Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Are Ya'll Ready For This? Part Two.



I feel like I have been in therapy for half my life.

Actually, I have been in therapy - off an on - since my my early 20s.... so I guess that means I have!

And there were times that therapy kept me sane. Or maybe it was just a place to vent so that my friends didn't have to listen to all of this garbage, so I paid someone to do it. Which was also good. But, it is only since I found THIS therapist here in Jacksonville that therapy has WORKED for me.

Step One: Just let go of all the crap. Sounds easy. It isn't. Using tapping therapy, we released that junk. I am talking about a lifetime of junk. Every person who hurt my feelings, starting with a traumatizing experience with a second grade teacher, all the way up and through my marriage and divorce. Some of you read about a lot of that here (I apologize). It was just so darn freeing to release it... for good.

Step Two: Recognize the patterns. Understand that Every Bad Relationship Choice I've made stems from Co-dependence. I know that is one of those words that is thrown around and people don't really know what it means. In short: If you grew up around emotionally stunted people who didn't know how to have a relationship (parents, grandparents, etc.) they taught you things that are really unhelpful in navigating life. Some of us (like me) subconsciously sought out people like them for relationships to "fix" that other relationship that was broken. Yeah, that didn't work. My choosing an emotionally distant guy so that I could mend my parents' relationship didn't work. My choosing an abusive guy didn't make my grandpa any nicer to my grandma.

Step Three: Boundaries. Yeah, I didn't have any. Let that sink in for just a moment. Healthy people have boundaries. You do something to them that they don't like... and they might just blast you into next week. Unhealthy people think, "I didn't like that very much, but I sure don't want to hurt their feelings." When you Truly Understand that boundaries are good, Boundaries protect you, Boundaries are the filter that allows you to bring into your life that which you want and keep out that which you don't... wow. Deciding on boundaries, drawing that line in the sand, and then doing the Hard Thing of maintaining them become Super Important. Understanding my lack of boundaries makes that dating story I told you about a month ago even more impressive. That was hard for me. And I felt like Wonder Woman when it was over.

Step Four: Moving from the theoretical world into this one. Yeah, here is the thing... Once you understand about co-dependency and boundaries that is all fantastic. I spent a lot of time deciding that I had value, my voice was important, I wanted this and didn't want that. Blah blah blah. But none of that mattered until I encountered someone who intended to cross my boundary. As many of you pointed out, I really should have recognized some of the signs with that yo-yo earlier. I really shouldn't have gone into his house. (If you missed that blog, you can find it HERE.) BUT, in the end I got there. To that place where I drew my line in the sand and then stood my ground.

Yesterday, I told my therapist about my newest experience. There was this guy from karaoke. Mom and I have been going to this same place most Friday nights for about five months. Yeah, we know a few people. But this is a bar. And most of the people in it take their drinking seriously. Mom and I drink sweet tea and I think that some of these guys find it charming. Did I mention this was a redneck biker bar? Well, now you have a better picture. Super nice people go there, but not anyone I'd want to Date.

I suppose it was inevitable that one of them asked me out. Except he did it in such a way that it felt more like friends getting together and less like a date. (And this is where my therapist says that the learning part of this equation is coming to play. If a guy asks you to do something, it is a date.) Since I wanted to do it, I said yes. I met him the next morning at the shooting range (yeah, it was that kind of "date"). Shot for a while and left. And then he texted me saying we should have dinner sometime. And this was when my boundaries got slippery. He is/was a nice guy. I just didn't like the fact that he drank every day and drank a lot on the weekends. So, I thought I would let him know at dinner that this just wasn't going to work out in terms of coupledom. And then having that conversation face to face seemed Just Too Hard. So the next day I told him on the phone. And he agreed. Verbosely agreed. We are too different. But he continued to call or text me Every Day. For no reason. Just to chat.

On Monday I lost it. I texted him back saying that I didn't text or talk with my friends daily. This felt like pressure. This felt like he wanted to be a couple. He blew up and got really angry.

Well, I knew that was a possibility. The problem was that he was saying One Thing but actually wanted another. I think maybe he was hoping that I would just toss out my boundary about (his) drinking and it would all work out. I really don't know.

What I do know was that I was A Ball of Anxiety and Nerves until I told him how I felt. I was disappointed that he responded like he did. And then I was okay with it all.

