If you’re frustrated that your “partner” seems unavailable, it might be YOU who’s unavailable. Think about it. When we are truly available and ready for love, we choose partners who are also available and ready for love. When we are available, we seek out people who are not afraid of commitment, intimacy, and responsibility. So look closely. Not at him, but at YOU.
The Break Up Journal this week is all about obsessing. The more I read, the more I feel sorry for “this girl” (ahem, me). She’s trapped. She’s acting a little crazy. She has forgotten (or perhaps she hasn’t yet learned) that we obsess over that which is not ours. She senses there is something wrong with this relationship, she senses that P is not 100% committed, and yet, she continues to question, think, obsess and dwell over his every little action, looking for clues of deep love and permanency. And yet, one list after the other keeps glaringly telling her, It’s time to dump this guy. But she just won’t.
Why? Because letting go to a love addict is a really scary thing. It means complete and utter abandonment. And that seems like too heavy a cross to bear.
I would like to go back in time, tap her on the shoulder and say, Look, you see how you’re obsessing? Obsessing is a pretty obvious sign that what you sense is true. That this guy is not one-hundred percent in the game. If he were, you would not obsess. You’d be at peace. We only obsess over people, places or things we do not have. That are not ours. How do I know? Because you only have to take a look at the family, friends and relationships you’ve had in the past where you KNEW in your heart of hearts that there wasn’t a shred of doubt that someone not only loved you but wanted to be with you. Did you ever obsess over that person? Chances are you did not.
Perhaps a solution back during this time would have been to start writing a list of my Values. And see if they matched up to what I was getting from P. It’s always best to turn the analyzing back, inward, onto yourself. Constant outward analyzing of your guy or girl will pretty much get you no where. Well, you’ll be really good at psychoanalyzing people. Perhaps you should go back to school for counseling! 😉
Deep down, I think love addicts are attracted to the bad boy type because he is the type we relate to. He is what we see in ourselves. I always fancied myself an independent artist and writer, traveling around the world, smoking cigarettes and drinking wine in smoky bars, with my rebel attitude and free spirit. But, the truth is, that’s not exactly who I was. When I really took a look at myself, I was a mother of two sons. I drove a minivan. I liked to bake pies and spend time with family and travel every once in a while. Did I like the arts? Sure. But I wasn’t even an artist! In fact, any time I hung out with my wilder, artist friends they all stayed out late, smoked, drank, partied, and ignored their kids, if they had them. I couldn’t handle any of that stuff. What’s more, I didn’t believe in any of that. And yet, I was still going after these badboy types, driving them around in my minivan with my screaming kids, baking pies for them. Oh sure, it’s funny now. But back then, I was angry that they didn’t want to go to family events, sit around with my kids or bake (they all loved eating the pies, though!)
Anyway, the trick to a healthier relationship is KNOW THYSELF. And when you write out your list of descriptions about who you are, don’t describe yourself as you wish to be, but as you truly are. This is hard. But, take a look at your world around you. Don’t write down what’s in your head. Write down what you SEE. Minivan = person who drives minivan. You may, in your heart of hearts want to drive a Ferrari but you’re not driving one. That’s not who you are at this moment. The minivan is. Sorry.
Second, look for people who share those similarities (and values). Partying and living the rockstar life only lasts so long. Eventually, we all want stability, warmth, comfort and even a little predictability. And, if you’re not into partying, why date someone who is? You’ll just end up frustrated, trying to pin him down. It’s not going to happen. Instead, what about searching for a good, stable, healthy man with some adventurous, slightly “wild” or even quirky traits (if that’s who you are, that is)? Bottom line, look for qualities similar to your own. The whole opposites attract thing doesn’t hold over very well as far as values are concerned. You want to be similar on that front.
Lastly, stop thinking in black and white. Giving up the bad boy doesn’t automatically leave only “boring” types in the dating pool. That’s ridiculous. People are not ALL bad boy or ALL boring. What’s more, there are some pretty boring bad guys, and some pretty exciting nice guys!
When I first started dating my husband D, I initially feared that he was boring. Why? Because he was nice, had a professional job, wore suits to work, had a family and lived a very normal life. In my mind, those were the traits of a boring guy. But, I was so off the mark. He also played guitar and drums, was in a band in college, loved the arts, and was kind of a bad boy in the bedroom (TMI?!). Plus, he had a fantastic sense of humor, which is really important to me. Sold!
