Visiting Banji for a week was the best thing I could have possibly done for myself. I was so happy to get to spend time with my best friend, sharing in some of our favorite activities together (including staying up all night talking). She made a point of asking me what I wanted to do and engaging in a 2-way conversation where we each expressed our views and then compromised to find a solution we could both be happy with. It took some time, but I grew more comfortable recognizing and expressing what I wanted.
It also provided me some much-needed space from Fox, during which time I could think about our situation more clearly. I realized that I want to continue our relationship; there is still a lot of room for both of us to learn and grow from it. But in order for that to happen, I need to assert myself. Wakana says I need to become Aware of how I feel and what I need, Accept it, and Act on it. I’m starting to get the awareness and acceptance; the action is taking some work but I’m moving in that direction. A lot of good has happened since I tried to break up with Fox and kick him out of the house: he’s been working hard to make it a more pleasant place to live and to get his life back on track and generally be a better spouse. I find myself attracted to and happy to spend time with him again. (He still does things to annoy the hell out of me, but I’m working on being able to set boundaries that should help with that.) It’s a really great feeling.
I also need to address that feeling of something being “off” with our relationship that I mentioned in Reactionary. I can’t really say what concerns came up before I started this blog in December 2012 (about 2 years into our relationship); I’m sure there were some but overall I was happy with our relationship and busy focusing on school, trying to become less enmeshed with my mother, addressing my mental health issues, and navigating the effects Banji’s move was having on our friendship.
Since starting the blog, however, there have been a plethora of times I’ve expressed concerns and then never followed up on them, including outright saying I wasn’t ready to get married! I didn’t have nearly as many followers at the time I wrote these posts as I have now; I hope that if I’d had more followers then, someone would have called me out on some of these things. I’ve reviewed the posts leading up to our legal marriage ceremony last November and quoted passages that really should have prompted some kind of action (most likely communication) on my part. Please remember that they are quotes of out of context… but even so, I’m disturbed by my failure to take my own concerns and needs seriously for so long. This can’t happen again.
December 28, 2012 – “We all know it’ll never happen, so why do we waste our breath?”
(Summary) I overbooked myself during the winter holidays because I wasn’t comfortable setting boundaries. I felt pressured by Fox’s family to spend the holiday with them on their terms despite making a decision and explaining it to them. Unable to politely decline, I snapped, ignored their efforts to contact me, and felt horrible about the whole thing.
January 23, 2013 – “Using Words to Say What They Cannot”
I actually wrote these words (quoted out of context, but still worth feeling concerned about). I kinda wish someone had called me out on them:
“I’ve been feeling very trapped in our relationship, like I can’t express myself fully. […] Sometimes I feel like he’s trying to shape my thoughts regarding a topic […] He (almost) always has a response for (nearly) everything I say and most of what I do; that response always seems to convey either approval (like I need it) or the suggestion that I should do/think/say something different. […] I feel unsafe expressing anger […] I almost never practice music when we’re together because I know he doesn’t like hearing the same thing repeated over and over again. I waited almost an hour and a half to call Banji Monday night because I felt uncomfortable excusing myself from Fox to do so.
“I don’t know whether these are red flags suggesting an unhealthy dynamic to our relationship (as my mother seems inclined to suggest), or whether I’m taking his behavior too personally. […] Do I need to just be myself, assert myself, do what I need or want, and leave it to him to express his needs directly? Or is something more sinister going on here?
“The last thing I need is an abusive relationship.
“I worry about falsely accusing him, controlling him until he’s forced to become someone he’s not, hurting his feelings, and/or driving him away. The anxiety steals my voice and silences my thoughts. I have trouble coming up with the words to express how his behavior is affecting me – or, how I feel in response to his behavior. If I manage to think the words, I can’t bring myself to say them. My mouth and vocal cords refuse to work.
“Fox becomes defensive. […] I felt abused, unappreciated, neglected. […] I learned that, like me, he feels like he is putting a lot into our relationship and not getting as much out of it as he would like; his needs aren’t getting met. […] I can’t meet all his needs and he can’t meet all of mine; we each need to find ways of taking care of ourselves and reaching out to other people for support.”
February 20, 2013 – “Trapped”
I wrote a poem about an ostrich trapped in a cage that used illusions to manipulate it into keeping itself trapped. These lines stand out and are kind of disturbing:
“This is where its owner comes / to feed it / Talk to it / and touch it with / Compassion”
March 15, 2013 – “Anxiety”
This one’s about my biological mother, with whom Fox & I live. We have ongoing boundary issues; on Friday when I told her I need to assert myself more she actually responded, “but not with me.”
