It’s Not Your Job

If I believed myself as whole what need would I have to seek completion outside myself?

The infamous Jerry Maguire line, “You complete me.”, that had women melting with lust for Tom Cruise, is fraught with error and unavoidable failure.

Once you fail to complete me, and you will fail, your usefulness to me will be gone. I will be angry that you failed me and you will suffer the wrath of guilt.

You will have failed to fulfill a role that was never yours to complete.

That’s not Love.

I want nothing more than to recognize my wholeness and release you from your guilt.

I believed myself as incomplete and in so doing made you see that in yourself.

In my wholeness you simply cannot fail since you cannot make complete what was never incomplete.

Gratitude in Not-So-Glorious Places

I love my psychologist. She’s such a wise woman and can read me like a book.

I’ve started a new antidepressant medication and have recently upped the dose. When the dose increased I experienced a common side effect of the medication. Nausea.

I welcomed the nausea. It decreased my appetite. But, after a few days, the nausea went away.

In my psychologist’s office today she asked how the nausea was and I said it had gone. I smiled as I said this, giving her a sly look and snapping my fingers. “Shucks!”, I said.

She laughed and said, “How very eating-disordered of you.”

I laughed too. Of course it’s eating-disordered thinking. Why wouldn’t an eating-disordered person think that something that decreased the appetite was magnificent?

Despite lingering eating-disordered thoughts that roll around in my head and make themselves frequently present, the increased dose of my antidepressant medication has helped my mood tremendously. And historically, for me, when my mood is good I am much more able to stay on track with my food and not engage in the self-defeating, self-deflating acts of restricting and binging and purging.

We discuss my mood and have a great conversation about the brain and mental illness.

Then she says, “You know, the very thing, that dogged determination that keeps you in your eating disorder, is the same character that drives you to work so hard when your depression rears its ugly head.”

How’s that for a silver lining?

I laugh again. I know my mood is in a far better place than it has been in months because I can see the great wisdom in this.

“Well,” I say, “Thank God for my eating disorder then! Without it and this great relentless determination of mine, I just might not have the strength to fight the depression!”

Finding gratitude in the strangest of places.

Who knows, really? But I understand what she means. And perhaps she’s right. These attributes, the will and drive and doggedness and stubbornness that are characteristic of many eating-disordered people, could be the very traits that have allowed me to not be completely and utterly consumed and devastated by my major depression and all the other trials and tribulations that life is presenting to me right now.

It’s just like the Zen story of the farmer. Good luck or bad luck? Fortune or misfortune? Maybe or maybe not?

Good and bad can be found in all circumstances.

Perhaps.

Post-It Notes for Daily Living

I sit drinking coffee with my friend.

She tells me about her job working with people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. She details how, for many of her clients, they cannot do simple routine tasks. And not so much that they can’t do them but that they don’t remember to do them. The logical, sequential ability of ordering and accomplishing tasks is lost.

Some know they need groceries but forget to go to the store. Some will get to the store and return without anything they actually needed to get. Some need to take medication but can’t remember what time to take it at. Some don’t know where their mailbox is and can’t even establish a plan for finding it.

My friend’s job is to develop plans and strategies for her clients that will enable them to live their lives as self-sufficiently as possible. She doesn’t aim to do things for her clients, to accomplish their tasks for them. No, her job is to do just enough that will allow them to do what they need to do themselves. Whether it be Post-It note reminders around the house or to-do/get lists (and other strategies far beyond what I know about), she helps her clients help themselves.

To myself, I shake my head, almost unable to imagine what it would be like to not remember such basic functioning for daily life.

But, I am absolutely and humbly aware that I, we, the general population without traumatic brain injuries, are not so different.

My friend and I switch topics and we’re now discussing the state of her apartment and how she feels overwhelmed by the mess of it. She then tells me about a broken filing cabinet that is taking up space and adding to her feelings of a life of clutter.

