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Reasonable Expectations from your Partner

Before I start this topic, a quick update may be in order for anyone that has noticed my absence. Feel free to skip this part if you only want the subject matter I planned to write about. I am fine. Relatively. I graduated my trauma recovery program, err, rather, we mutually decided to end it due to several factors. I was working on exposure therapy and we went through several key events, but I could never work through them all, there is simply too many, thousands, 10 thousands actually for my entire childhood. We decided to end before the holidays to reduce my stress at that time so I could enjoy it more with my family. We decided not to continue in the new year to reduce my medical bills that I already cannot pay and need to dodge bill collectors calling me. My credit rating is tanking.

We decided to end it to give me a break. That is also why I was not blogging. I needed some time to stop thinking about my traumas and let some of the open wounds heal.

I was not completely unsupported in this time. I have still been using 7cups.com and amazingly enough, I have found an online friend that I chat with daily that understands my history and is both strong enough and empathic enough to listen to me. I am truly grateful.

Today I want to talk about some reasonable expectations from your partner if you have been abused. I have found some other sites that seem to expect more than I have from mine. This one was great https://sworddancewarrior.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/primer-for-partners-of-sexual-abuse-survivors/

I read through that one together with hubby, explaining the parts that didn’t quite fit with me and what really did. What I loved about this was the idea of the safety list. I’ve included an excerpt below.

“6) How do we have the best sex possible with my survivor partner?

Make a written ‘safe sex’ list and stick to it. In this context safe means ‘no or low abuse triggers’.  The survivor can make a list of things that are sure fire abuse triggers and things you can do that have no abuse gunk attached to them. These will be unique to each survivor. Group the list by level of safety. Green light items are things that never trigger flashbacks. Red light things will pretty much always trigger flashbacks. Yellow light things might be possible from time to time but the survivor should initiate them.

If there is a sexual act or practice on the red light list that you really really like, give up all hope of ever doing this thing with your survivor partner. She or he might give in and do it, but it will do serious harm to your relationship if she does, and will set you back a lot.”

I extended this idea to all triggers, not just the sexual ones. I created a red light list of things that will always trigger me, make feel unsafe, cause a flashback, cause me to dissociate, or large amount of panic. This list is not really that long and is incredibly specific. I explained each item to hubby even though it was traumatic for me to do so. Most of them he knew already, somewhat, but we had never categorized and gone into this level of detail before. Some things I even modeled or demonstrated for him to be extra clear even though I thought my heart might explode as I pretended to be my abuser.

So why, please tell me why, hubby still does things on the red list? Here is what he says. “Oh, I forgot”
“I thought it was okay like this”
“I wasn’t thinking about that”
“You seemed fine”

I don’t think all rules are meant to be broken. Some are funny when they are.

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Okay. He is human. He is bound to make a mistake or forget. Yes? or NO? I’m not sure. I mean there are other red list behavior items in his life if he thinks about it.  I’m not the only one that has created rules for him. He doesn’t break many rules. He doesn’t walk around naked. He doesn’t swear at his boss. He doesn’t bring home every puppy he sees. He does have a memory and impulse control. So why can’t he remember these few things that are important to me and my recovery? I have explained that once triggered, it can take me hours, sometimes days to get over it. I have explained all of the triggers and my feelings multiple times over the years.

And yet this morning he does it again before he leaves for work. Leaving me here alone to deal with it. Yes I told him. And he said he was sorry, and acted all confused. I don’t understand his confusion. I don’t know what to do.

Am I being unreasonable in my expectation? Is he correct that he shouldn’t have to remember? Or should it be on him now to periodically review the list we wrote out together to make sure he is being supportive and not adding more trauma to me?

I understand it is my responsibility to heal. I have been working very hard in therapy and completing worksheets and excruciating homework. I understand he is not responsible for my reactions or what happened to me. But I feel like if he told me “I don’t like when you do this” even if no trauma were associated with it, I would never do “this” again.

So I’m here again, where I need to try to understand. To forgive him. To rebuild trust. To feel safe in my world.

 

 

Love and Obligation and Duty

Why did the Hero flush the toilet? …. Because it was his duty.

Sorry.

