Get over it already!

It’s really strange, but I’ve noticed lately how often my relationship issues trigger my childhood abuse issues. They’re very, very interconnected.

And the problem is that when the abuse issues get triggered, I freakin’ get mad at myself. Like, really Meg, get over your trauma (and other bad things) already. And the problem is that I’m spiritually ambitious, and I expect myself to get over it already. I really expect it. Like, what else did I come into this life for but to learn to heal, learn to value myself, and learn to be compassionate toward myself?

Well! I hate the vicious cycle I go through of getting triggered by a seemingly unrelated relationship issue, which is followed by my extreme inner criticism and self-blame.

It weakens my self-esteem, but it also makes me wonder, objectively, if I’m being too hard on myself. First of all, everyone has issues. Second of all, what I’ve experienced in life is hellish and horrific, not to overstate it. Third of all, once you’ve seen past that door and become aware of what humanity is capable of, you never fully come back from it. It’s like… how to put it… it’s like you’ve been given a glimpse of hell, but you find out that hell is on earth, and you never see things the same way again. That’s hard (if not impossible) to fully come back from.

I think I expect too much from myself. Unless or until doctors can give you specific amnesia (or some such), then there’s no possible way to heal to the extent that it may as well have never happened in the first place. That’s asking too much of myself (or of anyone), so why do I keep beating up on myself over it?!

It makes no sense, because I have huge reserves of compassion for everyone else. The way I talk to myself is not the way I’d talk to a friend under similar circumstances. But I swear, I feel like it’s my goal in life to “get over it already,” and every time I’m reminded or forced to face the fact that I’m not there, I get mad at myself. What to do?

I think I need to reframe it. For one thing, my relationship disasters have become less intense, and they occur less often. That’s progress, right? (Someone please tell me it’s progress.) Secondly, I’ve planted a tiny seed of self-worth (as being separate from self-esteem–my self-esteem’s fine) that I’ve been nurturing and trying to help grow. Third, I’m starting to recognize when relationship disasters weren’t 100% my fault. And I’ll tell myself, yeah, I shouldn’t have done that, but then I tried to save the relationship and failed, so maybe I wasn’t meant to be friends with them. 

Because Sonya pointed out to me recently that both parties in a relationship need to make an effort. One person can’t carry it alone. Like with my psychic friend, Ash, I was fortunately able to recognize (eventually) that I hadn’t done anything wrong. I think Ashley Leia pointed out that she was having issues that she needed to address. (And thank you for that! Shout-out!)

Because this cycle is harmful to me: a friend and I exchange heated words → I blame myself and try to apologize → the friend is still mad → I descend into abject self-hatred → I blame myself some more → my abuse issues get triggered → I become afraid that I’ll never overcome the abuse I suffered → I feel demoralized.

It’s awful. I’m not sure how to be more… gentle to myself? Oh well. All thoughts welcome!

The problem with being put through the ringer.

I’m exhausted, and all I did today was run a few errands. (Granted, upon leaving the post office, I got lost and drove around town forever.)

I’ve been having some emotional problems lately, and then today things got worse, and I’ve been rendered unproductive because I’m conked.

When this happens, I tend to space out so I can process things on a deep level. I find this to be a very healing and therapeutic approach, but society looks down on laziness, so it doesn’t feel very virtuous.

My to-do list is growing longer and longer. There are a lot of fun items on the list. That’s how spaced out I am. I feel like I’ve been steamrollered.

And so I wonder, first of all, how do “normal” people get stuff done every day, like raising their kids, working full-time, and so forth? How, how, how, how, how? With me, I’m inconsistent. It works out in my life because I don’t have any kids, nor do I have a job. But that all pushes down on me and makes me feel like I’m not trying hard enough or doing enough, etc., etc.

I’m starting to realize that my inner voice is more critical than I ever knew. I wish I could believe that it’s okay to do nothing all day, if that’s what helps your brain process stuff.

It’s not problematic, my unproductivity. Nothing I’m doing in life has a deadline, and I’m usually self-motivated toward productive tasks. Who cares if I spend a few days zoned out?

Yeah, I’m just zoned. In good news, I picked up my new eyeglasses today, and so far they’re working out great, and I like them! I’d take a photo, but I’m having a bad hair day. I took a shower the night before last, but the only shampoo available was a small amount of my dad’s dandruff stuff. Now my hair is paying the price.

It’s just shy of 10:00 PM, so maybe I’ll just let the rest of the day be a write-off day and hope for things to improve by tomorrow. I often find healing by lying in bed and thinking deep thoughts, and this method brings me peace and understanding. But for the most part, I’m just out to lunch.

