Yes, it hurts ….

There is a calendar on my kitchen wall, “compliments of my very supportive sister”. The calendar is getting crossed off each day and is etching closer to the day that marks one year of a broken marriage.  In exactly one week will be one year of living life single and downsized, downsized in terms of a family which is now broken down and scattered here and there.

Nearly one year ago my life changed as did my children’s lives.

Life also changed for my ex-husband.

The truth is that while most people recognise when things are not going well the reality of a family unit collapsing is a shock to everyone concerned.

Regardless of the pain and hurt within a marriage relationship when a family falls apart it affects everybody. The pain and emotion is tremendous and difficult to describe in words.

No matter the reasons for the marriage breakdown there are no miraculous formulas to help one forget about those family moments each shared. To remember them is to hurt and ache for what is now lost.

As a mum of five children my life revolved around my family. I loved being a mum and still do. There is nothing I can ever do to get those moments back ever again. They are over, done and dusted.

It is possibly one of the reasons why it took me so long to finally get the courage to leave my marriage as who in their right mind wants a broken family. I continued in the unhealthy relationship for decades. My children kept me focused on something wholesome and good. I had purpose. I was busy, too busy to think most days. And had my thoughts taken me to places in which I felt lonely in my marriage there was nothing I believed I could do about it. It was simply too difficult.

Most parents would relate to the idea of staying together for the sake of the kids.

The fact of the matter is that not all relationships are doomed. There are relationships that have the potential of being restored. When a relationship can be restored and operate in a healthy way then why not? Everyone wins in that case…..

When I was married my values and beliefs kept me in the marriage. I firmly believed that marriage was something you didn’t give up on easily. That no matter what went wrong, no matter how hard it was that it was each partner’s willingness and dedication that would have them forgive each other and sort out their issues.

Believe me, I tried so hard.

In the midst of trying so hard I got lost. So much of who I was went missing too. To keep the peace I had to refrain from communicating my needs. Whenever I did communicate my needs I got the silent treatment. I was made to feel like it was wrong to have needs. I recall the moments that I tried to communicate. It usually began with me feeling extremely anxious as I knew that it was not going to be an easy task, that I would be met with all sorts of resistance. Despite my intentions and desires of wanting to have a close healthy relationship, my ex-husband did not share that value.

He would make me feel de-valued, unwanted, rejected and confused. In my mind I thought it was normal to approach your significant other when hurting and needing to talk to sort things out. I believed in sorting things out. He on the other hand was always on the defensive. The minute that I attempted to have a conversation with him I knew it was not going to be easy. He would use his many words or even the lack thereof to let me know that whatever I was feeling was my problem. That he was not at fault. That somehow everything I was feeling was my character flaw.

Often he would quote the bible to me, telling me that I needed to forgive him.

When things got really serious he would then write me a letter. In the letter it would read and list out all of the areas he would ask for forgiveness from me. The difficulty I had with that was his actions continued being hurtful.

Often times he would inflict so much emotional hurt on me that eventually I would cave into depression for weeks on end. On several occasions when feeling completely depressed and overwhelmed he would suddenly turn into the ‘superhero dad’ and tell the kids he was going to take them out for the day. He never spent time with them unless I was depressed. He would then use his methods to convey to the kids that mum had issues, that she was the problem. When I had those moments of depression he would ignore me by giving me the silent treatment.

He made me feel as though there was something wrong with me even when I was depressed. He was not supportive or compassionate.  To him I was invisible.

This type of interaction created such anxiety. It happened so often that I knew what was going to happen every time I approached him with a problem. I knew that no matter how I spoke to him it was not going to be favourable. On occasions I experimented with different types of communication. I tried the meek and mild version, the strong and assertive. I tried the Christian wife version of being humble and loving. Decades later it was obvious that it didn’t matter what I said or how I said it, it was always going to be wrong. It was always going to be an issue that I had created which meant that he didn’t need to take any responsibility for his actions.

There were many occasions in which his attempt at doing something loving for me was equally as hurtful.

