Friday, July 29, 2016

The Past Opened Up

Life has been so beautiful.  You know when things are cruising- you and your spouse are communicating well, life is blissful, wonderfully in love - the world is at peace.  I ought to know that all HELL will break loose in that moment.

That is exactly what happened last week.  I went out with my girlfriends and was having a tremendously great time- when the conversation moved in a direction that I did not expect- bisexuality. I was a bit uncomfortable with the conversation, but I really try to be open minded so I let her talk about what she is going through and let her be her.  What a beautiful gift to give a friend- They are ok where they are! But I really wasn't ok inside.  I started panicing, worrying.  Edmond and I stayed up till 3am trying to process why I was so triggered.

Over the next few days memories started flooding my mind- moments in time that I had long buried and tried to forget, praying that it really wasn't me that lived that moment.  You see when I was 9 or 10, I went on to a friend's house for a play date- innocent enough- I have kids that age and they do play dates all the time.  Only my friend and I didn't just play ponies, barbies and board games.  She taught me foreplay and love making skills.  I liked it enough to introduce a few friends to this new game.  The "play" lasted a summer- and made an appearance at my birthday slumber party where a few friends told me how they didn't think it was right- they weren't comfortable.  I think that was the last time I played that game.

The sexual arousal I experienced with girls was confusing.  I stole a couple pictures of busty bikini baring ladies my mom was throwing out of dad's Sports Illustrated magazine.  I kept them in my drawer and told myself that I liked to look at them because the swimsuits were really pretty.  I sat uncomfortably close to other girls.  I was fascinated with grown women's cleavage and would stare at it.  I remember my mom finding the pictures and her asking me if I liked girls not boys.  I laughed at her- and made sure to modify my behavior.  Because really, all I wanted was a boy to like me- hold my hand and maybe kiss me.. But I was always interested, fascinated, aroused by the female body.  Never once did I connect my sexual introduction by a female to that arousal by other women...

By the time I was fourteen all that was buried deep. The memory resurfaced during college when I began dating Edmond.  I went to my bishop to "confess" and to make sure I was temple worthy- I felt so much shame for what I had done and what I did to my friends (I never even considered that what was done to me was a form of sexual abuse, all I felt was shame for what I did)- I didn't want that to hold me back from a future temple marriage.  The bishop assured me that I was good, long forgiven and not to worry about it.  Spiritually I was clean. Maybe Satan was bringing it up to hold me  back from my real potential as a daughter of God. A great concept that I held on to firmly, desperately.  Anytime the memory arose, I said, Satan, I am clean!  But emotionally the wound was still open.

As I look back on almost 19 years of marriage, I can see how this experience has shaped my intimacy with Edmond- certain things are off limits or just don't happen because they were part of that shameful "play." This impacted my friendships- I was always trying to make up for being the friend who actually hurts others- I had to be the perfect friend, compassionate, listening, helping.  EVERYTHING to make up for what I had done.  It sure impacts the clothes I am comfortable wearing.  Some clothes (bikinis, plunging necklines) are shameful, sexual, lustful pieces of clothing and should be used for the bedroom only, and girls- especially teens- who wear them are only doing so to elicit arousal and attention from teenage boys. Add in LDS taboos and modestly entrenched that sentiment.

So here I am, trying to figure out what I think, what I feel and what I want. (sigh) Trying to figure out that I am still okay and lovable. The best, most wonderful part of the situation is how supportive, kind and caring Edmond has been during the process.  Holding me when all I could do was cry. Gently rubbing my back as I try to get this all out. Accepting that I may be attracted to women and not caring one bit. Loving me just the same.

And then I understood. Edmond's gift of love, acceptance and support- love I didn't feel I deserved or warranted- was the same gift I had given him 3 years ago when he confessed his addiction issues.  When I loved and accepted Edmond and helped him through his addiction, I never understood the magnitude of just being there and being kind.  Edmond's generosity, kindness and love has lifted me and helped me each day.  In small and simple ways he blesses my life.  I feel loved, I feel honored, I feel accepted.  What greater gift can we give the people we love?

