Home > hiatus, needs, shame > Why can’t the past just be the past? Part I

Why can’t the past just be the past? Part I


Greetings Gentle Readers,

I’m back after rather a lengthy absence. First, I want to say thank you to all of you who sent encouraging emails or comments. I know there were no responses, but trust me, they were read. It meant so much to know that people were thinking of me while I was gone.

And some things haven’t changed, my first draft was 3400 words long! So I’ll be splitting this into two parts. The title won’t make much sense until the second post, since this one is essentially an update on what I’ve been up to, but we’ll get there eventually.

It’s been a weird year. I had taken a break from therapy because things were going really well. I posted that I was going to back off a bit so I didn’t disappear, then I disappeared. I said I was going to work on a book, (and I admit this with a mixed sense of shame and embarrassment), I didn’t work on it. One of the major things that shifted for me right before the break was the realization that it was truly ok for me to do what I wanted with my time and energy. BN and I were talking about my working on my health and weight loss. I was really struggling one session and got quite angry. In a rather honest outburst, I said “What if I don’t want to be healthy? I like to be on my computer, or reading or watching TV. I hate exercise. Maybe I don’t mind having these ‘limitations’ I’m not missing anything that I really want.” I sat back, expecting BN to explain to me why it was so important for me to lose weight, how much better it would be for me, how obviously it was the right thing to do. Honestly, I had felt very defiant while saying it, pretty much like a child throwing a tantrum, so I expected to be corrected, because OBVIOUSLY I SHOULD lose weight. When will I learn not to expect the obvious from BN? To my everlasting shock, he very calmly said “You don’t have to lose weight, it’s up to you.” I sat there with my mouth hanging open (with a slight aggrieved feeling of “wait, you’re the adult, you’re supposed to be telling me to do the RIGHT thing, don’t you care about me?” I am a world champion of ambivalence). He went on to say “AG, it’s your life, live it the way you want to.” For some reason, it hit me right between the eyes.

For most of my life, I have been driven by a sense that my worth was tied to how useful I could be, that my relationships were dependent on my “paying” for them. If I was not providing something, then of course I would be abandoned. You can see where that might lead to being a little driven. In some ways, my life was not mine, it was something I owed other people. The truth of it – being ok to actually do want I wanted to, for no better reason than it was what I wanted (seriously, a horrifying thought, because I would turn into a selfish monster right?)- finally sinking in, had a profound effect. I was doing a lot of things that I truly enjoyed and found valuable, all of them very tied into my growth, such as this blog, moderating on Psychcafe, and volunteering on a crisis line. I have no doubt that a strong part of my motivation was driven by a wish to do good, to bring meaning out of what happened to me, to help others the way I had been helped. I also want to be clear that all of it was my free choice and not imposed or demanded by anyone else. I did all these things because I wanted to and found them rewarding. But I think I also had to accept the painful truth that on some unconscious level I was trying to make sure I was accepted and valued. So I gave myself permission to stop. Everything. I’m sure I have been a bit on the selfish side, but I have comforted myself with the thought that I was a little overdue to balance things out a bit. My best description is that I experienced a very long, slow collapse. I have fulfilled my responsibilities to my family and my job, but not much beyond. I pulled very inward, something intensified by my returning to therapy as I worked on my body and food issues.

SIDENOTE: I’m at a point that I know I can live without therapy and even BN (gasp!), but I also know that I deeply value the time to reflect and understand what I’m doing that therapy provides. It’s extremely useful for me, so I am taking advantage of it. It’s also still an incredible emotional luxury to feel secure, and not be bothered by breaks, etc. I have a much better balance these days.

So much so that a number of my close friends kept checking in to see if they had done something wrong. The seeking out of solitude and the slowing down were both deeply inchoate, and not very well understood, impulses, so it was hard to explain to other people something I barely understood myself. This absence has in some ways been a period of rest,  a rest I wasn’t really aware I needed. I’m still not sure I understand what this was all about; I just know lately, I have been feeling as if I might be ready to venture out again. Don’t understand that either, but I’m going to trust it the same way I trusted my instinct to pull back.