Blame my kids and Wreck it Ralph for that one. I can’t even think the word duty without an inappropriate smile any more. I was already immature. You would think having kids would help that. Nope. Made it worse.

I have been thinking seriously though about why I do what I do. Examining some tough thoughts, like what is love, is love real? Or is it only obligation? Do I need love?

So I think we lump many things under the love umbrella that are human needs.

I think love is actually acceptance, validation and respect. I don’t think it means feeling happy, feelings come and go. Except maybe peace. Does peace go with love? (probably more to it than this – but that’s what I am talking about today)

I think we do need acceptance – in some form. We need validation. We need acknowledgement of our existence and our journey. I struggle to give and receive that in real life, but the internet has provided many platforms that makes it possible. Love is not exactly involved with this. I care about the people I interact with but I am not sure love is the right word.

How do you know you love someone? And is it a different type of love defined by the different types of obligations?

This is probably confusing and not making much sense. I will try to give some examples. I loved my parents. I thought this was a love without end, a love that should exist, that had great meaning and defined me and them, bound us in loving obligation to each other. But –  they always had the right to withdraw love and I did not. I had to earn it. I constantly tried to prove myself worthy. I did not have acceptance or validation. And I know now, that love I was seeking, never existed at all, a fabricated universe concocted to control me. Love should not include control. Parents guide, not control.

Okay…

So what about Hubby? Is this love? This dance of power, control, seduction, confusion, manipulation, irritation, fear, dissocation, isolation, secrecy, and lies? There has not been acceptance and validation here either – on either side.

Love also means respect.

And that has been missing here too.

I am not saying we don’t care about each other, help each other, try to do things right. We have a deep sense of obligation, honor, and duty. We are good people and care about and help many people. But it isn’t enough for a marriage. It isn’t right.

When I think about my kids, it is entirely different. I think that is love. I feel acceptance, validation, respect – in both directions. I hope that is what they feel. We listen and support each other. We encourage each other. We accept our faults and oddities and work our days around them – we are accommodating. I don’t feel like a frustrating freak with them. I feel like me.

I guess that is why this blog is so important to me. Yes I want to get my story  out there, talk things through, reach those who are silent. But I think this is me. This is my voice and I want it out there. I want it to exist.

Because generally I don’t ummm exist. I plod along in a vacuum, or alternate reality. Even when I am present, not dissociated, I often don’t feel fully here. A spacey surreal feeling that keeps me cut off from everyone, unable to feel love even if offered. And so I examine thoughts like this. Am I loved? Do I love? Is it a real thing anyway? Do I need it? Will I always feel like this? Do my kids feel loved? Is this my attachment disorder talking? Do others feel like this? Should I give up trying to fix this and accept this is how I am?

I am reaching acceptance of myself, that I am different. That I may slowly change, but that I don’t want to count on this change to happen. I would rather accept myself the way I am, and surround myself with people that accept me the way I am – or be alone.

The acceptance I receive online and from my children feels like enough. I don’t feel lonely, even though by most people’s standards, I suppose I am alone. I feel better alone, with emotional distance from the people in my life that do not accept me.

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I took a three hour walk (yes 3 hours!! I can walk for 3 hours now! My back and leg are getting so strong!) in the forest last week, taking photos of the fall colors. I was alone on this walk, but I felt fuller and more alive than I have in weeks. Everything in the forest was so alive, I could feel the energy, hear the wind in the tree branches, hear the birds, the squirrels scurrying. I saw fungus and vines thriving on decay. I saw dead trees full of woodpecker holes. I saw and felt the life, the survival, of the creatures there.

Why do I feel more loved, safer, content – at peace – alone in a forest? Should I keep fighting this feeling or just go with it? Accept this, do what feels right, enjoy my peace without guilt, stop trying to make friends that I don’t want, stop trying to feel love I don’t feel. Just stop. And just be.

 

 

Isolation

I have been isolating myself again, or still. It seems to be getting worse, and I don’t care any more. Being social is no longer a goal, short term or long term. I am not going officially hermit…yet. Though I would if I could. The only thing stopping me from slipping away into my own world is my kids. 

