Making room for more

And so another small chapter draws to a close, and a new one opens. Today I am finally going to start my vacation. The past few days have been pretty difficult for me, being off work notwithstanding. Since Friday night, we have been hosting a friends, in one capacity or another — there’s the friend who showed up on Friday night and has been staying with us at the vacation rental, whipping up drama along the way and generally being underfoot. There’s the other friends who came out for the evening last night and had dinner with us. And then there are the friends who are on the phone, calling and checking in and needing something when we get back next week.

It’s been a rough several days for me, with Saturday through yesterday (Tuesday) not giving me much rest or a break from constant stimulation. And it’s been driving me nuts. I am so exhausted, my spouse doesn’t seem to get how fundamentally fatigued I am — not just today, but in general — and that I need rest and quiet for more than an hour at a time. And for some reason they don’t get the idea of long-term sleep deficit.

How ironic. When they are just a little bit tired from an exciting day, they will sleep for 12 hours and not think about it. But when I’ve been going full tilt boogie for weeks on end, with maybe 5-6 hours of sleep a night, they still expect me to be part of their late-night plans.

Frankly, it makes me want to divorce them. I can’t live the rest of my life exhausted, and I feel like they have just used me up and are ready to throw me away. I was so tired the other morning, after being constantly pushed, and being woken up at 5:30 by them being up and about after staying up all night, I just snapped and flipped out at them in that way that makes them afraid of me, and has them “handling me with kid gloves” for days on end.

I just need a break. From them. From the people. From the distractions. From the social activities that give me no enjoyment, only drag me down and make me feel broken and inept.

I need some solitude. But at the same time, my spouse still needs me to help them do the most basic things, like put on their shoes and eat regular meals, because they either cannot reach their feet from back pain, or they cannot be bothered to keep on a regular schedule.

I don’t know. I don’t want to sit around bitching about situations that I have helped to create. I’ll have to find a way to work with this, if I want this marriage to work. For the most part, it does, but there are some things that are so critical as to be non-negotiable. At least, they should be. Like getting adequate sleep and recovery time.

The real problem is not with my spouse, however. The real problem is with me – not being clear about what I need to do and have to take care of myself, and not speaking up for myself. It just depresses the hell out of me when I have to fight for something as basic as a good night’s sleep. It seems like the sort of thing that should be self-evident and go without saying. That, and routine.

But my spouse doesn’t see it that way. From their perspective, my need for structure makes me a “Nazi” and it ruins their spontaneous fun. They like to just go with the flow… as though the world were made up of limitless time and money and resources. And if they don’t get what they want, then it’s a cruel crime being perpetrated on them to make them unhappy. Everything is personal with them. And they get very peeved very quickly… and they’ve very vocal about it, as well.

The thing is, I knew a lot of this when we first met. And back in the day, it wasn’t a problem. It was just one of the things that made them… them. And I loved them for it. Time change and people change, of course, and ever since my TBI in 2004, I have had less and less patience for that kind of behavior. Also, since commencing my recovery in 2007, I have really changed a lot, becoming less and less like them, seeing how a lot of our behavior has been really unhealthy and outright harmful.

And my tolerance has dropped through the floor.

Which is never good. Ultimately, as much as I carp and complain about the traits and qualities of others, the real issue is my tolerance level, and my ability to take care of myself without someone else thinking for me. It’s just part of being alive and being an adult, of course. And it’s not like I’m being held against my will in a horribly abusive situation.

Far from it. I just need to tweak a few things and more actively manage my own fatigue levels.

I need to keep myself from getting this tired, this delirious, this fragmented. Of course, the past several months have been sheer hell, and those types of conditions don’t happen all the time, so this is a bit of an anomaly. I know how to recover from this. And I will recover. It’s just a matter of managing it better.

And also making room for it, when it happens.

Some of the things that have made this time even more challenging than it has to be, are:

  • I haven’t made sure that I got enough rest each and every day. I haven’t communicated clearly to everyone that I need to rest, when I need to rest, and I’ve pushed myself harder than I really should have.
  • I haven’t worked out with my spouse the “terms” of my recovery. My exhaustion has sort of blind-sided them, when it’s come up, because they think about their own needs 99% of the time, and if I don’t tell them over and over what’s going on with me and what I need to do about it, they get very angry and resentful towards me.
  • I haven’t made it clear to people just how exhausted I am — most of all my spouse. I’ve just been pushing myself on adrenaline, and at the same time my gears are pretty much stripped, I’m still exceeding the proverbial speed limit — in 2nd gear. To all appearances, I’m still functional. I can still drive. I can still walk a straight line. So, I should be fine, right? Not exactly. Judging by my appearances, my spouse has been very unclear about the problems I’m having, which has made it tough to communicate to them and manage their expectations and also carve out any type of relaxation time for my recovery.
  • I am still pretty much in denial about living with a narcissistic borderline sociopath who lies and cheats and steals to get what they want out of life, and lives on the edge because that’s the only way they can every feel truly alive.

The last point is the main one, which makes things difficult. I just need to face up to the fact that I am married to and living with someone who has been deeply, deeply wounded in the past, and is still hobbled by their scars. I cannot even imagine the hell they went through as a child, even from the partial details I know (which is not everything, because they can’t remember a lot, themself). Their old wounds refuse to heal — in part because from what I can tell, they cannot bring themself to face the whole truth about their family situation. And they keep going in spite of it.

That last bit is what I need to focus on — the fact that they keep going, no matter what. Because as difficult as it can be for me to live with them, they actually do a lot of great work with people. The work they do with others to help them heal has literally saved lives. And there are countless people with a similar background, who have been helped — really restored to life — by their influence in their lives.

And this is what keeps me in this marriage, continuing on, despite the harm and pain and struggle. Because what comes out of this marriage is life-giving and restorative for many, many people far beyond the domain of our relationship. And as much as I complain about their negative traits, the positive traits are what help keep me alive. I wouldn’t still be here, if it weren’t the case. In fact, this blog is happening and helping people, because of the stability and support that comes out of the good parts of this marriage. My spouse doesn’t know I maintain this (as far as I know), but the support they offer and the help they provide does keep me going.

So, this marriage isn’t just about us, it’s about the work that we both do. And the stability of this marriage, for all its ups and downs, makes it possible for us both to do our work.

The main culprit in this dynamic is intolerance, judgement and fear. It’s me getting uptight when I hear them making up stories to make other people feel better, or to get their own way. It’s me focusing on the negatives instead of the positives, and making things much worse than need be. It’s me not taking care of myself, not accepting the fact that I need to sleep — a lot — and I need to be proactive in my management of my own issues. It’s me not including my spouse in my recovery and recruiting their help in getting me back on track.

Yes, they do have some serious mental health issues. But at the same time, they do an awful lot of good in the world and they help an awful lot of people on a regular basis.

Nothing is 100% good or 100% bad. There are up-sides and down-sides to everything. I just need to find the up-sides and stick with them.

Because ultimately, making room for the “bad stuff” helps the good stuff happen all the more.

 

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Vacation!

I may not be around for a few days 🙂

What a word… I’ve been thinking I need one, and sure enough, here it is. Today and tomorrow I’m OFF work (employment work, that is – I actually have a lot of chores I need to take care of).

All in all, it’s turning out to be a fairly active vacation. I’ve got guests coming from out of town, the same weekend that my spouse is going away on a business trip. I had originally planned to kick back for four whole days, maybe head to the beach, maybe hike some woods that I haven’t explored yet, maybe go for some long drives, maybe visit an old friend in the next state who I haven’t seen for 20+ years… lots of non-work-related activities to get my head back on straight. Oh, yeah – and get some rest, too.

But then I got a call from some family members who are traveling through on their way back home. They’re retired, so they have extra time. And guess what – they’re big into outdoors activities, exploring, etc., so they will actually make the perfect company for the weekend. They’ll arrive later today, after my spouse gets on the road, and then they’ll stay till Sunday morning, when they’ll head back. So, I’ll have three days with family members who frankly do not give a damn about work and working, who are into just enjoying their lives and seeing what all life has to offer. Things have been so intense at work, lately, it will be good to take a break from all that.

Honestly, folks, wouldn’t it be good to just ease off on the gas pedal, now and then?

Yeah, I think so. And it will be good to rest, too. These relatives of mine, being older, have slowed down a lot compared to how they were when they were younger, so they move at a much more deliberate pace — none of this high-powered frenzy sh*t that I have to deal with every day. My work situation is go-go-go, and that sucks-sucks-sucks sometimes. Maybe it’s fun for people who need to drown their cares in a steady flow of adrenaline, noradrenaline, ephinephrine, and norepinephrine, but I’ll pass on that heart attack cocktail, thank you very much.