I tell you this because when you begin to make changes in your life, when you do things like set boundaries, it cannot all just be theoretical. Life will come along and test you. Do you mean it? Are you strong enough to stick with what you've decided. My therapist said to me, "You can't tell me God doesn't have a sense of humor. You have gotten two situations, each one more difficult than the last, for you to prove that you are becoming who you want to be. And you didn't respond to either of them perfectly, but you got there pretty fast considering. And you know how you can do it better next time."

The other thing that she pointed out was that I felt Horrible preceding that exchange when I challenged him on what he was doing and told him I didn't like it. In fact, I felt pretty bad when he started texting me daily. Each time a text came in my migraine notched up. This isn't what I signed up for. This isn't what I want. I just want to be friends. And still, it took nearly a week to Say Something.

But now I understand how my migraines started and why they stuck for 10+ years. I never said anything. I just kept my mouth shut and tried to motor through. I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I didn't want to make THEM feel bad. I didn't want to say, "This hurts me. This isn't working for me. You have now done so many reprehensible things that not only do I no longer love you, I don't even like you." I did not want to say that. And my head exploded. Kinda literally.

As my therapist so kindly pointed out, "Isn't it easier just being honest about what you do and don't want right away? Yeah, there is anxiety for a few days (or a day, if you just hurry up already) but isn't that better than a migraine that lasts years?"

And I have to say LOUDLY, "Yes!"

Life is better when you are living true to yourself. And that will mean you hurt some feelings along the way. People will want things for you that you don't want. Speak up, friends. I promise that you will FEEL BETTER for having done it. You are worth it.

23 comments:

  1. Each time I read one of these posts, I am so impressed, because I know how hard it is to address all this, to change patterns that have gone on for a lifetime. Many, many years ago, I had to confront someone the way you did, with someone helping me through it too, and when I finally said the words that needed to be said, I had so much relief. That was a huge lesson for me, one I keep with me every day. Say what you feel. Don't lock it in. We don't have to do things just because other people want us to and we are afraid to hurt them. We count too. In fact, we count more!

    Hooray for you Robin, as you move forward.

    Liza

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    1. I wish I had learned this lesson many, many years ago. BUT I am thankful that I am learning it at all. Life is really hard enough period. It really is impossible when you put your feelings on the backburner ALL OF THE TIME because you don't want to to hurt anyone else.

      I wonder how much illness is a result of people just not saying what they feel????

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  2. Good for you! It is not easy to change the habits of a lifetime, but every small step in the right direction is progress on the journey.

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  3. Know when to say no. And then say it.
    The codependency thing is scary - how it gets perpetuated from one generation to the next.
    You are one step closer, Robin.
    And good call with that guy. Men and women can be friends only. But single guys do not want to be just friends with single girls.

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  4. Dianne ~ It is all small steps that make the journey.

    Alex ~ Just saying No... who would have thought that would be so tough??? Yeah, my therapist asked me if I wanted the movie When Harry Met Sally. I said I had. And she said, "And what was the message there?"

    I said, "Men and women can't be friends."

    Exactly.

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  5. I learned about boundaries long ago. A woman I met (while waiting for someone taking an AA class in the psych ward) told me that she was there because "I have no walls". That really sunk in, about the human need for a structure and the warping of reality for those who don't have that.

    I think men and women CAN be friends, but it depends on what you come into it seeking. Obviously, he said one thing and wanted another. And our wants always seem to overwhelm our listening. Been there, done that, many times. I wonder if a person every really listens anything close to fully.

    Your Therapist sounds pretty hip. I had to look up "tapping therapy" and probably will have to again, because wiki just left me confused.

    And repressing stuff? To the point of physical symptoms? Yup, welcome to "Why Chris broke down at work last May 101". Letting the stupid stuff go is the key. Realizing you are collecting it in the first place is the lock.

    On the other hand, maybe you should just tell the guys at karaoke that your mom is actually your girlfriend. That should run 'em off.

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  6. Contrary to CW's comment, my experience has always been that in a man/woman "friendship," one of them wants it to be more, so I think your therapist is right-assume the guy intends it's a date.

    And the other thing I agree with him on is if you know what you want (or don't want), put it out there. Any man (or woman) ought to be able to deal with the fact that someone isn't interested in a romance, and if they choose to remain "friends" after that, any hopes that it will become more that get dashed (it never becomes more, does it?) are on them.