It’s a humorous conversation. We’re grown adults commiserating about the miseries and annoyances of daily living. I finally suggest to her that one day, today after coffee, all she needs to do is move the filing cabinet from her living room to the back door. Then, two days later on garbage day, simply move the filing cabinet out to the curb. And voila! Clutter begone!

She feels less overwhelmed and agrees to the order of tasks. Three days later, and in record time, she has accomplished a task that had been haunting her for months.

Does my friend have a traumatic brain injury? Not at all. She’s actually a highly-functioning, very intelligent person with a post-secondary degree in social work.

I think about myself now and my weekly meetings with my psychologist (which I have no funds to afford but have concluded that, through a simplified cost-benefit analysis, if I had money right now it would be doing me no good anyway if I’m still suffering in the midst of my major depression).

In my recent meetings with my psychologist we have developed lists and tasks for me as well. Sure, I can remember to take my medication and get groceries and turn on and off the stove and take the garbage out and shower and go to bed. But, do I want to? No, right now I don’t! My brain is such that, not unlike my friend’s brain-injured clients, I am having problems completing daily tasks.

I have little motivation at times to continue but somewhere inside of me there’s a voice that says, “Keep going.” I know I have to wake up in the morning. I know I have to take my antidepressant medication. I know I have to shower and go to work. I also know that while there is breath being exhaled from my mouth there is a purpose to living. I don’t feel it, but I know it.

And right now, this is the time for lists. I don’t feel adult-like. I feel often like I’m failing. But right now, while my brain and emotions are fragile, this is the time for basic lists to help me function and survive. I am not strong enough right now to reach for the stars. I don’t know why I can’t do and be all the things I think I should be but now is not the time to discriminate and judge. Now is the time for doing, doing one thing at a time, one step at a time so that I can manage my day-to-day life.

We all need to self-manage. “Normal” brain or injured brain makes no difference. Whatever level we’re at is the level at which we need to manage and for however long it takes.

The only requirement is to just keep going, without judgement or criticism, but with kindness and compassion for ourselves and others.

This is where I’m at and I will work this day to the best of my ability, Post-It notes and all!

What’s Your Flavor?

My husband’s favorite ice cream is vanilla.

As luck would have it, that’s the very flavor that I have. I willingly serve it and it makes me happy to give it away. It brings me joy to see my husband experience such pleasure.

It’s no wonder he thinks there is nothing wrong with our marriage. He’s got a belly full of creamy vanilla ice cream.

On the flip side, my favorite is strawberry. The problem is that my husband only has chocolate and not only is that the only flavor he stocks, he is unwilling to stock anything else. It doesn’t matter that I want strawberry; he either can’t, or won’t, stock it. Either way, I’m left craving strawberry ice cream.

Don’t get me wrong, he serves a beautiful chocolate ice cream and sometimes it really hits the spot and I am satisfied. But, at the core of my being, I crave strawberry ice cream. The desire always returns and often with a fierce intensity.

I am sad.

It seems a little more understandable that he feels bad. He continues to offer the best he’s got but I keep asking for something different.

I’m starting to get a sense that in continuing to ask for something that someone can’t provide, I’m hurting us both.

He can never please me. And I can never be fully pleased.

I wish I could be happy with chocolate ice cream. I really do. I wish I didn’t want something different. But, the truth is I do and I can no longer ignore it.

I can no longer ignore the true essence that flows through me.

It’s neither right nor wrong. It just is.

Continuously returning to the chocolate ice cream vendor is never going to net me strawberry ice cream. This I now know.

 

Open for Business

It’s that time! The Guest House is open for business.

The unexpected visitor called URGE has arrived, though not so unexpected really. She keeps returning and often on a Sunday afternoon. I should have known she was coming.

I’m to welcome her and entertain her.

But how do I entertain a visitor who has no respect for me or my property? She always just comes and trashes the place, leaving in her wake a trail of destruction.

Still, I’m told to treat her honorably.

But how am I to be honorable to a guest who treats me with such dishonor? She always just comes and berates me and belittles me, leaving in her wake a trail of pain and shame.

