Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Green Chair

I went to counseling on Monday. When I went in and he asked me what is new or what do we need to talk about, I said, "I honestly don't know. I think I've been feeling pretty good lately. So I just don't know."

But of course, there was stuff under the surface that he helped me find.

We are organizing our apartment and getting rid of things to make room for the baby. Last weekend, we got rid of a chair. It's just a chair, so every time I cried at the thought of getting rid of it, I shamed myself. It's just a chair. Ben didn't verbally shame me for being so upset, but I felt that he thought I was being ridiculous as well (maybe it was in my head, or maybe he let off little cues. I don't even know).

We kind of got in a fight last Friday night. I don't remember how it started (apparently I've blocked it out) other than just an emotional topic I brought up after dinner, which turned into me not being able to talk because I couldn't figure out what I was even trying to say. He fell asleep while I was not talking. I told him I wanted him to stay awake, to which his response was, "Well if you're not talking, then I'm going to fall asleep." That turned into overwhelming feelings of abandonment and after a huge escalation of things and him going into a selfish addict-mode (yes, he will own that), I ended up sobbing in the living room--hurt, upset, and shaming myself for having feelings--on our chair that was to be given away the following day.

As I laid on the chair and thought about giving it up, I cried even harder.

So, rather than focusing on all the crazy I felt I was experiencing with the escalation of my emotions and our fight, I asked myself Why are you so upset about getting rid of this chair? We have only had it for a year. We got it for free. Why are you so upset?

I realized I was struggling with getting rid of it because this chair was my safe space

For the past year, things have been really hard. When we moved into the house where we received this chair, I experienced a lot of depressing emotions (that was Oct. 2013) for various reasons. Then, just after Christmas last year, I decided I was done with our marriage as it was and that things needed to change. Talk of separation happened. Then Ben got his new job in Texas, and we ended up being forced to separate because of that. Eventually, I moved to Texas, and things have been up and down here too.

There has been lots of emotion and pain involved in the last year (and of course beauty, but that's not the point of this post).

Through everything, the chair has been my safe space. I've cried countless times in this chair. I've curled up in blankets (a comfort object) and tuned out the world. I've had many self-examinations in this chair. It's also been a good cuddle chair and has symbolism for the good things that have happened in the past year as well.

It's not just a chair. 

As I talked about this with my counselor (we actually started with the fight and then he zeroed in on the chair issue), he asked me what getting rid of my safe place means to me.

I thought for a while and responded with, "Maybe I'm afraid I don't have a safe space anymore."

Well, that turned into my issues with feeling safe. It's true, I'm still having safety issues. I'm still dealing with a lot of icky trauma. I try to pretend I'm not, or maybe I am just trying too hard to rush the healing process because I so desperately want to be okay. I want to feel okay. I want the addiction gone. I want the things I've been dreaming of since I married him.

But through our discussion, I realized I'm doing a lot to contribute to my home not being safe.

Why, you ask?

Because lately I've been trying to control the addiction.

It's so subtle, that I convince myself I'm not controlling the addiction. But I am. It's through things like pressuring myself to have the house clean, dinner made, dishes done, laundry done, etc. by the time Ben gets home from work. I convince myself that it's because that's just how we have divided the labor right now. He works a lot between his writing jobs and his full-time job. He doesn't have time for that kind of stuff. He is so stressed out. He has no time for himself. Whereas there is me who is expecting a baby and has way more time to do the house stuff because I'm not working outside the home. So I get the house stuff as my job, while he gets the bringing in the money as his job.

But secretly, I pressure myself to get all those things done because I'm afraid of what might happen if I don't. Ben will help me. It will stress him out. He will feel overwhelmed and will turn to the things that release his tension. He won't have time to use the good coping skills he is trying to develop because he will be using his time and energy to do his own jobs and then help me do the stuff around the house, which I should be perfectly capable of doing myself, right? Even though I do plenty of other things during the day that take time away from the household chores.

So I pressure myself into doing it all. I try to control what is going on with him by taking on x amount of responsibility myself.

I feel like I'm capable of forgiving Ben for everything that has happened. Often, I think I've already forgiven him. But one thing I absolutely cannot forget is the pain of something he has told me. There have been times when he has been so deep in his addiction that he has thought about taking his life. He has also thought about leaving me.

I don't know if I'll ever forget that, and it haunts me. I get afraid that if I don't live up to certain expectations, he will decide he is done. If he is too stressed with the fact that I can't physically do all the house stuff on my own, or the stress that will come with the baby, or the stress of his job, or the stress of me and dealing with my emotions, maybe he will just leave. Maybe I'm crazy and will push him away.

Preventing that from happening is another aspect of why I have been taking so much on myself.

Now the trick is finding balance. I can identify ways I have been controlling the addiction. I have to let go of that control. Much of it is based on fear. I have to let go of those fears and turn my life over to God. I have to trust in Him with whatever happens.

Obviously, I can't just drop the house stuff to prove I'm not trying to control the addiction. We are a team, and I want to keep doing my share in our relationship. What I need to stop doing is stressing about letting him help me. Some days I can totally get things done. Other days I can't. Some days I need help. And I deserve a husband who is capable of helping me. I can let him help.

As I talked with my counselor, we identified some core beliefs I have. Then we countered them with the truth, things I deserve.

Finding myself is crucial to my healing. I can't let the "things I need to do" around the house take that away from me. I need to spend time on me. I need to spend time doing things I enjoy, or re-discovering things I enjoy (because lately I've been realizing it's hard for me to enjoy anything). I need to spend time reaching out in service to others. I need to spend time developing relationships with people in my life. I need to spend time developing love and other Christlike attributes. I need to discover who I am and what I am capable of as a daughter of God. I need to develop my talents. And pretty soon, I will have a baby in my home. I want to be the best mother I can be.

