Category Archives: family

I am So Sorry

Sometimes I feel like you left because you were bored and restless.

I feel like you left because you were unsatisfied with our marriage, our family, and your place within the life you and I had created together. I don’t think you wanted the responsibility of having a family or a mortgage. I believe that you wanted your bachelorhood back, you wanted to be single again, because the life we had created together felt stifling. You felt trapped; and you wanted to get the fuck away from me and my addled brain. 

When I feel the devastation as I wake up on Thanksgiving this morning (or any holiday), my brain automatically goes straight to the happy memories. It goes to the space left in my heart where the man I used to love lives. Where the family that meant everything to me still resides, and always will. And it hurts. It wrecks me. At least it used to. I know now that a trip down memory lane is not a place that I want to visit. It is not a place I need to dwell on. It is a land of fairy tales and happiness; hope and longing. It isn’t real.

A part of me continues to question whether it ever was.

In this moment, I want you to know that I am sorry. I am so so sorry. For not choosing you or us. For only seeing my life with you as a part of something bigger; our kids and our family. But there we were, you and I, the most important part of that equation, and we stopped choosing each other. Instead, we chose resentment, complicity, boredom, stagnancy, denial (heaps and heaps of denial). We chose the kids; not each other. We ignored the not-so-invisible monster in the room. The huge beast that was sitting there screaming at us: “Watch out!!! This is getting closer and closer to dangerous territory! Neither of you are happy!! It is time to stop ignoring that!!”

But we didn’t stop. We kept trudging along. We kept marching to the beat of someone else’s drum; society’s drum. We were caught on the relationship escalator and we didn’t know how to get off until it was too late. The escalator broke down and chucked us the fuck off. And now, here we are. Living lives that are separate and apart; we are no longer a couple.

And sometimes that hurts. A lot.

But I know, deep in my heart, that we are both happier. More satisfied. More alive and awake and aware. And we have these new lives to navigate. New horizons and paths to choose. And perhaps one day I will meet someone and we will look at each other the way you and I used to look at each other. And when that happens (or doesn’t), I will make sure that I choose them Every. Single. Day. Because I don’t want to wake up a year from then, or five years from then, and realize I was making the same mistakes I made with you.

I am so so sorry.

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Birthday Thoughts

Today is my 43rd birthday.

One year ago today, I wrote my first blog post. I was so distraught and so completely rocked with grief and emotion, my head and heart felt like they were exploding. I was working through SO MUCH and I needed an outlet. So, I bought a laptop, and I started writing. Straight from my heart, straight from my gut. All of my hurt and my pain came pouring out of me. And, one year later, I have this amazing written history of my life and my struggles and my victories and most importantly, my progress.

This post was originally going to be about all of the things I have learned about myself this past year – a victory post. And yes, I have come a long way; from literally hitting rock bottom (at least a dozen times) to squaring off with my demons and winning. I have come to understand myself more than I ever thought possible. I am beginning to believe that there is a light at the end of this tunnel and that light belongs to me and no one else.

I am the creator of that energy, that power, that resilience.

But in this moment, right now, I am so completely overwhelmed with gratitude. It feels like it is choking me; I am surrounded by LOVE. I am literally being flooded with it as my community, my tribe, my friends, my family, send me messages of “happy birthday”. A year ago, I did not know that I had a family of friends waiting for me. A group of people who would love me and lift me up and catch me when I fell. A literal tribe of friends who have my back completely.

I felt so alone.

So, here I am, sitting in my bed once again, crying on my birthday. But the tears are different this time. They are tears of disbelief, wonder, thankfulness, joy, and love. I can say with certainty that I love my life. I love my children, my family, and my friends. And most importantly, I am finding a love for myself that is deep and profound and never ending.

I have a new tattoo – it is a phoenix on fire. I had no idea that a year ago I had predicted that I would be okay; that I was a phoenix. But I am; I absolutely am. I am rising from these fucking ashes and reclaiming my power.

Accepting love, feeling love, and exploding with a disbelief and a certainty that I am okay.

My post from a year ago:

Today is my 42nd birthday.

I woke up all alone in my bed. All alone in my house. There should be laughter and chatter and people and love, but its empty, and my life feels empty as a result.