Of course, just because I was resting did NOT mean life decided to grind to a halt. My younger daughter graduated college and started working full time at my company. They adore her, she’s brilliant and I need to get out of there before I find myself working for her! We’re close, get along well and are respectful of each other’s space, so it’s working well so far. She’s saving for grad school, so she’s living at home (where the rent is cheap!) but moved into our in-law apartment attached to our house to be a bit more independent. We’re still adjusting to my husband being retired, although we’re both very happy he is. I only wrapped two Christmas presents this year!! But I am still struggling to carve out my own space and time for writing. I can still find it hard to set boundaries, even though my husband is perfectly fine with me doing so. Still a work in progress. I am still working on becoming more comfortable in my body, and dealing with my weight and food issues. There have been varying degrees of success. I have found the crux of the issue is hanging on to my new, and sometimes fragile, understanding that I am worthwhile just as I am and that eating better and exercising are acts of self-love and self-care to allow myself to live the life which I want. This is warring with my long standing belief that I was not worthwhile, especially as fat as I am, I should be ashamed, and I needed to diet and lose weight until I became a more worthy person (or at least one closer to the cultural norm). The distinction is so important because with the latter belief any attempt to exercise or eat better evokes a deep sense of shame and being unworthy, so I avoid those activities. Seeing them as an act of love really helps to engage in them. It also fosters a sense of compassion for the inevitable failures. I am human, change can be slow, but I’m still worthwhile and it’s still ok to continue being loving to myself. Doesn’t that all sound so simple and easy? BWWAAAHHHAAAAAH. Again, I’m a work in progress. Last but not least, and he’s doing really well now, but my husband needed to be moved off of an anti-arrhythmic drug that had too many long term side effects. It may have had side effects, but it was also very effective. After over 15 months without any episodes of afib, my husband’s heart decided to act up three months after he stopped the drug. So his cardiologist decided to put him on another anti-arrhythmic, but this one requires you to be hospitalized in order to start the medication. They have to closely monitor your heart to guard against a possible side effect of this drug. First time didn’t go so good, he couldn’t tolerate the highest dose, and he remained in Afib. But we tried again later and he tolerated the higher dose just fine and after a cardio-revert is back in a normal sinus rhythm. If things continue to look good at his next follow up, he gets off the blood thinner for now. So there were a couple of hospitalizations, but they were worth it as he is looking very stable again. So that’s the short version of what’s been going on? (Really!?! There’s a long version?!! RUN!! :D)

There was a catalyst to why I decided to venture back out on to the blog now. Barb left a comment on my Dissociation and Trauma: It wasn’t really that bad, was it? post and I found myself in a dilemma. This is Barb’s first comment on my blog (Welcome Barb! Thanks for taking the time to comment!) and the first time you comment it goes into the moderation queue. I have a difficult time not allowing someone to have a voice, so I have never used disagreeing with someone as a reason not to allow a comment to be published. (I reserve that for spam, repeated offensive behavior, or deliberately misleading me about your identity for those curious about it.) But I hesitated in this case because I also did not want Barb’s comment to go unanswered as I was worried about it’s effect on some of my readers. So many people struggling to heal from trauma can wrestle with feelings of focusing too much on themselves, or making too big a deal of what happened (when they are doing neither) and I do not want anything on my blog to add fuel to that fire. So instead, I decided to write this post, publish Barb’s comment and reply to it. Once I do that the title of this post may make more sense. 😀 Barb’s comment and my reply will be in the next post.

This is the first of a two part series. For Part II, see Why can’t the past just be the past? Part II

Categories: hiatus, needs, shame Tags:
  1. Michelle Bennett
    January 8, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Welcome back, AG!!! It’s so good to hear from you, again, and I’m so glad things are going well for you!!

    Like

    • January 8, 2017 at 1:56 pm

      Michelle, Thanks so much! I was a bit nervous hitting “Publish.” 🙂 It’s been so long I was a bit afraid anyone would care. Thanks for the welcome back! ~ AG

      Like

  2. January 8, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    I’m really looking forward to reading the next part of the post. I think that a lot of trauma survivors struggle over and over with the issue of whether revisiting the trauma through therapy or even just thinking and talking about it is makes everything worse and not better, and one aspect of this is agonising over whether therapy is helpful for them or not (I know I have these thoughts all the time). I’m hoping your take on things will be that, just as children do not “choose” to dissociate, neither do adults necessarily “choose” to revisit past events – the “choice” is more one between having the past intrude in an uncontrolled way and revisiting it in ways that make it more manageable.

