Search This Blog

Friday, April 26, 2013

Narcissism and ADHD

Here I am at the table in my little townhouse, now my home and my children's home, no husband. I've decided I really need to be writing more about my experience, the experience of divorcing a narcissist with ADHD who thinks he's done nothing wrong. The experience of divorcing someone who is an adulterer and who immediately started living with the new woman -- a pathological liar with borderline personality disorder (or as the more PC term would have, emotion regulation disorder) -- and who threatens me with the possibility of having the kids living with them. And we're not talking tiny lies here, we're talking "I was in a drunk driving accident when I was eight months pregnant and the baby and the husband were killed." Or "I have breast and ovarian cancer." And these lies have props: dead baby ashes scattered in Lake Michigan, clothing, cribs and car seats (even though the accident supposedly occurred on December 2, 2008), hospital stays and records, emergency room visits, blood and drains attached to breasts. In fact, for my son's first birthday, which occurred almost two weeks ago, my estranged husband brought with him a bag of clothes from this dead baby (in sizes 12-18 months????) and no presents. When I questioned this behavior, I was treated as if I was insane. What does it matter where these clothes came from? Right. The clothes were quietly returned. As the months go on, I realize that it is truly a waste of my time to try to get through to my estranged husband. It is useless to point out that it is not normal to try to force your way into another woman's children's lives, it is not normal to tell huge or little lies constantly, it is not normal in a relationship to have to call the police over and over again (three times now, five possibles), it is not normal to create fake people and email accounts to corroborate your stories, it is not normal to have lots of memorabilia from a baby that never existed, even if one did, to be giving the baby stuff to your new boyfriend for his son to have and on and on and on. But it is useless to point this out because, as I am discovering, I have been involved and then married to someone with narcissism for the last seven years.

Why I have I come to rest on narcissism? This is because through our marriage I came the conclusion, as did he, that he had undiagnosed (and then diagnosed) ADHD. The books that I read on the subject, especially as it related to marriage, mostly fit. The part that did not fit was that many of the people in these books actually did seem to genuinely love their spouses. Once the issue was identified, both partners were able to make changes that significantly improved their relationship. Ours never took this turn. Ours continue to spin into the toilet in spite of the diagnosis. I won't go into our last few months, but I will say that when we watched the movie Blue Valentine in the theater, we definitely related. However, never did I think it was more than ADHD until I had to deal with what is called the "devalue and discard" move. In a day, I went from being "the wife" to, literally, nothing. It was absolutely astounding, especially after the years of me saying that I thought we might be incompatible and perhaps should go our own ways and him putting great effort into charming back into our relationship. When he wanted to, boy could he charm a girl!! We won't get into my history and why this made me amenable to the charm he offered until later. Suffice to say that he offered me fairy tale love and I gulped it down like a woman close to death whose only hope was in what he had to offer. I should add that my own gut told me contradictory things. On the one hand, I no doubt saw a million red flags (deception, financial problems, a history of cheating, drinking problem, inability to care for his belongings (should have known this would include people), alienation from his family, lack of long term relationships, self-absorbed sex, lack of health & self care, lack of ability to listen, lack of attention to details, difficulty with following through, etc.) but I also had this strange sense that this was a "God thing" and that I was supposed to help him. I some how believed this was my path. In any case, moving back to the present.

I arrived back from Vancouver, received a kiss, an I love you, and we drove back down to Champaign arguing a little bit at McDonalds. The next day, I got the announcement. We sat at our dining room table, he had Finn on his knee, and my stomach was in knots. I knew something was up. He simply announced, without fanfare, that we should divorce. I was shocked and had little response. He then left the house to ostensibly go and talk to his friend Eriq. As it turned out, it was "the other woman" that he talked to for 90 minutes on the day that he announced we should get a divorce. From there on out, he acted shocked as I began to realize that this was for real. I asked him to pack some bags and go stay somewhere, if this was what he really wanted -- with friends. He did so, after a night on the couch and one last bit of shared intimacy, a talk, some cuddling, some sex. One would not have known at that point that he was already in the arms of another woman. The woman described above. He was able to keep up the deception for a week, until I saw the telltale post on his facebook page and ran into the friend he claimed her was staying with -- Darcy -- who honestly reported that the estranged husband was NOT staying with him.

From there, life began to unravel. It became quite apparent that the two love birds believed that they had finally found their true soul mates. And me? I was thoroughly devalued and discarded. Not only was I depicted as the abusive one, which my estranged husband shared with the "other woman" and her friends, but our marriage had also been long over and, therefore, what they had been doing, was not adultery at all. I deserved nothing. In fact, my years of saying that I was stressed and not sure that we could make it aka cries for things to change in our relationship, were viewed as signs that we had been effectively divorced for years. That our relationship had in fact been meaningless. They flaunted their relationship around town. He snuck her into my home to meet the kids, something he would later say to a therapist who pointed out the ways in which the estranged husband's impulsivity had impacted the kids, was a simple "mistake." In spite of this devaluation and discard, my estranged husband was not quite ready to let go of me as a source of "narcissistic supply."

At least once a month, he would come "home" to report to me all the crazy things that were going on in his relationship. Most of the big lies that I highlighted at the outset had been revealed to him by October of 2012, just two months into their relationship. In deed, on one such occasion, he was so disturbed by the facts that he broke up with her and had to call the police when she pretended to destroy all of his belongings. I called the Sheriff because she was seen near my house. By the next day, he and his girlfriend were back together, though he used my house as a safe haven for one night. Periodically, he would also pull out the man I once knew, the charmer, and tell me what a good person that I am, how I don't deserve any of that, how he's ruined everything and he's sorry, while simultaneously convincing me to let down my own protective boundaries, which often led to hugging, kissing, and later sex and me telling him that I still love him and that he can still come back to us. Actually, not all boundaries were down. I did clearly state EVERY TIME that there was no way that I would attempt to repair our relationship with the "other woman" in the picture. I mention this because about two weeks in, when I suggested that we do a separation instead of an immediate divorce, he said he wanted to do that but only if he could continue to date the "other woman." The gal of this guy!! And so went the months. The man I once knew seemed quite empathetic and was full of remorse and shame when he came to visit. He usually always had horror stories to report about the "other woman." When that version of the ex left my home, he would almost always be immediately replaced by the narcissist that I have come to know. This is the person that led me to realize that my estranged husband had to have something other than simple ADHD. The term narcissism had entered my consciousness many years earlier when a therapist had bluntly told me that my father had it. The word was only again mentioned by my sister-in-law in September. She was talking about her brother and how he had always been this way and she mentioned that there was a word to describe him that she didn't want to use. I told her that she should go ahead and say it and she half-whispered "narcissist." I still did not begin to read on it. Instead I got an astrology reading to spur me on.

