I’ve been really trying to focus on my own well-being these days. I feel like I’m hibernating, and healing in the process. Its funny how, until you’re out of a certain situation, you’re so unaware of the reality of your life. It’s not really funny, it’s more sad and unfortunate.
I’ve felt so good lately, and been having so many realizations of what my old life was like – I’m amazed that I ever lived that life.
I can’t believe how suppressed and disillusioned I was in my marriage, especially now after being out of my old home for months. I only see my ex when we exchange the kids for visitation. Even though I kicked him out over a year ago, I still saw him regularly because he lived nearby. I didn’t realize how damaging his frequent presence was. Being farther away from him has done my mental and emotional well-being a world of good.
I have come to realize that in the past, every action or inaction of mine was so fear-based. I wasn’t afraid of being hit or scolded. I was never beaten or screamed at. It was quite the opposite. I was seemingly showered with love and affection and allowed to have all the freedom that I wanted…yet, I never felt free to be my own person.
Why? What was I afraid of?
I was apparently afraid of disapproval and ultimately not feeling “good enough”. Not pleasing him in the littlest way would cause me to overcompensate in any one area. It’s hard to explain without examples, so the example that is top of mind was my weekly grocery trip (aka my weekly energy zap), followed by alleged accusations of me being uncaring and having complete disregard for what my ex liked.
The Weekly Energy Zap
Each weekend, I would make a grocery list and go to the grocery store. My goals would be to: 1. Buy healthy meals for the week (and try to save money), 2. Get anything extra that he or the kids needed (wanted), and 3. Make sure I wasn’t gone too long or he would be mad when I got home.
I would happily drive to the store and navigate the crowd on a Sunday afternoon. Grocery shopping on any weekend afternoon is just a bad idea if time is a priority for you, however, that was the only time I had without kids. While shopping, I’d often get calls or texts from him about the kids’ behavior, or a reminder to pick up something else that wasn’t on my list. Fine, great, got it. I’d get stuck behind a slow-poke in several aisles, or have to wait in the dreaded deli line. Without fail, almost every time, I’d get a text while in the checkout lane – “how much longer”?
I’d get home and unload the groceries and balance the impatience of my children. Sometimes he would help unload the car, sometimes he wouldn’t budge from the couch or the video game he was playing. I would sometimes spend $250 for a week’s worth of groceries and he would ask “Did you get my iced tea?” (even though I just bought four other kinds of requested beverages).
When I first didn’t buy the tea, I didn’t think much of it. “Sorry, I forgot.” I didn’t think I was some worthless slug wife that can’t do a simple request for her dear husband. I was unfazed. I just worked a 50-hour week, cared for kids, cleaned the house, and just bought lots of food to feed our family. I was amazing. I was handling life.
It was bit-by-bit and day-by-day as the years went on that I became a puppet.
He would be disappointed about the tea, but he wouldn’t chastise me or get mad in any way. He would simply make it a point to buy the tea that week. He would save this tea example for weeks or months or years down the road to illustrate how much I don’t pay attention to him. The next time I went to the store, I made sure to buy more damn tea. From then forward, I always bought the tea.
One time I accidentally bought diet tea. He didn’t criticize me (too bad), but he again made sure to get his own regular tea and let me know how it tastes different from diet. He would even drink the diet so it wasn’t wasted. What a guy! He would even drink the diet tea. He’s so flexible. He’s so patient with his apparently brain-dead wife who can’t read tea labels.
I wasn’t beaten, but I was invisibly controlled and manipulated. And I allowed myself to be trapped. I allowed the opinions and perceptions of my spouse to impact my self-worth. Example after example would go into his mental database of ways in which I don’t care about him. And before I knew it, I was keeping my own mental database of how unworthy I was. It was a classic case of him projecting onto me, and I absorbed it all. I was like a sponge that soaked up much of what he spilled.
My self-worth became a dirty wet moldy sponge.
I don’t think much of what he projected was intentionally planned, and I creatively learned how to make excuses for him rather than ask myself how healthy it was to live that way.
This one example may not seem so bad. And to me, at the time, it wasn’t bad at all. It just was what it was. It’s the sum of the parts that made the overall whole so detrimental to me.
Hibernating to Survive
In nature, animals hibernate to survive. The purpose is to reserve energy when food is scarce.
I’m hibernating to survive. To heal. I’m working part-time so that I have energy left for my kids. I’m getting sleep. I’m learning to consider myself when I make decisions. I’m like a toddler figuring myself out.
This hibernation phase of my life has been invaluable. It’s opened my eyes big and wide to learn from the past rather than let me be a victim from it. Manipulation by others is so damaging if you don’t keep your own well-being in check. Whether a person intentionally manipulates you or not, it can happen so subtly; you don’t even realize it’s happening. Typically, if someone is manipulative, they have their own underlying reasons for why they behave that way.
I certainly have more healing to do. The real test will be if I encounter another person that spills ongoing sludge. Will I absorb it or speak up loudly and clearly and not make excuses? I certainly I hope I choose myself if that happens again.
Until then, I am peacefully resting and restoring my energy.
Stifle Me Not