Life After Leaving, Part 3: It’s okay to be happy

What’s wrong with being happy?

A lot of websites, well-meaning people, and marriage ‘fixers’ (especially of the religious variety) will often say that being happy shouldn’t be your end-goal. That marriage is hard, and when you get married you should be in it for the long haul. I don’t entirely disagree, but those comments applied to all marriage relationships (particularly abusive ones) can be extremely problematic.

I should know, that’s one of the reasons I stayed so long, regardless of how miserable I became. It’s also one of the reasons I left and stayed gone, because when I was in… I was ALL in. And when I was out… I was ALL out. One benefit of working so hard at that relationship, I suppose, was I didn’t have any regrets.

In conversations, the same exact words may have different connotations to different people. Sometimes people mistake ‘Happy’ as people wanting to ‘live the high life’. But for me, and I suspect many others in abusive relationships, being happy means I have the freedom to be responsible for myself, own my mistakes without fear, and have what should be ordinary and everyday respect from the people in my life. I suppose what makes me happiest, is feeling fulfilled by my choices, my relationship, and my work.

Being born into a religious family, I think sometimes there is this idea in the Christian faith that anything worth having should be difficult. That to be valued, we must sacrifice. That we shouldn’t care so much about what we have in this world, but what we have in the next. These were all beliefs that led me to stay in an abusive and difficult relationship. If I’m honest with myself, it’s probably a part of the reason I ended up in that relationship to begin with, along with a lack of healthy boundaries.

Although I do still have faith in God and consider myself a Christian, I think some of the church culture nowadays romanticizes service and puts on expectations where our worth and standing is dependant on how much we sacrifice.

This is what I meant, when I said “I want to be happy”.

Before I left, I knew something was missing, a big black hole in our relationship that I struggled to fill. Everything I put into it seemed to be absorbed with nothing to show for the trouble. I didn’t know exactly what I meant when I thought, “I just want to be happy” and I never really felt I could verbalize that thought without people misunderstanding. So when I was finally ready to leave, I told my mom I “didn’t care if I was happy, I just want to be able to sleep.” For me, happiness seemed like a selfish goal, while sleep seemed like a practical and acceptable one.

Now I’ve learned that life can be fulfilling and full of joyous moments as well as difficult ones. If you’re never happy, struggle to find contentment, I think that is a sign of something needing some consideration. Just like physical pain helps us key into problematic physical issues in our body that may need to be addressed, a life absent of pleasure probably means we could use an emotional check-up. For me, that meant rooting my abuser out of my life, and doing the necessary work on myself to heal from that experience. My beliefs and expectations and views on boundaries needed some heavy consideration before I truly found contentment and ‘happiness’ again. It took me about 9 months before I smiled again, after leaving my ex. A genuine smile, not a strained one.

In my abusive relationship, the bar for being ‘happy’ was pretty low. Especially towards the end, to get a ‘happy’ moment was more along the lines of a sense of relief of not getting yelled at or feeling frightened or dealing with a suicidal spouse.

I can clean up just after myself, without being put-down and called lazy.

I can look at my bank account (regardless of positive or negative balance), and know what is going to be in there without any surprises.

I don’t have anyone angry at me, because they bought something expensive and now we don’t have money to pay the electric bill.

No one threatens to kill themselves or slit their wrists if I disagree with them.

My happiness-metric

Being happy doesn’t mean I am always comfortable,  but it does have a lot to do with my feeling content. Happiness for me, is safety in my relationships. The freedom to be my authentic self. To recognize I can’t make everyone happy, and to let go of that expectation. I can be considerate, without making myself responsible for other people’s reactions and feelings. Honesty isn’t always easy, when it leads to difficult discussions, but having the freedom to be honest is part of what makes me happy now.

How do you see happiness? Do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve shared? Would love to hear from some of you. 🙂

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[Reblog] What’s in Your Coping Toolkit: Putting It All Together

Reblog Tuesdays!

Anxiety has had a major impact on me this week, and I have found this series very helpful and worthwhile. I’ve not had a chance to put everything into practice, but I’m working on learning ways to Be Kind to myself. I’m also working on making self-care choices that are just ‘a little’ better each time.

Small steps still get me where I’m going. 🙂 I hope you find something in here that helps you with whatever you are going through.

eat. spin. talk. repeat.

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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

For the last seven weeks, we have talked about all the tools we need/want  in our toolkit. This is obviously not an exhaustive list of ALL the coping skills out there, but it’s a start. Now that you’ve got the tools, what on earth to do with them!?!

