Not Feeling Safe – Old Fears Resurface

(Caution – intense words ahead, trigger warning. I think I need to add that to my home page since I often forget to put the warning on individual posts)

I stepped back from that edge, but only one step. I’m not feeling safe and everything is just wrong right now. Here are some of the things bouncing around in my head. Things that used to live there but had vanished for a while. Please note I am fully aware that many of these are irrational and unhealthy, that’s kind of the point. But it seems every time I step up to a challenge, a new one is there waiting, and I just can’t take that many steps at once.

I feel fat. I feel ashamed of being fat. I feel like it has been too long since having babies to reside in that excuse. I feel like my stomach is an invader, not a part of me. After 3 babies and 2 c-sections, it is a squishy maze of stretch marks and scars. I am not obese. I teeter on the edge of normal-overweight BMI. 10 pounds more than my college weight, but it a stubborn 10 pounds. As soon as I lose a few pounds I gain it all back quickly with stress over-eating combined with the inactivity of depressed days. I can’t make myself exercise every day and I don’t why. I feel great when I exercise, both during and after, and yet I deny myself this. I guess it isn’t too surprising, as I don’t always have the energy or awareness to shower or brush my hair or teeth daily either. But somehow I forgive myself the slip in hygiene, but not this extra 10 pounds.

I feel judged. I feel ashamed by what might be judged about me from many sources. Some of hubby’s relatives are coming from out of state in a few weeks, and several months ago I gave myself the goal to lose 10 pounds before they came. We haven’t seen them in a few years, so I wanted t o be thinner than last time. My weight has not really changed for many years, up or down. The one relative always makes comments about his wife eating too much and that he’d leave her if she ever got fat, so I fear his judgement of me. Stupid, I know, but still there it is. I fear that man’s gaze on me and his controlling attitude.

I feel edgy in my own home now. My safe haven has been invaded. Although I am thrilled my kids have so many neighborhood kids come to play with them – my safe sanctuary, my home, is constantly and without warning – invaded. I can no longer have lazy PJ days, as they can knock on the door any time. No mom wants their kids playing with the kooky mom’s kids, the mom with haunting eyes and unkempt hair. So I force myself to look presentable even on the worst days. This makes me realize I was not quite functioning as well as I thought, and that makes me sad too. It shouldn’t be such a big deal to get dressed daily. I berate myself for being so silly.

I feel I am hurting Hubby and fear what he thinks of me. I was badly triggered as he initiated sex a week or so ago. We’ve been doing really well in this area, so this one shocked him. It was the way he initiated, not that he did, that triggered me. I froze up, went away mentally, managed to tell him, and he helped me through it. But the feeling remained.  I tried to explain what happened the next day in an email, as writing is my easiest and most natural form of communication. He is not a natural reader, and so lost my meaning in many places, and was generally overwhelmed by the one sided form. We did not speak of it or touch much for several days. It was too much to read all at once, he said.  This realization is always crushing to me, that my reality is overwhelming to others. So we tried discussing it a few nights later, as it still hung in between us. He blamed himself for hurting me, but wasn’t exactly sure what he had done wrong.

We both had a strong, almost urgent, need for him to understand, once and for all. In an attempt to explain, I took him through a typical evening for me as a child. I have never even gone into this detail with a therapist before, and maybe this was not a good idea, but I already did it. I was shaking and trying not to vomit as I placed myself back into my childhood bedroom and described some examples of what I had to endure from my abusive father. I needed hubby to understand certain ways of touching me were just not possible. I did not have a flashback as I told him my story, I remained present, but the fear – oh my god the fear! that I felt as I spoke to him. That fear is still with me. Stirred up and at the surface and I don’t know what to do with it now. And the grief. A whole new wave of grief for that little girl that even I can’t believe was me. It’s just too messed up. How my father used my love for him, and my need to be a good little girl, to seek his approval to fulfill his sexual needs. See, my father was always gentle with me, and made me believe for way too many years that he was acting out of love, and that he was only making me feel good, doing things I liked.

