When our Past Haunts Us

A couple of days ago I had a post called “Exercise is my antidepressant.” I realized today that more importantly exercise is my anti-anxiety medication. Anxiety is harder for me than depression to control or rise above. Anxiety makes me do really stupid knee jerk things.

My current anxiety is causing me to fight the urge to write to my stepdaughters and passive aggressively let them know how their dad has ruined my life. I believe I probably will not succumb to that, but I think about it.

I think about driving to my husband’s apartment (that is still filled with my personal belongings) and spying to see who this woman is and what she has that I don’t. But I have resisted that for months now because I keep telling myself that it doesn’t matter. His horrible treatment of me is all I need to know about the man. Why would I want him back when he can treat me this way? Why would I want to hurt myself more by knowing about her?

I am angry at myself for feeling love and compassion for him in spite of everything because he obviously feels nothing for me. In all my years of relationships and breakups, I’ve never had a man turn so utterly cold and unfeeling towards me. It has shaken me badly and seriously makes me doubt he ever loved me. I am pretty sure he did love me, but he needs to justify his behavior now, so he has made me out to be a monster.

Back to exercise being my medication, outside of seeing my counselor once a week for an hour there is nothing else I can do to comfort myself. Nothing at all. If I weren’t so anxious, I could try the belly breathing my counselor recommends or take up meditation, but those things don’t really fit my personality. I do, however, stop and take slow deep breaths when I’m beginning to panic. But swimming is the only thing that truly changes me for hours and hours. Endorphins, yay.

I feel that for me, psychiatric medication ruined my life. I was on every conceivable one at every conceivable dose and all I did for years and years and only got worse to the point that my doctor recommended electro convulsive therapy and I shudder to think that I actually did it twice. Not long after that my husband (the kind and decent one) threw up the white flag and said to me, “I can’t take another 20 years of this.” And in that one statement, I lost him.

Who would want to take another 20 years of that? I wouldn’t. I don’t blame him a bit for wanting to move on with his life and I am glad that he found happiness with someone else because he deserves it. He did not turn his back on my daughter, who was 13 when I married him. He and his current spouse are taking her to Italy this summer. That’s what a remarkable man he is. I hope he has forgiven me because I have tremendous guilt over what I put him through.

Sometimes I feel what I’m going through now is karma for ruining my last marriage.

If only I had come to the realization then, that I have had in the last four months, I’d still be with him. He was my best friend. Psychiatrists can give me labels and titles and I may fit the description, but I have to learn to behave differently in spite of what’s wrong with me because no one will want to be with me if I don’t. In behaving differently, I am teaching myself to BE different. To be the person I know I am inside, and the person I know I can be.

Do I want my future to be living in a tiny apartment on an unbelievably small income for the rest of my life? With all my friends also poor women who have found themselves in a similar situation? No. I refuse to be that person. That’s no life at all.

In the coming months, while it doesn’t feel like it at all right now, I will get up on my feet and resume my life. My life is not over or ruined. My life has just taken a very sharp turn.

I watch commercials for psychiatric medication and I shudder. Antidepressants which have the possible side effect of making you suicidal? Why would the FDA approve that? Of course we all know why. All of the side effects of most of these drugs make them not worth taking. Just the sexual side effects and weight gain alone would be enough to depress a normal person. “Take this drug and you’ll get fat and be unable to orgasm, but yay!”

I’m no expert, obviously, but I feel from my own experience, that people like me, with anxiety, depression, even a personality disorder, are better off learning how to react and respond to the stresses of our lives, through cognitive behavior therapy, exercise, and other tools, but not with anti anxiety or anti depression drugs.

That said, I am taking Welbutrin for depression right now and I have no idea if it’s helping, but I know it does not cause weight gain and I can’t actually think of any side effects it might have. I plan to go off it in six months or a year and see how I do.

For the first time in years the only thing I take at night are two small melt in your mouth tabs of Melatonin. Because the old antidepressants used to make my mouth so dry, I drank water constantly, which meant I was up twice in the night to use the bathroom. I sleep through the night now, usually. And even though I’m only getting between 5 and 7 hours a night, it’s natural sleep, and I’m grateful for it.

If I think about how I wasted almost 20 years of my life by being weak, sick, and a pawn of the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, not to mention a pawn of my psychiatrist, I am overwhelmed. I hope I never have to see another psychiatrist or a psych ward for the rest of my life.

My development has been stunted and I have so much catching up to do. And what if I’m delusional? What if no one could ever love me again after what I’ve done to mess up my life?

STOP

My god, just stop.

I have to remember: I am not a drug addict. I am not an alcoholic. I have never stolen anything or been in a jail. I am not, however I feel right now, THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD. I have made some pretty big mistakes and caused mostly myself a lot of heartache but I am fairly certain there is hope for me yet.

I have so much I want to do and see and learn. I have so much love to give. I am 56 years old and I do not have any more time for the kinds of antics I put myself and others through in the past. That is behind me now and will not be my future.

I wish I could speak with more confidence on this matter. I can only say, I’m pretty sure it will end up ok and that I am deserving of another chance at a happy life, no matter how much my husband might disagree.

This is not the life I envisioned for myself as a young woman but it is my reality. I am intelligent, compassionate, generous, and pretty enough to hope that I will be able to share my life with a man who appreciates who I am and feels that I enrich his life. I hope I’m right.

My husband said he’d get back to me tomorrow about whether he’ll work on my website or not. Fair enough. But I pray he will because I really enjoyed focussing on that and without it I feel so lost and have definitely noticed I am struggling more. Work is the best distraction.

I’m envious of him. He has his girlfriend. He has his many friends. He’s on the phone constantly with his mother, father, or daughters. And here I sit, bored and lonely.

I’m trying so hard to not feel like a loser.