And while there were still times early on when I actually mourned the bad boy fantasy I was holding on to (gosh, I had held onto it for so many years), I eventually grew up, made peace with who I really was, and got real about the qualities a healthy partner should have, not the qualities I wished he had.
Read more on the LAA forums.
So, in this week’s episode of The Break Up Journal, I grapple with expectations. Mostly my expectations of others (my PoA in particular) and whether or not they are realistic or unrealistic. On the one hand, I’m angry at P for being “lazy” and not reaching out to me enough while I am away. On the other, I turn my anger into a sort of “suck it up” attitude, directed inward, and basically determine that I am a whining, complaining, ungrateful person who should be happy with a boyfriend who is a hard worker and does the best he can.
So, which is it? Is my anger warranted? Or am I being too whiny and demanding?
This type of dilemma is very common in love addiction and the reason for it is based on values, or, better yet, lack thereof. When we do not have a firm grasp on our values– a thing (a principle, a belief, a standard of behavior) that we regard as essential to our being, so essential, in fact, that without it, we feel lacking or wrong or worthless–we cannot determine which way we need to go to “feel good” or be right within ourselves. We especially don’t know who date! Had I known that trusting a person I am dating is one of my values I probably would not have stuck around in this particular relationship. Had I known that I cannot be with someone who smokes pot is another of my values, this relationship would have been over before it started.
In the July 9 blog, I am angry with everyone BUT myself. I am blaming others for not supporting me or meeting my needs or reading my mind or catering to my loneliness. But, if I were driven by my values versus depending on others for my happiness, I most likely would not be so angry.
Healthy people choose their values over their relationships. Unhealthy people do not.
And yet, even knowing that your values need to come first, it’s often very hard to figure out if you are being realistic in your expectations of others, or unrealistic. In The Break Up Journal example, should I expect P to step up to the plate and give me more attention, or is this expectation unrealistic?
To answer that, I would need to calculate the times he gives me attention versus the times he doesn’t. If I ask him 10 times to spend more time with me and the response rate is low (i.e., I only receive the attention I am looking for 1-3 times out of 10), it would be unrealistic of me to think he is capable of meeting my needs. I, therefore, have no right being angry with him because at this point, the onus is on me to recognize this. More importantly, I would need to turn to my “values” to see if I am holding true to one that states, “my partner pays me a realistic amount of attention.”
The flip side of this argument, of course, is, Am I being unrealistic in the amount of time I am demanding from my partner? I find this to be an extremely important question that must be asked. The trouble is, you most likely won’t like the answer. Why? Because it’s ironic. We tend to seek the most attention from people who have trouble giving it. The more distant or avoidant my partner would become, the more I craved his attention. This pattern was repeated for years until I finally caught on and finally knew how to recognize the avoidant personality.
Expectations are not bad. We want to have them. We want them to be relatively high (perhaps not too high), but in direct proportion to our self-esteem. But, more importantly is that we have expectations of the right kind of people. If I date a man with a high school diploma and expect him to think, act and perform as if he had a PhD, who’s at fault here? Are my expectations of him realistic?
I’ve said it before, I often feel sorry for the girl (me) writing in The Break Up Journal. She desperately wants to grow and change, but she’s not there yet. She’s still holding on. And yet, I smile, knowingly. A complete transformation is only months away from her. Unfortunately, from her vantage point, she simply cannot see it. Perhaps YOU are in the same situation. 😉
On the LAA boards today, someone posted the following cry for help: HOW exactly do I change, get well? HOW?
I have answers and solutions, but you probably won’t like them. They are more difficult to do than choosing to remain a love addict. You see, being a love addict is EASY. The pain and suffering comes second nature to people like us, so, because that’s familiar, we just settle for it. The alternative–facing ourselves, facing our fears, actually taking actions and GROWING UP is far scarier and far more a risk–at least from our perspective, we think it is. But essentially that’s what you must do.
1. Face yourself and accept yourself, as is. Not who you’d like to be, or who you envision yourself to be. Or even who your parents envisioned you to be. Or who the last or next PoA wishes you’d be! Just you, as you are now. Possibly broken, still alive, scrappy, but human, and beautiful in your own right. And perfectly able to grow and change.
