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. ….

 

A prisoner in your own skin

When I was younger I remember watching a show called PRISONER. It was an Australian soap opera based around women inmates and their lives in prison. In Canada the same show was called CAGED WOMEN. In referencing this t.v soap opera I am not so much blogging about the story lines within the show, but rather drawing your attention to ‘prison life’, or more aptly put ‘caged women’.

There were many years that I felt as though I was living as a ‘caged woman’. Locked up within myself and unable to escape.

While I have never actually visited a prison I have seen enough on t.v and the movies to know that the environment is cold, isolating, frightening, harsh, restrictive and controlled (for obvious reasons) and volatile. I would assume that prisoners could perhaps feel claustrophobic, regretful; hate, mistrusting or perhaps feel nothing at all. Prisoners are kept in cells which are highly protected and monitored. Locked up behind bars! Prison is set up to keep criminals away from society. They are serving time for crimes committed. There are inmates that are serving time for the rest of their lives. Crime is just that, a crime! These prisoners have made choices and done crime which has resulted in them being judged before a court and sentenced to jail.

As a very ordinary young girl I had not committed any crimes however I lived as though I was locked up in a prison. There were areas of my heart that were locked up behind bars. While there were days that I dreamed about being free from this internal prison I just did not know how that was possible. For years it looked as though it was going to be a life sentence.

It isn’t a crime to struggle with low self-esteem, however there are a lot of similarities being a prisoner in your own skin to that of being an actual ‘prisoner’. There are days that feel very isolating and lonely. The environment of your heart and mind is filled with negativity and self-hatred. Thoughts overwhelm you such as; why am I so ugly, so shy, so unwanted, so rejected, so misunderstood, so hopeless, so helpless and on and on and on….. It is an ugly place…..A painful place…..

When you glance over at other people’s lives and then glance back at your own you believe the lie that they are all better than you and you are NOTHING.

As a prisoner in your own skin there is no need of a security guard to keep you locked up, you are the one that keeps yourself in there. In particular situations it is safer to stay locked up. You don’t want any visitors or interactions with anyone. Even though you are not a criminal you feel that no one is going to like you so why bother trying to make any friends as past experience has shown only rejection to be true, how could it be anything else?

It never crossed my mind as a young person that if I didn’t like myself then I was going to project that to others. It was a constant battle where one part of me wanted to be accepted and to have lots of friends and the other part of me would behave as though people would reject me so I unknowingly would set the scene for rejection before it had a chance to happen.  This obviously did not work in my favour it was too complex for me to understand so the cycle continued.

When you are broken on the inside the outside is broken too! It just works hand in hand. Without repairing the brokenness on the inside the outside will reflect what the inside is feeling.

Low self- esteem or hating one- self is almost like being put into solitary confinement. There is not much space to move around. You are confined as a person restricted inside your own heart. The only voices you are hearing are that of your own which are not very positive. While you may have the freedom to do as others do such as going to work and living life, on the inside you are not free to enjoy the experience.

You are not the criminal, low self-esteem  ‘the robber’  has entered in at some stage and  tricked you into believing that you are never going to be good enough or wanted in this lifetime.

The true criminal here is ‘low self- esteem’. My experience with this criminal is that when I allowed unforgiveness and hurts to stay in my heart I unknowlingly gave permission or entry for low self-esteem to be in charge of the keys to my freedom.

After I discovered that all I needed to do was let go of old hurts then I was able to take back those keys and unlock myself from this prison that had kept me confined and bound.

Although I had been released from this prison inside my own skin it has taken several years to truly understand what it is to be free to live as myself. Every step forward has given me more courage to live the freedom that was intended for me. It is not an overnight process. If you can imagine that someone who has been confined for such a long time is not going to just venture out and let loose once they are set free from a cage. There is a process to walk through and a mind and heart that need renewing.

We are not created to live as prisoners in our own skins. It does not need to be a life sentence; I thought it was my lot in life. Not the case! Once you realise the truth there is no turning back. There is no way I would ever want to go back and be held hostage by low-self -esteem.

My prayer and hope is that readers who identify this as their life right now would be brave and willing to let go of whatever it is that has hurt you and take back those keys of freedom for your own life!

 

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Why i started to Blog….

This is actually my very first post on my own blog page. No clue as to how this really works, however, I decided that it was time to write about the areas that I am really passionate about. My goal or purpose is to support and encourage everyday individuals who are struggling with poor self image or anything midlife related that may be causing havoc in their life and relationships. Having walked through both of these areas of turmoil it seems only right to share my experiences with anyone who is willing to listen and in need of someone they can relate to who understands what they are going through.

For the past three years I have been studying for a Bachelor in Psychology (part-time) and have been writing a book for girls of all ages. The book is all about my struggles and triumphs with low self esteem.

Blogging came about as I felt the need to start sharing snippets of truth and support now and not only when I have accomplished gaining a bachelor or have published a book.

While this struggle for me was decades ago no doubt those same struggles are experienced by many right now! Perhaps the opportunities are more frequent today. When  I was growing up there was no internet.

In today’s world there are many avenues that can bombard young girls with wrong impressions of what it is to be Beautiful. Social Media profiles of young girls today only highlight the wrong impressions presented which can lead young girls into selling themselves so short in their true value as a person.

Beauty is all about the status and health of your heart. When your heart is restored and whole it reflects true beauty on the outside which is of far more worth than anything superficial.  When you are broken and hurting it will always surface at some point. No amount of makeup, clothes or anything else you desperately rely on to feel beautiful is going to make the pain in your heart go away. It has to be dealt with from the inside first.

The heart is the foundation of a person, if the heart is hurting and broken then it is time to spend more energy and effort there rather than on anything external. Quick fixes do not last but when you get the foundation right then everything else will fall into place so much better.

Yours Sincerely, Anu Mari