Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I Think I Found This Year's Motto

What do you think? "Tere: Celebrating 10 Years in Therapy!"

Because recently, when I decided to head back to therapy, it hit me that in October, it'll be 10 years since I first entered therapy, and like all commemorative years of significant things in my life, I'm feeling reflective about the choice I made back then and what it did for my life.

I went into therapy for the sake of my marriage, at least initially. I was newly wed, and two things happened at the same time that made it clear to me that I needed professional help: I realized that marriage sucked, and 9/11. And surprisingly, they were related.

I'd spent the first six months of my marriage in limbo. I didn't know what it meant to be married, to be a wife, and what I was supposed to do or be in this new role. I was 23 and had gone from living with my parents to living with a guy, and I had no idea what to do. I said "but I don't feel married" so many times that my (ex)husband went from being amused to being pretty freaked out. Even though I knew none of this had anything to do with my feelings for him or my desire to be married to him, I understood that it looked kinda bad. Things were getting more and more stressful as I waited for the magical secrets of marriage to be revealed to me.

And then 9/11 happened. And the thing about 9/11 for me was that it called back - in a forceful, ugly, unignorable way - a whole host of issues from my childhood. I grew up with really irrational fears about crime and war (fwiw, children should never be allowed to watch the news), and while I realized how extreme my fears were as I got older and had a better understanding of the world, 9/11 was a manifestation of everything I'd feared as a child. My insomnia returned; I was jittery and paranoid and totally unable to put the tragedy in any rational perspective. And these things were making me a terrible wife. On top of the struggle I'd faced in fitting myself into this new role, I was now not functioning too well, and it made me irritable and uncommunicative.

After a few weeks of this, my husband sat me down and told me I needed help. When I brushed him off, he gave me his bottom line: either I entered therapy, or he'd end the marriage. (That he refused to get help when this exact scene played out between us, roles reversed, six-and-a-half years later, is a kick in the gut that was not, and obviously won't ever be, since I'm bringing it up now, lost on me).

Of course, I entered therapy. Immediately. My marriage was at stake, and I knew, even as I felt very resistant to the whole thing, that I was now part of something bigger than just myself, and that I owed it to my husband and my brand-new marriage to admit I had shit to deal with and then do just that: deal with it.

That's how it began. Within a few sessions, I saw that I truly did need this, that I could stand to gain a great deal from this experience if I approached it openly. It took many months for me to feel like it was doing anything for me, or like anything was changing, really. But there came a point, probably about nine months in, where I became aware of... something. Hard to describe, but I felt good in my skin, in a way I'd never felt before. It was something very personal that had nothing to do with anything specific going on in my life. I suppose now that maybe I was feeling the first glimmers of actual resolution, or at least, a deeper understanding about myself and the choices I'd made. At that time, while I was really mature about some things, there were areas where I was not, not anything close to it, and therapy was something that helped me grow the hell up. I had to gain a better understanding of some things to make peace with them, but I also had to get over myself and become a functioning adult.

There came a point where I realized that therapy would be a very extended thing with me. While there are some things that are as resolved as they're going to get (which basically means that they continue to be, and will always be, problematic, but my attitude about and reaction to them is totally different - healthier), the years since I entered therapy have been filled with situations (first split with husband, reuniting with him, pregnancy, motherhood, marriage permanently ending, for starters) that have kept me going back. I'll get a few months in, take an extended break, then head back when it's once again necessary.

Along the way, I've developed a few theories that I think are generally true. I'll admit that I've become one of those (annoying, I know) people who thinks just about everyone needs therapy. But you know what? Most people really do need therapy. I don't think many of us are equipped with healthy coping mechanisms, and really, whatever serious damage we suffer as kids is really, really going to eff us up as adults unless we make some kind of peace with it. (Sure, some people don't need it as much as others, but even those could stand a session or five with a professional.) But before you can make peace with it, you have to admit it's there, face it, and then, you know, deal with it somehow. And this is a really scary thing. So scary, actually, that it can derail the entire process. My second theory is about just this: if you get to the point where you genuinely face some of these things, it can be so frightening and painful that you kinda hit a crossroad: you either take a deep breath and dive into therapy, in a way very different (more sincere, more determined, more courageous) than whatever attitude you'd had about it before, or you're so (subconsciously) terrified that you stop. Because you were able to talk about the issues and gain a bit of clarity, you convince yourself you're "cured" and carry on without it. But really, nothing is actually resolved, and it's all just going to keep coming back. These are generalities, of course, but I've seen these patterns play out in people over and over again. I catch myself saying "they need therapy" (about various people in various situations, up to and including people I don't even know, like, you know, celebrities) quite a bit, and I mean it.

