Living in Limbo

control

Control is such a powerful concept. In behavioral work, one of the tools in a therapist’s pocket is a technique called forced choice. When a client is resisting a specific instruction such as “hold someone’s hand while we cross the busy street”, one can instead present the individual with two unique options, such as “would you like to hold my hand or would you like to hold mom’s hand?” The child is far more likely to comply because he or she feels as though autonomy is being presented, and the ultimate goal is still accomplished. They perceive a sense of self-government over the situation, and it can make all the difference between an easy session and a difficult one.

I think one of the biggest issues I am struggling with right now is the feeling of everything being out of my hands. J and I had an excellent conversation last night that reminded me just how control driven I am. It is a natural trait of a codependent – the need to have a hand in all spheres of life because their success depends solely on us. It goes back to the “magical thinking” I discussed in this post. However, in the case of a loved one’s recovery, the responsibility relies solely on the addict. I must resist the desire to find J meetings, help him formulate his daily schedule, or become too involved in suggesting activities to keep him busy. Otherwise, he will never gain the self-sufficiency he needs to be successful in rehabilitation. He has to be able to stand on his own two feet.

choice

If that wasn’t hard enough, what is really eating away at me is to put aside all talks about our relationship. Personally, I came to the decision to put us on hold, and allow J to focus on his recovery and me to focus on my own mental health. I know in my head that this is the best decision for me, as well as for him, but my heart is far less convinced. By essentially pressing “pause” on our relationship, I am situating myself in a place that I vehemently dislike: LIMBO. I am a resolution seeker – striving to come to clear cut conclusion to every argument even if it means staying up until the wee hours of the morning. I am a patron of the black and white scenario –  we either break up or stay together, and it is imperative we decide right now. I am antipathetic of taking time and space to think things through, either we fix things this instant or we walk away. The more I allow situations of discomfort to sit, the less control I have, and the more likely everything is going to disintegrate into my worst nightmares. Thus, for me to individually come to the decision to put our relationship issues on hold is a gigantic leap of faith on my end, and my heart is extremely afflicted. However, my head is at peace, so I know that this is the right path. 

Another technique I use with my clients who are feeling distressed is something I call “problem squeezing”. When a child is showing signs of anger, anxiety, or frustration, I will have him or her sit in a calming place and visualize what is causing their discomfort as sitting in their flat, open palms. Next, I instruct them to squeeze their hands into a fist as tightly as possible and count to ten on an inhale; then release on an exhale. The beauty of behavioral therapy is that it doesn’t just apply to special needs or just to children. I used this very technique right before I went to visit J at the detox facility today. I sat in the parking l0t, closed my eyes, and pictured a mini version of J in my right hand and a mini me in my left. I clutched them shut as tightly as possible and repeated to myself that sometimes allowing things to happen the way they were meant to is far more beautiful than fabricating everything into being. I inhaled, feeling the tension build to its maximum, filling my lungs to the point of discomfort, and noticed that if I kept trying to hold it all in for too much longer I would burst.

Then I let go.

I let it all go.

And for that moment, I was free.

lettingo

 

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Dear Depression

This time of year is weird for me…most of my major break-ups or “almost” break-up have happened around this season, and they have left deep imprints in my subconscious. Guess summer lovin’ is really a thing. reaperEven so, those periods were really dark and disheartening times filled with inconsolable crying, loss of appetite, and an insatiable love for sleep. Now, even though every thing is right in the world, I cannot help but feel incomprehensibly sad, almost as if Depression was an old friend that has returned to Her winter home in my heart.

Is emotional PTSD a thing? I don’t mean to diminish the mental illness that many suffer through without relief, but that’s honestly how I feel. The same, familiar permeating sadness has settled in around me once again, confining and claustrophobic. I cannot stand it, but I also cannot shake it.

I need to do something. I don’t have time to be in a funk. Wait, let me try that again: Ain’t nobody got time fo dis s***! So I definitely need to do some analyzing because it’s been proven to help before –

Well here goes. Let’s start with WHY – why am I feeling like I have been dragged into a dark tunnel that has been sealed off on both ends yet again?

