Saturday, January 23, 2010

What's Wrong With Me? 5 Counseling Sessions Down, 22 To Go...

If you can’t trust my word, what CAN you trust? Isn’t that what they say? Apparently my word means nothing. What’s wrong with me? Didn’t I promise I’d be back on track? No more late posts, no more procrastination. Once again, a day late and a dollar short. Actually, let’s be honest. A day late would be understandable, but FIVE WEEKS? I have no excuses.
I took, as I like to lovingly call it, a Christmas vacation. I’ve just decided to return to real life. By now I should know. No matter how much I love the holidays, New Year’s Eve, especially; MY New Year does not officially begin until February 1st. I know I’m a nut job, a hazard to myself. Yes, it takes me the entire month of January to get over the holidays, back to real life, away from all the stress, and out of my hermit mentality. I like to play the avoidance game.
Due to various situations beyond our control, we actually had 7 Christmases. Only attended 4, before having a complete mental meltdown…..and that’s all she wrote, folks.
After said meltdown, my sister had her own very special breakdown, my mother flew the coop, and my father got remarried. A lot has happened. Therapy, you ask? How about 4 bottles of wine, 3 complete novels, a new haircut, and a boatload of chocolate? Yes I did.
In the midst of all of this, I also decided to give up my caffeine addiction. Yes, I gave up coffee. NOW, the first time, I was asking myself. This time, let me ask YOU… What’s WRONG with me?!?
To the normal, rational, level headed person, this should make no sense. To me, it does. You’ll remember I have that “little voice” inside my head? At the rate that pesky little voice has been invading my daily thought process, I’ve given up all hope of being normal, rational or level headed. Why NOT give up the one thing I look forward to everyday? Why NOT wean myself from the very thing that helps control my daily stress? Why NOT do this COLD TURKEY in the middle of my most stressful time of year? It’s been 38 days. I feel like I deserve an Olympic Gold Medal.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with coffee. I also don’t believe there’s anything wrong with alcohol, or even certain drugs….. to an extent. But when a substance, any substance, even if it’s “just” caffeine, slowly starts to take control of your body, and you feel like you can’t get through the day without it, THEN I think there may be a problem. Especially when the very thing that is supposed to be helping you get through the day, is really making you feel and look like you belong 6 feet under. I do have a problem. The only choice for me; detox. I’ve known for a while I’d have to work on myself. Some of you may not think this is a big deal, but trust me, it is.
This detox is necessary. I’m sure I’ll have a cup of coffee again someday, just not right now. And even though I’m ranting and raving about the absence of it at this particular moment, I do feel exceptionally great. It’s absolutely amazing. Seriously. Again, not for everybody, but I suddenly feel like a fog has been lifted. I do happen to love tea, and thankfully my love for tea has skyrocketed and gotten me through these last 38 days. I know, I know, some teas have caffeine too. Yes. But not to the extent my coffee drinking did. Plus I don’t add sugar to my tea. Coffee? We’re talking at least a teaspoon or 2 per cup….I felt like the sugar was starting to crawl out from under my skin…….oh God it was gross.
So, one more time for the masses….WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME? Fitting enough, the topic for the past week’s counseling session was just that. Identifying what’s wrong with us, plus how and why we’d like to change it. Guilt is an interesting thing. Five weeks vacation, and I suddenly feel the need to overcompensate for my laziness by coming up with this overachiever lesson plan. I don’t even know if I’m ready to start working again. Some may say guilt, I might simply say, stupidity.
I thought I had all the answers. Of course I know what’s wrong with my husband, right? I also know exactly what he needs to do to change it. But that was NOT the point of this session. The point was to identify the behavior within OURSELVES, not the other person. I may know what I THINK he needs to change, but for therapy’s sake, he needed to identifying what HE felt HE needed to change, and vice versa.
Obviously, I know I need to lasso in my temper. I don’t always think before I act, I tend to explode quite frequently. As I told my hubby I intended to work on this, he slowly relaxed and smiled. Darn it. I made him happy. That’s what he wanted me to say! Am I really that bad? And why does it matter that I made him happy, isn’t that the point of counseling? I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of snarky competitiveness coming over me. Sure, I’ve got a temper. Let’s just see what you’ve got to say about yourself Buddy.
He wants to be a better listener. Excuse me? That may sound all well and good to you all, but please, give me a little more grit. Can you at least say you’re miserable and that you’d like to open up and enjoy life more? Can you say you know sometimes you come across as an arrogant know-it-all. That you don’t always need to be right. Control doesn’t always have to be YOURS. C’mon, that would at least make ME feel better. I’ve just acknowledged my ridiculously ridiculous temper, and all the ways I’ve destroyed various things over the past 7 ½ years, and he calmly says he’ll be a better listener. That’s like telling someone you love them for the first time, and they respond by saying “thanks”. Say something BAD about yourself, really bad, that way I won’t feel so bad about me! DUH.
Slightly irritated, about to unleash some serious sarcasm, I suddenly remember my temper. My “thing”. I guess if I really intend to work on this thing, I’ve got to start now. I think my husband was waiting for my reaction, testing my temper, my resolve. He’s very smart, and boy does that irritate me.