    It's not that I do not think men and women cannot be friends-it's just that it seems like an awful lot of men and women think friendships will blossom into romance like in the movies...and that just never happens (or almost never)

    And for the record-it's not that I am all that wise-53; never married; guilty of being the person who acts as a friend who wants more (at times) and the person who does not make it clear that they are not interested for fear of shattering someone's feelings (at times).

    This stuff is all a learning process, and there are a lucky few who learn it early.

    The rest of us have to make it up as we go.

    As for letting stuff go, the book "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff" was the self-help flavor back in the late 90's, and is one of the rare ones I ever purchased (at the recommendation of a good friend).

    At the risk of repeating myself (I may have commented on this book before) It really was a worthwhile read. It's what got me started being able to walk away from the shinola.

    Anyone reading who tends to hold onto things may want to check the book out. But one of the short passages really resonated with me-

    "If this will not bother you twelve months from now, why let it bother you today?"

    Anyway, kudos to you for taking control of yourself back from others.

    Larry

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  7. I went through the boundaries decision with first husband, and had to decide who I wanted to be worried about - him or me. I felt selfish at first, but even with all the trouble he caused, I didn't want to go through life (I was 23 at the time) wishing I had taken the chance to escape when I felt the need. Best thing I ever did for me.

    Glad you are reaching a point where you take care of yourself and your needs, Robin. There is nothing wrong with looking after our own soul, especially when it's being ill-treated by someone else. Keep at it.

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  8. CW ~ I can only speak for this case, but I think he always wanted more (based upon the insane reaction I got when I told him in no uncertain terms that I wasn't happy with his idea of "friendship" with me, esp. when he didn't text/call his other Friends daily) so that makes it hard. I am working very hard at NOT just saying what I think someone wants to hear. I think that my therapist is right enough... in a single man-single woman scenario it is always best to assume that if they ask you to do something, they are interested. And if you are not interested it is always best to say "No" right away. If you say "as friends" you are still opening yourself up to the possibility that they are hoping for something more. And you will have to deal with that later on.

    LC ~ Yeah, I envy those people who learned these lessons early in life. Of course, they are probably working on more advanced stuff now (since I don't think the lessons ever really stop) but STILL I feel a bit foolish that I am still in beginner level courses. ::sigh:: My problem is that I have let things bother me 12 months later. 12 years later. 20+ years later. And that is not good. It was such a relief to figure out how to let that Crap go. As in Let It Go... not bury it. Not pretend it doesn't bother me. But really release it. Whew.

    D.G. ~ I remember you saying something about your first husband here before. I am so happy that you learned all of these lessons early on. It is a healthy thing to be able to draw those boundaries and do what you must to maintain them... and not feel guilty or bad or wrong for doing it. Just healthy.

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  9. Great advice. We have to be true to ourselves, worry about what we want, first. That sense of relief, of lightening, is what tells me each time I've made the right decision. I love that feeling.

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  10. Robin, you are a wonder.... like all the wonders of the world. An inspiration to many and you teach people to work on their goals. I've never had the so-called therapy because I've always had Marilyn. She has been the one who has had access to the groups and she's read all the books. On the other hand, I've pretty much, most of my life, lived in the Mayberry towns where professional guidance wasn't available. But together, we can pretty much figure out what makes us tick. It doesn't seen to matter how it's done and what the rules are as whatever works dominates and often we have to make our own rules. Life is an interesting journey and you are winding your way along the paths in a brilliant manner. I love to hear about it.

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  11. It took me a long time to accept that being true to me will hurt some people along the way, because by nature I hate hurting people. But sometimes what is best for us and what is best for someone else are two mutually exclusive things...

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  12. Yeah, Robin, this is so powerful and wonderful. I've worked years on similar issues and when I can finally stand up for myself and say how I feel, what I want, what I don't want, it is miraculous.

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  13. Glad you passed this test. It's so much easier to get things out in the open from the get-go. Everyone's feelings get hurt way less in the long run. High five to ya for setting and sticking to your boundaries. :)

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  14. The only therapy I had when I was younger was heavy metal, weight lifting and kickboxing. Eventually I figured out that this wasn't really helping, at least not for making me feel happier. Probably if I'd had an actual therapist he might've told me that and saved me a lot of kicks to the head from my sparring partner.

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  15. I agree that It's great you were honest from the beginning, and didn't lead him on. These are fantastic guidelines for single women to go by. Hooray, for following your instincts, Robin!

