Heartbreaking, Joyful Inheritance

Yesterday turned out to be a good day (which was surprising, considering how it started).

After finishing my post, I got off my duff and went to the gym for the first time in more than a week. It was discouraging to see that I’d lost a lil’ bit of my edge — i.e. my target heart rate was reached at lower levels of effort than before — but it felt good to move (something I’d been blatantly avoiding).

I didn’t want to get on the scale (because I feared my week of fast food and junk snacks had gone directly to my thighs); but I did it anyway. It turns out, I’d put on less than half a pound. It wasn’t a loss; but it still felt like a win, all things considered.

I shared yesterday’s blog post with my husband — which he read while on the road to Phoenix — and it served as both an apology, and a window into what I was feeling. When he returned in the evening, he apologized for not having invited me to go with him, and gave me a great big bear hug. (I also later received a killer lower leg massage — to relieve pain from shin splints and plantar fasciitis — which Mitch excels at giving!)

But the true joy — and heartbreak — came with a visit from my son, Bug (a nickname that he’s had since he was a lil’ guy). A visit I was in a good mood for, thanks to my early morning efforts to sort myself out.

Bug inherited his quick, dry wit from Mitchell; and he can always make me laugh. After a time though, he grew a bit melancholy; and when I asked him what was troubling him, we had a long conversation about how his anxieties and Pure-O (a rare form of OCD) are affecting his relationship with his girlfriend.

The Sins of the Mother, Visited on the Son

As I’ve mentioned here before, I come from a long line of persons affected by mental illness (addiction, especially); and as such, I feel responsible for my son’s mental health afflictions. (He, too, has struggled with alcoholism.) It’s really hard to watch your child grapple with struggles similar to your own… and to be helpless when it comes to soothing the effects of their own mental health issues. The best I can do is to share my own experience with him; and often, it does little to quell his anxieties.

What I may not have mentioned before is that (in addition to being a lil’ nuts) I am a serial cheater — something that Bug and I have talked about, at length, in the past.

I have never been in a relationship in which I didn’t cheat. (Mitchell — thank the universe — is the only one that ever loved me enough to stick around in the aftermath of such deceit). As such, I taught Bug very early on to be wary of women and their wily ways. I thought it would serve to protect him; but instead, it planted a seed of mistrust in his partners — a mistrust that he carries with him to this day.

I apologized for this, as we conversed yesterday; and he explained that he appreciated our talks about sex and women, but that he also believed they started too soon. (I started talking to him about sex and relationships when he first started asking questions at around nine-years-old.)

I then told him that though I have loved him with an unbridled ferocity since he first lived in my body, his father and I were too young — and very ill-prepared — to be effective parents. To which, he gave me the killer smirk that I have always adored, and said, “No shit, Ma; but I know you did your best. You’ve gotten a lot better, by the way.” (Score! πŸ˜‚)

As has he. Bug is a smart, funny, good looking, die-hard romantic (qualities that he inherited from all of us — me, his biological father, and Mitchell). He has struggled with addiction, and has managed to find a way to drink like “normal people” — for pleasure, and not for black-out escape. He has grown in maturity, has returned to school, and even bought dinner for Mitch and I last night (something I’ve never been able to do for my own parents πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ).

His current girlfriend is also very different from his ex-partners. She’s wildly independent — both in spirit and finances — and she doesn’t seem to need him like the other’s have. (He’s very fond of a “project”, and is always try to fix people for the better.)

They’ve gotten very close; and Bug feels as if he’s finally “settling in” to their relationship. So when his girlfriend went on vacation this past week, Bug spiraled into a rabbit’s hole of fear and anxiety based on his previous relationship experiences. (i.e. “When she comes back, maybe she won’t want me any longer, Ma.”) But, as I pointed out to him, he was dealing with that anxiety in a much more healthy way than he would have chose to in the past.

I wasn’t able to soothe my child into a place of serenity (a curse of parenthood, if ever there was one); but I was able to help him sort his thoughts, and to examine whether or not his fears were justified. We talked about not viewing his current relationship through the lens of past experience; and by the end of the conversation, we had worked out the particulars of the conversation he hopes to have with his partner about his anxieties.

