Y is for Yuck

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I was small I wanted to be her. I thought she was the most beautiful, graceful, perfect creature ever to walk the earth. I loved everything about her from her curly hair—so unlike mine—to her pink painted toes. I looked more like her than I did my own mother, and I often wished she was my mother. When she asked me to be in her wedding I decided she was a goddess. If she had told me she invented sliced bread I would not have been surprised.

When I was small she would give the best hugs. She never complained if I wanted to cuddle. If I could, I would have melted into her, soaked her up, drowned in her.

Of course this hero worship did not last long. I don’t know if it was the pain her husband caused me or if it was just part of the normal aging process, but eventually I saw who she really was. A beautiful person, but flawed. The older I got, the more flaws I saw until not only did I not want to be her, I didn’t want to be near her.

She was my aunt and I have not seen or spoken to her in five years. I still love her. How could I not when she was my favorite aunt as a child? Due to a schism—isn’t that a great word? It makes me feel so smart!—due to a schism in my family I no longer have contact with her or her children, except through Facebook.

Have you ever walked by a mirror and caught a glimpse of yourself out of the corner of your eye and swore it was someone else? I did that the other day and swore it was my aunt.

Yuck.shadow face

I nearly threw up.

Then I studied my face and found all the little family resemblances I could find. The nose, the eyebrows, the eyes, even the shape of my face, are all like her. And my father, and brother, and cousins. I hate it. And love it.

I love my family, even my aunt. Who did not protect me or her children from the pain her husband inflicted on us. I love that I resemble them so much. But I hate it too. I hate that every glance in the mirror reminds me of her. I hate that I can never speak to her, hug her, hear her voice. I hate that I cannot have contact with her children in real life. I watched those kids grow up, saw their first steps, their school plays, first boyfriends and girlfriends. Now I’ve missed their weddings, the birth of their children.

Every time I look into the mirror I’m reminded of what I’ve lost. A whole chunk of my family that lives in my heart but are, more likely then not, forever lost to me.

One day I may tell the story of how thirty-odd years of cracks resulted in a schism (that word again!). I hesitate to publish it in this forum as those who do not know the story may stumble upon this blog. It’s unlikely, but possible. Some of those people would be hurt. Some would be horrified. Some would never speak to me again.

I’ve been told (by my counselor) that I should tell the story again and again until it no longer hurts. Until I can forgive my aunt and her husband. And myself. By telling the story on this blog, I may even help someone else. I don’t know.

All I know is that every time I look in the mirror lately and am reminded of my aunt, all I can think—all I can say—is “yuck.”


 

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.

Advertisements

R is for Resentment

r white woodI love my family. I do. But I also resent them. A lot. And lately it’s been really bothering me. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe because the weather’s changing and I’ve been thinking about how nice it would be to take a stroll with my sister-in-law. Maybe because I went a few days without a phone and realized that no one would have known if I hadn’t posted anything on Facebook about it. Or maybe it’s just time to get over it.

So, like I always do when I want to do something, I warmed up my favorite search engine and looked for anything I could find on resentment. I came across this quote:

resentment2

This pic was created at brainyquote.com.

It stopped me in my proverbial tracks. One of the things I truly value (and I know this cause I’ve gone over my values a couple of times in the last few months in counseling) is trying to do God’s will and grow spiritually. The fact that I’m disrupting my values by holding onto resentment gives my bone marrow frostbite.

So I sat there and thought about it. Why was I so resentful of my family? Here’s why…help

Somehow growing up I picked up the conviction that getting help by asking for it means less than if someone figures out that you need help and offers it. I’m not quite sure why I picked up that conviction, but I did. What’s worse, I typically don’t ask for help until the last possible second, usually right before disaster strikes. Like right before I slit my wrists.

Unfortunately, most of my family doesn’t think the say way as I do. Especially my brother and sister-in-law, the ones I feel most resentful towards. You see, I needed a lot of help the past year or so. As you may recall from this post, this post, this post, and this post, I was suicidal and went through a major traumatic injury. My brother and sister-in-law are the only family members who could help me (everyone else lives too far away) during those times and I resented it when they didn’t help me more.

