“See You in Valhalla”

Eclectic Media Outlet No. 2

It’s been awhile since I wrote one of these posts; but I hope to start incorporating them into the blog more often… because films (and other media) play such a large — and beautiful — role in my life.

“See You in Valhalla” (2015)

“See You in Valhalla” is a part of several of my film collections — addiction, dysfunctional families, indie films, and suicide.

The Draw and Decision to Own

My father has stated, on more than one occasion, that he would like to have a Viking funeral when he dies; so any title that refers to Valhalla — or Norse mythology — quite naturally intrigues me.

Going in, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this film… but ultimately found it to be one of those quietly brilliant movies that very few ever saw. (I have yet to encounter another cinephile that has seen it.) After viewing it the first time, I went online and purchased a hard copy immediately… and it will stay in my permanent collection.

Synopsis and Personal Meaning

“See You in Valhalla” is about a family that has lost a son — and a sibling — to suicide (albeit by proxy… but intentional proxy).

Magnus — a character with a soul plagued by meth addiction — returns from a Viking rehabilitation colony with his girlfriend, only to find that she cannot stay sober. When she later dies from an overdose, Magnus charges over to the dealer’s home and kills him with a sword. He is shot in the process, leaving behind a suicide note for his family… who are left to deal with the fallout.

Families are Complicated

When his sister, Johana (“Joe”) sees the story on the evening news, she turns to her boyfriend — explaining that the “Viking Guy” is her brother — and says, “I need to go home. I need to go home, right? That’s what you do after someone dies. I can’t believe I have to deal with these people.”

“Who?” her boyfriend inquires.

“My family.”

“Do you not like them?”

“It’s very complicated.”

Now, originally, I saw this film before my own family lost my younger brother, Nicky, to suicide; but after that tragic event, this scene is one that I have a deeper understanding for.

Families are complicated — dysfunctional or not — and sometimes when you need them most, you’re not really sure that you want to “deal” with them.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is the first time that the family — reunited in grief, after years of not having seen one another — sits down to dinner. The conversation dissolves very quickly into old hurts and renewed resentments; but Brent and Jarret Tarnol (the writer and director) do a brilliant job of infusing humor into dark subject matter; and this scene is no exception.

After the fight at the dinner table, Joe later tries to explain to her father’s girlfriend why it’s so hard for her to return home, “It’s every scar, every bruise. You know. Every stupid f*cking memory is… it’s here.”

Oh, how true that is… but every wonderful, warm, sparkling memory is also imbued in our families; and we often so quickly forget about those, in the face of tragedy.

β’Έ Tarnol Group Pictures and ARC Entertainment

The Blame Game

Another poignant moment in the film is when Don, the oldest sibling, has an emotional breakdown and screams at his father, “Magnus was f*cking self-destructing in front of your very eyes, where the f*ck were you?!”

When a family loses someone to suicide, there is — unfortunately — a lot of blame thrown around. It’s easier to be angry at the people that are still standing, than it is to be with the person you’ve lost.

There are so many unanswerable questions… and all you want are answers. You don’t just blame the people around you; you also blame yourself.

Michael Weston (“Garden State”), who plays Don, does such an excellent job in this scene that — even if you haven’t lost someone close to you to suicide — your heart feels as if it’s been ripped from your chest and thrown to the floor.

Strength in Weakness

Addiction is a tumultuous disease, because you never truly escape it. You can learn to cope with it, to live with it, to somewhat control it… but you’re never free of it. Sobriety is something that you fight for, or something that you lose. There is no inbetween.

There is a passage from Magnus’s journal that describes this beautifully:

“Our rehabilitation was over, and it was time to face the world ahead. These modern Vikings showed us their tools of sobriety. Our life is no longer controlled by substances. We’ve rid ourselves of bad habits and vices, but I reckon to see no difference between fantasy and reality. But a true Viking, no matter how trapped he may feel, must face dragons head-on no matter the consequence. This is the Viking way. Never give up. Never submit. Never surrender to any man or any thing.”

Magnus manages to not surrender; but cannot handle the pain when his girlfriend relapses (and later overdoses).

There is a saying in the rooms of the Anonymous, “You will step over bodies in your journey towards sobriety.” And unfortunately, most of us find this to be true. I have lost my brother, and a number of friends, to addiction… and it sometimes makes you question the why of it all.

Later in the film, as the siblings gather around their father, he shares his favorite passage from Magnus’s journal, “A wolf is always strongest when he’s with his pack. Every day a dire wolf dies, but the pack must stay together. And when they do, in the end, they will prevail. The tighter the pack, the stronger the wolf.”

This is a beautiful synopsis of how a family survives the tortuous pain of losing a loved one before their time.

My own family has stuck together in our grief. They are my source of solace and refuge… because only they can understand the dark cloud that has followed me tirelessly around, since losing Nicky.

The Moral of the Story

What Brent and Jarret Tarnol convey through the subtle beauty of this film is that home is one of the most painful — and most healing — places we have to go.

I hope, Dear Reader, that you are fortunate enough to find this to be true in your own life.

Enough

I read a heartbreaking post this morning entitled “A Never Ending Nightmare” (written by my dear friend Ms. Alana at “Something Worth Fighting For: Life Goes On”).

The sentiment that “I am not enough” is a common theme in the lives of those who have experienced trauma and come out on the other side… which is ironic; because if we’ve managed to survive the horrors of trauma, shouldn’t we feel like warriors versus feeling less than? But sadly, it doesn’t seem to work that way.

When you add mental health disorders on top of trauma, those feelings run even deeper. For me, it’s often a matter of wondering why I can’t curb the behaviors that accompany my mental health issues. “If I weren’t so weak, I could control this shit,” is an internal lie born of external stigmatism.

Hell, there’s even sigma attached to mental health disorders through our health insurance providers — mental health is kept apart from physical health, with a different set of rules and parameters (and often, with separate and more costly co-pays). It’s no wonder we feel “less than” when compared to those who are fortunate enough to escape the pain and isolation of being diagnosed as “mentally ill”.

Then, throw addiction into the mix — an issue that eventually condemns a person to a prison of their own making — and you have the makings of a perfect “I absolutely suck” storm of thinking.

My Limitations Don’t Define Me

It’s taken me a long time to realize that I have very real limitations — both mentally and physically — that other people don’t. It’s taken even longer to come to accept, and honor, those limitations (and I don’t always do it well… it’s hard not to judge yourself in comparison to others).

Mitchell plays an important role in this, because he never judges me (not intentionally, anyway) by what I cannot do. He’s proud of me when I’ve managed to do the simplest of household chores and/or errands; and that makes a huge difference. He’s also the voice of calm reasoning in the midst of my “crazy” episodes.