I think at the crux of it all, I’m scared. Everything feels just like it did when my world was crumbling – the temperature of the air is colder, sunny but with a nip (ironically, my favorite weather); the days are shorter; and my schedule is erratic due to the back to back holidays. So if all of these parameters are the same, why shouldn’t the outcome be just as similar? At least that’s what my brain is telling me. So really, while everything is honkey dory right now, I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But let’s go ahead and assume that happens…hypothetically, let’s just imagine J suddenly decides to end our almost 3 year relationship out of the blue, and I’m forced to pack up all of my things, take my dog and run with my tail between my legs. Yes, it would be so extrecryingmely painful to let yet another dream slip through my fingers, and I would probably do all of those same things like a rerun of an old romantic comedy – cry, eat ice cream, scream, sleep, and cry some more.But then what? The world doesn’t actually crumble into tiny, irreplaceable pieces. If anything, with each passing day, I grew just a little bit stronger in the Dark Days. Looking back on those times, they were actually so important and really healing periods that forced me to learn so much about life and about love and about myself.

Looking at it that way, what in the world do I have to be afraid of? Pain? Psh! That’s temporary. If anything, I now have the benefit of having “been there and done that”, so I’ll be even more than just okay. I know there’s another side; the road doesn’t just drop off into nowhere. In fact, it often dumps me right where I needed to be all along.

Well will you look at that! You thought you had me beat there, my dear Depression, but think again. I’m not the same, scared little girl who doesn’t know her own strength. I’m here to fight, and if I do go down, I’m taking you down with me.

pink-boxing-gloves

Guess I just needed to “talk it out” with my WordPress family. I know that I’ll probably have to remind myself about this process and revelation tomorrow when all I want to do is snuggle under the warm blanket and let the day pass me by, but it’s a start. And that’s really all I need.

 

 

 

Thankful for Thanksgiving

Worry

Most people have heard this saying before; at least, I know I have…a multitude of times. Yet somehow, I can’t turn off my brain and simply stop worrying. It doesn’t work that way. So instead of stressing even more about why I can’t be “normal” and just get over my anxiety like some people, I will instead focus on being thankful for all of the awful scenarios in my head that didn’t happen. No use worrying about things I can’t change, right?

For instance, in my previous post I talked about my social worries regarding J’s family and unfamiliar situations. Weeelll…Thanksgiving #2 with his side was absolutely wonderful. I met a sweet aunt and a silent, but kind uncle and their two amazing kiddos; I ate the most delicious, American cultured meal that was extremely different from Thanksgiving #1 with my Filipino family; and I bonded with his sister (who J loves dearly). There were no moments of awkward silences or uncomfortable interactions. It was truly like a big feast with my own kin, and I am so incredibly grateful.

Thanksgiving #1 was also fantastic. My grandmother and I spent the day together cooking, which she hasn’t done in a very long time. Her sharp mind recalled all of her tips and tricks as she passed her knowledge on to me, patiently teaching me her magical ways. Her weathered fingers fumbled, but that’s what I was there for…to open cans, stir pots, and lift the heavy bag of white rice. She was the brain and I was the brawn. Gosh, I never thought I’d say that! My family gathered in her tiny apartment and J had the opportunity to try a traditional Filipino Thanksgiving meal the way I remember it growing up. The whole experience meant a lot to me.

I love Thanksgiving. It really is my favorite holiday. And while some Negative Nancy may look upon the festivities and criticize how Americans need one day to set aside and be grateful, I scoff at her (or him). See, the reality of life is that it is so easy to get blindsided by routine, swept up by business, and turned upside down by every day thoughts and activities. There is no need to deny this fact. Thus, I am so extremely thankful for Thanksgiving because Heaven knows I need the reminder. I need the established holiday that forces me to pause, turn my eyes inward and reflect on all the good things I’ve got goin’ on. Yes, the goal is to make this a part of each day, to be grateful every morning and every evening, but I’m not there yet. I am still roller coasting through life imperfectly. Thus, I am thankful today. I am thankful for Thanksgiving. And I’m not going to stress beyond that.