    Liked by 2 people

    • January 8, 2017 at 6:48 pm

      Dv,
      I think you’ll be happy with it. I’m thinking I should have asked you to write it, based on your comment. 🙂 I totally agree that so many trauma survivors question whether the pain they are facing is worth it, that was really the main reason I did not want the comment to stand unanswered. I promise part II will be posted very soon! Oh and welcome to my blog! Good to see you here! ~ AG

      Like

  3. January 8, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    I am so glad you hit publish! It was like getting a package in the mail. I was happy
    to hear you are well . Thank you for sharing
    your thoughts.

    Like

    • January 8, 2017 at 8:37 pm

      Mammawoman,
      Thanks for the warm welcome back! I’m glad I hit publish too. 🙂

      Like

  4. MissDeb
    January 8, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    Welcome back! Thank you for publishing this. Like someone else commented I get excited when I see a post from you. You articulate what I wish I could. Struggling with similar issues it’s nice to know I’m not alone. It can feel very isolating even when I appear ok on the outside. Except for the weight. Look forward to the next post!

    Like

  5. Little blond girl
    January 8, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    AG so very nice to get a post in my inbox today. what a great surprise! Thanks for the update. You’ve been missed. LBG

    Like

    • January 8, 2017 at 11:20 pm

      LGB,
      So good to hear from you, I hope you’re doing well! I’ve missed my friends here. Thanks for welcoming me back! AG

      Like

  6. Squiggly
    January 8, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Thanks gentle writer. I saw a lot of me in this. Go well good woman.

    Like

    • January 8, 2017 at 11:22 pm

      Squiggly,
      Welcome to my blog I broke out in a huge grin when I read “gentle writer.” 😀 I’m glad that you can relate and thanks for the well wishes. ~ AG

      Like

  7. Morgs
    January 8, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    Ah (((AG))) it’s lovely to see you again and wonderful to see your personal growth and insights continue to reach new heights! Thank you for sharing (part 1) what’s been happening with and for you – I know many who read your blogs have “aha” moments that help in their own journeys.

    Welcome back, however regular or not your posts may be. Morgs x

    Like

    • January 8, 2017 at 11:25 pm

      ((((Morgs)))) Thanks so much for the welcome back. I so appreciate how supportive you always are! I also appreciate the grace extended about the regularity of my posts. 😀 Helps reduce the pressure! xx AG PS I changed the name before letting the comment post.

      Like

  8. Morgs
    January 8, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Oops! can you please change my name to Morgs AG?

    Like

  9. Peach
    January 9, 2017 at 12:50 am

    Thank you AG. I also was very excited to receive the email about your post, and look forward to part 2. I have found your blog so helpful since I became aware of my childhood trauma during last year – reading them when I was feeling really low was like having a friend to talk to! And this was the first notification I have received. Peach

    Like

    • January 9, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      Hi Peach,
      Thanks for coming over to my blog! Sorry to make you wait so long for a notice, but I appreciate your tenacity. 🙂 I’m so glad that you’ve found reading here to be a comfort. ~ AG

      Like

  10. liz
    January 9, 2017 at 6:08 am

    So glad to read you again and to see that, as always, it still seems like we’re living parallel lives 🙂
    You seem to be doing fine, which made me even happier to find your post in my feed.
    Can’t wait to read the rest!

    Like

    • January 9, 2017 at 1:01 pm

      Liz!! So good to hear from you!! I’m glad to know I’m holding up my end of making our parallel lives keep in step. 🙂 Thanks for waiting for me! ~ AG

      Like

  11. Mary Lennox
    January 9, 2017 at 7:35 am

    Welcome back AG! I think there is a huge difference between being selfish and self-regarding/self-respecting. Glad you were able to claim the space you needed.