Just yesterday, I weighed in at the gym and found that I had gained 2.8 lbs. I worked out anyway; but I was distraught by this “failure” (even though my routine is getting easier, and I’ve been able to increase my efforts). Afterwards, I called my husband and broke down into tears.

“What the hell? I’ve been working out five days a week and I’m gaining weight! This is ridiculous. Dr. Taylor’s not going to believe that I’ve made any effort at all to control my weight!”

“Baby, calm down. You look thinner. You’re moving more easily, and you’re accomplishing more outside of the gym. Muscle weighs more than fat, and you’re building muscle. This is going to take time; and you can’t measure everything by the numbers on the scale.”

“How the hell am I supposed to measure then?!”

“You measure by what you’ve accomplished. The rest will work itself out in the end. Trust me. You’re doing an excellent job, Honey.”

I still felt dismayed; but I dusted myself off and tried to get through the rest of the day… something I probably couldn’t have done without Mitch’s support.

This past week, I also went to the grocery store — twice! — after the gym and picked up easy-to-make dinners, so that Mitch wouldn’t have to stop on his way home and try to plan meals; and he was thrilled by this. However, on the second day, I wasn’t able to do much more following said errand. I’d gone to the gym, had run around town in the blistering heat, and was exhausted by the time I got home.

It took real effort to throw myself into the shower; and after that, I was spent. I didn’t get any laundry done… and more importantly, I did not judge myself for this.

It’s important for me to recognize when I’ve done something I wouldn’t/couldn’t normally do, no matter how small… because in doing so, I start to realize what I am capable of doing.

Sure, my capable might not live up to someone else’s capable… but guess what? Someone else is not me, and I am not them. We’re not better or less than one another; we’re just different. (And if we weren’t different, what a boring f*cking place this world would be.)

Reading Between the Lines, When There’s Nothing There

I find that I often read much more into a situation than is actually there.

A while back, after an intense argument between Mitchell and myself, I took out a notebook and wrote down what Mitchell had said in one color of ink, and what I had heard in another.

It turns out that most of what I was angry about was in my own damn head.

Mitch had made a benign comment about me putting something back in the refrigerator incorrectly, and what I had heard was, Are you really this stupid? How many times do I have to tell you how to do something before you get it right?! Jesus, Lady! Get your shit together!

Similarly, if someone looks at me when I’m out in public, I always wonder what in the f*ck they’re thinking. What? You got a problem with me? Bring it! You have no right to judge, Buddy! And in all actuality, they’re probably not thinking anything about me at all.

It’s that internal critic — a symptom of trauma and mental health issues — that makes the external world a hostile place; and I have to remember to try and keep it in check.

I’m Not Broken, I’m a Limited Edition

I have encountered monsters that tried to break me; but they didn’t succeed, because I’m still here. The bastards haunt my dreams because they have lost their power in the waking world… and the nightmares they are a part of are nothing more than an illusion of memory. I vanquished them once, and I will do it again — as many times as I need to — in order to free myself from their spectral grasp.

Sure, my brain might work a lil’ differently as a result of the actions of these monsters… but I am not broken. I’m a limited edition; and that makes me more valuable, not less.

If I have more cracks in the glass than most, that simply means that I have the capability to let more light into the darkness.

I am more than enough… and that “enough” has grown with time, distance, and experience.

And no one has the power to take that away from me… because I do not grant them permission to do so.

Dear Reader, you are enough… just the way you are.

Soundtrack: “Enough” by Delta Goodrem, featuring Gizzle

Three Out of Five Ain’t Bad

Weight Loss Endeavors No. 7

When I posted on July 28th, I was under the mistaken impression that it was Friday, instead of Thursday. So I apologize for this second shift; but my weekly updates will now be posted on Thursdays. Not Tuesdays. Not Fridays. Thursdays. πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

Tracking Last Week’s Goals

Reviewing the goals that I put into place for the past week, I managed to achieve most — but not all — of them. Not ideal; but it could be worse. Three out of five ain’t bad, in my book.

I did manage to get to the gym five out of seven days. Woo-hoo!

I was able to pull myself out of the rabbit’s hole I plunged into during a depressive episode earlier in the week (largely, because I went to the gym as often as I did). Nice!

I am posting a weekly update on time. Yay!

Bonus (unlisted) goal! I have resumed doing one load of laundry per day — immediately following my trip to the gym — which I abandoned somewhere along the way; so Mitch and I aren’t walking around in our holey couture.

I did not end up limiting myself to one sugary (or salty) treat after my evening meal. There were days when I found it was easier to rein in the habit, and days when I just couldn’t. So there’s much room for improvement there (and Mitch has been really good about trying to limit the amount of junk food we have available).

I did not eat more than once each day, either. Occasionally, I had a smoothie after my workout; but I’m not quite sure that counts “as eating a meal”. This particular goal is going to be the hardest for me to achieve, because it’s a matter of breaking a twenty-plus years habit… and that ain’t easy to do.

All-in-all, it was a more successful week than I imagined it would be (because of above-mentioned depressive episode)… and I’ll take it as a win.

When the Pounds and Years Add Up

Oddly enough, working out is not as easy at forty as it was at twenty; nor is it as easy when your body is carrying an extra hundred pounds. (Who knew?! πŸ˜‚)

It’s hard for me to accept my limitations in the best of circumstances, and I want to workout like the star athlete I once was. I was a distance/track runner (in really good shape) in my early twenties… and I still feel like that girl; but I’m not. I’m a middle-aged housewife who kind’a let herself go; and thus, I face bigger physical limitations than I ever have before.

For awhile there I was attempting to push the boundaries each and every day — adding five minutes and/or more speed to my workouts. (That’s an addict mentality. More, more, more!) When I complained of “overwhelming exhaustion”, Mitch stated that he felt I might be overtraining; and therefore sabotaging any progress I was making. My husband really does know best in this arena, and I know I need to trust his judgement; so I begrudgingly admitted that he was probably right, and have returned to less strenuous — but still challenging — workouts.

And you know what? I still feel accomplished at the end of them.

All It Takes is Five-to-Seven Minutes (and Some Mind Games)

I find that when I first get on the recumbent bike or the treadmill, it feels impossibly difficult. As those first couple of minutes tick slowly by, and the intensity increases to get my heartrate to a cardio-workout level, I often feel like it’s going to be an impossible feat. (Oh my God! This is so frickin’ hard. I’m not gon’na make it! Let’s go home.) However, I have also learned that if I can just make it through those first five-to-seven minutes, it gets easier.

That’s not to say that the damn timer isn’t a thorn in my side for the rest of said workout. (Seriously, time does not fly when you’re working out with a fluffy figure.) Due to my OCD, I tend to watch it obsessively; so I’ve developed a few tricks that aid in getting through my twenty-to-thirty minute workouts.

On the recumbent bike, I try really hard to maintain a heartrate of 144 beats per minute (slightly elevated from the suggested 142). You’d be surprised how much concentration that takes; which, for me, makes the minutes move a little faster.