Now excuse me while I tend to my food baby.
Always,
Freedom

Princes and Pythons

prince

Growing up in the Disney generation, I had fallen head over heels with the idea of Love. The notion that a handsome, brave Prince would one day sweep me off my feet with singing and dancing became my ideology of what a relationship should look like. Thus, when I entered into a partnership in the real world, I expected the same type of over the top declarations of romance and devotion. Honestly, the “puppy love” phenomenon I experienced in my early adolescence very much fit that mold; it was filled with hand written letters, home made gifts, poems, and the like, which only reinforced my belief that life was just one big fairytale.

As I grew up, matured, and began dating in my later years, I slowly realized that the “puppy love” phase is just that…a phase. Reality set in like a wet blanket, dampening my hopes of days filled with frolicking in the meadows with the man of my dreams, surrounded by rainbows and four leaf clovers. Instead, I was left with this confusing mess of unmet expectations and disappointments thinking that each boyfriend in my life simply didn’t care at all about me.  At the end of each relationship, I was convinced that I was nothing but a completely unlovable lost cause.

It wasn’t until I listened to talk on Love Languages while in Kenya that I realized I wasn’t at all unlovable! I was simply unaware of the different ways in which people express how much they care. As a result, I was unable to recognize the gestures of love that were indeed present and flourishing in my relationships, and I mistook it as absence.

The 5 Love Language:

  1. Words of Affirmation – “I love you”, “You’re wonderful”, “I am thankful for you”
  2. Gift Giving – material presents
  3. Quality Time – intentional moments with your significant other
  4. Acts of Service – fixing the car, doing the dishes, cooking, etc.
  5. Physical Touch – holding hands, cuddling, kisses, etc.

Love

This whole concept changed my life, both in my relationship with J but also in my closest friendships. I have discovered that there are so many more facets to Love than I originally pegged it for, and understanding this was the key to unlocking a harmonious interdependence. For instance, I have figured out that J is very much an Act of Service giver. Whenever time and schedule permits, he has dinner on the table for me, the dishes washed, and the dog walked and fed by the time I get home. Because I am a Quality Time and Physical Touch receiver, I could have absolutely missed his declarations of love and labeled him as an unthoughtful and uncaring man when in reality, he is the exact opposite.

This idea can also be flipped on its head. I am a Words of Affirmation woman all the way. I love showering the people in my life with verbal praises and encouragements. But like me, J is and Quality Time and Physical Touch receiver. If I wasn’t aware of that fact at all, I could completely miss the mark whenever I am trying to show him just how much he means to me. He would then be left unhappy and resentful.

Thus, Love is a balance. It is a delicate dance between your emotional needs and capacities and those of your partner. It is a fine line between knowing one another’s giving and receiving Languages and adjusting to create a harmonious flow of acceptance. Understanding and applying this newfound knowledge was the difference for me between a healthy, stable relationship and one filled with lies that flogged my self esteem on the daily.

Do you know what your love language is? If not, I encourage you to take some time for reflection and introspection. Otherwise, it may just pass you by. Take it from me, before I knew anything about any of this, if Love were a poisonous viper, it would have bit me right between the eyes.

Lucky for me, I learned the tricks of the trade. Just call me the snake charmer 😉

snake charmer

Agent J

Ah, dear old MacBook, my trusty old friend, how you continue to prove yourself useful to me even when you may harbor feelings of replacement and resentment. Well, thanks to you, I am once again able to access my amazing WordPress community and re-contribute to the blogging world.

I had originally planned to start up again with a book club post, followed by a list of other topics that have been rattling inside my brain, but I have a situation at hand that I would like to discuss.

strike

As I sit here typing away, J is out gallivanting like a rogue CIA agent, sent on a mission that he believes only he can accomplish. This past week, a rumor spread throughout the show he is working that it was getting flipped into a Union gig. Basically, this means that all the workers there would get grandfathered into an organization that fights for better pay, easier working conditions, and health benefits. However, this translates to the production company having to dole out more money in order to meet the new criteria. Needless to say, they declined. Thus, the entire crew, J included, have gone on strike. Now, initially, I supported this movement wholeheartedly; all of the men and women running around in the desert all day deserve the increases and benefits, but my whole opinion has changed as of today.

