The Power of Rejection-Part 3 Shame on me

Rejection is bad enough, it feels awful. However when it ever it comes around it never comes alone. Rejection brings its unwanted twin siblings shame and contempt. When rejection arrives it delivers its punch, and lets lose the other two holy terrors on my life. What’s worse, after the initial rejection sting…these two stick around for a while. In this crazy train of his addiction, the part that gets me is why do feel bad? I shouldn’t right? But nonetheless there I am. Turning the rejection inward, and now I am in shame. I am going to say it again, shame is nothing more than rejection turned inward.

I use shame as a way of rejecting myself, and I am really good at it. Since childhood I have lived with I am not good enough. So I then use whatever slight was hurled upon me as a way of justifying the heap of shame I lob my way. I don’t stop there, I then proceed to make my case not only with the current slight, but with every other one from the past. Like a prosecutor presenting a case before a judge and jury…I bring up every failure to be paraded in front of my soul to win my case.

The funny part is, I hate losing. I hate losing with a passion. Even when I am the one at stake, I will take rejection and run with it until all that is left is a shell of the woman I could have been. So not only am I the prosecutor, I am the defendant, the judge, the jury…and ultimately the executioner. The defendant never takes the stand, and judgement is passed quite swiftly and just like that I become the martyr. How twisted is that?

Shame, I believe is what gives rejection it’s true power. With out shame exploiting my own insecurities, his actions or anyone else’s would not have power over me. I wouldn’t buy into the lie that ‘I am not good enough’. There would be no case to present, and no life to destroy.

Shame is the insidious bastard that has ruined my life. It is the one thing that has prevents me from recognizing any story of redemption in my life, and I let it repeat the message ‘I am not good enough’ with a mega phone. I am constantly amazed at how it can hone in on the things I am insecure about the most. It’s like a missile on a seek and destroy mission, whipping through twists and turns until it finds its target, and blows it up for the world to see-or so it feels like it anyway. In order to remain “safe” I isolate. I hide. I distract myself with work, children and victim hood. I wear fear like a piece of armor, and use supposed rational thinking as a defense for not taking risk. All the while shame is having a field day preventing me from experiencing life the way I was meant to. Suddenly I can’t breathe, and I circle back to my failures. How did I let it get that far out of control? More shame.

This addiction, by its very design ruins lives. It uses gorilla warfare tactics and my personal belief is shame is the secret weapon. The operative word here, is secret. I let shame keep and exploit my secrets, it stuns me into silence about all my past failures-real or imagined. I don’t call them out, I tuck them away. I pretend they don’t exist, and I certainly (heaven forbid) don’t forgive myself for them. I don’t name my failures, and learn from them. I use shame to destroy me.

So how do I stop it? The truth is I don’t know. I don’t know if I can-completely. But I can minimize its effect. I can recognize when I am crossing the border from healthy examination to shame. I can bring that shame into the light, and ask a trusted friend to hear my fear/ confession. I can ask forgiveness, and I can use my affirming emotional safety plan to build myself up in the heat of battle. Most importantly I can acknowledge it exists and let grace cover it all.

 

 

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Coming out of the Fog

Coming out of the Fog

It has been awhile since I could even feel like opening this blog again. The last six weeks have been some of the hardest of my life, and I am just starting to taste the air again. I have been through some really hard things in my life, divorce, domestic violence, emotional abuse, life threatening illness of a child, personal debilitating illness, and even sexual assault. All of them horrific in their own right. Each time I have prevailed, even rose to the occasion fought through and came out the other side stronger. For some reason, this-this healing process from his addiction-his recovery-has knocked me for a loop. It is like the culmination of all of my past and this has just broken me. I have experienced these past few weeks an emotional sensory overload that has opened a floodgate of triggers and feelings I never thought possible. It is like someone put toothpicks in my eyelids and held them open while strapped in a chair and forced me to be exposed to emotional trauma past and present over and over again. If I were to take the events of the past three weeks and separate them out from the previous hurt…it was really nothing, small and perhaps a mountain out of a mole hill…but it just collapsed me.

