In the present

Part of what domestic violence survivors deal with is a constant state of anticipation. We watch other people and try to figure out what move they’ll make next. We try to determine what people are feeling when they’re not talking: are they happy? Sad? Angry? And what did we do to cause these feelings?

It’s a horrible way to live. Because it’s not living — at all.

I never even knew I was “living” this way until I went through trauma therapy. Since then, I have tried to learn how to eliminate this part of my inner life because it has been incredibly damaging to me. I do wonder how the stress has affected me physically in ways I can’t see. On the outside, I see myself beginning to succumb to some old-age symptoms (and I’m only 52!), and I want to reverse this trend.

I’d thought about taking classes in meditation, but what stopped me is the same thing that prevents me from taking yoga classes: I still have problems being what I perceive as physically vulnerable in a group of strangers.

Instead, I bought a recorded version of Eckhart Tolle’s “Practicing the Power of Now.” I tried reading his book “The Power of Now” and couldn’t get through it, although I may try again. The “Practicing” book is good because it actually does give practical exercises for being in the present moment instead of ruminating on the past or trying to anticipate or predict the future.

I’m almost finished with my first listen, and then I’m going to listen to it a second time. After that, I’ll share some techniques here, once I’m more comfortable using them, myself.

For now, I’ll leave you with this thought: the future is an illusion. And any anxiety I feel about the future is also an illusion, something I’m creating, myself. Since I created it, I can destroy it. And that’s what I’m choosing to do today: to crush the anxiety I feel much of the time and replace it with love for myself.

Thankful for therapy

I wrote in my last post that my husband, who suffers from severe depression, and I thought a prescription drug, which he started taking about 10 years ago, could be the cause of all this misery.

Well, I was wrong.

I’m not going to spend much time on the details here, but he explained to me yesterday, following an appointment with his psychologist, that he has been emotionally numb for as many as 25+ years. He has no understanding, literally, of what it’s like to use feelings to guide one’s daily life or decisions.

He’s lived for as long as he can remember in a state of … what, exactly? He explained that his decisions were based purely on reason and a bit of cynicism. Not on love: for himself, or for me, or for anyone. Not based on anything emotional at all.

I don’t know how someone can live like this and not commit suicide. I’m actually surprised he’s still here.

But here is what is amazing to me. I took all this in with a fair degree of shock. It infected my dreams last night, too.

This morning, I woke up feeling really good. It’s not that I don’t have sympathy for him, of course, because I do. It’s heartbreaking.

Photo by me

My therapy, however, showed me that I have the strength and power to create any kind of life I want to live. I love myself now. I believe in myself now. No matter what happens, no matter what decisions I need to make, no matter what else I hear from him, I can learn and grow from all of it — and make it part of my spectacular life.

I never thought I’d reach this point. It’s taken a lot of effort to get here, and I work on myself every single day to release negative emotions and harmful beliefs about myself.

But I’ve never been more thankful for therapy than I am right at this very moment.

Clarity today

For those of you who may be new to this blog, my husband — who is suffering from depression and is now in treatment — is my second husband, not the man about whom I wrote the book. My current husband is not abusive. He’s kind and caring, and he adopted my daughter when she turned 18.

On my way home from work today, I had a moment of clarity. I realized that the recent conversation with my husband was significant in many ways, but one reason stands above the rest: if my husband is not able to hear me speak honestly and openly about problems we have, then he is not the right man for me. He did well the other day, and I’m hoping that’s a sign of things to come.

Coming through trauma therapy changed me for the better. I’m not the same woman he married almost 16 years ago. I’m a much better version of myself: someone who refuses to subjugate my feelings and needs, period.

He’s not the same man I married 16 years ago, either. He fell into depression, lived there for upwards of a decade, and is now coming out of it.

I don’t know exactly who he is now, or who he’ll be once he finishes treatment.

But I do know this: I know exactly what I need in a husband/partner. Among many things, I need to be with someone who can listen to me speak my mind, who isn’t timid when it comes to hearing the truth — even if it’s ugly. For me, it’s the only way to truly connect with another person.

Today, thanks to a lot of great therapy and hard work on my part, I’m secure in myself and in my needs. For the first time in my life, I really know what I want in a life partner, and I believe I can be an equal participant in a relationship.

I love my husband, and I hope things work out between us and that we can connect in the ways that matter to both of us.

But I have no fear at all, either way this goes.

Took a big step forward this week

As you may have read in my recent post about workplace bullying, I’m having a difficult time in my current job. It’s sad because the rest of my life is really starting to turn around. Or should I say, I am really starting to turn my life around.

I finished the trauma therapy almost a year ago, completing about 14-15 months of the hardest emotional work I have ever done (and hope I ever will do). In the past year, I’ve experienced everything from separating from my husband, to having the biggest argument of our lives with my daughter, to watching my daughter go far away to grad school (and missing her terribly), to giving my husband an ultimatum about our marriage.

But since January, aside from my job, my life has really been changing for the positive. Shall I count the ways?

  1. My dear husband (who moved back in a few months ago) decided to get professional help for depression, and it’s making a difference. I continue to monitor my own feelings about the relationship, rather than focusing on his feelings so much.
  2. I have published more short fiction (under another pen name) — I’m up to 5 books so far — and am working on the next one now.
  3. I have been doing some serious work on trying to calm my mind in order to cope better with my PTSD symptoms, and it’s helping.
  4. My relationship with my daughter is repaired.
  5. And … I took a big step forward this week and enrolled in Marie Forleo’s B-School, an online course for entrepreneurs who want to create a successful, sustainable online business. It wasn’t cheap, but I know the investment will pay off. I’m sure of it. That was my biggest step forward yet — making this investment in myself.

That last step was a direct result of the bullying at work. I’ve had enough, I really have. I can no longer work in that environment, and I want to return to having control over my work life. In years past, I did work for myself. But since 2007, I’ve worked full time in the same institution (3 different positions now) and can’t find professional fulfillment there.

This week, I accepted that reality and stepped up my self-control, if you will. While I can’t quit my job just yet, I’m now moving toward doing so, methodically and positively.

Looking back on the trauma therapy, I see how it pushed me over a cliff into the darkness that was ME. I didn’t know myself very well at all, because the abuse had taught me to be focused completely on other people: their moods, their moves, everything. As a result, I had no idea what I really thought, what I felt, what I wanted.

Now, I’m discovering that I actually do have something inside of me that people like and respect. And what I don’t have inside of me now, I’ll create as I go along.

That thought process alone is a big step forward for me: realizing that I can be someone with agency over my life, and I can create something. I’m late to this realization because of what happened to me, and I know I can never have the life I should have had. I can, however, create something else — something good. And that starts now.

P.S. The Violence Against Women Act was passed by Congress. Couldn’t be happier about that, except I wish it didn’t have to exist at all.