    Like

    • January 9, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      Mary Lennox (great name, love the Secret Garden!), welcome to my blog. Thank you so much for the welcome back and that generous re-framing of my activities. ~ AG

      Like

      • Mary Lennox
        January 9, 2017 at 2:23 pm

        Been reading for awhile, just under a different name. Had to adopt this undercover identity for my own writings. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  12. MAC
    January 9, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    Adding my own welcome back greetings as well. Even though it’s been a while, your blogging voice is so very familiar and comfortable. As usual, when I read your posts, I feel like you and I must somehow be the same person in alternate universes. So sorry to hear of the continued health difficulties for your husband and also glad to hear of your progress in learning how to take better care of yourself in the areas of food/weight. I, too, am now turning more attention to those (scary, horrible) topics, and so feel your “pain” in that sense.

    I’m also looking forward to reading Part 2. One of the most helpful lines I ever read in that regard was from a book by Jasmin Cori entitled “The Emotionally Absent Mother.” She says that she believes people keep revisiting the past until they are done with it, and everyone’s timeline for being “done with it” is quite different. Reading that almost 2 years ago now was the first thing that really allowed me to give myself permission to dive into the past for as long as I needed to and to trust that “the process” would make it clear when I was done with it.

    So good to have you back for however long you are back this time. We all miss you, but of course it is more important that you take care of you.

    Like

    • January 9, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      MAC,
      Good to hear from you! I’m glad I still sound like me. It was good time away, but I have missed everyone. I am very grateful that so many are still here.

      I think Jasmin Cori was exactly right. Anytime I have discussed my fear of “taking too long” in therapy, BN always cocks his head a little to one side and says very calmly “Taking too long? I have no idea what that means.” It was a total shock to me that after years, even decades of wrestling, it was clear when I no longer needed to go. But, what was even better, was when I realized I wanted to go because I still found it rewarding and that’s ok. I am so grateful for the fall off in the intensity. I haven’t seen BN in a month and because our new insurance (of course!) got messed up, not sure when I can schedule, need to get it straightened out first. And yet, I’m ok. But it took as long as it took. People can take comfort when they’re worried, very few have been in therapy as long as I! ~ AG

      Like

  13. Ms. Sharkey
    January 9, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    AG – SO GOOD to see you back! I must admit that I squeed and bounced just a little when I saw an email notification from your blog in my inbox. As always, I relate so strongly to much of what you wrote, especially about the divide between self-care and selfishness. It’s a hard one to straddle effectively, at least for me.

    Like

    • January 9, 2017 at 1:11 pm

      Ms. Sharkey!! So good to see you too! I know the feeling as I felt the same way when I saw your comment. I really am delighted to re-connect.

      I’m with you on the straddling. “I must be selfish” is such a deep-rooted reflex because for so long I believed any need of mine was illegitimate. But there’s always that nagging fear that I’ve swung too far the other way. Followed by reminding myself that I’ve joined the human race and won’t always get it right. And that’s ok. 🙂

      AG

      Like

  14. CD
    January 9, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    I’m so happy your “back”. I discovered your blog only a short time ago. So much so that I’ve even shared some of your posts with my therapist. You are so articulate and I love your openness and honesty.

    Like

    • January 9, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      CD,
      Welcome to my blog! I’m glad your wait was not long! I am truly honored you would share my writing with your therapist, I’m so glad it has resonated with you. ~ AG

      Like

  15. kelly
    January 9, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Welcome back, been a while good to hear your updates and read your latest post.

    Like

  16. January 10, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Welcome back, AG. I believe I discovered your blog when I was researching attachment disorders to understand my own. You’ve been on my reading list ever since, and here, you’ve popped up! So glad you’re resurfacing.

    My own therapy and inward focus allowed ( and continues to allow) outer validation to seep down into inner validation. I claim inward focus is necessary. In entering more deeply, in opening up to being self-centered, I open all the way down to that emotionally incomplete or failed human attachment – the origin of suffering. How can we build on glossing over? With reality and validation, a shift like grace, can happen. Isn’t this what we all need? I love that you’re resonating with a lot of folks here. Look forward to reading you!

    Like

    • January 10, 2017 at 5:14 pm

      Gowiththeflow,
      Thanks for the welcome back! Your description of how we move inward to the origin of suffering is both true and beautiful. There’s a great song by Dar Williams about therapy called “What Do You Hear in These Sounds” that has a bridge that says:

      And when I talk about therapy, I know what people think
      That it only makes you selfish and in love with your shrink
      But oh how I loved everybody else
      When I finally got to talk so much about myself

      We cannot give that which we do not have. So we need to allow love and grace in, down to the deepest levels, until we can meet other people with it. Thanks for commenting.

