What is love?

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I have always believed that people show love in different ways.  I love mailing greeting cards for every occasion possible…it is one way I let the people I care about know that I am thinking of them.

During the 41 days my father was in the hospital and nursing home and ever since he got home a week ago, my mother has been glued to his side.  Without knowing it, both my sister and I spoke to our respective therapists about my mother’s weird devotion to him.  He has treated her so badly for so many years, it is hard to understand why she even cares about what happens to him.

However, my sister and I were at the hospital and nursing home all the time, too- even when he had psychosis and was acting so horribly.  We brought him milkshakes and food he liked.  My sister brought her toddler to visit “Papa”.  We basically all put our lives on hold to take care of him.  Clearly this is learned behavior because I did the same thing when my exboyfriend was in the hospital for 28 days…I sat by his side, putting my life on hold.

I have never doubted that my father loved me (and my mother or sister).  I never doubted my exboyfriend loved me either.  They both just had such a hard time showing it because of their addictions to alcohol.

My dad showed me love by providing for our family, for making sure my sister and I had every opportunity possible, including going to college.  He showed love by making sure we had a beautiful home.  He showed love by buying my mother, sister and me matching bracelets for Christmas one year.  He showed love by building me a dollhouse that I can pass down to my niece. He showed love by crying when I told him I was miserable and getting divorced. He showed love by helping me with my mortgage for the summer so I wouldn’t have to worry about money after my boyfriend moved out abruptly.

My exboyfriend showed me love by supporting me working through my anxiety.  He showed me love by convincing me to give up a summer job that made me unhappy.  He showed me love by getting me “just because” flowers.  He showed me love by sending me cards, because he knows I love getting mail.  He showed me love by embracing my sister and loving our niece.  He showed me love by caring about my mother.

Neither of these two men loved me in the ways that I necessarily wanted or needed, but they showed me love in the way THEY knew how and I try to be appreciate of that.  I am very happy right now to be with someone who is able to show me love in the way that I need (physical affection, open communication, security) and who accepts my love in the way I give it.

The girl…

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I came across a website recently, http://www.lisaoliveratherapy.com, and I have found it to be SO inspirational.  She is a therapist who writes so elegantly, but also her messages are so relatable.  I am still having a very difficult time “letting go”, not only of my exboyfriend, but also of the entire traumatic experience I went through with him.

In this blog, she writes about how we sometimes identity with our hurt to the point where we “become” it and begin to over-identify with it.  I definitely have a tendency to do this.  During my childhood and teenage years, I was the “girl with the crazy abusive alcoholic father”.  I started having problems with anxiety when I was in my 20s (which I am still dealing with) and I took on the identity of the “girl with anxiety who couldn’t get on a plane or drive far”.  After my marriage ended at age 31, I became the “girl who went through a terrible divorced’.  And now I have become the “girl whose sat at the bedside of her alcoholic boyfriend of eight years while he was in a coma for 17 days, even after she found out he was lying and cheating on her, and even though she saved his life, his parents still treated her as a scapegoat.”

I go down these rabbit holes where I become the tragedy…it defines my life, my identity, my day to day routine.  I have an obsessive tendency and I must have said, “I don’t understand why his parents treated me the way they did” like 2,000 times over the past six months. It is like I can’t get over it…I don’t know HOW to get over it and there’s a weird tiny part of me that doesn’t want to get over it.  I am not saying that I like to feel like a victim, I truly don’t, but I desperately want some kind of acknowledgment from his parents for the sacrifices I made for their son.  My friends advise me that I need to let it go, that not every situation ends with closure and I know they are right.  My exboyfriend tells me all the time that he knows how much I did for him (and the fact that we are still in contact will be the subject of my next blog…still really struggling with enforcing boundaries), but I feel like I deserve more.