What was I expecting from them? Well, when I got home from the psych ward, both times, I expected them to check in with me once in a while. By phone if nothing else. If I didn’t call or stop by, I expected them to call me or stop by my place (I live less then 10 minutes away from them). I didn’t receive any check ins. Ever.

After I broke my arm and was in a cast from my armpit to wrist, I expected a daily visit until I was able to do things fat ladylike pull up my pants up one handed and cook myself dinner. I got daily visits the first two days. I couldn’t pull up my own pants one handed for a month after I was released from the hospital (they kept getting caught on my fat rolls. Remember, I’m circus-fat-lady fat), and I couldn’t cook for two months. In addition, I was on pain killers for six weeks. Pain killers and a history of suicide…not a good thing.

The part that I hate most about how resentful I feel is that I knew I wasn’t gonna get any help from my family unless I asked for it. My brother works too much to be able to help me (he works twelve to eighteen hours a day, typically seven days a week. He’s been known to go three months without a day off). So it was my sister-in-law, a “Domestic Engineer” (aka housewife) who would/should be checking in on me. Now, don’t get me wrong. I adore my sister-in-law. She’s the best thing to ever happen to my brother and a wonderful person. She just believes that it is a person’s responsibility to ask for help; that one shouldn’t just help a person without that request. Her belief comes out of her own past of domestic violence and addiction. And that works for her. It just doesn’t work for me.

Why? Because when I’m deeply depressed, suicidal, traumatized, and in pain, I don’t ask for help unless it’s an

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli 1781

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli 1781

emergency (like gotta call 911 emergency). I can’t. And I mean that in an almost physical sense. I spent hours lying on my bed keeping myself alive by telling myself over and over that if I just stayed in bed, I would be able to resist the impulse to kill myself. That if I got up, took that step closer to the drawer where I kept my medications, I would take every single pill I owned in an effort to die. The thought of calling someone for help did cross my mind, and, in occasional moments of logic, I tried to get myself to do it, but I couldn’t. I remember the words piling themselves up at the back of my throat. And I couldn’t get them into my voice box and out of my mouth. No matter how many times I tried to get my hands to pick up a phone, they wouldn’t move. It was almost like psychological paralysis. It sounds dramatic, even soap opera worthy, but it’s true. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything other than breathe and fight the impulse to kill myself. All of my energy was used up in that fight. I had nothing left to ask for help.

So I didn’t get any help from my family. And the only family member in any position to help me was not pre-supposed to help without being asked. And I knew this. I knew it and yet it still hurt when I didn’t get the help I couldn’t ask for. It still hurts today. And so the resentment grows. And grows.

I haven’t spoken with my family in any way other than through social media in about two months. And I hate it. I miss them so much. I want a hug from my sister-in-law. I want to tease my brother and see that twinkle in his eye that makes him him. I want to hug their dog and chat about NCIS and their grandchildren. I want to find out what home improvement plans they are gonna tackle this summer. I want to see my brother and sister-in-law laugh and kiss and hug in that way that is their own.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

But I can’t do it until I let go of this resentment that I know is totally irrational. I know that they were never going to be able to help me in the way that I wanted, or even needed, to be helped. I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I knew it. And yet I still expected and wanted it from them.

I suppose that ultimately what’s preventing me from letting it go is that I can’t forgive myself for expecting the impossible from them. I can’t forgive myself for needing help. And if I can’t forgive myself, how am I gonna be able to forgive them?


 

Blessings to you all.

Be well.

N is for Negative Self-Image

n xmas fancyYesterday a friend tried to get me to tell her why I refuse to allow myself to “get better” mental health-wise. I couldn’t really answer her. Not in a way she accepted anyway. She refused:

I’m a bad person.

I’m cr@#.

I don’t deserve to be better.

If you really knew what went on in my head, you’d understand.

I screwed up a perfectly good life.

I threw away everything God gave me.

The truth is, I didn’t want to admit why I have a negative self-image. I think it might be because I’m not perfect. Or at least, I’m not the person I think I should be: a sinless person.