Kindness. Love. Acceptance.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Like A Toddler

I love working in the Primary at church.  Oh happy place.  Singing, joy, light, simple, peace.  A few years ago Edmond and I got to work in the nursery together.  We had three or four kids who were just terrified to leave their parents.  Even after weeks of mom and dad playing with them happily in the nursery room, and fun bonding moments with the nursery workers, they were still afraid when mom or dad left the room.  These sweet kids were used to the continual love and constant nurturing of a loving parent- and asking them to trust another adult was SUPER SCARY!  Would mom and dad come back?  Would they be left alone forever?  Could these strangers meet my needs and comfort me when I cry?  It was a hard transition for some of them.

With that image as a backdrop, I have been evaluating my life recently.  After a couple years of comfort and nourishment and feeling God's love powerfully, he left me.  The scriptures had told me that I was only commanded to trust in the Lord, and instructed me not to rely on the arm of flesh- I was safe with that.  I felt good.  Then God sent me to nursery class.  He left me with a man who had broken my trust and hurt me and I was scared.  I was so mad- at God.  Really you command me to trust you- and now you are asking me to extend that trust to someone else?!?  I wanted to scream, "WHAT ARE YOU SMOKING!!!!"  And then God walked away-- he was probably outside the door watching me kick and scream, tantrum, then when that didn't work, lay in a heap and cry for hours at a time.  As a parent I know how hard it is to watch my child experience that heart wrenching pain, disappointment and fear, but I also know that it is a step that will help them forever in life.

Practicing trusting Edmond has been one of the hardest things I have ever done.  I can't say I have learned how to do it.  I am still practicing... I still have to gird up my courage and face my doubts and fears every time I ask or say something that actually means something to me.  As we were working through this, Edmond asked me a question that has haunted me since.

I was wanting to ask him to come to counseling with me.  He has done his therapy, I have done mine, but I wanted to do some together. But I was so afraid he would feel like I was judging him, that he would feel that I was just doing this to fix him, that it would be perceived as an attack against him.  I was so pathetically afraid-- I started by inviting him to come with me, you know if you want.  He didn't get that hint.  Then I said, do you want to try my councilor, (his had just left private practice) you know, you haven't had someone to talk to for a while.  Didn't work.  Finally, weeks later, I just asked.  It would mean a lot to me if you would come with me.  I want your support.  Edmond's response was classic.  Sure, if it is important to you I'll  be there.  When I was brave enough to tell him that I had been wanting him to come with me for weeks and weeks his statement stung.  "What kind of monster do you think I am that I wouldn't be willing to do something that meant so much to you?"

Love is what has prompted Edmond to get clean and work to stay there.  Not just love for me, but because he loves God and loves himself too.  Edmond would never really want to or intentionally try to hurt me.  He is not a monster.  He is my nursery leader- someone who has promised to do their best to love and care for me.-- Like any nursery leader he will not succeed at meeting my needs at all times.  He is learning, just like I am learning too.  He is practicing responding to my cry for help, attention and love.  I am practicing asking for it.

I'll be honest, my favorite times in nursery were when a child would come up to me and ask me to play with them.  They may give me a baby to love on, or feed me with their pretend food, or ask me to knock down their tower with them, or just race cars or roll a ball together.  They trusted me and wanted me.  I was needed and wanted- and they were loved and supported.  Win-Win. What better way to show my love and trust for Edmond than to invite him to be with me- to see me, to help me, to play with me.  Inviting him to meet my need is a gift of love I can give to him.  Practicing....

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Continuing the Journey

It has been a long while since I posted and so much has been happening.  Edmond is still in active recovery.. a place where I am sure he will be for years, relearning how to handle stress, disappointment and hurt in positive ways.  And while he is learning I am learning too.