I’ve mentioned the importance of having access to these skills in times of stress. That is going to look differently for each skill. So let’s breakdown each skill we’ve talked about and how to do that:

Mindful Breathing:  practice, practice, practice. Take time each day to spend time mindfully breathing. The only way to get good at this skill is to take time to do it.

Relaxation: Come up with a list of relaxing things to do at different places you might…

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The Power of No

Why is it one of the first words children learn, is also one of the hardest for some of us to verbalize as adults? One of the common themes in my counseling sessions has become understanding the coping mechanisms I learned as a child when I struggled to deal with my emotions.

My parents made many good decisions regarding my upbringing, teaching me a healthy skepticism for information and facts, teaching me how to question and challenge and understand the world around me. Yet the strange irony, is that same freedom was not expected, allowed, or ever welcomed when it came to their own authority.

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Codependents Always Hope Things Will go Their Way

When I first got out of my abusive relationship, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out and understand my Ex. I found things like the ‘Cycle of Abuse’, and Narcissism, and those things helped me understand myself and my own reactions.

Now I’ve been researching more about myself, and learning that I have my own tendencies that make me vulnerable to Narcissistic partners. This is an excellent article worth considering, and I think it is important that we grow from researching everything about our abuser, and begin focusing on ourselves and how we can become stronger, more whole people.

Free From Codependency With Dr. Nicholas Jenner

Of the two extremes, codependents (unlike narcissists) are generally seen as the warm and fussy ones. Self sacrificing and eager to please, they are an absolute delight to be around if you are the kind of person who likes to freely take and accept all they have to give and there are many who do.  Codependents get involved with a certain type because like a jigsaw puzzle they fit together nicely. One constantly gives, one constantly takes. A perfect dysfunctional meeting and matching of ideals. Of course this situation is normally doomed to failure and when the house comes crashing down, the codependent suffers more than most. The reason being they have invested heavily in the relationship and stand to lose much more in their view. This is usually because they have lost themselves in the relationship and identified themselves through their partner. The idea of splitting such intensity (not…

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Cognitive Dissonance.

One of the truths of the past decade, is that my understanding of interpersonal dynamics is terribly skewed. It’s like a picture, hanging on a wall. What do I use as a basis for it being properly aligned? Items askew must be adjusted in my world, so usually you pick one straight line – the ceiling, the floor, the edge of the wall – and use it to line up the square or rectangular decorations on your walls.

For almost my entire marriage, nothing lined up right. So I did the best I could, found the least offensive way to put some order to my life. I lined myself up against my husband’s beliefs, not always accepting, but not always protesting or standing up against the ones that were incorrect. My options? Leave. Work towards change. Adapt. Continue reading

I am.

I am worthy. My values and beliefs matter, as well as the manner in which I convey them. Every person is due respect, even if we disagree. It is okay to pick my battles. Having the last word isn’t necessary, so long as I feel confident in my last words on a topic. I don’t have to be friends with everyone, and I do not need everyone to be happy or approve of my opinions. Continue reading

Amused frustration

There are always loose ends.

My divorce was final over six weeks ago, and yet my ex has yet to send me the money he was instructed to. This is the second time in three months a check he has supposedly sent to the P.O. box has gone astray. His comment mentioned something about how ‘Frankly suspicious’ he was regarding us not receiving it, but he would resend one anyway. (I know him well enough, he would not send ‘a new’ check if he thought I had access to both. He attributes his own level of maturity and vindictiveness to me. Which is to say, a very little and quite a lot respectively.)

He then proceeds to snark at me for not contacting a group to sign documents which will allow them to work on doing away with a portion of our mutual debt. Does he provide the contact information? No. Has he? No.

This, after throwing a tantrum that he can’t reach me directly through our one e-mail. It is grating on him, that he doesn’t have direct access to me. He keeps suggesting I change the protection order, and I can’t quite understand what he thinks I think that will accomplish. I am quite happy with someone else vetting all communique’s. Continue reading

Scar tissue

One of the things we don’t realize, with a surgery, is how difficult and painful scar tissue can be. It binds up the places beneath your skin, thick and difficult and invisible until you make a movement that places tension on it. Which brings pain. And if you do not listen, more pain.

Having excised my ex and his abusive behaviors from my life is a really great start. My protection order is good for another year, the divorce is finalized, and life is regaining some sense of normalcy. From all outward appearances, someone might think me hale and healthy.

