obsessions and compulsions in marriage step 1 and step 2 #recovery #mentalhealth #marriage

July 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

I came back from walking the dog in a blue funk. I was feeling worthless, I couldn’t believe my husband loves me, that I deserve his respect, he just does the dishes, laundry, walks dogs, buys groceries, works on the house, fixes things, etc. because he feels a sense of duty and obligation. I was also feeling put upon, I could enumerate endless lists of how my husband was taking me for granted, burdening me with his emotional pressure, blaming me for the distance in our marriage. My mind bounced back and forth from one scenario to another: it has been years since we had sex, my husband is taking too much of my time and attention, my husband doesn’t find me attractive and never did, my husband needs professional therapy to address his depression, my husband will never be happy, my husband never was that interested in sex, we will never have sex again, I don’t like my husband anymore, etc. This is what we call ‘taking someone else’s inventory’. I was perfectly capable of listing and ruminating on my perceptions of my husband’s shortcomings, while at the same time incapable of looking at my own.

As usual, my preoccupation on my husband ran out of steam because I knew it was futile to try to change my husband. Then my thoughts turned toward my shortcomings and my ruminating began all over again. I have always been anxious, I am feeling depressed, I am unable to love anyone, I am incapable of intimacy, I am unattractive, I am unwanted because I am unlovable, I am inadequate, I am terrible at sex, I have never had a good sex life and now I am 58 and it is too late, I am fat, I am ugly, I am frumpy, I am uninteresting, an on and on. Ad nauseum.

This rumination leave me in an utterly dark mood. Hopeless, helpless, worthless. As I trudged up the front steps I decided to try something different. I sat down in a comfy chair on the front porch, pulled my feet up underneath me, closed my eyes, and followed my breath. Soon I was following the different sensations that came to my attention: a siren in the distance, a crow cawing nearby, the rustle of the summer breeze through the lombardi poplar leaves. I started to work my way through the first step, “I am powerless over my addiction and my life is unmanageable.” I am powerless over my husband and my life is unmanageable. I am powerless over my family and my life is unmanageable. I am powerless over my state of mind and my life is unmanageable. What is the evidence of unmanageability? My self-inflicted misery, my self-perpetuating suffering, my ongoing sense of worthlessness, ugliness, and lack of belonging that cause me so much emotional pain.

I moved onto step 2, “Came to believe a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.” I could feel that power all around me as the light touch of the summer breeze caressed my skin, as the sun glinted through leafy shadows, as the sound of birds drifted across the streetscape. In that moment I realized I was stuck in a dead end. On the one hand my mind was obsessing about changing my husband so that I would feel better, on the other hand my mind was obsessing about how I could change myself so that my husband would love me and I would feel better. Both of these propositions were fatally flawed because they were relying on my distressed brain to come up with solutions to my problems, when the origin of my problems was my distressed brain’s interpretation of reality. My brain was stuck in categorizing my sensory motor data in one way, no matter where the data was coming from, my brain was logging it in the value category memory system called, “Reasons Irrational Persistance is not good enough.”

I realized that the ‘power to change the things I can’ did not apply to changing my husband or changing myself. My distressed brain was not a good planner nor organizer for positive change. I needed something else to alleviate my suffering. In that moment I was inspired to sense the atmosphere around me as a power greater than myself. In the moment I perceived that overarching presence, I also perceived the false separation between looking outward at my husband or looking inward at myself as the source of my recovery. I was able to see my dichotomous thinking as a trap that was separating me from what I truly craved, which was a sense of belonging to life. I pictured myself ascending out of the polarizing perceptions that had kept me stuck and miserable. I gave myself up to the ebb and flow of that summer breeze, knowing that power, greater than myself, could lead me to sanity in that moment. I felt a sense of peace and comfort in that instant, and relaxed for the first time in a very long while.

Just then my husband approached, returning from his morning walk with Dog2. I had no plan as to my mode of address. Was I going to shun him, as I had been doing for the last 36 hours? Was I going to welcome him? I let these thoughts slide away and sat quietly, giving him a slight smile to indicate that something had changed and I was no longer looking at him with ‘dagger eyes’. He joined me on the front porch and we talked about the state of things, and agreed that we both wanted things to improve. He reminded me that I was not in this marriage alone, and that we both have a part to play in the sense of connectedness and belonging that we feel with each other.

He went on to talk about how the recent passing of his father had triggered anxiety and depression and how he was struggling to come to terms with his feelings of regret, relief, and confusion. I talked about how much pressure I was feeling to get the dissertation out and that I had been stuck for two days trying to figure out how to bulk out a data point made up of 114 email observations. We went inside and he helped me figure out a way forward with the dissertation. Later, that evening, he spoke at length about his feelings about family alienation, dysfunction, and loneliness.

This morning we buzzed each others’ hair and are moving on united in our purpose to put our lives together to strengthen ourselves, our families, and our friends. Onward.

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