It’s like she gets off on making me feel small and worthless. I allow it to happen, too. I guess it’s not such a surprise then that she keeps returning.

I suppose it’s like the stranger who always feeds the stray. Where there is food, there is reason to return.

Please then, please come my URGE. Take the seat of honor at the head of my table. I won’t dishonor you by ignoring your pain. For there must be pain that makes you do the things you do. Let me hug you and love you.

I invite you in. I won’t resist you and ignore you. For the refusal to look at you only makes you madder. You pound and thrash and eventually break in to take what you so desire.

Please come and stay.

I will sit with you in your rage. I won’t have the answers but I will honor your presence and existence and be a loving companion in your time of need.

You need not speak or think.

Together, you and I, the one I have refused, we will sit together until this wave subsides.

This too shall pass.

 

 

A Different Kind of Love

I’ve been reading.

Sometimes I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing that I like to read and explore new ideas. My mind’s view is quite liberal and I’m not the most objective person. I can also be very black-and-white in my thinking so I can often take what I read to be literal truth.

Regardless, I came across a book called How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny. It’s based on the premise that love is not about communication, it’s about connection. It intrigued me since I’m trying to talk my way past the necessity of divorce and it isn’t working, not even in the slightest.

Now, I know there are other issues in my marriage besides a lack of communication and  a mutual misunderstanding of each other but this book is quite interesting, providing insights I hadn’t considered before. One, in particular, being that men have a heightened sensitivity to feeling inadequacy and shame.

I kept this idea in my head as I read, trying to make connections.

It really is a vicious cycle. I talk, he listens, he responds with stuff that makes no sense to me at all, I get angry, he shuts down. Stalemate!

I began to ponder the idea that perhaps he truly isn’t capable of having deep, emotional conversation. If that’s the case and I respond with anger and frustration, could it be that his shutdown is his protective response of pain avoidance, to not feel the pain and shame associated with having not met the needs of his wife? Hmmm…

So, I was at the house last night dog-sitting. I was under the impression that my husband would not be coming home and that I would get to spend the night with the dog. I was eager for this alone-time with my little four-legged love so when my husband arrived home at about 9:30 p.m. I was disappointed and frustrated.

He could sense my emotional disturbance and when I said I’d just leave and go home, he sat down and sort of just stared despondently into space.

Sigh.

I asked him what was wrong. He shrugged and just said quietly, “I thought you’d be happy I was home.”

Sigh.

So, I have the internal dialogue.

Why am I angry that he’s home? What’s the big deal? I can still stay and hang out with the dog. How is my anger at him hurting? Why would he think I’d be happy he was home? I hate that he makes plans and then changes things last minute.

And then it hit me! If he’s home, he drove himself home and that means he didn’t drink tonight. He just couldn’t say it point-blank.

I silently swallowed my pride and walked over to him. I bent down, kissed him and said, “Yes. I am happy you’re home.”

“You don’t have to say that now,” he said. His eyes were a little teary.

“I’m saying it because I mean it,” I said. “I’m going to put my pj’s back on and I’ll spend the night.”

All I can say is that it’s super hard to act compassionately when I still don’t feel like I’ve been heard or that my own needs aren’t being met. However, had I rejected his efforts due to my own discomfort, I would have perpetuated his feelings of shame and inadequacy and his frustration at never being able to meet my expectations. Instead, in a small way, I feel more love for having shared my love than I believe I would have had I kept it hidden for my own personal pride and protection.

Humbled.

RE – A Mighty Prefix, Another Chance

A recent interaction with my husband has me sitting in a spot that is painful and uncomfortable, and also unknown.

I’m in uncharted territory. I’m not clamoring to get out. There’s something happening here and I just need to sit and watch.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not in a peaceful, pensive, in-control spot.

I’m panicked on the inside; in a state of complete confusion and bewilderment. I think this has been the catalyst of a very steep spiraling down of my mood.

I’ve landed right back at square one in terms of mood, eating disorder and overall emotional well-being.

But, I’m still here. And while the circumstances of the past may all be playing out again, I am not the same person going through them. I think I’m getting another chance.