The astrologer looked at my estranged husband's birth chart and told me that he could see that the signs that I had thought were signs of ADHD were actually the result of a Uranian pathology. A deep detachment and disconnection from everything, ungroundedness, lack of need for human relationships, strange, oddness, erractic and withdrawn. His sun, moon and jupiter were all in opposition to Uranus, which essentially made him Schizoid. He said that thought my estranged husband had many Taurus planets, this Uranian pathology was much stronger, so the package seemed Taurus but would eventually be revealed as a Schizoid. The astrologer said that he would spend his life doing and undoing things and that he would never be able to sustain anything. For my estranged husband, routine, predictability, discipline and adhering to a plan would all be extremely difficult. The astrologer asked me at the end of his reading if I thought I'd "dodged a bullet?" I did look up Schizoid and found that it was an apt description of my estranged husband but it could not explain why he was in a relationship with a new woman and periodically returning to me in remorse. Nor did it explain his many claims that he missed his children terribly, but his unwillingness to change his course of actions. In fact, he would tell me many times over that it was only "momentum" that was taking him away from us.

But the extreme changes in mood and complete denial about the unhealthiness of the new girlfriend led friends to ask if my estranged had bipolar disorder and the local sheriff to ask if he was "on drugs or had an undiagnosed mental illness." Only from my estranged husband's perspective, is his behavior within the realm of healthy and normal. These extremes included periods of time when my husband would text me and tell me that the adderall medication that he was taking had caused him to destroy his life and that it also caused a loss of memory. He has literally said, many times, that he can't remember any of what has happened. Things he has said. In fact, a couple of weeks ago when we were working with a mediator and I refused to give him money to pay for a down payment on an apartment for he and his girlfriend because 1) it was inappropriate to ask me and 2) I didn't want him to have a place where he could not bring the kids (we had already agreed that, based on her history and their instability as a couple, the kids should not be introduced to her until the fall of 2015) I emailed him a "reminder email" about all the things that we both knew to be facts about his girlfriend, all things he has said to me and has received proof from other people about, and he wrote back, "I don't recall saying any of those things." These behaviors caused me to begin to truly see that there was something much bigger than ADHD going on. This is when I began to read about narcissism. The first behavior identified as "hoovering." This is from the website Out of the Fog:




Hoovering

Definition:
Hoovers & Hoovering - A Hoover is a metaphor, taken from the popular brand of vacuum cleaners, to describe how an abuse victim, trying to assert their own rights by leaving or limiting contact in a dysfunctional relationship gets "sucked back in" when the perpetrator temporarily exhibits improved or desirable behavior.

Description:
The Hoovering metaphor comes from the popular Hoover brand of vacuum cleaners. Hoovering describes how a non-personality-disordered person, while attempting to escape an abusive situation, gets sucked back into the status quo.
Hoovering commonly occurs:
  1. After an emotional outburst, violence or other extreme period of abuse when the victim is most likely to leave, retaliate or seek help from others.
  2. When the victim starts to pull away from the relationship, leave the relationship or establish firmer boundaries within the relationship.
  3. When the abuser internally feels unworthy and fears the loss of the relationship.
A hoovering abuser may shower their victim with gifts, compliments, promises, demonstrations of love and affection in order to persuade the victim to maintain the status quo.

Hoovering is one of the key components of an Abusive Cycle. Without Hoovering, most abusers would be living alone. Hoovering is the "plus side" to many abusers that makes an abusive relationship seem worthwhile to many victims and sustains abusive relationships over the long term.

Hoovering requires two willing parties to be effective: the person doing the hoovering and the person being hoovered, who allows themselves to be abused and then sucked back in.

What it feels like:
Hoovering feels good! And that's the point! When you are being hoovered, your buttons are all getting pushed, your feelings are getting validated, your needs are being met, your wildest dreams are coming true, your opinions matter, you are the most important person in the world to that certain person.

Hoovering often feels like vindication. You might find yourself thinking “Finally! The message is getting through! I’m not crazy after all! Now THAT is what I’m talking about!” But watch out...
When you are starving for any emotional food, just about any kind of personal validation tastes wonderful, but you must remember that not everything that tastes delicious is nutritious.

Manipulative abusers are often adept at giving their victims enough of what they want to keep them where they want them. Even slave owners know that they have to feed them enough to keep them healthy and productive.

But how do I know if a hoover is 'real"?

Many Non-personality disordered people struggle with trying to tell whether a hoover really is a hoover, or if it is a sincere attempt at change by the personality-disordered person whom they care about.
The mistake in that logic is that it assumes that it can't be both. Many abusers and personality-disordered people really are sincere and really are trying when they also are hoovering. People who are hoovering you may not be consciously trying to manipulate you or deceive you. They may sincerely be trying, even hoping, to make it "better this time". They may not be consciously lying when they make promises of change and put them into practice. They may be so convincing because they are so convinced.

You are going to have to be like the adult in a parent-child relationship, who listens to their child's black-and-white promises of great expectations or of "I'll never talk to him/her again" and says "Hmm, we'll wait and see".

If you're not sure if you're being hoovered you should wait and see. Take the long-term view. A person's character is like an average of their behaviors over their lifetime. People can and do make positive changes in their lives sometimes, deciding to change their behavior for the better. Wait a year and see.