We had the full disclosure meeting three weeks ago. I should have been smarter, I should have prepared-at all. But I really thought I was ready. I had heard the warnings. I had been advised to prepare. I even thought, I have a bath bomb-hit me with it. I longed to rip that band aid off and get it done. So when he came to me and said, I am ready for you to read my sexual inventory. I was alright let’s do this-now. Yeah, bad idea. Very bad idea.

Let this be a lesson for anyone else not matter how prepared you think you are-you are not. It is not a head issue. It is a heart issue. Do what you can to protect it. Have your support team on standby, have your emotional safety plan in place and ready to go. Get your boundaries for what will happen immediately after firmly in place and buy stock in facial tissue. Do NOT take this lightly. I so wish I hadn’t. I can’t go back, but I can beg anyone who will hear me to prepare. And addicts if you are reading, please encourage your spouse to do this. It may just save your marriage. Share with them my heart ache if you need to…just please make sure it is done.

I cannot emphasize this enough. Very little in there was a surprise to me. Actually I knew 95% of it already. I knew his particular brand of fettish, and if I accepted that…there couldn’t be anything else. The one thing I didn’t know, however has messed me up big time. Sorry for now that will be another post. Not sure I can write about it yet. What I will say about it is that it was the one thing I wasn’t prepared for at all. I had considered a ton of other things, like prostitutes, homosexual tendencies, perhaps a role play he engaged in prior to marriage, or even an affair. I was prepared for all the major stuff. But it was this one fantasy, yep just a fantasy…that hurt like nothing else has hurt before.

Even as I typed that last sentence the emotion welled up, had to walk away, anxiety rose and tears just broke through. I didn’t even tell you what it was! How messed up is that? But I titled this post Coming Out of the Fog, and that is where I am today. For the first time in weeks, I can think…even just a little. I don’t want to isolate…too much. I finally feel like a little healing has taken place. I still want to cry out to God and ask Him to take all this pain away. I still want to feel joy or happiness again. But now I can smile-a little. And I am going to call that a triumph and sure sign that darkness will eventually be defeated and the sun can shine once more.

 

Trouble Comes in Threes

My grandmother always said trouble comes in threes. Usually she was referring to me and my two brothers, but the old adage does seem to hold. Last week, hubby fell. Yesterday our only car blew a head gasket on the expressway, and I am sicker than a dog-boarding on a case of bronchitis.

So instead of hubby staying in a hotel for the mandatory separation period, all the remaining money we have left is to pay for the repair and a rental until the repair shop can fix it. Not until next week Tuesday.

I am so sick that I can barely care for myself, and I needed him here because just moving off the couch to the 15′ to our kitchen makes me want to nap for three hours. Getting food for myself is so exhausting I can hardly stay awake to actually eat.

I am so mad. It feels like the world is conspiring against me. I wonder what God is trying to tell me. “You can’t have boundaries. You don’t deserve space.” I would cry, but since I cannot breathe through nose and having a hard time with my chest already I am actually worried I will pass out due to lack of oxygen.

Seriously!!? I just want to punch him. It feels like because of everything that is going on, he “gets away” with it once again.  The best I can do is have him sleep on the couch and it just feels so unfair. On top of that he is being extra nice, and keeps asking me if he is giving me enough space? Do I have everything I need? What angers me the most is not him, but me. I am questioning his motives. Laying bets in my head on how long this is going to last. Is it all going to last? I want it to so badly, but I don’t think I can survive another head game. I am so mad that THIS has to be my reality.

I have increased anxiety over getting sicker, because the last time ended so very badly for me/us. Let’s just say he ended up in a jail cell for 5 days and an 18 moth separation was needed to heal that mess. All of it because of his damned addiction. Our financial problems, my anxiety, his anger issues…all of it because of this. It is almost too much. Too much for me. Too much to take.

