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  • Writer's picturecocodensmore

Small steps lead to small wins. Over time, the positive gains are immense.

February 4, 2024

A little note here, some five years after I wrote this.

I’m not this person anymore. She lives inside of me, that insecure, self-doubting, self-hating woman lives inside, but she’s not running my life any longer. I saw the dysfunction, and I tirelessly worked to rid my life of such unhealthiness.

I still fall into the same mind traps, as recently as this past year. But I see it now. I don’t stay stuck. I still lose sight of the truth of who I am, but never for long. Not anymore.

How did I do it?

By creating a chosen family of friends who love me and support me. By sticking with my psych meds and working with my doctor to change things up when needed. By committing to therapy. (Thank God for therapy!) And by setting realistic goals and methodically working towards them.

Small steps lead to small wins. Over time, the positive gains are immense. And that is why I say: I Persevere. And life goes on.

March 27, 2019

I had lunch with Anna and a friend of hers today. I saw myself in him. I came to understand so many things.

He had a volatile upbringing, a father who was unpredictable and angry. I don’t know if he was physically abusive, but nonetheless, he is deeply affected by it, still experiencing deep pain.

He spent a great deal of time talking himself out of his anger, because it doesn’t fit with the person he sees himself to be, the person he wants to be. He rejects that part of himself. He cannot accept it, he cannot see his anger is a part of who he is. He strives for better. Always striving. Never reaching. Perfection is an unattainable goal, after all.

He prides himself on being a “good person”. He used the word “martyr” a few times, so he has some awareness of the fact he’s going beyond what’s healthy. He said more than once he feels good about himself, because he’s created a safe space for his partner. However, in providing her unconditional love and acceptance, she’s taken advantage of him. It’s clear to me and it’s clear to him.

Yet he feels he is responsible for her, he must be her safety net, her protector, regardless of what toxicity she puts out. He feels he owes it to her, because her family cannot accept her. She has never been able to be her true self. She has spent a lifetime molding and adapting her person into someone lovable. Well, I know that doesn’t work. You can’t change the truth of who you are. (Nor should you want to. Nor is it necessary.)

I saw myself in him. His words are my words. His emotions are my emotions. And for the first time, I had a picture of this perversion of character in my mind.

I saw a gate, with bars vertical and horizontal, a type of grid. I saw healthy individuals have the grid square and center. The perimeter of the grid represents appropriate, hard, healthy boundaries. It is my pattern to move the entire grid to the right, so it is not front and center. My boundaries are not hard and fast, they morph and move and change based on the person I’m trying to love, and whom I’m trying to make love me in return.

I wrote this about Jeff during my time in the hospital Summer 2017:

“He’s the perfect lover because he’s not a lover. The less than a handful of times we’ve been together have been horribly rushed. I’d walk him out, down the elevator, and he’d give me a half hug and a brush kiss on the cheek. Not the lips. He’s always in a hurry. I don’t blame Jeff. I cannot hold him accountable. I cannot. I created the vapor. It’s all on me. I set it up, I made the rules, I bent the rules when he didn’t follow them so I could keep him. I need to keep him I have to have him. I don’t think I can survive without him. I know the truth now, but I’m still not sure. Give up Jeff? Not yet. When? When? When I’m well? I don’t understand at all why I can label it vapor, yet continue to believe I can’t live without it. How sick does one have to be? And the thought crosses my mind, if I let go of the vapor when I’m well, do I want to stay unwell to keep it?”

I’ve had an inkling all along, but finally, I see it clearly. I see where I’ve gone beyond what’s healthy, beyond what’s prudent. I see where I’ve created situation after situation for heartbreak, all by myself. I can’t blame Jeff, or anyone, for the hurts I bring into my heart because I don’t have a right perception of who I truly am.

You teach people how to treat you. I have chosen men as projects. I want to save them, make them feel better, make them happy, give of myself until I can give no more, and then give more. I teach them they can do anything they want to me. I teach them it’s OK to treat me with disrespect, even violence. I teach them they are better than me, I am nothing, and I am so grateful they even want to be in relationship with me. Any kind of relationship, even a hookup. I’m honored by the attention. I’m undeserving. I’m so thankful, I’ll do anything to express my gratitude. I’ll overlook everything, just to keep them in my life.

For me, rejection is death. It destroys my spirit. I feel I want to die, that I will surely die. So I desperately attempt to make myself into that person who will be loved. But it doesn’t work. It never works. I see now, I’m the one who should be doing the rejecting. So many men, so many people, are simply unworthy of my time, attention, and love. It’s me I need to change, not them.

I deny the truth of what I know. Some men are simply opportunistic and will take my money and take my body for their own personal gain without concern for my wellbeing. I’m drawn to these men. It’s what feels right and normal and good. It’s what I know. I was conditioned to meet other’s needs, wholly, without regard for the impact on me. That’s how my mom was. That’s how women are supposed to be. That’s how I am.

I willingly submit to this pattern of self-sabotage, even though I see it for exactly what it is. I know these connections will result in nothing but pain. I see these men, and I fall into relationship with them. I fall in love with them, and I fall in love with who I am with them. My mind screams NO. But I say yes, time and again. I say yes.

Anna’s friend says he can look in the mirror and know he’s done right by his partner. And I understand, because that is what I was all about for most of my life. But I realize now, I need to look in the mirror and see I’ve done right by ME. I’m the one who needs the attention and love. I’m not going to fool myself into thinking it’s good and right to stretch my boundaries to accommodate dysfunction in other people. I can’t fix dysfunction in anyone but myself. I can’t save anyone but ME.

I Persevere. And life goes on.



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