Bug was also able to cuddle up with Tocho-Bear (our rescue pup); and there has never been a stressor too large for our fuzzy lil’ guy to somewhat pacify.

The Best and the Worst of Us

We all inherit traits from our families; some of those traits are fantastic, and some of them far-less-so.

It’s disheartening to watch your child make the same mistakes that you did, and to be able to do nothing about them. It makes you heart-sore to hear him explain how your household and relationship dynamics have affected his own; and to not be able to provide advice on how to change said dynamics (because you’re still learning to navigate them yourself).

Becoming a parent also gives you a new perspective on your own parents. In my life, it has brought me closer to my folks; and I often call them up just to apologize for having done to them what my child now does to me (a curse and a blessing bestowed upon all children who have their own child).

Bug has taught me the power and freedom of forgiveness. When we fight, we fight as my parents and grandparents did before me — with passion, and (sometimes cruel) honesty; but we also bounce back more quickly, and we don’t harbor resentment toward one another.

I have learned more from my child than I probably taught… and I look forward to the next obstacle that allows us both to grow in some positive way (as yesterday surely did).

Soundtrack: “The Greatest” by James Blunt

For Bug… who has surpassed my dreams and expectations in every way.

“I feel that you deserve a chance to know the truth and to be better than…

…and people will try
To take you down too
But if I was a betting (wo)man, I’d put all my money on you…”

Sideways Regression

Mitchell is going to Phoenix today to visit his sister and her husband. He wasn’t going to (because he finally started working on the waist-high weeds in the yard, and was planning to finish it); but, I encouraged him to do so. I reiterated the importance of making family a priority, and pointed out that it would mean a lot to his mom. And after fighting about it for half an hour, he finally agreed to go.

Had he and my mother-in-law invited me to go with them, I would have gladly done so (and was secretly hoping that the invitation would come)… but they didn’t. And while I know this doesn’t mean that they don’t think of me as family, it certainly feels that way. (There’s that goddam disconnect — between knowing and feeling — again. πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ)

When things like this happen, it’s hard not to perceive the distance between my husband and I as growing ever wider. I think, “Why doesn’t he understand that I would like to go too?” And at the same time, I don’t tell him that I’d like to go. Partly, because I want him to ask me on his own; and partly, because I live with the constant fear of being rejected. (i.e. I’d rather not express that I’d like to go and be left behind than to ask to go and be told no.)

He Loves Me in His Own Way

These things don’t happen because Mitch doesn’t love me. He just loves me in his own way, and often makes false assumptions about my needs and desires. I’m almost certain that he thought I’d prefer to have a day to myself, rather than travel to Phoenix in my mother-in-law’s vehicle. (I have a weird thing about riding with other people. I like knowing that I have my own get-away car, should I need it.)

He expresses love in many other ways (versus anticipating what I want)… but most of the time, these expressions come as a direct result of me asking him to fulfill a need and/or desire.

For example, this past week I returned to in-person courses at the university. This meant that I was returning to the scene of a sexual assault that occurred in 1996. The thought of doing so elicited crippling anxiety that almost caused me to drop out of school this semester; but instead of allowing that anxiety to put an end to my career as a student, I asked Mitch if he would take a few days off from work in order to walk me to my classes.

To my surprise, my sometimes-awesome husband didn’t see this as a ridiculous request. He told me that he understood my fear and trepidation, and was more than happy to walk me to class… and he did. He walked me to my classrooms, waited outside while I was in class, and walked me back to the parking garage after.

On the second day, we inadvertently walked right past the spot where I was date raped nearly twenty years ago. My heart did a flip-flop in my chest, and I felt dizzy and weak. When I expressed this to my husband, he immediately apologized and promised that we’d find an alternate route to the building after class… and we did. (And in all honesty, if my brave and caring Mitchell hadn’t been there, I would have either collapsed in the midst of a panic attack, or bolted without going to class.)

All of this was most definitely an expression of love and acceptance on his part; and it’s important for me to hold on to that when days like today occur.

PTSD-Induced Regression

As a result of that second day’s event, however, I started to withdraw into myself. I asked to eat out almost every day over the past week, and requested junk food from the market. I also stopped going to the gym.