2. Face your fears. Love addiction or alcohol addiction (as you well know with your great insight) is not about addiction to the substance or the person, it’s about AVOIDANCE OF THE SELF. We avoid ourselves because there’s something scary there that we don’t want to see, or there’s a really scary task we desperately want to avoid–scary tasks we want to avoid can be anything from living alone, growing up and taking care of yourself, becoming financially secure, giving up a long held fantasy or belief, feeling uncomfortable or doing something you’re not good at, etc. Find out what you are most afraid of. It’s usually something right in front of your face, and most likely it’s what you are avoiding right now. Once you figure it out, DEAL WITH IT. FACE IT. ADDRESS IT. No matter how scary.
3. Know that there are two energies at work inside you: your emotional energy (the child within you) who you are most likely giving all the power to, and shouldn’t, and your logical energy (the adult within you) who wants to become healthier and brought you here. These two energies are battling for power over you. Let LOGIC win, for now. Force yourself or teach yourself about both energies and how to turn off your emotional energy, at least until you can balance out the two energies, and at least until your emotional energy knows its place. Right now, my guess is, your emotional energy is ruling your brain. It shouldn’t be. Emotions don’t make logical decisions and as adult grown ups, we really, really, really need to make logic decisions. What this means is, stop making decisions based on “what feels good now.” What most likely feels good now is no pain, and so, to dull the pain, we run back to a PoA, or pick up the bottle. Or “zone” out. Stop making choices on what feels good. Make logical, rational choices. I am in pain, but the garbage needs to be taken out. Or, I don’t feel well, but I need to go to work. Or, I am lonely, so, I will find something all by myself to do, etc.
4. All your great “insight” is just a start. You actually have to change your behavior and that means physically taking different actions. I too had great insight. Most love addicts, believe it or not, do. I knew everything about love addiction and still nothing changed. It’s because I never put all that knowledge into action. I knew what to do, I just didn’t DO IT. You know the expression “practice what you preach.” Start preaching healthy and then start practicing it. What do healthy people do? Well, they most likely don’t accept unhealthy people into their lives. They don’t sit around all day fantasizing about a better life. When they detect red flags they are not afraid to acknowledge them and if need be, leave a relationship because of them. They also have a set of personal values that outweigh the need for a relationship. Love addicts have values, but the relationship outweighs their values and becomes more important. Many healthy people do not see the world the way addicts see the world: a place where people and substances are available to take the edge off a painful existence. This is how I perceived the world for many years. Until I didn’t anymore. Find healthy people and start to surround yourself by them. Copy their behavior. Learn from them. Chances are you didn’t have healthy models of love growing up. Neither did many of us. BUT, you’re an adult now. You are free to find healthy teachers in this world and learn new ways of coping and managing your life. Also, learn your VALUES and stick to them. Make them more important than the relationship.
5. Change your perspective immediately. When I was at the very beginning of recovery, I felt overwhelmingly frustrated. I had no idea where to begin to get better. I was finally sick and tired of being sick and tired. Yet, I kept imagining that someone would come to my rescue and teach me, or do it for me, or give me the answers. But because this never happened (well, I received many answers, but they weren’t good enough), I then imagined taking pills to dull the pain. And then, at some point, I gave up these FANTASIES. And little by little I started to work on some RANDOM problem I was having. And then I worked on another. And another. And after five years of chipping away at my problems, I built a new me. And some of my learning came easy, and some didn’t. And I fell on my face MANY times in the process. But the one thing I think I had through it all was a sense of determination to succeed. I WILL get better, I said. You can’t read a 50,000 page self-help book and not come away without learning SOMETHING. And you cannot unlearn all you’ve learned about being healthy. What you can do (and what I did for many years) is refuse to practice a healthy life. Give up trying. And the only thing that causes you to give up is that you’ve lost your positive perspective. So…don’t do that. It’s hard to always remain positive. But it’s all you’ve got. It’s the ONLY thing standing between a love addict and a healthy person. Perspective.