As I near the end of my therapy program, I have done some even deeper thinking than usual if that might be possible. I am thinking I am done changing to be accepted or make others happy. (Except my kids, they are always the exception and I will endure whatever is needed for them) If others don’t find me acceptable I am finding I don’t care. I prefer to be alone and at peace. I have no need or desire for friends. I am done trying to force fit myself into some model that works for others. I am content being invisible. It is only when I try to fit in that it pains me when I cannot. I have never enjoyed what others enjoy, even when I am included. Shopping is a tortuous necessity. I know nothing of fashion and dress for comfort and function and value. I hate wasting money. I feel most things most people have is a waste of space and money. I admire beautiful things but feel content to visit them in nature or museums, no need to own them. I have no need for touch or affection. I would prefer no one ever touched me ever again. I continue to adapt, to try to be okay in a world that disagrees with me on nearly everything. Everything I am ‘supposed’ to be, I am not. I am done trying. I won’t run away or become the eccentric oddball everyone talks about. No, I choose door number 3. I shut up. Keep to myself. Try not to bother people and try not to let them bother me.

Letting go of Guilt – Telling my truth

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Guilt is heavy and can squash us. I carry so much of it for a multitude of reasons, many that are not my guilt to carry. I have been carrying this guilt that I was unable to visit my mom while she was sick, before she passed away. I wanted to. I tried so unfathomably hard. If you don’t understand, then you don’t you understand how one tries and fails at seeing someone. But I did. I didn’t have enough time to work through the anxiety, the deep dark hole of depression I was in at that time.

This is so humiliating to describe how I existed after my release from the psych ward. I was completely agoraphobic. I had complete and total social anxiety. I did not speak to anyone other than my husband and children and some days even that was difficult and I barely made eye contact with them. I did not make phone calls, could not call the pharmacy or order a pizza. I did not answer phone calls, texts, or God forbid, knocks at the door. I hid while panic flooded me. The panic that would rise in me was overwhelming at the very thought of any human interaction and I went numb, disappeared into myself. The world was terrifying to me.

I was alone. I was broken. I could not think or function. Light and sound hurt me. I spent my time in a darkened, quiet room unable to concentrate. Not really living. Partially from the severe migraines, partially from the terrible pain in my back and leg, partially from the severe anxiety and depression from PTSD and a total nervous breakdown. I generally did not move. I remember this, sort of, it is blurry though, like that year was a nightmare, not my real life.

I was in that state when my brother texted about my mom’s surgery and cancer. At first it did not sink in. I did not know what to do. I froze. I wanted to move, to act, to call her, to drive up there, but I was stuck. I had not spoken to her in so long, maybe over a year at that point and it all seemed impossible.

I finally was able to tell all of this to my oldest brother. I went to his house for the first time in years. They accepted me and understood. They did not hate me or think I was a horrible person. They could see my pain and let me cry –  many times. I was given kleenex and ice water and allowed to talk.

That may have been enough to let go of some guilt, but there was more.

My brother deemed me strong enough to fill me in on some of the story I missed while I was mentally away. He tried to contest my dad’s will on my behalf, saying it was cruel and that my pain and suffering was costing me all these medical bills and that I deserved some of his estate. He said that he contacted the lawyers and that I would have had a case. He said he wrote letters detailing what he knew about the abuse, my pain and suffering, and my medical costs to the lawyers and my dad’s siblings, the other heirs.

The lawyer told him I would have a case if others were willing to support me as well. If my mom and other brother and my husband were willing to support me.

If.

Yeah well they would not submit statements to the lawyer on my behalf. They all said no.

So I took that part in and he added another level. He said he could have built my case without that based on the police report or records from when I accused him and moved out when I was 16. My brother checked the records and did some digging and could not find anything. He asked my mom what year that would have been and she told him she never filed anything, she never pressed charges.

My head was spinning at that point as I tried to recall being 16, being interviewed by child protective services. I guess it stopped there, nothing criminal, nothing public.

Then there was more. Another punch in the gut.

My mom and other brother said they never believed me. It wasn’t that bad. My mom and other brother had actually supported my dad all these years in telling everyone I was a liar and a troublemaker. I always felt that…I always felt that in my heart but to hear this as fact was something else.

She never pressed charges. I always thought there was at least a ding on his record, some little bit of my voice saying what happened. I had no idea. I am betrayed by her all over again, that she would not stand up for me – ever, not then, not a year ago.