Medic, we have incoming!

Dear Annie: I found out a month ago that my wife has been sleeping with a plethora of men that she’s met on a dating app. Her profile says she’s single and that she also has a college degree, neither of which is true. She told me she is in love with another man. After I spoke to the man’s wife, who did not know, she explained that her husband had cheated on her before and was living in their basement. She also said they have five children together and just declared bankruptcy. My wife was serious when she told me she was madly in love with him, missed him and wanted a future with this man. A future?

I uncovered her indiscretions about a month ago when I found all of the evidence on her cellphone. That night, I asked her to leave, and she did. I thought she was going to her parent’s house, but I’m not sure where she went that night. I think she had a lot of options.

We have two sons, ages 12 and 14. I informed them that their mother had been cheating on me and that we are getting a divorce. In front of the kids, she pulled a butcher knife on me and threatened me because she wanted her phone. My 14-year-old son had to disarm her.

I was completely blindsided by everything that has happened. The boys live with me because of continuity in their lives and school. I have gotten them therapy as well as confided with their principal to see the school psychologist. My grieving emotions swing between anger and depression. I am praying I finally reach acceptance.

She pretends everything is OK in front of the boys. She took them out to dinner last week and asked if I wanted to join them. I declined because I didn’t want to confuse the boys more. After being with her for 20 years and 12 years of marriage, the last thing I said to her before she left was, “I have no idea who you are.”

I have been doing good by my sons, but I can see the depression on their faces. I don’t know anyone who has experienced something this crazy, and I, too, am getting therapy.

How do I get past all of this? How do I stay strong to get through my divorce, and most importantly, how do I make sure my sons will be OK?

Does she have a multiple personality disorder? My therapist told me to stop trying to understand craziness. She said that we don’t even understand crazy — we only recognize it.

Help! What do I need to do to bring normalcy back to me and my sons and get to that acceptance stage where whatever and whoever she is becomes indifferent and irrelevant to me? — Crushed Spirit

Dear Crushed Spirit: You certainly have been through trauma, and it takes time to heal from traumas. You’re taking some important steps in getting support for you and your sons. Your therapist is correct in pointing out that you can’t fully understand why your wife did what she did, but you can understand yourself and how you respond to the situation. Be kind and patient with yourself and your sons. Don’t expect to get to the acceptance stage right away; just know that it will take time.

You are grieving the loss of your marriage. While there might not be people who have your exact situation, there are divorce support groups for fathers. I would suggest you look up a local support group.

I am so sorry that you are going through this, but you sound like an amazing father and a good person. It won’t be right away, but if each day you work on your grief and trauma, then, before you know it, you and your sons will be feeling good again and experiencing joy. The is one of those situations where it is worth reminding yourself, each day, that life is a cinch by the inch and hard by the yard. (c) Annie Lane

I’m not proud of this, but I can totally relate to this guy’s anger. This is exactly how I’d react in the same situation (to my best guess). However, objectively, I can tell that he’s doing everything wrong. So he needs to get a grip posthaste. He’s got one chance to do right by his kids through this situation, and he’s already blown that chance to smithereens. But hey, it’s never too late. Maybe the kids are completely destroyed by this yet. We can hope.

I’m guessing that if he’d returned the cellphone to his wife, she wouldn’t have pulled a knife on him. What made him think he had the right to keep her cellphone?! Also, the kids should’ve been kept in the dark about the infidelity unless or until it would’ve had therapeutic value (for them, not their dad) to be told the truth. But telling them in order to cause a knife-wielding scene was the wrong thing to do by far. I’m appalled.

It’s not best for the kids. It’s his anger talking. He’s irate. He’s on the warpath. He’s told his kids’ principal that their mom’s a cheater. He kicked his wife out of the house and then had the gall to wonder who she wound up spending the night with. Um, I’m sorry, but if you evict someone, that person is entitled to seek shelter wherever they can find it.

I found Annie Lane’s advice to be lacking in context and rather blasé, once again. She sympathized with him without pointing out that he’s handled this all wrong so far.

Does she have a multiple personality disorder? My therapist told me to stop trying to understand craziness. She said that we don’t even understand crazy — we only recognize it.

That statement about dissociative disorder is so hostile as to be poisonous. Yeah, multiple personalities, I’m sure that’s it. [Eyeroll.] The therapist is trying to say, “Can you quit bashing your wife with pejorative diagnoses? We need to focus on more important things like your sons and your out-of-control anger,” but he’s not hearing it. (To clarify, I don’t remotely look down on people with dissociative disorders. I’m incredibly dissociative myself. But I can tell that he’s using it as an insult and a tool of disrespect.)