    Julie

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  16. ((Hugs)) Robin, I know exactly where you are coming from. I grew up in a dysfunctional home. I was faced, one day, with a *huge* dilemma and knew I couldn't ask my mom for advice because she wasn't the sort of person I could get that sort of advice from. I had 4 guys who really liked me. I felt torn! What do I do? Who should I choose? Because I liked them all back--they were nice friends who wanted a relationship with me.

    So I spoke with a ladyfriend of my dad's (ahem, yes, but I welcomed her thoughts, best thing ever!) and she said, "You choose what makes *you* happy. You can't make them all happy." I shared with her my concern and she talked with me a bit more after that.

    As it turned out, I broke 3 hearts and 1 became happy. I learned from that point out to choose what made me happy--even at the expense of my dad's abusive ways. I moved out shortly after that and then out of state.

    Feed upon the joy that following your instincts gives you. I wish you happiness because you DESERVE it!!!

    ♥.•*¨Elizabeth¨*•.♥

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  17. And in a nutshell you are so sucinctly managing to share many many moons worth of codependence healing. I'm stubborn. I wouldn't pay for therapy. My true test came when a VERY codependant man managed to take over the CODA group I was in. I was surprised at how long it took me to recognize what was going on. BUT I was even more surprised at how good it felt to be honest about why I was leaving the group.
    Your work is amazing and your sharing what you are going through is invaluable!!

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  18. This is really putting yourself out there. I mean, I reveal a lot about my life though I don't know if I feel comfortable opening up like this in my blog posts. Brave lady.

    I've considered seeing a therapist in the past. I used to attend a weekly encounter group when I was in college. I guess it helped me learn to open up to express myself more, but I don't know that I broke any new ground either.

    As my second marriage was crumbling my wife and I tried marriage counseling. Our therapist recommended that I attend a CODA group which I did for a while. It really kind of annoyed me as I realized that I was not so much co-dependant as I was pissed off that my wife wanted to destroy a relationship that included our 3 daughters. I was not in the same league as the others in the group and let's face it, we all have certain elements of co-dependancy if we want to be in relationships.

    My greatest "therapist" has been God with scripture as my guidebook. Hard to beat the Supreme Power with some person with a psychology degree. Sure, a good therapist can be very helpful and open a lot of doors of understanding, but faith should be a part of anything like dealing with emotional struggles.

    Sounds like you're on the way to continually becoming better. You'll make it! Sometimes we guys just have to be put in line with well established parameters in the beginning of a relationship and often onward from that.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  19. After reading your story, that reminds me - you know what one of my boundaries is? Texting. I hate this idea that we have to be tethered to our phones 24/7. That if someone texts you and you don't answer within 10 minutes they ask, hey, what the hell? Why are you ignoring me? Or someone who annoys you (like your guy from the story) texts you every day expecting a constant text conversation.

    I let people know that I'll text them back when I feel like it. Or quite frankly, IF I feel like it. That just because my phone is on my person about 95% of the time that that doesn't mean I'll just drop everything I'm doing to reply to them - RIGHT NOW NOW NOW. And it's been incredibly freeing. Cellphones create such a high level of pressure to always be available to people, but by taking it back and remembering that it's MY cellphone, that just like with any other medium I only reply when I want to, it's helped lower my stress levels. A lot.

    That wasn't scolding you about your cellphone usage, btw. That was just a longwinded tale about my own boundaries. :)

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  20. Congrats on taking charge and taking that step. I hope I've taught my children to stand up for themselves in social and professional situations. It's scary sending them out into the world to deal with people on their own.

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  21. Boundaries are a big thing in my world. I had strong boundaries - too strong, I think - and blocked people and pushed them away. So, I thought, hey, I'm pretty healthy. But, after my first hubby died, I jumped into relationships that weren't healthy. I wanted to fix them. Then, I married my sex addict hubby, I said to myself, well duh, of course you missed his addiction, he hid it so well. Now, after some time in therapy with a specialist in SA, I've realized that my boundaries were screwed up because I shut people off emotionally, then tried to fix them. So, when my hubby was all closed off from me, I thought it was normal even though my first hubby and I had a great relationship. It was his death that caused me to seek out people to help them (like he and I helped each other through addiction) and when it didn't work, I just shut them off completely. Only this time, I married a broken man rather than just date him. Not sure if that made sense because it's a lot to fit into a comment, but you know what I mean. Maybe ;)

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  22. yup- makes total sense! Listen to your self and follow your instincts!

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