Coping with Hoovering:
If somebody who has been treating you abusively starts to treat you well, there's no harm in letting them knock themselves out and give yourself a break, but you must be careful not to take the bait to erode your boundaries, settle for less than you deserve, stop doing things that are healthy for you or stop exercising your own independence.
What NOT to do:
  • Don't change any of your boundaries or allow them to be broken during a hoover.
  • Don't relax or give up on any consequences of previous poor decisions for the abuser.
  • Don't stop any healthy activities or relationships you may be engaged in elsewhere.
  • Don't assume the hoover will last forever.
  • Don't use a hoover to bargain for a better life. You are setting up the abuser to break a promise and setting yourself up for a disappointment.
What TO do:
  • Remember that mood swings are a normal part of a number of personality disorders and that what goes up must come down.
  • Accept that highs and lows are a part of everyone's emotional life and that, for a personality-disordered person, those may be more intense and lead swings in behavior.
  • Maintain all your healthy lifestyle habits and relationships with others.
  • Take the long-term view. Wait a year.
  • Get yourself off the roller coaster. Position yourself so that your safety and happiness isn't dependent on a personality-disordered person's mood.
http://outofthefog.net/CommonBehaviors/Hoovering.html

When I read this,  my head spun. Suddenly all the times that my estranged husband had said that he missed things about me, that he loved me, that he made a terrible mistake seemed like hoovers, rather than authentic. It struck me that I needed to stop thinking of the "hoover" as the real husband. The real husband was both people (the hoover and the devaluer/discarder) and neither was necessarily more authentic. This truly horrified me. I mean who wants to think that their partner of seven years really does not give a shit about them except as a source of "narcissistic supply." Besides, giving up that as the real guy meant that I would also have to let go of a long time source of my own 'feel good.' I'd have to stop living off of these periodic bursts of "love" and really let him go. However, seeing this really helped me recognize why he kept coming back but never made any real moves to change.  There was the catch. I think I was experiencing these two men for years in our relationship, but just to a lesser extreme. The man that ignored me and didn't seem to notice if I was alive or had needs and the man that constantly pulled me back from the precipice with his charm when I began to feel that I simply could not go on without getting something from him. I had been in a relationship with both of these people all along.

And so I have begun to shift my thinking to understand what I have been going through in the last eight months as "divorcing a narcissist." One book that I recently got from Amazon is called Why is it Always About You? The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism. As I read it, I keep thinking, wow, this is it. I have been underlining a great deal from each chapter:

Entitlement: "Mutuality and reciprocity are entirely alien concepts, because others exist only to agree, obey, flatter, and comfort -- in short, to anticipate and meet my every need. If you cannot make yourself useful in meeting my need, you are of no value and will most likely be treated accordingly" (20).

I cannot begin to tell you how often I had to tip-toe or flatter in order to "address" his mood. And that would often not work, never mind reaching out to have any of my needs met!
 
And more: "In social situations, you will talk about them or what they are interested in because they are more important, more knowledgeable, or more captivating than anyone else. Any other subject is boring and won't hold their interest, and, in their eyes, they most certainly have a right to be entertained. In personal relationships, their sense of entitlement means that you must attend to their needs but they are under no obligation to listen to or understand you. If you insist that they do, you are "being difficult" or challenging their rights" (20).

Getting the ex to listen to me was like pulling teeth. It literally looked like it HURT him to listen to me, even when I told him it was what I needed (and mind you, I would wait weeks before asking). In social situations, he would do all the talking and disengage as soon as someone else was talking. When ever I brought up his lack of listening and willingness to meet any of my needs, I was accused of being difficult and never happy. He always said that I had unreasonable expectations.

Exploitation: "Driven by shame and prone to rage and aggression, the Narcissist never develops the capacity to identify with or even to recognize the feelings and needs of others ... along with an underdeveloped conscience, tends to make them interpersonally exploitative" (24).

"When others became enraged by his lack of sensitivity, he seldom got angry back. It just puzzled him that anybody could get so upset when all he was trying to do was get ahead or be happy" (26).

This is literally the CRUX of my conflict with the ex. He absolutely could never understand the ways in which he lacked sensitivity or awareness of so many things. 100% of the time I was a nut for having such a problem with him. I am certain this is the story that he is sharing with his new true love. Let's not get into his history of meeting and trying to marry the "one." The rollercoaster that has been the last eight months is perceived as perfectly normal. My hurt, anger and fear are out of place since I wanted to get divorced "for years," I should not be feeling bad and most certainly should not feel mad that he found someone that he is more compatible with. His new girlfriend even wrote me a letter stating something along these lines. I will save that story for a later blog. This is just the beginning of me beginning a dialogue about all that has happened and how it has shaped the person that I can feel myself becoming.

Most important note to self: I will no longer accept the devaluation. I will accept the discard. As I am beginning to truly understand, God really did do for me what I could not do for myself.


Friday, September 14, 2012

What would it look like?

If I accepted myself as the unique human being that I am? I suspect that would mean that I would accept you and the world the way you and the world are too. How much more happy I would be then!

"I can now admit that most of my troubles stem from one large and glaring defect: self-centeredness. For how can I wallow in self-pity, weep over resentments, be sick with righteous anger, ache with envy, and tense up with fears and anxieties unless all my thoughts are exclusively on poor me?" (Drop the Rock, 23).

Several years ago a sponsor had me go through the fourth step in the 12 & 12 in order to extract the plethora of character defects that one could have. However, in the Big Book it specifically points to just four defects -- resentment, dishonesty, self-seeking, selfishness and fear. What I am coming to believe is that all other defects stem from these four issues untreated. They are all permutations of the same basic problems. Keeping it simple works much better for me than does having ninety different character defects to think about. At the deepest core, however is this self-centeredness, which I think also comes from the even more central issue of fear.

