Monday, March 21, 2016

On the fear of losing happiness

I've noticed a disturbing trend in my life lately...things as they exist in real life are calm and peaceful for the most part. Life is good. I really have very little to complain about these days. Despite that, my head is still sometimes a warzone. It's like I'm afraid to allow myself to feel the happiness and peace that is actually in my life now, and that I've worked so hard for.

Here's an example of where my brain goes, in any given moment that is calm or happy:

I'm laying on the couch with my boyfriend, cuddling, watching tv. I begin to feel happy and grateful for the moment, because it feels so nice, and I feel so safe and loved. Then I have a flashback to me doing the same thing with my ex-husband, and feeling the same way in that moment. "Oh wait, I used to do this with my ex-husband too...I felt safe and loved then too...but he didn't love me...he never loved me...none of that was ever was real to me, but it wasn't real to do I know that this is real? What if he doesn't love me, either? What if I'm the only one in love? This might not be real...he might not love me...Oh God, what if he doesn't love me back? What if he loves someone else instead? I'm going to get hurt again. I can't get hurt again. I can't go through that again. I should just end it...I shouldn't be with anyone..."

And this happens usually multiple times per day, because things are actually pretty good, until my brain convinces me that they might not be what they seem. Pretty fucked up, eh?

The worst part is that I KNOW this is no way to live. I know I'm literally denying myself the happiness I should be feeling right now. I think that happiness can only ever exist in the present moment, and the second I start to feel it, I push it away, because I'm too afraid of losing it again. It's basically the definition of self-sabotage. I feel like everything I think I know is going to come crashing down around me again, and I want to be somehow prepared for it this time, as if knowing in advance what will happen will make it hurt less. I've convinced myself that if only I can predict it, I'll be protected.

The truth is, even if I can predict it, it will still hurt. I predicted it with my ex-husband. It still devastated me when I got confirmation that my gut was right. No amount of protection could have helped, and I guess when it's all said and done, I can look back and know that at least for a bit, in the moments, I was truly happy with him, even if it wasn't "real" and wasn't what I thought it was. It's true that ignorance is bliss.

The only solution I can think of is to try and stay in the moment and appreciate the little moments of happiness, exactly as-is. In fact, I think that being "happy" is just having enough of a collection built up of the small, quiet, calm, content moments. Maybe that's the best any of us can ever get, and the truly lucky among us are just able to be in them and appreciate them while they happen instead of living in the past by looking back on them or chasing happiness by hoping they'll happen again in the future.

I'm not used to having these walls up. And what I'm realizing is that to live in fear of losing happiness is probably actually worse than being depressed or sad. At least with those emotions, I was IN them. I felt them. I knew exactly what they were and could draw you a map around them. But this constantly changing my happiness into anxiety thing is exhausting. It's a rollercoaster. It's crazymaking.

Sometimes the stress of everything twisting around my brain makes me want to cry, because it feels like I can't trust my own feelings anymore. I know that's not true, though. I know I can trust my feelings and my intuition. My feelings have always been right. It was just one monster who deceived me and betrayed me. And most of all, I don't want to give him the power to control my current and future happiness because of what he did to me.

A friend of mine said recently "Loving someone is always a risk." She is right. There are never any guarantees, and despite how much you think you know the person, no one ever really knows what's in another's heart, even when the person you love is a good person and not a sociopathic con man. So I continue to be terrified, but I'm trying to be brave.

Friday, March 18, 2016

More from my journal - The Discard, Part II

I've already written about the day almost exactly a year ago that my (ex)husband left me out of the blue. Here it was, as I wrote about it to my therapist (written exactly a year ago tomorrow).

The thing to keep is mind is that I now know the real reason he did this--because he had a girlfriend back in his home country who he'd gotten pregnant, who was having an abortion that week and was suicidal. So, literally every word he said was a lie meant to manipulate me. Of course, I didn't realize the full extent of it until August 2015, when the other woman called me and told me everything.

Anyway, I present this here to encourage all of you to trust your gut. I knew something was off and didn't make sense, but I wanted to trust him and believe him. I shouldn't have.