Yet for the first time, as I share more time with Guy, I am realizing how much emotional scar tissue remains, however normal I appear on the surface.
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Love Letter to Me

An article I read recently, while sitting in my therapist’s waiting room, mentioned that it takes 5 positives to offset a negative. Apparently our brains our wired to process negativity, perhaps as a coping mechanism, perhaps as a stimulus to change or avoid the things that cause negativity. I recently read a post by Hurricane Heather, where she openly shared a list of those negative things she struggles with and feels vulnerable about. I could relate to so many of those items, but challenged her to write a similar list describing the awesome things about herself. And she did, and challenged me right back. Follow up to Letter’s I will never send (but already sort of did): Dear J. Response: Dear Heather.

Heather? Challenge accepted.

So here goes – in letter form. A love letter to myself, because if we can’t love ourselves, how are we going to be able to love others?

Not normally my kind of music, but this Fifth Harmony song, “Brave, Honest, Beautiful” is pretty inspiring.

My challenge to you? 50 things that make you you, and make you awesome, OR a love letter to yourself. If you accept, please post here and link your article so I don’t miss it. 🙂

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“What we have here… is a failure to communicate…”

When I opened up wordpress today, I was ready to rip two friends a new one on this anonymous blog. Friends who I love dearly, but who have both, in their own ways, separately, unrelatedly, managed to hurt me this week in very deep ways. One, making judgmental statements about another friend of hers who is divorced, among other things that made me feel small. The other, bringing marijuana as the ‘3rd wheel’ whenever we want to do something together. (Aside: What people choose to do recreationally is obviously not my business, but when it starts impacting a relationship negatively, something’s gotta give.)

But as I sat here, staring at the blank page, typing and deleting, venting, ranting, bemoaning how rough my week has been and how this weekend didn’t turn out like I had hoped, I discovered some things that took me by surprise, and rather changed the direction of my thoughts. Ranting and venting only do so much.

  1. I used to be too numb to feel these hurts.
  2. It’s not my fault when others make choices (words or actions) that hurt me.
  3. Reflecting those choices back to those who made them, doesn’t make me a bad person.
  4. Sometimes I’m afraid those who knew me as I was, don’t really want the stronger person I am becoming. 

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“I get knocked down, but I get up again…”

I’m all better now.

THUMP. Hard to see the sunny, blue skies when my nose keeps ending up pressed to the pavement.

Ok, made it past that hurdle. Life is great! It’s awesome!

Can I just hide in bed for today?

Found my silver linings, it’ll all work out.

Oops. Hi there floor, haven’t seen you in a few days.

And so on, and so forth. Overall life is doing great. I’m slowly whittling down the piles of bills. Been seeing Guy (after this many months, calling him ‘New Guy’ doesn’t seem quite appropriate). Finalized my readmission for returning to school in April. Have an interview for an awesome job that would be suitable for the next stage of my career – that is next Wednesday (the wheels of bureaucracy have never spun so smoothly).

I can’t decide if my anxiety is cropping up now that I have the mental space to pay more attention to it, or because my PTSD is trying to warn me that THE OTHER SHOE IS GOING TO DROP, GET OUT OF THE WAY STAT, IT’S PAST TIME FOR MORE SCARY SHIT TO HAPPEN ALREADYOr even, perhaps, I just have no idea what to do with all the good things in my life. I feel like I’m missing something, some monster that is stalking so close behind me that I can’t see it no matter how quickly I try to turn and catch a glimpse of it.

Oh, right. That’s essentially what anxiety is, isn’t it? Continue reading

Work In Progress

There is that moment, when crocheting, or knitting, that you look down at your work, and notice something wrong. Sometimes you’re almost to the very end. Maybe you keep going, hoping you can adjust for the mistake. But after a time, you realize the project and pattern have become so distorted, it isn’t anything that resembles what you hoped.

So you have to make a choice. Do you keep going, knowing the flaw is there? Do you pull out the stitches until you get back to the error? Continue reading

Worksheets for evaluating core beliefs/thoughts

Just a place for me to keep track of various worksheets I find, or my counselor suggests. Would love to hear thoughts from others who have used these same resources, and/or who have found and used other resources that helped them in their own healing (from anything, not limited to just domestic violence).

“Getting to know you…”

A song from Oscar and Hammerstein’s musical, ‘The King and I‘, has been running through my mind all day. In addition to being a catchy tune, some of the lyrics run as follows:

Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.
….
Getting to know you,
Getting to feel free and easy
When I am with you,
Getting to know what to say
….
Haven’t you noticed
Suddenly I’m bright and breezy?
Because of all the beautiful and new
Things I’m learning about you
Day by day.
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