Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Detox of the Mind

Over the last few weeks, I’ve started thinking more and more about my marriage and the reasons I left it. I suppose it is inevitable as the date when it will end draws nearer and as I spend significant amounts of time working on my old house with a view to selling it. But it feels like more than that.

You know how, when you go on a strict detox diet or even have a massage or hot sauna, initially you get all spotty and your hair goes lank but then you start to feel better and cleaner inside and out? Well, I feel as though I’ve been on a detox diet of the mind and now, after nearly 10 months, all the poisons and harmful thoughts are working their way to the surface to be expelled, hopefully forever. But that does mean I’m having to really work my way through these thoughts which can be a bit disconcerting and even painful.

Inspired by Claire at Lose to Gain, I’m determined to face my “worst” thoughts and recognise them for what they are, whether true or false, painful or relief-inducing.

The main thought which keeps surfacing in various different contexts is disbelief and shock, even shame really. I can’t believe that I allowed myself to be so bullied; that I became so lacking in self-confidence that I accepted being down-trodden and turned into a fearful appeaser and ultimately changed my whole character as a result. Me, who used to be so strong-minded and confident?! I still am in most other spheres of my life but in my relationship I was not. And that is very difficult to accept.

An analogy leapt into my head as I was driving to work today. That of a dog who is kicked by its master when he’s drunk or frustrated and yet comes crawling back on its belly to that very master for comfort and food over and over again because it has no choice. And then ultimately the master becomes more and more disdainful of the cowering cur and treats it ever worse until eventually he kills the dog or the dog attacks him (or maybe in the happy-ever-after version the dog finds a new home where it is treated with love and affection). Well, that dog was me. I became more fearful and pathetic as time went on. I felt powerless so, instead of facing up to the emotional abuse, I tried to escape. I hid from the realisation of what was happening to me in food, drink, other men, behind make-up, in books and in my ‘cave’ on the sofa. I dreamed of leaving and plotted revenge through spending money and having flings. But I didn’t take action.

I did, however, take action in other areas of my life. I started turning things around when I took up the Lighter Life challenge but even then I was doing it to make things better with D. Partly for me but also buying into what he used to tell me; that “everything would be perfect if I just lost weight”. Well, I lost 9 stone and it was even worse after that!! LL was only a start for me though. Through writing this blog, reading others and through what I learned from the wonderful Dr Steve Peters doing the TV show I slowly started to “see” what had happened to me.

Some moments of clarity stay with me (“lightbulb moments” in the old LL terminology):

I remember a long-ago comment by Isabelle from In This Life to a post when I mentioned (and made excuses for) D having a go at me about my weight. She simply said that he was wrong to do it and that in all her years with Mr Life he had never been anything other than supportive of her. Recently she has posted some lovely posts about her 46 happy years with Mr Life and I often think about what she said. She had the courage to stick her neck out and say that she thought it was wrong and just saying it helped me along the process of beginning to understand that it WAS wrong.

Another point was having supper with a friend a couple of months ago and her letting me know that she understood what had gone on because she had been through the same sort of thing in a previous relationship. That understanding made me feel less alone and be less hard on myself as she is one of the feistiest women I know!

Another was my brother saying that he’d known something was wrong from our visit to them in Canada.

Another was the policewoman I’d reluctantly spoken to after having 2 points of Guinness thrown over me in my former local (along with a tirade of hideous verbal abuse) who refused to not take the matter seriously despite my wishes. I’d only reported it because the incidents had been getting more and more serious and I wanted to make sure there was a trail of evidence in case D did anything really bad and also to warn D to stop. She made it clear that what had happened was already serious and was part of a pattern. She took ME seriously.

An email from Peridot saying that she doubted I would have strayed if there hadn’t been something seriously wrong with my relationship – such faith in me!!

But most of my significant moments came from Richard. He showed me that one party being made to be “in the wrong” all the time is not “normal”; how courtesy and respect could be the norm; how sweetness and teasing laughter could be the response to a forgetful mistake not shouting and slagging off; how weight is irrelevant when you love someone. Right back when we were “just a fling” and had only seen each other a couple of times I went to the dentist. I was worried about it as it was a major procedure and, when he found out, he offered to drive all the way into town to pick me up if I didn’t feel up to driving afterwards. Although I was fine to drive I was shaky so he came over just to make sure I was fine with my mouthful of stitches. And I was surprised! Why? I would have done the same, but I didn’t expect anyone to treat me with kindness and consideration. I didn’t think I was worth it unless I had something to “offer”.

I wrote a post (although never put it up) inspired by a radio phone-in months ago about domestic abuse and how what happened to me was just the same as being systematically beaten up but without the violence. So I knew back then but didn’t have the courage to actually put it out there. Now, I’m feeling that clarity AND the necessary courage to face up to my part in it.

So, although I’m sad that I was such a wimp and angry that it happened to me, mostly I’m happy that it's over and the scales have fallen from my eyes and I can start learning who I am all over again. It’s about time at 41!!

PS. As an aside, I’m wondering how common being in a (non-violent) abusive relationship is? Probably way more common than I would guess. I’m wondering if I can do something to help other women who might be in the same boat but without my advantages (education, decent job, resources..)? Some research is needed I suspect - Amazon has been perused and books ordered.

PPS. And, as a final postscript, even now I find it hard to put this post up once I read it through. Mainly because there WERE good times and to say what I’ve said seems to devalue more than half of my life. The dichotomy between something essentially rotten and genuinely good times and the fact that there was real love there once. I do NOT want to become bitter (I’m sincerely not bitter despite how it might sound) and I’ll never regret meeting and marrying D. I just regret what our relationship became and that we didn’t either sort it out or end it sooner.

Is anyone still here?? Well done if you are; thanks for sticking it out.


The other Miss Holloway said...

Oh L - I still read and never comment...I don't know what to say - I've never really been in another person's pockets, but I'm so glad to see you're on the other side of this.


Claire said...

I'm still here and good for you for posting that. It was clear from the undercurrent in your posts when you were with D that you were not happy and were downtrodden.

I think many people have had a similar relationship - I know I have - where the need to please and appease gets exploited. It requires a change in us as much as in them - just learn never to plough old furrows again. It requires more conscious action in the next relationship.

Anyway good for you and I am so glad you are having a furtle in your emotions. Furtling can be very useful. x

Peridot said...

Gosh and I don't even remember that email - an interesting lesson that you can have an impact without realising it.

I think that the introspection is important - as a history graduate I would say this but unless we know where we've come from, how can we know where we're going? We could walk in metaphorical circles for ever otherwise.

I like the detox analogy - really works.

I'm glad you're in a happier place now (literally (weeds aside) and figuratively).


Shauna said...

I know we've never met but I am so proud of your Lesley. Your courage to work through this is so wonderful xxox