On the treadmill, I don’t hang on to the cardio/heartrate rail. I like to walk at a higher speed, utilizing my arms. Instead of trying to maintain a specific heartrate, I use the “hills” setting. This setting has a moving screen to indicate the incline of the shifting “hills”, and it changes every couple of minutes… so I can break the workout into more manageable pieces in my head.

I also like to play “Name That Tune!” while working out. I try to name the title, and artist responsible, for each new song that flows through my headphones; and I use a “workout mix” through my YouTube subscription to keep the playlist fresh and feisty. It’s easier to keep the legs moving to a snazzy beat.

Utilizing these “tricks” has allowed me to consistently work fifty-to-fifty-five minutes of cardio into my daily workouts.

Weigh-in History

Monday, July 11th: 264 lbs
Thursday, July 28th: 263.6 lbs (A lil’ loss is still a loss! 😏)

Workout Review

Thursday, July 28th

Bike: 30 min 6 miles 201 cals burned
Treadmill: 45 min (“Hills” Level 1/Speed 3.1 mph) 2.27 miles 331 cals burned

Friday, July 29th

Mitch was with me on this one.

Bike: 15 min 2.92 miles 111 cals burned
Weight Lifting: Upper body 55 min
Treadmill: 40 min (“Hills” Level 2/Speed 3.1 mph) 2 miles 291 cals burned

Saturday, July 30th & Sunday, July 31st

I fell into a depressive episode… probably enhanced by the pain I felt from increasing my time on the treadmill. As a result neither Mitchell, nor I, worked out over the weekend. Mitch was willing; I was not. (Bad Cassie! 😜)

Monday, August 1st

Bike: 30 min 6.07 miles 217 cals burned
Treadmill: 35 min (“Hills” Level 2/Speed 3.1 mph) 1.73 miles 255 cals burned

Tuesday, August 2nd

Bike: 20 min 4.18 miles 184 cals burned
Weight Lifting: Core 40 min
Treadmill: 5 min (“Hills” Level 2/Speed 3.1 mph) 0.24 miles 35 cals burned

The core lifting still proves to be incredibly difficult. The “core room” isn’t as well ventilated as the rest of the gym, which raises the body temperature; and I’m extremely sensitive to overheating. I hit a palpable wall when I got on the treadmill; but instead of trying to scale it, I listened to my body and gave in.

Β© Warner Bros. Pictures, “Storks”

Wednesday, August 3rd

Bike: 20 min 4.24 miles 154 cals burned
Weight Lifting: Upper body 40 min
Treadmill: 35 min (“Hills” Level 2/Speed 3.1 mph) 1.74 miles 255 cals burned

Noticeable Changes

I’ve been consistently working out (at least five days per week) since July 11th, and have started to notice some subtle changes. Old t-shirts slide over my belly a little easier, my yoga pants slide on with less effort, and my arms seem a bit smaller when scrubbing them in the shower.

More importantly though, I feel better about myself and have a lil’ more self-confidence — and a lil’ less hatred for my figure.

Goals for the Week Ahead

Get to the gym at least five out of the following seven days.

Be sure to workout over the weekend, so that Mitchell gets his time at the gym.

Take Tocho (our coonhound rescue pup) for at least three walks in the evening.

Eat more than once per day.

Keep reining in unhealthy snacks.

Those last two are gon’na continue to be a bitch; but I’ve got’ta try!

Soundtrack: “Confident” by Demi Lovato

May you all find a lil’ extra confidence in the week ahead!

Personal Boundaries

The Trials, Errors, and Triumphs of AA (No. 1)

Not surprisingly, when most of us in the proverbial Anonymous programs enter the rooms, we have a deeply flawed sense of what personal boundaries are. It’s not uncommon for us to come from dysfunctional families, to have underlying mental health issues, and/or to be victims of trauma… all of which skew the lines of “healthy” boundaries.

This past week, I received a phone call that reminded me of my early days in the program… and the unacceptable lengths I was willing to go to in the name of “sobriety”.

Like many folks these days, I don’t pick up numbers I do not recognize; but my voicemail message states, “If you are a friend of Bill’s, please leave your name and number and I will get back to you as soon as possible.” That way, members of AA know that I am also a member. If someone leaves a voicemail, I do check that (almost always) immediately.

From an unrecognized number, I was left the following message (by far, one of the more bizarre calls I’ve received in the program):

“Cassie, this is [Anonymous]. We met in a meeting about a year and five months ago. [The caller also left a description of themselves.] I’m in a tight spot, and I need your help. I need three cartons of Newport Menthols, a half-dozen bags of Doritos, and a couple of two-liters of Diet Coke. This is my address…”

I returned the call and explained that I was available for emotional and sobriety-related support, but was not an Uber Eats delivery driver. (Said member also “has no money”, and expected a favor “for having been a friend of Bill’s for more than twenty years.”) In response, I was met at first with pleading (for “just the cigarettes then”) and then with a “F*ck you, Bitch!” (at which point, I said “That is unacceptable and abusive language, and I am now ending this call). Moments later, this member called again, leaving a message with a longer sundry list.

What. The. F*ck. This is not what we do in AA. (So I set a boundary, and blocked the damn number.)

To be clear, if I have an established relationship with someone in the program — and they actually are in dire straits — I won’t hesitate to help. I’ve bought groceries, gas, and other necessities when friends are in need; but I no longer acquiesce to requests such as the one above — friend or not. However, it took me a damn long time — and learning some really hard lessons — to get to this point: the point where I can give a justified “No!” to someone without feeling any guilt.

Busy is Not Necessarily Sober

My first year in the program, I ran around for folks like a chicken with my head cut off. If I was asked to do something; I did it without question. I drove people around (and not just to and from meetings), I lent people money, I bought food and cigarettes for other members, and I babysat everyone’s children.

These things were a blessing in that they kept me busy; but they were not conducive to working towards emotional sobriety. I was always exhausted; and the more I did, the more I gained a reputation for “being helpful” (or “being a sucker”, depending on how you look at it πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ), and the more I was asked to do.

It took a total breach of my trust — and the strong words of healthier members — to break this cycle.

Taking Advantage

Mere months into my sobriety, I was helping a young woman in the program to get to and from meetings. Occasionally, we also had coffee or a meal together (for which, I always paid). I also assisted her with filling out the paperwork to receive state-sanctioned health insurance, because she desperately needed mental healthcare assistance.

Over the course of several months, I would be called to her home (by her guardians) on more than one occasion to help deal with violent outbursts and suicide threats (during these events, I routinely called the local crisis response team). Eventually, we were able to get her placed in an intensive outpatient program; and I continued to take her to and from meetings.