Honestly, the last six months have been so hellish for me.  You would think that the first six months would be harder, but I was surrounded by God's love and buoyed up and comforted in way that I just felt peace. Two and half years into recovery,  I began to feel the weight of it all.  You could see that in my posts in the spring and summer.  Just heavy, weight, darkness, despair.  I couldn't write, I couldn't feel hope.  It was all darkness.  It was an existential crisis.  What was real?  Did God exist? Could I trust anyone?  I can't even trust myself!  I can't tell truth from lies.  I honestly didn't know what was real anymore. My reality shattered.  All that was left was pain and sorrow.

I was working with a therapist who encouraged me to check out the LDS recovery site for addicts' families.  I read through the first article and sat and cried- then I paced, then I wanted to throw things.  Why?  I was so angry.  The list of feelings addicts loved ones may feel were so trivial. Temple covenants, financial concerns, criminal charges. Sure, issues to address.  But I didn't know who I was anymore.   All of those concerns seemed so far away.  How can I deal with that, if I don't know what I believe, think or want anymore. I had no belief that I would feel joy or light again. I had no belief that I would feel loved, safe or protected.  I worried about and waited for the next disclosure. The next time my heart would be ripped out and stomped on.  How could I even begin to deal with those issues.  My therapist was shocked and stunned that the site would trigger me so much.  He carefully avoided LDS recovery after that.  But I still didn't find peace.

Finally a good friend found an article that explained to me that I wasn't crazy.  That I wasn't off my rocker.  It spoke to me in a way that logically explained why I felt all the things I was feeling.  Finally I was seen and understood  by someone, and I wasn't just CRAZY, or worse an over-reacting, hyper paranoid female!  So this article is long... and very technical/academic.. but is worth the time. 13 Dimensions of Sex Addiction Induced Trauma

After I understood me, I had to be super brave.  I asked Edmond to read it and ask me which aspects applied to me currently.  (It took a couple weeks of wanting, wishing and some hints before I was able to say clearly, aloud, it would mean a lot to me if you would read this and talk to me about it... Sweet man that he was, he asked why didn't you tell me sooner you wanted this-- sheepish grin. I'm learning to trust you with what I really want.)

It was a beautiful way for me to feel validated and seen.  Edmond even asked what he could do.  The answer was just to see me, to understand where I am and love me anyway.  I had felt so much guilt and yuck about all I had been feeling, and having a person I care about most understand me meant so much.  I feel hope.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I'm a Liar Too

Sometimes we accuse our addicts of being liars and manipulative. It is a safe accusation.  They covered up; the told half truths. I hate to say it: Me too.  I have lied, I have hidden, I have withheld.  I did it to protect myself- I never felt safe enough to reveal me.  But I did lie.  I did manipulate.  I did hide the truth.  Edmond asked me candidly, what kind of monster am I that you would be afraid to tell me the truth?

He is no monster, I still fear Edmond.  I am afraid of his disapproval.  I fear the silence as he processes his emotions.  I fear expressing my needs and asking for him to meet a need-  I fear being let down again- confirming in my mind that my needs don't matter.   I fear being unlovable because I just can't be done with this healing stuff.  I fear that Edmond would be crushed-  if he ever knew and felt and saw how deeply I hurt, how insecure and incomplete I feel, and how unlovable I still feel.  I fear that my feelings will drive him away and I will be left alone.  I fear the hurt he could cause me if he ever chose to.

So I have lied.  I have told half truths.  I have concealed what is really going on with me.  I don't want to live that way anymore.

My work recently has been to learn to trust me- trust that my feelings are actually my feelings.  Learn to be honest with myself about what is going on inside me spiritually, physically and emotionally.  And the hardest part is to trust Edmond with me- the real me -- the parts of me that I have hidden from myself, the parts that I wish weren't there, the hurts, the true joy, the peace,the pain.  All of it.  It is not easy for me to be this open, and it certainly isn't easy for Edmond to see this part of me- and to learn how much I have lied and hidden from him.