“I feel like I have no boundaries, no space for my Self: my thoughts and my emotions. The worst is that she’s trying to get me to change my mind about a decision I’ve already made, something I strongly feel the need to do. […] To say I feel fragmented would be too gentle: I am being violently torn and ripped to shreds.”
April 19, 2013 – “Giving In”
“Sometimes I feel like I don’t exist anymore. […] I often feel as though I’m standing on the edge of a dark cliff, looking my own death in the face. Whether it takes the form of what my loved ones would call “death” as they grieved at my funeral – or of transitions such as weddings and births and new jobs and new homes, etc. they would celebrate – to my eyes it’s all the same: Dark and nebulous and largely outside my control, requiring me to make sacrifices I don’t even fully understand.”
June 28, 2013 – “I Just Want a Day Off”
“Why do I have to constantly question my choices, feel like they’re “unhealthy” (or morally wrong), feel like I have to change? Why can’t I just breathe?”
July 7, 2013 – “Invasion”
“I’m not even sure what “my game” is, but I wish everyone would take a step back and let me decide how – or whether – I want to play it. And by “everyone” I largely mean the voices inside my own head, who amplify their interpretations of messages from loved ones and society, until there’s no room left for Ziya.”
August 19, 2013 – “No Space for Me”
“I didn’t even get to finish telling Fox the disappointing news; he finished my sentence for me with a cutting finality. […] She (Fox’s mom) wouldn’t listen to me – to either of us – when we said we just want to bring our witnesses and immediate families, no more than 10 people total. And then Fox’s sister took it upon herself to tell me how to think!
“Though, to be honest, I’m torn. I feel like I’m giving up my identity. The new identity I’d be taking on is my choice, but I guess I’m starting to question it a little bit. I’m happy to join Fox’s family and I see taking their name as a symbol of that affinity. But I don’t want to be eaten up by them, given no say in my own life and told how to think. We’re a family, not the Borg. I need them to respect my boundaries.
“It got to the point today where I felt like I couldn’t do anything – not because I’m incompetent (I’m perfectly competent, thank you), but because it’s not allowed. Fox is here, so he became the embodiment of some hostile authority. […] But if I wanted to live, I’d have to do so on his terms. […] I don’t know what to do. I want to keep planning the wedding but I’m afraid that, the way my mind has been working and with the horribleness it’s bringing out in people, it just isn’t safe right now.”
August 28, 2013 – “Measuring Recovery: Part One – Burns Depression Checklist”
“The things that were said were a catalyst for something much deeper and darker in me: a sense that my existence as an autonomous sentient being is tenuous at best. Feeling like I need permission to do everyday things, even to breathe. I felt so trapped, like the Warden would come in any moment to punish me for daring to have my own thoughts, my own will – never mind to assert myself or act on my needs! Even just to write about it is terrifying.
“Yes, I need people to respect my boundaries. But more than that, I need to know in my heart, to fiercely believe with every fiber in my being, that I am worthy of having boundaries. That it’s worth enforcing them. That if someone hurts me for any reason, I have every right to feel angry and to defend myself. That if someone hurts me, it doesn’t mean I did something wrong.
“Sure, this brought out a lot of depression symptoms, but I don’t think “depression” really explains what’s going on. And sure, it involves fairly severe anxiety symptoms, but I’ve never heard anxiety described or explained like this. I felt like I wasn’t allowed to do anything, and if I made a noise I’d be caught, and if I was caught …
“[…] it’s a serious problem for me, an underlying cause or component to all my mental health issues. Perhaps it is my mental health issue.”
Yes, I have a mental health issue I need to work on. Definitely. But people were also pushing me around. They shouldn’t have pushed me around like that, and I wish I could have stood up to them. It’s not just something wrong with me; it’s not my fault. But I can only change my own behavior. Recognizing that how I respond is only part of the equation in situations like “No Space for Me” is the first step toward being able to see myself of being worthy of boundaries, set, and enforce them. I need to surround myself with people like Banji who respect and treat me like an autonomous being with boundaries, so I can practice acting like one.
