The ultimatum, part 9

I felt a lot of anxiety leading up to his birthday. He did it, Paul went without drinking for almost 2 months. He said it was a piece of cake.

He said he would try to quit drinking until his birthday.

But then it was his birthday. I was worried. Now what would happen?

That night we had a few friends over. They had pizza and he drank a bottle of wine. I felt a sense of loss. I didn’t belong. I felt like an outsider. I had been dairy free for over a month by that time. As they ate pizza and laughed, I brooded in the corner.

I felt triggered by Paul drinking again. I felt angry and hurt like I did on the night of our anniversary when he drank too much. Paul was in a jovial mood. He drank another bottle of wine out by the campfire while I sat inside.

He wanted me to sing while he played guitar. When he pushed close, I pulled away. He was gone and I felt like I couldn’t trust him anymore.

What was going to happen going forward?

Slowly and steadily he started drinking more but nowhere as close to as much as before.

We got hit pretty hard in the next couple months with bad news about my dad. It will be a long time before I am ready to talk about that. I can tell you this, my dad struggles with addiction. My mom ignored it. She buried her head in the sand. I have to wonder maybe things would’ve turned out differently if she gave him an ultimatum.

I think I did the right thing. I never wanted Paul to stop drinking. I just wanted him to be in control of it instead of it controlling him.

I found myself triggered by so many things, not just Paul drinking. What happened with my dad threw me into a deep depression. I wish I could say that trauma only happens from your parents in childhood. Sometimes it tends to be a lifelong roller coaster ride.

Paul thought he was going to lose me this time. He was so stressed out that he started to drink more which stressed me out more.

Because of the ultimatum, he knew it was a problem he needed to address. In January, he stopped drinking for a few weeks in a time of prayer and self-reflection. Then he came up with a new plan.

The ultimatum, part 7

Paul said he was willing to try to stop drinking until his birthday almost two months later. He wanted to see if he could even do it. It was a step in the right direction.

What did that mean though? Could I still have a few drinks with my friends around him? I was willing to give it up too. His close friends asked if he wanted them to stop drinking around him. Some friends just stopped drinking with him when he stopped. I think everyone was a bit uncomfortable doing this new dance at first.

Paul said he didn’t want everyone to change the way they lived their lives. But they did. I really didn’t realize how much we influence other people with how we live our lives. When he quit drinking quite a few of his friends cut back too.

It changed the dynamics of our relationship big time. I was angry and we argued a lot at first. But after the initial anger wore off, I noticed another change.

His drinking gave me a lot of power and control. I didn’t realize it until it was gone. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted him to stop or at the very least cut back. I nagged and nagged him to stop which didn’t work. It only made things worse.

Every time Paul and I got in an argument I would never look at my own negative behavior. I would throw back in his face that I would talk to him about my issues when he stopped drinking. I held the trump card of remember when you screwed up _____ with your drinking. It gave me a get out of jail free card that I used in almost every argument that wasn’t in my favor.

Now I could no longer avoid talking about some of my issues. Not only that but without drinking he now had the upper hand. He was working through his issues. That meant I had to work through some of mine too. I started seeing a therapist to work through my anxiety and depression.

In some ways I envied Paul. I wanted to leave my issues on a shelf, to not drink of that bottle and then they would be gone. But I’ve learned so much since then. Battling addiction is more than just leaving the bottle on the shelf. It’s the longing to reach for it like the embrace of an old friend in sadness and celebration.

I had to face the fact that my anxiety and depression also scared him. He’s had to reach into the darkness to pull me out many times. I can’t seem to escape the trauma I’ve experienced. At times it still threatens to drown me.

We both had to work on our issues. We were both broken people in need of a fix. It wasn’t just about him and his drinking. It was how we learned to cope with our trauma at our very core. It was exploring every crack and crevice that was tearing down our foundation.

We spent those two months rebuilding our relationship. We got along better than ever before. Then after that things went a little haywire.

