Monday, October 31, 2016

Making an Exit

Recognizing that you’re involved in something that might not be healthy for you can be difficult. Whether it’s a relationship with a spouse, a job, or even just dealing with family; many of us have a tendency to hold on for dear life for fear of looking like a failure.

Historically, that’s been one of my biggest fears. The “F” word. Now factor in all the work, time, energy, and heart you’ve put into whatever the situation may be, it’s incredibly hard to let go. Sometimes there are subtle signs as the situation deteriorates slowly. Other times, they may as well have bought themselves a billboard alongside the highway.

I know for me, I’ve had to put an end to a few relationships just in the last couple of weeks. It always hits me hard, no matter how badly I needed to pull myself out of the fire. At my age, I can’t afford to waste any more time on people who consistently belittle me, threaten me, yell at me, or disrespect me. In the case of my family, I’ve gone back for a second helping of abuse soup because I felt an obligation to my mom or my dad to make things work. I’ve always shouldered a great deal of the responsibility because I felt like I owed it to my parents, even though my mom isn’t even alive anymore.

If enough time passes and just the right things are said, my brain is suddenly capable of forgiving the past, and I let these people back in. Only to end up as I am now; with a cellphone full of nasty voicemails and text messages telling me what a horrible person I am. Despite what some people may choose to believe, I truly am a good person, and I suppose I have trouble coming to terms with the fact that not everyone else is. It’s like an expression I once heard says, ‘You’ll end up very disappointed if you think people will do for you as you do for them. Not everyone has the same heart as you.” I think that applies to this situation perfectly.

Something similar happened last week with a working relationship. Technically, it was not a job, and no money ever changed hands. It was supposed to be a fun Saturday morning hobby, but we still attempted to maintain a working relationship with all involved. It became clear fairly early on that being friends was out of the question. However, for the sake of the project, we tried. I don’t think anyone else knew the difference, but we sure did.

My husband and I worked very hard to make this project a success, but unfortunately we just couldn’t keep hanging on to a situation that wasn’t healthy for either of us. Once a fun little hobby becomes a full-time job, without pay or benefits, it’s time to reevaluate the situation. When you add miscommunication, verbal abuse, and a condescending, know-it-all attitude from the person you’re doing the work for, it’s time to get out.

I don’t care what it is, even if it’s a million dollar a year salary, if you’re left sobbing every day due to stress, it’s no longer worth it. In the midst of all of this, I experienced a breast cancer scare, to which I can happily report that I got the all clear for now. (I go back in six months.) I kept on working because I felt like I needed the distraction. However, when family members or close business associates respond to hearing the news by saying, “Yeah, I’ve got a lot going on over here too” as you express your fear of possibly having cancer, seems like a pretty good time to get out of there.

Let me reiterate that many of us with bipolar disorder are terrified of the “F” word. I know that nobody wants to fail, but when your brain isn’t quite firing on the right cylinders, in the right order, it’s a daily fear. I didn’t take a shower today?!?!?
I’m such a failure. It sounds ridiculous, and I recognize that, but it’s true!

So, how do you extricate yourself from an unhealthy relationship of any kind? Obviously, it’s different for every person and every situation. However, if you already know going in that it’s going to get ugly, I’m not against writing a script for yourself, so you stick to just what needs to be said and not even engage in any of the back and forth arguing. I wish I had thought of it before now so that in the past I would have remembered to stay in my lane, and not engage in the childish bullshit.  Unfortunately, in my case, both eruptions occurred without a hell of a lot of warning, so I didn’t have time to plead my case using common sense and intellect.

I would certainly advise that you not make the same mistakes I did and lose your cool. Conduct yourself in a calm manner, don’t let them drag you down there with them. None of this is your fault. You never asked for, nor do you deserve this type of treatment. Believe me, I know it’s hard; but if you wholeheartedly know that a situation is no longer healthy for you, you owe it to yourself to exit stage left. Let me also add that with the way social media has taken over, it’s not enough to just unfollow someone on Facebook or Twitter. You’ve got to block them and fast before they can do any further damage to you psychologically.