I have never cared about money or attention. But oh my god does this hurt. That this other brother got over $50,000 reward money for protecting a pedophile, and I think he thinks he has done the right thing, because mom told him I was lying. Why should he believe me? Well why shouldn’t he? Why would I tell these horrible stories, what benefit has it brought to me? It does not get me attention when I am isolated in my dark, quiet room. It does not get me fame, glory, money, or anything that anyone would desire. It is difficult to get angry with him when he was a victim in my messed up twisted up family too. It really just makes me sad. It is so effed up.

So my oldest brother wants me to speak up now and I am going to. I don’t think it will get me any money, but I feel it is time to insert my own voice and detail the abuse I endured from this ‘generous’ man. My brother is going to help me write a letter to that lawyer stating that I have been so disabled and dysfunctional that this is the first time I have been able to contact him since I received the will. I want to notify the other heirs, my other brother, my aunts and uncles, that I stand firm on my ‘story’ because it is my truth and it has devastated me, and nearly taken my life several times. I thought it was better not to bother anyone. Now I’m thinking they all need some bothering.

I called child protective services to get my records of my accusation and interview, and basically hit a dead end there. They could not guarantee the record still exists after 24 years, and if it does, since no criminal charges were made and nothing in the court system to make it public record, I would need a subpoena to release the file that may have been destroyed. I don’t think I will be pursuing this. A quest for truth is one thing, but spending my money on a wild goose chase seems silly.

But I do feel ready to do something more. I figure my parents are gone now. I am safe to speak up publicly, and my brother already started it for me. I am so grateful to him. He also lost his inheritance, as punishment for sticking up for me. Because in my world, the good, the kind, the ones who tell the truth are stepped on and spit on and ridiculed and hated.

As hurtful as all of this information was to learn, it has lifted some of my guilt and grief, validating me for where I was and how I got to be in such a state. I know I tried and that has to be good enough. Knowing that I tried so hard for all of them. Knowing that I loved all of them. And now knowing that even when I begged them for help and thought they did the right thing, they did not. Of course not. How stupid of me. That story would have gone public. How shameful. How could mom deny it if she pressed charges? Much better to say her daughter was insane. It actually makes sense now, for the type of counseling I received when I was 16. I bet mom told them I was a liar and needed ‘help’. I never got counseling for the trauma, help with processing, only stress management and relaxation and it was so patronizing.

It all makes sense now.

Of course I am still grieving her loss, but somehow knowing mom never believed me and would not speak up for me has lessened my pain. I was torturing myself thinking I was horrible to stop speaking to her, horrible to not make it up to see her before she died. I don’t feel so horrible now. I can see the events with more compassion as they actually happened and know I was struggling and doing the best I could. And that my best never intentionally was trying to hurt anyone, which I cannot say about her actions. She knew her actions were hurtful and chose to do them anyway. I think I understand why…but that is for another post.

Sadly, Hubby was also not willing to stand up for me last year when my brother asked for his help. I am still processing this information. I confronted him about and it was not a pretty conversation. I asked why he refused to talk to my brother? He said he didn’t want to cause me ore stress. I said how would him talking to my brother cause me stress? I think he didn’t want to cause himself stress, that he was avoiding the situation, that he didn’t want to deal with it. Like with so much of my illness, it is easier to pretend I am fine, and not sitting alone in my room with suicidal thoughts. It is easier to take no action or yell at me for being frustrating than it is to comfort me, offer a strong shoulder to lean on.

I am feeling like he turned his back on me when I needed him the most, when the darkness was swallowing me up, when I believed I was unlovable, that he was fine with my public shaming and felt no need to stand up for me when I had no ability to do it myself. This is no longer a man I feel good about. I have asked him for an in house separation, to leave me alone, give  me peace while I work through all of this. He has not even been acting as a friend to me, let alone a husband. Although sad, this distance has made me feel stronger. If I am released from obligation to keep trying to be a good wife, to fix a broken relationship day after day, maybe I can use my teeny bit of energy I muster up for each day more wisely.

 

Where do we go from here

What if you can’t get there from here? What if you can’t go back, those roads are gone? What if you look ahead and see the same familiar roadblocks?

