Tag Archive | expectations

Trauma is in the eye of the beholder


What do people really think about you? What are you showing them? Well what they think depends on how they frame it in their minds anyway. So much subjectivity, so much interpretation and assumption.

I’ve become increasingly interested in my doctors varying opinions of my mood lately and how it applies to my future. As most of you know, as soon as you have “Psych” history on your record, it can be difficult to get medical attention without doctors telling you how you feel and that somehow trauma and depression are actually causing the issues, not anything they can solve, and you end up with another referral for therapy.

If you have an “extensive Psych” history like mine, it is almost impossible.

I started comparing notes.

My back surgeon notes that I am pleasant and upbeat, cheerful, even 3 weeks post surgery when my pain level was still quite high.

But the neuropsych team inote, flat affect, appears to be severely depressed, speaking noticeably slowly, moved to tears.

Let’s see what is the difference here? It’s not just that the psych team is looking for it, I’m not saying that, I am behaving differently in these appointments. Hmmm, I wonder why? Seriously. That was snarky if you couldn’t tell. OK let me spell it out by giving you a glimpse of the conversations.

When I am talking with my back surgeon, I am grateful, he has changed my life, reduced my pain, restored strength and balance to my weak leg. He see me as strong, able, resilient, and able to do whatever I want to do. He knows nothing about my traumatic past and never has asked about it. He expects me to heal, because nerves, bones and muscles heal at an expected rate.

When I am talking with the psych team, they continually poke and prod about the relationship with my parents and brothers and husband. They force me to relive and retell some of the worst moments of my life. Usually I am meeting someone new, forced to tell my story to someone I do not fully trust for them to make another assessment of my condition. My flat affect is me trying to remain calm and choose my words carefully, knowing I am being judged. My tears are me, reacting to pain in the moment, recalling my sorrow.

But I don’t live there in that sorrow. Each doctor is only seeing a snapshot of me, a moment of me, not all of me, not how I function each day all day, not my life. I wonder how many people can retell their worst fears and memories without appearing traumatized. Even if you weren’t abused, I bet if you spent 3 hours describing every pet that died, how you miss your grandparents, maybe you were bullied, your boyfriend broke your heart in high school, your friend died in a car crash or overdose, your parents split up – whatever – life is full of heartache and tragic moments that we don’t call abuse. I bet if you made a list of them and described them out loud, that any “normal” person would appear depressed and traumatized and dysfunctional.

I don’t think its me that needs realistic expectations, I think it is the medical community. I almost want to prove my theory by starting over with a new doctor, stating I have a brain injury from purely physical means, caught in a shockwave perhaps and see I still have the same sad “Sorry but we can’t help you, you’ve been through too much to get better at this point in your life” story. I bet I would get sent to rehab and expected to heal if I didn’t have a psych history.

Well I expect more of myself, always have. Yeah, I got knocked down. But I’ve been down before, so what. I am out there jogging you guys. It isn’t beautiful, I mean I won’t win any medals, but I am not using a cane and both feet leave the ground at a pace faster than walking. I know I am healing. I know what I can do. I can do more.

I don’t care about my history, its irrelevant at this point. My brain doesn’t care. I am no longer being traumatized. I am sleeping, eating well, exercising, going to therapy, doing brain training games, pushing towards creative thought – why can’t I expect healing to happen? I don’t have a bunch of faith, but I’ve always believed in resiliency, set a goal, make a path, and eventually you get there.

My therapist thinks my lack of creativity is tied more to grief than brain damage. I’m starting to think she is right. My mom was my constant cheerleader, so supportive of my artwork and writing. I always shared my ideas and progress with her, always created for her, and she poured on the constant praise, sometimes annoyingly so, and almost over the top. I think I depended on that more than I ever knew though. Without her daily comments on my blogs, her multiple emails, I have no one else cheering me on, encouraging me to draw something today, asking what my next project will be, asking me to make something for her. She kept me going. I see this now. So at some point I will have to draw through the tears, and just keep going, until I am drawing for myself and the world, and show her that her years of support were enough to keep me going even after she is gone. I need to feel this pain of missing her and draw anyway. Somehow with my teary eyes and shaky hands I know this is the next step I need to take. An empty page has never been so frightening.