Fear stems from the belief that I am God (extreme self-centeredness). Fear produces perfectionism, which is the idea that "I know best." It says that I know better than God. How else could I find so many things to be wrong in the world, with me and with others? The definition in the dictionary of perfection includes the word flawless. Looking even more closely at this definition I realize that the definition of perfection can actually be equated with my definition of God.
I know John will come here tomorrow to pick up his stuff and he will find evidence of all the reasons he left. Fruit flies abundant, clutter in every corner (especially because my mom is visiting), a diaper bin of diapers and general chaos. Perhaps he will bring his mistress and she will see the evidence too or maybe she will look at the pictures of our family on the walls and wonder for a moment if she really does know anything at all about the family she participated in destroying. I really just hope she doesn't come inside my home. Yuck. As I was driving home from Bondville tonight, I was thinking about how the word "cheater" is an excellent choice for what happens when one person turns to another person for respite from their marriage (or other myriad of issues). My anger stems strongly from the realization that John has "cheated" the whole process. Not only is he unable to work through the challenges of marriage and parenting, pulling the "get out of jail free" card, but he is also "cheating" by deferring or entirely avoiding the grief that comes from change (of any kind) and the loss of our family and seeing his kids on a daily basis. He is cheating right now by spending time with and sleeping with another woman. I don't get to "cheat," I get to go through the motions, suiting up and showing up for this life, which is mine.

I ran into my "son" this evening, Sam, and was reminded that self-pity and resentment are the same thing. I had already heard that self-pity was "reverse" pride and I can see how that is absolutely true. So this reminds me that "resentment" comes from me playing God, me thinking that I know how things should be, me playing director and wanting to set up the whole scene and tell everyone how to play their parts. My unmet expectations. My unmet demands. And me "playing God" is basically the same thing as pride. When I am feeling prideful, as I am when I am wondering why John picked Sidney over me,  I feel ashamed, and broken and worthless. That's a way of playing God too. I think I know how I'm supposed to be and that I have the "right" to judge myself and everyone else (because of course in this scenario John and Sidney are bad guys or good guys, there's no in between). Pride is playing God.

Pride from dictionary.reference.com

1)a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.
2.the state or feeling of being proud.
3.a becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one's position or character; self-respect; self-esteem.
4.pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself: civic pride.
5.something that causes a person or persons to be proud: His art collection was the pride of the family.
 
So when I look around and see my life I take pride in it, which is to say I claim that I made everything the way that it is, good or bad. I effectively eliminate God from the equation. Resentment and self pity emanate from pride. When things don't go the way that I want them to then I either experience resentment or self-pity. Neither of which is a "right-sized" response to life. One is anger at the world for things not being the way I want them to be and the other is being angry at myself for the same conditions. In reality, life is what it is. I am who I am. I am perfectly imperfect as I am and God loves me just the way I am. 

Realizing this is not going to take away all the pain but I think it can help me face it more easily. And honestly, the worst pain is coming from thoughts about the two of the together, ruminating on his betrayal (all the phone calls, the romancing before we were even "separated,"etc, etc, etc.), actively doing things like researching Sidney, going by her house, imagining ways to get back at them, at her, thinking back through our marriage and trying to pinpoint how I could have done better and whether we were ever really in love or fantasizing that their relationship is going to fail and John is going to see the error of his ways and turn into prince charming. I almost drove by her house tonight just so I could feel bad seeing my/his car parked outside. I just thought about how I want to drive by his new place next week to see if he is actually staying at his house or hers. When I think about why he sent me the text the other day saying that he is thinking about how he should be "alone" to process everything, I begin to feel some sense of relief from the pain. But it's all just a fantasy. I cannot wait to be at peace for him to "fix" things or come back to me or break up with her. I can be at peace now. I no longer have to be co-dependent. I do need to turn my dependence toward God. God is the only one that can fill that gaping hole in my chest that I keep trying to stuff fill with John (good memories) or salt (with thoughts of the betrayal and loss). 

The truth is what Sam said tonight. Everything is already alright. And as I said, everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment (BB). If I am upset it is because I think some person, place or thing should be different than it is. As soon as accept that person, place or thing as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment, I can have peace and serenity. That's how I feel at this moment and I am soaking it in because I know it, too, shall pass. I keep waffling between being okay, almost hopeful, being manic, angry and very sad. Tonight I felt so much pain I just thought I should die but then I screamed and cried in the car and went to the meeting. Then I talked to Sam and life began to feel okay, at least for now. I'm going to keep grasping on to all the little moments that get me through each day but I am going to pray that God helps me get through this with grace, dignity and integrity. God please help me to LET GO. John is not my job. Pull me close to you. Guide me as you would have me. Your will, not mine be done because I most certainly do not know what is best for me (aka my heart is an idiot).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Oh my, I have nothing really inspired to say. I usually post when I feel like I have something to say. This time I am at a loss for words. Since I last wrote, I birthed a beautiful little boy named Finnegan. Now I have two amazing children. But that's not the story I want to tell here. What I want to talk about is how I lost my husband. Damaged by the symptoms of stress as a result of our living conditions, our financial security, the birth of our two kids and our personality differences John fell for a 24 year old poet named Sidney. They met in the life that I was not able to participate in because John and I had come to sharing nights out. He would go out one night and I'd go out another. Someone had to stay home with the kids and we had little money to pay a babysitter. Besides I got a little plump and extra stressed/anxious/crazy post-partum and asked John not to sleep in the bed with me and little Finny because I didn't want him to roll over on him while inebriated. I also didn't want him to hold Finn after he'd been smoking. This all seems reasonable to me. I guess too many nights on the couch and too many fights later equaled license to get involved with another person. When he announced that we should divorce on August 16th, I at first thought it made a lot of sense. We've had the conversation before. We fight too much. We're too different. Maybe we shouldn't be together. However, it had never been initiated by John before. It was a painful dagger in the chest even if initially I conceded that, yes, that might make sense. I was feeling especially ashamed of myself because of a huge fight we had in Penticton the day of my Uncle James' memorial service. I yelled at Eve and said something about not being able to do "this" any longer to John. This mixed with having met a woman on August 4th, out somewhere, gave him the license to go on a date with her once he got home four days earlier than the rest of us from British Columbia. Apparently he had determined that I no longer wanted him and that he had been gone long enough anyway (in his mind or emotionally) that it wasn't really an affair. He did not, however, share with me the fact that he was seeing this woman. I had to find that out on my own a week later when glancing over his facebook page (the only way to have contact with him once he disappeared from our lives on August 17th). I did ask him to stay with a friend for awhile. Little did I know that he would choose a girl's house and lie to me about it. So every night he was leaving me in the wreckage of our marriage and home, he was going "home" to the arms of a new woman who thinks I'm crazy for making John's life miserable. I know because I emailed her and ask her if she could back off and let us end our marriage gracefully rather than in this ugly way (aka with an affair as a reason that we are parting ways rather than amicably due to the fact that we don't get along). Furthermore, the fact that John is leaving me for another woman is far more painful than the idea that he finally agrees with me that there are many challenges in our relationship that need to be dealt with (at the very least acknowledged). Before I knew about the girl, I felt like I was living in an alternate reality. Like I was watching the death of my life from a distance.