March 19, 2015, 4:44 pm
There have been some big developments with my husband this week, and I'm reeling a bit, again. 
 He came back home to me "for good" on Saturday, March 7th. It was bad from the moment he stepped off the plane. I went to the airport, greeted him with coffee, we hugged, he gave me a little peck on the lips, and then we walked to the escalator to get to the train platform. As we were on the escalator, he grabbed my belly, jiggled it, and said "Well, somebody's put on a belly!" This was literally the FIRST thing he said to me after being gone for 10 months, and not seeing me for two months. I teared up almost immediately, and then he got angry at me for being upset, because he was "just joking," and then he began to say that he would just go back to his country, I "obviously didn't want him here," and he threatened divorce. I said that none of that was true, but that I was really hurt by what he said, and he wouldn't let it go how I needed to just get over it, and "Do something about myself if I'm so unhappy with my weight." I told him I wasn't unhappy with my weight, I was unhappy with his comment. It was a long, silent, awful ride home. (PS - I haven't really gained any weight...HE on the other hand, has been very self-conscious about putting on 30 lbs while he was there, and keeps commenting on his own weight and how much he has to work out. Projection?). 
 By Friday, I could tell he was not happy. I said that he seemed sad, and asked him why. He said that he had left his career at it's peak, he realized how much his mom and dad aged in the 5 months he was away from them (while living with me) last year, and how angry his agent was at him for leaving, and how his mom cried when she took him to the airport, and he was homesick. I didn't say much, but I said "Ok, well that's all understandable." Then I said "Do you want to be here?" He said "I don't know." And I said "Well that's honest." But it hurt me, since I've waited so long for him to come back and us to have a chance at having a life together, and now he wasn't sure if he wanted it. 
 The next day was Saturday of last week. We sat down and talked about it, and it got ugly. I told him that I felt really scared that he could leave at any moment, and that it's really vulnerable for me to know how much I wanted him here, and that I'm not sure he wants to be here with me. And I also said that the 10 months he was gone were the hardest of my life, and that I cried every day, and I never really felt like he understood that. He got really angry, really quickly, and took all of my feelings as an attack on him. He said that I was calling him "a piece of shit" and "the worst person ever" and he yelled "I'm going for a walk!" 
 Two hours later, he came back. He didn't talk to me the rest of the night, and I went to bed. He slept on the couch until 6am, and then finally came to bed with me. Sunday morning I thought we'd get up and talk. I made him coffee, and when he came into the kitchen, he already had his coat and shoes on. He said that he decided to leave, and he would leave today. I started sobbing. He went on to say that we just weren't right for each other, and we have nothing in common, and I was forcing him to live my life. He then packed up his bags and I was still sobbing. He asked me to call him a cab, and I refused. So then he left for a hotel (and called me cold-hearted for not letting him stay with me until his flight Tuesday).

The first time we broke up

I recently came across my old journal I kept with my therapist. I would write her an entry, and she would respond, in-depth and amazingly, to each one. Here was something I wrote in September 2014, when I first realized that I actually didn't deserve to be treated the way he was treating me. I share in hopes that it will help to spark that recognition in one of you who may be experiencing something similar. Let me tell you bluntly what it took me two years to realize--being verbally abused is NOT OK, NOT SUSTAINABLE, and it's NOT YOUR FAULT.

September 4, 2014, 11:50 am
A lot has changed in the last week. There is an aspect to my husband that I've always realized but only recently really admitted to myself - he is verbally and emotionally abusive. I constantly feel like I'm walking on eggshells around him, trying not to upset him, yet many days, any little word I say (or don't say) or thing I do (or don't do) sets him off, and he begins screaming at me. When he explodes, he's generally over it five minutes later, but I'm not. It devastates me, and sometimes takes me days to get over. I've been reading a lot about verbal and emotional abuse, and he really displays almost all of the signs, especially the more subtle ones. I mention this because everything came to a head over the weekend. I was at my parents house (honestly,because I didn't want to be alone for another holiday weekend, because I knew I would get sad). Saturday he asked if he could skype with my sister and brother in law to say hi, but we were out at dinner and then going out for drinks after that, so I told him it wasn't a good time but we could do it tomorrow. He was angry. Sunday when I called him and said "Hey, do you want to skype now? We're all around!" 
I apparently interrupted the commentary on the soccer game he'd just watched, and he EXPLODED at me "I'm watching the commentary! YOU KNOW I LOVE THIS! DO I SERIOUSLY HAVE TO JUSTIFY WATCHING THIS TO MY WIFE?!" 
I said no, and that it was fine, we could talk later. Then he said he could turn skype on, but he wouldn't talk until the show was over in two hours, and at that point I was going to be leaving, so I said "No, it's fine, this is your priority right now, watch your show." 
So I said "Ok, you're making that clear."
We hung up, and it was all I could do not to cry. I knew I didn't deserve to be treated that way. Since I was at my parents house, I did my best to hold it in and not talk about it (they already hate him, for a lot of reasons--I didn't want to give them one more). Then my dog threw up, and I started uncontrollably sobbing. My mom said "You seem really stressed..." and I told her everything I'd been holding back. I sat on the floor--literally, on the kitchen floor--crying for 3 hours, and my parents said if I hadn't mentioned it, they were going to talk to me. They saw that he's verbally abusive and controlling and on top of that, seems to never consider my feelings in his decisions, and they urged me that it won't get better, and they fear for my safety. I didn't sleep at all that night. Monday morning he texted to say "Hate to argue, but i'm sorry if I made you sad last night." I asked when a good time to talk would be, because I didn't want to interrupt again, and he called me immediately. I said "I'm really hurt and confused...last night I had a breakdown, and I don't deserve to be treated like that." and he immediately jumped to "So, what, do you want a divorce? Are we separated? HERE, I'LL TAKE MY WEDDING RING OFF RIGHT NOW!" and I said "I don't know, I just need some time to think," and he said "No, things are either working or not, I don't give anyone time...I'll just take my ring off and put it here, and you let me know what you decide." I was devastated. I never intended or imagined things would go downhill so quickly, or over the phone. It seems like he just wanted an out. 