Unbeknownst to me, he contacted his parents and told them that the rift between them and me was negatively affecting his recovery and he threatened to cease contact with them if they did not try to rectify things with me.  This is the complete opposite of what I want and I was very upset when he told me this.  But of course, I got an email from his father a couple of days later saying that he told them I think they hate me and they don’t and they also don’t “hold a grudge against me” (what the actual fuck? what possible grudge could they even HAVE against me????).  His dad proceeded to write that all they care about is their son’s recovery and that the day he walked into the ICU and saw him in the coma was the worst day of his life.  All the email did was make me more angry.  There was no mention of me at all (and I do truly understand all they care about is him, but COME ON…throw me a bone).  Does his father think it wasn’t the worst day of my life?? At first, they were not even going to travel to come here and then it took them two days to get to the hospital.

I know for myself that I have to find a way to stop making my whole life and identity about this and him.  I am preventing myself from moving on, but there is something safe about that…like that expression, “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t”.  I am terrified about dating or meeting someone new.  I cannot imagine being in a relationship with anyone but him.  And if I am honest with myself (which is why I started this blog), part of me feels unlovable and fears no one else will want me.  I feel so broken, so damaged.  On the surface, I look like I have it all together, but inside I am a freaking mess.  Who would want that? And even if I found someone, how will I ever trust them? I am holding on to all of this because I am scared to move on and as long as I can wrap myself in trauma and continue identifying as “the girl”…, no one else can hurt me.

Need vs. Want

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I have always had a hard time putting my own needs first and I am also too much of a people pleaser.  When my exboyfriend left a little over a week ago to stay with his parents, I was so devastated to say goodbye, but I have to admit that I felt a little relief.  Relief that the ordeal in the hospital was over and relief that I no longer had to live with an alcoholic.  Once he was gone, I thought that I would be able to start dealing with everything that happened- the endless hours in the hospital, fearing he would die, learning about another woman, adjusting to living alone again.  Yet, once he was gone, I continued talking and texting with him.  Part of it was that I missed him.  Even though things were not good with us for a while and his alcoholism had taken over, I still truly loved him and we were together for almost nine years.  But the other part of it was that I felt a sense of responsibility for him and I was invested in his health and his recovery process.  Looking back on it, I probably should have cut off or limited our communication when he left.  I realize now that all I was doing was continuing to dwell in the trauma of what happened.  As long as I focused on him, I did not have to address my own feelings of sadness and anger and loneliness. I assumed as long as he was 750 miles away, it was “safe” to continue talking to him.

He just told me a couple of days ago that he is already coming back this week and rented an apartment about two miles from my house.  I am anxious about this for so many different reasons.  Obviously, I feel like he made this decision with me in mind.  I have not given him any false hope that we will be together again.  In fact, I have expressed my concerns that he hasn’t done anything related to recovery since he left the hospital and it is too soon for him to come back and to live alone.  I am nervous and paranoid that I am going to run into him every time I leave my house.  That is not a comfortable feeling for someone who suffers from anxiety.

I thought about it overnight and called him back and told him that we need to stop communicating.  He needs to focus on himself and I need to start focusing on myself and dealing with everything that happened.  The key word is “need”.  I keep trying to make him understand that this is what I truly NEED.  Of course I WANT to support him and help him and be there for him and even spend time with him…but I know if that happens, I will get sucked back into his problems and continue to enable him.  He basically told me that he understands what I am telling him, but that he doesn’t know if he can not speak to me or have me be a part of his life.  I realized I have to be much more firm and told him that if he does not give me the space I NEED, that I will end up resenting him.  The more he tries to force and push himself into my life, the more I feel scared and anxious. He just does not seem to be accepting the fact that our relationship is over.  It is not what I wanted…I never wanted ANY of this.  But I know, without a doubt, that I have to put myself first and that I am not ready to forgive him for the way he hurt me and affected our relationship.  I cannot revolve my life around his recovery journey.  Our relationship has been about him for so long.  I just need space and time to figure things out for myself and work through everything that happened.  I just wish I didn’t have to do that with him living down the street.