Damsels, Don’t Wish for Knights to rescue you

Katherine Pyle. Dragon rearing up to reach med...

Hubby had no idea the dragon in my life was so deadly and I had no idea my brave knight could not vanquish it. Painting by Katherine Pyle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have realized that I did not marry a knight in shining armour. He is not my rescuer, my savior, or my protector. He is my husband – and that should be enough!

I wonder how many hurting young women enter marriage thinking it will solve everything, will erase the painful past, and will protect her from future pain? I know now that I put my husband in  a terrible position, asking him to rescue me.

Hubby swears he married me because he loves me, that he thinks I’m the most beautiful, smart, funny, amazing girl he ever met. Awww. OK, sure, that sounds great. I married him also because I love him, but I had another reason. I wanted out of my abusive family. I wanted to escape. And I wanted a brave knight to protect me. I just neglected to mention this part to my knight.

So years later, almost 2 decades later – crap! When did I get so old? I realized I still thought of him as my knight, except I also thought he had failed me. My dragon lives on, and continues to torment me, if only through the holes he pierced in my heart and soul. I blamed my husband for so much of my pain, thinking it was his responsibility to heal me, to keep me safe. It is not. It is mine.

I also realized I put way too much pressure on him, allowed him to make all the major choices and decisions about buying a home, cars, investing, health care, etc. I felt like I let him choose, and then blamed him for making poor choices when anything went wrong with our house, car, etc. I see now that was unreasonable and set us up for trouble.

As soon as I started thinking my husband is my partner, not my savior, we started connecting in ways never before possible. I stopped resenting him for my daily pain, and moved the responsibility to where it belongs. Only I can choose my life’s direction.

My husband may not be a knight, certainly is not perfect, but is absolutely a great husband and father once we allowed him to be. And yes I wrote ‘we’ because Hubby and I both made choices that kept him away from me and the babies. We’re making better choices now, and most importantly, we’re making them together.

Expectations and Disappointment

Today I want to examine some of my underlying expectations for Husband that always seem to cause me great pain when they end with disappointment.

So for a few weeks now, I have been very clear with Husband that I don’t often feel loved, cherished, special.

We discussed ways I might feel more loved, and ways that I feel slighted in terms of my love language. For example: My mom had a little surprise birthday party on my last birthday, and everyone there had a gift for me except my husband and kids. My kids felt bad they had nothing for me, since he did not tell them either and they’re too young to do it on their own. (These discussions were over the past few weeks, not on Mother’s Day, I will not bring up the past hurts again to him, just put them here to explain why my expectations were high-again)

Last week, he kept talking about Mother’s Day, reminding me he had the day off work, and that we were going to have such a nice day together with our little family. He sounded excited, so I started getting excited and hopeful that he had planned something for me, some gift, surprise, or outing – anything. My expectations were very high and I couldn’t wait to see what he planned. So when we had our usual weekend breakfast (which was lovely but just like every other weekend) and the usual bouquet of flowers from the grocery store (which were also lovely but just a last minute side thought) and when we finished eating I asked what was next, and he said “I don’t know” and shrugged it off – my bubble of expectation turned into devastating disappointment. Sigh. “Oh” I said. He didn’t even think about planning something, other than being home with us. (Should that have been enough for me? He was there and not yelling?)

Now I knew he was lying about the day before, and some silly part of me thought maybe the lie was to cover up some surprise for me. I get so silly and child-like, hoping each time he will finally go out of his way for me, but it never happens. So who is the silly one here? Who is the ungrateful one? Me, right? Why do I do this to myself? If I don’t expect a grand gesture, I won’t be so disappointed that it never comes, and will instead be happy with the sweet little gestures that did happen. Why isn’t that enough for me? Is this healthy to expect more from him? Would it ever be enough? I don’t know, to me he’s never tried. To him, it was a lovely day and he thinks he did enough.

