Burn Out

I saw our counselor by myself this week.  I walked away from that appointment floating on air.  For the first time ever, I feel like a therapist understands exactly what I’m dealing with. She sees it. She sees through the well-polished exterior my husband presents.  She’s not fooled a bit.

This means, of course, that she sees through me too, but I’m okay with that.  I don’t have a problem with being known – in fact, I crave it.  So she can point out my warts all she wants – that’s what I’m looking for.  It’s one of the things missing in my marriage – that iron-sharpening-iron element that knocks off your rough edges.

She asked me to describe, in great detail, the torment of the past 25 years.  I apologized for my use of the word, and she said it was fine.  I was okay with calling my husband my tormentor because that’s how I really feel.  Oh.  Duh.

Whether or not he is actually a nice guy, who wouldn’t hurt a fly and is so very misunderstood and so remorseful that he is Somehow Not Enough and what can a poor remorseful guy do with such a demanding woman anyway, is beside the point when she is asking me how I feel.

And she did let me know that she sees right through that Remorseful Head-Scratching Victim act of his.  Which statement was, if I remember correctly, accompanied with angel choirs singing and beams of light streaming down from heaven around her.

At any rate, she had me describe what it feels like to be in that pit of despair, where the man you love is controlling everything about you and you think, from some twisted sense of Churchiosity, that you are supposed to not complain and make the marriage everything he wants in order to serve God and be a good Christian.

And where, when you do get the courage to speak up about something he has done that is hurtful, the ground suddenly turns to jello because he shuts down emotionally so completely when challenged that he is not able to follow a logical train of thought, so he will claim adamantly that up is not up and down is not down, until later in the day or week, when he feels better, when he will just as adamantly protest that he never said that and that it’s a horrible thing to accuse him of such things.

So that pit.  That feeling.  We talked about it.  With some detachment on my part, because I crawled out of that pit, kicking and screaming as he tried to grab my ankles on the way up, a few years ago.  Pretty sure I planted my foot in his face a couple of times.

And I gave that ogre of control his walking papers, and he hasn’t actually shown up now in a couple of years.  My husband’s face used to actually change when that ogre took over. It was so pronounced that I wondered a couple of times if there was some MPD going on.  At any rate, he hasn’t shown up for a while.

Except my counselor said she caught sight of him a couple of times in session, just for a second or two.  I was probably looking at her (or that blasted glass fish) when it happened, so I missed it, but she didn’t.

And then she said something amazing.  She said that that pit is a place of strength for me now.  Because I crawled out of it.  That was brave, and that was strong, and I carry that bravery and strength around with me.

And then she said something else – I need to bring that experience into our sessions.  I need to stop not-talking about it. It needs to come out that this is how I felt, how I feel and how wounded I am.

At this point she pointed out that there is actually a name for the condition I’m in.  I’m a classic case of Burned Out Pursuer.  I tried and tried and tried to get my husband to engage – I did everything I could to make him happy, to make him feel loved, to make him feel safe so that he could build his confidence and start living a less fearful, more normal life. And in doing so I burned myself out, which has left me detached and from all appearances, cold-hearted.

But this is not me.  I’m not this person.  I don’t like being skeptical and cynical. I don’t like not being able to give the benefit of the doubt.  I hate living without hope.  Because NONE of that is in my personality.  So for the past few years I’ve been walking around like a shell, needing to be this way in order to protect my heart, and just wishing I could find a place of safety where I could start being myself again.

So as I said, I floated out of her office, feeling understood and finally having some sense made of my messed up world.

This floating lasted about a day and a half.  And then I came back to earth and realized just how shut-down and wounded I really am. How much damage the ogre did. And just what all that actually FEELS like.

Crap.  It feels like crap. Just in case you were wondering.

Of course, my husband is blissfully unaware of any of this.  So that makes day-to-day conversations excruciating and confusing, because I have no reason to growl at him on one level, but every reason to scream at him on another.

I’ve double-dosed the St. John’s Wort and it is just not cutting it today.

Plus, you know, life goes on and kids need help and lessons need planning and did I mention we just found two stray puppies who are not neutered and are peeing on everything and upsetting our other two dogs?

It’s so bad it’s almost funny.  At least, that’s where I go with it, because the other option is to start slinging china.


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