Meanwhile, yes. It's almost a decade since I decided to grow up, own my shit, and do something about it. And indeed, I celebrate.


(ed. note: I edited this a bit for clarity.)

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Posted by Tere @ 2/23/2011   | | | links to this post

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"This," It Turns Out, is My Life

Considering everything I expressed in my last post, I’ve been thinking quite a bit over the last few months about my feelings about writing, my life, writing about my life, and this blog. I’ve tried to get to some kind of core truth or core feeling about this.

The thing is, it’s pretty hard (and pointless) to be a blogger who claims to write about her life (and enjoys it, too) and then not actually do it. Writing as I do here is about a few key things for me. First, it’s a way of remembering things as they were when they happened. This is especially true in my posts about my son. My memory is full of holes, and I want the stories recorded when they happened so that I can revisit them whenever I want. Second, it’s how I process things and either gain insight or get over them, or whatever it is I need to do. While I do regular old journaling, that has an entirely different tone and perspective and serves other purposes in my life. Third, I wanted the task and challenge of writing regularly, believing that this kind of practice would make me a better writer. This last reason is entirely subjective, I guess, but I believe it to be true.

So I've been reminding myself of these things, and trying to figure out how I feel about these things in light of all that's happened in my life, and somewhere in this process, I realized something: I enjoy sharing my life, and I once again want to share.

While my feelings about blogging about my life have changed over the last couple of years - and I suppose my feelings have matched my overall mood about my life - and I don't expect to write here like I used to, I've finally figured out why I've swung back to wanting to get more personal again: because I need to. And frankly, because I think others need it, too.

Well, wait. I don't think others need me or this blog, nor do I think this blog is like a great contribution to humanity, but I think I have something to offer others in situations similar to my own.

See, part of my problem this last year has been how alone I feel in my life situation, and how a whole lot of negative feelings have messed with my head. Not in being divorced, or a single mom, or being surprised by finding love when and where I least expected. But in sharing physical custody of my son 50/50, in the challenge of building a good parenting relationship with his dad, and in learning to really open my heart and life to someone new and helping him become a part of all this (a "this" that includes learning to parent with me, learning to parent, period, and becoming part of a dynamic that includes regular interaction with my son's dad). This new life of mine, for all the wonderfulness it contains, sometimes makes me feel like it's nothing but landmines all around me.

I have to think there are plenty other people out there in a similar situation, even though I've yet to encounter a single one. Surely, there are others who do 50/50 physical custody, and who have overall solid, cooperative parenting relationships, and who have gone on to have really healthy and happy romantic relationships -- but who also struggle with it all.

Right?

I'm a bit sick with the feelings of isolation and negativity. I'm ultimately way too anxious a person for this, and I have to break through it or risk a serious, permanent, depressing decline. And in really confronting some of this stuff lately, it occurred to me that if I feel this way, it's possible that others in similar situations feel this way, too, and apparently no one is writing and sharing about it, so hey, why not me? Without presuming too much, perhaps it will help another like I hope it helps me.

So, it's time to write about this, time to find a new comfort zone and share in a meaningful way and hope that something good comes of it. For myself, and maybe for others.

(I'd say, "for humanity!!" too, but I don't want to push it.)

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Posted by Tere @ 2/15/2011   | | | links to this post

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

And I Don't Even Get to the Important "This" I Want to Write About

I’ve been hesitating writing about this. Before I get into “this” and why I changed my mind and am indeed writing about it, there’s some related detail I want to get into.

I'm mighty sick of feeling so guilty when I think of how neglectful I've been with this blog. My guilt is very closely and quickly followed by indignation, like, what, blog?? You don't own me! I don't owe you anything!! Only to have the guilt come back up.

Sigh. This has become a total love-hate relationship.