Irritation, for me, comes out in many ways. Like the days I’m irritated with the world, my kids, my family. I can’t wait for my husband to get home from work, I can’t wait to hug him, to tell him about my day, to unwind in his arms. Yet, when he finally walks in the door, without any reason, my irritation with the world lands directly on his shoulders. I pull back, retreat, withdraw, to my own silent or sometimes explosively loud and explicit world. There is no comfort, there is no reprieve. I wonder if he actually enjoys coming home at night? The alternative is not a very nice thought, and no, I’m not proud. Even typing this, alone at my computer, I feel shamefully embarrassed.
If I’m being honest, vacation or not, these therapy sessions have lessened our load. We have definitely been lighter, more like the people we thought we married. We actually remembered that we do love each other. I think I’ve been better. I hope he likes coming home to me. What a simple, yet terrifying question to ask. Then again, he is very smart. He’ll tell me what I need to hear. And a little white lie every now and again? No harm done. It’s called survival, and we’re making our way.
You know, this “listening” thing, is actually pretty good. I do need him to “hear” me more. I need him to be present, yes I need a better listener. As much as it annoys me to admit, he’s right. So how does this happen? How can we change?
Well, logically, we need to come up with a plan. Like middle schoolers, sitting at our desks, annoyed with the current assignment, we’re staring at each other with such contempt it’s hard to believe we WANT to change.
Then it happens. Like stubborn toddlers with their bottom lips out, my hubby looks at me and says…… “Doooon’t smile, don’t you dare even think about smiling”. So there you have it, two thirty-something’s reverting back to childhood because we’re too bogged down and brain dead to do it any other way. And it worked. Don’t they say everything we need to know we learned in kindergarten?
It’s amazing that two people, in this case married, can go through every emotion in the book in a matter of minutes, and still end up laughing together at the end. Of course the opposite is also true. I’m quite aware that happiness and silliness can instantly turn to sadness and despair, even jealously and rage, for no apparent, logical, or rational reason. In my last post I commented that parenting has got to be the ultimate mind game. Mind game doesn’t even begin to describe a marriage. Rollercoaster, yes. Perhaps the biggest, scariest, fastest, and craziest rollercoaster of all time.
You know what I’m realizing? I’ve been really down on myself these past five weeks. Disappointed and overwhelmed you might say. The longer I went without therapy or a post, the worse I felt, but the more I wanted to hide and forget I even started this experiment. Avoidance all the way. By setting too many expectations for myself, I was really setting myself up to fail.
I’m trying not to think about the fact that by avoiding counseling for 5 whole weeks, I’ve quite literally extended our original 6 month commitment by an entire month…… Thank goodness I didn’t commit to a year.
So my hubby knows his lack of listening skills make me feel like I’m not appreciated, understood, and ultimately loved. And I know that my explosive temper and sometimes cruel words make my husband feel very bad, lonely, and again, not loved.
Eye contact for him, a soft controlled voice for me. We’ll see how this goes. I don’t necessarily like being loud and explosive, but a “soft” temper tantrum just doesn’t make much sense. In fact, it’s a little creepy. Funny; but creepy. Of course in a perfect world, there would be no temper tantrums, but seriously people, I’ve got a husband, a life, and kids…that’s not very realistic. I can’t promise my anger issues will dissolve into thin air, but I can promise I’ll try to handle them differently. Have you ever tried yelling at someone, without being able to yell? Whisper, soothe, talk as if you’re singing a lullabye, you’re guaranteed to get their attention. You may look and sound like an idiot, but at least your throat won’t hurt and your blood won’t be boiling. It actually even works. At least for my kids, it shocks them into behaving. They stare at me like my head may start spinning, I think they’re afraid.
I can also promise to let go of my sometimes unrealistic expectations. Yes, I’m a romantic, a dreamer, a lover of fairy-tales and lore. I want to live out my own love story. Thankfully, these sessions have forced me to admit, I can, just not the way I originally intended. True love takes work. A commitment to yelling with a soft voice, to remembering to look at the person who’s talking to you, to really “remembering to remember” to answer them, and to ignoring certain unpleasant and odorous offenses. So those nights when you crawl into bed, blankets pulled as tight as can be to separate sides of the mattress, because even the thought of your partner’s big toe touching you is enough to make you sick; just remember to relax and breathe. Yes, it’s work. It doesn’t always make sense, and it often needs readjusting. A real life love story has just as many ups, as it does downs. It’s the people who know how to fight their way back up together that will make it out alive. And I’ve got to believe that even though there will always be challenges, eventually the “downs” won’t go so deep.
So, I think I’m back. I think we’re back. I hope you’ll forgive my absence and continue this journey with me. This time avoidance didn’t work. I just couldn’t figure out a way to ultimately avoid myself. Once again, that’s all she wrote, folks. Until next time………………………..


Anonymous said...

What a great idea for a blog. Following you from the mbc. Glad I found your blog and looking forward to reading about your adventures in marriage therapy! Who would know marriage would be so much work- we are in the same boat.

I'm NOT a VOLCANO! said...

WOw! I completely admire you for putting it all out there. I think this can really help a lot of people. Good luck in everything!
Following from MBC.

AudreyO said...

Wow a personal, heart felt post. In answer to your question...well sorry, nothing is wrong with you. Nothing at all.