September 8, 2014, 2:18 pm
So, I talked to him last night (I know, I know.) It was his "deadline" he so generously gave me as to decide if I wanted a divorce or not, and I wanted to tell him, in no uncertain terms, that I wanted a divorce. It didn't go well. He said he can't believe that I don't have the "respect" for him to just wait until he comes back. I told him my plan all along was to wait for him to come back, but then he put in question if he was even coming back, and then when I told him that I wanted to wait and see how things went prior to this current conversation his response was "So what, you'll make me spend $600 on a flight and then just dump me?" Everything gets turned around. The truth is, I'm having such a hard time because I DON'T want a divorce--it's the last thing I ever wanted. But I don't see any other way. I know he's not going to change and magically become the sweet, caring guy he once was. I know it's not just an issue of distance anymore. And now I can't even picture myself wanting to be in the same room with him. I don't even think that therapy would help him. When I point out to him that he's verbally abusive, he laughs at me (the irony is that he's currently playing a physically and verbally abusive husband on the soap--and getting rave reviews, I might add). He says he's researched all about it, and he's not that. I said there are different degrees of it, and it doesn't just mean men who call their wives "pieces of shit" and who hit them (that's his concept of it). And when I told him that he manipulates my feelings and emotions, again, he turned it around and said "NO I DON'T!" (dismissing me right there!). I know there is no hope for him and no hope for us. I know I will never be happy with him. I know I won't ever get past the hurt that I already feel, and I wouldn't be able to be in a relationship with him and trust him ever again. Plus, now that I've realized that what he has been doing is actually abuse, I'm afraid of what it could turn into. I know he's beaten our dog--the poor puppy used to pee in fear when he'd see him, and I watched him hit him (and then yelled at him and told him it was the most disgusting and unattractive thing I've ever seen--he stopped, as far as I know). I know he's hit ex-girlfriends, and I know that his dad told me that one ex had a restraining order. I just don't know what he's capable of, and i know I'm not special. I know if he felt justified, he'd hit me, too. I don't know why I would even think about letting him come back. I know nothing will change. But there is a big part of me that DOES feel awful about doing it over skype/the phone. Plus I know it gives him more fodder to tell people what a horrible wife I am for dumping him from abroad "while he was just trying to work for money for us." I told him I needed more time and that I would let him know when I've come to a decision, and I said it might be weeks or months. I know what I need to do, but when I talk to him, I just lose my resolve, because I remember how much I love(d) him and how he can be reasonable from time to time, and then I feel like the jerk. In the meantime, I've cancelled the wedding we were going to have here (lost my $2000 deposit). I took him off my insurances today, so that will be another $300 in my check every month. I'm doing everything to protect myself. I just need to strengthen my resolve to not let him come back, even though prior to this past week it's all I ever wanted.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Another anniversary

Exactly a year ago today, my (now almost ex-)husband told me he wasn't sure if he wanted to be here in America with me anymore, out of nowhere, after being back with me for exactly 6 days having been gone for the 11 months prior.

Exactly a year ago tomorrow, he discarded me first thing in the morning, telling me that we had no future and nothing in common, and informed me that he was leaving me and would be getting on a flight later that day to return to his country.

Exactly a year ago on Wednesday, I walked into my brand-new job, because I didn't know what else do to with myself.  My life had been shattered the day before, and I'd only had this job for 3 weeks and didn't want to skip out before my first month was up. My boss casually asked me how my weekend was, and I started to uncontrollably sob.