Gratitude week 24

  1. This school year is finally in the books!! I think my daughter passed all of her classes. For the first time, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen…so that is tons of stress off of me!
  2. Summer!! Mother Nature has been moody this year. It’s either been hot, humid, and rainy or cool, dry, and windy. I almost froze this weekend sleeping in my winter pajamas. Some days we need the heat and others the A/C, but we are saving money by keeping both off.
  3. For the first time in my lifetime a tropical storm passed through the state of Wisconsin setting records. I almost felt like I did get that trip to Florida. Just another thing to add to the list this year of weird historical events I’ve lived through. Our foreign exchange student had her 16th birthday and party the day the storm hit. Talk about memorable.
  4. I finished a self(?)-help marriage book this past week. I realized I am an avoidant marriage partner. I like to take care of myself and not ask for help. I tend to hide out in my shell and have to be drawn out. As an introvert avoider raised by two introvert avoiders, I don’t tend to reach out to others as a source of comfort. I sometimes wonder if blogging is another way of avoiding relationships with other people. I am grateful for books that bring about more self-awareness.
  5. I also finished the colitis for dummies book. I learned a lot of helpful information. I also met with my wellness nurse this past week. I expressed frustration over not feeling good after going for almost a year. She still thinks she can help me but said that I have a lot of things going on in my body that have been that way for decades and are resistant to change. She gave me her personal contact info which she doesn’t give out to any of her other clients so I can update her on my progress. I feel like I can trust her. I am working hard with the nurse, counselor, and craniosacral therapist to heal my body. It seems almost voodoo like to have to purge all the junk I’ve stored in my body for so long to deal with the trauma in my life.
  6. I bought some flowers this week to decorate the outside of my house.
  7. I have been working with a mentor the last couple months on a Bible study on anxiety. When talking about what to do next, I suggested a couples study on marriage. I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression my whole life but I haven’t been married that long. It’s something we want to work on with someone who has been married longer than us.
  8. I’m grateful my husband spent the weekend away working. His new business is taking off and I am happy about that since it was something we worried about.
  9. Flavored sparkling water.
  10. I’m grateful my daughter will be coming home for a visit this week.

Gratitude week 23

  1. I am finally feeling like I am making progress on my self-improvement project.
  2. Summer weather!!
  3. I was able to get out on the sailboat for the first time this season.
  4. Things went better than I expected taking care of my autistic brother Matt. He adapted to our family well. More on this later.
  5. Taking care of my brother allowed my mom to get away with her sisters for a few days. It felt good to be able to give her a break. She decided she didn’t want to let fear control her life.
  6. I’m grateful our best friends had a really good experience with the foreign exchange student our daughter talked them into hosting. It was sad to say farewell to him over the weekend, but I’m grateful for the experience they had and we have had with our foreign exchange students. They are all awesome which says a lot since I’ve heard quite a few horror stories.
  7. I’m grateful that Paul’s new business is doing better than he thought it would.
  8. I’m grateful that for the first time I had a good experience singing in church. It has been difficult at times singing about the love I feel or the trust I have in God when I am struggling with that. Not only that, but I was able to sing relatively anxiety free. There were times that family issues made me feel panic or the thought of having to run to the bathroom in the middle of the service was terrifying.
  9. I’m grateful to have a clean house today.
  10. I’m grateful for the times I feel like everything is normal. That’s saying a lot because the last few months have been far from normal in so many ways.

In health

Yesterday I had my first Craniosacral therapy appointment after the start of the pandemic followed by an appointment with my therapist. Afterwards, I felt great. I finally feel like I am making some headway with my healing process.

Fixing myself has been hard because I’ve been broken so long I got used to the cracks. It’s been an adjustment. It’s created some problems I’ve never guessed it would. Now that I am healing I’m starting to notice the brokenness around me more. For example, I find myself more critical of my husband because I feel like I am in a healthier place than he is. Before he was always the healthier one.

Since I started seeing the therapist a year and a half ago, I’ve gone through several crises. My therapist wants me to focus on letting go of the original trauma that I hold locked inside my body and mind. She thinks that once I do this all of the other stressors will flow through. I liken it to Tetris. If you clear out the bottom rows before everything starts piling up, it will be easier for everything else to flow through.

My therapist told me that with three teenagers in my house life realistically won’t be stress free anytime soon. What she says is true. Teenagers are stressful even when they aren’t trying to be. For example, our foreign exchange student Estelle wants to join in the protesting. I told her that she couldn’t because I couldn’t guarantee that it would be peaceful. I am in charge of someone else’s child and I want to feel reasonably sure that the activities she is involved in are safe.

Then Estelle said she wanted to run a mile every hour for 24 hours to raise money instead of protesting. Her idea was that she was going to run alone on country roads by herself day and night. She was rather upset when I said no to that idea too. Then she asked if she could run laps around the house at night and I told her it would be perfectly fine.