My husband moved out this past October – taking some space. My kids are with me half as much as they were just five short weeks ago. I did not choose this. I did not want to have a life without my family intact.

I opt out. I choose happiness over this shit storm of uncertainty and heartache. I want my goddamn family back. I want my husband back. Not the asshole who hurt me time and again. Not the one who betrayed my trust and my heart over and over. Not the man who lashed out and said damaging, hurtful things. Not the man who shamed and blamed me. Not the man who fell in love with a 30-year-old who lives in a fucking van. Not that man.

I want the man I spent the last 16 years building a life and a family with. The man who had my back at every turn. The father of my children. The man who laughed with me and looked at me with awe, care, and compassion. The man who adored me, who loved me, who would never have given up on me.

And now? I am invisible, unworthy, and forgotten. I am supposed to be someone I cannot be and I am stuck.

Or maybe, this is not the case at all. Maybe this is an opportunity. Maybe this is a beginning, a chance, a new hope, a new start. A new life. One where I learn to roar and soar and be the most amazing version of myself there is.

Perhaps I will grow, change, and step out of this shell that has bound me to others, to my husband, to my children. I have been leaking out the very essence of myself, for what feels like forever. I have been losing what I needed the most.

ME.

Maybe this is the new life I always needed (and possibly wanted) without ever consciously knowing it. I will find my path; it is infinite, open, and endless with possibility. I am strong, I am empowered, I am fierce. I am the Phoenix and I will rise from these ashes. I will cry out and soar above all of this shit. There will be no stopping the invincible self that lies within me; that has always been within me. My strength, my inner fire; they are there, alive within me, and on their way out.

Step out of my way. I am beginning to roar.

Relationship Addiction

Hi.

My name is Amy and I am a relationship addict.

Yes, it is a thing. A very real and very debilitating thing.

From Ann Smith via Psychology Today:

The relationship addict experiences intense “abandonment anxiety”. This anxiety triggers panic, low self worth, feelings of emptiness, isolation, and possibly depression. The addict may believe they are worthless without their partner. They almost always feel unbearable emptiness. Love addiction is a compulsive, chronic craving and/or pursuit of romantic love in an effort to get our sense of security and worth from another person. The causes of love addiction are fairly easy to identify: inadequate or inconsistent nurturing, low self esteem, absence of positive role models for committed relationships, and indoctrination with cultural images of perfect romantic love and happily ever after endings.

It dawned on me as I said goodbye to the last relationship I was in, just a week or so ago, that something wasn’t right with the way I was reacting to the loss. Something felt off, so I did what I do best, I did some investigative work on myself and my behavior. I took a look back at my actions with this person, within the relationship, and found myself kind of disgusted. I wasn’t necessarily shocked to discover that nothing about my behavior had been healthy or ‘normal’, just kind of disappointed. It was a realization that I didn’t want to make or admit.

But deep down, I knew that it was time to deal with it.

Finally.

I am addicted to love.

I was a rollercoaster of emotion and anxiety during my last relationship (something I thought was just me, in addition to my current grief over the divorce). I thought my explosive (head-over-heels love) and intense emotion was fueled by love and my big, huge heart. But, my anxiety would be more pronounced when I wouldn’t hear from him for longer than a few hours or, god forbid, an entire day. I would feel nothing short of despondent; panicky. And when his feelings didn’t seem to match my own in intensity or explosiveness, I got even more anxious and more emotional. It was exhausting. I have no idea why he put up with me.

Since we have said our respective goodbyes, I have been an anxious wreck. Mornings seem to be the hardest. I wake up, and without that good morning check-in fix, I feel anxious, undone, and completely alone.

To be perfectly honest, I feel terrified. But of what, I have no idea (a fact that is really pissing me off). I am home alone right now and literally just screamed to no one: “What the fuck are you so afraid of?!” And promptly burst into tears. Sigh.

I have a feeling that this is going to be a long, hard, uphill battle.

I have been this way for as long as I can remember. Ever since boys noticed me in the 8th grade (and I noticed them back). I suspect that the behavior took root because I grew up in a home without a father and had an emotionally distant mother who I didn’t easily connect with. I watched my father die and never had a male role model. After his death, my mother relied on me to be the other parent in the household. I was 9. Perhaps, as a result, I was left with a void, a hole, severely low self-esteem, and a debilitating fear of abandonment.