September 12, 2013 – “Update”
Why, why oh why oh why didn’t I take the time to really sit down, think about, and answer these questions before signing a legal document? *facepalm*
“I’ve also been having a bit of an existential crisis regarding marriage. All of a sudden I feel like I’m running headlong into something I don’t really understand. Fox keeps saying we’re already living like we’re married, but signing the license turns our personal agreement into a legal contract. Do I really want to be legally bound to help make living together work? Am I ready for any financial repercussions that might result? Am I ready for my identity to change, not only in the name I go by but in my status under the law? […]
“Mom took over the conversation; she selected which non-premium items we’re going to have, insisting on a selection neither of us like (but are willing to have because it’s popular among our families) and all but vetoing at least one selection we’ve been seriously considering. […]
“Then she asks me if this is what I really want. NO!!! […] I want to feel like my voice is being heard during conversations about MY wedding! When someone asks what I want, I want to be able to answer them, not feel so overwhelmed all I can say is, “I don’t know.” Because I do know, but I lose my sense of myself as a person with opinions that matter during these conversations and it hurts like hell.
“And now I’m questioning everything, including whether I really want to spend the rest of my life with Fox … even though the thought of asking him to leave is unbearable. I made this decision two years ago and yeah, people change, but we made a commitment that we will work together as we change and grow to keep our relationship healthy. We can go for premarital counseling and couples therapy, we can get advice from other married couples, we can make mistakes and learn from them, we can even get into arguments. And sure, yeah, we – or at least I – can question this decision every day … and renew our commitment to each other every day. What matters is that it’s done in love.
“And as much as I’d love to end on that hopeful note, I need to share something that’s been scaring the carp out of me. Today, with much encouragement and prodding, was the first time I’ve been able to talk about all this. I’ve wanted to update this blog many times, but found myself unable to get the words to come, unable to even try and let them come. It’s anxiety. I don’t know what I think will happen if I let it out but I’m afraid to do so. I feel my muscles tensing, my throat tightening, my voice shriveling away. I open my mouth but there’s nothing. It’s too painful, I need to get away …
“In other words, some internal process is keeping me from speaking up for myself, and I don’t like it. I want it to stop!”
I’m not sure it’s just an internal process, self. It seems to stem directly from how others treat me (see above). And I really wish I’d stopped to work through questioning my decision to spend the rest of my life with Fox. Why is asking him to leave so unbearable? How can this questioning be “done in love”? I’ve gotten so used to having my emotions questioned, stifled, and called wrong, that I don’t even take them seriously myself.
October 31, 2013 – “Aarghle Flarghle Blarghle!!!”
This entire post terrifies the hell out of me. Why didn’t I listen to myself?
“I know I want to marry Fox and gain the legal recognition for what we’ve felt for some time. But I can’t shake the anxiety, and I can’t shake the feeling that I’m boxing myself in. Maybe it’s because we tend to fall into the trap of being each other’s only social interaction for days at a time, and because I’ve stopped doing a lot of things I used to enjoy since we met.
“I think I can – I really want to – make it work with him.
“Because there are times when it feels so right, like we were made for each other. Lately, those have been the times when we’ve turned off our computers and talked about the discussion questions in our premarital counseling homework. I’m hoping those will be valuable tools to keep us connecting with each other on the important things.
“I’ve been playing The Sims 3 to reassure myself that life after marriage can work.” – OMG!!! Escapism is NOT trying to address the problem!!! Why oh why oh why didn’t I do something more proactive to address my concerns/anxiety/whatever about marriage?
“I’ve been doing a pretty good job of balancing the parents’ needs, career development, friendships, and contribution to their child’s development. Their relationship with each other is suffering, though. It’s kind of rare for me to have them interact; I think part of it is how the game – especially its artificial intelligence – works, and part of it is mirroring my disconnection from Fox (which ironically manifests in and is worsened when I play the game). The bottom line is that having sims interact, especially in ways that build or maintain their relationships, takes consistent intentional effort. If I’ve learned anything from premarital counseling (and life in general) it’s that real-life relationships are much the same.
“I’m wary of putting in that kind of effort because I’ve been hurt in the past. […] I want this relationship to be different; I want to trust that it is. But I can’t. I’m constantly wary. I feel like it will all fall apart as soon as I relax.
“And in a week and a half it will be legally binding. […] I feel like I’m watching a train wreck … while bound to the front of the train.”
This is insanity. Right here. I knew I wasn’t ready to get married – I might as well have been screaming it from the rooftops – but I did it anyway!!! Why oh why oh why, self? Why?
November 9, 2013 – “The Calm Before the Storm – Um, Wedding”
“I have no idea where this new adventure will lead, but I finally know for sure that it’s what I want to do. […] Fox and I have faced a lot of challenges in our relationship so far and we’ve only grown as a result of each of them. I look forward to whatever is yet to come, knowing he is by my side.”