I've thought a lot about what it is that's taken away about 90% of my desire to write here. This is the best I can come up with (and after months of contemplating this, I'm utterly unimpressed with myself):

1. Time, or the lack of it. A very big factor, really. My life is crammed with things that require my full attention and it’s also moving at like 200 mph and it’s really hard, when I’m finally a vegetable on the couch, to find the energy to write. Because to write (or to write well and engagingly, as I hope to do) requires brain cells that I don’t really have right now. And when it comes to choosing between being buried in the computer or plotting blog posts vs. fully immersing myself in my life, I choose the latter. Doing so, though, apparently makes my writing suffer. Though it's really not this simple, as there are other (deeper) factors at play.

2. Writer's block. Classic, and true. Combined with a big, strong sense of "who the hell cares, you're not that fascinating," I'm feeling hard-pressed to write about my life. A lot of things that seem funny the moment they happen or in my head when I think about them fall flat when I try to put words to it. And lately, most of my thoughts and observations seem to be random, unfocused, and occur in short spurts, and while I'm tempted to blog those thoughts here, it really seems better-suited to my Twitter stream. And frankly, looking at that stream, it looks like all I care about is food and shoes (well, I do, a lot, but come on now. Very boring stuff.).

3. Privacy. This one's two-fold. First, there is my very real need to protect my and my loved-ones privacy. This has been a concern and priority since I stopped writing anonymously almost five years ago, and while I've had moments where I've been more forthcoming than others, I think I've overall been o.k. with how I've handled this.

But between the huge turns my life's taken these last years and the fact that my son is older now, I've had to step back and really reevaluate everything about this blog. I've thought a lot about how public I was about my feelings about my marriage ending, what it meant to (and the consequences of) expose myself with such rawness and how that affected a host of things, most notably my own healing (positively) and my relationship with my ex (negatively). I regret none of it, as I don't think about it in those terms. I just think about what I felt at the end of that long, intense wave, and what I felt was exposed (more on that in a minute) and exhausted. So, so, so exhausted. In many ways, I've not known where to go from there. The experience of dealing with my ex in the wake of what I wrote here alone has been enough to make me feel turned off to writing, like, nothing is worth that level of stress and strife.

And then when life took a turn for the better, when my friendship with Jevo turned into a real, romantic relationship, I found myself feeling hesitant to write about it. I've wanted to protect him (even as he's told me to write about whatever I want to write about, including him) and to protect our relationship. It was too new, too different; I've wanted to give us a chance to forge something deep and strong before opening up about it. I just didn't want it out there.

I began to feel the same way about Max. It doesn't feel the same to write about him now that he's older. As he grows in awareness and more into himself, I think about his privacy. I don't want to violate it or place out on the Internet (where it might stay for years) things that might embarrass or hurt him (and so, yes, I think about what I've written here about his father, and something will have to be done about them to keep them from his eyes and from living in perpetuity on the Internet). So on that end, I've just been feeling more mindful about how I write about him.

The second aspect of this privacy matter is one that I don't like even acknowledging, but I will, because... whatever. Because at the end of the day I truly don't care.

I get it that anyone can read whatever I write. Whenever I write here, I have that voice in my head that reminds me of this fact. I fully expect that anyone can read this site and form their own thoughts and opinions about me and my life. Which, fine by me. I don't really think past this and have found it really easy to stay disconnected from the *caring what others think of me* aspect of blogging.

Even so, there are some people who read this blog that I simply wish they didn't. They have no business being here. Most have reveled in my pain and felt some kind of gratification to see my distress. I knew as I struggled through my pain that they were here, feeling gleeful. Talk about feeling exposed. Others are here because of morbid curiosity, because they know of me and are connected to me in some (distant) way, and they just want to be nosy. And I get this. I'm neither surprised nor upset, nor anything more than slightly annoyed by it. I totally get it. But that doesn't mean I have to give them fodder, and there have certainly been times where I've not written here because I don't want to give these nosy, insecure bitches any information. Heh.

Sooooo..... all these factors have pretty much converged to where I've felt disinterested in this blog. Not fully so, but enough to drastically cut back on the amount of time and effort I spend on it. Maybe writing about this will free me up some, mentally speaking, so that I can get to a place with this blog that I'm happy with.

Now that I've gotten all that explaining out of the way, I can move on to the "this" I was hesitant to write about but have had a change of heart about.

(And I will in the next post, this one's gone on long enough.)

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Posted by Tere @ 2/09/2011   | | | links to this post