From http://www.loveaddictiontreatment.com:

Love (and relationship) addicts are terrified of abandonment. They rely on others to fulfill them, and to make them feel happy and whole. Without their love object, they feel worthless and incomplete. This is often due to a lack of love and nurturing from their primary caregivers while growing up. The abandonment they experienced may have been emotional (i.e. – their parents were physically present but emotionally detached), or physical – one or both of their parents left, died, was ill, or absent much of the time.

Perhaps my childhood ended at age 9? I am almost 43. That is 34 years of emptiness. Holy crap.

*shudder*

From what I have read, true love addiction is less about the search for love and more about finding a way to control tough emotions. Going from one relationship to another without any room for grieving, mourning, or processing through a previous loss means getting to avoid feeling those tough emotions. I thought I had a failsafe way to avoid dealing with my father’s death and subsequent abandonment shit when I married my first husband.

But that relationship didn’t satisfy me, so I found another more exciting guy and married him. We lasted 16 years. I thought I would be safe forever; we had 2 kids! That meant commitment – a guarantee, a promise, right?

Holy shit. NO.

When my second marriage failed, I had no choice but to deal with the grief from my father’s death (finally) which came back in one giant terrifying matzoh ball of horror. When that train wreck came, in addition to grieving my marriage and my family, it is no surprise that I ended up in the hospital.

But wait, I didn’t I really have to deal with any of it, did I? After I got out of the hospital, my subconscious knew just what to do. I did what I had always done when a relationship ended or seemed unsatisfying. I jumped right back into online dating and I hopped right into a new romance. Surely this new and exciting person would save me and help me feel better and I would be happy?!

Again, holy shit. NO.

Since the split a year ago, I have had 3 relatively serious, sexually intimate relationships. When each one ended, I broke all over again. They were unhealthy relationships (though I didn’t think so or realize it at the time) as they were a means of getting that love ‘fix’ and avoiding the big, huge, debilitating emotions that accompany being alone (for me). I was still hiding from my demons; my inability to feel whole, complete, or satisfied with who I am as a person without that constant need for external validation. Seeking internal validation from external sources for most of my life has done so much damage I really don’t know where to begin picking up the pieces.

For me, being alone feels like I am dying. And right now, in this moment, I feel like I am dying. The longest I have ever been single was a mere few weeks when I was 19 years old. It was during that time period that I had a suicide attempt. That is how scary it felt then. It feels just as scary now but thankfully, I am 42 and have 2 beautiful children that anchor me to this world.

I know that this realization/admission is huge. I know I am on the right path and acknowledging my underlying behaviors and motivations has felt very scary but also very empowering.

Life and love feel like this big ball of tangled up shit that I have to finally sit down with, examine, and sort through. On my own. My goal is to be single for 6 months.

That is not until April. Gulp.

Am I scared? Hell yes. I am completely terrified.

I have been leaking out my power and my essence and my very self all over the damn place. It stops now.

It is time for me to go and find all of my missing pieces. And put myself back together.

I am Rebuilding Amy.

 

 

Resources on love and relationship addiction for you:

http://www.loveaddictiontreatment.com/the-roots-of-love-addiction/

http://loveaddicts.org/40questions.html

The Guilt of Divorce.

Two days ago I told my ex that I wished our children had never been born.

And in that moment, I meant it.

Let me be very clear – I LOVE MY CHILDREN. They are amazing; kind, smart, loving, and a pain in the ass when they want to be. I grew them for fuck’s sake! I adore them. I really do. But sometimes, there is a resentment and a confusion around parenting that creeps in, and the guilt that goes along with this is nothing short of horrific.

So, in that awful moment, as I sobbed my way to work, I was thinking that maybe my life would be somehow easier without them.

Erase the children, erase the guilt.

Wishing my children would disappear is a selfish thought born of denial and insecurity. It’s me, projecting my sense of self-worth onto 2 people who didn’t do a damn thing to deserve this. This divorce, this hurt, this major shit-show of a broken childhood. Any of it.

(It’s not my fault, it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault).

