I've begun reading a book by Gabor Mate' entitled "When the Body Says No Exploring the Stress Disease Connection". This was recommended to me by Kurt, ostensibly to call my attention to components of my personality that may contribute to health problems I have experienced. In reality, I think it will be an interesting read, as it incorporates connection between the physical/biological processes of disease and our overall mental well being.
As I made my way through chapter one I noted a few things:
In one case study presented, Mary put the needs of others ahead of her own even as she was faced with a terminal diagnosis. We discovered that due to childhood trauma Mary learned not to express her feelings, even to herself. Considering the feelings of others above her own provided her with security. This bit is relevant to me, as I spent 25+ years considering the needs of others and repressed my own. I essentially never grew an identity of my own during that time because I was too busy being what I was expected to be and told to be by those around me. I had to be a husband, a lover, a father, a provider, a christian... As I think back on those years now the memory stirs a pain in my heart. I wrote about it once.
Dread...that's the best word I can find to describe how I feel.
How is it I've found myself in this horrible place ~ needing to decide between duty and responsibility; a lifetime of relationships built on a lie.
Then I'm reminded by the voices in my head “does the clay say to the potter, why has thou made me thus?” These words silence the question temporarily, but resolve nothing.
I think if this continues I may be ripped in two by the tension in my gut. I can't help the way I am, but I CAN'T be the way I am because of my duty; to love, honor and cherish, to protect and to serve. To lay down my life so that others can be happy.
Where am I in all this? Who am I in all this?
My identity is askew. Should I be the husband, the father, the christian, the provider, the peacemaker, the one who is always wrong, the one who always apologizes first? I'm told that is who I am to be, but; where am I all of this?
WHO AM I in all of this?
Is there nothing more? Searching and searching, desperate to find the truth. This can't be all I am, but I can't be who I am because of duty and responsibility...
Oh God! Why?!?
I know I'm not supposed to ask, but I can't accept that You created me to be who I am, “I know the plans I have for you saith God...to give you a future and a hope” but then I can't be who I am...This is so confusing I just can't take it anymore.
I don't know what to do... I have no where to go, no one to talk to; All around me is fear and rejection of who I am, but they don't know who I am because they can't see me No one has ever bothered to look, or ask
They see the image of one they expect me to be; Like a false god, an idol set up on a pedestal, there I am. Always there, always in the right place, having all the features expected. Never deviating from the expected...doing my duty, fulfilling my responsibility.
From the desperation of the conflict that rages inside anxiety builds; looking for a hope, looking for a sign; any way out, Dear God Please!
If I eat one more plate of duty and responsibility I am going to vomit I can't take this anymore.
I know others who live their own lives; not the lives someone else has programmed them to live. I want that; I need that, I have to have that or I will die.
There is no happy medium. I can't be ME and still be an idol on the pedestal because that is your image of me, not who I really am.
I'm sorry for your loss; I grieve the loss myself but at the same time I celebrate If only the actions of years past could be changed there would be less to grieve.
I must leave you to your grief, I must walk away. I've found my hope, I found my place. It was here all along I just couldn't accept it. I have found my joy, I have found ME.
I am sorry you've lost your false god, the image of me that was destined to be what you wanted and what you needed, but I've found myself hidden in the rubble of false expectations.
I still have duty, I still have responsibility, but it is to myself and to my destiny. I will gladly share with any that wish to participate with me... did you hear that … with me... because I matter. My thoughts, my feelings, my desires, my life... it matters.
Thank you, no really, thank you for everything. I won't count these years a loss or a waste. The process is sometimes as important as the end result. The journey as important as the destination.
That was the beginning of righting a wrong. I grieved the loss of that person. Literally everyone I loved was gone in an instant. All the relationships I'd built, even my identity as person was gone in an instant. I was truly lost at the moment in my life when I determined to seek to have my own needs met. As it turns out, old habits, and patterns are difficult to break. I'm not saying that I fell into the trap of having my identity defined by someone else, or that I live my life completely to please another person. I am saying that I instinctively and intuitively seek to meet the needs of others. I have difficulty expressing my own needs at times. This will come up again a bit later as another concept from chapter one is brought out. Sometimes it feels like there is a hand on my throat, squeezing tightly and preventing me from speaking, other times it feels like a force field keeping words trapped, as in a prison cell aboard a star ship. I know what I want, but I can't say the words. The most striking example of this - the first time it became apparent to me that I struggled with communicating my needs, was during a weekend stay at a young mans house. We had a really enjoyable day and as bedtime approached he showed me to my room and was moving on to his. There's that hand on my throat. I have no idea what I must have looked like to him. I kept talking so he wouldn't leave, but I wasn't saying anything at all. I desperately needed him to stay with me, to hold me, to show me love. I couldn't say it. Eventually, he figured it out and said it for me, asking if I wanted him to stay with me, and I of course said yes. No sex happened that night, but I loved the kissing and cuddles.
The next thing that stood out to me in the book was a comment about loneliness and emotionally inadequate relationships that don't recognize or honor our deepest needs. Don't get me wrong, I love Charles with all my heart and I know that he loves me. There are a lot of reasons (too many to detail, as I never say anything succinctly) why our communications over the years haven't been the greatest. He and I share equally in cause of the difficulties. The consequence of said difficulties is the focus of this section. Have you ever felt alone in a crowded room? Have you ever felt alone in bed next to your spouse or partner? I did. I told Charles recently (we've made tremendous headway in repairing the damage we've done and building a new foundation upon which to communicate) that I was dying of loneliness in bed right next to him. He loves me and would do absolutely anything for me. It hurt him to hear how I felt, but he didn't know how to meet my needs, because I never communicated them to him. It remains a work in progress, but I'm not sure given his personality that he'll ever get it just right. This is part of my argument that one person can not be expected to be the end-all, be-all of another person's existence. It's not fair to either party. One is frustrated that their needs aren't met and the other is frustrated that no matter what they do it's never right.
To any and all friends, partners, lovers, and of course my husband - I need to love and be loved. I need to want and be wanted. I need laugh with them, cry with them, be engaged with them emotionally, intimately. Emotional adequacy will no doubt be different for different people, but I believe this is a topic that needs to be discussed. Every person in any relationship of any kind needs to be able to communicate what they need, and they need to hear what the other party needs and work to be adequate.
Mary, from our case study, had to dissociate from her childhood trauma. She repressed it and the author posits that this contributed to the physical ailment(s) that took her life. She had to be the person her circumstances demanded. By the time someone finally listened to her and understood, it was too late. The physical damage was done and biology ran its course. Hopefully it's not too late for me, or for you.