Denial

I am telling me the truth about a lot of things in my life that I didn’t want to see. I am revisiting my life in order to ‘go after the truth’ as Henry Cloud says.

What I’m finding is that I have many things that I didn’t want to face and I dealt with them in different ways. 

One way in particular is to say ‘this didn’t happen.’ If I said it hard enough, then I believed it. I’m talking about very painful things. I can see how I systematically created different memories that I could believe that allowed me to circumvent the pain of the memories. 

It reminds me of the Prince of Tides, a book and movie by Pat Conroy.

The very short version of the movie is that of a Southern family, a dysfunctional family raising 3 children. The father was very abusive. 

When the kids were coming up, one night 2 prison escapees broke into the house. By knifepoint they raped the children and the mother. The mother killed them and buried them in the backyard.

As the children and mother frantically cleaned up all of the blood, the mother said over and over ‘this didn’t happen. this didn’t happen.’ 

Problem is that you can’t suppress those things without consequences.

You can see a clip from the ‘reveal’ scene here.

It allowed me to the shock of my husband to walk into my psychiatrists office after spending a week in the psych ward for being suicidal and tell him I was doing ‘fine.’ 

I’ve been in different situations in which I focused on another person’s problem instead of my own. To focus on minor issues to avoid major ones.

I can’t say I am better at it now, but I’m finding that the fear I’ve had behind dealing with things is worse than if I had just dealt with them. Granted I couldn’t do that when I was 3. Lately I have felt and talked to others about how I’m seeing that my subconscious was more powerful than I have understood in the past. I’m finding that if I seek hard after the truth, it’s not as scary to face these things. I can be discreet. I don’t have to share the worst of everything with everybody. That’s not what God wants. God wants me to be honest with myself and candid with others when my experience can benefit them.

Do I have much to offer? Believe it or not, I think I do. 

Denial

Relationships

My kids are in varying degrees hurt and angry with, well, me basically. They are absolutely entitled. While I have been trying to figure out my culpability for is for my actions, they have suffered with not having the mother they are entitled to.

That is a very familiar situation for people in AA. For people who have manic depressive illness, it is similar.

What happens in AA is that we work the 12 steps. The Ninth step in particular for broken relationships.

The the ninth step from the Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous says ‘9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.’

I have seen relationships healed and those that were severed permanently. I have been able to glean a measure of comfort from the wisdom of those in the church and AA.

I walk a tightrope with it. Making amends, insisting on respect…not for the things I have done wrong necessarily, just as a human being. They will need to learn to forgive, but that is between them and God.

I am finding that all of the people of God have their own path, and all that matters presently is seeking truth, knowing the love of God, and loving others. I wish to model this for the kids, and if I do, that makes any ‘suffering’ worthwhile. Suffering sucks.

Relationships

Changing Course

I had a really odd dream last that was very detailed and I drew a couple of thoughts out of it that I wanted to put down on paper to consider what the details mean to me, if anything.

I won’t share the whole thing, but it went something like this.

The divorce was going to be final. The invitations had gone out and a lot of time was spent, not by me, to get the grand finale together. It was bigger, much bigger than my wedding was.

I was wearing a black taffeta gown that was cumbersome. It looked like Princess Diana’s wedding gown. I was hot and uncomfortable.

The ceremony started and after a bit, when it got almost to its cescendo I took a knee.

I didn’t say anything, I just lowered myself down as best I could in that dress, and took a knee the way they do in football, and then I got up and went out. As usual, I have done my research and I can show you why that action made sense to me.

On Wikipedia it says:

Taking a knee occurs when the quarterback immediately kneels to the ground, ending the play on contact, after receiving the snap. It is performed especially when the outcome of the game has been well decided, defenses will often give little resistance to the play as a matter of sportsmanship as well as to reduce injury risk on what is a relatively simple play.’

When I woke up, I thought about it and I thought that I had done it because I want to stay married. That’s not really true. 

  • I regret the end of the life I thought I had and that I was going to have.
    I regret that my children have had this experience in their lives right when they are moving into an age where they are going to start forming relationships that might result in their choosing a husband or wife.
  • I wish I had someone beside me that I could count on in a direct way.
  • I certainly regret the choices I made that were selfish essentially, that affected and ended relationships.