On one occasion I recall he and my eldest son had gone on a road trip to Sydney. When they returned I excitedly went outside to greet them. My ex-husband was pulling bags out of the boot of the car. He went on to say that he had bought me some expensive perfume. Then immediately after stating that fact he finished the sentence with “your son said you stink so I thought I would get you some perfume”. I’m almost embarrassed to type this as it sounds so awful, but that is exactly what happened.  Suddenly the idea of receiving perfume as a gift got turned into something so de-valuing.

On another occasion when we were at a shopping mall without prior warning my ex began walking into a jewellery store, all spur of the moment. Naturally I followed him wondering what was going on.  The store assistants were doing their job by asking my ex “how can we help you today”. My ex went on to say with a very loud and sarcastic tone “my wife is here to spend all of my money so can you help her find some jewellery”.  Hmm I’m not sure about most people however that moment was gone for me. I had no desire for any jewellery what so ever. Despite my sudden lack or desire of choosing jewellery he forced me to pick something by making such a spectacle of me in front of everyone in the store.  I felt so embarrassed in front of all the sales assistants.

These examples are only a tiny drop in the ocean of so much more that happened in my marriage. It is possibly the first time that I have shed a little more light into how I was treated.

One can imagine after being in a relationship that was quite unhealthy it is no easy task to recover from years’ worth of damage.

The first step to recovery was leaving. ….

 

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Break the mold before it bre/aks you.

Have you ever heard people say, “you’ve been cut from the same mold?”.  In other words you are almost a copy of someone significant in your life usually a parent. That’s only expected as members of families’ share the same genes’ and have grown up together developing similar habits and patterns throughout their upbringing. This sets families apart from others; it gives you an identity of belonging somewhere closely knitted amongst a big spacious world.

There comes a time in any family in which children grow up and begin to make their own journey discovering who they are on their own two feet. Deciding for themselves which parts of what they have learned means something to them. Whether it be carrying on a Christmas Tradition or other type of celebration that has given a family their own signature.

It is wonderful to appreciate our heritage and where we come from as a person. It gives us our own uniqueness in a world that doesn’t always appreciate the differences in people.

How about the molds people put us in?

As parents we may put expectations on our children which restrict them to be themselves. We may place our vision of the future onto them expecting that they follow a path we have chosen. We think we know best! The child may feel unable to wander into a direction that is not in line with what you as the parent have been dreaming of. Of course as parents we have every good intention for our children. We want what is best for them. We ourselves have traveled through life making mistakes hoping to prevent those same mistakes from being repeated.

Perhaps you are your own worst enemy?

We don’t always need people to place restrictions upon us. We can quite easily manage that for ourselves when we keep holding onto the things that didn’t work out. Our failures can keep us believing we will always fail. Our disappointments and hurts keep us stuck in the same place perhaps for years.

We are after all creatures of habit? Settling all too easily into patterns of thinking and behaving which keep us comfortable. We all like comfort. That place of familiarity and comfort can be dangerous. Especially if it involves a relationship with someone who repeatedly breaks you down until you turn into a person you were never intended to be!

If it isn’t enough to deal with our own negatives voices in our head we often have other people’s voices guiding our next move. If you have ever been in a long term relationship with someone who causes you emotional harm and has managed to manipulate your life you would be familiar with what I am talking about. It’s quite frightening to stand on your own two feet breaking out of the mold of manipulation. Your own sense of knowing has been lost along the way, as you’ve been made to feel like you don’t know what you are doing. The ocean of doubts can be deafening.

Now that I am six months into this journey of single mum no longer in a damaging marriage relationship I’m discovering on a regular basis all of the restrictions that have kept me from being myself. At times it may feel like you’re never going to relax and have the freedom of knowing who you truly are. It takes tonnes of courage to do things you may have never done before for fear of it not working. Almost like an animal that has been locked up in a cage for years and when set free the animal chooses to go back in the cage as it feels comfortable and safe.

