I didn’t make it 😔 I got about 45 minutes into the drive and felt such overwhelming panic (and freaked out about the traffic), so I turned around and came home. I was about 25 minutes from the beach. I have never really done that before and I am beyond upset and disappointed with myself. I know I have to think about the fact I tried and got halfway, etc, etc…but I just feel like I failed.
I feel a new type of insecurity in my relationship that I have never experienced before. It is not due to jealousy, rather it is because of fear. I never worried about getting my heart broken before. I knew it was a possibility, but I did not think about it much. In my last relationship, I sort of felt like I always had the upper hand because he dealt with a lot of issues, including alcoholism. That sounds REALLY terrible now that I wrote it down, but it is true, and I promised myself I would always tell the truth on my blog- the good, the bad, and the ugly. Both M. and I dealt with mental illness, but mine was much more controlled. I had my shit together and he didn’t and that gave me a false sense of security in our relationship. I knew that he loved me, but I also knew that he depended on me, too.
I recently was with two friends of mine who are a married couple. She had a lovely, happy childhood and he did not. His parents were both abusive and were very hard on him. My friends also are friendly with my current boyfriend and I was trying to explain to them how I feel about my relationship with him. I said something, more directed to my male friend, like, “he (my boyfriend) is just SO normal. He had a normal childhood and a normal life and even his divorce was really amicable and normal. I don’t mean he has never had problems or faced challenges, but his family and his life are just really functional. He must listen to the stories of my family and my previous relationships and my problems with anxiety and secretly think ‘man, she is really fucked up.’ and it makes me wonder why he wants to be with me.” My girlfriend immediately jumped in to reassure me that my boyfriend loves me and what happened to me in my childhood was not my fault. But my male friend…he got it. He said he feels the same way sometimes, which made me feel better. And listen, I know that the word “normal” is incredibly difficult to define and super subjective. In my mind, normal equates to a lack of trauma and dysfunction. Being normal might seem like an insult to some people who interpret it to be synonymous with boring and ordinary. But to me, normal has a positive connotation and means safe and secure and healthy and functional.
A good example of this just happened recently. I had to get a CT scan of my sinuses. When my ENT called to give me the results he mentioned that I have a deviated septum. When I told my boyfriend this, he asked me if I had ever had a nose injury. I know he was thinking about whether I got smacked with a basketball in high school gym class. I thought about it for a minute and was like, “no, I don’t think so….oh wait! When I was 18 my dad got arrested because he head-butted me in the face and I thought he broke my nose.” I said it so casually because honestly I don’t really think about that event much and it was over 20 years ago, but my boyfriend looked taken aback. It was sort of a funny conversation, but also incredibly sad. It almost made me feel lonely and for a second, I missed my ex-boyfriend, M., because I knew he could relate and understand to having a screwed up family and childhood.
My friend and my boyfriend- they are “normals”. I, for sure, am not. I try to have the appearance of having it all together and I am very successful in a lot of different ways, but deep down I feel broken and dysfunctional and different and less than. I know a lot of this is my own self-perception and I am working on that. My boyfriend is the most amazing man I have ever known and I pinch myself every single day that we are together. I feel so lucky to have him in my life, but the problem is that I don’t always think he is lucky to have me in his (I am certain he would beg to differ). And that is what creates insecurity for me…because if I don’t think I am good enough for him, when is he going to realize that?
Living through a pandemic was obviously challenging in many different ways, but there were also some things that having to quarantine for a year and a half made easier…for one, my agoraphobia. It was definitely a nice break from having to constantly worry about going places because there was, quite literally, nowhere to go. Reflecting back on it now, I can definitely see how this caused some major setbacks for me. My “comfort area” has drastically narrowed and I have not had to push myself to leave it for a long time. Before COVID, I was okay with driving about two hours from home in most directions, but now I am probably hovering around an hour. I know that now that things are opening back up, I have to start pushing myself to go places, but it is just so hard. It. Is. So. Hard.
This past weekend, my boyfriend and I were discussing going to his mother’s beach house about an hour and a half away. Naturally all of the logistics pushed their way into my head- “it is the first weekend of the summer”, “everyone and their mother is going to be there”, “it will be SO crowded”, “the traffic is going to be a nightmare”. This is the doozy for me every time, the nail in the coffin…the traffic that I will have no control over. And then all the what-ifs start piling on….”what if I get sick?”, “what if I have to go to the bathroom?”, “what if there is an accident and the road is closed?”, “what if I have to go to the hospital?” (mind you, in my 42 years of life, I have gone to the hospital exactly one time for bronchitis).