J just told me about some of the activities that the strikers are initiating which could be considered “illegal”. To make matters worse, he thinks that they are absolutely justified because they are fighting for a good cause. While I do understand that principle, I think that there needs to be a line drawn as to what is acceptable when handling this whole situation. I hold strongly to the notion that the ends should never justify the means. I am struggling with the idea that the man that I love, the one that I thought complimented me so perfectly, could have opinions as drastically opposite to my own. Not only does he support the dangerous antics, but he is volunteering himself when others won’t step up.

I tried to communicate to him how worried I am that he may be getting in too deep, but he thinks I am being silly. My friends, I do need your help. Oftentimes I have difficulty separating healthy emotions and concerns from unhealthy ones (this is the topic of the next mini series that I want to tackle FYI), so I need opinions and advice. Do you think that perhaps I am truly over reacting? Maybe, this is stemming from my need to control the people and situations around me. Or am I really right to be concerned? More than that, though, should I be worried about what this means for my relationship with J?

I would love your feedback! I know that there are many of you out there who can offer me great wisdom and insight. Any input would be appreciated.

Love Always,
-Freedom

P.S. Chapter 4 discussion is happening tonight! Followed by the first post of my new mini series: Reality or Codependency? Also expect another Lesson from Kenya, and hopefully an update on this whole Agent J situation by the end of this weekend.

Communication and Confrontation PSA

couple

I was sitting in the office, minding my business, when I overheard my male coworkers discussing the difficulties of being in a relationship. Well… that’s the nice way to put it. In all honesty, they were simply griping about their wives. One guy in particular was saying that he specifically hates how he has to do both the cooking and washing up afterwards while another was venting about having to constantly pick up after the family dog.

Really, I wasn’t planning on interjecting or commenting on the situation, but somehow, I always get roped in. The guys know that about 6 months ago, I moved in with my long-term boyfriend, and they proceeded to basically ask me if things had fallen apart yet. When I told them, no, they hadn’t, they all responded with, “Just you wait” type interjections. That was extremely irritating to me because they made it seem like a miserable relationship was inevitable! There was just no avoiding it; just buckle up and get ready for the ride.

That would have been just fine with me prior to recovery. But now? There is no way that statement wouldn’t push my buttons because I know better.

So I asked to coworker who was tired of cooking and cleaning, “Have you mentioned this to your wife? Maybe you guys could come up with a system that dictates if someone cooks, the other does dishes?” He looked at me like I wasn’t the brightest bulb in the tool shed and said, “I’ve tried that. It always turns into an argument”.

When I got home that night, and J and I finally settled in, I brought up this discussion. I explained how much it bothered me, and how I really didn’t want us to end up miserable and angry. So I made him promise to never let fear stop him from confronting me about an issue, and in return, I promised to handle it as maturely and calmly as possible. This also works the other way. I need to remember to put aside my worries about pleasing my partner and speak up if I have a genuine issue. As a Codependent, this is high up on the list of struggles for me. I am always hesitant to ask for things, especially when I feel I can accomplish them on my own. However, if I do this time and time again, I will find myself over-burdened and exhausted – 2 things that I am striving hard not to be. I know we won’t be perfect at it, and we will probably fight many times, but I don’t want that to be the end of the story. By setting this expectation of communication now, I think we stand a better chance of paving the way for a healthier partnership.

We all deserve so much more than to be stuck in fearful, resentful relationships that make us bitter towards the people we should be treasuring the most. I think many of us, myself included, forget this because of the way we were brought up or because of the unhealthy mindsets that were modeled to us throughout the years. But here is my PSA for today: stop settling for mediocre relationships (romantic or otherwise). Seriously. Stop it. You really are worth more than that.

So whatever is holding you back from communication or confrontation – whether it be fear of seeming imperfect or needy, the hesitancy to initiate fighting, Codependency, or anything else it might be, put it aside and allow your heart a chance at vulnerability. And no matter how the other person takes it – even if they are angry – love them enough (and love yourself enough) to push through that emotion and come to a place of agreement. Even if it takes 30, 50, 100 tries.