I think Estelle will be frightened running around the house at night. I took my brother Matt for a walk today and we saw 4 deer. We saw the cutest baby fawn. My autistic brother Matt is staying with us for a couple days. My mom is going up north to visit with her sisters for a couple days. I’m proud of her for not living her life in fear.

This means that I will be helping Matt with daily living. I will be fixing his meals separate from ours since he is on a special diet. I will have to help him shower, clean up himself after going to the bathroom, floss his teeth, and give him his medication. He is quite used to getting his way so I want to see how he will handle being with my family for several days. Someday when my parents are gone I will probably take him in once a month to stay with me if this works out.

If it doesn’t work out, I will take him back home to stay with my dad. I will just run over every day to check on him. My husband thinks it’s funny that my mom trusts me more than my dad to take care of my brother. But he doesn’t understand that is always the way it was even when I was a child myself. I hope this experience is not triggering. But I am mother henning right now which isn’t entirely unsatisfying since it is the last thing my teenagers want.

I am in a good place right now and hopefully I can remain here for awhile.

Gratitude week 21

  1.  Just like that it went from winter to summer in Wisconsin. My favorite season is finally here!! This week we finally got green leaves on our trees. We took the cover off our pool.
  2.  I trimmed down the list of people I’m following. I no longer follow people simply because they follow me like I used to. I’m following blogs I am interested in. The whole process was very glitchy so it is possible I may have accidentally unfollowed someone. I also axed some people that I genuinely liked because they haven’t blogged in several months or years. It felt good like I was cleaning. A big shout out to long time bloggers. I am grateful that you stuck it out.
  3.  Coronavirus be damned, I hugged and cried with a complete stranger. As I mentioned yesterday, over the weekend a historical building once owned by my family burned down. I cried with the new owner who felt horrible because their intent was to restore the building and preserve its history. Also, because of it, I was able to see and hug my mom which with her terror over the virus I questioned if it would happen again anytime soon. I am grateful that we don’t have to deal with the devastation of a fire. The destruction and loss was overwhelming. I can’t imagine what they will have to go through. I am also grateful that no one was injured or died as a result of the fire.
  4.  Paul got his first customer in his new business venture.
  5.  I am slowly starting to feel a little better. By no means close to 100%, but if I had to live this way the rest of my life I could.
  6.  On this Memorial Day, I am thankful for our wonderful veterans who sacrificed all.
  7.  I am grateful for the ability to survive traumatic experiences.
  8.  I am thankful for Paul. Even though things have been difficult lately, I know he has my back and I his.
  9.  Taking the winter quilt off the bed, turning off the heat, and opening the windows.
  10.  Estelle and I bought some orangish brown paint for the shed in the backyard. It is nice to have a project we can do together and something to remember her by once she goes home when I look at it.

What is love?

By the end of last year, my life started to crumble apart. I was dealing with some serious issues with my dad. I reached out to God. Please God, if you are there, show me that you love me. Trust hasn’t always been my strong suit. But what I was asking for didn’t seem like much.

In February, someone I am very close to attempted suicide. Do you know the pain of feeling that one morning you might wake up and your loved one is no longer there? It’s pure hell. I stopped sleeping and battled insomnia for over a month with nightmares. Maybe if I was always vigilant, maybe if I didn’t sleep, than nothing bad would happen come morning.

In March, someone I knew decided to quit battling kidney disease. He died and we weren’t allowed to go to his funeral because this new virus was sweeping the nation. Later that month, we were planning on driving down to Florida to show our 2 foreign exchange students our country. The week we were leaving Disney World closed and we had to cancel our trip.

It was not the only trip that was cancelled. My mom, daughter Arabella, and I were planning on going on a school related music trip to Europe this summer. The company cancelled the trip and kept $1900 per person to line their pockets. The money they kept for all three of us was like one person went on the trip that didn’t.

We decided that our daughter Arabella could no longer be a foreign exchange student next year not only from coronavirus. When we sold our company, we took some of the profit as private equity stock in their business. We were supposed to get enough money to live on for the next couple of years the first quarter of 2020. We were going to use this to jump start a new business. It never happened and now we don’t know if and when it will happen.

Our financial security is gone. With the virus and the economy, it is a struggle to start a new business.