Try not to feel guilty or as if you’ve failed. You are not the reason that this relationship went bad. Have you probably made mistakes at times, just as I have? Of course, I’m sure all of us have. However, if you’ve come forward and admitted to those mistakes or even apologized for the times when you weren’t at your best, that’s all you can do. If the other person still treats you badly, you can’t allow that person or people to treat you like you don’t matter. You’re better than that. You do matter, and you are enough. Don’t ever forget that!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Four Little Words

*Ironically, this post was written before my most recent blow up with my family. Things are even worse now than when I wrote this, but I’m going to post this as a first step in forgiving myself for allowing them to hurt me again*

Were they ever proud of me?

As long as I can remember, I longed to hear one thing from my mom or dad.
“I’m proud of you.”
If it was ever said to me, I can’t remember it now.

I recall speaking to my dad about it after my mom passed away. I felt like it left a gap inside of me. It wanted to hear it so badly. He told me she was, but it’s not the same.

It’s something that I struggle with regularly. I try to surround myself with good, caring people but that doesn’t always work out. In fact, it almost never works out. There are people out there, even in my life, that are incapable of giving you the validation you feel you need and deserve.

I was watching Dr. Phil the other day, and he was talking about something that resonated with me. This young woman in her 20’s or so was coming face to face with her mother that abused her as a child. He said to the daughter, “You want an apology, you want the validation, but you don’t need it to move on with your life.” Some people just aren’t capable of giving us what we need, and boy have I ever learned that the hard way.

Those of us with big hearts know this all too well. What Dr. Phil said next just clicked for me. He said, “It’s like asking me for your car keys. I don’t have your keys, so I can’t give them back to you. Maybe your mom is the type of person that will never be able to give you your keys.”

It was like a light bulb went off over my head. I’ve wasted so damn much time trying to get people to like and understand me. Most of them don’t nor will they ever have the capacity to do so. All of the years spent desperately trying to keep our family together were a complete waste of time. They never had my keys, so I never got what I needed from them.

Now that I’ve had this epiphany, I have to figure out how to be proud of myself. I can only allow people into my life that truly do like, understand, and respect me. I know I say this a lot, but I’m so grateful for my husband. I can always rely on him, and I hope he knows he can always rely on me. We’ve both been hurt by many people in the last 15 years of our marriage, and I think we’re both at our breaking points.

I feel like I might be thinking more clearly than I have been in the last two weeks. I still have a lot on my plate and a great deal of stress and anxiety to deal with. However, I think I may have finally convinced myself that I’m not responsible for anyone but myself. I can only be me, and if that is someone you don’t like, so be it. I don’t need you around.

I’m not going to struggle day after day to be a part of the lives of people that can’t be bothered with me, are rude to me, or just flat out ignore me. I won’t subject myself to family members that refuse to acknowledge that I have something very serious going on in my life, except to say, “Well, do you ever ask about us?” 

I’ve shared my struggles and my triumphs with family members, only to be brushed to the side so they can compare their life to mine. It’s what I like to call “the pissing contest.” Oh, you’re getting tested for breast cancer? Well, let me tell you all the ways that I have it harder than you do. It’s ridiculous, and I refuse to engage in it any longer.

I guess it’s time to let go of all of the favors I’ve done for people. It’s time to stop expecting that they have the same heart as I do, and they will return the favor, or in some cases even say thank you. I’ll be brokenhearted every time.

I am carrying around an epic amount of stress and fear, and I’m doing everything I can to keep my composure, but it’s getting harder with each passing day. I don’t think I’ve ever been this angry before. Especially when there are people in my life that just keep on poking the bear to see how long it takes before the bear snaps its tether.

The entire time Joe and I have been married, people have always gravitated to him and ran screaming from me. I guess it’s time to accept it and move on. I am the common denominator, after all. I’m not Joe, nor will I ever be. Most people don’t even give me a chance, and that’s fine. They weren’t worth the effort.

Right now, I have to focus on holding it together for the next few weeks. I can’t be worried about whether a certain person cares or if anyone is proud of me. I have to hope for good news and forget about the stress. It would be nice to have my family by my side during all of this. However, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that they are just my “family.” They aren’t friends, and they never will be. 

I’ll never hear the “I’m proud of you” that I have so desperately wanted all of these years. The sooner I accept that, the better off I’ll be.  However, I can be proud of myself, and I hope that every day, I’ll get a little closer to being able to say that.

Guest Post #14 - Mental Health Awareness Month - Dr. Jason Holland of Lifespark

About the Author: Jason M. Holland, Ph.D., currently serves as the CEO and Editor of Lifespark , an online well-being magazine focuse...