What is love?

Therapy has taught me that those who grew up in traumatic households often gravitate to partners that resemble what they know…in other words, if, as I experienced, the adults in my life were emotionally unavailable, the partners I sought out as a teen and young adult also tended to be emotionally unavailable.

My husband and I have been married for 13 1/2 years. I met him, 33 at the time, when I was a young and idealistic 19 years old. Initially, the “idea” of him seemed appealing from a rebellious standpoint. I, the self-proclaimed good girl, thought it might be interesting to sow some wild oats and sleep with an old guy.

What I wasn’t smart enough to identify at the time was that I NEVER left people. I was never a one night stand (by choice) kind of girl. No…because I have anxious and insecure attachment issues, I tended to stay in all sorts of relationships because I could never bear the pain of hurting someone else.

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Growing, but not glowing

Everyday, I can see the progress I’ve made.

That, in and of itself, seems like a miracle at times. For so very long, I felt absolutely STUCK. Progress felt impossible, far-fetched, and highly unlikely.

And yet.

Day by day. Minute by grueling minute. I. Kept. Going.

And slowly, ever so slowly, life started to shift.

My anxiety became easier to control. I started to get some of my confidence back. I started to no longer need my therapist to hold my hand through every moment.  Continue reading

“I HAVE to love you, but I don’t HAVE to like you.”

I teach little people every day. Seven and eight year olds, to be precise. This year, I have one friend who can be particularly challenging. He is a boy on the spectrum, not in control of his emotions and easily overwhelmed by sensory stimuli and frustrations.

He feels best right next to me. Getting one on one attention. Holding my hand. Hugging me. Being up in my bubble. Each day, I do these things for him because he is also a child of poverty and neglect and it is my job to love and take care of him while I have him.

The other day, we were walking together. He had been having a rough day, and his signal is yelling, “I hate (whatever is bothering him).” Often, it is me, or a friend, or school, or his mother. My response is typical–“I’m so sorry you are feeling that way right now.”

After having numerous breakdowns that day, he held my hand and calmed down as I led him on a walk. He squeezed my hand hard and asked me, “Do you like me or do you hate me?”

I looked this sweet boy in the eyes. He held my gaze for a second, and looked elsewhere, uncomfortable with direct eye contact, as I said to him, “I don’t hate you at all. I love you.” He took a deep breath and relaxed, ready to go back into the classroom. Continue reading

When therapy ends

There is this person, whose couch I could always curl up on and cry, laugh, or simply vent about my life.

This person showed me a kindness I had not ever experienced. A basic, human kindness–empathy. She saw me for who I was, respected me for who I was, and allowed me to be and feel whatever I needed to.

She believed in me.

And, eventually, it allowed ME to believe in me, too. Continue reading

Time

Time has been a good thing for me.

While in the very midst of counseling, time felt like a foe. Each and every day was a battle. Nights were long, full of anxiety and worry and overthinking. Each minute stretched out endlessly and I would focus on just trying to make it through another day, until I could reach the safety of my therapist’s office once more.  Continue reading