6. Give up. Yes, I said it. Give up. Give up the neediness for a romantic relationship. Give up the EXPECTATION of a romantic relationship. Give up the fantasy that you deserve a romantic relationship and that it is owed to you. It’s not. You need love and companionship in this world for a more humane existence. And you definitely need sex to procreate. But you do not NEED a romantic relationship. This is a cultural construct of western civilization and once you stop watching love stories and reading romance novels and take a good look at human history and anthropology you will come to understand that human beings don’t need romantic love. They simply need closeness to people to survive AND to thrive (yes, can you believe it? You can thrive without romance–most people do). You can get closeness and thrive through family, friends, pets, a satisfying career, etc. And because the world doesn’t owe you a romantic relationship, and there’s no knowing whether you’re destined for one or not, REFOCUS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE ON YOU AND WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL. Here’s an exercise for you: imagine you are living in a world with NO CHANCE OF ROMANTIC LOVE. What would you do? What would you look for? What would your goals be? Who would you befriend? As a love addict, we all must imagine ourselves as individuals separate from any romantic notions. When we are truly able to do that and we can focus our attentions on other things, we have won half the battle. And while love addiction is not about love or romance at all, but rather, about avoidance of the self, we (as love addicts) still need to deconstruct the fantasy that we’ve built around the notion that we are DEFINED by whatever partner or romantic relationship we happen to be in.
7. Learn better coping strategies through better management of your life. In my opinion, it is not the addiction that needs to be dealt with, it’s the addictive personality. The rest of your life, you may most likely want to turn to SOMETHING (who knows what) to dull your pain. And you will most likely do it obsessively, unless you understand what drives your addiction. If it’s not alcohol or men it might be shopping. Or gambling. Or whatever! There’s no sense in going to AA, then switching to LAA, then switching FAA or SLAA, or NA, etc. It’s all the same. Whatever you are addicted to is irrelevant. It’s your WAY to protect yourself. Once you build yourself up, learn how to cope with stress and manage your life like an adult and suddenly, poof! the need to run away is gone, or lessened. So, how do you learn to manage your life better? You live it. Stop running away from things. Practice, practice, practice. One of the things in life that scared me to death was working. At a job. Well, it stressed me out so much because I had zero experience, zero confidence, and being in situations that I didn’t feel comfortable or confident in stressed me out. So…I would avoid working by hopping in to a relationship. And then of course, I would be broke and need money and the vicious cycle would begin. So….go to school. Learn a trade. Get good at something. And allow yourself TEN TIMES to practice a hobby before giving up. Learn about better communication, how to create boundaries, when to talk, when to shut up. Learn how to manage your money, your free time, your living space, your stress. Yes, learn to manage stress in healthier ways. The more control you take over managing your life, the more confidence you will have in your life and the less you will need to depend on men or booze or whatever other object we can shove in the perceived “void.”
Shall I go on? Because I’m really not finished yet! Bottom line: you are in the right place. You are beginning a journey that has MANY MANY opportunities for growth. I’m glad you’re here. Keep reading.Keep posting. Become part of this community. Read my blog thelovelyaddict.com. And whatever you do, DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOURSELF. You, not anything or anyone else (except maybe your kids if you have them), are your best investment. Really try to understand that. YOU are your biggest and best investment. The more you learn about better health, and the more you do to work towards better health, the more of an investment you are making in yourself. It’s that easy.
So, I’ve created a new body of work called The Break-Up Journal. Many of you, throughout the years, have asked me how I recovered and what happened, and so, instead of “telling” I am showing.
The Break-Up Journal is an actual account of my last love-addicted relationship, the break-up that ensued, the withdrawal and my ultimate struggle into recovery. Because this is an actual account, transcribed from hand-written journals, nothing is held back. But, because of that, reading can often be cringe-worthy. There are ridiculously stupid lapses in judgment on my part, huge slips, relapses, and several stellar losses of dignity. At times, reading is painful. And trust me, when I re-read this journal, I want to whack this girl over the head and say, What are you an idiot? Don’t you see?!
Fortunately that girl is long gone, but her story remains, and hopefully it can and will add insight into your own struggle with love addiction.
I am planning on posting five entries per week. It is meant to be read chronologically, so that means starting with May 31 (on bottom) and reading up.
Be sure to check out the About the blog page and the Cast of Characters, so you have better insight into the story line. And while names and dates have changed to protect identities, if you are familiar with my blog, you will probably be able to figure out who’s who.
If you think I give a lot of advice in this blog, you should see me as a mom. I dole out advice like a factory conveyor belt lined with Peeps at Easter. And one of the best responses I always seem to get in response to all my wise advice is “I know.”