The most astounding thing is that I am having a tremendously hard time with this break up. I suppose it is because I have never been left before by anyone and certainly not in this repulsive way. But I think I had such a beautiful dream of what our life could have been. Now it's been destroyed. Worse. It's been shattered into millions of pieces and then defecated on. It feels like it could NEVER be resurrected. Today I got the phone bill which showed me that John spoke with Sidney every day that he was "away" from all of us claiming that he had a lot of work to do. Who knew that he was talking with her and possibly even seeing her during the whole week.

I keep hoping that he is going to "regret" this decision. I some how want to be right. I don't want to believe that it is possible that this person is the "one." I mean it's every girls' dream that she will be able to transform the guy she meets into the man of her dreams, isn't it? If he tends to be distracted, bad with money, disorganized and doesn't take care of himself, SHE will be the one to get him on track. The thing she doesn't account for is the likelihood that after she gets him "on track," he won't like her very much anymore because suddenly she seems an awful lot like his mother (or some other authority figure).

But how can a 33 year old woman, with two small children, a little extra weight around her waist and six and half years invested in what was supposed to be a life long relationship not be angry when her husband runs off with another woman and has the gal to think that he is going to get away without anyone knowing about it?? In fact, I have since run into the friend that he claimed he was staying with and I have actually run into the two of them on the street. That was a real shocker. I sat stunned wanting to vomit. I mean who can't eat chocolate cake?? I guess me when I'm looking at my husband standing on the corner lighting another woman's cigarette (with cigarettes I bought him because he claimed he was having an anxiety attack and needed some help), looking for all the world to see, like a newly wed. It takes quite a married 36 year old to get away with dating a 24 year old, but he is in a band and there's no denying that that is sexy. I thought so for the first four years of our life together until I'd had enough of not receiving any love from that sexy musician and then my desire began to wane.

Did I mention that he's been "back" twice and told me that he loves me and he's sorry? Did I mention that he has tried to have sex with me, indicating clearly that he is sexually attracted to me. Both times I informed him that there is no use hurting two women, although I don't doubt that in the future he will hurt Sidney too. That is his track record. Man do we ever have our own history of him being dishonest about his relationships with his exes. I will never forget how uncomfortable it was standing in a bar with his ex-girlfriends milling around him and him not introducing me to them.

So, yes, I am hurt and I am scared and I am angry. I have written horrible texts to John and used my words to let him know that I find all of this to be unacceptable. I have also asked him to keep Sidney away from my children. I have also written her. One letter that was very kind before I knew that it was going to be received by a 24 year old artist who thinks she knows everything about the world. Indeed, she told me that I was manipulative and cruel for claiming that John is losing his family by initiating a divorce. I have a desire at this very moment to write a text to her asking her how she can claim not to have ANYTHING to do with the break up of my marriage when she spoke with him for 90 minutes on the day that he asked me for the divorce. NINETY minutes. He, of course, told me that he was going to talk with Eriq as he ran out the door to answer the phone. I can't begin to say how sad that makes me. I don't think he EVER spoke to me for NINETY minutes on the phone. I wrote a horrible letter to her that I never sent because I don't want to hurt her too. I don't need to stoop low and hurt her the way that she and he have hurt me.

I also thought today about how this is karma. I left my first boyfriend Edward after a period of withdrawing from him (I didn't even know that was what I was doing). However, I had also met someone else that had captured my heart. I had only had one or two conversations with him before I told Edward that our relationship needed to end. It helped me to remember this because 1) I had no idea how much I hurt Edward 2) I remember how Rahula functioned as my anesthetic (probably why I became dysfunctional in the semester after the break up and had to quit Hampshire -- more will be revealed!) 3) I only knew once I met someone else that our relationship was over. It hurts to write that but I suspect that it is true. John was gone long before. Of course, it also helps to remember 4) that I have often wondered why I broke up with him over the years and wished I had not.

It is a very different story, however, when there are children involved. John and I tied together forever now. It absolutely and utterly sucks. This would be a great deal easier if I could just walk away. Lick my wounds. Acknowledge that this is probably a "God thing." I don't know how else I could keep going. God is doing for me what I could not do for myself. For a long time, I was learning how to function in my marriage as if I didn't need John because he was so undependable. I was working toward creating a life where I could support the kids no matter what happened. The funny thing is that this year I was the happiest that I had been in many years. I was learning it. I was getting it. This does not mean that John and I weren't still fighting, we were. Even when it came to the birth of Finn, I did not know if I could depend on him to be there.

Funny thing is, he was my rock, even if he really provided me with no security. He was my partner. The guy that was--in my head--always there even if in reality he wasn't. He was the one who knew everything about me and still wanted to be around. It has become pretty clear, however, that he does not value many of the things that I value in life, including the value of working through hard things. Learning from life. Life as a spiritual classroom. He'd rather be drinking and smoking and having a good time and I'd rather be growing. I like to have a good time too, but I recognize that for me to be happy in the world, I have to continuously work on my spiritual condition.

