I’m Not the Person I Was a Year Ago – And That’s Good

When I think back to the woman I was a year ago, and think about the woman I am now…I don’t recognize myself, and at the same time I’ve never known myself better. I’m not the person I was a year ago (pre-DD), and she won’t ever return.  It’s both good and bad. 

We’re approaching the one year anniversary of DD. (Discovery Day, if you are new to the adultery gig.)  This journey of not being the same person is the oddest of journeys that is both good and bad at the same time.  “Both good and bad” describes every facet of being thrown headlong into self-discovery. I didn’t see this year coming.  I just did not see it. 

Part of my story is that I am (cough, clearing of throat), was a masterful codependent. I will probably get more into that some other post, (how or why I became a masterful codependent), but basically due to life circumstances that I could not avoid I became and lived for the better part of three decades as a horribly codependent woman. 

  • I carried my family on my back. I didn’t let them carry themselves or try out their own two feet. I came by this honestly, with a kind heart.
  • I carried my family’s responsibilities as my own. Especially my husband’s responsibilities, I took them on one by one.
  • I was STRONG and CAPABLE and AMAZINGLY PRODUCTIVE and ORGANIZED … I mean you have to be if you’re going to do everything for everyone. And it wore me the heck down.

My life has been filled with crisis. To the freaking brim. All the years of my life, I’ve walked through one crisis after another. So much so, that parents and siblings and in-laws and coworkers and church family and close friends have always marveled about how I’m able to soldier through it all. It had definitely become my identity. I was a dealer; deal with this, deal with that, deal and deal and deal. My boss once described me in my review as a “force who can move the needle almost single-handedly by herself”.

As I write, I feel the need to pause and reflect. I feel so sad for her. She gave and gave, and gave up a lot to be so capable. It took its toll. {{{sigh}}}

Pre-DD: I could cope with anything that came my way. Post-DD: I don’t even care to cope well with everything that comes my way. Learning of my husband’s secret activity broke me. It was The Straw that broke this camel’s back. I’ve come to appreciate this change in me. [I don’t appreciate his activity, period. And I’m not going to be foolish enough to ever say, “I’m glad it happened.”] When DD arrived, for the first time in my life I wasn’t able to soldier on. I went from doing everything for everyone, to someone who couldn’t even do for herself. Seriously. I couldn’t think, plan, cope, understand, remember… I was the one who needed help.

When I met my psychologist for the first time, it was more than a month since DD, and I couldn’t answer a single question he asked me past my name. I just remember saying, “I don’t know” a hundred times. Simple questions I should know the answer to, I couldn’t answer. At some point he stopped asking me questions and said something along the lines of, “I know you’re an intelligent person. You’re in a crisis right now.”

The transformation over this year has been carved out into three stages. Stage one was complete brokenness, with the coping skills of a four year old, unable to work at my job or my own life, and lots of asking “why”.

Stage two reminds me of a baby giraffe trying out her legs, learning to walk and run and play. Baby giraffes learn how to do this pretty quickly, with a little bit of help. Once I got into good talk therapy, I found my legs. It was hard work. I learned about how I became the woman I am, the good parts of that, and the unhealthy parts of that.

Stage three is now, and is about taking all of these strands I’ve unraveled that had formed me, and weaving them back together into the person I’m becoming. She is healthier, and in many ways happier than she’s ever been. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to make this interesting enough to read, but I’ll sure try.

I’ve separated my marriage from who I am. I am not my marriage and my marriage is not me. We are not one being. I’m not a failure because my marriage is bad. I’m not going to die if my marriage dies. This separation is a relief. Before DD, I wasn’t in love with my marriage, but I couldn’t separate myself out of it either. It defined me far too deeply. It held me hostage as though life couldn’t go on unless I keep my WHOLE family intact — but I’m keenly aware I have a family even if someday I don’t have a marriage.

I faced myself and asked a hundred “why” questions. Getting to the root cause of why I was a codependent, and being willing to make changes, was absolutely liberating. Pre-DD I walked myself into a prison cell, locked the door, and put the key on a shelf. I was angry with my life and with others (but never with myself), for being in a prison and sentenced to hard labor. It never once occurred to me that I alone had locked myself in the cell, or that I could leave my prison at any time. I blamed others for my heavy loads, but I was the one who picked them up and put them on my back. I have put their stuff down. I just carry my own stuff.