Later —

I’m so sorry. I’m trying as hard as I can to be optimistic and not write myself and my future off, but I’m losing the battle. I simply can’t seem to cope with the humiliation and rejection of it all.

I watched A Streetcar Named Desire last night, my favorite film, but I knew I should not have. Blanche and I have too much in common and I relate to her more than you can imagine.

All she was asking for was one more chance to find happiness but Stanley made sure that would never happen. I hope she went off to the insane asylum and stayed in her imaginary world because the reality of her situation would have been too horrible to process.

I will swim today, after breakfast, but for the first time I don’t think it will have an impact on me. I have failed at this life. The rain won’t stop. I have no one. I don’t think I can go on.

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10 responses to “When our Past Haunts Us

  1. Yes, you can go on. One step at a time. When you feel this bad you should call your therapist or the helpline immediately, ASAP. When your mind tells you those negative things just let the thought go, it’s not the truth no matter how much it feels like truth. Have you ever tried acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). This method has helped me tremendously after a lifetime of struggling with depression (I’m about your age). Google it- there’s a ton of exercises online or you could get a workbook like “The Mindfulness & Acceptance workbook for depression”. There’s one for anxiety also and this method works well for anxiety too, better than anything else.

  2. Thank you, as always, Cynthia for your support and feedback. I agree that I’m at the point of needing help before I see my counselor on Thursday. ACT sounds fascinating and I absolutely will look it up as I’ve never heard of it before. My best.

  3. You haven’t failed at this life, you’re only half way through. Think of all the huge steps you have taken.
    You do have someone, you have yourself. The most important person there is. The hardest thing is learning to love your self. But it is the most crucial relationship there is.
    Sorry for not leaving a comment recently, but I’m (like many others i’m sure) there in the background, reading your blog, and admiring your strength.

    • Thank you, Flissh. You can’t imagine how it helps to know people care. I’ve been coming to the conclusion that I must not feel worthy or deserving enough to find happiness so you’re right, learning to love myself is probably the most important thing right now. Thank you very much for caring.

  4. Hello, I followed a link here from a comment you left on the Guardian and I hope you don’t mind me reading/commenting – your post struck a chord with me as another person who tries hard to handle anxiety/depression without drugs and without impacting their children. Your swimming/blogging combination seems a very sane and healthy way to deal with what’s happened. Thank you for sharing, it has inspired me to dust off my swimming costume 🙂

    • Thanks, Lucy, for stopping in and for your comment. When I get this depressed I’m often fearful I’ll make someone else tip over the edge too, but I can’t pretend everything is okay right now. I admire you for doing what you can to get better and spare your children, that can’t be easy. I swam today and then realized my suit was on inside out the entire time. I can’t help but laugh out loud because it’s so damn funny and it’s so me. Thanks again for reaching out. I’d love to hear of your own swimming experiences.

  5. Ha that made me laugh.. it has happened to me at work having got dressed in a hurry and turned up with my top inside out.. at least in the water it is not so obvious!
    I have always loved swimming particularly in the sea, because it’s solitary but not so much in pools.. I need to try to find more time.
    I read your previous post and I have been through something similar financially with an ex which I thought I would never recover from.. although luckily I got a second chance and last year after 5 years of saving managed to buy another house with my husband. The experience stayed with me though! What I did learn is that it can happen to anyone and some people are parasites!
    Actually I went through all of this at the time in painful detail on my livejournal, and I don’t really put personal stuff on this blog. Hopefully nothing else horrid will happen and I won’t need to! But seeing somebody else suffering the same thing brings it all back.. and I wanted to reach out and offer some support however distant. Congratulations on your swimming and weight loss and I hope the financial stuff gets sorted soon and you can start putting things back together x

    • I really miss swimming in the ocean. The water is too cold up here in the Pacific Northwest for that. It’s good to know that other people live through and thrive after similar bad experiences, it helps us know we too can live through it. I am sure that one factor I’m dealing with here that I have never had to face before is my age. It makes it harder to believe I can recover from this. Thanks again for commenting.

  6. I was a bit younger when it happened to me which I guess is an advantage. It does make you feel as if you had more time. I did have a sort of nervous breakdown, lost my job and ended up homeless which took a while to climb out from (I’m now reasonably successful at work, finally, and well insured, thank goodness) so I would be the last person to underestimate the impact something like this has on you.
    You sound like you’re doing brilliantly though, I think having the blog is a very good way to deal with it and hopefully it will be a help to other people who are going through the same thing. You are not alone, at all – there are more parasitic men (and women) in the world than we want to think.
    Only last year a man moved in with my friend v, who is 60, and started being horrid to her (swearing and hitting her) and wouldn’t move out of her house – she ended up phoning in tears so my husband and I had to go over and help her kick him out because the police aren’t very interested in things like that, and he was very threatening and would have tried to hit us if my husband hadn’t been there. She’s not a foolish woman either – she has a lot of life experience and he thoroughly tricked her by being nice until he felt she couldn’t get rid of her. She moved house so he wouldn’t know where she was and she’s OK now but she won’t date again, which is a real shame – she’s too scared she might end up with another one like that!

    It can happen at any age and it’s not a reflection on you – some people are just very good at gaming your emotions to squeeze things out of you, and they take advantage of your generosity because it’s easier than working for a living and saving up and living right.

  7. That’s so sad, about your friend. I suppose I should feel lucky that I hadn’t run across a man like this before now. I’ve managed to live rather naively and now I certainly feel I will be much more careful and discerning, if I get the opportunity. Your last sentence really hit home. My husband can’t work for a living and he lead me to believe he had family money. Not only that but he made fun of me when I wanted to save for something or be frugal. This experience has allowed me to see what is important to me. Thanks for commenting, Lucy.

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