When I started this journey a couple years ago, my baby step was learning to trust God.  Re-learning that he knew me, he loved me, and was watching over me.  I felt comforted as I read in the scriptures that I was only ever commanded to Trust in the Lord.  I wasn't required to trust myself; my judgement had been lacking enough that I didn't know me.  And I didn't have to trust Edmond either.  But the Lord wants more for me.  He has been coaching me and helping me reach out and trust. I am beginning to see how much I have progressed in learning to trust.  Baby steps.

I used to save all my pain and sorrow for the shower- my safe place.  I could cry as long as I needed while Edmond was at work or asleep.  If I could just hold the pain, or tuck it away until he was gone, then I could allow myself to freely feel.  Tears now stain my face as I talk to Edmond about what I feel.

I used to suck it up until I could hold no more hurt.  Now I practice (and fail) at expressing my emotions as they come up.

I used to have to practice and rehash my emotions with multiple friends, therapists and then my blog before I felt assured that what I felt was rational, reasonable, and within the bounds of acceptable to express.  Only then could I tell Edmond what was going on with me.  I am practicing telling him what I feel, asking him to meet a need, and explaining my situation with out coaching.

But I am making strides at putting myself out there.  Asking instead of hinting.

I have a long way to go.  I sorrow at the pain I cause Edmond as I sheepishly relate that it took me a couple of days to summon the courage to tell him something.  Really that is what is holding me back from trusting Edmond.  My fear of being hurt yet again.  Every time I trust, every time I reach out, every time I talk, I learn that everything will be ok.  I can trust.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Lies, Lies, Lies

My last post was pretty brutal-- deep hidden feelings, fears, things I have hidden away for years.  Some days I want to blame Edmond for those insecurities.  You did this to me.  But the truth of the matter is that I saw in Edmond's actions the confirmation of the lies I already believed in myself.

Yup.  LIES I ALREADY BELIEVED ABOUT MYSELF!  I don't matter; I don't count; I don't have any right to have needs; I am not loveable; I can only rely on me; I am not safe; I can not trust;  LIES! LIES! LIES!  Lies that, if I am honest, exited in my heart long before I even knew Edmond.

There are lots of ways to destroy a soul.  Sin, selfishness, vice.  Yup they will eat away at you.  Lies about your worth, value and importance can destroy you from within--  Lies that seem so appealing because they explain away another's poor behavior.   Lies that comfort and seem to empower you when you feel helpless.  Lies that I carried around like a warm blanket in the frigid hours of despair-- Only the blanket was really tattered, ratty and full of holes.  Oh, how I believed that they would keep me warm.

Basing my life on those lies I became a control freak; I could only feel safe if I accounted for all the details of my life and the lives of my family; I knew and planned ahead for all eventualities, including preparing myself for the negativity I was sure to receive.  If you are prepared for people not liking you, complaining about something, and generally behaving poorly, it doesn't hurt as much when that happens, right?

I became extremely competent-- I am a talented person by nature, but I became exceptional.  Perfection or don't even try.  Exceed expectations daily, moment by moment.  Any minor critique reinforced that even though I gave my all, I was not enough.  Must try harder and do more next time.  And live second by second seeing all the things that were not done perfectly.  Accommodate everyone's demands, wishes and requests.  Do all that I can do to make others happy so they won't see my failings- or at least pray they won't comment about them today.

And when I was too exhausted from running at 90mph to please and beg acceptance from those around me, I would numb out-- distract, avoid, disengage.  Facebook, food, business, pinterest, tv. Anything to avoid feelings and the confirmation that I really am a horrible person.

You see, Edmond didn't do this to me.  I chose to believe and live a lie.  Satan is so smart.  He knows my weakness; he knows Edmond's.  Satan exploited Edmond's weaknesses and turned him to addiction.  Me?  He turned me from the truth.