This is precisely why unhealthy relationships can be so damaging to a person. It isn’t something to joke about or make light of as it is so much more serious than one can ever imagine. It is very difficult for a person who has been so broken to bounce back again, as they have to fight through every imaginable lie and fear to get to the other side of where freedom is waiting for them. I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve had to battle with all sorts of thoughts and fears.

I can however encourage you by saying that as you just keep moving through each fear one by one they start to lose power. Yes it is frightening! Yes it is very uncomfortable! And YES it may or may not work out as there are never any guarantees in life. Yet you have the choice to risk it and step out of that place of doubt and failure testing the waters for something opposite to what you have ever experienced.

We often believe we deserve the same as what we have always had. It gives us an excuse to stay the same and keep holding onto our fears. Until we decide to do things afraid we will stay where we are and never move forward. As much as I could so easily settle and remain the same in my comfort zone I know it will continue restricting me. I may still carry hurt that needs healing however I’ve discovered that the more I choose to break out of the mold of manipulation and emotional hurt from my previous long term relationship the more I am experiencing healing.

If I choose to stay where I am perhaps the healing will have no opportunity to present itself?

What does healing look like?

Well for me healing is noticeable as I become aware that I am smiling a lot more often rather than feeling anxious and stressed out. I’m learning to trust people and myself again. All those dreams in my life that got squashed for some time are slowly bubbling to the surface reminding me that there is still hope to fulfill the purpose I was created for. Confidence is returning, confidence in my choices and decisions.

In times past I would have lost momentum and motivation in a heartbeat as my life circumstance taught me that while something might be going well for a week it won’t last as drama is only around the corner. It was a constant cycle of ups and down’s. I could have sat in a field of flowers picking petals one by one repeating the phrase “life is normal, no it’s not, life is normal, not it’s not”…..

What’s trying to break you?

Reflecting back on 2016 <—

Thinking too much about the past isn’t always so helpful in terms of the future especially when you’re hoping to move beyond certain issues that have held you back for far too long. We can get so caught up like a fish stuck in a net and make life harder for ourselves. Imagine being a fish for a moment………. fish never know when or where a large net is going to silently pick them up against their will and take them from their environment. Ironically that is what happened to me this year!  I was suddenly put into a position in which I had no choice but to leave my marriage of 27 years and move states all within a matter of hours. Had I been compliant perhaps I could have stayed however being in a marriage only to be compliant was no longer appealing.

It’s natural at this time of the year to start reflecting back!

With good intention we set goals for the New Year however we cannot guarantee what the future holds as much as we cannot change what has taken place in the past year of which we are on the verge of leaving behind us.

Goodbye 2016!!!

It’s useful to reflect back and consider what we do or do not want in our future. We may decide to do things a little differently to how we would have done them previously.

Albert Einstein in his simple yet powerful quote says:

Insanity  =  doing the same thing

over and over again

and expecting different results!

In reflecting back on this past year with breath in my lungs and hope in my heart,  I consider what I do OR do not want for myself in the New Year. I can use this past year as a guidebook to keep me from losing myself and ending up in situations that I don’t belong in.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned in this past year is that my self-worth and value does not need to be compromised. I don’t need to lower my standards and accept any sort of treatment. The fact is that not everyone on planet earth is going to treat you right. As I reflect back it concerns me that I allowed myself to be treated so badly for so long.

What was I thinking?

The trouble was when I was younger I had little value in myself. This meant that I didn’t need a net to come out of nowhere and take me away. I was the fish that swam into the net having no resistance thereby reflecting my low self-worth. As much as I dreamed of being treated with respect, love and honesty I continued gravitating towards harsh treatment.

The less you value yourself the more opportunity there is to be in relationships with people that do not value you either. It feels comfortable, you feel like a fish in your own man made environment.

The circumstances that took place of the night that saw me walk out of my marriage were not ideal in any marriage breakup story. It was rushed and painful not only for myself but for all of my children. There are certain parts of that night that my 9 year old will always remember along with my adult children. While I wish that the night of the breakup were a lot less intense my hope is that in time the kid’s hearts will heal along with mine and we will all be able to move forward into the future. Even with all the scars my hope is that everyone will find their place in this world and have clarity about what they do or do not want in their relationships.