      ~ AG

      Like

  17. Willow
    January 14, 2017 at 7:07 am

    Thank you, AG…when I hit your line… “For most of my life, I have been driven by a sense that my worth was tied to how useful I could be, that my relationships were dependent on my “paying” for them. …”
    I found myself ( probably pretty commonly thought… “For most of my life, I have been driven by a sense that”….. I have to read others stance, temperament, etc and attune myself to them…my existence, bearing, feeling are that dependent…

    Thank you as always for capturing and provoking those elusive thoughts…

    Like

    • January 14, 2017 at 1:35 pm

      Willow,
      It’s good to hear from you! Your description of how you felt makes so much sense, as we often had to be hypervigilant about our caregivers to both get what little care they would provide or in an effort to avoid punishment or abuse. At the time we should have been most focused on ourselves and our development, we were instead completely turned outward. It really did interfere with our development.I’m glad that you gained some clarity. ~ AG

      Like

  18. Laura
    January 16, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    AG, so glad to see you are posting again. Though I have been a lurker extraordinaire since I discovered your blog (I thought you’d gone offline permanently), it’s wonderful to see you back and sharing your insights. I constantly marvel at how our journeys move in parallel, enough so that I checked to make sure your BN is not my therapist. He’s not. (Though mine is awesome too. 😉 )

    I resonate a lot with your post about earning one’s place in a relationship. I think that is why therapy can be so hard for some of us. What have we done to earn the attention of this person sitting across from us, listening to the litany of perceived awfulness we carry within us all? It’s not money – no amount would convince my T to put up with me if he didn’t want to. I see the logical flaw, but all the positive self-talk can’t undo decades of psychic erosion by mentally unstable and emotionally volatile parenting. This leaves me feeling sometimes that I have to apologize for being in therapy, so excellent timing on your end.

    Like

    • January 16, 2017 at 5:36 pm

      Hi Laura,
      Thanks for commenting, it’s nice to “meet” you. I really appreciate you breaking your lurkerdom to welcome me back. 🙂 I m so with you about the feelings about therapy and how hard it is to accept that someone is there for you. I often tell BN that I spent so much time trying to earn something that he gave me freely from the moment I walked through his door. But really what stays with me is when we discussed love in the relationship and I told him I could not buy what he gave me (his time and expertise, yes, his love, not so much) and we had talked about me loving my children but I was not his child, so why did he possibly love me? To which he replied without hesitation “Because you let me.” One of the worst fallouts of abuse or neglect is that we think the greatest truth about ourselves, our inherent worth and dignity, are not the truth about us. Learning that truth is at the heart of healing. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. And glad BN turned out not to be your T! 🙂
      AG

      Like

  19. BoP
    January 29, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    Oh my AG I care as well (in a selfish way – isn’t it always). Idly clicking on my bookmark to your site today as I was both in a bad way and trying to tidy up my bookmarks my heart leapt with delight to see you were back – I’m a long time lurker on your fabulous blog. Lots of love and yes i mean that, it is possible to feel real love for an electronic ‘friend’. I’m about to read part 2. BoP

    Like

    • January 29, 2017 at 4:57 pm

      BoP,
      Thanks for the warm welcome back! I’ve been really touched that so many people were happy to hear from me. I’m very glad you commented and introduced yourself! I’m so glad that you’ve found my writing to be of value. And I am not one to turn down love. 🙂 ~ AG

      Like

  20. February 11, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    AG, hey, you may remember me I don’t know you might not. but I was a member of psych café for a while, except now I cant get in, so was going to make a new account! Can you give me the URL of the site again as I forgot what it was? Glad to know your ok and doing well! Much love and hugs! xoxoxo ❤

    Like

    • February 12, 2017 at 5:25 am

      I do remember, good to hear from you! It’s http://www.psychcafe.ca. Just so you’re aware, the forum was ported to a new platform a while back, so the layout is quite different. Sorry to be brief but I am out of town for the week and have only my phone (and large clumsy fingers. 🙂 ) ~ AG

      Liked by 1 person

      • February 12, 2017 at 5:38 am

        Thank you for letting me know. I appreciate it. Have a good trip. XXX

        Like

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