Why? Because if I’m fat and undesirable, maybe no one will find me attractive enough to assault. (This is twisted logic. It’s true that I was young with a terrific figure when I was assaulted… but that didn’t warrant or justify the assault. In all actuality, it probably didn’t factor in to my assailant’s train of thought, either. Still… we cope with all kinds of sideways thinking in the ever-lasting aftermath of sexual assault.)

Thus, my weight has probably increased a bit, my acne has flared up, and I’m disgusted with the woman that I see in the mirror.

I’m regressing into the person I used to be, instead of taking further steps towards the person I was becoming… and it’s breaking my heart, rattling my tenuous hold on my sanity, wreaking havoc on my marriage, and causing a free-fall into the rabbit’s hole of a looming depression.

It’s also made me over-sensitive to Mitch’s words and actions. I got angry and yelled at him about the yardwork on Friday night. I’m hurt that he didn’t ask me to go with him to Phoenix today. I’ve been short with my own words, and distant in my communication with my spouse… all because I’m haunted by the past.

I want Mitchell to see how lost and frail I am (without having to point it out) — to understand that I need to be with him right now; and I don’t want to have to say it.

Saying it feels like weakness. Having to say that I need someone feels like being revictimized. Not being asked if I wanted to go today feels like being abandoned (something Borderlines do not deal with well); and it makes me angry and sad.

These emotions are a reaction to my past; but my husband — in the present — is the one paying for the sins of others; and I hate it when that happens. (Which is why I sit here quietly writing about my feelings, responding to my husband in tight-lipped one-word responses, instead of screaming and hollering at Mitch about my hurt.)

Unfortunately, that means that all Mitch perceives is anger. He knows it’s there; and it feels as if I’m angry at him, I’m sure. But I’m not. Anger is just easier than fear. Rage is my armor; but the war I’m fighting is already over… it just feels as if it never ended, and I’m on the battlefield alone — looking to vanquish a foe that is no longer there.

So Can I Win? And How?

The only way to deal with PTSD is to trudge though it. You can mitigate the effects through therapy and self-propelled (positive) action; but it’s always there. Lurking in the background, waiting to pounce on the present.

Getting fat (and yelling at your husband about the weeds) is one way to cope; but it isn’t a healthy way to cope. Instead of empowering myself through action (i.e. going to the gym), it simply fuels the internal fires of self-hatred. This hatred was not inherent at birth; it is a lasting side-effect of sexual assault. An ill-fated response to having pieces of yourself violently stolen, never to return.

After all, isn’t that where rapists truly draw their energy from? Clearly, they must pillage their power from others, because they have none of their own. Realizing that is the first step towards healing — to understand that the brawn those bastards wield is only borrowed. Borrowed from the strength they took from you. And if you’re still standing, they didn’t win… because you had enough left in the reserve of self to survive and carry on.

For me, the how of winning can be found in my pen. For whatever reason, I cannot sort the mess of these emotions through speaking about them… but I can come to terms with the disordered feelings by trying to form them into sentences, paragraphs, posts. (But unfortunately, most of the time I don’t sit down to write about them until my formidable ire has become all-consuming.)

Before writing this, I truly felt anger towards Mitch. It was the yard, and the lack of an invitation that were causing my fury and pain. After writing this, I know that it is the past I am raging against; not my poor, procrastinating, sometimes-oblivious husband.

In the wise words of Randy Atkins:

“If you’re goin’ through hell, keep on going
Don’t slow down
If you’re scared, don’t show it
You might get out before the devil even knows you’re there”

And if I get off my duff, and return to the gym, I’ll be able to outrun that horned, hoof-footed bastard should he come to sense my presence. 😏 And then, I need to offer my sincerest apologies to Mitch. I may not have exploded at him like I normally do; but I certainly haven’t been pleasant to deal with.

Soundtrack: “Going Through Hell” by Randy Atkins

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

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!)

Unmistakable Signs that Signal Change

The past couple of days I’ve been struggling with the desire to act out in self-sabotaging ways. I don’t want to drink and/or use; but I’ve thought about reaching out to ex’s (behind Mitch’s back), joining dating sites (again, behind Mitch’s back), and/or attending AA meetings that I know are not good for me (ones full of chaos and misery, rather than strong recovery).

I recognize these desires as a sign that something deeper is bothering me; and I have kept my feet moving in an attempt to ignore the whirling hamster wheels in my mind.