I know that I feel this way at times because the single hardest thing for me to deal with as far as this divorce and my ‘new trajectory‘ goes, is the bone deep guilt I feel over breaking my kids’ hearts. I do not know how to settle this within myself. Sure, I see them, and they are happy and thriving. They are still their silly selves and the acute trauma from last fall after their dad left has eased.

But my guilt remains; steadfast, not budging, in my heart and in my gut. It makes me feel physically ill. All I EVER WANTED was an intact family. I never had that as a child. And now my kids won’t have that either.

My inner 9-year-old is hurting badly. Again. It’s grief. I am grieving as a wife, as a mother, and as a little girl who thought she had the life she always wanted. Jesus. That is a lot. No wonder this is lingering.

When they are with me, there is a constant unspoken reminder of a missing piece. I feel off-balance, off kilter, and longing for the family unit that we once were. I struggle to be present with them because they are a constant reminder of my own shit. My hurt, my loss, my guilt, my confusion. When they aren’t with me, I can ignore that. Do my own very, single thing.

I am redefining my life. I am rediscovering who I am. I am trying to rebuild my self outside of my role as a mother. I got swallowed alive by that role. And I harbor resentment toward my kids because of that. Again, not their fault.

When I feel as though I wish that they had never been born, I am also struggling with this fear that no one will love me if I have 2 nearly grown kids. We are a package deal and that is not for everyone. I am responsible for 2 human beings aside from myself. Who wants to take that on?

Sometimes I can barely take care of myself.

If they didn’t exist, I could feel my feelings and my hurt and my upset whenever I wanted to; whenever I needed to. When I have them, if I am struggling emotionally, I have to push my feelings down as I don’t want them to worry about their mom. I have a ‘game face’ – everything is sunshine and happiness when they are with me and sometimes I just don’t have the energy to sustain that. Do I show my emotions to them? Of course I do! I just can’t share the depth of those emotions during the times when the hurt and the fear and the ache is so primal it brings me to my knees.

No one sees that. That is mine and mine alone.

Okay, enough of this shit.

I want to tell you about my kids.

Sam is 9. He struggles with anxiety and his own sense of self-worth. He is an amazingly smart kid and loves with a sensible caution. He is a an introvert and a highly sensitive person. He loves bugs, Pokemon, reading, and his family. His laugh is infectious and when he gets going, we are usually laughing at him laughing than whatever made us laugh in the first place. He doesn’t like to cry and he has a hard time feeling his feelings. I worry about him. A lot. He looks just like his dad.

Ellie is 7 (soon to be 8). She is an empath and has a huge heart. I am constantly amazed at the depth and clarity with which she is able to express herself. She is a smart, kind, quiet, child. She loves with a reckless abandon and has a dry wit and silly sense of humor. She is a fierce friend and hero-worships her older brother but also stands up to him with a newfound confidence I am thrilled to see. She looks a lot like me.

I cannot imagine my life without them. Their love, their hugs, their laughter and their tears.

I own this resentment and this guilt, hurt, heartache, and confusion. It is mine and mine alone. And I will beat it just as I have beat the other shit that comes up.

One day at a time.

Denial.

No one is immune.

No one gets a free pass.

Every single person in this world hurts, suffers, rages, and cries. Not all of the time, but definitely some of the time; some people more than others. We all ebb and flow through our emotions just as we ebb and flow through our lives.

I am working toward being okay with emotions – all of them. Embracing them like old friends instead of running from them. They feel so scary for me; even happiness. I don’t fully trust them yet and I still have this deep-seated fear that they will take over my being completely.

I think this stems in part from watching my dad die when I was 9. My emotional landscape permanently changed that day. I went from being a happy-go-lucky kid, without a care in the world, to seeing something (him die) to experiencing something (loss of a parent) that no child should ever have to go through. I didn’t have the emotional aptitude or cognitive capability to handle any of it. And after it happened, no one taught me how to process through my terror, confusion, guilt, or hurt. For the rest of my life, when those feelings of grief would pop up, I would shove them away like a plague. I was desperate to avoid them. They felt like they would swallow me whole.

And, at age 41, they did.

For a long time, I pretended that my dad was alive, and living in California with another family. It was easier to pretend that he just didn’t want to live with us anymore. Then I pretended he was a knight on some other plane of existence – another reality – one in which he would slay dragons and protect people.