I just can’t forgive, or like, my adult self for my imperfection. As far back as I can remember I’ve been told that I have a lot of “potential.” My friend said it moments before she asked me why I won’t let myself heal. Here’s what I did with my “potential”:

Potential: I could’ve gone to any college I wanted.

Throw away: Instead of the private school with the great arts program I wanted to go to, I got scared. I went to a state school close to home.

Potential: I could’ve graduated in four years with no debt and on the honor roll.

Throw away: I got no treatment for an episode of suicidal depression and went from the Dean’s List to Academic Probation in four years.

Potential: In my very first “real world” job that I hated, I could’ve gotten promoted to management after three months.

Throw away: I was consistently late or absent (due to the depression that I still wasn’t treating) and the company couldn’t promote me (union rules).

Potential: I found a job that I kinda enjoyed and was given a promotion within the first year. I was offered a management position, despite my ongoing lateness and attendance issues (still not getting that depression treated).

Throw away: I refused the management position and stayed in a lower one for six years longer than I could have before transferring to a different department.

Potential: I made decent money during a time of economic recession.

Throw away: Instead of saving that money, I spent it on food and entertainment.

Potential: I had a decent apartment with the cheapest rent in town.

Throw away: I lived in squalor. See this post for more information.

Potential: I had good insurance with full mental health parity before it was mandated by law.

Throw away: I didn’t take full advantage of it.

Potential: I had a job when the unemployment level was over 10%.

Idiot.

Idiot.

Throw away: I quit my job without having new employment lined up.

Potential: I went back to school.

Throw away: I chose to study something that I knew required that I go onto a Masters Program and that I may not have been healthy enough to go onto that program.

God has been very good to me. I’ve been blessed enough to be a white woman in a country that reveres white people. I’m allowed to practice whatever religion I want. I am not beaten for being raped or forced to marry my rapist. I live in a city that is relatively safe. The only thing I get harassed for is my weight (which is something I can do something about). I am unemployed in a country that has unemployment insurance. When I was homeless, my brother let me sleep in his spare room. My current landlord renewed my lease, despite the fact that I am still months behind in rent. When I broke my arm and had to have surgery, I was given that surgery despite my lack of insurance. When I was too depressed and suicidal to be safe with myself, I was taken to a hospital and treated, again without insurance. I live in a state where it’s illegal for the electric company to turn off my lights for non-payment during the winter because my heat is electric. I even get most of my prescription medications for free (a $200 value) so I don’t fall back into a suicidal depression.

I have been blessed with so much in my life but I have done nothing with my blessings.

My counselor has pointed out that many of the things I have thrown away have been because of my mental illnesses (both the Depression and the Eating Disorder), but I don’t buy it. I know better.

Even before I was diagnosed with Depression, I knew better. Before I studied psychology, I knew better. I was educated in the signs of depression and eating disorders at sixteen (it was part of a Girl Scout activity. Don’t judge. I was a Girl Scout long after I stopped being a girl. It was fun and there were cookies!)

I knew at seventeen when I got my first failing grade that my behavior indicated Major Depressive Disorder but I didn’t do anything about it. I knew at twenty-two when I dropped out of college on Academic Probation that I was suicidal and needed treatment. But I didn’t do anything about it. I knew throughout my twenties and thirties that just taking medication wasn’t gonna change my life. I knew I had to change my behaviors, but I didn’t. I knew at thirty-eight when I chose to study psychology that I’d have to go to Graduate School and that I’d have to do something in order to handle those academic rigors. Did I do anything about it? No.

For the last forty years, I’ve acted as if somehow all my problems would magically disappear without actually doing all the work I was supposed to do. I knew that God forgave me when I confessed my sins of arrogance and laziness in the confessional. Somehow I forgot that part of that forgiveness required that I work to change myself so as not to fall into those sins again.

And I haven’t been to Reconciliation (the preferred term for Confession) in almost a year because of this. I can’t like myself with these sins weighing on my heart.

How could I allow myself to heal with those kinds of sins? How could God?

What I don’t know is why I won’t make the changes that I need to make. Why I cling to my sins and my negative self-image.

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.