Warning:

This blog could potentially contain triggers. Please make sure you are emotionally safe before continuing.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Clarification

I feel like I need to clarify my last post.

I appreciate eveyone's feedback.  It helps to see how others see it.  It's so easy to be too close to the situation to see it for what it is.  It also helps me see where I wasn't clear in my writing.

Since it's my life, and has been a part of it for so long, I sometimes don't see how bad it is.  Or take it really seriously.  When others comment it helps me see it differently.  As I write my story, I honestly can't tell if the things that bother me are normal and I should just shut up and deal with it or if they really need to be addressed.  That's part of why I write and why I tell my story.

But apparently something was unclear.  I was unclear about the fear.

I apologize to my husband for not writing again for so long.  I left things hanging.  As far as anyone knew he was still not taking responsibility and things were still horrible at home.  This isn't the case.  I got sick and have not been up to writing and finishing the story.

The day I wrote that post, he and I talked about it.  He didn't remember pushing anyone (and this wasn't a shove, it was a push out of the way; still shouldn't happen, but it's a degree thing).  Once I started telling him how it affected me and what happened he started to see it.  That's part of rage.  As I understand it, from what I've studied, rage is a whole different level to anger.  The thought processes bypass certain areas of the brain, the logic center.  That's why there is no reasoning.  That's why there is no memory.  My husband is a lousy liar; I know when he's telling the truth.  I see his face when I tell him what happened.  I watch the change happen as he goes from no memory to that-sounds-familiar as I describe it.  He believes that it happened.  He knows he did it.  He just doesn't remember doing it.

Things are not like they were for so many years.  If they were, I know enough now to leave.  I am strong enough now to leave.  I have enough support now to leave.  But why would I leave now?

He has worked so hard to improve.  He has taken full accountability.  He has had lots of therapy.  He takes medication.  He is willing to admit his shortcomings and try to see how it affects others.  He knows now that he sees the world differently and is willing to ask others if his behavior is okay, if his stand on something is out of the norm.

I love him.  The children love him.  Right now we would rather have him whenever we can (when he's not retreating from the family and hiding out in his room).  We know there are bad times, but comparison matters.  It's important to see where he came from and where he is now.  I'm not going to cut and run because he slipped up and made a mistake.  I make mistakes, too, and he gives me another chance.

There are limits.  He knows that.  There are absolutes that he cannot cross or we're through (to be addressed in a future post).  It took me a long time and a lot of therapy to get to this point.  The point where I am willing to say that the kids and I are worth sacrificing the marriage if it has to be that way.  I am there now.  And he knows it.

But I wanted to address the fear.  I talked about being afraid.  And I was.  But it wasn't current fear.  It was leftover fear.

PTSD is an interesting thing.  Emotions and memories come flooding back when something is similar to a traumatic event from the past.  It's especially difficult if during the initial trauma you attempted to suppress or ignore those feelings.  If you don't feel them during the event, you will eventually feel them -- when it's safe.  So that's the point.  The fact that I felt the fear intensely is important.  It means that in the here and now I felt safer than I did in the past.  Safe enough to acknowledge that I was so afraid.  Safe enough to keep my distance and tell him I felt threatened by him.  Safe enough to protect myself and draw my own boundaries.  Safe enough to begin to process the events from the past and start to heal from them.

Because in the past I didn't.  I ignored it and waited for it to pass.  I avoided the confrontation.  I asked that things change instead of demanding it.  I tried to make things better because I thought it might be my fault.

Not this time.

I took responsibility only for my part of the problem, which was small.  I refused to take responsibility for his portion or to excuse it.  I held him accountable for it.  And once he understood, he took responsibility.

It's a growth process.  The change doesn't happen overnight.  It doesn't even happen in a few months.  It takes lots and lots of time, and there will be mistakes along the way.  But as long as we are both still working, still making progress, I'm staying.  Because I want to.

Friday, September 17, 2010

One Step Back

I think it's safe to say I still have some unresolved issues with my husband.  If there was any doubt before, it was all cleared up over the last few days.

I've said before that things aren't the way they used to be.  And for the most part that's completely true.  But every once in a while we have what I could only call a relapse.

We had one this past weekend.

Emotions and tensions were building.  Why?  I'm not sure.  A multitude of things probably.

And Sunday night it fell apart.

The spark that started the fire doesn't matter.  It was a stupid thing.  But soon it was raging out of control.

He yelled.  I yelled in defense.  We went our separate ways.  He wouldn't let it go.  He came back again and again with the fight.  He dragged the kids into it.  He treated me with disdain.  He mocked me.  He contradicted my parenting choices with the kids.  He blew off commitments.  Everything in his approach with me that night said, "Screw you.  You're worthless anyway."

The children cried and/or got upset.  One left the house to avoid listening to the fight.  Another asked if we were getting divorced.  It rocked their foundation.

I think he forgot to take his pill that morning.  I can't confirm this, but from the way he'd been acting all day it seems pretty evident.  The kids even noticed.  One of them asked me why he was picking fights.  I had no answer.

Now, the pill was originally prescribed for his OCD.  I don't know how much it helps with that.  He says that it helps with the obsessive thoughts.

What I do know is that it helps with the anger.  When things got really ugly a while back and we were talking divorce, the medication was one of my bottom lines.  He can only stay if he remains on the medication.  He is a different person on the medication.