My dad couldn’t be dead because that meant he was gone. And never coming back.

Denial is something that our brains latch onto for a time when we are navigating something too emotionally difficult to really comprehend. Sometimes we need to ignore certain things until we have the strength to move forward in our grief and on our path toward healing. We need to compartmentalize things that are simply too painful to grasp. Ignore, deny, avoid, and check out. And, for at least a little while, I believe that it is healthy and completely normal to do so.

Not healthy? Living in that space of false reality and clinging to a truth that isn’t real or does not exist, indefinitely.

Denial is something I have watched my kids going through since their dad and I split. My son would say, “but you aren’t divorced, you are separated.” Yes, this is true, on paper, but it’s for health insurance reasons. Our marriage is irrevocably broken. For good.

Denial it is something I did not want to admit I was doing, but fuck, it most certainly is. I like to think that I have been working hard in therapy to tackle my past hurt and childhood trauma and now it is finally time to work through this last year of my marriage breaking, my PTSD, and the fact that my husband is never coming home.

Ever again.

Shit, that hurts to type.

When people ask me if the split was amicable, I say no, it was not. If he were to call me and say, “hey Aim, let’s talk, let’s work this out. I miss you and I miss our family”, I would be lying if I said that isn’t something I have wished for a thousand times. A million times.

But that fantasy gets me literally no where. Every time I entertain thoughts like this, I do more damage. I cannot live or exist in a world where I create false realities anymore than I could have kept living in a very emotionally abusive and unhealthy marriage. It makes no sense.

But still, the thoughts pop up; Unwanted and detrimental.

I am now willing to acknowledge that it is over. I am radically accepting that he is NEVER COMING HOME. It hurts, but I recognize that this is the next step in my journey. With practice, I am gently acknowledging the thoughts as they arise, not giving them the attention they demand, and letting them slip away. I am practicing bringing myself back to the present moment, whether that is writing, doing dishes, watching my son read or my daughter play with her Legos. These thoughts have no power over me unless I allow them to.

And I will not allow them to any longer.

Vulnerability Hangover

*A bit of a rant this morning as I work my way through this latest hurdle*

I have a vulnerability hangover and it’s bad.

I opened myself up completely to someone and let love back into my life and into my heart; slowly and steadily over the past 5 months. I said goodbye to this person and that relationship 2 days ago and now I feel physically ill; sick to my stomach with anxiety and hurt and pain and regret. I want my fucking walls back. I want my suit of impenetrable armor. I want my PTSD-numbed emotional state of mind back. Because this hurts too much and I want OUT.

This is why smart people fear being vulnerable and keep themselves in check.

Boundaries, Amy! Balance!

I’m back on my emotional rollercoaster. Everything feels so raw and so frightening right now. I am feeling more alone than I have in months; questioning my sanity. I went and fell in love. Damnit, what was I thinking??? Once love blossomed in my heart, I dove straight in. Head first and with complete abandon. He held space for my love and intensity with a careful and gentle grace. But then we reached an impasse. I wanted more – I wanted it all – and he couldn’t give me that. This person wants children of his own. I am going to be 43 this year. I have children of my own and I do not want more. There is more to it than that, a lot more, but for me, that is the crux of it.

I guess I don’t understand why my kids and I aren’t enough for this person. We could have made an awesome, funky-type family. I know he wants his own children but he could have found an instant family with the 3 of us. I wanted to walk by his side for the foreseeable future. Meet his more of his friends and his family. Dance, laugh, discuss life, wake-up together, cook, camp, live, love, and explore. I would have been his partner and friend.

Sigh. Fantasy. All of it.

I considered it for a minute (okay, it’s still on my mind); having a baby with this man. What would that be like? It was, and still is, a tantalizing thought. But here’s the thing, as much as I love this guy, and would love to have a life with him, I cannot go through that again. Losing myself, my life, my body, to an infant. The fact is, that somewhere, deep inside of me, that pull to get lost is still there and this absolutely terrifies me.

And this: Maybe I don’t like who I am on love.