You need to wear a jacket, it’s cold out.
You shouldn’t hit your brother.
You were supposed to take the trash out.
My kids say “I know” to almost everything. They know it all! It’s become a knee-jerk response to a question they know the answer to. And yet, in reality, they plan to do or have already done something else entirely.
Love addicts often have the same response. We know what’s right, but we tend to do something completely different.
You shouldn’t stay in a relationship with a man who hurts you.
Don’t go crawling back; have some dignity.
Stay away from bad boys.
Oops! So, if you KNOW all this stuff, why do you still do it? If you KNOW you are worth more than scraps, then why aren’t your actions proving that you know this?
I’m not sure I have the answer, but I do know (I know!) that better health comes when our words and actions sync up. When we stop with the childish response, “I know.” Who cares if you know! Don’t just tell me (and don’t just tell yourself) that you know, PROVE that you know by your actions. A head full of “knowing” but not “doing” is fantasy. In recovery, we need our actions to be louder than our “I knows.”
Once you have made a commitment to start to depend more on yourself versus the guy or girl you were once heavily depending on, you go through four main phases.
At first the world seems too big, life seems too overwhelming, and your problems seem insurmountable. Because you have turned a blind eye for so long and hid behind your love addiction, finally opening your eyes you often see a mess. And that can be scary as heck.
But the longer you remain recovered, grow and progress in your ability to take care of yourself, the stronger and more adept you become. The mess of your life, when you begin to address it, starts to look more and more manageable. So, in phase two your new found strength gives you a high, a state of feeling empowered and free from the chains of whatever obsession held you in its grip. There might even be feelings of grandeur, or a sense that you’re perfect now and “cured” of love addiction. Perhaps your circumstances can you lead you to believe that you are done with love addiction, especially if you are in a new healthier relationship. That inner strength and belief in yourself is healthy and necessary to propel you forward in recovery. But then there’s a third phase.
Once the high of recovery, or feeling “reborn” is gone, life may overwhelm again, or seem mundane. Reality settles back in and stress increases. It is in this third phase that many love addicts relapse, slip, or even recognize, perhaps, that the previous two phases were not genuine, and what they thought might be real recovery, was instead more avoidance in dealing with life’s issues. It is at this phase that you really need to work hard to manage your life and in particular, stress. And, more importantly, your ability to get through this phase and manage stress is your true determining factor as to whether or not you are successfully healed and on your way to a deeper recovery.
The trouble with phase three is that we have spent so many years managing our stress by essentially running away from it. Love addiction, after all, has always helped us manage stress. That was and is its purpose. And it is a rather immediate and efficient defense mechanism for dealing with stress, despite it being hugely unhealthy. When the bills are piling up, or the husband is ignoring you, or the kids are uncontrollable, or you don’t seem to want to grow up and deal with grown up issues, something in your brain has determined that if you create either a fantasy or a real life situation based on love it takes the edge off and immediately de-stresses you. Love addiction is like Calgon. Remember that old commercial? Calgon take me away!
But, while fantasy and other similar techniques (like massages, zoning out, eating comfort food, exercise and even bubble baths!) are absolutely necessary to de-stress, there is a fine line between using these techniques from time to time to take the edge off, or, in the case of love addiction, to completely avoid and submerse yourself in that avoidance. It, thus, becomes your job in recovery to know three things:
- that your nature (or what you’ve been taught) is most likely to avoid problems,
- that in order to be a successful adult, you have to fight against that nature and face problems,
- but, that you still need to learn acceptable forms of managing stress, because facing all kinds of stress coming at you without having a healthy buffer can also be unhealthy.
What are acceptable forms of managing stress?
Managing stress without the “protection” of love addiction can be daunting. You feel exposed, naked, vulnerable. For many, it will be the first time as an adult that they will face stress in a healthy way, after many years of avoiding it. And so, it’s important to face things at your own pace and not to pile too much on your plate too soon. Just like a runner needs time to heal a serious injury before hitting the road again, so too do you need time and patience with yourself. In my case, I decided, in my “empowered” state (phase two), to pile huge amounts of responsibility on my plate. Too much! I became very ill and rundown. I falsely thought that it was my responsibility to take on every opportunity that came my way (I used love addiction to avoid finding and having a career; what do you use love addiction to avoid?). I had no ability to know what I could and could not handle. And so, buried under the weight of too much pressure and stress, I ended up collapsing and turning inward–once again avoiding life’s stress and avoiding the very thing that love addiction always helped me avoid. Not good. I felt like I was back to square one.