Then one evening, while attending a meeting together, this young woman stated that she had left something in my car and asked for my keys. I gave them to her; but she never returned to the meeting. Figuring she had opted to stay outside and smoke cigarettes, I stayed for the duration. After the meeting, I went outside; and she was no where to be found.

I walked to my car and found the keys inside on the driver’s seat; but the young woman had taken everything that was in the car — cigarettes, various items in the trunk, a small amount of emergency cash from the console, and all of my CDs. (In hindsight, I’m grateful that she didn’t take the car as well.)

When I later shared this story in a meeting, women who had decades of sobriety pulled me aside and explained that I needed to get my shit together… that trying to help everyone with everything when I didn’t have my own house in order yet would always lead to negative consequences.

And that’s when I really started working the program.

We Are Not Slaves, Laborers, or ATMs

I have seen “sponsorship” go completely awry during my years in AA.

I have witnessed members utilize newcomers for yardwork, housework, and errand running. Not in a casual “let’s keep you busy” kind of way; but in an abuse of power.

There are sponsors who take over the finances of those they profess to be helping — taking advantage of the naivete of newcomers. (Side Note: Sponsorship should never be a relationship of profit.)

Being asked to help set-up a meeting — making coffee, putting out chairs, distributing literature, etc. — is perfectly acceptable. Being asked to wash someone’s car? Not so much.

Thirteenth Stepping

While there is no “thirteenth” step in twelve-step programs, “thirteenth stepping” refers to members taking sexual advantage of newcomers. This is why it is strongly suggested that you work with someone of the same sex — to avoid (dysfunctional) transference.

Admittedly, I fell victim to this myself (and feel abysmally stupid for having done so). Like many women in the program, I entered the hallowed halls of the Anonymous with a strong distrust of other women. I have always been a bit of a tomboy, and had closer friendships with men than I did women. As such, I was drawn to males in the program rather than females. (Old patterns die hard.)

Needless to say, it didn’t end well. The boy (because I have come to realize that he was not yet a man, emotionally speaking) that I had a short-term sexually intimate relationship with went on to talk about said relationship in meetings all over town… and it nearly stopped me from continuing in the program.

Fortunately, shortly thereafter, I met a very strong group of women with healthy sobriety… and have not worked with men in the program since.

That’s not to say that I don’t have friendships with men in the program now. I do; but they are healthy friendships with very clear personal boundaries.

Healthy Sobriety

Nothing about sobriety is easy… and it’s a lifelong commitment (albeit, only twenty-four seconds, minutes, or hours at a time).

Step-work — when done “correctly” — helps us to rediscover who we were before addiction consumed our lives. It should lead to a healthier self-image, substantial self-confidence, and emotional serenity and safety. (Which is not to say that we will be serene for the rest of our days… but we learn to cope with difficult times — and difficult people — in healthier ways.) Ideally, it also helps us to find a new direction, and a deeper purpose, for our lives. And most importantly, it helps us to establish and maintain personal boundaries. It teaches us to appropriately use the word “no”.

So if you are a newcomer to our Anonymous programs, trust your gut instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, or is causing you undue stress, don’t be afraid to pull the drawbridge up and bar the gate.

Watch, and really listen, to people in the meetings. Gravitate to members with strong sobriety that you admire. Make sure that they “walk the walk” rather than just “talk the talk.”

Members with strong sobriety live full lives. They are contributing members of society — both inside and outside of the rooms. They are self-sufficient and will not ever insist that you do something untoward. A sponsor should empower, not belittle you.

Remember too that every single person in the rooms is an addict. The only thing we truly have to offer you is “our experience, strength, and hope”.

May you find “an easier, softer way” to sobriety than I did.

Soundtrack: “NO” by Meghan Trainor

Revelations

No. 1: A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed

I pulled myself out of my pity-party long enough yesterday to give my best friend, Ronnie, a telephone ring. She recently lost her father, and had to travel to Spain in order to deal with the loss. I knew she’d gotten back on Saturday; but I hadn’t felt up to speaking with anyone. Honestly? I didn’t feel like speaking to anyone yesterday, either; but I vowed to do at least one selfless thing… and so, I dialed her number.

We talked about her trip, her grief, and the struggles of her recent move; and then the girl turned the conversation on me (as she always does).

Ronnie is amazing in that she never takes, “I’m fine.” as an acceptable answer. She’s really good at asking questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. Instead, she asks things like, “How are things between you and Mitch?” So inevitably, I ended up spilling my guts as well.

Before saying goodbye, she said, “Remember that I know you. Don’t go into your doctor’s office and tell him everything’s okay, you hear me?”

“Yes, ma’am.” (But in truth, I felt better just for having talked with her.)

No. 2: Psychiatric Revelation

I saw my psychiatrist yesterday afternoon, and spoke to him about the (rather recent) increased frequency of my down days. I explained that I tend to have two-to-three really good days (lots of motivation, positive attitude, action towards goals), immediately followed by one-to-two down days (lack of motivation, apathetic attitude, sans action).

He asked if the down days included periods of suicidal ideation… no, they have not.

He asked when these down days tend to occur… on the weekends (i.e. Mitchell’s days off).

He asked if I was getting enough sleep… six-and-a-half to nine-and-a-half hours per night.

He asked if I was eating more than once per day… nope, not usually.

Then he asked why I eat only once each day. I explained (again) that I suffer from IBS, and do not eat during daylight hours in order to avoid the consequences of an attack. “What does that look like, worst case scenario?” he inquired.

“Well, imagine that you are already described as ‘the old lady’ by your university classmates; and add to that the fear that you might lose control of your bowels during class. I really don’t want to be described as ‘the old lady who shit her pants’, ya’ know?” This made him laugh… something I rarely see him do.

Then he asked if any of my medications and/or lab work had changed. No med changes; but I have had an increasingly elevated liver enzyme (ALT) since the first week of February (something my primary care physician attributed to weight gain, even though there has not been a significant gain in that time).

In response to all of this, my shrink explained that both the increase in down days — and the ALT level — could be a result of the overwhelming stress over the past couple of months (February was when Mitchell rotated back to his night schedule, which kept him away from home for a week at a time). He suggested that I might tend to crash when Mitch is home, simply because I can (i.e. giving over responsibility for the household). He also stated that my serotonin and dopamine levels are probably adjusting to my new workout routine, which could throw my psych meds a bit off balance.

All-in-all, he said not to worry. Hang in there for two more months, see what happens when school starts up again, and we’ll revisit the issue at that time.

There was a bit of a relief that I wasn’t prescribed new and/or increased medication (and/or diagnosed with yet another mental health disorder); but also a tad of frustration that this undulating mood-cycle may continue for another couple of months. (Ah well, it’s nothing I haven’t already survived.)

No. 3: Let the Light In

Previous to my brief outing yesterday, I hadn’t left the house since Friday. The house is rather dark out of necessity (we use solar-blocking window treatments to combat the summer heat of the Sonoran Desert); so if I don’t leave it, I rarely see sunshine between the months of May and November.

