I am admittedly unobservant. My husband can tell a number of stories about having done something in the yard, or at home, and my complete and utter ignorance to anything being different. I’m also fairly unobservant when it comes to myself. When visiting a doctor about a sore shoulder or an illness, and they ask how long it’s been going on, I cannot for the life of me remember. Recently when my husband’s cousin reminded me that I’d had lower back pain since we first met, I was shocked. I had no idea it’d been so long. I simply don’t keep track. I keep track of every other single thing in our lives but for some reason I can’t do that with myself.
For all of the therapy I’ve had, I feel pretty self-aware most of the time. I recognize my issues, understand how they originated, and know how to manage them. Every once and awhile, however, someone will bring something to light that completely floors me. And I wonder how I could possibly have missed something so big and so obvious. Today I had a conversation with someone that pretty much blew my f-cking mind.
Three years ago my husband and I were struggling. External factors that we’d worked so hard in therapy to learn how to manage were threatening our relationship. I was also suffering from depression at the time. Each day we grappled with whether we should move forward together or cut our losses and move on separately. I’ve said before that during this time we just kept our heads down and slowly trudged ahead. Each day we woke up still together felt like a success.
When depression hit me I was not prepared. I’m surrounded by family and girlfriends who have struggled with depression but I’d never experienced it before myself. I remember being on the golf course one morning and realizing that I felt completely detached when with my little girls. As if I was watching our interactions on TV. That’s when I realized something was very wrong. I called my doctor from the golf course and soon began taking meds.
My husband, not “sold” on the idea that depression is chemical, was less than pleased that this was the diagnosis. I hadn’t been feeling well for a while and, from his perspective, this was just another thing wrong with me. You see, when things started falling apart for us I had started not feeling well. Almost all the time. Stomach aches, headaches, lower back issues, and I was ALWAYS tired. It was also around this time that I started struggling at work. I found myself less able to focus on anything outside of the challenges we were facing in our personal lives.
In early 2011 we turned a corner. After all of the heartache, and struggle, and hard work, we were finally able to feel confident in the strength of our marriage. We were no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop, we were able to talk about our future without thinking in the back of our minds that there WAS no future, and we were happy. It felt, and still feels, truly remarkable.
But my not feeling well didn’t go away. There was always an injury of some sort, or something didn’t feel well, and without my realizing it, the not feeling well just became a part of who I am. As did my feeling discouraged with my job. And feeling like I wasn’t living up to my potential. My marriage felt back on track, but I felt a bit like I’d been lost in the struggle, like some of the really great parts of me had been casualties to the rough years we’d had. We’d made it through…but the fabulous woman I know myself to be…she hadn’t exactly made it through unscathed.
Today I had a brunch with a woman I haven’t seen in at least ten years. You know how those go…it basically becomes a marathon story telling to catch up with each other’s lives. Upon hearing about my life in the past ten years, she made some startling observations that left me feeling incredibly unsettled…but also incredibly hopeful…and yet I also feel like a complete idiot for not having realized it myself.
She observed that when I met my husband he was at the tail-end of a relatively ugly divorce. Soon after, many more external issues became incredibly challenging, forcing us to focus on things that had nothing to do with our relationship or each other. Then, as we realized we were serious about our relationship, the focus turned to the little girls and how proceed in a way that would be good and healthful for them after they’d already survived so much change. I then moved in with my husband and our little girls in what was once his home with his previous wife. I struggled mightily with how to fit into his world as, what at times felt like, a replacement wife.
I’ve said before that in the beginning of our relationship it felt like someone else’s life. A life that I absolutely chose with my eyes and heart wide open…but someone else’s nonetheless. When we hit our really hard times, and we hunkered down for the ride, I started to feel sick and struggle with my job and suffer injuries. This woman observed that maybe, just maybe, all of these things that I alone was struggling with and that my husband had to pay attention to…maybe they have been my way of getting my husband to pay attention to me. JUST. ME.
What. The. F-ck?!!!
She went on to suggest that maybe I was just trying to get any attention of my own…separate from our family or external factors…even if it was attention to things that were negative. Initially I thought it was crazy…of course I don’t want that kind of attention…but as we continued to talk about it I started to realize that this might in fact be TRUE. Holy sh-t!
She also suggested that I may be holding back as a way to keep things calm. Something I know I did when we were making our way through the really hard times but that I hadn’t realized I might still be doing.
So basically, my subconscious mind has me a) trying to gain attention from my husband by feeling sick/hurt all the time, and b) holding back in an effort to keep things easy/safe/good.
I mean…I left brunch feeling horrified and sad and I can honestly say that while I did none of this consciously it absolutely hits home and makes perfect sense. When I met my husband I was successful and I lived life with joy and enthusiasm. I didn’t lament about not feeling well or being tired. I didn’t hold back to appease people or situations. I was ME and so proud of myself for being ME. And yet a few terrible years and experiences hit us and suddenly I feel like crap regularly, subconsciously use it to gain attention, and hold back to make things easier? Seriously? What the f-ck?!
My husband was attracted to me for my ambition, drive, work ethic, and because I didn’t hold back when going after the things about which I’m passionate. And yet, in some twisted way, I’ve turned myself into the opposite. I’m not saying I don’t like myself, or that I lack amazing traits, or that I suck. I actually like myself a lot. But I am saying that there is some truth to my old friend’s observations. And it’s time to do something about it.
TODAY: What if I haven’t felt well as a subconscious effort to gain the attention of my husband? What if I’m not doing all of which I’m capable in an effort to keep things copacetic? And what if it’s time to put an end to both? Immediately.