Your future selves will thank you.

Mandela

The Case of the Finicky Friend

therapycouch

I remember my first one-on-one therapy session that I ever attended. This counselor was recommended to me through a friend of a friend from church; apparently, many people had had great results in their recovery journeys with the help of this professional. Plus, she would give a discount to anyone who was referred to her through our religious community. So, I thought, why not?

When I first walked into her office, I was a bundle of nerves. I had no idea what to expect. There were many familiar faces there from my church group, and we exchanged semi-awkward hellos as I sat down to fill out all of those necessary forms – general information, background history, current struggles, etc. Finally, after what felt like a million years, the therapist was ready for me.

Her name was Nan, and from the minute I sat down in her big, comfy couch, I knew that we were going to have a great relationship. Nan was so soft spoken, kind, and felt like a motherly figure that I could trust. On our first day, she asked me why I was there, and I explained to her my thoughts about possibly being Codependent. After listening to me babble on for quite awhile, she said, “Ok, well I have a little checklist that might help us get a better picture of where you’re at”. She then handed me this clipboard with a dozen or so questions all regarding Codependency. In all honesty, I checked off every single one.checklist

That list was extremely similar to the the 10 traits from Love is Choice that I posted about previously. However, there was an additional question on Nan’s check sheet that still sticks with me today. It asked, “Do you have a hard time keeping friends?” Yup, that’s me! I’ve always struggled keeping friends. My oldest non-romantic relationship dates back to my first year of high school, and we rarely talk these days. I met the person I consider to be my very best girlfriend in Kenya, which was only a few years ago. I just feel like overall, I really don’t maintain friendships well.

One day, I asked Nan about this trait and what it has to do with Codependency. In a nutshell she explained that there could be two main reasons:

1) Those of us that struggle with this fixation on another object or person lose interest in the substance at hand very quickly. We obsess over one person for awhile, pouring into him or her day and night, becoming ultimately consumed. Then, when this person doesn’t reciprocate to our standards or we cannot change them into who we want them to be (the control aspect), we abandon them and move on. Much like a drug addict continues to delve further into harder substances because the high just isn’t enough anymore, a Codependent is also looking to find their next good fix.

2) A Codependent has a main fixation (usually a romantic relationship) and everyone else becomes secondary due to the tunnel vision that develops. Thus, do to the lack of effort in maintaining those other friendships, they wither and eventually die.

Of course, the levels of need differ in everyone, and many Codependents may not struggle with this in particular. But I do. I friendshipknow that maintaining relationships is extremely difficult for me due to a little mixture of both explanations. I have always had the tendency to zoom in on whoever is my current boyfriend, and I have a strong need for control. Thus, I have to make conscious efforts to keep in contact with the people I want in my life because it just simply doesn’t come easy. Sometimes, I even have to write down little reminders to send a text to those that I care about just to keep the communication lines open.

But I’m trying. I have a handful of women who I believe really love me and care about being in my life, and I know I need to make a better effort at being in theirs. So these past few weeks I have just been intentional about saying hello and sending out “how are you’s”. It’s a baby step towards my overall struggle with Codependency, but it is an important one. Every little bit counts.

How are you friendships today?

P.S. I will be discussing the rest of Chapter 3 from Love is a Choice tonight!

The Silver Linings

Rejoice

Pretty sure my Higher Power meant for me to stumble across this quote today. Upon rereading my most recent post regarding J and our difficult situation, I really feel as though in the midst of emotion, I was focussed on the negative aspects of my relationship. I do recognize that this is human emotion – the tendency to miss the bigger picture at first and concentrate on the minute situation before us. However, if I have learned anything, it is that saying something is acceptable simply because it is habit or tendency (whether biological or not) is a straight cop out.

J and I had our talk, and communication really did fill in gaps that could have ultimately led to insecurity and more anxiety. He was extremely reassuring, albeit a little frustrated at my lack of trust (understandably), and we were able to settle back into a place of harmony. I felt like all was well again.