I can totally relate to his anger, so I’m wondering what would be helpful to me in this situation… hmm… thinking… It’s a fine line between being sympathetic (“Your wife’s horrible!”) and being openly honest (“Dude, your kids should come first here”), and I was just talking to a friend about that whole concept. Should we feed this guy’s need for sympathy, or should we slap some sense into him? If I were his friend, I’d try to do both. Like, “Your wife’s behavior was so, so wrong, but you’ve got to prioritize your kids right now. You’ve got the whole rest of your life to process the anger, and the last thing you want to do is go off the deep end and do something you’ll regret. You’ve got to get it together.”

I feel awful just thinking about how much damage he’s done to his sons in the span of one month. That’s not pretty. It’s just awful. If he keeps it up, he’s going to get his stupid self arrested. For starters, he never should’ve withheld his wife’s cellphone from her and harassed her to the point that she grabbed a knife. If he cares about anyone beyond himself, he’d better get it together, like, yesterday.

Dreams of amnesia.

TRIGGER WARNING: PHYSICAL ABUSE (but nothing too graphic, I don’t think…)

This is weird. I had a dream that I was googling a handful of search terms together: trauma, scary, memory, and amnesia.

Amnesia. When I woke up, I was like, shut the front door.

So then I just accepted it as fact that there was more abuse that I don’t remember.

I think there were at least two instances that I greatly sense occurred but that I don’t recall. One was when I was a toddler. At that age, I started having extreme fetish fantasies during naptime in preschool, as you all know, and it’s occurred to me that that didn’t just spring up from nowhere. The original fantasies were about my mother and Granny Franny. Now, my mom swears up and down (and I believe her) that until our family became dysfunctional (when I was around seven), she and my dad were wholly against corporal punishment. So the fact that Granny Franny was in my fetishy fantasies speaks volumes to me. As for my mom–she was just scary. Maybe Granny Franny did something, and my mom didn’t intervene.

In my mind’s eye, I can almost see it. Granny Franny had very little patience with young children. I won’t get into the details of what I see, but it’s upsetting, and it awakened my fetish at a very young age.

The other incident that I don’t remember is from the age of dysfunction, so I would’ve been eight or nine. I’ve just had more and more dreams telling me that there’s another incident that I don’t recall. In this one, I’m at the top of the stairs and wearing one of my pretty church dresses. That’s all I know, but I’m sensing my mom’s energy.

I mean, it’s something I’ve sensed for a long time–that there were other incidents that I’ve blocked out. It makes sense given that I was spanked all the freakin’ time, and you’d think that more than the two incidents I do remember would’ve risen to the level of abuse.

There was this one time that my mom got furious with me at Granny Smith’s house, so she put me in the car to take me home. She was making scary, violent threats the whole way of belting me into compliance, and that sort of thing, so I realized I was in deep shit and quit being a whiner. Then, she changed her mind and turned the car around, and we went back to Granny Smith’s house. I was relieved, to say the least.

Well, my dad’s here, and we’re going to walk to the store. I’ll catch you all later! 🙂

We’re feeling trigger happy!

Do you ever find yourself tracking people from your past, keeping an eye on them online, that sort of thing? Well, I’ve been doing that with Ash, my former friend whom I haven’t heard one word from. I have a stalker facebook account, and I think she knew I was using it, because she deleted all her posts (or made them non-public, rather) back when she and I quit being friends, except for the post that says she’s a psychic. (And let me emphasize that she’s a very talented and gifted psychic. Her powers never cease to amaze me.)

So today I checked in with my stalker profile and found this lone public post:

Screenshot (415)

And you have to wonder if she’s trying to trigger me. Nothing upsets me quite as much as A Christmas Story and its treatment of children. So here we have a photo of Ralphie eating the soap and the caption: “Adultism and child abuse.” (In that part of the movie, we also hear a boy getting beaten through the phone. Hilarious.)

I have no idea what adultism is, but I looked it up, and it involves being prejudiced against kids, like racism, ageism, etc. So I guess the point is to take a rather tongue-in-cheek discussion of child abuse and make it seem funny, or something, like it’s all about how people are just prejudiced against kids. (I clicked and watched part of the video. I sort of regret that now.)

Ash absolutely knows about my abuse issues, seeing as she was my psychic. It’s interesing, because my strong hunch is that she was never abused. It’s just a hunch. She never talked about her family, but that was because she had the virtue of not wanting to air her family’s dirty laundry. You gotta admire that. I certainly don’t share that virtue. She has daddy issues (but who doesn’t?), but my sense is that it’s because her parents had her later in life and there’s a sizeable age difference there. I’ve never sensed any abuse, but obviously I could be wrong.