Surprisingly, I found my mood began to lighten the moment I pulled out of the driveway. It felt good to be out in the sun (though not the sweltering heat); and I was motivated enough to hit the gym following my afternoon appointment.

I think the next time I’m feeling a little cranky, I may just pull open the curtains for a lil’ while.

No. 4: Fluffy People’s Happy Hour at the Gym

Because I put off going to the gym until after my appointment, I turned up there around four o’clock in the afternoon; and I was amazed at the difference!

It turns out that all of the younger, beautiful people workout in the morning (when I normally visit the gym), and all of the middle-aged, fluffy people congregate in the afternoon! Who knew?!

I felt much more comfortable and confident surrounded by “my people” than I ever have when submersed in the sea of well-muscled, spandex-clad (and often, half-naked) folks in the early hours of the day.

And, bonus! An older gentleman told me that “staring at my booty inspired [him] to stay on the treadmill for an extra ten minutes.” I laughed and told him that he’d made my day and (flashing my ring at him) my husband’s. He said he saw the ring, and was just “a harmless connoisseur of fine booties.” It was a nice contrast to the guy I posted about earlier in the blog… the one who pointed at me and my husband and said, “It could be worse. We could look like them.”

No. 5: Trying to Remember “This Too, Shall Pass”

It’s easy to grasp this concept when you’re on the other side of whatever it is you need to pass… but I tend to scoff and sneer at the sentiment when I’m in the midst of an existential crisis.

I shall try harder to remember that bad days are just that — bad days. They won’t last forever; and I am not an utter failure for having them.

Of course, the next time they roll around, I’m sure I will be inclined to scoff and sneer once more (Isn’t that what writing’s for? To bitch and moan about the hard times?! πŸ˜‚) ; but until then, I’ll work on who I’m meant to be.

Soundtrack: “Who I’m Meant to Be” by Anthem Lights

“Everyone is on their way, but I am standing still
Comparing my behind-the-scenes against their highlight reel.”

– Anthem Lights, “Who I’m Meant to Be”

I love this particular part of the lyrics, because I am so guilty of thinking that way. I forget that we all put our best foot forward — and don our happy masks — in public; but that we all have not-so-great shit going on behind-the-scenes as well.

Stupid Looking Glass

My beautiful blogging friend, Ms. Michelle at “From Famine to Feast”, reposted an older piece this morning entitled “I don’t want to get better, I want to be better” (I highly recommend giving it a read; it’s lovely); and in it was a line that I thoroughly resonate with…

“I want a vacation. The destination is unimportant; the only requirement I have is that I get to leave myself behind. I’m tired of finding myself wherever I go.”
– Michelle, “From Famine to Feast”

This is a common theme in much of my life — both as it pertains to my mental health disorders, and as it relates to my many addictions. It is a sentiment that many women in the Anonymous programs share at meetings; that no matter which mirror you happen to gaze into, the same needy bitch is always staring back at you.

Don’t Insinuate that I’m Crazy

Last night, I was in a state of utter ennui… and for no other reason than I suffer from unpredictable, seemingly inexplicable (they’re a symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder; but knowing that doesn’t help), and crippling bouts of depression.

Every answer to Mitch’s questions (most of which were typical, every day stuff like, “What would you like to do for dinner?”) was, “I don’t care.”

Understandably, this frustrated the shit out of my husband, who made every effort, and used every kind word he could, to try and pull me out of my rather apathetic despair.

He also needed to pick up one of my medications from the pharmacy, and asked me to verify that it had been sent to the correct location (we recently switched, and our doctors are still catching up with the change). When I opened my phone, I noticed a reminder for an appointment with my psychiatrist today and said, “Goddam it. I have an appointment with the shrink tomorrow. Shit.”

To which my husband accidentally said out-loud, “Perfect timing.”

My thought was, “Perfect timing? Perfect timing, you son-of-a-bitch?! You’re the problem here, not me. I’m not crazy; I’m sad. Sad that you don’t desire me, and that I feel undesirable.

But instead of saying that, I slammed the phone down on the armrest of the recliner, glared daggers at my spouse, and spit, “You know he can’t fix what’s wrong, right?”

(Side Note: If I’m being honest, I said this to deliberately sting my spouse. He knows that I am deeply unhappy with our lack of a sex-life; and that I blame a lot of my depressive feelings on such.)

Mitch’s posture immediately shifted to a defensive position, and he said, “I’m leaving. Text me when you go to bed, so that I can come home.”

And I said, “I never asked you to leave. Come home whenever the hell you’d like.”

“What the fuck for,” Mitch yelled back, “so I can deal with this shit?!”

When You’re Nuts, You’re Not Allowed to Have Feelings

One of the worst things about suffering from a mental health disorder is that your feelings often come out sideways. By the time my negative emotions — anger, despair, frustration, sadness — find their way to the surface, my behavior goes topsy-turvy and the Borderline Bitch comes out to play.

As such, I often come off as “crazy” and/or “nuts” rather, than say, sad. I yell. I cry. I bunch my hands into fists; and as a result, Mitch tries to deal with the behavior (out of necessity), and the feelings underlying that behavior get dismissed as irrelevant.

Even in our more rational exchanges, when I am able to express my darker emotions in a logical way, Mitch often turns them around on me. “Honey, you’re exhausted and your brain isn’t working right,” is one of his favorite responses to my darker concerns.

It is true that when I’m exhausted and my “brain isn’t working right”, all of those unwanted feelings float more freely to the forefront of my consciousness; but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t valid and/or justified.

I have a deeply compelling reason for feeling slighted in my marriage — Mitch’s absolute unwillingness to meet my sexually intimate needs. (In his own words, I meet all of his needs. So how is it fair to have mine unmet?)

It hurts to feel undesirable; and I imagine that it would hurt someone who is not mentally ill, just as much as it does my “crazy” self. Their partners, however, wouldn’t have anything to stigmatize and use against them in a conversation about said hurt.

Having any negative emotions (that I might feel) recognized as “truth” is an eternal battle. Mitch doesn’t discount my positive feelings as a symptom of my disease, so why should the negative emotions be any different? They are treated as different because my behavior shifts as my emotions grow darker. The behavior is a symptom of my mental health disorder, the feelings are not.

And I have grown utterly exhausted by having to constantly explain this… especially when the explanation is ignored, as are my underlying needs and feelings.

I’m Also Tired of Finding Mitch Wherever I Go

I love my husband with all of my heart; but having to suppress a part of who I am — a truly sexual being — is a taxing endeavor.

It’s difficult to take on all of the household chores, to keep going to the gym, to try to watch my food intake, and to maintain my mental health (through medication and action) when I feel there is very little reward in it.