Oh and so on and so on. What I’m trying to get at is that it isn’t a wish to go back to something. There are facets in a situation like this. I can choose to deal with whatever piece I would like, but that’s not always the healthiest thing to do or the right motives or even the correct action in whatever it is I’m dealing with today.

So….it is a wish to extract myself from what is basically a very unpleasant undertaking without continuing to fight it. I want to take my marbles and go home now. It is not joyous to me even if I fully understand and recognize that it is what is best.

I plead no contest. I don’t want to go through the ceremony.

Changing Course

Being a Present

When my daughter was in middle school, she had a knack for picking out beautiful clothing. She had a good eye, and as girls do, she wanted to look as good or better than the people she admired. It is the time when clothes become important in a young girl’s life.

Someone told her she looked like she was trying too hard. She scaled back on color, cut, design. It became less noticeable, more nondescript.

It broke my heart a little. 

I have come to see that we outwardly adorn ourselves as a gift. It is as much a gift to ourselves as it is to others. It isn’t the best of everything we need to adorn ourselves in, it’s the way in which we choose to adorn ourselves.

I have worn black for 2 years. One of the reasons I chose to is because I wanted to become invisible. I didn’t want to stick out. Obviously when you only wear black, you might stick out more than you normally would. I guess I just put that out of my mind. I’m like the kid who closes his eyes and says ‘You can’t see me!’

Perhaps it’s a bit like this:

I’m starting to notice a lot of things. I notice that women dress for their husbands and for themselves. I don’t have to be mediocre. I might not be the best dresser in the world, but I don’t have to be the worst. Adorning myself makes me feel better. Being creative and adding color and texture to life is a gift you can give yourself every morning and every evening. It’s a way to love yourself.

Granted, I have a long way to go, but isn’t it a gift I can give my daughter to give myself the joy of improving the outside as well as the inside?

 

Being a Present

Being Different

I have spent a lot of time focused on my image. The person I want to portray to the world. That is obvious to me just by the sheer number of times I’ve written about it in one way or the other. 

I’m writing about it today because of a happenstance yesterday. I was driving in the car with my dad and a young teenage boy had his pants hanging so low he had to use one of his hands to keep them up. 

I want to be different (translate special), but I don’t want to inconvenience myself doing it. 

I’ve written before about good eccentric and bad eccentric. I might define it differently than everybody else. The fact is, that I did a lot of things, am doing a lot of things to try to appear a certain way to the world, and that’s just really conceit, and it’s dishonest at the heart of it. 

I think when I got sober back in 1988, I was in an invincible sort of mindset. I was living a healthy life. I was working, paying my own way, even doing charity work. 

I made choices, and all of those choices led me up to now. Now I am right back to where I was, learning things in a new way. 

I realize now that being thin and beautiful and having a career are great, but if there is nothing under that, then there is nothing at all.

I was reading a book by Beth Moore called ‘So Long Insecurity: You Have Been a Bad Friend.” She said something I have been thinking about and that is that people give themselves away by what they say. People who have insecurities around weight will say ‘You aren’t secure? But you are so thin!’ or ‘you have such a good job.’ 

This season has been a process of stripping those things away. Forget being admired for being skinny, having a big house, having smart kids. What is under all of that? Seething insecurity.

When you go into an AA meeting the first thing they tell you is to shut up, sit down and listen. ‘You are not unique!’ 

Certainly we are all unique and special to God and perhaps our friends and family. At the same time, we are alike. I haven’t done anything that other people haven’t done. There’s nothing new there. My best shot right now is to identify with the similarities between me and others, and exploit their experiences to enhance my life. And when my life is enhanced, I have something to give back. 

 

Being Different

Making Changes

This mood disordered person tries to make big sweeping changes every single day and is successful at about 2% of it.

That is to say that I don’t know about other people, I just know from my own experience. 

I have talked about the cravings, the obsessive thoughts, lofty ideas, all of that. I’m just focusing on one thing today and that is my effort to learn to make small incremental changes.

Last year at this time, I could go months without leaving the house. I would leave when I absolutely had to, and it was always a crisis. I couldn’t fill out forms in a doctor’s office or sign a credit card slip because my hands shook so badly.

I can’t say exactly when, but it improved, little by little and I notice today I can go places and I rarely panic the way I used to, and the dread I would feel for days ahead of leaving the house is not there really. 