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keep f**king going…

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I am here, my love.  I am sitting next to you as you lie motionless in your hospital bed.  Tomorrow will officially be two weeks that you have been in a medically induced coma on a breathing tube.  I keep thinking to myself, “but we were supposed to go to the mall and get dinner.”  You always hear about people’s lives changing overnight, you just never expect it to happen to you.  I am listening to the steady breathing coming from your lungs, but I know it is a machine doing the work for you.  I am wearing a plastic gown that has become a part of my daily wardrobe.  The sounds of the ICU has become just background noise.  The first few days I would jump every time an alarm went off.  Now, I can identify which IV drip is running low and I know medical terms that are 15 letters long (and can pronounce them).  I have a newfound respect for nurses, who have treated your body with such respect and have treated my broken heart with such kindness.

An hour ago, you opened your eyes, staring at nothing.  I tried to make eye contact, but you are so sedated, I doubt you are seeing anything.  I put on a latex glove and held your hand.  I asked you to squeeze it and you did.  But like a baby who smiles when they have gas, I wonder if it was just a reflex or if you could really feel me touching you.  I hate not being able to touch your skin without plastic between us.

I miss you so much, but you are right here.  I go through so many emotions every day, I feel like a crazy person sometimes.  When I am home, I feel guilty that I am not with you.  When I leave the hospital, I feel guilty to feel relief.  Why do I feel so much guilt? I didn’t do anything wrong.  I have always tried not to play the victim card when it came to my dad’s alcoholism, but I was a victim of it, just like I was a victim of yours.  I have to take responsibility, though, because I didn’t have a choice with my father.  I did have a choice when it came to you.  But, honestly, given another chance, I would still choose you.  You were worth the risk.  I saw all the good in you…so much good.  People always say they have no regrets and wouldn’t change things in their lives because they learned from mistakes.  I have regrets- I regret marrying my exhusband…I would have preferred to miss those hard lessons.  I will never regret you, though, my love.

I tried to pour my heart out to your mother.  I’m sure you can guess how that went.  One thing I tried to explain to her is that when all of this is over, she will still have you as her son.  When this is all over, I lose you.  I will have to start picking up the pieces and find a new life for myself.  I know it is the right thing to do, though.  We could not have continued living the way we were.  Well, I couldn’t.  I just would not be able to see you do this to yourself again.  Please don’t let this be in vain.  I wish I believed in god so I could pray for you to survive, to get better, to get sober, to be happy.  Other people who are religious are praying for you- that makes me grateful.  I have asked my Mama for help.  I talk to her and ask her to watch over you and to protect you.  She was the toughest woman I know, but she had the biggest heart.  She would say to you, “oh phooey- you wake up and get off those machines!”.

I wonder how long it will be before I stop loving you?  Maybe never.  Maybe it will just be a part of who I am.  Right now it is hard to be angry with you for your lies and your betrayal because you look so weak, so helpless.  But it’s not fair- I have a right to be angry with you.  It has to wait.  I feel like all I have been doing for the past two weeks is waiting (and you know I am not the most patient person).  But I need to see this through- for you and for myself.  Jess bought me a bangle bracelet as a gift that is just silver on the outside but on the inside it says, “keep fucking going…” And that is what I am going to do.

Love you more.