I think I just want him to do the legwork, the research, and plan my day so I don’t have to. That would be the greatest gift. Even if it was all free, like if he said, “First we’re going to the park to walk and look at flowers, then we’re going to fly kites, then we’re going to have a nice lunch. . .” I would have felt like a Queen. Instead, after breakfast, I am left to do the dishes while he takes a very long bath and goes about his business. Then I go shopping for kids school projects. It was a nice day, but just a day like any other day where I call the shots and do chores and run errands.

I explained this to him later, and I’m not sure if he got it or thinks I’m whiny and ungrateful. I then said it would have meant the world to me if my breakfast also had a note from him, even just a few words saying “Thank you for being such a great mom to our kids”. I told him that I feel so insecure about being a good mom, because it is so important to me. That it would have meant so much if he thought about me and planned ahead instead of last minute. I explained that I thought he was hinting about having something planned.

Engagement Ring

Engagement Ring (Photo credit: Lucas_James)

So all these talks of grand gestures and surprising me may be sinking in. I found “ebay” “engagement” in the search window history. I am very worried that he is going to buy me an engagement ring and do some crazy proposal. I told him it bothered me that he never proposed and that I bought my own ring. But what if he does this before I am ready to say Yes to him? I couldn’t honestly re-commit to him right now. And I’m not sure we could make it past me saying “I’m not sure” when he finally does something grand and romantic. I’ve been saying “I love you” to him again, because I do feel love. But it is an unsure, tentative type of love, that I hope will grow. I want to feel it, I want to accept him, I want to trust him. I will always love him, but I’m not sure I will always be married to him. Urgh.

Should I tell him I saw that ebay page and explain my concerns? Or just see what happens?

I don’t know what he is expecting, and I sure don’t want to disappoint him.

Just get over it

I don’t know what else has to happen, or will I er get over it, or will my past pain always be there, just a bit smaller each year? Life seems to pass me by. I have so many plans, hopes, goals, but the hours turn into days, then weeks, then even years, and I still seem stuck. Always returning to the pain. Or more accurately, the pain returns for me.

Will I still be suffering with mental anguish in old age?

I have support and coping mechanisms now, it is so much milder than years past, but the bleak winter months not only slow down my body, but nearly cripples my brain. The darkness returns to the world, and seeps in to my brain and heart. I’m still happy, still me, just less so. I can get up and do things, it is not completely crippling as it had been in the past, but the fear that it *could* become that bad again is agonizing.

My children see that I sleep in too late, begging me to get up and get them breakfast. They are very small and need me. I do get up eventually. I’m often late taking kiddo to preschool, just can’t get going in the morning. But in years past I had slept completely through preschool, so I accept being a bit late as improvement.

I have projects I want to complete and they sit untouched. Household chores seem too large, and only get larger as I avoid them. A few years ago I hired a housekeeper to help me dig out from the messy house nightmare. But I don’t have much money to spare, and things have never gotten that bad again. And she started getting a bit chatty, so I stopped asking her over – I didn’t want to be her friend.

I have work emails piling up unread in my inbox, and snail mail piling up unread in my basket. I just think, “I’ll do them later when I’m not so tired”. Well fine, but I may not be not so tired until May. So I drudge along, do what I can, and somehow the kids seem ok and even happy. Bills get paid, often late, but it gets done. Decisions are excruciatingly difficult, as I am afraid to make a bad choice so I put off making any choices.  How much to pay whom, which doctor to take kids to, do they need bigger shoes yet, should I punish this behavior or ignore it, should I play with them or get some work done – or take a rest.

I try not to be hard on myself, but the “Why can’t I just do this stuff?” is always on my mind, blaming me, pushing me to work harder. Some of it is good, without that I may just stop trying and give up. It is good to care and want to be better. I just need to be gentler about it.

Each year the bad days get less and less, and the good days keep getting better. I know I’m on the right track, but I get so impatient with myself – “Just get over it already!”