The problem with that is that eventually the feet get tired and I’m left listening to the endless squeaking of madly spinning wheels. And they’re always squawking about the same damn thing…

A Problem I Cannot Solve Alone

Mitch and I have not had sex in over twelve years, for many reasons: Mitchell is diabetic and has sustained a lot of nerve damage in his wrists and hands. He’s morbidly obese, which complicates sexual functioning. And, after four years of marriage, he declared that he was a-sexual (a decision he made without consulting me).

He has also stated that I was always the instigator in our sex life (and upon reflection, I found this to be true); and now that I am sober, I find it really hard to take on that role.

We also have massive trust issues in our marriage that we are trying to overcome. Mitch is really bad at keeping his word (regarding anything to do with us — chores, plans, finances, attempts at intimacy, etc.); and I am an addict who relapsed on drugs and alcohol, and had multiple affairs after ten years of forced chastity.

My husband has said that he understands the role he played in my relapse. He has apologized for being MIA emotionally when I needed him most. He has granted his forgiveness for the affairs, and says that it no longer bothers him (but I have a hard time believing that in light of the fact that we still have not broken any ground towards repairing the sexual rift in our relationship).

I have also forgiven Mitch — and continue to forgive him — for not keeping his word; but forgiving is not the same thing as forgetting. I find it hard to trust him; and I know he must feel the same way about me. And trust is a really important part of intimacy (in all of its many facets).

A Difference of Opinion

When we argue about this issue (and blessedly, we haven’t for quite some time), Mitch is fond of saying, “Cass, there is so much more to marriage than sex.”

I agree with him; but I also point out that sex is an important part of marriage — and that I need it to be a part of ours.

In response he always says, “I’m working on it. Soon, I promise.”

Apparently though, his definition of “soon” is different from mine. As a result, I’ve spent another three-plus years in forced chastity; and it’s beginning to take its toll.

Stepping Up

I have started to gain a deeper understanding for Mitch’s inability to keep his word in regard to chores.

The man works twelve hours a day, five days a week. He is perpetually exhausted; and since I am now obese myself, I have a greater appreciation for how easily one tires when carrying around an extra one-hundred pounds (and Mitchell carries much more than that).

To help in this department, I have started stepping up my responsibilities at home.

This past week, I vowed to do at least one load of laundry each day — meaning all the way through from the washer to putting clothes away (vs. leaving them in the dryer for days on end) — after returning home from the gym. And you know what? I’ve kept that vow, and feel incredibly accomplished for having done so (those of you who battle with your own mental health afflictions know that these small victories mean more to us than most).

After a couple of days of that routine, I found I had a bit more energy; so I decided to start adding one other household chore per day (i.e. I scrubbed the shit out of the powder room — something that hadn’t been done in many weeks — after doing the laundry yesterday). This morning, I plan to change the sheets and to tackle at least two sink loads of dirty dishes (sadly, we do not have a dishwasher in this damn house).

True, the kitchen is supposed to be Mitch’s responsibility; but clearly, it’s a chore that he just can’t handle at this particular moment in time. He does make dinner each evening; and for now, I have to allow that to be enough.

I’m hoping that if I stick to a routine — dishes each day, powder room once a week, dusting once a week, etc. — that my shame and anger regarding living in a home I am not proud of will dissipate. That the arguments about these things will grow fewer and farther apart; and that ultimately, Mitch will follow my lead and do the few things around the house that I cannot (i.e. yardwork is impossible for me in the summer heat of the Sonoran Desert).

Already, my efforts have given my husband a sense of pride and gratitude that I rarely see. He has thanked me for keeping up with the ice trays (we make ice the old fashioned way, and often, I just neglect it and leave it up to him). He is astonished at his closet full of clean clothes. He marveled at having a “floor he did not stick to” in the bathroom, and generally seems more relaxed when he’s at home.

For my part, I have a renewed sense of accomplishment and self-confidence (both of which are hard for me to obtain). I’m also starting to reclaim the satisfaction of having a clean home (something that is far more important to me than it is to Mitch).

Practice Makes Perfect (Or Closer to Perfection)

It occurred to me that if I think of intimacy as an art, then it is something that has to practiced and maintained.

