Posted by fxckfeelings on April 27, 2015Share This Post
Of the many things out there that people can be afraid of—spiders, heights, gays—the one thing that truly scares the shit out of all of us is change. Whether it’s good or bad, change is unfamiliar, and unfamiliar is inherently frightening. Sometimes, particularly when it’s forced on us, we think change will turn out badly and it doesn’t, but when we really don’t want change, we try to prevent it, and that can be at our own peril. Don’t let neediness or fear control your view of the future (or marriage). Whether you’re facing or adapting to change, think through what’s good for you, and you’ll become better at forecasting its impact and taking pride in your brave response.
After hip surgery, I felt like I was in a fog…it wasn’t just the physical adjustment, but there was a freak complication during the procedure, and my brain might have lost oxygen for a bit. I came out of it with no energy, and my memory was shot. The doctor said that was normal, but now it’s a year later and I still don’t have the energy or mental sharpness that I used to depend on. My husband says I’m different but that he likes the new me just as much as the old one, if not more, because he thinks I’m calmer and a better listener. I think he’s just being sweet, so I’m still afraid to spend time with old friends or co-workers so I don’t frighten them and humiliate myself since I just feel slow and stupid. My goal is to get my old self back and stop being a pale imitation of the smart go-getter I used to be.
When you lose something great about yourself, whether it’s the ability to strike out the side in the big leagues or make it as a supermodel or just remember the names of everyone at the party, it’s hard not to dwell on everything you’ve lost and search desperately for a way to get it back.
Unfortunately, change is inevitable with age and it’s always uncomfortable, even when it’s welcomed. You can find the courage to withstand a career-salvaging Tommy John or Tummy Tuck. When the changes are more mental than physical, however, there’s almost nothing you can do, even though you’d give anything to turn back time.
You’re right to try to get back to your old self, at least at first; that’s what rehabilitation is about, for a limited time. Almost always, however, when there’s a permanent component to an injury, your goal needs to shift from total recovery to management of a permanent impairment. That’s when you transition to becoming a sportscaster, a trophy wife, or, in your case, someone slightly different.
Your husband is one step ahead of you in identifying what’s nice about the new you. He probably misses some of what’s lost, too, but knows it’s destructive and mean to set goals for yourself that you can’t possibly meet. That’s why your goal isn’t to get your old self back, but to do everything you can to develop and make the most of who you are now.
Instead of relying on boundless energy, learn to prioritize and spend your resources carefully. Support your memory with lists, bulletin boards, and reminder apps. Take advantage of your husband’s support to do activities that otherwise might be difficult, and trust that any true friend will be glad to see you in any version.
In the old days, you took pride in exceptional performance. Now, you may not have the level of mastery (or just memory) that you used to, but, given how hard it is to make the adjustment, getting the most out of your new body and brain is an even greater achievement.
“I feel like I’ve lost what made me special, but my values haven’t changed, and I will take pride in using what I have to live a life that expresses them.”
My friends think my boyfriend is a creep because he hit me sometimes, but it only happens when he’s drunk, or we’re both drunk, and I won’t stop criticizing him, so it’s never totally his fault because I’m no angel, either. He’s very sorry and promises to get help, so I feel we’re making progress, and when he’s not drunk, he’s very loving and considerate. My goal is to get them to see that his getting violent or our both being our worst selves doesn’t mean that he can’t be a nice guy or that we shouldn’t be together.
It’s sad that the guy you love has an alcohol-and-rage problem, but you need to remember there are more important things than love, and one of them is your safety. No one else can protect you like you can, and a lack of safety will defeat every other goal you can think of, including your boyfriend’s recovery and happiness.
Yes, your nasty tongue may get him angry, but it doesn’t matter who’s to blame, and anger is unavoidable in any close relationship. What’s important is that his violent response endangers both of you, and you both have a personal responsibility for self-protection.
No matter how sincere his regrets or your love for one another, you know that the risk remains huge that it will happen again. You know there’s no cure for alcoholism, a terrible temper, or impulse control problems. With sobriety, great motivation, and years of practice, your boyfriend will hopefully get better at self-management, but the risk will always exist and, so far, he has barely begun the recovery process.
Unfortunately, in your case the risk is undiminished. Your boyfriend wants help, but you haven’t mentioned his wanting or achieving sobriety. You can’t tell yourself that the danger has lessened, or that not making a painful change and leaving him will be any more painful than what could happen to you if you stay.
Don’t waste time on love or blame; your love will hurt him and you if you don’t put safety first. Protect both of you from harm by doing what you know is necessary. If you truly love him, you’ll leave him for his own good, as well as your own.
“I can’t imagine breaking up with my boyfriend when I think about how much we love one another and have shared our dreams, but I know that the risk of violence is not going to get better and that I have to do what’s necessary to protect us both.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname