Monthly Archives: February 2017

No more bathroom floors

Last night I ended up on the bathroom floor of a restaurant curled into a fetal position, crying. I cannot count the number of times I have found myself on the floor of some random bathroom across America over the last 5.5 years since my ex-husbands arrest. I have found refuge in these bathrooms at the times where I couldn’t breathe because fear was taking over my body or because I needed a sanctuary to feel safe before breaking into tears.

Early on in my recovery,  it was all of the weddings that I said “yes” to attending or even planning (yes, I was a wedding planner and continued to plan weddings even week’s after the inciting incident). I wanted desperately to operate under the veil of business as usual – showing up for friends as I always had and celebrating their lives as I loved to do – pretending that the huge gap of not having my husband by my side would not cause the meltdowns that would creep up  in secret bathrooms everywhere. I learned to buy waterproof mascara and time my tears perfectly to the tune of the vows that caused other attendees to tear up at the same time. As the couple exited the aisle at the end of the ceremony, I would make my exit to the closest bathroom where I could have my private moment where my tiny tears turned into meltdowns.

I had forgotten most of those experiences until I found myself on the bathroom floor last night. The exact reason for the tears was not the same. I am no longer mourning the loss of my marriage or the life I thought I would have by this present moment, but can still find myself surprised by the lasting impact those events have had on my life.

Small language choices by my boyfriend during our dinner conversation last night seemed to hint that his current transitional period in his life will result in a different version of himself. I know that humans evolve over time and life pretty much guarantees that the person I share dinners with today will shift during the duration of our relationship, but the part of my brain that stores my trauma wants to react now to build safety.

As my boyfriend’s excitement grew, I disconnected into an entirely different place. Every word coming from his mouth led my body to harden further into a frozen state. I stopped breathing. I began to repeat a mantra into my head that “he is not the person I think he is.” I pulled out a microscope and began to hunt for evidence to support the idea that he was just one sentence away from a big reveal that would alter my life. I can no longer hear what he is saying because I shift into a person with limitless questions digging to find certainty where certainty doesn’t exist.

What struck me the next day is that my way of confronting the pain – alone and behind a closed door – has not changed. It is the same as it was years ago. I am still resisting acceptance that I have been impacted by the repeated 10 year span of dishonesty by the person with whom I created an intimate life.

This resistance prohibits my healing. I am not honoring my story by ignoring its existence all together. The moment I feel my breath stop,  I am given an opportunity to choose differently. I can see that I am in a triggered state of fear and ask for a pause in the conversation. I can choose a different mantra in that quiet moment that acknowledges my experience and the recovery work I’ve done over the past several years. I can pay attention to my surroundings and remember that I am in a present moment that is a far distance from the past. I can look my boyfriend in the eye and use that point of connection to see that he is not my ex-husband and I too am not the version of myself that existed years ago. I have recovery. I can take the pause to remind myself that I do trust myself and that foundation exists so I can take risks in trusting others. I can be gentle with myself and remember that I am worthy of love and loving if I love myself and give myself permission to love myself in that moment. And at a minimum, I can remember to breathe and let each inhale and exhale slow my brain and relax the frozen limbs of my body.

 

 

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I Choose What to See (Sort of)

I recognized almost immediately following my ex-husband’s arrest that I would need help navigating my path into whatever future version of life would unfold. I sought a therapist to support my journey and was shocked to find two things.

  1. Every therapist discussed divorce in my initial meeting. This robbed me of my agency to know what decision was best for me and superimposed a timeline that ignored every personal value in favor of something that was societally comfortable.
  2. “What weren’t you seeing?” was the most prominent question across every conversation with a therapist. This had a hidden undertone that there were signs that existed that I had willingly and consciously tuned out of my vision. I believe things are revealed to us when we are ready. We don’t need to be on a vigilant hunt.

Neither of these were helpful. Eventually I chose someone who supported my own discovery and unfolding of the first point, but who pushed me to think through the second often and early.

While I am an advocate for understanding my side of the street, a 12-stepper phrase that symbolizes my responsibility in any situation, doing so early on in the grieving process did not serve me as a client. It is not exactly like asking “what did you do to cause this?,” but it felt that way. It created a deep doubt in myself to be witness to my own experience.

That doubt still surfaces today. When my current partner and I experience the same event differently, I assume that I am wrong. I convince myself that there is some detail that I am simply unable to see because I have chosen to be blind and if only I can search for and find that detail, then everything will be OK. In this hunt, I define OK as having the same experience. I am fine to contort myself in any way required to find that alignment because my fear of discovering that I am living a very different reality alongside a romantic partner is debilitating.

The logical part of me understands that the lens each of us uses to filter our world is unique and built from the accumulation of each of our experiences. The problem is that I don’t trust my lens because it’s been wrong in the past. The questioning by the professionals early on in my journey caused me to question my very being. I took on an overblown level of responsibility and created a story that everything was my fault. I didn’t think I was the reason that my ex-husband had become an addict but I was responsible being in a relationship with an addict.

What I see now, with the space over the last several years, is that they were right in a sense. The lens I use for filtering is my choice. Before making that choice, I must be aware of my default lens and accept that lens. Only then can I examine how it’s flawed and distorted. When I ignore the original lens, I discount my experience in a way that does not serve me. Seeing my default story – that my experience is a figment of my imagination – creates the choice to see something different. That choice releases me from my desire to have someone validate my original lens. I have done it myself by acknowledging everything that exists for me, including my flawed lens.

That is the key to freeing myself from assigning the value of an experience as right or wrong and instead shifts my focus to trusting my own experience.

What do you need to trust today?

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