Mitch and I haven’t even kissed one another with our mouths open for more than a decade. It’s a skill of sorts that we both threw aside… waiting for the other to make a move.

I have always been the leader in our relationship, and Mitch the follower.

Perhaps if I make a greater effort to make my husband feel desired, things will start to turn around for us. I know that when I feel sexy and wanted, it’s easier to act that way.

I haven’t felt that way in my marriage for a very long time; and it breaks my heart on a daily basis… but maybe, my husband feels the same way (and I’m well aware of the fact that if he does, he’d never say it).

Mitch is fond of saying, “My wife is the one that gets in the ring and fights. I’m just a spectator, always wondering where she’ll jab next.”

I suppose it’s time for me to put the gloves back on.

Soundtrack: “Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts

This is “our” song — Mitchell and I.

An Awful Cycle

Mitch and I got into it — yet again — yesterday. We had the same argument that we’ve been having for nearly twenty years; and though I don’t fight the same way I used to (i.e. screaming obscenities and often getting physical), Mitchell does (with psychological warfare); and I don’t know how to break this awful cycle.

The Crux of the Problem

Mitch doesn’t sleep well. He’s up until past midnight — often until after 3 a.m. — and then sleeps until noon (or later) if unchecked. I, on the other hand, am often in bed by 9:30; and then I’m up before 6:30 a.m.

Because my health issues (migraines, seizures, stomach/intestinal discord, etc.) usually strike in the late afternoon/early evenings, making plans after 3 p.m. is a difficult feat for me; and Mitchell knows this — not only because he’s lived with me for more than two decades, but because I have to remind him of this fact on a regular basis.

For awhile, he set an alarm for 10 a.m.; which meant he was up by 11 a.m. Then, he spends over an hour in the restroom (something that frustrates me to no end). As a result, we don’t start our days before noon.

I shared with my husband that if he is determined to keep to his morning routine in the bathroom (whatever that entails), that he must compensate by getting up earlier… and unfortunately “earlier” for him is actually getting up at 10 a.m. But when he does, he spends nearly ninety minutes in the powder room — so it’s all a wash.

Plans? Why Make Plans?

Mitch sucks at making plans. He doesn’t like to commit to anything until the last minute; and he’s always running nearly thirty minutes late.

Earlier in the week, he had spoken to his mother on the phone and asked us both if we’d like to go to lunch and see a movie this past weekend… and we were both up for it.

When he didn’t attempt to rouse himself at a decent hour on Saturday, I figured he’d set aside Sunday for our visit with my mother-in-law. When he didn’t get up early on Sunday, I knew he hadn’t made any plans at all… and I was really disappointed.

An Emotional Curve Ball Makes It Worse

My folks are currently in Montana for a family reunion (and my cousin’s wedding). My baby brother, Rige-o, will be flying into Bozeman on Friday to join them. I’m not there, because we can’t afford to travel. (Hell, we can barely manage to pay our bills on time.)

Yesterday, my Dad — very thoughtfully — sent me a short video of my beloved grandmother dancing with my cousin, with my extended family laughing and having fun at the wedding in the background.

It made me smile; and then, it made me cry.

I get to attend all of these types of events with Mitch’s family, because they live here. My family lives clear across the country; and I haven’t been home to see them in more than twenty-one years. So I was a bit sad, and frustrated… and rather surprisingly, angry. Angry that Mitch gets to see his family, while I do not.

It Simmers to a Boil

I managed to explain to Mitchell that I was both happy — and sad — after having watched the video my father sent me, and he totally blew me off.

We got in the car; and on the way to the gym, I broke down into tears. Partly, because I miss my family. Partly, because I knew we weren’t going to see my mother-in-law after all. Partly, because it was so late in the morning that I just wanted to throttle my spouse.

He pulled into the lot, and asked me what was wrong.

“Well, obviously, we’re not going to see your mom today as you promised. I was really looking forward to that, you know?”

“I can call her right now.”

“No, you can’t. We won’t be home until after 12:30. It would take two hours to get ready, and another ninety minutes to drive to Tubac. By the time we get down there, it will be after four in the afternoon; and you know I can’t do that.”

“Clearly, that’s not all you’re upset about, Cass. Let’s have it.”