Detachment and Emotional Safety

I have to admit I am struggling with something. I have been going through the steps of my own healing for awhile. But now that my husband is going through his own recovery I am starting to have trouble with detachment and emotional safety.

As we have just reached four weeks sober, he is showing signs of withdrawal. He is irritable, easily agitated, sensitive in a negative way to my trauma. My emotional safety plan is messed up. In a small spat yesterday, I felt really triggered. I realized that in this situation there wasn’t a safe place for me to go, and I felt trapped. I immediately went into a traumatized state. This angered him further and all I could do was “run away.”

I don’t want to speak ill of him here, because he has made great strides in being the man he wants to be. The addiction is one of the last places where he has not done any work. Pornography and childhood abuse made him angry and devalue women. There was a time over 4 years ago, that he was emotionally abusive and even once resorted to physical violence. I assure you he is not that man anymore. However, he does from time to time resort to a few of his old tricks (not the really serious ones). Like with addiction, there is almost a ritual when he is entering that abusive place. He is good at breaking his anger ritual early, but lately I find myself triggered by the beginning even. I know that the shedding of the porn is causing his struggle. I just had no idea how much I was going to be triggered by it.

When he was working on the anger issues, we were separated for 18 months. So detachment was much easier, and we even had a no contact order in place for a while so emotionally safety was easier. Unfortunately due to financial issues and other changes, a separation now would actually cause more damage in multiple ways.

So I am having a hard time finding a way to detach a bit while he works through the withdrawal, and our little condo has a very open floor plan…so a hard place to actually go where I can emotionally process away from him. While he is home, it is unfair for me to occupy our homes only bathroom for several hours. Same with our bedroom, plus I am slightly triggered by the bedroom alone. So not a good option.

Anyone out there have a simmillar situation? I know this will pass, hopefully sooner than later. But we have both worked too hard to get this far…I hate to see it undone through this step.

Walking with a Traumatized Spouse

I belong to a wonderful group of women who are simply committed to praying for one another. I asked these women months ago to pray for a fledgling support group of women whose spouses are addicts. In recent days, I have had three women approach me and tell me that their friend is a spouse of an addict & they are struggling to know how to help her. Each one expressed how overwhelmed they felt. I could see the deep sadness each carried for their dear friend, and their own helplessness. One woman admitted she was having a hard time maintaining the friendship, because she couldn’t take the intense emotional trauma that she felt was being thrown at her from every direction. This woman genuinely wanted to be there, but she personally had no experience to provide support. She found herself withdrawing from, and avoiding, her friend, and even becoming angry with her. Could her friend talk to me, she asked. Which I am happy to do, anytime. Then it occurred to me that this woman’s response to her friend’s emotional pain could make what her friend is going through worse. It could be seen as another betrayal, equal to, if not even worse, than the betrayal by her spouse. I therefore dedicate this post to the friends and loved ones of traumatized spouses.

First, let me acknowledge your grief. Chances are you are not only a friend of the hurt spouse, but also of the offending spouse. I am so sorry. I am sure you feel caught in the middle. Angry at the offender, furious even. At the same time there is a bond of friendship that has been damaged because you love them, too. Maybe you feel guilt because your level of anger and pain doesn’t match that of the traumatized spouse. Perhaps you even feel sympathy for the offender at the embarrassment of having this painful secret broadcast to you. It has to be awful. As a traumatized spouse, myself, I want to say thank you. I am so sorry you are in this position. Please hang in there! The loving support of others is essential to both of your friends’ healing.

Second, try to recognize that you have been given a pretty big honor. It may not feel like it, but you have been asked to walk with your friend through one of the most devastatingly painful journies a woman and a marriage can face. The very nature of this addiction is a HUGE secret and people will not talk about it. It is shameful. The fact that you now know is perhaps one of the biggest blessings of personal trust another woman can bestow upon you. It is a big responsibility, and you will want to manage it with the care you would give her newborn.

