Yesterday started and ended ok. I told hubby I was thinking about getting our backyard picnic shelter cleaned up and work on my agoraphobia by starting to feel safe in my own yard. I said I’d like to work on this as my project this summer, something to do while I’m outside to keep myself busy and reduce my fear.
We were just about to head outside together to assess the shelter together when a text from my oldest brother came. (Cue Dun-dun-dun)
My brother for unknown reasons asked if I had received my $10 inheritance check from AF’s Will yet, informed me that my middle brother with schizophrenia had moved in with my youngest brother (instead of living alone now that mom passed), and reminded me that he wanted me to come to a family picnic soon.
I could hardly breathe. That was a lot in one little text. I handed my phone to Hubby so he could read it and I headed upstairs for a moment, because, well, I had to run away from that phone so I could breathe. With some distance I did some rescue breathing, in through my nose for 4, out through my mouth like I am blowing out candles. Then I did some grounding, pushing my feet into the floor, my hands into the wall, feeling the pressure and texture, using mindfulness. I ran cool water on my wrists.
I came back down in a few minutes and Hubby was standing by the back door, asking if I was ready to go out now. I looked for my phone, he had set it down on the table. I said something like, I don’t think I can go, and felt so sad and misunderstood as I sat at the table. He sighed loudly, showing his impatience and frustration and he says, “I thought we were going out to work on the shelter?”
“Didn’t you read that text?”
“Yeah…but I thought we were going to go outside.” He comes in finally and sits at the other side of the table from me.
“But I’m going to have to respond, and this has already affected me, so maybe if I do that now it might be better. Don’t you think? Don’t you have any opinions about what he texted?”
He actually got up then to check the mail and called from the other room, “There’s no check here”
My jaw dropped. As if that was the important part of this. Couldn’t he see I was shaking and scared earlier? That I had been triggered, forced to think of AF’s horrible will, my being unlovable and only worth $10. That I was worried about My brother’s kids now …those kids need stability…but it looks like that will never happen and since that brother won’t speak to me, I don’t even get to express my opinions. And the picnic? Yes it was nice to be asked…but oh man the anxiety that produced to think of such an event. I’m not ready for that. My head was spinning. How do I let my brother know I am open to him but he needs to back off a little? I didn’t want to hurt his feelings and hurt our delicate relationship.
Hubby sat back down impatiently, still saying nothing while I stared at the text. He keeps tapping his feet and making huffy sighing noises.
“Don’t you have any thoughts or opinions about this? Any reaction at all? Any guidance on how to respond, or am I just bothering you?” I’m getting annoyed that I have to keep asking for a reaction.
“What??? Of course I have thoughts, I didn’t know you wanted them right now, I thought we were going outside, so I’m just waiting. I didn’t know you wanted to respond right away or that you wanted help with it. I don’t think your brother living there will be good for those kids or for him. I don’t know what else you want”
Now I sigh. I’m so sick of him acting confused all of the time. Nothing was confusing here. Why do I have to beg him to talk to me and see I’m upset? Why can’t he see that this would be an upsetting text for anyone, not just for me? I would have accepted nearly ANY form of comfort, support or connection. ANY reaction. What I’m having trouble accepting, again and again, is his confusion, frustration, and impatience. I really just needed a friend. I had managed the trigger and anxiety myself.
I responded to my brother, explaining I had not received a stupid check, that I thought my brothers living together was a bad idea for all concerned but I hoped it works out, and that with my back pain and extreme anxiety I was not yet ready for a picnic, and that I was back in counseling 2 days a week though. That’s when my brother responded with the lovely and amazing “take time to heal”. His response came much later and made me all warm and fuzzy, erasing some of the hurt dealt by hubby.
I attempted to explain to Hubby why this was a high distress moment. I reminded him about what I was working on in counseling, my distress list, and I said he never asked to read it….
That caused him to blow up before I could finish my sentence. I was going to say..so he doesn’t know that texts from my brother are very high on the list because they instantly trigger me, sending me back to a childhood world of memories and chaos (which I’m thinking ‘duh’ shouldn’t that be obvious). Instead he started ranting how was he supposed to know I wanted him to read the list, it’s just one more thing he screwed up this week…that was not what I was saying at all and I’m getting angry that he is making this about him. Then he said, “show me your list now then, we are already here talking, I can read it now since we are apparently not going outside” He didn’t say the word stupid, but it felt like he said show me your stupid list and let’s get this over with….
What?? I’m thinking, are you serious hubby? You want me to share something that intimate with you while you are barking at me? But fear creeps in, I’m starting to feel unsafe with him now. Not in a dangerous way, but emotionally unsafe, too vulnerable, he is being too harsh and hurtful I can’t possibly open myself up to him. His hand is out to me as he demands I give him the list. I’m angry too, but I can’t be. I’m in personal conflict, a bit like a short circuit, and I need to get away. I can’t show him my anger. My stuck points say I’m not allowed to be angry and the fear grows. The voice in my head says I’m now unlovable and bothering him. I’m unimportant and a silly girl. I need to get away.