Then, however, as I was surfing the web today, I stumbled across the quote above, and I was floored. I need to do a better job in remembering the silver linings in the midst of a storm. Translated – I need to celebrate the good parts of my relationship even in the midst of a fight. I know that is way easier said than done, trust me; I am the QUEEN of letting my heart rule my head in passionate moments, as evidence by my previous entry. But I cannot let that be my excuse. Just because it’s difficult to do, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. Now, this isn’t to say that the discussion isn’t still necessary, but it allows for a mature exchange to occur rather than an argument to escalate.

So I’m going to commit to trying. It helps to have a quote that I can bring to the forefront of my mind when all I want to do is complain and whine. I can repeat it like a calming mediation in my head. The next time J and I have a row -or really anytime I have an emotionally charged situation that my cloud my thinking- I will attempt to sheer my thorns and celebrate the beauty of the roses instead.

Love Always,
An Enlightened Freedom

Because There Are No Such Things as Fairytales

As I have mentioned before, J is the absolute love of my life. He compliments me (not completes me, as I have learned) in a way that is both healthy and positive. He is an amazing man who I thank the Powers that Be for every single day. There’s only one problem in my almost perfect fairytale – his job.

Every person is entitled to their own wants and standards of expectations in relationships, and each couple is different. Because I grew up with an absent father, I very much value quality time and physical touch, which are my love languages (a blog post on this later). Luckily for me, J’s demonstrations of love match my needs perfectly. So where’s the problem, right?

J works in the entertainment industry. Specifically, he does the sound for movies and television shows. It’s an amazing occupation that allows him to meet all kinds of celebrities and make fairly good money. The nature of the beast is, though, that his jobs are sporadic. Because he is so new to the industry, he often stresses about where his next paycheck will come from. That means he is almost desperate to take whatever gig comes his way, no matter the details. That level of dedicated commitment to your job becomes difficult when you are already committed to a family.

Enter me. I met J way before he started in production, back when he was still planning to make music. Once he graduated from his art school in Hollywood, he was dead set on meeting and signing with major record labels. Unfortunately, with the advances in technology, the need for a music producer is dwindling. Most artists are creating their sound on their own these days. So when a door opened up for him to maybe try out the world of movies and tv, he jumped in without a second thought. And he’s been nonstop ever since!

As his best friend, I am so ecstatic for J. He has had such a difficult past filled with dead-end after dead-end, and now things are really starting to come together. But as his live in, 2 year girlfriend? I am struggling way beyond he even realizes. See, the problem with production is, you have to go wherever the job takes you. Thus, in this past year alone he has been out of state a total of 9 weeks on and off. Now, to me, that is too much time away from home, but to J, because he grew up in a family that was always moving around, this was normal.

I have honestly tried to make it work thus far. I’ve tried to compromise, to just stifle my feelings and my needs (as any deep Codependent subconsciously would do), but every time he was gone on another trip, it always took such a huge tole on me. Since I’ve started my recovery, however, I have been able to at least vocalize my hurt and my discomfort to him, and we are working to find a setting in which we are both happy. We decided on this a few months back: he would only accept travel gigs that were under 3 weeks. That seemed reasonable to me!

Then last night happened:
He told me that a sound supervisor on the set he is working on told him of an opportunity on another show. The problem is, it’s 5 weeks in The South somewhere, 2 weeks home, then another 5 weeks on location. Instantly, my heart sank. If it comes down to it, I will have to stand up for myself and leave the man I planned to spend the rest of my life with. That makes me so angry. Angry at my Higher Power for allowing me to be in such a difficult situation, and angry and J for even considering the part. Now, I do understand that this is his career we are talking about, and as a man, all he wants to do is be able to provide for our future. But He is missing the importance of working on the now aspect of us, and I really don’t want that in a lifetime partner.

So I am in a state of anxiety. He assures me that he is trying to negotiate for 3 weeks, and that he won’t take it if it’s a day more. But the damage is already. The seed of doubting our future has already been planted in my brain, and I am struggling. He and I will talk more about it tonight, but even as I type this, I know that I have to make a conscious decision to remain calm; to not let me emotions get the best of me; and to receive what he has to say with love and an open heart. But more than those things, I have to remember to stand strong for me.

Wish me luck!
-Freedom