I found this scripture yesterday that was exactly what happened to me:

Satan seeketh to turn their hearts away from the truth, that they become blinded and understand not he things which are prepared for them. (D&C 78:11)

Brutally honest moment:  I have always known and believed that God loves his children-- yep, you, and you over there and Edmond and my kids, and EVERYONE BUT ME.  I have felt His enormous, awe inspiring love for his children.  But love me, no.  How could I ever believe and trust in a God that I didn't really think loved me like he loves everyone else.  I can honestly say I don't understand the purposes of the Lord.  I don't get what marvelous blessings he has for me.  These verses gave me some comfort. are as little children and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you; And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. (D&C 78 17-18)
 It is ok that I don't get it.  It is ok that I feel like I am not there yet.  It is ok that I don't feel God's love fully.  I can't bear it now, but the Lord will lead me to his Love.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Effects of Abuse

I finally had the balls to say it.  That word. The A word.  Abuse. That is what I am dealing with.  The after effects of abuse.  Edmond's behavior during addiction was at times abusive.  There I said it. 

Edmond's addiction created trauma in my life, and the healing process just keeps going on.  Being honest about what our relationship was like during Edmond's addiction cycles has opened me up to a whole new, fun adventure.  New because I have never experienced anything like being honest about my feelings.  Fun because I am finally clearing out some of the trash that keeps spewing in my face, without me understanding why.  This is why:  I experienced trauma and the trauma was, well, traumatizing.  And while Edmond is in a healthy great place, that doesn't mean the abuse never happened.

I knew it hurt me.  Duh, but what did the addiction cycles do to me?  What could it do, I didn't even know what was going on.  I used to feel lucky I didn't know about the addiction until Edmond was really serious about coming clean.  You know, fewer disappointments, fewer broken boundaries, fewer lies.  No, no and no.  Fifteen years of lies; years of tearing myself inside out and back right again trying to make things ok when they weren't and not having a clue why- just wishing that if only I (fill in the blank) things will get better.  Years of being at odds with a monster in the room I never could see.

It took me a while to be willing to admit that I was traumatized.  But I see the same behaviors in the kids I work with-- kids who have endured trauma as infants/children and are trying to figure out how to survive in regular families.  I think some of these effects are par for the course.  Doesn't make it any easier though.

I learned:
1. I don't matter.  I don't count; my needs, my wishes, my opinions aren't important.  I am a tool used to care for and meet the needs of other people.  Never my needs/wants.  What do I want?  I have no clue what my preferences are; I am a reflection of what you want.  I am the ultimate object.  (Interesting that with a sex addiction, the objectification goes so much further than just sexual objectification, although that is/can be part of it)

2. I am not enough/ok/lovable. No matter what I do, there is always something I missed, something to improve upon, something I need to be better at.  I must always work harder/do more/be more to receive positive attention.  All this trying and doing more reinforces the concept that I am just an object- a tool.

3. I can only rely on me.  The mental and emotional withdrawals during Edmond's addiction cycles meant that I carried everything.  I owned it all- home, yard, finances, worries, relationships, parenting.  I learned that I could not trust anyone to be there to help me when I needed it most.  Even faith promoting phrases enforced that feeling: pray like it all depends on God and work like it all depends on you.  YUP it does all depend on me. Nobody is there to help me.

4. I am not safe-- I am not safe enough to say what I think, do what I want, parent as I see fit or even feel what I feel.  The consequences of being at odds with Edmond by saying/doing/being/thinking/feeling something that didn't fall into his narrative of the situation was emotional withdrawal, mean looks and criticism.  I only felt safe with my emotions/thoughts/preferences hidden, stuffed down deep where the real me was safe.  Emotions became something to fear, something to avoid, something to hide.  Besides I didn't really matter; I'm just an object, a tool.

Hard. painful feelings:  I am not safe; I can only rely on me; I am not lovable; but all those don't really matter because, I don't matter anyway.