Love feels like a drug in my system. I feel like I’m going through withdrawal. Maybe being in love brings out the insecure and codependent me and there is nothing I can do about that. Maybe no amount of therapy can help me to untangle that deeply embedded shit. This relationship brought up all of my insecurities, but only when we were apart. When we were together, everything seemed crystal clear, healthy, grounding, and fucking amazing. I felt like I had balance – seeing him a few times a week, maintaining my friendships and my life outside of that relationship. But then this weird shit kept coming up when I wouldn’t hear from him in between seeing him:

Why didn’t he call? He said he would call! Why didn’t he say hello when he was online? Does he really like me? Does he really want a relationship? Just sex? Who am I if this imagined future with a man I love doesn’t actually exist? What if he says no? What if he finds someone else? What if he fucks someone else and he’s too afraid to tell me? He doesn’t owe me anything. I don’t own him. What if I am alone again? Without that connection that feels so right, so good, and so true? Who am I without that?

Am I still me?

Am I still ok?

What the fuck IS THAT? Why does the fact that someone’s messaging/not messaging or calling/not calling determine my sanity and sense of self/well-being? UGH. Is that just my codependency and sense of self-worth or was it the relationship itself? I really thought that I was complete on my own without this connection. Have I been lying to myself for months? Jesus, that would be fucking scary. I don’t think that is the case. I think I am feeling sad and confused. I am not an insecure person. I never have been.

Or perhaps I am complete and fine with who I am and this is what heartache and romantic confusion feel like. Wanting someone and a life with that person and realizing the hard truth that isn’t possible. Wanting ALL THE THINGS. This is only the second time in my life I have had to deal with heartbreak. The first was when my ex left in October. Every other relationship I have had, I have walked away from and been fine.

Fuck, I wish I knew how to casually date without getting attached.

My sister said it best:

“Well, you’ve never done anything ‘a little bit’ in your life. Go big or go home”.

I wish I had an in-between setting. I don’t know what it is about me that my tendencies lie in black and white, on or off, hot or cold. Where is my gray? I have the ability to love fiercely with all of myself and to alternately shut down and throw up walls of steel. I am working on that last part. I haven’t deleted this person from my life completely – I think that is a good sign. I am tenacious to a fault. When I want something, I get it. I don’t know how to give up. I chose to stop this relationship because it doesn’t have the outcome I desired. I said no to great sex, love and affection, epic 4-hour-long conversations, and lots of laughing.

And now I feel like punching shit. And puking.

I want to have someone in my life. I know that now. A partner. A lover. A friend. A goofball-buddy. Man, I fucking miss those things. I want a connection that runs so deep I feel it in my bones. I have/had that with this new person. In spades. And every fiber of my being is screaming: “WHY CAN’T THAT BE ENOUGH”? And worse: does this mean that I am not worth it? But how could I not be worth it AGAIN? This doesn’t seem possible!! I am worth it. I know that I am. It’s not a question of my worth at all but of life circumstance and a shit deal-breaker of wanting biological offspring. My uterus would probably fall out if I had another baby; I’m completely serious.

My ex has everything he ever wanted. He wanted the girlfriend – to live with her. And now he has that and this amazing life. A full life of love, and family, and friends he inherited with that relationship; a community. He has moved on.

I am literally rebuilding myself and my community from scratch. I am trying to find friends and start over. When the shit hits the proverbial fan, I really have very few people to rely on; who I feel emotionally safe with.

So, what do I have? An empty house I don’t want to live in any longer. No relationship. I have approximately 4 friends. I am exhausted and terrified. I had totally placed all of my hopes and dreams into a relationship that does not exist – something my therapist told me explicitly NOT to do. But the hopes and the fantasies kept coming whether I wanted them to or not. I pictured this person I love living here. Being a dad/role model to the kids. I pictured waking up next to him a thousand times. I had seen a future with him. Glimpses of gardening, keeping bees, laughing, being ridiculous and silly together.

Fuck this feels scary. I completely underestimated how much I was relying on that connection. I still have so much work to do. I don’t want to keep swimming around up in my head but it seems to be what I am doing right now. Trying to be gentle with myself and my emotions as they come. I am trying not to shut down, dissociate, or shame myself for feeling too much, loving too much, hoping too much.

I will not break.

Vulnerability and Expectation

(Trigger warning. Some mildly graphic details of parental death)

There are two themes that keep coming up for me. In my thoughts, conversations, reading, and in my writing.