I am getting out, I’m getting exercise, I’m having good experiences being out and little by little, that has changed.

I did a whole philosophical study of how to make objects move, but it seems a little silly.Things move. What is it that I need to know that will make me move? Get up and go.

 

There are a lot of things that have changed about me since the beginning of time, and the things that have changed in the past year have been some of the best things.

I have spent a lot of serious time in prayer, but until I took a step, nothing changed. I needed energy to just take that step. 

Life is always 2 steps forward, 1 step back. I don’t think you get to a point of being able to hold your beliefs static. Designing strategies to address what appears to be the circular nature of the way things work in my life have seemed to propel me forward a bit at a time.

Little by little, the lies revealed themselves for what they were, I began to see myself in a more honest light, and I began to see that I can change, I am worthy of change and I don’t have to live in fear all the time.

The thing that has increased the most, I believe is my gratitude.

And, for the first time in forever, I’m looking forward to the future with optimism.

Making Changes

Isolation

There are several reasons I am fairly withdrawn from society.

The first is that I have always been shy. Very shy. I  believe that’s part of my nature and while it can improve, all of my efforts have not helped me to eliminate it in any meaningful way.

When I was in college, I drank to help me to be more ‘normal.’ And that’s what it was, me wanting to just be normal and talk to other people, to know how to make friends.

Making friends is so hard for me. My mind goes blank and I can’t think of a single thing to say.

When I got my first job out of college, the interviewer spoke with my current employer, a co-owner of my dad’s company. She told him, the potential employer, that I was shy and I would do fine once I was acclimated. She was right and I think if she hadn’t headed him off at the pass, he might not have hired me.

In work situations there are times when I realized my co-workers were aware of my social awkwardness and I felt they reached out and made me feel comfortable. Oh, and when I have been manic, you can’t shut me up.

It has been brought to my attention that I appear unfriendly or even angry sometimes. That bothers me a lot. I’ve been doing some photography to show different expressions and the following was me intently looking at something:

I have to chuckle when I see this because it looks angry. It looks annoyed. It’s not though. It’s being intent.

So, I guess I’m saying that I need to take photos and talk to people and listen. I need to be open to the fact that perhaps what I’m feeling on the inside is apparent to others even more than to myself.

Isolation

Depletion of Energy

I believe I had my mood disorder all my life. When I was little, I knew I wanted to feel better. I was shy and socially awkward. As I look back I see the signs were there all along, I just didn’t know what they meant and nobody else did either. 

When I hit puberty I had deep, deep depression. I wanted to hurt myself. I didn’t ever hurt myself. When people would say hello to me I would say hello back begging them on the inside to recognize that I was hurting.

As I got older, I had trouble with friendships, and middle school, like so many other girls, was a torture chamber for me.

The things that happened to me that hurt let me to believe there was something wrong and defective about me. I questioned my intelligence and my appearance.

I can remember one time looking in the mirror and thinking I looked like a monkey. Don’t laugh, it’s for real. It was like I had looked into the mirror for the first time.

I was abusive to my sister. Mean and cruel and physically abusive. She grew to loathe me and that continued into adulthood, and fortunately right now we have come to some peace about it I believe. But I look back now and think that the anger I felt was pain.

I was in a loving, nurturing environment, and I think that helped to mitigate the emotions I had.

I can remember trying very hard to not feel anything. Intentionally trying to stuff it down and make it go away,. Night after night. I tried to never cry. I wanted to be a tomboy, but i wasn’t. I knew that too, and that bothered me as well.

So, leaving the safety of home into the college environment was a huge eye-opener to me. I cried all the time. Then I started to drink.

And drink and drink and drink. 

Until I couldn’t anymore.

Depletion of Energy

Mentors (3)

A very special kind of mentor is the sponsor you have in AA.

An AA sponsor is designed to walk you through the steps. They hold you accountable to going to meetings, working through the steps, making friends in the program and various issues that come up in sobriety.

It’s funny because being a sponsor is a big job and nobody takes it on lightly. My dad said at some point to not wear out my sponsor’s welcome, but she knows her job and part of that job is to help the sponsee to find other people to share with. We all help each other to stay sober.