I refuse and mumble something about it not being a good time for it, let’s do it later. He looks visibly relieved. I get up and head to the kitchen. He asks if I’m coming outside. I say no, I’m going to wash the dishes. He goes outside by himself. I feel very, very sad and alone – again, but also relieved that he goes outside and this conflict is over and I’m alone and safe now. Alone is both good and bad.
Hubby cleans out the shelter by himself. OH! He did a nice job, but he clearly missed the point that I wanted a project to do myself. He was so proud to do it for me so I had a place to sit, I just smiled and said it looked great. What he did in two hours likely would have taken me most of the week, but I would have accomplished it myself, been outside the entire time, and it would have made me stronger. I guess I’ll have to think of something else to work on.
Later that afternoon in couples counseling, He said he felt controlled by me earlier, that he was only cleaning the shelter because I asked him to, and then all of a sudden I changed the plan and wanted to talk instead and he never knows what I want and it can change in an instant.
What?? I was internally fuming. Is that really how he saw it? I didn’t even want him to clean it, I wanted to do it myself. And I didn’t change the plan, I didn’t ask my brother to text, that just happened. Sometimes life happens and we need to react. Does he blame me for this?
The counselor had his own agenda for us and would not let us go into this topic, so my anger was building for him too. I felt like my time was being wasted. We spent an hour on a topic we didn’t need instead of this issue we obviously needed help with. I started to lose it by the end of the session, unable to hold it in any longer. I asked the counselor what is reasonable to expect of Hubby in any given moment, because we seem to have very different ideas. He said we could explore that next week.
In the hall after the session, Hubby asked if I was ok and put his arm around me. I pushed it off, and said “no…are you kidding me? now you ask me? No I’m not ok. And now you can’t comfort me, not when you are the one I’m mad at. I needed that from you earlier, not now. Why don’t you know these things? Anyone would know that.”
I snarled then. Something in me let go. I was no longer afraid to be angry there outside the counselor’s room. I told him “I am afraid my expectations are too high for you and that you seem incapable of changing, that you have no empathy or emotional intelligence whatsoever, that you can’t respond with a basic human connection and emotion in real time, that I tell you day after day and you still don’t understand, and that I’m tired of being so endlessly gentle and understanding with you, tired of coaching you on what to say and do, how to react or respond, tired of waiting and hoping that one day you will be there for me when I never get any response at all and I’m tired of feeling invisible or like I don’t matter, or I’m a bother to deal with.”
Ouch – I know. But I was really feeling that way. All of these lessons and counseling and I can go to him and something like this text can happen right in front of him or I say my anxiety is at an 8, and he simply walks away from me, not a word, no reaction, leaves me alone to deal with it myself. He does not check on me or support me in any way. And it isn’t that he doesn’t know how. He really should have a clue by now. We have a binder full of skills, statements, breathing exercises, mindfulness, etc and have practiced together in counseling. So I keep thinking he will be there when I need him, but he is only available 1 hour a week during counseling. At home nothing has changed, he is still distant, aloof, avoidant, oblivious – and I don’t know why. It is really starting to hurt, so I blew up.
His response was “So I’m just an A$$hole and our marriage is $hit”
What?? I didn’t call you that. I didn’t say that. At all. I said I don’t understand why you continue to not respond to me, that we have no connection, that I feel all alone, and I am getting worried that it will never change.
I tried explaining to him how it feels to constantly be ignored. I keep waiting for him to come to me. Show an interest. Want to talk to me. Want to work on it. We are supposed to spend 20 minutes every day working on exercises from couples counseling. He won’t do it. I keep wondering why he even goes to counseling at all if he won’t put any effort in at home. I’m trying so hard to continue to be patient, but this week I ran out. I reached my limit and I exploded. No more Mrs nice girl. Sorry honey.
It’s not me – it’s you.
Then this morning another defensive reaction from him, lashing out at me. We move our mattress last night and find the bed frame is full of fleas! We’ve been battling fleas for a few months now. We vacuum and spray. This morning we spend a few minutes talking about fleas and what else we need to do to get this under control. Boring informational talk.
He then has to go to work. I say, “Aww, I didn’t want to spend our morning talking about fleas”
He blows up and yells, “Sorry for ruining your morning” and storms out of the room
I was shocked, like he had hit me. WTF?
Appropriate responses he could have had:
“No, me either, stupid fleas” (common enemy)
“No, I’d rather spend it in bed with you” (flirty)
“Really? I love talking about fleas” (sarcastic)
“Yes too bad I have to go to work now” (understanding)
I told him that was a horrible thing to say and that he needs to control himself and stop lashing out at me. I’m not attacking him or saying mean things. When he says things like “So I’m an A-hole then, or I’ve ruined your morning” it devastates me, particularly in the middle of a calm, dull conversation to get a defensive reaction out of nowhere.. I do not call him names or put him down. I can’t predict what he will take as an attack, and I can’t live like this, the environment is too volatile here. He needs to get it figured out and fast. I no longer accept that it is my fault.
Then last night I log into a site called Relate To That, an online support group I joined, and another member actually posted a quote that seemed as if he was listening to me outside my car, and that he understood everything I was trying to say to hubby. I’m going to share that in the next post so that I can see it separately from this one, but please read it too so you can see how amazingly connected the universe was to me yesterday, even if Hubby was not.