“I just… I just don’t understand why I’m not as important as all the other priorities in your life. When you tell your mom you’re going to do something for her, you follow through. When you tell your siblings you’re going to do something, you follow through. When you tell Bug you’re going to do something, you follow through. When you tell your boss and/or co-workers you’re going to do something, you follow through. When you tell me you’re going to do something, you rarely follow through. What kind of message am I supposed to receive from that?”

“What do you want to do right now?”

“Do you want me to be honest?”

“Yes.”

“I want to go to Great Falls.”

“F*ck. Why not say you want a million dollars? Or to fly to the moon? You know I can’t make that happen. Jesus.”

“That’s a little hyperbolic, don’t you think?”

“Bring it on, Cass. Tell me all the ways in which I’ve disappointed you and f*cked up your life.”

At this, I began to sob uncontrollably, “I never said you were a disappointment or that you f*cked up my life. I just feel like you don’t recognize my needs. I’ve asked you repeatedly to get up earlier in the morning. If you had done that today, we could already be with your mom. I was really looking forward to doing something with her this weekend.”

“I did get up early!”

“No, Mitch. You didn’t. Early for most adults is before 8 a.m. Not after 10.”

At this, Mitchell took a stronger grasp on the wheel and began to grind his teeth, before saying, “You can always get up as early as you’d like and do this shit on your own.”

I felt like I’d been slapped, “I know I can; but don’t you understand? I enjoy doing this with you. It’s one of the few things that we do together.”

“Like you give a shit if I’m here or not,” Mitchell growled.

“Of course I do! That’s why I wait for you!”

Dead silence. I broke it by saying, “I can feel that you don’t want to be here. Let me take you home.”

“I’ll walk,” Mitchell said.

“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s over one hundred degrees outside. That wouldn’t be safe. I can take you home, and come back. Like you said, I can do this alone.”

Mitch turned away from me; and we sat in silence… me, with tears sliding down my cheeks. When Mitchell spoke again, he said, “What’s really the problem here?”

“I feel alone. I feel unseen and unheard. I feel disconnected from you and everyone else, which makes me want to die. You know how hard these kinds of feelings are for me… but I’m starting to wonder, what is the point? I keep trying and trying with you. I’ve changed everything, and you’ve changed very little.”

After some more arguing, Mitch pulled out of the lot and headed home. While looking at the road, he said, “I’m what’s wrong with your life. I make you miserable. I do nothing right. I’m a total failure.”

“You’re not a failure. You don’t make me miserable. I just wish that you would try a little harder for us.” I then spent the rest of the day trying to console my husband.

And that is what Mitch does. He twists the argument with words I’ve never said, and I switch gears to soothe him.

And nothing ever changes.

Are You F*cking Kidding Me?!

Mitch returned to his day schedule today; and because he has to get up so early to make it to the summit, I told him that I was willing to go the gym in the evenings. Because he doesn’t get home until almost six, I also offered to cook dinner — as long as he was willing to clean up the horrible mess in the kitchen, so that I could.

He seemed pleased with this. He vowed to clean the kitchen, and promised me that we’d keep going to the gym, as long as I was willing to make these changes for him.

And then this morning? The kitchen is a fricking disaster area; and this is how our text messages read:

Me: Have a good first day back as commander-in-chief. Hopefully, they managed to keep the ship in tip-top shape. Love you!

Mitch: I hope so, too. Thanks, Beautiful. If you need to workout in the mornings this week it’s probably best until I get back to a normal schedule. Love you.

And there it is. I know my husband; and what that text really means is, “I had no intention of going to the gym on the days that I go to work, and probably never will.”

And I could clean the kitchen myself; but that and the yardwork are Mitchell’s only responsibilities here at home, and I’m so tired of picking up the slack.

I am exhausted — physically and emotionally; and I am f*cking sick of feeling heartbroken.

I love my husband, but I don’t know how much fight I have left.

If Only I Owned a Taser…

My Husband Might Be Better Behaved 😜

Mitch and I got into it big time last night. In fact, this morning? I’m still angry at his “fixer” attitude, and banal advice.