Doing all of those things does make me feel better about myself; but when I feel better about myself, I also feel more sexual… and I don’t have a partner who cares about that.

I fear that if I gain and/or harness more self-confidence, then my desire to leave my marriage for greener pastures might increase… and I don’t want to leave my marriage, nor the man that I am so deeply in love with.

It’s a terrible — depression-inducing — cycle.

I have a few good days (in which I perform all of the tasks on the list above), immediately followed by a crash… and when I crash, Mitchell gets hurt because I’m hurting; which absolutely isn’t fair.

Especially, when Mitch is trying.

This past week, he was up before 8 a.m. each day that he was home. But then, quite bizarrely, I wasn’t. I slept in and woke up grumpy and disconnected.

Perhaps it’s a subconscious endeavor to try and make my husband feel all the emotions I feel when he doesn’t get up and then doesn’t want to do anything. I don’t know…

All I know for sure is that I’m tired of the woman staring back at me in the mirror… and I’m frustrated with the man who dismisses my feelings due to the fact that I have mental health disorders and addictive tendencies.

We Remember Differently

I want to reclaim the couple we once were. The goofy people who went bowling and sang karaoke on the weekends, the Cassie and Mitchell that more regularly did things with friends (the Cassie and Mitchell that had friends), the husband and wife that people admired, and wanted to be.

I also miss the long nights that we spent making love so intensely that Mitch sometimes called out of work the next morning… the times when his passion was so intense that I had a hard time keeping up with it.

When I say these things to Mitch, he often says that I remember things differently… that he was never social and/or sexual; but that I was the driving force in those departments. In contrast, I think we both were.

I don’t know when or how we lost those people; and unlike my husband, I believe that they are still here… they just need to be found.

I desperately wish we had a map to our younger selves, because we both need to see them when we gaze into that damnable looking glass.

Soundtrack: “Remind Me” by Brad Paisley & Carrie Underwood

It’s Not “Just” a Food Addiction

Recovery & Weight Loss Endeavors No. 6

The past two days have been dismal for me. I binged, and binged again, on junk food — cheeseballs and crackers, cookies, Krispy treats, candy, etc.

This problem isn’t a simple one. It isn’t a matter of will-power alone. It also doesn’t come down to it “just” being an addiction.

I’m on medication for night terrors (that I get absolutely zero sleep without) that has an “increased appetite” side effect. Between my two doses (one at six in the evening, and one around eight in the evening), it’s as if I’m stoned on weed and have a terrible case of the proverbial munchies.

I also have IBS; so I avoid eating during the day (especially if I have plans) in order to mitigate the chances of having an attack. Thus, by early evening, I’m famished; and I eat much faster than I should (and crave sugar and fats due to low blood glucose).

Mitch and I do not have healthy eating habits, either. We’re both procrastinators and rather poor planners… which leaves our evening meal on hiatus until we’re both starving, and more likely to run out for fast food.

What Hasn’t Worked

Stocking the Fridge

We have tried filling the refrigerator with fresh fruits and vegetables (things that by and large Mitchell does not eat); but often, they end up spoiling instead of getting eaten.

Why? Because I hate preparing food; so if Mitch doesn’t take the initiative to cut things up and portion them out, I tend to ignore what’s in the kitchen. (I also have an essential tremor that makes handling knives a difficult feat.)

That isn’t to say that my husband is at fault. On the contrary, I need to take some initiative in this department. I should take more responsibility for my own dietary habits; but Mitch has been in control of this for so long, that it’s become a (somewhat necessary — see the tremor explanation above) habit that’s hard to break.

Making Vows

I have tried writing out my intentions — hoping to make them harder to break — to no avail.

It’s all well and good to type “I will limit myself to one sugary item after our evening meal.” (As I did in Thursday’s post.) But by the time seven o’clock rolls around, I’m frustrated with myself for not having eaten better during the day, and that “the house is on fire, might as well let it burn to the ground” mentality sets in.

Counting Calories

I shared in an earlier post on the blog why this particular tactic doesn’t work for me.

The F*cking Endless Cycle

I’m extremely agitated by my inability to reign-in my binge-eating habits.

I cannot fathom how I found the strength to give up booze and narcotics, yet can’t manage to put down the donuts and potato chips through my will alone.

After a binge, I wake up feeling ashamed and disgusting. Often, I also feel physically taxed and sluggish; which is exactly how I felt when plagued with a hangover.

You would think that wanting those feelings to go away would be enough to prevent the actions that precede them; but instead, I find myself stuck in the hellish cycle of addiction (albeit, a less nefarious addiction than the ones I’ve managed to keep in check this past few years): eat irresponsibly, it takes an emotional/physical toll, feelings of shame fuel negative self-image, there is a loss of hope and some self-flagellation, reach for (false) comfort in the very thing causing you distress. Rinse and repeat.

Not “Just” an Addiction is Still an Addiction

One of the hardest things about overcoming addictions is that they mutate. Why? Because “addiction” is born of maladapted coping mechanisms. It’s a (somewhat “diseased”) way of thinking… and changing one’s way of thinking can be an extremely difficult thing to do.

In addicts, negative underlying emotions fuel the desire to rid oneself of them through any means necessary… to feel something different.

In my case, I’m trying to “outrun” feeling undesirable — to fill the one missing piece (i.e. a sexually intimate connection with my husband) in the puzzle of my life.

I couldn’t fill it with alcohol. I couldn’t fill it with opiates. I couldn’t fill it with affairs. And now? Now, I cannot fill it with food.

I Should Know Better By Now

After years of self-reflection in the Anonymous programs, you would think I had better tools to cope with feelings of self-destruction; and I do… sort-of.

I have friends that I can call when I’m feeling “restless, irritable, and discontent” — but I still struggle with actually doing so. (Mostly, because I’d rather listen to their problems, than to bleed all over them with mine.)

I know that writing helps me to sort out negative emotions, and leads to finding the flecks of glitter among the ashes of darker thoughts… and that I can do (as I am now).

It seems to me that I must start treating my binge-eating as an addiction (rather than just a bad habit) — even when there are other factors at play; and for me, unfortunately, that means finding a healthier addiction to replace it.

I’m working on it…

Soundtrack: “Recovery” by James Arthur

Move Over, F*ck It Hamster!

Weight Loss Endeavors No. 5

I am totally unmotivated this morning. I did wash my face and brush my teeth upon awakening; but I haven’t showered since Tuesday afternoon, and have yet to return to the gym (haven’t been there since Friday) and/or my chores (which I abandoned Monday).

It’s a bit odd to have apathy linger this long… especially when I had a good day yesterday. Bug (my son) came over in the early morning to do his laundry; and we had a very nice visit. Rige-o (my baby brother) called in the afternoon just to chat (a rare treat); and we had a great conversation full of laughter. Mama texted me throughout the day; and we also had a fun conversation. Mitch came home after work and did the dishes himself; while we joked and poked fun at one another.