I lost hope that hubby will ever be a strong yet gentle supportive being I need. We try to be kind to each other but it is not working. The hurts run deep. Each unable to forgive and trust. Each day only hurts worse. The tension makes me sick as I try to smooth things over, do what he needs, explain again why I can’t, try to avoid him and this horrid sense of obligation and burden. I feel obligated to be affectionate. He keeps telling me how much it hurts him that I can’t. He keeps telling me how he can’t stand to hear all my negativity. He keeps saying he is confused, and frustrated.

I feel like a burden. I can’t be what he wants and it seems no matter how much I explain I cannot get him to understand ptsd and what this therapy is digging up.

I tell him I can only sleep for about 15 min at a time, then I wake up in a panic. If I am lucky those minutes are nightmare free. I am usually not lucky. No, my brain is creating new gruesome images to torture me, things that would make Dexter queasy. 

I tell him I barely manage to shower once per week.

I tell him most days I don’t eat food, only coffee or ice cream.

I tell him I have daily flashbacks transporting me to various childhood memories unexpectedly.

He knows all of this, and yet he is confused when I struggle to respond quickly when he invites me out to lunch. I say I don’t know, because it is the truth. I don’t know if my prison of a brain will let me out today. 

And he is frustrated when I dare to give him conditions for this lunch, like that place is too noisy, that one is too smelly. Yes it is frustrating for me too. No I am not being manipulative as you said to me today.

I think if you could, you would understand by now. So I think you can’t. I think you lack the empathy. I know you care about me, but it isn’t enough. You need to be nice to me too. You need to accept me as I am.

I know my behavior is odd. Ptsd is winning right now. But it isn’t like you are clueless. You know my stories. And yet you remain confused.

The sad truth is I feel much better when you aren’t near me. Without you my anxiety is not crippling or devastating. Without you I can make decisions without being badgered. Without you I feel less guilt, more valuable, less fear, more happinesss.

Things can change. Maybe they will. But you were given tools, ABC sheets and homework from the counselor. You never did them. I can’t ask you to change, I can only work on myself. But one day I will be back on my feet, a completely changed woman. If you don’t learn, grown and change too, I fear the distance between us will be irreparable. It is your choice to stay stuck. I want out of this mess.

Same house, worlds apart

I’m here, he’s over there, same house, same room, same sofa, worlds apart.

confused and lost in translation. what are you talking about. I don’t understand. Give me an example.

We know it hurts to use certain words like “you always….” and yet and we always use those words

Sometimes I’d rather say nothing at all in stead of risk you misunderstanding me and having to get on the wheel of pain round and round we go again

but nothing is ever on your on mind

everything is fine??

 

 


Wow – I found this draft in my folder, dated “a year ago” sometime. Sadly the words are still true.  We are not being good to each other. We barely tolerate each other. We attend couples counseling every week but nothing changes here at home. We are so on edge, so impatient, we can’t listen to each other. At some point I stopped looking in his eyes. Sadly I can’t recall when, and when I pointed it out last night, sadder yet, he hadn’t noticed. I stopped because the intensity of looking in eyes, anyone’s eyes, is too much for me to bear, and his are the worst. Too much stress, tension, pain, anger. Too much history there. I actually wondered if I became autistic with all of my eye avoidance, but it reflects my fear of intimacy, I understand it now. I glance at faces to get a quick read on expression, then away again or I get sucked into those emotions, it is too powerful without my shield. The counselors stole my shield, I used to be numb and now I feel it all. But I feel it less if I don’t look directly at others. And I feel protected, like I am hidden in plain sight, if my eyes are not making contact. I feel in control. I need that now, whatever and whenever I can get it.

I try to hope that one day Hubby and I will talk openly with one another, but I really don’t believe this is possible, not completely. I am too afraid to trigger his defense mechanisms and have him lash out at me. Or almost as awful is when I share something and get back silence or a grunt. I know he is trying. I am too. We care about each other. Why is it so hard to just talk?

Listen to me

Listen to me

Hear my words, feel my thoughts

Before you react

Can’t you see what you do to me

Silence my words, invalidate my thoughts

Because you

Are more important

Your needs matter

And I don’t

I am not what you say I am

I am starting to know me

Too bad you don’t or won’t

Losing hope

Because you don’t even know

How to listen