Years ago, my therapist asked me what the worst part of thinking about flying was for me. Easy…”I can’t get off the plane if I want or need to”. She replied, “WHY would you NEED to get off the plane?” I still have never really had a good answer to that question.
The problem with anxiety and agoraphobia is that I can sit here and have a perfectly logical conversation about it. I am intelligent and well-educated. I have read articles, editorials, self-help books, etc. about these disorders. I can even be my own devil’s advocate (well, really, why WOULD you need to get off?). But, the problem is that once you start feeling those feelings, all logic goes out the window. I can’t control the wave of panic or the sensation that I can’t breathe or my body feeling on fire or any of the other multiple physical reactions that come along with these thoughts. I know it is all about lack of control. I know that. But when it is happening, it is really hard to remember that I don’t need to be in control.
I started dating my boyfriend a few months before quarantining began. It has been a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because we had so much time alone together to be a couple, to learn about each other, to enjoy each other’s company. Also, we work together and he is my boss, so although it is something that was disclosed to HR, it caused a lot of gossip. It was nice to be able to take a step back from that. Now that things are “normal”, he and I are old news and no one really cares
It has been a curse because he wasn’t exposed to this side of me. Obviously, I told him I have these problems from the beginning. I would never hide that from anyone. But it has been very easy for him to say that it is no big deal, he can handle it, it wouldn’t change anything about how he feels, etc. I believe him that he believes himself when he says these things, but I also know that dealing with this can get old quickly. It is easy to say it is not a big deal until the time he wants me to go somewhere and I can’t do it.
And therein lies the other problem. My boyfriend is the most amazing, patient, understanding, caring man I have ever been with. I am so lucky to be with him. Even through the death of my ex-boyfriend and my grieving process, he has been unwavering in his support. Okay, that is not the problem. The problem is that I feel like I don’t deserve him. It isn’t like I have super low self-esteem, it is more like I feel like I am not worthy of him. He is so normal and I feel like I am so…flawed. He had a pretty normal upbringing and I had an extremely dysfunctional family and an abusive alcoholic father. In some ways, being with my ex was easier because he was more messed up than I was. That sounds mean in light of his recent passing, but it is true. I took care of him, I had my shit together, and even though I had these issues, his issues with addiction and depression dominated our relationship. Now, I feel insecure that when my new boyfriend sees the REAL me, he is going to end things or not love me anymore. I have never really felt like this before (not liking it). I have shared a little bit of this with him and he is so reassuring and sweet and always asks me, “why do you think that?”
I used to be a huge Garth Brooks fan and I just heard a song that I haven’t listened to in many, many years. It is called “Unanswered Prayers” and the lyrics include the following lines:
“Sometimes I thank God For unanswered prayers Remember when you’re talkin’ To the man upstairs That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care ‘Cause some of God’s greatest gifts Are unanswered prayers”
I am not religious at all, but I can appreciate the meaning of this song. Sometimes the thing we want the most is not what is best for us. I don’t really believe that “everything happens for a reason”, but I do think that there is a reason for everything.
When my exboyfriend was sick and his alcoholism was at its worst, I hoped and wished for him to get better so that we could have a future together. I do not really pray to god, but I do talk to my Mama (my deceased grandmother with whom I was very, very close). I remember pleading with her to save his life, to help him survive the coma, to help him get better.
The most important thing at the time was his health and our relationship- and my feelings- took a backseat for a long time. But that was going on long before he got so sick. His problems, his addiction, his depression was always at the forefront. I would ask my Mama to help him, to help us as a couple. But that never happened. He never got help and the consequences were devastating.
I know now that my Mama was not ignoring my requests. She was simply giving me what I needed, which was to NOT give me what I wanted. If I had stayed with my ex, I would have been stuck in his sober/relapse cycle for my whole life. And even if he did get sober, I would have just been waiting with baited breath for him to drink. I would have been suspicious every time he stumbled over a word. That is no way to live- for me or for him. My Mama gave me the opposite of what I thought I wanted and I ended up with failure, but freedom. I realize now that is what I needed more than saving my relationship.
And after the pain and suffering and excruciating loss came something unexpected…a new relationship. One that is light and healthy and equal and secure. I never thought I would be with someone who took care of me. I have never been in a relationship that didn’t include drama and arguing and codependency.