So now, off to work on my work for my nursing classes. I have no choice now. I have to move forward no matter what kind of weight is holding my legs down and pressing deeply on my chest. I can't give up now. The kids need me. The kids need me. I need me. This is for the best no matter how much my mind wants to tell me otherwise. I don't want to be married to someone who doesn't value me. And honestly, he shouldn't have to be with someone who doesn't value him either.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Writing this particular blog is a promise to myself. Since I found out I was pregnant in August of this year I have crawled into survival mode and the results have not been pretty. No exercise, no time to myself, no creative enterprises and a lot of doubt. The other day at the end of a storm of emotion brought on by the departure of my mother and sister, I decided that one of the things that I need to do regardless of how much guilt I experience in taking time for myself while I am looking after Eve is to do something creative every day. My list of creative activities (and by this I mean the things that I like to do) included blogging, astrology, painting and darning socks so here I am. The promise to myself is both that I will write on this blog (more than every six months!) and that I will specifically write on the issue of TV watching. Two weeks ago Eve had moved into a period where all she wanted to do was watch Disney movies, of which we had quite a few due to presents given to us. I had succumbed to it on a few occasions because of my own exhaustion and desire for a few minutes of peace and quiet. Even now as I write Eve is screeching "uh oh, uh oh" over and over again.  But the results were rather shocking. Aside from the almost constant desire she expressed to watch a movie, when she did actually watch something she became distrubingly catatonic. I've never seen anything like it and it certainly seemed inappropriate for a two year. 

I made the mistake of posting the problem on facebook as a question about what other parents do about television. The responses were certainly interesting ranging from the belief that children should never watch television at this age because of the health and developmental impacts to those parents that allow their children to watch in moderate amounts every day, believing that the benefits far outweigh the negative consequences (if there were any). I even got a disturbed message that was quickly erased off my page from a single mother saying that all the research indicating that television is bad for kids made her feel really angry. As a single mother she felt all she had as an option was television.

More later.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Saturn's Return???

"And I see and am with the fears that hook me into wanting things to be different from the way they are, fears that pull me into the belief that a different location or situation--a more creative job, a home in a more natural setting, more money or time or other resources, a relationship with someone who has the same "spiritual" goals or daily practice--is needed if I am ever to find deep abiding peace, if I am ever to learn to love well. These beliefs are rooted in deeper if intermittent fears: the fear that I am not now and never will be able to hear the call at the center of my life accurately or fully enough to know how to consistently live who and what I am; the fear that the Beloved, tired of my inability to get it right, will simply stop calling, stop sending out the voice that can guide me home; the fear that I am not in the right place, have not found the right situation in which I can live my purpose fully, offer the one word I have come her to say and weave into the collective dream of the people" (Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Call, 78).

This about sums up the consciousness I have been living with the last six or seven months. I have been rooted strongly in the fear that something has gone terribly wrong. That I've finally completely and utterly screwed up. I've gone so far off track, it will be basically impossible to "right" myself. Nothing is exactly the way it is "supposed to be." I missed the boat, I didn't hear the call or, worse yet, the Beloved has stopped calling. Perhaps I don't believe that, what I do believe is that I am so blocked off from the voice that I've removed myself from the game. Or perhaps I am just really, really angry with God. Even a bit scared of God. It seems God only has bad things in store for me...

I was at a meeting the other day wherein I was struck by two distinct sentences in the Big Book. Both were geared toward highlighting the "problem" that a person might be experiencing in working the program. Bottom line was that whenever a person has a problem, the problem has nothing to do with external things and everything to do with that person's spiritual status. Over the years I have heard people, including myself, diagnose other people's problems: not changing something; not going to enough meetings; not having a sponsor; having the wrong sponsor; having done the steps wrong; not being totally honest on a 4th step; skipping the 6th and 7th steps; relationships (like 13th stepping); and the list goes on. For the first time, I realized however that the problem, according to the Big Book, always lies in a person's relationship with their higher power and nothing else. Perhaps this is the meaning of "to thine own self be true." Who but ourselves can diagnose our spiritual condition? The point of this long winded paragraph is that I am coming to own the fact that something is the matter with my relationship with God.

Somewhere along this journey I stopped trusting God. After all, in my small view the events of the last seven years make very little sense. Especially when those events are compared with my expectations. I expected to experience success in graduate school here in Champaign-Urbana, whatever that was going to look like. I figured I'd continue to grow spiritually, but I did not expect that growth to be painful. The gap between what has happened and what I expected is so great that my ego (my pride) finds it nearly intolerable. All it can predict at this point is that the pain is going to continue and that the path ahead is sure to lead me to, in no uncertain terms, hell. It's not a pretty picture.

Some people have looked upon my experience here in Illinois with different eyes, maybe even with a touch of envy. Perhaps this is because of the many gifts that I have received. Instead of doing well in graduate school, I learned to let go of a degree of my perfectionism. I stopped using food and my body as the way in which to regulate my emotions. I became more flexible. I began to learn to have more intimate relationships and, in turn, got married (not that those relationships or this marriage is all fun and games, it's been one of the toughest experiences of my life). I was blessed with a beautiful and amazing daughter and the experience of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. I found out a lot more about my interests and my perspective on the world expanded greatly (thank you graduate school).

It turns out that I dislike teaching, am terrible with foreign language, am very self-conscious talking to groups, love to do research (but only on topics dear to my heart), love to read, love to write, love to synthesize disparate sources and to organize ideas and spaces.

I am deeply interested in the relationship between the mind and the body and am incredibly open-minded when it comes to what is within the realm of "normal" human behavior. I no longer believe in talk therapy as the be-all-end all and want to learn as much as I can about how the body works so that I can understand how it is entangled with the mind. This is much like the interest that I had in graduate school so at least I am consistent!! There I was interested in the stories people tell, but specifically because of their lack of relationship to reality (often) and their consistent inconsistency. I began to believe that people's stories are stories about their "faith" and that these stories have been chosen pragmatically, even if the results are negative, people know that the meaning they have given to events "works" for them so they continue to tell those stories, which is to say, they continue to believe them.  This led to problems for me. I was always being criticized for seeking the "authentic" through people's bodies and experiences. But I never thought to question graduate school's definition of authenticity. What does it mean? If authenticity means Truth, I was most certainly wrong to make such a claim. But if authenticity means the truth for that individual (at a given moment), then I don't believe I was wrong.

