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?
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. ❤️
Three weeks ago, my therapist suggested I should go see a movie. During the first week, I thought it was silly to go to a movie by myself. What was the point? I brought up the suggestion to a few friends who all said that they can and have enjoyed going to the movies alone. That’s when I admitted that I didn’t feel I was worth the ticket and popcorn. Again, my therapist encouraged me to go the following week and even told me that she sometimes goes alone because of her movie preference. I thought about it. I even felt guilty about not going, but I still couldn’t bring myself to go alone.
For a long time, movies were something Tom and I did together. I’ve only seen one movie with a friend since breaking up with him. My company paid for the ticket (and my friend’s ticket), the popcorn, and the drinks. It was a movie we both wanted to see, and we did enjoy it. But…going alone means being alone with my thoughts. Of Tom not wanting to go anymore (he got bored with going out to movies). Of not feeling worth it.
Last week, I had an idea and told my therapist about it. I saw on Facebook that my old college wind ensemble was putting on a concert this past Sunday at 2pm. This was something I could do. I was in band from 6th grade through five years of college. And, I typically try to do the local community band for the summer and Christmas concerts. Tom never went to these unless I was on stage, so it feels different. In fact, being on stage for this last Christmas concert was the calmest I’ve felt without medication in a really long time.
So, waiting until the last hour before the concert and almost deciding not to go at all, I jumped in the shower, got dressed, and drove to the auditorium where I have so many college band memories. I listened to the director (my director) talk about recent times with this group of young musicians, which made me miss band. The concert started, and I sat and listened to the music. I actually attended the concert and tried the “change your focus” distraction. But, you know what? I couldn’t feel anything. Music moves people. It can make some people sing and dance. It can bring people together. It can make you feel so deeply that you get goosebumps or cry because it moves your soul.
I felt empty. I thought about going up to the stage to hug my old band director, but after a few minutes, I just couldn’t stay. I left feeling disappointed. I left with my heartbreaking all over again. Damn, I wished I could cry.
This pain and alternating numbness can be all-consuming. I hadn’t felt it to this degree in a while. It hit me last Wednesday and has come back to visit for a few hours each day. Why? I don’t know. Do I wake up with it? Sometimes. Are there triggers? Sometimes and not always the same. Does it get worse before going to sleep? Yes.
Distractions used to work. They did. Before Tom and I broke up…when I would wait for him to come home, I would watch television shows, play puzzle games on my phone, read a book, or clean the house. When waiting on him to come home from work changed into not knowing where he was, what he was getting into, when he would arrive or IF he would arrive…when fear took over, distractions slowly stopped working. The commercials during shows would be when I’d try to call him. At some point, I could no longer focus on reading, cleaning, or playing mindless games. Eventually, all I could do was pace between the bedroom and the living room, pausing to watch the security cameras and begging for his headlights to appear, so I would know he had made it home safely.
When we finally broke up, I was five months into my new job. Thankfully, it was new. It provided me with enough distraction to get me from May until about October of last year. Then, just like all of my other distractions, it slowly stopped working and I could just barely focus enough to get what was required done.
I am still stuck in this varying ability to focus even today. When I am working with someone, then it tends to be significantly easier to be present and provide feedback. But, if I’m working alone, it takes a lot more effort to stay focused…and sometimes, it’s just more than I can handle. I guess the good thing is I’m apparently the only one aware of how bad it is. That’s probably why it’s so hard for anyone to believe that there is something wrong, to believe me…and what’s worse? When I’m not feeling so bad, I still question myself – it really wasn’t that bad. If I can still laugh, how come I still feel so much pain?
I came across this article on Facebook. It is well worth a read especially if you are someone or you know someone who has survived trauma – this article is not trauma-specific, so you will not be inclined to try to compare your situation to someone else’s (been there, done that before). Please take a moment to read and pass it along.
I am pretty sure I’m still frozen in the stubbornly not processing phase. It doesn’t help that writing is my most open form of communication either. So, here I am.
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.
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.
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.
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.