Over the weekend EJ developed some sort of respiratory infection. He felt so nasty that he stayed home from work on Monday. He is still not up to par but was able to go to work on Tuesday. He generously gave his infection to me and now I am battling it. JJ might be coming down with it too. Yuck.
Last Friday I had my colonoscopy. Bleah. I got through it. One thing that amazed me is that the anesthesist told me that the drug she gave me would put me to sleep in 30 seconds. I had sort of thought that the “drug putting someone out within seconds” was merely a movie exaggeration. Not so. One minute–or, rather, half minute–she put the drug in the IV and the next I was waking up as the wheeled hospital bed was entering the room where EJ waited for me.
Anyway, the doctor said that the colonoscopy revealed three minor problems, but NOT anything serious like cancer. The most serious is that I have a pre-condition that could develop into diverticulitis, which is small pockets in the intestine. Yuck.
I kind of wonder if it’s all due to stress because I have felt heightened stress increasing–especially over the last year–and often I can feel its turmoil in my “gut.” Of course, it was stressful and tiring to help JJ through his battle with cancer. It’s been stressful for EJ at work and JJ is trying to get back into life, and I struggled last Spring and through the summer with a friend’s mistreatment and the loss of her friendship.
As I struggled with the friendship, I thought, “Ok, so sometimes friends grow apart and friendships die, and I need to just get over it and move on.” Good advice, but the problem was that I had known this friend for years, and deeply loved her, and her unkindness triggered emotional wounds that have forced me to re-process emotional abuse which can get messy. It’s the messiness that I was really struggling with. It was very difficult…although at the same time, it has helped me continue my journey toward recovery and healing. Difficult situations don’t always mean “bad.” Many times they lead to growth.
Mental health professions have described a 7 stage process of working through grief after a loss. You can read about the stages in detail at the website, Recovery-From-Grief.com. Briefly, the stages of grief are
I believe that these stages don’t just apply to the death of a loved one. It applies to any loss (job, health, relationship, etc.) as well as to recovery from abuse. Within this framework, an abuse victim’s journey involves denying that she is being abused, to feeling pain and guilt as the abuser demolishes her identity, to trying to please and please the abuser, to learning more about abuse, to making positive changes, and finally acceptance and hope and growth.
As I wrote in previous posts, emotional abusers mess with their victims’ reality which makes victims lose confidence and self-esteem. The result of this is that victims tend to struggle to set boundaries, they accept blame for the abuse, they feel as if their every decision is wrong and they second- and third-guess all their decisions. When victims try to set boundaries, abusers and their supporters accuse them of being unloving, unforgiving, bitter, etc.
Emotional abusers are vampires who steal the life and hope from their victims.
Throughout the years, I have battled through the Recovery stages. Growth is not always in a constantly upward line. There are a lot of ups and downs, twists and turns, two steps forward and one step back. I find that each encounter with an abusive person has been very painful and damaging but also has taught me valuable truths and spurred me on to understanding and growth. I mean, either a person is destroyed by the abuse or she fights to overcome it and grows stronger. It’s one or the other. No matter how difficult it is, I am determined to be a survivor.
Over the last five years, I have felt an increase in fatigue as I fought hard to be free of abuse. I was probably in the Depression, Reflection, and Loneliness stage of Recovery. Then last year was really tough with JJ battling cancer, my loss of my unkind friend, and EJ’s situations at work, which included a close work friend being almost beaten to death by her son, and a guy EJ worked with for ten years killing his wife and then himself. We have felt so very drained.
My painful encounter with my friend last spring made me more determined than ever to overcome the abuse. In recent months, I have been renewing my efforts to understand emotional abuse and how to overcome it. Major steps of recovery involve learning to set healthy boundaries (which may include having No Contact with abusers and their supporters) and then working to overcome the false thoughts and beliefs that abusers bombarded us with and to learn to once again to believe in ourselves and gain confidence. I have been working on all these things. I have been understanding that I don’t have to tolerate abusive behavior or friends, I can make decisions, and I can refuse to listen to the lies abusers filled my thoughts with. While I still get hit with waves of discouragement, I am noticing more strength and stability rising within me.
Over the years, EJ and I have often talked about reaching for a life dream, and sometimes we have researched it, but we have never wholeheartedly pursued it. Part of the reason is that we didn’t know exactly what we wanted, or how to accomplish it, and we didn’t think we could swing the finances. Most of the reason is that we didn’t have confidence or belief in ourselves. We second-guessed ourselves. And third-guessed ourselves. And even fourth-guessed. We could think of many good reasons for pursuing the dream, but we also could think of many reasons why we couldn’t. If we swung the bat and missed, life could become very tricky. We kept thinking, “What if this is a mistake? What if it doesn’t work out? What if we miserably fail? What if….” EJ and I would talk and talk and research and research and get excited and then we’d sink back into “We can’t do this.”
After this last very difficult year, it feels as if we are merely existing. If feels as if energy and purpose and dreams are seeping away. Life has almost become a series of plodding on, trying to find energy to overcome daily tasks as they enter our lives. We are living passively. Sometimes we have said to each other, “We have got to do something fun, something to shake this fatigue from us and energize us.” But we aren’t really sure anymore what FUN is–and paying for regular bills, medical bills, car repairs or a new vehicle means we pinch pennies and we don’t have the funds for FUN. A lot of time even the thought of trying to have FUN seems too tiring. We do find pleasure in small things like birds, and squirrels, and walks, but we need a bigger dream before we wither away.
I’m not exactly sure how it happened. Maybe it’s because I am progressing through the stages of Recovery and gaining strength and so is EJ. In the last week EJ, JJ, and I have begun dreaming our dream again. It’s always been EJ’s dream, but it’s also become mine. If EJ and I fulfill our dream, we can also help JJ reach for his so this is his dream as well.
We want it so much that we can taste it.
We are on the very, very edge of being able to financially afford it. In fact, we could do it. There are a couple major challenges but we can think of more reasons to “go for it” then to not. Maybe this is a stupid idea and we can’t do it….but what if we could? I mean, what if we really could? Oh, my goodness, it would be heaven! However, to reach it we’d have to stop thinking that we can’t do it and start thinking that we can. We’d have to start believing in ourselves and each other. We would have to leave “safety” and take risks–like letting go of a trapeze bar and reaching for the next. If we miss the bar. SPLAT! Well, maybe it wouldn’t be the “SPLAT” that it would have been a few years ago.
I’m not going to tell you yet what this dream is because I’m not yet sure we have the strength to go for it. I fear we will talk about it, research it, make plans, and then step back from action. We are trying to encourage each other, challenge each other, motivate each other to keep moving forward. If we stop moving forward we might sink back into apathy. To accept “a life of quiet desperation” because we are afraid to take a risk seems beyond bearing. I’m afraid if we don’t reach for our dream now, we never will.
I’ll let you know how it progresses.