The first is vulnerability. The second, expectation.

I don’t think the two are in any way connected, but I am certain that they are a part of this puzzle – of life, love, longing, grief, and moving forward through the trauma and the pain.

I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong. It’s goddamn amazing. I feel like I am doing the hard work she writes about – being a badass, being vulnerable and present, being my most aware self. And it is hard as fuck. Never in my life have I been faced with such insurmountable challenges. I am literally facing down my demons; and I am winning. She talks about vulnerability and our ‘stories’ (what we believe to be true in our minds) – for me that piece translates to expectations.

My dad died right in front of me when I was 9. He had pneumonia and one of his lungs exploded at home. I watched as my mother scooped vomit out of his mouth and tried to give him CPR. I tried to run out of that hallway where his body had fallen but she made me come back to help her. I was NINE. I watched as his nose turned blue and then a vivid shade of purple. He wasn’t breathing. He wasn’t getting any oxygen. He was dying. He was dead.

I didn’t want to watch any of that; I had no choice. That memory is seared into my mind like a painting. I have played and replayed that moment over a million times. I have asked myself why he died a million more. My PTSD brain, from that moment on, effectively robbed me of any ability to love fully, feel whole, feel self-worth, and be vulnerable. My PTSD brain, from that moment on, tried to control everything; from my day-to-day life to my relationships. It wanted predictability, safety, and never, ever surprises of any kind.

Guarantees. There are no guarantees; a fact that still pisses me off.

When your brain is hardwired to view everything as a threat, you cannot possibly be vulnerable. It is not an option. My brain was quite literally rewired in that moment of severe trauma. I disassociated from myself for the first time that day. I completely left my body as my mind perceived imminent danger and did what brains do. They fight, flee, or freeze. I didn’t fight – I was not a fighter then. I froze and I fled.

I know that my mother, at age 37, was doing the best that she could. I know that she needed help. There were no cell phones in 1984. I had to call the police. I had to do what she told me. I am a mother now; my son is 9 years old. And I know in my gut that I would never, EVER let him watch someone he loved more than life itself die in front of him. “I’ve got this!”, I’d say. “Go! Get out of here!”, I’d tell him. And I would take care of it. I would absorb all of that terror.

Maybe I am really saying those things to my 9-yr-old self. That little girl needed protecting. She needed saving. I can do that for her now. I can help her. I can hold her hand and we can walk away. My 42-year-old self is in a space of strength and courage that I can tap into. I can take that child and protect her. I can and will heal her. EMDR is saving my life.

What about this expectation piece? I read something the other day that said something to the effect of; “No one has broken your heart, they broke your expectations”. Damn did that to get me. I am still trying to untangle that statement. My ex hurt me; didn’t he? Did he not break my heart? Or did he make selfish choices that I reacted to? Perhaps my hurt and my heartbreak were my own and I needed to react and fall apart so I could reemerge and put myself back together.

He certainly broke all of my expectations around having an intact family and someone to grow old with. What do I do now that the future I expected to have is GONE? The future I expected to have as a little girl with a mother and a father – GONE. Is this the true source of my hurt? The loss of my predictable and planned out future?

If I let go of expectations around love and life, what am I left with? My own shit. My vulnerability (HA! They are connected!). I have to let myself be present in the moment. Right now. Right here. Not a week from now, not 30 years ago, not last year. NOW. Letting go of possible futures with possible endings. When I let go of any and all expectations I might have, I am forcing myself into a state of vulnerability as I am entering into a space where I literally have no control or say in what happens – save my own decisions and the choices that I make.

July 24, 1984. My brain broke that day. My daughter was born on July 24, 2009. Exactly 25 years to the day that her grandfather died. My little girl is a magical creature filled with love, light, and an emotional capacity I marvel at every single damn day.

I cannot predict the future. I do not know what today or tomorrow hold. There are no certainties. There are no guarantees. People die, babies are born, people will leave you, and people will walk into your life seemingly out of the blue. To let go of expectation is to be vulnerable. This is my life goal. I am right here, right now. I am doing the best that I can as I bumble along this winding path on my crazy journey. My heart is opening up for the first time in 33 years. I am completely terrified but I wouldn’t have it any other way.