No one deserves to be in a relationship that is damaging. In my previous blog I introduced the topic of ‘emotional abuse’. Emotional abuse is quite silent. It generally happens in such a way that you are not even aware of what is exactly going on. The relationship keeps you full of questions only to provide the same answer each time which tells you, you’re the fault! This results in continually having to attempt fixing the problem as you are led to believe you are the problem. When you are trapped in this type of relationship the other party leaves you with no rights to question their behaviour. No matter how many times I had tried to get to the bottom of the real issue my words, feelings and thoughts were always twisted around to be turned into knots that couldn’t be untangled.

Emotional abuse creates a controlling relationship. The person doing the abusing has power over your emotions. They create situations or conversations that set your emotions into a spiral. When your emotions are all over the place you are easily manipulated into whatever it is that the abuser has in mind for their own purposes. It is always about them! They are not in the relationship because they love you; they are in the relationship as they have power to abuse you.

To others the abuser can seem like the most Christian citizen that walked planet earth. The person being abused knows what they are really like. The abused watches on and lives a life filled with contradiction and heartache. Nothing about their life makes sense. Constantly questioning why life feels abnormal and insecure. The worst part about the whole scenario is that no matter how hard you may try to be the best wife that walked planet earth it will not change your relationship with an emotional abuser.

For Christian women in particular this can be extremely difficult. The amount of times over the years that I had tried to get counsel or advice from other women in church left me more confused. Unless someone has ever been in an emotional abusive marriage they will not understand the way it works.

You need to talk to someone that does understand and a professional counselor in this case is very important.

In a normal healthy marriage advice on how to be the good Christian wife can be helpful. However in an emotionally abusive marriage the advice can leave you stuck in that damaging marriage for years.

In the New Year my hope is to continue healing from all of the damage caused while being in the unhealthy relationship. This means to continue going to counseling and allowing myself all the time necessary for recovery.

Life can hurt so I’m keeping it real.

Happy New Year…. ♥

Anxiety is the pits!

Over the years I have had people say they feel a sense of calm around me or that I portray being calm. Often that statement has surprised me given how much I’ve battled with anxiety due to high levels of stress. It makes sense that people wouldn’t see what’s going on inside me as I have learnt how to interact with others regardless of any internal situation I might be feeling at any given moment.

There was a time in which worry and anxiety interfered on a daily basis. At times when it was really bad I struggled to leave the house for fear of having a panic attack. I was anxious about what was going to happen to me when I was away from the comfort of my home. Home was the place that I retreated to and built as my safe place. Time and again when I was out running errands or buying groceries, anxiety was my shopping companion. Anxiety liked to dictate how I was going to feel whilst walking through the busy shopping mall. On very bad days when anxiety was waiting to pounce I would get my shopping done quick smart so as I could get out of crowded places. I often felt as though people around me could see my struggle as it was so strong, powerful and scary. On many occasions I felt as though I was going to collapse when waiting in a queue. It felt hard to breathe which then resulted in feeling dizzy and shaky. The fear of making a scene in front of other shoppers almost made the anxiety worse. I knew that if I could get myself home then eventually the anxiety would settle and I would be safe again.

Anxiety really is the pits!!!

The battle with anxiety started after a very intense season of stressful circumstances when I was in my mid-twenties. I had gone through stressful events many times over previously however anxiety only really hit me later. I don’t think our bodies are made to cope with too much stress on a regular basis. We often hear about good stress and bad stress. The good stress gets us motivated to get things done however the bad stress sends us into a flight or fight mode. It is inbuilt so as we can respond to dangerous and threatening situations immediately. For example this inbuilt flight/fight switch would go off if you were walking across the road and suddenly a car came towards you out of nowhere. Your body would get you responding as quickly as possible to get you out of the way to prevent serious harm.

