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.