A Bit of History…

The truth of the matter of is, I am really unlucky when it comes to the particulars of being a woman. When I desperately needed a whole hysterectomy, my insurance company fought me for ten years before approving a partial one. I no longer bleed in knee-crumbling pain 24/7; but because my ovaries were left behind, I still get to experience the misery of a cycle — ovarian cysts and the accompanying pain, embarrassing acne flare-ups (Who has such obvious acne at forty-four? Wasn’t I supposed to outgrow this shit?!) and mood swings from hell.

I thought that when my OB/GYN announced that I was perimenopausal, my battle with these things was finally coming to a close… but unfortunately, she informed me that things will get worse before they get better. So now, in-between my 18 – 21 day cycle, I get to experience unpredictable hot-flashes and flop sweats. Shania Twain never sang about that when exclaiming, “Man! I feel like a Woman.”

Fixers and Feelers Will Always Fight

I went into the powder room last night to get ready for bed, and found white-heads — some tiny, some not so tiny — all over my bloated face. (I apologize for this rather gross description, but there’s just no other way to say it.) It was agonizing to behold, because I’m supposed to visit with family this weekend; and I just feel ugly, horrendous, and ashamed.

I’ve never been good at hiding my emotions; so when I emerged from said powder room, Mitch immediately noticed the change in my mood, “You okay, Baby?”

“No, no I’m not okay,” I grunted as I shook out my blanket and resettled in the recliner.

“What happened?”

“Nothing.”

“Cass, I can’t help you if you won’t talk to me.”

I hurled a disgruntled sigh his way, and said, “It’s just… all I can see in the mirror is fat and acne. It’s disheartening and embarrassing, and I feel awful.”

“You know that this happens every month, so why bother agonizing over it? Just move on.”

Now, I have explained to Mitchell on more than one occasion that empathetic statements in situations such as these (i.e. “It sucks that you feel that way. I’m so sorry for what you’re going through.”) go much farther than trying to “fix” me (and said as much again, yesterday evening); but my husband is a man after all, and that’s how he thinks. If there’s a problem, he wants to offer a solution, because… well, men are fixers and women are feelers; and therein, lies the fatal flaw in our communication network.

He followed up the previous comment with, “I don’t know why you do this to yourself. There’s no reason to get upset over it.”

At that point, I just wanted to slap the shit out Mitch; but instead, yelled, “You know what?! When your body revolts against you once a month, and you have to deal with these issues, then we can have this conversation. I’m going to bed.” And I left the living room in an angry huff, with Mitch still offering rather stupid advice behind me.

Knowing vs. Feeling

I do know that everything I’m feeling this morning is a result of hormones flooding through my body, and that “this too, shall pass”. But I feel like it’s a permanent state of unattractiveness that I shall never emerge from… hell, right now? I can’t even find the strength to construct the damn cocoon.

I also fear that I may have overreacted to my husband’s words. I know he meant them to be kind and constructive, but they felt callous and poorly chosen. And no matter how many times I advise him to approach these situations differently, he just can’t seem to manage it. (Then again, I haven’t found the strength to change my own reactions… so it’s rather unfair to expect him to.)

Ugh… the whole thing just sucks; and I’m tired of having the mind and experience of a middle-aged woman in the body of a hormonal (now dying, due to menopause) teenager.

What to Do?

All I want to do this morning is climb back into bed, pull the covers over my head, and sleep through the three-to-five-day cycle that will ravage not only my body… but my heart, my soul, my mood, and my marriage.

Unfortunately, if I want to be a grown-up (and I really do, most of the time), first I need to apologize to Mitch. Then I need to tear up the invitations to my pity-party, and get off my duff.

The only way to combat hormones is to either accept them or fight with other hormones; and going to the gym will send a siren-call to my endorphins… as much as I loathe the idea of emerging into public right now, I really need those happy lil’ buggers to counter the less-happy estrogen/progesterone monsters flooding through my system.

Choices and decisions… pity-parties are so much easier than taking action (and I have beautiful handwriting for the invitations, I must say). If I stay in my pajamas, refuse to shower, and turn on chick flicks all damn day (“Beaches” and a good cry, anyone?), I’ll be able to justify staying in my dismal mood. If I get up, braid my hair and hit the gym, I’ll be forced to shower and my mood will improve (even if only slightly) on it’s own.

God damn it. Seems it’s time to take the latter (and obviously, higher) road, and be a grown-up. Shit.