If I didn’t know better–and this is crazy, I realize that–she’s jealous of what I’ve suffered in life because she herself hasn’t had to struggle to overcome anything. She’s sort of… well… entitled. I don’t really like to say that, but she seems to have this attitude of, like, I can manifest whatever I want without having to work for it. Like, why should I have to spend time and effort building my psychic business when I could just snap my fingers and be instantly successful? 

She was very successful as a psychic until she raised her rates to $50,000 a year. Thinking about it now reminds me of Icarus flying too close to the sun.

So if she’s genuinely taking shots at me, I can’t help but wonder, why? I’ve never been mean to her or anything like that. We bickered a few times, but who hasn’t? My dad thinks she’s angry at the world because of the whole entitlement/manifestation thing not working out for her. I can see that.

But her being envious of what I’ve suffered is ridiculous. There’s nothing glamorous about experiencing child abuse. If I ever make it seem otherwise, then I’m obviously doing something wrong. It’s dramatic, yes. It’s intense and life-altering, yes. But it’s not glamorous. Quite the opposite. And the pain never fully goes away.

And then you think you’re doing fine, and you stumble upon a post like that one while you’re oh-so-innocently internet-stalking your former friend. (I’m rolling my eyes at myself. I realize that I should quit with the internet-stalking. But come on. We all do it. I don’t think it pales in comparison to in-person stalking, but I could be wrong.)

So I’m hypothesizing that Ash is feeling bad, and is therefore trying to drag me down with her. I have no idea why she would want to do that. I have no animosity toward her at all, and you all know how often I have animosity toward people. (All the freakin’ time!) I just wish she’d be sensible and be my friend again. That’s probably too much to hope for, especially if that post was targeted at me. We all know I’m paranoid, but sometimes they really are out to get you. I don’t know. She sort of broke my heart. I don’t take the ends of friendships very well. I never have. It feels to me like a death of everything that matters. To me, friendship is sacrosanct. If you walk away from it and refuse to come back, then… you’ve just destroyed something beautiful.

But Ash had loads of friends, I recall. Aside from me, they were all her age of 27 or thereabouts. I must’ve been a poor judge of character, because I never choose to be friends with people who treat relationships like they’re disposable. When I became fully paranoid and psychotic in 2005, I had NO ONE in my life anymore except my dad. There were years of darkness and fear. Whenever a stranger on the sidewalk would smile at me, I’d recoil and wonder what they were scheming at.

That’s something else Ash hasn’t experienced, so she takes people for granted, not appreciating how rare and special it is to connect with someone, how sacred and valuable that is. She discarded me as though she had a bushel of grapes and I was a damaged one. Such an embarrassment of riches, to have that many friends!

So I suspect she needs to grow up a bit. I’m sure we’ve all been there, so I’m not trying to sound judgey.

Ash!! I’m not the enemy! I’m just your social media stalker. [Facepalm.] Please! Come back! 

Eventually I’ll quit checking her social media. I’m not at that point yet, because I can’t let go of the emotional connection to her. It nags at me like a sad piece of music. [Meg! Put down the headphones.]

Well, anyway, I suspect that she sees me as the enemy because she senses that I have more common sense than she’s shown lately. That’s on me. I upset her a few times by trying to sound reasonable. (I’m not trying to come across as sarcastic there. That’s exactly what happened.) She’s entitled to her beliefs, and I like her beliefs, so it would be faulty to say that I look down on her beliefs. I think her awarenesses of life beyond this plane are amazing and that she’s divinely connected.

Where we differ is that I have more practical awareness, and she sees that as a threat to her beliefs. I never wanted that to happen. I tried to, you know, keep quiet about such things. I think it might’ve slipped out, though, and that’s on me. Oh well. [Makes face.]

It just hurts because she and I were really close and we shared a lot. And now, this. It just destroys something within me when friendships dissolve. I have no way of coming to terms with it, or of making sense of it. But… it is what it is.

I’ve had friendships end where it was more of an issue of incompatibility. I’d email the person and they’d not reply, and I’d get the picture. It was more of an issue of that connection or click not being there. That happens. But once I’m fully engaged with someone, losing the relationship just kills me.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose…

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How does one deal with false modesty?

I found myself caught flat-footed when chatting with a textile artist. I joked that he could be the one to help me with my blanket stitch, and he responded that his handwork wasn’t very good.