And none of that is really true in the grand scheme of things.  But trauma, abuse, neglect, disregard SHOUT those messages loud and clear.  They scream and chant relentlessly until you give in to their siren song.  You hide, you change, you fear, you cope.  You survive.  Do what it takes to get through each day unscathed.  Pray for strength to do it again, because this is your life, and aren't you supposed to be happy and bloom where you are planted?  Of course.  Pretend to be happy or at least learn to be content.  This is your life.

*I hate ending posts on a sad note, hopeless-- but the trauma part of my life was like this and I want it to be an accurate reflection of that part of me.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Finally Coming Out

Edmond and I have talked about how "funny" it is that 2 years after he confessed and began his healing process, I finally feel "safe" enough to bring out all my baggage and really begin to process-- not that I have been doing nothing for the past couple years... it is just coming to a head and I am seeing what has been going on inside.  The infection is finally coming to the surface and is ready to come out.  It has been ugly and uncomfortable to say the least; but so instructive at the same time.

So back up with me, as I give you a little bit of my history. (This is so much longer than usual) I am the adult child of adult children of addicts.  YUP.  Both of my grandpas abused/used alcohol/sex/adrenaline to escape problems.  Their behavior was controlling and probably abusive at times.  My parents learned first hand to
  • comply and do it quickly
  • be/act/fake "ok" when things weren't
  • do whatever it took to make things ok

My parents did their best to raise me to have a brain, to think, to act, to be my own person.  But I knew some issues were burried deep.  Women look a certain way and are only ok if they are thin-- very thin.  I knew that I must always look and behave perfectly.

As a child I learned that a good person anticipated another's want and fulfilled it.  Play their game and we keep the status quo (safety).  Be cheerful, perky and happy (because that is what a girl should be).  Be intelligent and get perfect grades (you must rely on your self to get anywhere).  Be always aware and ready to jump into action and help at the slightest hint of a request, spoken or unspoken, (because that is the hallmark of human decency even if you have no time, no resources, and no capacity).  And be happy with whatever you get.  Never make a fuss; you must endure until you can no longer stand up. Then you may softly complain, only to get back up and keep going on. Because that is your reality.  That is what life is really.  Play the game, pretend to be happy; do whatever it takes to make the authority happy and you are safe.

I was amazed when I went to university how slow everyone was at picking up clues about what the professor wants.  Play the game. Give the professor what he wants (the answer he is looking for.) Get the A and walk away.  Getting my degree was an exercise in a skill I was highly proficient at.  I could play the grade game all day long!  Besides, I was finally free to be what I wanted with no "controller" present to remind me that I needed to be different.  Life was a joy.

And this is the baggage I took into my marriage.  Buried deep inside me were lies that I told myself.  If I am [fill in the blank] then there won't be a problem.  If I can just figure out what he wants and needs I can do that and there won't be a problem.  If I could anticipate his unspoken wishes and provide for them there won't be a problem.  If I keep my complaint in long enough it won't really exist.. or maybe I'll whisper it to a friend, then get back up and keep going.  That's what all women, competent, happy women really do.

All during Edmonds' addiction cycles, I played the contortionist; desperately trying to make myself into whatever he wanted me to be.  No matter how I bent, how I twisted, how I tried.  It never was enough. It couldn't be.  I was living a lie, with a man who was living a lie.  And that cycle of comply quickly with whatever is requested, be/act ok even when things aren't, and do whatever it takes to make things ok continued.

I could never make things ok.  I could never be enough.  I couldn't even pretend all the time that I was ok.  I shoved it deeper and deeper.  It must not come out-- I feared the days my real feelings would erupt out and spew over whomever was closest.

Today my feelings are not erupting with violence.  I have worn down the surface, creating an avenue the ick can come out without destroying me in the process.  As the lava that flows over me it is beginning to reshape my surface.  It burns, it scars-- but the scars I carried keeping it in are being resurfaced, renewed, I am being reclaimed-- I hope.  What will my new shape be without all the lies telling me who I must be and what I must be.  That may be scariest of all-- there is a void where I can make a new me.  What will I fill it with?  This has been my life- who I am for 30+ years.  Who will I be tomorrow?