The truth is that most situations are not dangerous (such as myself walking through a crowded shopping mall) yet panic attacks happen as a result of the inbuilt flight or fight switch that triggers off at the wrong times. So your body kicks in with adrenaline telling it to start fighting or running away. This is when you feel all sorts of different symptoms in your body, from tingling shaky hands to difficulty breathing. It is like a surge or a rush of intense panic.  As you stand there experiencing all of these symptoms in your body knowing full where that  there is no real dangerous situation you then feel as though you are going to die as why else would you feel like this? In books panic attacks are often described as a feeling impending doom!

panic-attacks

How do we avoid the bad stress which causes so much anxiety?

It took me years to figure out the cause of a lot of my stress despite the fact that it should have been obvious. One of the biggest issues that I had was keeping emotions bottled up. I didn’t find it easy to talk about them. These bottled up emotions were usually a result of an argument with my ex. I wasn’t aware how much unhealthy interactions were affecting me as it was usually on a subconscious level. Consciously I was aware that we were having serious issues which I was always trying to resolve with my ex and in the back of my mind I wondered why the (resolving part) often made me feel worse.

Most people know that relationships have arguments and tension. This is normal!!! Little did I understand that what is normal was not my normal? What I was experiencing was very different. It was so subtle and difficult to recognise which made it impossible for me to truly understand. This is where the topic of emotional abuse is introduced for the first time on my blog page.

It isn’t easy to write about emotional abuse for fear of being seen as the bad person. People that have been emotionally abused would understand this issue, the issue of always blaming oneself for everything. In the relationship it was all too easy for me to continue believing that it was always my fault when things went wrong. That if I would just try hard enough things would be better. That perhaps if I wasn’t so sensitive to how I was being treated then things would be ok. That I should just keep quiet and leave things as they are. The trouble was that keeping things quiet may have caused fewer waves for a time yet it produced anxiety.

Anxiety was always present.

When we are in a relationship with someone who is unstable emotionally and creates crazy circumstances to live through it can result in anxiety together with depression. All of your senses are heightened and at a level that is not healthy. You may see things with your eyes or feel things that are wrong yet your trapped in the situation believing it’s your entire fault.

When we hear about domestic violence everyone knows that the person doing the hitting is the bad person. In more subtle forms of abuse such as emotional manipulation the true culprit hides behind lies and games. It isn’t visible or tangible physically which makes it so hard to see clearly. The abuser leaves you feeling as though the problem is YOU. They don’t take responsibility for their actions. They don’t feel your pain. It is always about them winning and gaining control and power.

While I am no longer in that relationship, thank heavens, I’m working on myself with the help of a counsellor to bring the heightened anxiety level right back down. This will take time of course considering how many years I lived in that state of threat. I suppose this blog is not so much about all of the details on emotional abuse but rather a thought provoking piece to help others recognise what areas of their lives might be causing the bad type of stress that can lead to excessive anxiety.

Feel free to add any comments about your experience with anxiety.

 

You might want to sit down for this…

Have you ever watched a movie and a scene plays out in which the phrase “you might want to sit down for this one” grabs your attention? It’s one of those typical scenes I have been fortunate enough to avoid so far in my life up until this week. This week highlights for me the first experience of sitting down hesitantly in my lounge room with two of my most favourite people as they struggle to come to terms with how they are going to tell me some news which would put me in shock for the next few days. With shock has been incredible anger that I can’t put into words. So much anger that I felt bad at the amount of swear words that have actually left my mouth and occupied my mind. The news hurt severely and still hurts.

On the previous night call it what you will I had an inkling that something was going to be told to me the next day. So on the way to taking my son to school and on my way back home I prepared myself with my most favourite Hillsong music blasting flat out in my car. My stomach was churning slightly with my heart doing random beats out of whack. While I was somewhat prepared the news landed heavy on my heart. In some ways the news should not have been such a surprise as I suspected something of this nature to be going on. In fact I suspected it long before I had to leave Brisbane and come to Canberra.