The schools shut down. Prom was cancelled. The track season that just started was cancelled. The musical postponed. My college daughter’s recital and later graduation was cancelled. The gym closed. I struggled to get a good workout because winter held on to the middle of May.

In April, one of our foreign exchange students decided to go home. It was during that time that I started taking an antibiotic prescribed by the wellness clinic which says a lot since they mainly treat with herbs and supplements. Ten days after the last dose, my body crashed. I was sick running to the bathroom 20 to 30 times a day, day and night for 10 days. I thought I was going to die. I pleaded with God to let me die. After being poked and prodded by several doctors and a colonoscopy later, I was diagnosed with colitis and sent on my way.

After the flare up, I was left with a hollow shell of a body. I am weak. I had to give up running. I am still sick. I can’t eat. I watch as my family members eat my favorite foods. In the last week alone I lost almost 10 pounds.

Meanwhile my daughter Arabella is packing back on all of the weight she worked so hard to lose. She went from an honor student pre-coronavirus to barely passing. I’m not sure she is going to pass all of her classes. I can’t blame her for feeling depressed since everything she was looking forward to is now gone.

Then I heard the news that the family business my great-grandparents built over 100 years ago burned to the ground. Although no longer owned by my family, a lot of my good childhood memories are tied to the building and my family that worked in it who are also gone. It was painful to see something they lovingly built destroyed.

There are things that happened this past year that I can’t even talk about yet. Somethings I will probably never share. It’s not even June yet. I’m not even sure if there is a God anymore. But if there is, right now I feel pretty certain that he doesn’t give two hoots about me. Or is God just taking the things I have away to show me what I already have been given?

What is love? Is it giving or taking away? Or is a mixture of both necessary for growth like sunshine and rain?

Okay, okay enough complaining for today. Tomorrow gratitude…

In sickness and in health

I wonder if wedding vows still espouse the traditional in sickness and in health. It’s been awhile since I went to a wedding, my own being almost 23 years ago. When I think of someone getting married, I think about young and healthy couples who probably don’t think that their love could battle health issues that might mess up their future dreams.

And the two shall become one. But what happens if one is sick? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately since I haven’t been well.

Currently I am drinking 15 liquid elixir shots and popping 21 pills a day of supplements. I’m getting sick of it. I still don’t feel well. I am now trying to eat two small meals a day. My stomach hurts if I get too hungry and it pretty much always hurts after I eat. It’s a delicate dance.

Over the weekend I ate only bone broth. It is disgusting. I watched as my family ate pizza, hamburgers, birthday cake, chips with nacho cheese, and ice cream. It was hard to watch especially since my bone broth didn’t make me feel much better. I got very weak. The last thing I wanted to do was clean the kitchen up after they feasted which is a chore that mainly I do. Thankfully I didn’t have to.

Sometimes they feel bad for me. I get barraged everyday by well meaning loved ones with an are you feeling better yet. Sometimes they feel guilty for eating my favorite foods which I cannot have in front of me. Sometimes they care more about themselves.

Yesterday my husband went for a run and was apologetic to me. I didn’t enjoy running, I’m only doing it for my health. I feel horrible they are apologizing to me for doing the things they normally do. It makes me feel bad. But their normal behaviors are tormenting me because I can’t do it anymore. I think it is wrong for me to be upset about that. But it does upset me.

Oh, and another thing since I’m being totally honest here. It is hard to live with three teenagers in the house. The other day my daughter Arabella was eating cookie dough for breakfast at noon. My husband confronted her telling her she needed to eat something healthy. It was the right thing for him to do. Since then she has been angry at us and is once again slipping behind on her homework. I can foresee a lot of problems and confrontation with her in the near future.

Stress tends to make me feel worse. I have zero tolerance for stress right now which sucks because I see no end to that in sight.

Other than not feeling healthy, my mental health has been a struggle too. I used to cope with anxiety by running and keeping busy. Now I sit around and worry. I’m depressed because I don’t feel like I am accomplishing much. My husband gets irritated sometimes that he has to pull more of the weight since I’ve been sick. I don’t like it anymore than he does. It’s not like I’m trying to deliberately get out of doing my fair share. I’ve never been much of a slacker. No one in this house understands what it feels like.

I’ve been depressed because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling this way. Now I think I understand why in sickness and in health are a part of the wedding vows. Will I still be loved if I am no longer the person I used to be?

For better or for worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health…If you stay with someone long enough, you pretty much see it all.