"I guess maybe I shouldn't have asked that?" he said.
"I've had better weekends," I replied, not sure how much I should tell my brand new manager, but also not wanting to come off as if he'd hired an utter crazy person. "I'm sorry, it's just that my husband left me yesterday."
"Oh my God, I'm so sorry. I can't even imagine. If you need to not be here, or take off early, or come in late, just let me know."
"Thank you."

It's kind of remarkable how much has changed in a year.

I'm in a great, healthy relationship now with a truly kind, empathetic, caring, remarkable man. I no longer cry daily, sometimes I go many weeks at a time without crying. The weight I lost because I was physically unable to eat for the better part of 2015 has begun to come back, and my appetite is fully back. The unmanageable cystic acne that exploded all over my face, chest and back because of the stress, beginning in late 2014, is now just scars--it's sort of symbolic how now all that remains of all of it is just scars, that only time can heal. I just got promoted at work. My boss and I have a wonderful working relationship, I think partly because I had to divulge so much about my life so early on. He asks me for regular updates on how things are going in my life, and genuinely cares that I'm healing. Everybody comments on my strength and how my entire aura has changed since my toxic husband left my life. I'm happy and calm. Life is peaceful. I laugh again. I smile. My sense of humor is back. My divorce is sitting with the courts--after months of worrying about the fact that he wasn't signing the papers and was threatening to sue me for "psychological damages" and demanding that I not speak to friends, family, or the press in his country. His time to contest ran out, he didn't do anything, and now it defaults in my favor. The best part is, his greencard I paid for and did all of the work for expires next week. I doubt that he realizes this.

I haven't spoken to him since August 2014, though his friends and the other woman have reached out to me to tell me "how much he loves me" and how he "deserves a second chance." I told them that I gave him NUMEROUS chances, and he blew them all by lying and gaslighting me. The other woman tried calling me 13 times in a row about a month ago, across 4 different mediums. I'm finally at a point where I really, genuinely don't care what she had to say or why she was calling. My boyfriend picked up the phone, told her he'd just gotten this number, and he had no idea who the woman was that she was asking for. She hasn't called since.

He texted me in December to say he wanted to talk, but he wanted it to be on his terms. I delayed in responding, and said I had nothing to say but I would listen to whatever he wanted to say. Finally weeks later, I said I would talk. He never responded. I've made peace with the fact that I will never get an apology or even an acknowledgement of what he did, from him, and even if I did, he wouldn't mean what he said anyway. He only wanted "to talk" to get a response out of me. Once he did, his need to control me was fulfilled, and he didn't respond. Just one more game. But I'm done with the games, and fully done with ever trying to speak to him. There is just no point.

It's been a stressful, emotional year, but I could have never imagined that I would be in the place I am now a year ago. Life seemed like it was over. I could barely get out of bed, and often cried as soon as the alarm went off in the morning. I thought I had lost my chance at love and at ever having a relationship or a family. I thought I was too old to start over and didn't want to. Now the future seems brighter than ever, and my outlook on life is hopeful again.

It gets better, and in a way, I think I had to be totally knocked down to rebuild and figure out what I needed and focus on myself, because I'd spent so much time and money and energy focused on him.

There is love and life after a sociopath destroys your life, friends.

Friday, March 4, 2016

That time I apologized for having a migraine

Today I was looking for something in my email, and I fell into a rabbit hole of reading old emails I sent to my (almost ex)husband. It made me think "When did I first notice that something was off?" And the answer to that was 3 months in.

We met while I was on vacation, and were long distance for the first year and a half we were together. The first time he visited me was three months after we met. I was already in love with him (thanks Skype), and in his third week of visiting me, we took a road trip so I could introduce him to my family. His first impression on my sister and her husband were basically worst-case scenario. He and my brother in law got into a drinking competition, and he ended up throwing up ALL OVER my sister's house, repeatedly. I had never seen so much vomit in my life. While my sister and I were cleaning it up, he literally came out of the bathroom, looked at my sister, laughed, and said "Clean it, bitch!" and then went back to bed. I quickly apologized to her on his behalf (a theme that would only continue) saying "I'm so sorry...I think he's still drunk. He's not like this!" Except, as it turned out, he WAS like this. That was just the first glimpse of the real him.

Since I didn't sleep at all that night because I was up all night cleaning up his repetitive vomit, I got a pretty terrible migraine. I let him know, repeatedly, that I had a migraine and just wasn't feeling well. We headed back to my apartment, and he was blaring his heavy metal music the entire time we were in the car. Every time I would ask him to turn it down, he would say I was boring and no fun, and would gradually turn it back up.