I’ve started to care for myself first, others second. It sounds selfish, but in reality it is the best gift I can give my children and husband. I’ve noticed especially my daughters are thrilled with my self-care. They are really proud of me. I started with talk therapy. I seriously exercise, and I’ve done it long enough to believe it’s a habit. I practice mindfulness, meditation, and have learned new coping skills. I recognize when I’m in a panic attack, when I’m being triggered by something, and am learning how to work through it. I get rest, even if I need to put my feet up all weekend. By taking care of myself, I’m truly able to be present for the people I love.

Let’s talk about the word “no”. I heard myself say it a couple months ago. Hubby asked me to pick up buns at the grocery store on my way home from work. It was late, I was tired, my commute is about an hour, so I said no. Eek! Hubby didn’t check for a response to his text because I didn’t ever say no. I even told my boss no. He asked me to do something for his boss, and I responded, “I sorta had hoped you’d take care of that yourself.” AND HE DID. I’m amazed that people will accept the word no. I mean, they are surprised by hearing it, but they go with it. It’s like a new super power. I still say yes. I say it when I should, and say it when I want to say yes. Being able to say no means that my yes is voluntary. It has removed 95% of the feelings of resentment and self pity. This is worth saying twice. I’m able to live nearly free of resentment because I am free to say NO when I want to, and therefore nearly all my yeses are voluntary.

I’m needy. I lean hard on people; the right people. I don’t even try to be strong and self-sufficient when stuff is hard. I have given myself permission to feel deeply and need people. I have surrounded myself with a “super team” of safe girlfriends who have been with me through my first year from DD, and will stick with me in the year to come. I do NOT unfairly lean on my children for emotional support. I’m so glad I’ve woken up to how unfair this was for them. I’m so glad I did something about it by reaching out to other people. When I’m upset with my husband, my husband and I talk about it. Pre-DD I would have stuffed it and eaten it and been bitter, angry, and resentful. Not anymore. Who is it better for? Well right now, it’s better for me. I don’t see it being better for my husband, yet. I’ve learned how to ask for help and receive help, and without guilt or shame. I’ve learned how to have feelings and not discount them, or ignore them.

I have fun. I didn’t have time to have fun before. I was too busy picking up everyone else’s load, carrying it, stewing about it, etc. Now that I’m focused on just carrying my own load, and asking for help when I need it, I have time left over to (gulp) enjoy life! What a concept! Leisure! I meet friends for dinner. I go to movies. I write blogs and poems. I do needlework. I read books. I laugh at stuff that’s funny, instead of just thinking it was funny. I do mother-daughter weekends, visiting with my girl who lives a few hours away. I make myself a fancy cocktail every now and then. I make plans and give myself something to look forward to. I’m able to enjoy living for the first time in a very long time.

I’ve come off my high horse. I am not good at confrontation. I’m not good at talking about my feelings in a way that is palatable to hear and constructive. And, it isn’t very fun, either. I’m a big fat chicken when it comes to dealing openly with the past. I never knew this about me. I’ve opened up a blind spot. I’m humbled by how hard it is to communicate with my husband, and how much practice I’m going to need to do this well.

I talk to God for real-real. I have spent time in prayer all my life, but now I TALK to God. Like, “ARE YOU THERE GOD, CAN YOU HEAR ME? I NEED YOU!” And, “Today was terrible. I feel so sad because…” Sharing feelings with my Maker? What a concept! I know God gets it. Jesus was betrayed and rejected; hence the cross. I’ve noticed I can share joyful feelings, too. I’m more connected, and more supported. There’s a purpose in this world for me that doesn’t equal “do everyone’s crap for them”. I don’t know what that is just yet, but I know what it isn’t.

It bears repeating that I’m NOT glad this suffering of infidelity has happened. I’m frequently sad. I’m frequently angry. I’m frequently feeling despair and paranoia and depression and panic attacks, and I’m truly afraid I’ll end up going through this again.

In the midst of the pain, I’m finding myself. It’s been hard, really hard. Hard work. Hard looks in the mirror. Hard. I’m not the same gal I was. I won’t be her again. I have growth in my life, and I feel proud of myself for it. I feel proud to cry. I feel proud to be angry. I feel proud to say “no”. I’m more proud of myself for this one year, than the other 31 years of my marriage, or my 52 years of life.

I once was lost, but now I am starting to find myself. Was blind, but now am starting to see a full life is mine for the taking.

If I can face myself in the mirror and be okay with what faces back. 

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