What should you do next? It really depends on how recent it has been since discovery day. For the purpose of this post, I will assume that the spouse has just recently discovered the addiction. Many of the following suggestions are appropriate for a spouse who has known for a long time, but there are a few things that are unique to the discovery day.

Just Listen. This may seem obvious, but you might be surprised how many well-meaning friends offer advice at this time. Of course there may be a few nuggets of wisdom you can offer, but sharing them at this time runs a serious risk of damaging the relationship with your friend, and even further damaging the marriage. It is crucial that you keep your opinions to yourself-especially pertaining to the status of the marriage. The time will come when the traumatized spouse is open to advice, but that should wait until after the dust settles. It is very important to understand that each new disclosure or discovery is like Day One again, and should be treated as such.

Accept that your friend is in crisis. This is a hard one to explain to a person who may never have gone through something like this, but their discovery should be treated as if their closest loved one has just died. In a way it has. Their eyes were just opened to what their marriage really is: a sham. All of the dreams they had on their wedding day, all of their hopes in one horrible moment, gone. The relationship they loved and committed to, destroyed. They have been tricked, lied to, made to feel crazy. They are questioning their self-worth, their physical attractiveness, and wrestling with the possibility of it all being her fault somehow. Even if the marriage survives, it is forever changed. She is in deep emotional turmoil, and she may feel as if she is drowning. I urge you not to downplay her emotions at this time. Above all, do not suggest that she is overreacting. She is almost certainly not, and even if she is, don’t be the one to point it out.

Help her create a safe place and an emotional safety plan. This could be in her home, or not, if simply being there continues to traumatize her. She needs to create or have a place where she can feel safe emotionally. Emotional safety doesn’t mean that she doesn’t feel the loss. It is simply a space where she is not surrounded by triggers that actually cause or bring up new trauma. So as she is triggered she has a plan of where to go, and what to do. Examples are: a favorite candle that calms her; a music playlist that brings her happiness; perhaps it is essential oils; a craft that brings her joy or peace. For me, it is a bath. For a friend it is going to the gym.

Do some of the simple things. One good friend and survivor said she wished someone would have just had a pizza delivered. In her devastation and isolation, she struggled even to make a meal. Her mind was swirling. She knew her kids needed to eat but the thought of food simply turned her stomach. Truly in the trauma, putting one foot in front of the other is perhaps the most difficult thing to do. Take some of the simple day-to-day burdens away. Don’t ask; she will feel guilty that she can’t measure up right now. Just do it. Perhaps it is sweeping the floor, ordering a pizza from 5 states away if you’re on the phone, calling in a babysitter or better yet take the kids for an hour or two. Once she is past the initial shock, she won’t need it as much. However, girl time is important all the way through.

Encourage her to seek help. She cannot do this alone. I am sure you are pretty stellar, but unless you are a trained addiction counselor you are both in way over your heads. She may be not able to do this for herself right away. It is okay to do a few Google searches on her behalf. However, do not do the contacting. This is something she must do for herself. But a few well placed websites next to her computer or in her purse, are not such a bad thing. Remain positive. “I wanted to know more, so I looked these up. I think they may help you.”

The Don’ts. Don’t man bash. This is kinda like….I can pick on my baby brother, but don’t you dare pick on my baby brother….kind of thing. He sure deserves it, but just tell her it is okay for her to feel that way, and you get it.

Don’t run away. She already feels abandoned by her husband. Don’t abandon her too.

Do not tell anyone else. This is not your secret to tell. Do not call her pastor, your mutual friends (unless you have permission), her parents, the tabloids, your manicurist….etc. the list goes on and on. You never know who knows who, and dots could get connected that should not have been. If you need help coping personally, your pastor or couselor should be the only ones you talk to. I am not in favor of keeping secrets from your spouse, but this is a grey area. Ask permission first, but if you don’t get it, you can say, “so and so are having a hard time right now. I promised I would not go into details.”