I slept downstairs on the couch for several days, terrified to go up into our bedroom. Afraid to have him bump into me while sleeping and set off the panic that is waiting to burst. Last night I was finally able to go to bed with him, and he held me so sweetly. He was so careful to only touch my shoulders, and kept his body away from mine. I hate that we have this ghost of a haunted past always between us. I hope this last revelation to him has been helpful to us and our marriage in the long term, because it has really sucked in the short term. I just look at this amazing man, so grateful he wants to know me even better, so grateful for his love, and yet not able to completely accept it. I’ve had glimpses of feeling loved, I just can’t hold onto it for long. I’m always proving to myself that I’m still not worthy and scolding myself for trying to believe otherwise.

I feel so selfish. I have not been a good wife and mom lately. I’m forgetful and distant. I freak out when they hug me. My first grader gave me a good night kiss last night that touched my neck just below my ear and I actually screamed in fright. His little eyes got big and he asked “What’s wrong? Did I hurt you” It took a moment for my heart to slow down and answer him, “No sweetie, just surprised me. Mommy loves you” And I left his room to finish out my panic without him watching.

I have developed a phobia of sleeping at my MIL’s house. I knew it stressed me out, but have dealt with it for years. I finally figured out that I don’t feel safe sleeping there, since I don’t have my own room, and the floor plan is so open and connected that I can hear everyone else turning in their beds all night. I love my MIL, but she is loud and often scary to me. I never know when she will be screaming, and even her normal voice is too loud for me.

I feel judged by Hubby’s relatives, as they always comment on my pale skin (if it weren’t for some freckles, I’d be practically albino), or my hair color, or how my kids’ hair is getting long, or how my kids’ clothes aren’t fitting well. Each comment stings a bit more until I can’t handle them with smiles any more. And then I have no where to retreat and lick my wounds. I don’t think they mean to be hurtful, it is just how they are.

I don’t buy gifts for teachers, we always bring some roses from the bush in my yard and the kids make cards themselves. I don’t money to buy anything nice, and as a teacher myself, I recall how special the handmade gifts were to me. Problem is my youngest made lovely cards for his preschool teachers, and in my distractedness I have misplaced them. My sweet little guy is making new ones right now. He is so accepting of me too. He helped me search the house for a while, but then just said, “It’s OK Mommy, it’ll be fun to make something else” His acceptance of my mistake actually makes me feel worse. I want to better for them. They deserve a mom that is living in the same world as them, not this shell of a woman that can barely manage daily tasks, that floats in and out of reality, and that forgets or loses everything.

And so the spiral of negativity continues, as I don’t understand how I have such a beautiful loving family and why I can’t just accept it and return it. I don’t feel like I’m enough yet. They say I am enough for them. Will I ever be enough for me?

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6 thoughts on “Not Feeling Safe – Old Fears Resurface

  1. You do what I do: Glom it all together. My counselor told me to stop treating my life like a pizza and handle one thing at a time. From my perspective: The huge thing is talking to your husband about what happened to you. You never told anyone all the details. This is ginormous! You’ve been brutally taught NOT to tell, and now you’ve told.

    Now, piled on top of that the insensitive in-laws and the cruel, jerk who needs to learn to keep his mouth shut but it won’t happen. I think of a lot of other names I want to call him but won’t. I want to punch him, but I wouldn’t because I will not be brought down to his level.

    I’m more than familiar with the criticism about looks. It’s devastating. I can almost watch myself shrink smaller and smaller. It’s a real battle learning to hold on to the knowledge that beauty comes from the inside. Those who say those ugly things are revealing what they are like on the inside NOT what you are like on the outside. I’m trying to embrace this; I know it’s difficult.

    Losing things is not a wicked thing to do. It’s human. I know you were taught you’re not allowed to be human. It’s going to take a lot of work and practice. You are already succeeding. You’ve simply had a setback. I call them — when I’m feeling more secure — opportunities to confirm and strengthen what I’m learning.