Definition of AUTHENTIC
1
obsolete : authoritative
2
a : worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact authentic picture of our society> b : conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features authentic reproduction of a colonial farmhouse> c : made or done the same way as an original <authentic Mexican fare>
3
: not false or imitation : real, actual authentic cockney accent>
4
a of a church mode : ranging upward from the keynote — compare plagal 1 b of a cadence : progressing from the dominant chord to the tonic — compare plagal 2
5
: true to one's own personality, spirit, or character 
 
Upon seeing this definition, it is clear to me that both me and my professors are correct. Authenticity, by my definition, does have to do with being "true to one's own personality, spirit, or character." As I have learned in my anatomy and physiology classes, personality itself is a product of genes in large part, and character one would argue is the result of the relationship between this personality (genetic make up) and one's formative experiences (the evidence shows that emotions and experiences do get lodged in the body affecting behavior and future experiences), and spirit, well to each his own, this too is a product of a relationship between one's body, mind and experience. And because of the individuality of every person, it is impossible for anyone but that person to be able to claim the authenticity of anything relating to him. As such, it is essential to trust that person's own claims about his experience and his body. 

And this leads me to the wonderful article that I read in the Sun Magazine about a psychologist at Mt. Holyoke College who does not believe in madness. She argues that everything is "emotional distress" and all mental illness is a construct created by pharmaceutical companies to make money. She also argues that listening to people experiencing emotional distress is the answer. Indeed, she is disturbed by people's complete disregard for the testimony of the actual people experiencing emotional distress because of the assumption that is made that they are "insane" and so their experience must be worthless. Isn't it amazing how things come across our paths that speak directly to issues we are wrestling with? This is one way that God speaks to me and always has. For that I am grateful. 

But instead of continuing to argue my point in academia, itself a deeply imbalanced place (oh the life of the mind!), I decided to begin to learn about the part of the equation that I really know very little. I've read many products of brilliant minds but I have not studied those minds or those bodies. I have no idea how any of that works. Perhaps that is why I have started all over from the bottom up. Where once I was in community colleges studying English, Math and Political Science, now I am studying science. Once the bane of my existence. Who would have thought it. And this *seems* like one of the largest surprises that has occurred since I moved to Champaign. I wasn't supposed to start all over!! Some days I am in awe of the good in my life, and others I feel like I've been dropped on my head. This is when I believe that God has left me or that I have blocked God out and missed his message. 

I can't understand starting over. I can't understand relationships that seem to keep breaking. That are so hard sometimes they make life seem impossible. Another thing that has changed dramatically since I moved to Champaign is my relationship to death. It no longer seems like a far flung concept. It now seems like something that really is going to happen. That what I do actually does matter because I don't have forever to figure things out. That my mother really will be gone one day (a thought that makes me want to curl up in a ball on the floor and never wake up).  That I've created a life that will go on long after I have died (God willing). Acknowledgment of these things shocks me. Awes me. How could I have not known about these things seven years ago? So, yes, I have come face to face with mortality here in Champaign and it has caused me to consider how I truly want to be spending the rest of my life and what I will prioritize. 

Are these perhaps things that would have, could have happened anywhere? Perhaps. But most days I blame all that has happened on God. This is because one day when I was visiting Champaign with my mom before I moved here, we were walking at Meadowbrook Park and I had the sudden thought that this is where I was supposed to be. And so I chose to move here. 
 
I pray that I will come to see how all of this is a part of God's plan for me rather than a huge mistake or the result of a mistaken moment of divine inspiration.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Postpartum Depression

Since Eve's first birthday I have been struggling with difficult feelings. Considering that I am a postpartum doula in training one would think that I would not minimize the role of becoming a mother when considering the cause of my feelings, but I have. I've certainly thought to myself, my God I must have believed that if I made it through the first year, everything would go "back to normal." Whatever normal means. I guess in my case it meant that I would be able to do the things I used to do to take care of myself spiritually, emotionally and physically. When that didn't happen, I began to feel the overwhelming sense of doom or maybe even failure and certainly fear that I was (am) going to lose it. How can a person GO ON without sustenance? GO ON while letting go of everything that was. Shedding, constantly shedding and grieving the losses. There have been so many things to let go of: friendships, certain career paths, me time, relationship time, exercise time (did I mention time?) body, especially breasts. I am going to touch on all of these issues but first I want to mention why I am even writing about this. Given that I am a person who often doubts the authenticity of my own experience and is more won't to believe that I am going crazy than that I have a legitimate challenge in front of me, I have not been more direct about the ambivalence I feel about motherhood and the incredible grief I have felt and continue to feel about the loss of the old me. As I have mentioned before, I am living in a neighborhood of Mormons, who do not seem to experience these challenges, which makes it easier for me to think something is wrong with me rather than that this is a normal part of becoming a mother. However, last night I was compelled to pull out the book The New Our Bodies, Ourselves, which is no longer new! I've had it since I was 14 or 15. I opened it to the section called Postpartum, chapter 20 and began to read. What an incredible breath of fresh air. It was like heaven on earth to read about other women experiencing the same kind of internal challenges that I have been over the last six months. Of course most of them are talking about the first six months of parenthood, whereas I whizzed through those months because I figured if I held my breath I'd come up from the sleepless nights and total devotion to my daughter and there would be my old life, waiting. I guess I came up after one year and discovered that nothing could be further from the truth. So I am experiencing what this book calls MILD postpartum depression a year and six months after birth.  I related most to the section entitled ISOLATION (page 405): mother's writing "I think he (her brother) really took the hard parts out of being a mother alone" and "I came to look on the playgroup as an oasis in what was otherwise a somewhat lonely existence." Other women discussed the loss of friends that didn't have kids, the feeling of being pushed to the background in favor of the baby and resentment at spouses who get to go to work and seem to have it all. I really loved a section where a woman wrote "postpartum for me was learning to deal with more anger than I've ever felt in my entire life. It felt like one long temper tantrum--unscreamed" (406). I also could really relate to one mother who wrote this about her husband on page 409:

There I was at home, by choice and liking it, except for this. Every day there were hundreds of small things--great ones like the baby rolling over or playing while I worked. Terrible ones like him choking or falling out of the infant seat. All these things were big to me. But when Marty came home, he'd listen for a minute, then start winding his watch or sorting the mail. I got to feel like a housekeeper and he seemed more and more like the invited guest."