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I love my boyfriend.  I can’t imagine life without him.  But I will have to because I just broke up with him.  I love the movie, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and there’s a scene where Kristen Bell is explaining to her ex why she ended things and she says, “Oh, I tried. You have no idea how hard I tried. I talked to a therapist, I talked to my mother, I read every book possible…None of it worked. None of it made a difference to you and I couldn’t drown in you anymore.”  That’s how I feel.  My boyfriend’s problem with alcohol was drowning me.  I was nervous to come home from work at 2:45 in the afternoon because I knew he would most likely be sleeping or drunk.  For SO long, I justified his behavior by telling myself, “he isn’t mean.”  That became my only criteria.  My dad is a VERY mean drunk.  My exhusband was a mean person.  My boyfriend is not mean- sober or drunk.  But that doesn’t make living with him any easier and it doesn’t make his alcoholism any more tolerable.  What finally broke me was the lying.  The constant lies about not drinking, when all I ever asked of him was to be honest.  If he drank and told me the truth, I would not get mad or reprimand him- I would talk to him about what made him do it and why he did.  I don’t understand why he just. kept. lying.  I found bottles of half empty vodka in his car, crumpled bags from the liquor store in his filing cabinet and he so, so often smelled of alcohol, but would deny drinking.

I love my boyfriend.  Right now (and probably our whole eight years together), I loved him more than he loved himself.  He has a very low self-worth, which is probably part of the reason he drinks.  I wish he could see himself the way I see him.  If I made a pro/con list about him, there would be two pages of “pros”.  But under “cons”, in thick Sharpie marker, would simply be the word “alcoholic”.  And all the positive qualities in the world cannot cancel out an addition.  I love him so much that I cannot stand to watch him self-destruct before my eyes.  He sinks lower and lower and I feel like he is quicksand and I only have a short window to step out of it before I get sucked down forever.  I love him, but I love myself, too.  I had no choice in who my father was- I had to live with an abusive alcoholic for my childhood and teenage years.  I am an adult now and I do have a choice in this.

I love my boyfriend, but I honestly can say that I have done everything I can to support him in his desire for sobriety.  I have made sacrifices and protected him and probably enabled him, too.  I have felt like his caretaker for so long, I don’t even feel like a girlfriend.  I feel so alone, so often.  I thought because he wanted to change, he would.  And I truly believe he doesn’t want to be the way he is, but I also know that he cannot stop on his own and he refuses to get the help he needs.

I love my boyfriend, but there isn’t enough love in the world to love him out of this addiction.  He will have to learn to love himself first and I am scared for what is going to happen to him.  I feel responsible for him, but I also know I cannot change him.  I have always still loved my father, but it’s never been enough.

I love my boyfriend and I am heartbroken and we are living together still and it is awful and awkward and depressing and I get a stomachache every day and my anxiety is off the charts and he is angry and drinking more and I just need it all to stop.  And the only way I can do that is to stay committed to making him my ex-boyfriend.

Crying Wolf

I am a news junkie and the event that has my attention right now is the Jodi Arias case. I have always had a particular interest in court proceedings and this case kind of blows my mind. I think most of us are guilty (yes, pun intended) of deciding the innocence of a defendant using only the limited information that is released to the public. For example, from the beginning I believed Amanda Knox was innocent.

But the reason this case really bothers me is that Jodi Arias is portrayed by the defense as an abused woman. She testified on the stand that her parents physically abused her and then that several men she dated verbally, emotionally and even physically abused her throughout her lifetime, including the man she killed. Of course there is a chance this is true, but it seems pretty apparent that it is a strategy being used to paint her as a victim.

I have been the victim of physical and emotional abuse by my father and later, verbal abuse by my ex-husband. My mother has been abused in every way by my father. I have known many people who have been in domestic violence situations far, far worse than mine. It really bothers me on a deep level that there is a good possibility that Jodi Arias is claiming to be a victim of abuse if she is not. There are so many women (and children…and men) who are being hurt by people they love and it is a disservice to them when someone fraudulently uses abuse as a defense for their terrible actions. No one who really truly IS a victim wants to be seen or treated as a victim. I have always strived to avoid using my childhood experiences as an excuse for doing something hurtful to myself or to someone else.

Again, I don’t really know if this woman was hurt by anyone. Either way, nothing she described on the witness stand sounded that violent or even that scary. Domestic violence is such a serious problem in our country, one that does not receive the attention it needs.