My first sponsor, I admired very much. She was probably the age I am now. I was 21. She and her husband owned a used bookstore, dusty and smelling like old books and coffee. I can’t imagine they made any money at it.

They put a booth in the back of the store and a coffee pot. Members of AA would come around and talk. I was in my senior year and spent so much time there, probably most of my time.

She didn’t; however, help me work through the steps. When she first became my sponsor she asked me to read the Big Book (the text of Alcoholics Anonymous, like a bible to them). I told her I had read it and she thought that was hilarious. Never met someone who read the whole thing their first month in the program.

My senior year of college I went to every meeting I could, every week. I was in a small town. There were not AA meetings every night, so I attended Alanon and NA meetings. Alanon is for members of the addict’s family. It’s a great way of determining how to detach with love, should it be required.

My second sponsor was 2006 or 2007. She was had core AA. We met weekly for an average of 2 hours. I did everything she said and I stayed sober. She was as insightful as any excellent therapist. She didn’t solve problems for me, she led me to realize solutions. I spoke with her every afternoon at the same day. I felt safe with her. She made me feel good about myself.

Then one day she called and said she was trying something new that wasn’t a part of AA. That is was a conflict and she couldn’t be my sponsor any more.

The next sponsor, is my current sponsor. She took me on a contingent basis. She is excellent, many would love to have her as a sponsor. She details for the week what I’m going to do. How many meetings, worksheets to fill out and even plans for getting out, getting exercise. If I don’t do these things, she will drop me like a hot stone. I do not want to lose her. I think she is my number one shot at getting a good sponsor who will help me to do what I need to do to stay sober.

In life, I really think mentors are essential. They are like life coaches. If you aren’t in AA, it doesn’t mean you can’t find a spiritual adviser or someone who can help you get a plan together for life.

I’m going to go to a few Alanon meetings, perhaps once a week to deal with the interpersonal relationships in my life. Not people who drink, just those who have suffered because of my addictions.

Mentors (3)

Mentors (2) – Spiritual

When I was 8, I made friends with a woman who was my parent’s age. We were at a potluck at church, and she just showed an interest in me.

It was Christmas. I had a little ‘calculator’ called ‘Mr. Professor.’ It was shaped like an owl and had lights in its eyes and if I got a math problem right, the eyes were green and when I was wrong, it glowed red.

She and I bonded over that little professor. I remember it well. Not as well as she does, but quite well.

In the following years, I saw her regularly and was able to confide in her. I went to a private school in 8th grade, and she started giving me clarinet lessons. She was a confidant, an encourager, a spiritual advisor, a friend. We talked about everything. Including boys.

The Marine Corps Band had weekly or bi-weekly performance and we would go. I would go with her and her husband. I just loved going with her more than anything.

She knows as much about the bible as anybody I have known. She knows church history. She taught Sunday School and was always the choirmaster for the youth.

She knew who were the best musicians and what labels the cds we bought were the best.

She did needlepoint beautifully. She always had some craft going.

She knew about furniture and her house was always beautiful to me.

She was there for my musical education. She attended my graduation from high school. She was the first person I called after I got engaged. She was there for my children’s baptisms.

The thing, though, that stands out the most is the year I was on hiatus from work. I was put on leave when I went into the hospital as suicidal. Scott was in a free fall with his kidneys and was making plans for a kidney transplant in December. I was diagnosed with my mood disorder. I had so much pain. So very much pain. She was always there. I remember during that time going to her house almost every Thursday with Joshie. He doesn’t remember it, but she kept toys for her grandsons and he played away all morning, sometimes into the afternoon.

I don’t remember what we said to each other. I just know that I needed her, and she was there. A safe harbor. I talked and cried and she prayed with me. Of all the different hats she wore for me, the spiritual guidance was the most powerful of all. All throughout our relationship, she never wavered about showing me Christ in everything.

I saw her last in 2010 on a trip from where I live in North Carolina, so her home in Northern Virginia. I have called….not as much as I should have, but I send cards. She lost her husband after I saw her last, and he was special in a totally different way. It was a loss.

I speak on the phone with her irregularly and I send cards. I know she’s in bad health and I wish I were closer to her, but I still love her and I know if we got together we would pick right up where we left off.

I am lucky to have had her in my life.

Mentors (2) – Spiritual