If my “prayers” had been answered by me asking for the wrong things, I know that I would not be happy right now. I believe that it was a gift to NOT get what I thought I wanted, because I know, without a doubt, that I am exactly where I am supposed to be and with who I am meant to be with.
I had my first “date” since breaking up with my exboyfriend. It felt too soon, but I had to remind myself that the romantic part of the relationship with my ex ended far earlier than our break up. I had not been intimate with anyone (including him) in well over a year.
It was a guy I knew from high school, but not very well- more like we had mutual friends. We both agreed we did not want a relationship, rather just a “friends with benefits” situation. I am not sure why I thought that was a good idea for me because I overthink EVERYTHING. But, I also knew this guy is not the one for me and I just wanted to put myself out there in an effort to move on from my ex, so I figured I had nothing to lose.
I was very nervous but everything went well and I enjoyed his company. I was surprised when he continued to call and text me every day- I was not really expecting that kind of communication, but it was really nice. We made a second date, which he canceled on the same day and then another second date, which he also canceled (one hour before). Both times he canceled he blamed work (which I believe because he has a demanding job), but he never attempted to choose a different day. It has been two weeks now and I feel like if he REALLY wanted to see me, he could have carved out some time. It’s like that movie, “He’s Just Not That Into You”…if a guy wants you, he will find a way. So, I did what I always do and started asking everyone’s opinion on what I should do- my guy friends, my girl friends and my sister and took their advice (which really ended up not being what I probably would have done) and maturely told him it wasn’t working out. He was snarky back and said he “gets it, I don’t trust men” and told me he doesn’t “do complicated”.
I think calling me “complicated” was presumptuous on his part. I mean, let’s be honest, I definitely AM complicated, but I did nothing during the time talking with him for him to be able to fairly make that assessment about me. I didn’t call or text him and I was totally okay with the first cancellation. I know I didn’t do anything “wrong”, but yet I feel like I messed up.
My sister asked me why I feel the need to ask SO many people their advice and opinions on what I should do and without even thinking I responded, “because I don’t trust myself.” My answer caught me off guard, but I realize that it’s true. I feel like I have made so many bad choices and ignored a lot of red flags in the past and now I am not comfortable trusting myself to make decisions . She also asked why I was settling for this guy. Not that he is a bad person or anything, but he does not have the qualities that I want in a partner. Again, without thinking, I blurted out, “because I have low self-worth”, which I also realized is very true.
I was enjoying talking to someone new because it felt good and I liked the attention and it was a good distraction from everything that happened with my ex. But then, I just started obsessing and worrying and analyzing and questioning everything about this guy. I think I just need more time. And I know that I need to focus on myself more and deal with some unresolved issues.
I don’t know why I think I do not deserve to be happy or to have a wonderful person in my life. I sadly wonder who would really want to be with me? I think my exboyfriend accepted me and the problems I have because he also suffered from mental illness and he was so sick himself. I feel so flawed and damaged and…complicated.
Throughout this past month, I kept updating my opinion on what was the “hardest part”. First it was when you were in the coma, then it was when I found those text messages, then it was all the medical complications, then it was the week you woke up and struggled with sedation, then it was the day I had to tell you I knew the truth and our relationship was over, then it was the days afterward when I did not hear from you or see you. But now that it is “over”, I know without a doubt the past 24 hours were the hardest part.
I knew when you were discharged from the hospital you would be coming to the house, both to see the dog and to get your belongings I packed for you. I was so anxious…I had no idea what was going to happen. You could have literally picked everything up and left in ten minutes. The minute you walked in the door, all my anxiety melted away. You looked so feeble and weak, moving so slowly. You hugged me and my face pressed against your neck, just like it did the other day, except this time it was your skin and not your central line I felt. All I wanted was to be with you and take care of you. I know those feelings were supposed to be “wrong”, but throughout this whole nightmare, I have followed my heart with no regrets. I knew you needed me more than I needed to be angry with you. I can say it is the first time in my life that I know I had to be and was completely selfless. Nothing mattered more than you surviving and getting better.
You staying overnight just felt natural. I thought it would be awkward, but it wasn’t. Even though it was maybe not the smartest move in the world for us, it just felt right. I think we held each other more in 24 hours than we did in the entire previous year. We have both always wanted our space in bed when sleeping, but I don’t think there was a time the entire night that we didn’t touch each other. It was not sexual at all, it was just so comforting. I woke up before you and just stared at your face. I wanted to memorize every single thing, to burn the image into my brain. I have always loved your nose and the shape of your lips. My favorite part of your face is under you eyes by the bridge of your nose.