So what the hell is my problem?!

The First Law of Physics

“An object will remain at rest or in a uniform state of motion unless that state is changed by an external force.”
– Newton’s Three Laws of Motion

I’ve been at rest (though some of that rest was beyond emotionally taxing) since Mitch and I had our fight on Sunday morning.

This is not to say that Mitchell is at fault. On the contrary, he has asked “Are you going to the gym?” every day, before leaving for work. And my response has been, “No, I don’t think so.”

Instead, I’ve sat in the recliner — day after day — binging “Shameless” on Netflix, while occasionally corresponding with friends.

I haven’t been eating during daylight hours… which turns into shame-inducing sugar binges after our evening meal. (Last night, I ate a box of Crunch ‘N’ Munch toffee popcorn, a Mr. Goodbar, and a bag of Skittles. πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ )

When we visited our primary care physician on Tuesday afternoon, I weighed in at 266.9 pounds — the heaviest I have ever been — and one of my liver enzymes is out of whack due to obesity. (Causing me to think, What the hell is the point of working out if I’m not seeing any results on the f*cking scale, and my fat-encrusted liver is being uncooperative?!)

Add all of that up, and the sum total is this: I’m disappointed with myself, and think I don’t deserve to feel any better than I already do… which is not very good at all.

What Did I Do?

I find that when I feel like this, it’s good to take a moment to reflect on the positive things I’ve done.

So, I know it’s a little late this week (I should have posted Tuesday); but here is my week in review.

Workout Review

I did find the courage to lift on my own (while Mitch was at work) last week.

(Side Note: One of my readers emailed me and inquired about the equipment at my gym. All of the cardio and/or weight machines are produced by Life Fitness.)

Tuesday, July 19th

Bike: 20 min 4.10 miles 150 cals burned
Weight Lifting: Lower body 25 min
Treadmill: 35 min (“Hills” Level 2/Speed 3.1 mph) 1.77 miles 256 cals burned

Wednesday, July 20th

Bike: 20 min 4.43 miles 150 cals burned
Weight Lifting: Upper body 40 min
Treadmill: 35 min (“Hills” Level 2/Speed 3.1 mph) 1.77 miles 255 cals burned

Thursday, July 21st

Bike: 20 min 4.25 miles 159 cals burned
Weight Lifting: Core 35 min
Treadmill: 35 min (“Hills” Level 2/Speed 3.1 mph) 1.77 miles 256 cals burned

Friday, July 22nd

Bike: 30 min 6.56 miles 227 cals burned
Treadmill: 40 min 2.01 miles 292 cals burned

Saturday, July 23rd

Intentional day of rest.

Sunday, July 24th – Wednesday, July 27th

F*ck It Hamster was at the wheel; and I gladly let the fuzzy lil’ f*cker drive me off my motivational cliff. Bad Cassie! 😜

Food in Review

This is seriously not a topic that I wish to review… too many nights spent sugar-binging in the midst of a self-pity party.

Goals for the Week Ahead

Ugh… do I have to?!

Yes. Yes, I have to… because if I don’t get off my duff and become the external force needed to change my current state of utter inertia, then I am doomed to continue feeling disappointed and ashamed of myself. (Is that really what I want to feel?!)

Thus, it is time to let the fuzzy in and turn on the cartoons (Tocho — my rescue pup — likes to watch cartoons in our absence). Time to once again don my workout gear, tie my hair up, and find my way back to feeling better about myself.

So.

This week I will go to the gym at least five out of the following seven days. I will limit myself to one sugary item after our evening meal. I will eat more than once a day (and snarfing a bag of Goldfish crackers doesn’t count as a meal). I will pull myself out of this damnable downward spiral and be the change I wish to implement in my life. I will continue to post weekly updates; but the day will be changed from Tuesday to Friday.

I’m getting out of this chair, I promise.

Soundtrack: “Work B**ch” by Britney Spears

Scaling the Walls

Ugh is the only way to describe the past couple of days within the confines of my marriage.

Mitch and I had a fight that went from quiet arguing to screaming obscenities to me throwing him out of the house to uncomfortable days of silence.

In the end, we were able to have a more rational conversation about the things that had transpired (i.e. normal marriage stuff, but with the added bonus of each of you knowing how to push the shit out of the other’s buttons); and agreed that as long as we’re still fighting — and have something to say to one another — then we’re still in this. Together.

Overcoming the Addict Within

My first gut reaction to having been emotionally disemboweled by my spouse was to act out.

I wanted to reach for the bottle of wine in the pantry (that Mitch keeps for cooking) and just get soused. I wanted to run to an AA meeting that I know is full of chaos and lies (and become a part of said chaos and lies). I wanted to grab my phone, reach out to an ex, and beg for sexual benefits. I wanted to take every pill in the house, and wait for death.

(Side Note: I do not wish to do these things to hurt my husband nor myself — not consciously, anyway — but to feel something radically different to despair.)

Instead, I did none of these things.

I collapsed onto the couch and cried into Tocho’s fur until he was soppy and covered in snot. I forced myself to get up and wash the dishes in the kitchen sink. I turned on a beloved television program and hit the mod like it was my last day on earth. I didn’t eat… until I did, and then went on a binge.

I don’t proclaim that these choices are “healthy” necessarily; but they’re a hell of a lot healthier than the destructive alternatives that first surfaced in response to stress.

Years into my recovery (in which I’ve done a ton of self-reflective work), I recognize the aforementioned gut reactions as extremely poor coping mechanisms for emotional discord.

I realize that thinking that way will always be a part of who I am (and I cannot control said thoughts); but acting on them is something I can control.

When I start to hear the insidious siren call of the addict within, I know it is imperative to think of the things I could lose should I answer it. Namely? My husband, my son, and my (rather precarious) sanity.

Having gratitude for what I do have helps to prevent the damage that my addicted self would do should she be let loose. (I’ve managed to keep that bitch caged for a good number of years, and do not intend to set her free.)

I will always be an addict… and I may never be able to stop the binge-eating or the non-stop inhaling of nicotine; but I would rather be a lil’ fluffy and vaping like a dragon than a careless drunk who thinks little about anything other than getting that next drink.

I would rather be fighting with Mitch over my lack of a sex-life than feel miserable about myself for having reckless sex (and yes, it’s always reckless at that point) with men who aren’t my husband.

I would rather know who I am than have no idea who I have become.

I choose to be more than my addictions.

Residual Fallout

Unfortunately — even when making healthier choices — mental and emotional stress always takes a toll.

In this most recent event with my husband, I lost all motivation. I stopped writing, stopped reading, stopped going to the gym, stopped showering, stopped corresponding with friends, ate a shit-ton of junk food, and was minimalistic in my attempts at doing the chores (I did keep up with the dishes).

