This is 40

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I turned 40 yesterday. I had a really nice, relaxing day and my boyfriend and sister are planning a big dinner party for me this weekend with all my family and friends, which is so thoughtful and sweet.  My boyfriend is actually away right now visiting his parents in another state.  When he left last week, I had a really hard time…which was very unexpected.  I actually had a panic attack when he left for the airport.  I was so scared that something was going to happen to me when he was far away.  It took me a day of feeling really uncomfortable to adjust and work my way through it.  I just saw a quote on an ACOA Facebook page that made me think about my experience: “On this day I will help my body recover by acknowledging when I have a physical reaction to a seemingly non-threatening situation. I will then reach out to try to uncover where the reaction is coming from to help myself heal.”  This really spoke to me because it is how I got through the last week.  I had to identify exactly why I had the reaction I did and then help myself get through it.  No one could “fix” it for me or make the feelings go away, but I was able to use the logic based strategies that I have learned in therapy to heal myself.

When I spoke to my boyfriend I didn’t tell him what happened because I didn’t want to worry him or make him feel guilty for leaving.  Even though I considered not telling them, I did tell my mom and sister how I felt.  I feel guilty being a burden on other people and I know how much they worry about me.  My therapist said something really interesting to me this week that I have been thinking about.  She said, “You do so much for your sister and everyone in your life.  You are always there for them…what makes you think they wouldn’t want to do the same for you?”  When I did finally tell my boyfriend, he said he could tell something was wrong.  If the roles were reversed, I would absolutely want to know if he was struggling, yet I felt bad telling him that I was having a hard time.  I think I internalize and hide things because when I was getting divorced, I was a mess and leaned on my friends and family so much- I know it took an emotional toll on them and I don’t want to do that to them again. I have to remind myself that was a long time ago and things in my life are much different now and that it is not a sign of weakness to depend on other people.  In fact, I am so lucky and fortunate to have the people in my life that I can count on and moving into this new decade of my life, I am going to keep reminding myself of that.

 

20 years later

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Yesterday was my 39th birthday (how is that even possible?!?!).  It made me recollect one of my earlier birthdays…my 19th to be exact.  That was probably one of the worst birthdays- no, actual days- of my life.  Weeks prior, my father assaulted me and was arrested and the police issued a restraining order against him on my behalf to prevent him from coming near me or to the house.  His court date was set afterwards and coincidentally landed on my 19th birthday.  I was pressured by my mother and my father’s lawyer to drop the assault charges, which I did, and after going to court, my father was cleared and the restraining order was dropped.  After staying in a hotel by his job for several weeks, my father was allowed to come home.  I do not remember (or chose not to remember) the exact details of that day.  I remember walking into the courthouse with just my mom.  I can recollect speaking to my dad’s lawyer, but not having to actually speak to the judge.  Most of my memories of that day are fuzzy.  I can’t even really remember what happened when we arrived back home as a “family”.  Did my mom make my favorite vanilla cake with chocolate frosting and M&Ms?  Did my mom, sister and dad stand around the table singing “Happy Birthday” as I blew out the candles?  Did my mom sign my birthday card, “Love, Mom and Dad”?  I really don’t recall.  I just remember it REALLY SUCKING.  That is a juvenile way of describing it, but when I think about that day, that’s how I felt…it just sucked.  It was awkward and forced and I was conflicted and confused.  I loved my dad, but he physically attacked me and most of the time we all just acted like nothing happened.

It is weird to think about that day.  Sometimes it feels like it never actually happened…like it was just a very realistic nightmare, yet it was one of the defining moments of my young adult life.  It is hard to believe that it was twenty years ago.  It is not something I dwell on often, but I do think about it every year on my birthday.

(un)happy birthday

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Today is my dad’s birthday.  Growing up, his birthday was always a day my sister and I dreaded because it seemed like he was extra nasty on “his day”.  During the two years my father was sober, I actually enjoyed celebrating his birthday- we would BBQ or go out to brunch and he was pleasant and grateful for whatever gifts we gave him.

About 8 months ago, I found my dad the most perfect birthday card.  My family has a joke about chihuahuas and I found a card in the shape of that dog.  Even though it was so many months before his birthday, I bought the card anyway and saved it until now.  (Side note: I LOVE cards and have several card boxes full of cards for any occasion!!)

Now that my father is drinking again, I don’t even want to give the card to him.  I know that sounds very silly and petty, but it is not really about the card at all.  It is about the fact that for the past couple of years I enjoyed having a relationship with my father and throughout that time, I enjoyed family holidays again and looked forward to other occasions to celebrate.  I guess when I look back on myself buying that card eight months ago, I feel dumb for how naive I was.  His sobriety (following a stroke) was so abrupt and so absolute (pun intended) that I just blindly believed it was going to last.  I took that card out of the box today and just felt sad.  The dad that I bought that card for is gone…once again replaced by the alcoholic I am all too familiar with.  And that’s really nothing to celebrate.