My heart sank when your parents arrived an hour early- I felt robbed of 60 more minutes of being with you, of us being together. That last hour was so rushed. I made sure to take some time to take the dog into the other room alone so I could say goodbye to her. Every time I walk into the house now, it feels so weird to not have her there by the door. I kept thinking today I needed to run home to let her out and then would remember with a sinking heart that she was no longer there. I don’t know how I managed to say goodbye to you without collapsing. I had to lie on the bed after I came back inside the house. Your car was still in front of the house. My tears were silent so I could hear the exact moment you drove away. It reminded me of when we were dating long distance and you would leave at the end of the weekend and I would feel my heart sink knowing I would not see you for a full week. This was that times one million.
I am aware of the fact that I am mourning our relationship and focusing only on the things I will miss. I will miss you so much. I start to feel normal, forget for one split second, and then it is like a wave washes over me and I remember you are gone. Really, really gone. I realize right now that I am only thinking about the good parts of our relationship and the fact that you are a truly a good person with a very bad problem. I know that I am going to have to go through all the different emotions at some point. I deserve to feel the anger about your betrayal. There’s a part of me that is relieved that my life will not be affected every day by your drinking. I wish I had a crystal ball to see into the future- to see if you are going to be sober, to find out if you will be a part of my life again. However, I know with complete certainty that I love you, and yet I also know with equal confidence that I had to let you go. For you and for me.
I haven’t even begun to process the trauma, the hurt, the heartbreak, the loss from this past month. I tried to stay busy all day so I didn’t think about how every minute, you were another mile farther away. We talked on the phone and at the end of the conversation you said “I love you” and I said “I love you, too”. It did not feel like simply habit, although we always said that when we hung up the phone. I know the love we have for each other is genuine and I am not going to deny my feelings for you because of the negative things that have happened. I just know that love is not enough and some things are just not meant to be. I am letting you go because this is a journey you have to take yourself and I need to carve a new path for myself, too. I spend too much time wishing that none of this ever happened and torturing myself about what I could have done differently. But deep down, I knew that my love would never be enough and that you have to learn to love yourself first. And I have to start putting myself first and that begins with letting you go.
I just recently turned 40 and am currently in my 19th year of teaching. It just struck me that I have now been an educator for almost half of my life! I knew I wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl and every decision I made about my future was a step towards achieving that dream. I never even considered any other career and I have never regretted it for a minute. There have been amazing moments and really, really difficult days, but I truly have a passion for my job and consider myself so lucky to love what I do.
On Friday, my principal came to see me personally to tell me I was nominated for a very prestigious award. I was so in shock, so honored, so flattered, so overwhelmed. But, I didn’t want to tell anyone, even though the majority of my best friends are teachers at my same school. I was almost embarrassed and didn’t want to seem like I was bragging. I called my mom (who acted like I won an Academy Award- she was so excited) and she told me I was being silly not to share the good news with my friends. I am also not the type to shout good (or bad) news from the mountaintop. I did end up sending a group text and they all congratulated me, which was very sweet.
I have felt like a failure a lot in my personal life, from my dysfunctional childhood to my strained relationship with my dad to my struggles with anxiety to my marriage and subsequent divorce, I feel like I suck at life sometimes. The one area where I have always succeeded and felt confident is in my career. I have won other local teaching awards and I know I am respected in my school. But honestly, underneath all the excitement of this amazing nomination, there was a thought in the back of my mind..”why me?”…”I don’t deserve that”…”I won’t win that”. I know I work hard and I care SO much about teaching, but I still felt…undeserving.
I wrote a blog around the time of my 40th birthday where I reflected on my fear that no one would come to my birthday party (which of course they all did). I shared that fear with my sister and she said to me, “you do nice things for everyone else and are so thoughtful and generous, why do you think no one wants to do that for you?” and it is because I felt…undeserving. Why would anyone want to celebrate ME? I don’t have really low self-esteem, but I think there is some aspect of my childhood that is tucked deep into my brain that makes me feel like I am not good enough. I guess that is common for children of alcoholics. Maybe my 12 year old self felt like if I was good enough maybe my dad wouldn’t drink?
I am very excited and honored about this nomination and I am going to really try to push those negative feelings away and focus on being happy about it, because deep down under those thoughts of not being good enough, I KNOW I am a good teacher who truly cares about her students.