This reaction to internal turmoil is a symptom of my disease… and it’s never easy to cope with.

It is beyond difficult to live with a mind that seems determined to unravel itself; and the knowledge that you will have to deal with said self-destructive mind for the rest of your life can be more than a little daunting.

I have yet to scale the walls of the rabbit hole I found myself falling into this past weekend; but I’m getting there… and really, that’s all that I can do — scale the walls one tremulous step at a time.

Want a Partner, Be a Partner

All did not go according to plan yesterday (…stupid sheets).

I got a late start to my day, due to issues with my stomach and the bone-deep exhaustion that I’ve felt as of late (fricking COVID, and its lingering effects).

I didn’t get to the gym until after ten, and did a slightly extended cardio workout; so I returned home even more tired, and well past noon.

I walked into the kitchen, stared at the mountains (note the plural use of the word there) of dirty dishes… and felt a despair so deep, I convinced myself that I couldn’t possibly approach the task of washing them all. I thought, “Mitch let them pile up; Mitch can deal with it, as he promised to do.”

I sat in the recliner for a bit, chewed over the commitments I’d written about in yesterday’s post, and then got off my butt and started the dishes (cursing my husband — more than once — for allowing them to pile up the way he had).

Forget two sink-loads! Three hours — and five sink-loads — later (allowing for occasional fifteen minute breaks here and there), all of the dishes that were in the sink — and on the countertops — were washed, dried and put away. I scrubbed the shit out of both sides of the sink with Ajax, and was so worn-out that I had absolutely no anger left within me. I just felt proud of my accomplishment, and hoped that Mitch would appreciate the gesture.

It was four-thirty by the time I finished; so I opted to take a long, hot shower… and left changing the sheets for another day.

Captain Oblivious Risks Getting Throttled

(Side Note: Mitch has to walk through the kitchen to enter the rest of the house.)

Mitchell got home shortly after my shower, hugged me, sat down on the sofa and exclaimed, “You look utterly exhausted, Babe. What did you do today?”

Astonished is the only appropriate word to describe the way I felt about this comment. I scoffed and said, “Really?”

My husband gave me a quizzical look and said, “Yeah, really.”

“Why don’t you go back into the kitchen and look around, Honey.”

“Did you wash the dishes? Damn it, Cass. I told you I’d do that!”

To be fair, he did tell me he’d do that. He’s been telling me he’ll do it for more than a month — with absolutely no follow through.

“I know you did, but I figured it was easier for me to do them than to continue being angry at you for not doing them. I didn’t get to the pile of dishes on the floor near the stove, because I didn’t see them until I had finished the others; but I will.”

“No. Don’t do anything else in the kitchen. It’s just another damn thing you’ll resent me for.”

Surprisingly, I was able to keep myself from biting at this particular bait.

“Mitch, Honey, the stove still has to be cleaned, and other things still need to be handled. I’m trying to help, to create an environment in which we’re less stressed out.” At this, my husband heaved a sigh while rolling his eyes.

I responded with, “Don’t worry, I didn’t throw out any of the Tupperware this time. Moldy and disgusting as it was, I just washed it until it was clean.”

This has been a sticking point for us in the past. I throw out anything that has started to sprout mold; and Mitch has a hissy-fit because it then has to be replaced.

“You could have just thrown it out. It’s all cheap.”

“Aya, Babe. In the past, you’ve thrown a fit when I do that.”

“Was there a lot of mold?”

“Yep. At one point, near the bottom of the pile, the smell was so bad that it made Tocho [our dog] gag. Honestly? That part cracked me up.”

Truth! It made me laugh so hard, I had tears in my eyes.

Mitchell sighed again and said, “Just… don’t do anything else in the kitchen, okay? I’ll handle it.”

At this, I just smiled. If he does handle it over the weekend, great. If he doesn’t, I’ll tackle it while he’s at work next week. Why? Because I felt so much more peaceful today when I walked into the kitchen that the relief was palpable… versus walking into the kitchen, and simmering with anger towards my husband.

A couple of hours later — after we’d eaten dinner — Mitch said, “Thank you, Babe… for everything you do around here. You had a really productive week, and I appreciate it.”

And this morning? When I walked into the kitchen? Mitch had already washed the dishes used last night. Progress, not perfection!

Using a Different Lens vs. Building Resentment

I know that my well-intentioned, but deeply procrastinating, spouse means well when he promises to do something. I also recognize that he is utterly exhausted at this particular moment in our lives; and sometimes just doesn’t have the energy to follow through.

Mitchell is the sole earner in our home, and the designated chef (because I stick tin cans in the microwave without thinking, and have literally set the kitchen on fire more than once — a trait that amuses both my husband and my son, to no end πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ).

When my mental health issues send me into a spiral, Mitch is the one who patiently pulls me out of it… often obtaining a few mental bruises along the way.

He’s supporting my efforts at the university with unbridled enthusiasm; and he’s always willing to take a drive around town when I need space.

Mitchell makes all of the grocery and errand runs in the summer months, because I just can’t deal with the extreme heat of the Sonoran Desert. It increases my chances of having a seizure and/or migraine; and Mitchell recognizes this with unconditional kindness.

So rather than focusing on what my husband isn’t doing (i.e. “Goddam it all to hell, look at this sink full of dirty dishes! Why are the weeds so out of control?! Damn it, Mitch!”) I have decided to focus on what he does do.

I’m toying with the idea that if I lead, he’ll follow — and last night, he washed the dishes we used, so maybe it’s working. (And when it doesn’t, I still have my own two hands to work with.)

The Moral of the Story

It’s taken me a long time to get to this point — a point where I can honestly see things through my husband’s eyes, instead of making it all about me. (Though I’m certain we’ll still struggle with this issue, because it’s a recurring theme in our marriage… but I’m working on it.)

Usually, I would feel resentment for being forced to take on my husband’s share of the chores. I would’ve made a snarky, snarling comment like, “Well, you weren’t going to f*ckin’ do it; so I had to, Buddy!”

But yesterday, when the thought to say something like that crossed my mind, I took a deep breath internally, and tried to show Mitch kindness instead; and surprisingly, that also helped me to reframe my perspective, leaving resentment out of it entirely.

It’s easier to act like an equal partner when you feel you have one… and while I have felt a bit abandoned in this realm for some time, it never occurred to me that Mitchell might also feel somewhat alone.

Taking up more of the mantle at home has provided comfort to my spouse — comfort that I can see on his face, and measure by the lessening arguments in our home.

Do I wish Mitch would do more around the house? Absolutely. Does Mitch wish that we had a second income, and an easier road to financial stability? I have no doubt.

But since neither of us has the fortitude — or the practical means — to fulfil those wishes at this time, we have to make do; and I am more than willing to do my part. (I just hope that I can keep it up!)