Talking Our Faces Off (2019 Goals - 5)
Well we are already over halfway through February and a lot has happened. I have thought about whether or not to write this post for a few days now. It’s pretty personal and it feels extremely vulnerable to share. But a couple of years ago, when I decided to start this blog, I did it because I wanted to be vulnerable. I really wanted to create a place for me to share what I was going through because it was a healthy way for me to release my feelings. But also because I wanted to give people the chance to relate to things that we sometimes just don’t talk about. Parts of this post are going to be really difficult for me to write. But I’m doing it because we are all the same. We are all fallible humans bound by mortality, and we should not feel shamed out of sharing our experiences. We just have to depend on each other to become better versions of ourselves every day.
My relationship with Jess has been an eventful one to say the least. We fell very hard in love very quickly (perhaps I am just speaking for myself here, but I’d like to think not). Just a month after meeting each other, Jess became aware of my severe eating disorder. My health was declining rapidly and he ultimately saved my life in a way. If it weren’t for him physically taking me to the hospital and therapy on numerous occasions, I do not know what sort of life (if any) I would be living today. We miraculously got through that phase of our relationship after many difficult years, and just when we thought we were out of the woods, another obstacle SHOVED its way into our life.
If you read my blog, follow my facebook, or have literally ever spoken to me at all, you are probably aware of what happened to Jess recently. In the fall of 2016, Jess was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for 81 days due to serious suicidal thoughts and was eventually diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. This time was really rough for the both of us as you could probably imagine. I would never compare my feelings throughout this experience to his, as the two positions are not at all comparable - but I am going to talk about my experience because, well… this is my blog. Maybe Jess will start his own one day LOL (this is especially funny if you know Jess).
Over those three months, I went through what seems like 19 different emotional stages. I was devastated, I was confused, I was frustrated, I was heartbroken, I was furious, I was terrified, I was hopeless, I was numb, I was motivated, I was exhausted, I was regretful, I was optimistic. I don’t know if there is a feeling that I DIDN’T have. After Jess was discharged, went through months of outpatient therapy, and eventually graduated from his 6-month intensive outpatient program, I finally felt like things were okay. It felt almost normal. And for the next several weeks, I really thought things were normal. But then, slowly, I noticed some changes in myself.I started to see some behaviors of my own that were really kind of… unsettling.
Every time Jess would leave the house, I would make him text me immediately when he arrived at his destination. If he didn’t text me right away, I started to pace, to panic, I called my mom, my friends, and eventually I held my phone with 911 waiting on the keypad, my entire body shaking until he contacted me. He could literally be going half a mile away to the grocery store, it didn’t matter. I was convinced that he was absolutely going to die if I did not hear from him at the exact time he put the car in park. After 81 consecutive days of not knowing whether or not someone will be alive the next day, it’s easy to develop some pretty outrageous fears.
I also started to notice how irrationally angry I would feel if he didn’t do certain things. If he didn’t do the dishes or take out the garbage. If he didn’t feed the cats or clean the bathroom. I would tell myself that I just went through months of hell to make sure he survived, and I deserve to have someone else wash the dishes! During his hospitalization, I barely slept, I stayed up all night researching medications and therapy, I postponed our wedding date - he owed me these small, insignificant chores! As you can probably imagine, this was taking quite a toll on our relationship. I was living in constant resent and fear all at the same time. My anxiety has never been higher and literally weeks after our marriage, our relationship was suffering.
To answer your very valid question, no.. I didn’t realize at the time that Jess almost certainly felt these same feelings after I recovered from my eating disorder that he quite literally saved my life from.
One second I was yelling at him for not doing things for me, and the next second I was crying and apologizing to him, out of fear that he was going to crash and die on his next drive to the store and the last thing I would have said to him was, “take the fucking garbage out, you owe me!” I was an emotional wreck and neither of us knew how to handle it. I felt like I was going out of my mind and I just wanted to crawl out of my skin and start my life over. When we moved to Pittsburgh last fall, I was under a lot of additional stress (moving and job searching) and I knew I needed some professional help. I started seeing a new therapist here and things have definitely gotten better. BUT of course, we still have setbacks :) Which brings me to the topic of this post…
I began finally hashing out all of these post-hospitalization feelings with my new therapist and things started to become a little calmer and much clearer. My own (very natural, I now know) feelings of resentment, hostility and fear have dissipated some as I have come to understand them better and get to the root of these feelings. I am extremely proud of the work I’ve done and the progress I have made. I also began to realize, through therapy, how dependent we have become on each other and how our relationship has sort of morphed into a patient/caregiver one over the years. First with my eating disorder, then with Jess’ personality disorder. We have taken turns taking care of each other and it has created an environment that makes it very easy for us to spend almost all of our time together. This has caused us to become extremely close, in equally positive and negative ways. We’ve developed feelings of love, devotion and commitment that are of great intensities, but we’ve also isolated ourselves from the rest of the world in a way.