If you are lucky enough to be part of a team of friends and loved ones, be careful not to gossip amongst each other. This is a fine line we walk, but ladies let’s be honest: we have a tendency to cross the fine line of genuine concern to gossip pretty easily. Put an end to it if it starts to happen. If she catches wind that you all are talking behind her back, you risk sending her into utter isolation, which will be devastating to her emotional health. Worse, you will all lose a friend and have committed a serious trust violation. Especially in a time when her trust has already been damaged.

Do not ask, “What are you going to do?” This one is particularly personal to me. After a very traumatic event in our marriage, almost immediately I was being asked this very question. It seemed logical to the person I was speaking with, but I couldn’t have told you how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at that time let alone figure out if I was going to file for divorce. She needs healing and time to get over the initial trauma. She needs to work with someone outside of her immediate circle to figure out what is best for her and her marriage. Please do not ask, give her the time and space.

Lastly, take care of yourself. You are a vital piece to her recovery. Set healthy boundaries for yourself, and be firm but gentle. “I love that you trust me, but I need you to use your safe place & safety plan at 1 am first.” Do a little self care for yourself after spending time with your damaged friend. If you are running on empty, she will be stealing from you what little reserve you have left. This leads to resentment and anger on your part. You again risk losing a dear friend, and missing out on the opportunity to see her grow stronger and more beautiful inside & out than ever before.

 

 

 

Bombs Away

Bombs Away

I have been down the road of traumitization after traumitization so many times I cannot even count. I have read books, studied medical journals, read statistics all in an effort to heal myself from the hurt caused by his addiction. When I started a 12 week course with another friend on healing….I kinda thought I knew it all.  I even fancied myself somewhat an expert on the subject. But this one, this course took me by surprise. I explored hurt I thought was well done and buried. I learned for the first time why it was important to have emotional safety plans and how to take care of mysel in the process. Yeah, what? Seriously, I am not kidding.

First of all, emotional safety. The very nature of his actions consistently puts me in emotional harm. Even when he wasn’t acting out the memories of the past hurts kept triggering new trauma. I almost laughed out loud at the concept. There is no way, I could be emotionally safe. Okay, I will acknowledge that healthy boundaries can help with trauma moving forward….but what about the hurts of the past? How pray tell, when those experiences creep up am I supposed to protect myself from them? Besides stuffing them deep down somewhere in an abyss of emotional crap or avoiding any potential situation that could possibly be a trigger…like going to the mall. (Ladies you know what store I am talking about.) What on earth could possibly cause me to feel emotionally safe?

Well the first part was figuring out that emotional safety isn’t not feeling the pain. It was feeling the pain in a time and space where I was safe. Safe from ridicule or memory of additional trauma. So let me suggest that your bedroom may not be the place for this. And a sister who is or has walked this road is a great place to start. Not necessarily the answer…but a place to start.

Second was taking care of myself while experiencing the trauma whether old or new. This was even a tougher concept. I am a notorious self sacrificer. Yep it’s a word, I just made it up and now you have permission to use it. I would sacrifice my body, my money, my time, my heart, and my energy for my friends, my family, my spouse, my job & bosses with out so much as batting an eye. It made me feel good. At least until I would collapse…usually physically. And then, start again. The real pain is that I was actually killing myself slowly, and it was okay with me as long as everyone else around me was happy and well adjusted. I actually saw that as taking care of me…no boat rocking here.

So when the most recent discovery day happened (number 10 million give or take a few), my dear friend said…”I want to make sure you are taking care of yourself.” I about died. Seriously, what the heck does that mean? And then it hit, going back to one of our previous lessons. Doing something strictly for me that is healthy, soothing and restores my soul. I knew just the thing…and it meant a trip to the mall.

My self care plan looks something like this….first a Venti Fully Fatted Extra Caramel Drizzel Caramel Machiatto from Starbucks. Second, either bath salts from Bath and Body Works or my personal fave…the Lush bath bomb, and you know what? Despite the pain, despite the crap fest happening….all is right with the world in those moments. So today, Bombs Away!