That being said in order to make it to phase four, which is defined by your ability to manage stress in your life consistently, over long periods of time, here are a few acceptable ways of managing stress:
- Figure out what your love addiction was protecting you from. What was the secret purpose of your love addiction? To figure that out, answer the question, What am I trying to avoid? Is it facing an unhappy marriage? Being alone? Finding a career and taking care of yourself financially? Making friends? Learning to be intimate with others? Growing up and taking on responsibility? Once you figure that out, move toward what you were trying to avoid.
- Educate yourself. If you are trying to avoid facing an unhappy marriage, start by going to therapy, or reading books on marriage therapy or talking with your spouse about the choices you both need to make moving forward or end it. If divorce is something you fear, but remaining in the marriage is painful, then start to learn what you might need to do IF you were working toward a divorce. You don’t have to make any decisions, but you might want to seek out info on important issues like how much it costs to live on your own, or what you need to do to find child support if you go back to work. The more strength you build up through educating yourself, the easier it will be if and when you do face the issue.
- Set goals for yourself. List five small decisions you can make over the course of one year (if you have the luxury of a year to deal with your life’s issues) to face your stress. In my case, I was avoiding taking care of myself financially and thus, finding a career, so, my goals, despite my fears, were to finish college, find an internship to gain experience, apply for a job in my field, and go to work. As I worked my way through each of these goals my addict brain thought up very clever ways that I should bail out. My kids need me, so I should not be away from them. Or, This job doesn’t satisfy me, I should quit. And my all time favorite: OK, I proved that I can get a job, so, now I can go home and never have to work again. Remember, you’ve been taught or it’s your nature to AVOID, so watch out for ways in which you try to run away.
- Monitor and track your behavior. If you are setting goals, and facing your stress but it starts to become unmanageable do you automatically want to call your PoA? Do you find yourself going online to chat with single men every time your tired? Lonely? Stressed? Or do you now use other ways to avoid stress? When you’re overwhelmed do you crawl into a ball and cry? Or do you go to the gym, exercise, work through the stress and then go back to the problem. Your behavior is a clear window that allows you to determine whether you’re facing stress or avoiding it.
- Read about and practice “Coping Strategies.” Learn little (but hugely beneficial) tricks like breathing, meditating, self-soothing, positive self-talk and exercising when under too much stress. Learn to add as many of these strategies to your daily routine until the stressors have quieted down or been addressed.
- Eat well and avoid high stress foods. Did you know that foods can soothe and relax and they can also cause exorbitant amounts of stress, anxiety and physical pain? Foods high in saturated fat, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and even gluten can and do increase stress in the body for multiple reasons (caffeine, for example, is a stimulant that is a known trigger for anxiety and panic attacks; alcohol is a depressants and can increase depression and your brain’s ability to manage stress; saturated fats can leave you sluggish and tired, etc.)
- One thing at a time. Codependant individual especially have to be wary of doing too much too soon, especially for others. In recovery, we need to know what we can handle and the only way to find that out is to start adding responsibility to your plate, and dealing with your stressors as they come. If, for example, you are currently dealing with a divorce and it’s not finalized yet, don’t add any huge projects to your calendar just yet. Wait. Diving into one thing when another isn’t wrapped up doesn’t signals that you might be avoiding facing one thing and trying to cover it up with another. Recognize this and try to deal with one big issue at a time.
- Take time to avoid your problems. Yes, I said it. Avoid your problems. Not 100 percent. Not half the time. Just a fraction of the time. Just for a little while each day, perhaps. One of the worst things we can do in between setting goals, taking action toward managing our stress and tackling problems is worry and ruminate. So, release yourself from the obsession of worrying about your problems by positive self-talk, or, dare I say it, slipping into fantasy for a little while until you can face stress again. Despite wanting to take on the world, we still need to protect ourselves from too much stress. And avoidance is, after all a safe way to do it–if only for a little while and in a very controlled setting. Set a timer for 20 minutes and allow your brain to go anywhere it wants. This freedom to wander and ignore life’s troubles can actually have a healing affect and renew you. When the timer goes off though, it’s time to refocus on life’s more unpleasant issues.