    (((Roots to Blossom))) You are making so much progress.

    • Pizza, eh? That one got me thinking and picturing myself smothered and tangled in toppings and stretchy cheese. That is about how I feel.

      Yes yes yes to the part about people saying ugly things. I get that. Just need a way to protect myself from it nevertheless.

      The last part really said it all. You get it, you get me. I feel wicked for these mistakes. Not like a normal human allowed or even expected to make mistakes. I easily brush off anyone else making human errors, but yes, when I do it, I must be wicked. Sigh. OK, so I just need more practice. I can do that.

      Thank you so much Judy for the calming words of wisdom.

      • I’m grateful I’m able to help even a little.

        To be honest, I don’t know how to make the unkind words not hurt, even when I know it says more about them than me. So far, all I’ve come up with is reminding myself their opinion doesn’t matter so it doesn’t hurt so much.

  2. Step out of it. One thing at a time, step out of it.

    Lets talk about the ‘fat’ issue first. You are wrapping yourself in guilt. It isn’t necessary and it isn’t real. It is an external value you have adopted. You are not fat. You have born 3 children. Your body is a marvelous gift. Your body is strong and beautiful. You stretch marks and C-section scars are proof of your great strength and your womanhood. Your hips shielded your children. You are not fat, you are a woman!

    You should exercise. Not to lose weight but instead because it makes you feel good. It gives you strength and energy. It sends wonderful endorphines to your body and makes you smile. You should exercise because it makes you happy. You should exercise, for you no other reason just for you.

    As for judgement, this is everyone elses problem it is not yours. Those external forces, they are weak and insignificant. They are not you, they are not your husband, they are not your children. They are not your problem. You are strong. You have already shown you have the strength to stand up for yourself and say enough. Tell your husband you will not tolerate those relatives who make comments about your looks or insult the looks of others, that you find it offensive and hurtful and ask him to stand with you.

    You did a brave thing in telling your husband the story of your reality, the real story so he could stand in your life. Yes it was hard and yes you triggered yourself. He has stood by you all this time, he isn’t going anywhere. Talk to him. Tell him how you are feeling, not that you aren’t feeling love but that you are going through a rough patch and need his support and understanding. Give him the knowledge you trust him.

    As for the need for your space, we all need this. This does not make you a bad parent. Adopt a uniform (mine is yoga pants and t-shirts). Throw your hair in a pony tail. there is no reason for you to strive for perfection. Strive for good enough. Put limits on visiting hours. You do not have to be the neighborhood watch.

  3. You are so, so brave to share all this. Did purging it out there help any?

    It’s amazing how many blogs I read (not to mention myself) are teetering on the urge of some ugly, triggering crap in their lives right about now. My partner and I are struggling like hell to keep hold of ourselves, and not set each other off in a very psychologically stressful time. But we know, as you might know, that having someone to love you, step by step through this helps so much. Do yourself AND husband a favor and try to shed the guilt. He’s on an amazing adventure with you and is a better person for it.

    I think you’re doing the exact right thing, writing it down (so that you own it, not the other way around) and sitting with it consciously. Sometimes a bunch of fears bubbling up again can signal an approaching breakthrough. Priority one is to conjure up and maintain some compassion and patience for yourself. You DESERVE it, now and always. Peace.

    • I have noticed the same trend, so many hurting, struggling people yet we still remain brave and fighting. Thank you so much for the encouraging words here. I appreciate you taking the time to reach out like that. I do think the writing, on this post, and so many others have kept me from drowning in the fear and guilt like I used to. It also helps hubby to understand me and bring us closer. I wish he’d write a blog too, but he’s barely a reader and certainly not a writer. I am in a much better place today than last week. I think my hubby would agree with your advice here too. I’m trying so hard to find peace and balance and he knows it. Is he better off? Wow, that one is hard to imagine, but what a beautiful thought. 🙂

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