The things I’m still holding, still resisting, will keep touching the nerves until the thorn has been eradicated.

Round two, here we go!

Even though I still feel like I’m in a very vulnerable place, my view point has definitely changed. The reactions still come, aggressively and shockingly angrily at times, but the time from spike back to plateau is not lasting as long. That’s how I know there has been change.

I saw my husband last week. I had given him an April 30th deadline for letting me know if he was going to go into treatment.

He responded on May 1st, via text, telling me that he would see the counselor one more time but that it had been almost a year since I left him and though a bit upset he felt encouraged that he’d made it a year on his own. He likes who he is, he just needs some fine-tuning.

I didn’t respond. I cried. It just sounded to me like he was okay with things and was moving on.

I felt rejected and dismissed.

I felt sad that his takeaway from the past year has been that, in some way, I just don’t like who he is. That there’s something ‘wrong’ with him. Not true.

I pondered this. There doesn’t seem to be any objective truth in either of our ‘sides’, only our own personal interpretation which drives our behaviors and actions.

I went over to the house later that day. I’m not sure it was a good idea or not but I was sad and wanted to see my dog.

I arrived and my husband was standing at the back door. He just looked at me, threw up his hands, said that he’d been drinking, and walked away.

I replied that it didn’t matter, I’d just come to see my dog.

Several minutes later we were in a heated discussion and he dropped a bombshell.

He told me that I am the reason he drinks.

I became irate. I screamed. I yelled. I threw things. I stomped. I slammed. I wanted to hit him. I didn’t.

I ran downstairs, ready to make a swift exit. My mind was rolling and I could see it – I wanted to run, drive, call all my friends and family, tell them all how he has betrayed me, tell them what he said to me. I wanted to tell everyone what a horrible monster he was.

But why?

I wanted to be right. But, I looked further down the road and knew that no consolation would make the pain more bearable. It would still be inside me, stirring the cauldron of self-pity, rejection, guilt, shame, betrayal, unworthiness.

I stood in the basement, alone and shaking, knowing that other than being right in the pain, any other action would only be a mask.

The pain was indescribable but I was still alive. It wasn’t killing me.

I took deep breaths. I could hear my husband upstairs, sobbing.

I know I am not the reason for his drinking. I may be a thorn in his side that hits his nerves, but I am only one of many.

I went upstairs. He thought I had left and, still sobbing, asked what I was still doing there. I shrugged. He hugged me.

I lightly returned the hug, feeling completely empty. I wasn’t filled with love but I didn’t have hate in my heart either. I just felt like we were two people who were hurt, doing the best we could, trying to protect ourselves from further pain.

After that episode, we lay in bed talking. I asked probing questions to which he was responding openly.

He dropped another bombshell which, for me, was worse than the first.

He told me that shortly before we were married he thought about leaving me. He wasn’t sure if this was really the life he wanted.

I was non-reactive and accepted his words as his truth. The tears were unstoppable though and they rolled, in streams, down my cheeks. He didn’t seem to be concerned about my tears.

I left shortly thereafter. My life, to this point, now felt like a complete untruth, a total charade. It was never real.

I don’t even know if he meant any of what he said that day or if it was his way of protecting himself from further pain and rejection. I think the latter is the case but I will never know.

My whole identity, though I question ever having one to begin with, has been shattered.

I know not what I was. I know not who I am. I know nothing beyond this breath.

A me I thought I was was never really real.

I think I have spent the past week in mourning.

And I don’t even feel a need to rebuild.

I am feeling overwhelmed by all the things sitting in my apartment right now. I don’t want anything. I want to throw it all away.

I’ve started packing.

My lease is up soon.

I don’t know where I will move. I may even move back home.

You see, the marriage isn’t even a thing to me right now. It was a game.

Nothing was real.

We’re just two people. We went looking for happiness in each other and blamed and pointed fingers when the other fell short.

It still hurts. I’m still letting go.

This dying to self thing, no wonder the gate is narrow.