When we got back into the city, we were on the escalator near my apartment. I still had a raging migraine, and he proceeded to slap me, hard, on the butt (playfully in his mind, painfully in mine--also the first time he touched me a little too hard and then got angry at me for reacting to that). I turned to him to give him a look to say "Not now," because I was hurting, and when I have a migraine everything hurts more. When he saw the look, he FLIPPED HIS SHIT, right there in public, threw my suitcase at me, and yelled "FUCK YOU! CARRY YOUR OWN SUITCASE THEN!" and stormed off in front of me. I began to cry, and I was "being a baby."

Here was my first ever email to him (the first of many) in which I tried SO HARD to explain how I was feeling, and how I never meant to upset him, and ended up apologizing for my own suffering. It was a pattern that got so much worse, until I realized what was going on and stopped apologizing (which is when shit REALLY hit the fan).

"I want to talk about this tonight, but I want to get out what I was thinking this morning, both because I need to get it out of my head and I also don't want to make you wait all day and for you to wonder what I'm thinking/think it's worse than it is.

Last night scared me. You apologized, and I accept it, but it scares me. I get migraines a lot. Less frequently than I used to, but still, more than I would like. I hate how they make me feel and how they interrupt my life, but if I don't catch it with drugs fast enough (as I didn't this weekend--it actually started on Sunday but I let it go because I thought I was just tired/hungover) they can really ruin my day and, at worst, a few days thereafter. When I have one, I try my best to function normally, but I can't always do that 100%. Everything becomes more sensitive--everything is too bright, too loud, and overall overwhelming. All I want to do when I have one is close my eyes and withdraw for a bit until it goes away. Yesterday that wasn't possible. I was trying my best to be normal, but I guess I wasn't doing as well as I thought because you said I was being bitchy and treating you badly all day. I didn't know I was doing that and I'm sorry if I did. 

I honestly got emotional on the train because I was thinking how much I loved you and how nice it was to have you with me and taking such good care of me and how I just didn't want that to end. I am so appreciative everything you were doing for me, both yesterday and always. I loved that you were there for me to lean on, and that you were massaging my head and holding me, and when it started to really hit me that you're leaving on Friday, and I got really sad and teared up. A couple of tears came out when I had my head on your shoulder. I was trying not to cry as we got off the train and went up the stairs to the escalator because of that, and then when you smacked my butt, I wasn't angry--I really wasn't. In my mind, I just shook my head to say "not now" because I was holding back tears as it was, and then I was completely blindsided with the escalator stuff because I legitimately didn't know what had happened and what was in my head was not at all what you thought it was.

Point is, my not feeling well is not and will not be an isolated event. If you didn't like me yesterday, and if what you thought was a look I gave you out of disgust? whatever it was that you thought I was thinking? caused you to get angry enough to go up another escalator and stop taking care of me in the way that I was so appreciative of, I'm afraid that I'm going to have to constantly walk on eggshells, which is really hard for me to do when I have a migraine.

I just don't want what happened last night to happen again, and the fact that I do get migraines at least once every month or two scares me. Like I said, I try to go on as normally as I can when I have them, but I don't always succeed, and if you don't like me when I have one, then I'm afraid you're not going to like me. And if you react the way you did last night when I'm feeling that way, I know for a fact that I can't deal with that. So it scares me. 

I love you. I love having you with me. I love the way you take care of me. I don't want you to leave, period. But when you offer to sleep on the couch/get a hotel/leave, which is the LAST thing I want, and it hurts me when you do that, too, because I think that means that you just don't want to be around me. I'm guessing that it's your defense from what happened in the past, but it hurts me a lot when you offer to leave because it makes me think that it's what you want. It's not what I want. Please get that into your head. It. is. not. what. I. want. I want you with me. 

And yes, a phonecall would be better, but I don't want to get emotional on the phone at work and have everyone nearby hear me and wonder what's happening. And I want to talk about it in person, but I also want to be completely clear so you can see it and not read into/guess about how I'm feeling. 
I love you."

When we talked about it, he said that it made him want to take three steps back and cancel all plans of our future. He threatened to leave. I now know that he did this to control me--any time I would stand up for myself, he would threaten to leave me. And that worked on me for awhile.

When I look back on the "good times," this was firmly during when I still thought things were perfect with us. But they were not. This was a huge, huge red flag, very early on, and I thought it was my fault because he just didn't understand how much pain I was in because of my migraine. What I didn't realize was that he would NEVER understand, because he's not capable of empathy.