How often do we put aside suspicions and inklings only to talk our way out of them as we don’t really want to believe the truth?

Tuesday this week I heard the truth. The truth hurt more than I can imagine. If it hasn’t been enough to deal with the grief of a 27 year marriage breakdown this news took me into a place of anger and betrayal. They say anger is normal in these types of situations and I believe that. No matter how normal it may be to feel such anger it is not pleasant.  It is consuming for a little while. In my case it has been two full days and nights. I can feel it slowing moving away which is a welcome feeling. It more likely will return here and there such as the feelings of sadness over all the lost hopes and dreams two young people once held.

This could have been one of those moments in which I might have made my way into the bedroom, drawn the curtains and stayed in bed under my blankets for a week. I didn’t do that!!! As tempting as it was I decided to get up the next morning for the sake of my son to get him to school.

When I stop for a moment and look back to the past four months I’m amazed how this person (me) has even gotten this far? Had these events taken place as close as two years ago I’m not all that sure I would have handled it. Through the years I have grown and developed my own sense of value. As a young person I didn’t own it. As I have mentioned in many of my earlier blogs I struggled with low self-esteem and self-hatred. There was nothing that I liked about myself.

Having had such issues drove me into the arms of another broken person. Despite the fact that the marriage is well and truly over I can take courage of the changes that have happened deep inside of me. The shy young girl who hated herself grew up and let go of the hurts that kept her stuck in a prison. These issues got me into hurtful situations. I had no confidence to speak my own mind. It was as though someone had sealed my mouth shut. To speak my mind created anxiety and fear. Fear of rejection.

If there is one piece of advice I could give to anyone who is looking to marry please make sure that you are not so badly broken that you settle for someone who may cause you emotional harm. It is crucial that you know your own true value and worth. As not every relationship issue is a normal one. Some relationship issues are psychologically or emotionally damaging.  If you are in a relationship and question yourself on a regular basis I would seek some help and advice for that. It is not normal to constantly question yourself or your relationship. If you find yourself being blamed all too often again I would say check that. If you feel as though you are sitting on a roller coaster in your relationship take that as another warning sign. Let me describe the roller coaster a little better. This relationship roller coaster has moments of incredible highs. It’s as though you are led to believe the most incredible things are going to take place, incredible such as amazing financial success. That once this financial success takes place life will be amazing, your marriage will be amazing!!! However the reality is that the highs of the roller coaster shifts downward and you are faced with financial failure. Finances are just one example it could be something else or multiple areas which are keeping you believing that this relationship is worth staying in. In other words you hold onto a false sense of hope.

You may begin seeing contradictions yet you’ve been led to believe for such a long time that something amazing is going to happen which convinces you to continue sitting on the roller coaster. Just a little while longer and things will change you repeat to yourself. Just a little while longer and everything will be more stable. Just a little while longer and I may be happy like others seem to be. Just a little while longer and I may be valued and cared for. Just a little while longer I might be good enough to be heard.

If you find yourself constantly having to comply to keep the peace something isn’t right. A relationship which is healthy works from a foundation of respect, trust and honesty to say the least. It is not supposed to be one of control. That one partner has the power to hold you captive so much that your own voice is stopped. Your voice or your thoughts should be important. You should be able to approach your significant other with confidence not anxiety. If you are experiencing a lot of anxiety in a relationship seek good advice.

No one deserves to be in a relationship to be broken down and damaged. Sometimes it can take years to recognise particularly if you struggle to know your own worth and value. When we de-value ourselves we can enable people close to us to continue behaving in hurtful ways. Once we recognise our worth and value we have the ability to keep healthy boundaries with others ensuring healthy interactions.

The longer you sweep things under the carpet so to speak the more damage is done. Find a trusted person to talk to if you struggle with something beyond a normal relationship issue. Trust your instincts. Be aware of what your body and emotions are telling you. It’s easy to ignore the obvious as denial is often a comfortable option rather than facing something painful.

Life can hurt so I’m keeping it real…..