As some of my readers know, I was fighting through some pretty serious amounts of anxiety and depression back in the spring. When your need to fill your life worrying over someone else goes away (you’ve recovered from love addiction) there’s only so long you can rest high on the hog before that need creeps back in to worry about something. It almost seems like it’s part of our nature. And who do you start to worry about when you have no man, woman or relationship to worry about? Yourself.Or worse, made up stuff!
And guess what, the amount of worrying you do (over anything, really) is in direct proportion to how much time you have on your hands! And so, in the spring, when I had loads of free time and wasn’t doing much of anything, there was only one thing left to do…sink deep into anxiety and depression. And I did. And it was miserable.
And so I would like to share with you what I did to “get out.”
- Got a check up. Or, if you’re like me, a true hypochondriac, I went to every medical specialist I knew and I got every test done imaginable to rule out cancer, heart disease, and other possible signs of impending death. Test results came back: all good.
- Threw myself back into therapy. This was a hard one for me. I was supposed to be happily married and perfectly cured from love addiction, and here I was suffering mentally and emotionally. The truth was; er, the truth is we all have moments of weakness, sadness, pain, etc. Recovering from love addiction does NOT guarantee a life without suffering. It does guarantee that you better know how to manage your life so as to avoid self-made suffering. At any rate, not only was I dealing with personal issues of not having a “purpose,” I was also dealing with a teenage son who was extremely difficult at the time and business/job related issues that were ripping any shred of happiness from me. I had every right to crawl into a hole and seek help from a therapist. And while she didn’t entirely blow me away or impart any magical knowledge, she did help me to realize that my biggest problem was that I needed to find a life and a career of my own.
- Left my job. Well, not entirely. Because it’s a family business, I am in it whether I like it or not. But I redefined my role and cut out having to deal with the toxic people who were bringing me down. WHAT A DIFFERENCE! Sometimes running away from your problems is the best choice. Ever!
- Went to Europe. While I do understand that not everyone has the luxury of having their own personal Eat, Pray, Love soul-searching experience in Italy, India and Bali (or, in my case, Paris, the French Alps & Barcelona, with kids in tow), I cannot stress enough the need to escape your life for a while to a calm, stress-free environment and take time off to just think, heal from your wounds and regroup. This could mean taking a mini-vacation to the mountains, the seaside, the next town over! Whatever you can afford (financially and time-wise), do it. Your state of mind depends on it. While in Paris I did a lot of soul searching. And, I made a lot of firm promises to myself while there that would change the course of my life and point me in a new direction.
- Found a solution. If you are filled with anxiety, depressed, in pain, suffering, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM. And what do you do when you have a problem? You find a solution. The solution could be anything: leave a relationship, find a new job, lose weight, etc. Whatever the case, you need to figure out what that solution is. Chances are the solution is not “take anti-depressants” or “just tolerate the pain…” Chances are it’s something that includes change and taking action.My solution was to find meaningful work.
- Kept the promises I made to myself/followed through. This is the hardest part. We so often have these healing, soul-searching retreats somewhere, come back to our old life renewed and strengthened, and then just go right back to doing what we always did without making the necessary changes that inspired strength to begin with. And let’s face it, sometimes you just need a break and you CAN go back to your life because nothing really needs to be changed. But in my case, action needed to occur and I needed to follow through on the promises I made to myself while in Paris. If, while you’re soul searching, you decide you need to get out of a toxic relationship, then when you come back to reality, start planning and plotting to get out. If you decide you need a new job, start searching. In my case, I needed to find work I love, and a purpose for doing that work.
- Took action. Nothing is more powerful than action. Once you make a decision, don’t stop there. Follow through and then act. In my case, I ultimately realized that I needed to be busy so as to keep my mind from getting into trouble with “worry” thoughts. My job had changed to the point where I lost my position and my power (which was a good thing, because we became successful enough to hire a pro, instead of me!), so all my energy was spent worrying about my teenage son and then, worrying about my health. My solution to this: start my own business. This act alone has been curative. Not only am I busy as heck, I feel good about what I am now doing with my life and it leaves little time to worry. This action step however, was a very, very, VERY long time in coming because fear held me back. My last bit of advice, therefore, is do not let fear hold you back from taking rational action.