My therapist says…

Put it in a box, put it in a box

I haven’t slept in weeks, and when I forced myself out of bed after another restless night, I could feel the panic creeping up in me. In the midst of depression, about two years ago, I had regular anxiety attacks, and they only subsided when I finally allowed myself to address my feelings and thoughts, how uncomfortable they might have been. 

The importance of making room for your feelings is one thing, but acting on your feelings in an old-pattern-enforcing manner quite another. Before all the work that went into our relationship recently, my go-to solution would have been cutting all ties, running far away and proving to myself that, in the end, I can only rely on myself. I didn’t offer anyone the chance to be relied on, not even for closure talks. I could always take a lot in relationships. But once I was done, I was done. The wall went up, and with every ending relationship, it went up a little higher. 

I know that sometimes, this relationship is suffocating me. Although my husband is trying with all his might, I fear that part of me will always see in him the man that manipulated me. The man that chose to ignore my wishes and mostly forgot about me and my needs for the better part of four years. He still is the man that overwhelms and exhausts me with all his new endeavours and all that they entail. New countries, new schools, new careers, new friends. I am so tired of having to reinvent and build myself up again and again, and sometimes I just want out. I want to pack up my children, move to a place I actually want to live in and build a wall around us that would make the Great Wall of China look pale in comparison. 

I also know that initially, packing up and leaving would be a great relief. I wouldn’t have to think about addressing anger and why I struggle so much with it, I wouldn’t have to talk to him and explain myself (and thus explain myself to myself!), and I’d be one step closer to a life with 14 cats. 

It is almost funny, because the big thoughts like manipulation, neglect or disregard in our relationship are not the ones tipping me over the edge. It’s not wiping the kitchen counter that makes me want to scream “I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE!!!”

My therapist says, in moments like these, when you know that ‘just leaving’ isn’t right for you and that you get triggered by small things, put the big one into a box. Put the box on the highest shelf and know that you will get back to it when you are ready. Develop a solutions oriented approach to your problem (no, unfortunately running away doesn’t count) and become clear about the following:

  • What do I need?
  • What makes me content?
  • What triggers me?
  • What part of the daily grind eats up my energy and exhausts me?

The idea is to bring yourself into a position where you feel like you have control of the situation. Getting out of the victim role is crucial. For me that means freeing myself to a certain extent of the shackles of household and kid rearing, as well as handing over certain tasks to my husband in their entirety. Lunchboxes? Not my problem anymore. Extra childcare to free up time to work? Hired. Weekly scheduling meeting with the whole family? On its way!

Of course, we haven’t fully gotten into our new routines yet, and it’s tempting to say “screw this” and scream “I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE!!!” as soon as the tiniest bit goes wrong. But it’s worth a try sticking to it. Because running away will always be there as an option, and I’ll never find out if things would have changed if I just leave. 

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