So let's talk about some of the issues from my perspective.

 One of the most challenging aspects of becoming a parent that no one mentioned to me was how difficult it would be to maintain friendships. I LOVE my friends, all of them. I need them. My phone bills have always been high and I've always made sure to keep in touch on a regular basis with a wide variety of close friends. Having a child changed all of that. It showed me how big a role I played in these friendships for one. I stopped seeing many people because I didn't have the time to prioritize them. In the cases where I have tried to maintain friendships and, interestingly, start new ones with people who don't have children, I have surprised at how little people know about the amount of effort required to take a child places and how difficult it is to maintain dual focus. When I am with friends and I bring my daughter, I have to watch her AND give them the kind of attention I used to give them. It is an exhausting effort and often not worth it to me. I don't like dividing my attention that way. It works much better when the other person also has a child there playing. You can imagine why. The other issue of course is that other people are not nearly so interested in my child as I am.

Career: quitting the history department resulted from many convergent factors and certainly was not CAUSED by becoming a mother. I do, however, think that the loss of time to invest in studying (so necessary for me to do well) caused me to fail my exam (among other things). I could have continued on. I was simply asked to rewrite the exam in the fall but this is what I knew. Because of finances, I would not have the time necessary to study for three prelims AND write a dissertation proposal. I also knew that I had applied for funding from everything under the sun and that to continue in the history department I would have had to pay my own way--loans. Furthermore, I had been told that I could not write the dissertation that I had proposed upon my re-entry to the PhD program and would instead have to go for at least a year overseas. In an ideal world for the PhD program, that year would have been this coming year. Yes, John's second year in graduate school. So John would have had to take a year off, not so terrible, but nevertheless a *factor.* I also knew that my language skills in Serbo-Croatian continued to be less than ideal in spite of the many years of my study and that this would prevent me from having the kind of conversations that I wanted to make my dissertation out of. Being away from my family for that year also did not seem very appealing, nor did the many challenges of taking a child overseas and leaving behind plants, dog, credit card debt, belongings and a car. It just seemed to be the farthest thing from what I wanted out of life. A year later (I failed the exam in April of 2010) I wonder at my "over reaction." Was it one? Or was it the final push I needed to help me make a decision that would lead me to finding a new path. To opening a new door? You know how that saying goes...

Whenever I see people from my cohort getting their PhDs I feel like hurting them. I feel incredible envy and jealousy and a lot of it has to do with the fact that they could do it. They did make the choices that allowed them to get it. They wanted it. Perhaps I find that I am most jealous of their certainty, not necessarily in their proclamations, but in their actions. We get places not by making plans, but by taking actions and for whatever reason(s) I did not take those actions. I have taken other actions. Different ones. Unexpected ones. And sometimes I mourn the life I had in my head, in my fantasies, and hate the people for whom that life is reality, not a fantasy. That it worked/works for them. That they worked hard and it unfolded for them.  So career, career. Right now mine is professional house wife and mother and that is so far from what I imagined myself doing and becoming that it almost makes me want to throw up. Sometimes I'm so grateful for my lack of ability to predict and other times I am truly terrified by how easily my PLANS can disintegrate into failed exams, lack of funding, injured tendons and bunions.

Loss of time. It is absolutely impossible to describe this loss to someone who has not experienced it because in a way it is only in part the result of a loss in real time. The real loss seems to come from the loss of mental/emotional space. I used to be the kind of person that needed large chunks of alone time where I could detach myself emotionally and mentally from other people. Now I have a child that I simply can never detach myself emotionally and mentally. Her life and well being depends on my consistent emotional connection and physical proximity to her. At least in my books. I know some people have no problem sending their kids to daycare and/or leaving their children for extended periods of time, but I cannot do this. I know the life long impact of a severed attachment. I don't want my child having that experience. I refuse more strongly than I refuse my isolation, loneliness, exhaustion and loss of time and space. That's the truth. I know I've created this rock and hard place, but it is a decision that I value and believe will make a difference in the long run.

However, the fact that we don't have a lot of money does mean that we can't create a lot of time to "get away" that would not impact Eve negatively. And that feels like a major challenge. It means that every time I have free time I have to decide between the five hundred things that I need and want to do. Should I go exercise (body and mental health)? Get the bills paid (when are they due)? Call a friend (don't want to lose those people)? Clean the house (ah, it's a disaster!)? Walk the dog (she hasn't been walked in days!)? Go to a meeting (mental health and friendships)? Work on a hobby (what's that?)? Eat (ah, it's lunch time!)? Write this blog (sanity)? Do some homework (something is due!)? You get the picture. There is never enough time to get everything done or even a lot of things. For a person who gets a little high from having everything in order, this is a particularly challenging aspect of motherhood. It really makes me feel good to have the house clean, to work out, to be sane, to have friends...but it costs money to get the time needed to do many of these things. This is a really, really tough one. And it's all a big mess because each issue is tied in with the others. If I do homework, someday I will have a career that will allow me to have more money. If I exercise, my body will look and feel better and my mental health will be better (the same goes for friendships, meetings, hobby and cleaning the house). This is an area in which I have no answers and nor does my sponsor. In fact, she is one of those people that can't really understand what it is like to have a child and how that impacts time on many levels.

Body: I have to admit that aging and loss of my old body has been tough. It's not THAT different but I know. I know that my stomach is bigger and puffier. Okay, more on this later. The wee one has just awakened.