Sunday night he was the other person.  The angry person.  The person that hates me and sees me as the enemy.  The person who radiates hatred and a desire to destroy.  The person who is looking for war.  For blood. 

No, he didn't hit anyone.  He did push someone.  That was not okay.  I addressed it in the moment.  He probably doesn't even remember it.  He often doesn't remember his actions when his rage is flowing like this.

As ugly as it was, and it was so ugly, I also gained some important insight.

The next day he felt fine and thought it was all better.  This is typical.  He feels better so in his mind it's over and resolved.  No talking about what happened, what went wrong.  How to prevent it happening again.  No acceptance of his misbehavior.  It's just over.

And in the past that was often enough for me.  I was just glad the hatred was gone.  I was just glad the fire was out.  I could bandage my own wounds.  I could move on.

This time it wasn't enough.  Lines had been crossed, important boundaries.  I no longer felt safe in my home. 

But I didn't initially see it.  For the first day or two I was edgy.  I was still upset with him.  Any contact from him sent my anxiety through the roof.  When he got home from work and was near me or talked to me, I wanted to back away.  I wanted to hide.  I was afraid.

It was Tuesday or Wednesday that I realized he had triggered a PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) episode in me.

The fear.  The holding my breath.  The claustrophobia.  The need to run and hide.  The crying at almost nothing.  The avoidance.  The defensiveness.  The snapping.  The tension in my body.  The explosion in my headache.  The extreme sensitivity to touch.  The desire to climb out of my own skin.  The desire to curl in on myself.  All of these things were a PTSD response.

And that's important for me to understand.  It will help me figure out where the triggers are.

I don't know yet.  I believe this triggered something from our past, earlier in our marriage.  But it's possible that it was something from before, from when I was a child.  I just don't know yet.

I've calmed down some.  I've done a little work on it, although not much.  It's scary work to do. 

I told him what was going on.

But I still feel threatened when he is near.  I still can't relax when he's home.  There is still work to do.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The First Time I Hurt Myself -- Kind Of

***This post may contain triggers for self-injurious behaviors.  Please make sure you are safe before continuing.***

I need to write, but I just can't right now.  Another one of those so-much-to-say-that-I-can't-say-anything times.

But I'm hoping that by writing just a little I can clear away some of whatever's blocking me.

So I went back and looked at some things I have from when I was still in therapy on a regular basis.  This is a letter I faxed to my therapist, names edited.

*****
December 18, 2006


Therapist,

The session that we had scheduled for this Friday was cancelled due to a scheduling error. I am not scheduled again until January 24. I am now on your cancellation list.

I think that if I wait that long, I may not mention what I need to.

The only people who know what I’m going to tell you are my therapist friend (my boss) and my other therapist friend (my bishop). I have been struggling quite a bit lately and last week was having a lot of thoughts about hurting myself. I imagined slicing vegetables and purposely getting my finger in the way and just watching the blood drip from my finger. I imagined purposely spilling boiling water on myself. I imagined grabbing a hot pan or curling iron with my bare hands to burn myself.

These were frightening to me. But even more so was what I did on Thursday. My tension level was pretty high. I ended up scratching into my arm with a broken plastic spoon. I also held my arm over a candle and burned myself. By the time I was done I had three pretty solid red lines (that have now scabbed over) and a couple of first-degree burns. I scratched again Friday and Saturday.

I discussed this with my therapist friend. He asked me if I was planning to talk to you about it. I told him that I have several weeks until my next appointment and asked what he thought about whether I needed to make contact with you sooner. You and I have never really discussed what situation may suggest a phone call to you and you know that I do all that I can not to impose on your schedule. He said that if I thought I was done, then I could probably wait but if I thought that I was going to do it again then I should try to get in sooner.

I have been wanting to scratch for a while now today. I haven’t yet but I probably will. This is why I tried to schedule earlier.

I will leave this up to you now. If you think that I should go ahead and wait, I will. Otherwise, you are free to call me on my cell phone.

And no, my husband doesn’t know.

Thanks,

me

*****
Things were not good between me and my husband at the time.  I did not feel like I could trust him with this information.  He did not feel emotionally safe to me.  It was about a week after I first did it before I told him.  He did not react well.

Also, it turned out that my scratching hit an unresolved nerve in my therapist.  After a few sessions feeling like he was chastising me and doing everything he could to make me stop I called him on it.  I told him that I felt like he had some kind of issue that was making it impossible for us to work together.  I really liked him.  He is a brilliant man.  But the more he tried to control it, or my husband did, the more I wanted to do it.  I asked him if he thought he could help me or if I should go to someone else.  Our current relationship wasn't working for me.

Good man that he is, he owned it.  He acknowledged that he had an unresolved issue with self-injurious behavior.  A time when a patient had self-injured and later committed suicide.  He'd thought he was through it but realized he wasn't.  He said that he'd talk to a colleague to process it and see from there.  We agreed to try again.

It was work, but he got through it.

And I said kind of in the title because I realized later that there had been lots of ways over the years that I'd purposely hurt myself.  Never scratching.  Burning a few times and other things that hurt.  I hadn't known that's what it was until looking back.

It's amazing what things become clear looking back.