Isolating fears

I wish life was back to normal. Or perhaps I should say I wish I could take my favorite things from my old life and mix it with the best things of this new world to form some sort of utopian society.

Since this whole thing started my mom has lived in great fear. She is so terrified that I don’t think she will leave the house if it means being around other people after the safer at home order is over in two weeks. I didn’t say anything up until this point but I might have to. I figured how can it hurt her if she wants to stay at home with my dad and autistic brother.

Now she is talking about getting a mask with a filter in it to wear under her cloth mask. She found some gloves to wear. This is only if she has to leave the house. Other people have been buying groceries. I’m wondering now if locking herself away is only temporary.

She does leave the house to go on walks with my brother Matt. The other day I was on the phone with her while they were out walking. She saw some kids on the path and freaked out. They quickly walked in the opposite direction in sheer panic.

It took me back to when I was a kid. My brother heard voices that told him to attack little girls. There was a period of 3 years where my brothers and I were homeschooled because Matt was psychotic. We avoided public places. If we were out and little kids would show up, we had to quickly pack up and head out. Nothing was wrong but it would only take a second for Matt to attack someone. Thankfully he is medicated now.

My grandpa had a tree nursery next to our house. Sometimes customers would show up looking at trees. We always had to keep on the lookout. If a potential customer showed up with little girls, someone had to call grandpa and then run out to meet them before they came to our house. Someone else had to make sure that Matt did not see the children outside. We had to be hyper-vigilant and work as a team to make sure no one got hurt.

Now I see the same type of paranoia in my mom. The children are potential threats. Even if they seem healthy they could be carrying a potentially deadly virus. Even if Matt seemed fine, in a matter of seconds he could potentially hurt someone. Even if it remains unseen, the threat is very real.

I see my mom very frightened and almost in a flashback of the other time we kept in isolation. I see the parallels of the fear and isolation.

I don’t think it is good for my mom’s mental health to stay in isolation much longer. My dad is very difficult to live with and needs care along with my brother.

I think my mom is going to stay in fear and isolation for a long time, longer than it is safer at home. My husband thinks she will stay in isolation until a vaccine is developed. Like my mom is going to trust a vaccine that is put out in record time. I probably wouldn’t even trust that.

I don’t want my mom to spend the last few years of her life not living out of fear. It’s hard to see her so afraid. I’m going to have to say something if it continues much longer.

purpose

What is the purpose of struggling?

I’ve felt sick like this many times before. There were times in my childhood where I was in so much pain that I didn’t eat much for several days. I was deemed a picky eater. My parents yelled at me, at times forced me to eat until I threw up, and threatened to take me to the doctor. I really wish they did. Maybe I wouldn’t be in the predicament that I’m in now.

Maybe if I was an only child things would be different. My brother had special needs so mine were ignored. It was selfish of me to take care of myself. I mean, look at my brother.

I can’t blame my parents for everything. I once told a doctor about the things I was experiencing and she told me it was all in my head. Maybe it was all in my head. Maybe it still is. I have that fear. Maybe I will go in for the colonoscopy and they will find nothing wrong with me. But if it is in my head, you better lock me up because I can’t live this way much longer.

At its greatest intensity, the stomach cramps feel like I am in labor. That being said, I didn’t really get a lot of sleep last night. I was in too much pain.

What does this mean for my life going forward? I’m thinking about giving up running. I am not well. My running really took a downhill (or uphill) turn last year. But I did finish a 50k. I achieved everything I wanted to. Oh my gosh, will my life come down to walking and yoga? Shoot me now!

I have to think this physical struggle with my health has some purpose. I have to think my childhood trauma had some purpose too. Why is purpose so meaningful to me? Without it, what is the point?

My husband has been very supportive. I want to thank him for giving me the best years of my life. I know we annoy each other and fight sometimes, but I can always count on him. I guess that is as close as I can get to trusting someone in this life.

I have been struggling because I want to write about what happened last summer with my husband. But I don’t want to hurt him because he is a good person. He did give me the green light, but I would choose him over being transparent with you any day if I felt it’s what I needed to do.

The whole purpose of having a personal blog is sharing my story. The ups and downs and the bumps along the way. Maybe I can help someone else in this journey. Or maybe it just makes me feel better.

My story is the only thing that cannot be taken away from me. Unless I end up with dementia, of course, which I am convinced will be my demise. But until then I am going to keep writing.