Fine; I’d been mostly kidding anyway. But then he went on to give a rather extended account of his resume — from college professor in a textile department to heading a very important craft council, teaching handwork all the way.

I found myself complimenting him, over and again, which he surely sought. At the same time, I was a bit miffed he’d been so disingenuous at the start and left me to fawn over his accomplishments, which he’d claimed not to have in the first place. My request for help with a simple stitch and his saying he didn’t have the required talent were becoming more inane each passing minute, until I was left feeling foolish, not to mention speechless.

Similarly, my husband, a scratch golfer, will only say he “plays a little golf.” I suppose that is better than claiming he can clean everyone’s clock, but I find it grating nonetheless.

Therefore, I must ask: What’s the best way to respond to an accomplished person who claims they aren’t?

GENTLE READER: Is it possible that being experts has made them genuinely modest — because they know how much else there is to know, or because they know greater experts?

Nah, they’re probably just fishing.

Even so, Miss Manners prefers that to blatant bragging, which is now so common, and can be broadcast throughout the world online. So she would just play along and supply the compliment. It is an easy way to make someone happy.

But if you must protest, you can say, “Now you’ve embarrassed me. You’re obviously an expert in the field, and yet you let me make a fool of myself because I didn’t know that.” (c) MISS MANNERS

Wow. That textile guy… wow.

I’m not equally offended by her husband, the scratch golfer. He didn’t go on an attention-seeking soliloquy about how unskilled he is at golf. He’s either downplaying his abilities or speaking casually (hard to tell).

It sounds like the textile guy was less guilty of bragging and more guilty of monopolizing the conversation in a self-absorbed way. He was going on about himself, himself, himself. That can get old. Even with bragging, you can (and should) have equal conversations. Like, “Yeah, I worked for hours on this garden. What do you think?” Followed by saying, “So, how’s your garden coming along? Have you planted those sunflower seeds yet?”

I have no issue with that sort of bragging. Anyone who’s worked hard on building a beautiful garden (or whatever) deserves to be praised for it, in my opinion. But fishing for compliments in a passive-aggressive sense, like the textiles guy is doing, is sort of… manipulative and disingenuous, not to mention self-absorbed and egotistical. It reminds me of the guy I used to know, Mr. Self-Absorbed. Ugh.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I met a really nice guy a few weeks ago, and we’ve been getting along really well. We’ve been on a couple of dates, we text all the time and I’m starting to really like him. There’s just one problem that I really cannot seem to get past: He has the same first name as my ex-boyfriend. Their name is kind of on the uncommon side, so this is a strange coincidence. I don’t know how far things can really go with someone who inadvertently makes me think of my ex-boyfriend whenever I talk to him. I want to tell him what my issue is, but I don’t know what to say or what he would even be able to do about it. How can I fix this problem? Am I overreacting? — Same Names

DEAR SAME NAMES: If you truly like this new guy, tell him the truth. A lot of couples call each other by other names. Tell him you want to call him something different so that when you talk to him, it is he alone who comes to mind. If he has a nickname from his family, consider that. Or come up with a nickname together that you can call him. In time, the name thing may not matter, but in these early days, it may help to create a bridge to him and away from your ex. (c) DREAMLEAPERS

Interesting, very interesting. Yeah, I’d talk to him about it and definitely come up with a new name. In fact, why does everyone have to call someone the same name? We can have different names for each other, right? Not all the time, but it doesn’t hurt anything. I get the letter writer’s concern, though. It’s a relatively new relationship, and she doesn’t want to trashtalk an ex-boyfriend so early on. It would be poor form. (Although we’ve all been there, amiright?)

It strikes me as an unfortunate situation. Even if he’s openminded to a nickname, she’ll still have to hear everyone else in his life call him “Poindexter”. It might be an indication that she’s not over the other guy, but hold on… I’m trying to think what would happen if I had a new guy I liked with the same name as one of my exes… thinking… [Shudders]. Okay. Nope, that’s not it. I’m totally over them, so I can tell… but… just no. No.

Yeah, there can be a lot of associations with a name, especially the name of someone you dated, and especially if the name is rather unique.

I feel sorry for the letter writer, because it seems as if she’s putting undue pressure on herself to get over it. It’s bugging her, but she doesn’t want to bring up something so whiney-seeming so early into a relationship. But hopefully she can trust the relationship to withstand awkward and unusual concerns being communicated. I mean, there are a lot of harder, worse issues to raise within a relationship. So this could test the strength of their connection. It’s not like it’s that huge of a deal! “Look, I dated a guy once, and he had your name. So… have you ever wanted to be called Studly?”

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