In the months that occured after Jess’ recovery from the hospital, I developed an intense fear for his safety (note the 911 and pacing referenced above…). When we were apart at all, I was sure he wasn’t going to survive. I had become a caretaker and felt that his life was my responsibility. I also felt like I was the only one who could protect him. I didn’t trust anyone else to ensure that he was going to be okay. Not even Jess himself. This made is nearly impossible for us to be apart. Other than work, I don’t think we spent any time apart.
Like I said before, I’ve come a long way over the past several months and our relationship overall is better than it has been in years. But spending time apart was still a tough thing for me to imagine. Although it was hard, it was also something that I really wanted to work on. We discussed it multiple times and it was something we were both looking forward to. I think in the LGBT community, this can be especially tough. LGBT folks tend to hang out with other LGBT folks and I think it is fairly common to have many of the same friends. Especially with same sex couples (which we were…. for awhile… sort of), it can sometimes be difficult to intentionally spend time separately, when it is so natural to do things together with your shared group of friends. Girls nights and guys nights can be far less common.
So Jess and I spoke, my therapist and I spoke (I literally should just switch my direct deposit to her bank account) and we chose to purposefully work toward spending time as individuals. So we did! I chose to spend a weekend going to my moms (gotta start small, mom’s house felt like a safe choice LOL) to do crafts and get wine drunk and Jess chose to hang out with friends. We discussed beforehand exactly what our plans were and I felt confident there would be no surprises. I prepared emotionally and mentally (where my other anxiety monsters at?) for this, with a texting limit and an arsenal of coping skills. I felt really good during it and honestly, it went super well!
Shortly after I got back, we went out together with some friends and I found out that something happened while I was at my mom’s that wasn’t something I was super happy to hear. The actual event that occurred is truly irrelevant and of no importance (literally so small and insignificant it’s almost laughable), so you can just make something up. But I found out that it was kept secret from me. This (obviously) did not feel amazing. It was actually pretty shitty. I may or may not have caused a public scene (sorry again to any friends reading this who were there…) and stormed home. After a strong dose of the silent treatment, several emotional breakdowns (progress not perfection), we eventually talked about it. What I came to find out, was equally difficult to hear. Jess was afraid to disclose what happened because (and this is 100% true), I would have freaked out and completely lost all rational thinking. But not because of the actual event. It’s because it was not EXACTLY what the original plan was.
Basically, if the tables were turned, and Jess chose to go home to do crafts with his mom (lol a funny thought, Jess doing crafts) and I later found out that he played board games instead of doing crafts, that would have resulted in an equivalent freak out. This is my brain, people! A very hard mental place to explain, but something that I’m slowly progressing with.
Because of the last several months and the fantastically fun (not) behaviors I have been struggling with, he knew that I would have panicked had I known. This of course doesn’t make it okay to omit things. But it also isn’t great to have a relationship that is based on a fear of honesty and unpredictability. This entire event was really really tough and it also triggered a lot of my anxieties (several other topics we will SURELY cover in upcoming months). Knowing that something was kept secret from me, even if it was something so trivial, is not a good feeling. But even worse, knowing that my recent behaviors have caused my husband to fear disclosing very simple truths to me is far worse.
I feel really lucky to be able to open up about something really vulnerable and talk about something so uncomfortable, without fearing how I may be perceived. That alone is a lot of progress for me personally. I’m sure we will talk about self esteem in a whole other post someday! Jess and I have both been through a LOT of therapy so luckily, we are talking our faces off about everything. I am sure this will not be our first hurdle after all of the obstacles we’ve been through, but I’m also sure we have the tools and the LOVE (vomit) to get through the rest.
I never thought I would be able to share something so personal and not be afraid of looking imperfect. But here I am! Perhaps for some of you, this sounds very insignificant and petty; maybe to others this is cause for divorce! But I hope there are some of you inbetweeners that are able to relate on some level and are reminded that you are certainly not alone in your struggles.
Stay tuned for some more attempts at solo time and also some super fun together time :) (that sounded kind of weird and gross, definitely did not mean that)
But most importantly, please enjoy these beautiful pictures of the crafts that my mom and I made!