Those things are important to me.

I will find the balance. I will be more self-aware. I will recognize when I am doing things because I'm trying to control the addiction or prevent certain outcomes.

I will not pressure myself into healing.

I will accept who I am.

I will seek peace through Christ every day.

I cannot control the addiction. I did not cause it. I cannot cure it.

Friday, December 12, 2014

One Contraction at a Time

Somewhere down the line, I started believing I couldn't do hard things. I can't pinpoint at what point I came to believe that way of thinking, but I have a few ideas of how it got there. It's most likely because I'm tired. I'm just tired and overrun by fears. I'm learning how to acknowledge the fears in my heart and then release them rather than allow them to build up and cause tension and pain.

At my birth class this week, the instructor noticed Ben and me giggling a lot during the part about medical interventions. We weren't meaning to be disrespectful; we were just giggling because of all the fears I have about my body's potential response to certain medical interventions during birth (along with my fears of pain).

During a break, she came to talk to us about our thoughts on the medical interventions and if I knew what I wanted to do regarding birth (at our first class, we had to state our goals for the class. My main goal was to determine whether or not I wanted to go natural or receive medication). During the conversation that followed, I confided in her that I really want to go natural but am simply afraid of the pain.

Some people tell me I have a high pain tolerance. That may be true, or it may have been true at one point, but I'm just really not sure. All I know is the pain is exhausting. I've dealt with so much pain, both physically and emotionally, and I'm just not sure how much more I can handle.

When I told the instructor I'm afraid of the pain, she turned to Ben and said, "Do you know what to say to that? You tell her she can do it. And you practice the techniques we have been and will be learning about coping with labor." She reminded me I have to take it one contraction at a time, I have to remember to breathe, and I have to think I can do this.

Note to self: remember the pain cycle.

This week, I've been practicing telling myself I can do hard things. I'm trying to really internalize and believe it.

I've had quite a few triggers regarding the addiction this week. Those triggers have brought me pain because I've allowed myself to dwell on fears and think what if I can't do this for very much longer? I've had thoughts and fears running so deep that I'm entirely unsure of myself and my state of mind. Then this morning, I started working step 4 in Healing Through Christ, and I became a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of the inventory [again.].

Over the past year, I've had tremendous stretching opportunities. That's probably why I'm so tired. Just in the past couple of months, I've had multiple opportunities to look outside myself and my personal bubble and serve others. That is also exhausting (or at least it seems to be for me). Some days, I just question everything and wonder what exactly I am doing. And then when there are super triggery weeks like this one, I wonder if I have the strength to keep going. I wonder if I should just start shutting the world out again and focus on me.

But no, I can't just focus on me. I love the joy that has come from the stretching and service-giving of this year. And I also know deep down that I can do anything if I lean on the Savior for support.

When I fear the pain, I have to remember to take life one, I mean one day or one a time. I have to remember to breathe. And I have to remind myself that I can do hard things. Because I can. I've made it through every hard thing that has come my way. It's all about perspective.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Trauma Days

Sometimes I have days where I'm doing so well. I live for those days/moments.

Other times, trauma can come out of nowhere. Or, not necessarily out of nowhere, but I minimize the thing that happened and think, "Why am I reacting this way? I am being crazy and overreacting."

Note to self: Sometimes trauma hits harder than other times. There are days when you may feel crazy, and that's okay. Because you have gone through hell, and you are trying to find your way back up. Some days will be better than others.

Right now I feel like I am in trauma, but if I look at the reasons or events that have happened lately, I just yell at myself and tell myself I should be stronger. Because strong people don't lose it like this. Especially because right now things aren't really that bad. They could be worse.

I don't really know what is truth right now. I'm just trying to follow my instincts and trust them.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Fear/Tension/Pain Cycle

Last night we went to our first child birth class.

At one point, we were talking about the pain of labor, and a lot of people expressed their fears of labor. So the instructor showed us this cool little diagram:

As she explained how fear of something increases body tension, which in turn increases pain, I was like WHOA. Obviously this pertains to labor, but holy cow does this apply to other fears and pains in my life.

I have a lot of fears. I discussed this with my counselor yesterday, and while he agreed that I have a lot of fears, he helped me realize that most of my fears are not irrational. They are based on previous experience. That's not really the point. The point is that I do let my fears rule me from time to time. And most of my fears are actually of my perception of future pain.

Apparently by allowing myself to fret in fear, I allow the pain to be worse than it might actually be.

I wrote a post about some of my fears back in September. In fact, I've written a few posts about fears, and you can read them here (at least the ones I tagged with fear).

As I read back over my posts about certain fears and reflect back on those situations, I can see how allowing my fears to take over has caused deeper pain in the end. And it truly is because the psychological fears have a physical effect on me that causes both deeper physical and emotional pain.

As I talked to my counselor yesterday and realized I don't actually let myself be ruled by fears, I discovered the progress I'm making. I am halted by fears, certainly, but I don't remember the last time I was actually dictated by my fears. I'm learning how to cope with the fears better, which has allowed me to have much better resiliency and less pain as a result of certain challenges I'm facing. It's amazing.

I thought this diagram was a perfectly simple explanation of this process I've been discovering about fear. It really helped me to see it spelled out like this, and I hope it can help someone else as well.

My birth instructor last night said, "Remember, fear increases pain. Knowledge decreases pain."

May we all gain the knowledge we need to make it through these battles we are fighting:

Knowledge of our Savior.
Knowledge of the addiction.
Knowledge of our divinity.
Knowledge of our worth.
Knowledge of our beauty.
Knowledge of what it means to love.
Knowledge of true friendship.
Knowledge of the truth.