It will also be nice to get out of my head for a few days. After my meeting with my neuropsych this past Monday, all sorts of emotional stuff got stirred up, which makes me very uncomfortable and uneasy. I hate to admit it, but I’ve been breaking down intermittently — in the car on the way to/from work, in bed before I go to sleep or before I get up, fortunately in private, out of the way of notice by people who would say, “Dude –WTF?”  My NP wants more specific examples of the times when I’ve done the kinds of things I talked about on Monday, and man is it stirring up a lot of old memories that I’d rather put behind me. All the times I said and did things that pissed off and alienated people I really cared about… all the times I said and did things that got me in trouble and I couldn’t figure things out and/or speak up quickly enough to dig myself out of that hole… all the times I was accused of things I didn’t do (like stealing a co-worker’s leather jacket) because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and had to blurt out something that sounded like I was admitting I did it. I couldn’t even remember what the jacket looked like — and I was certainly not going to steal it. But I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, no matter how much I kept telling myself to shut it… something in me just had to blurt out a lame comment about “not being attached to material possessions”. Geez. Smooth. And about 15 minutes after my little counseling session, I realized everyone was looking at me weirdly, and they kept looking at and talking to me suspiciously the rest of the time I worked at that place.

Nothing like having all eyes on you.

The worst part is, I didn’t steal that jacket, but when I was a kid, I used to steal from the other kids at school. I went through a period of about a year when I would steal lunch money and things they’d brought in for show and tell. If they had something really nice or something that they really needed (like lunch money), I was compelled to steal it. This was in first grade, when I was six. Fortunately, the compulsion didn’t last — the straw that broke that camel’s back was when I stole something and felt so much remorse that I vowed to never, ever do it again. I knew I caused my classmate tremendous pain and suffering because I took something they really loved — and I hated that feeling. I “got it” at that time, and although I’ve had a number of compulsions to steal over the years, I’ve managed to keep that at bay and not act on it.

But when that co-worker’s expensive leather jacket was stolen, even though I didn’t do it — and wouldn’t have, even if I’d had the chance — all the old guilt came up, and all the old feelings about “being a thief” took over. And I ended up taking the rap (even though they never pinned it on me, they were sure I’d done it) for something I did not do.

All those years of struggling with that old way. All those years of fighting it tooth and nail, but still feeling like I was carrying around a handful of hot coals that would never lose their heat. Those old ways, those old experiences just burn themselves into me, day in and day out, and I can’t seem to get them out of my hands.

And I wonder how many other people out there are walking around carrying those kinds of hot coals — especially people in prison or people who allow themselves to be trapped in a way of thinking and doing and living that reinforces their “worthlessness”. I think about all the folks out there with sketchy histories who can’t seem to shake those old habits, those old ways, and who have worked so very, very hard to overcome their past… only to have instances come up when they just can’t shake/fight/out-run it anymore… and it gets the best of them.

Or the worst of them.

All these things stay with me — the past words, the past deeds, the past mistakes and mis-steps and screw-ups… the glowing hot coals of past experiences that I cannot undo.They stay with me always, lurking under the surface, always waiting… waiting… for the instant when my guard is down or I’m not paying close enough attention, or things get tight and tough… and then they rise up again. I say things that peel back the veneer I’ve worked so hard to create, and once they’re said, there’s no un-saying them.

In a way, I wish I’d never brought up these issues with my NP. But I know that if I don’t deal with them, if I don’t find ways to manage them and work with them and better understand them, they will stay as hot and as burning as ever, and I will probably never get free. At least with my NP, I have a chance at understanding what makes this kind of experience “tick” — what causes it, and what can help me manage and/or prevent these kinds of outbursts, these kinds of experiences in verbal incontinence.

My strategy over the years has been to just shut the hell up as quickly as possible and move on, pretending I never said what I said. But sometimes there’s no denying it. And the cumulative results of these screw-ups have aggregated into a mass of intense discomfort. There’s only so long I can ignore and overlook the elephants stampeding through my proverbial living room. Gotta suck it up and deal with it.

But christalmighty does this take it out of me.

Well, it’s a beautiful day. I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do before my company gets here. Run some errands, clean up around the house, and get ready for an actual vacation.