those emotions. I don’t want to do that at work, with my parents, or by myself. I only feel safe trying to do that right here.” She replied, “Well then, we need to get you over there in that chair and start feeling.” I eyeballed the totally normal looking but very exposed office chair and nodded nervously. I think that’s when I added, “I hate how easy it is for me to lie and say I’m okay when I am not okay.”

Guess we’re going to try to feel feelings this week…in that chair…where I can’t sink into the couch or hide behind a pillow. Ugh.


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.

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