Intimacy Is Not a Bad Word

Merriam-Webster defines the word intimacy as:

“something of a private or personal nature” and/or “familiarity”.

There are a number of reasons that we can be afraid of intimacy. Two examples:

  • Childhood issues, as in inability to attach to a caregiver, having been abandoned, etc.
  • Past negative events of being intimate with others- abusive relationships, sexual assault, etc.

Either of these issues can set someone on a path of trying to keep themselves “safe”. This can be both good and bad- it’s good to protect yourself from those who may have bad intentions, but may not be so great when someone means well and just wants to get closer to you.

The fear of intimacy can keep you from getting close to others. It can also cause behaviors like:

  • Purposefully pushing others away
  • Keeping friendships and/or relationships superficial so the person can’t see who you really are
  • Coming off as “cold” or “closed off” to others around you.
  • Fear of abandonment and/or rejection.

“Some People Are Worth Melting For”- ” Frozen”

I can’t believe I used a “Frozen” quote but…it fits.

There was a point in my life in which I had become cold. I didn’t even realize it, which is very common. I’d been dealing with anxiety and depression due to my marriage issues. Things were so bad that I felt the need to protect myself emotionally so that I could keep going. I was basically on my own planet.

When your husband is emotionally and verbally abusive, it hurts. It changes you and your marriage permanently.

I was quiet, had lost some of my humor and kept to myself for the most part. I just wanted to be left alone. I didn’t notice the tall, gorgeous man that kept trying to approach me at work.

That man was Jake.

I am forever grateful that I met him. He had a quiet, gentle spirit that helped me open up and heal. I was scared that I would get hurt (and I did) but somehow, I realized he was worth that risk.

He told me once that he didn’t know what to do because I kept brushing him off. I would literally walk away from him because I didn’t want to be bothered, but he kept trying- not in a mean or harassing way.

I apologized to him for seeming so cold- that’s not me at all, even then. I realized that I didn’t want to come off that way to others, so I tried my best to open up and let Jake in. It was one of my best ideas in years.

After his death, I had to address my marriage and where it was going. If we were going to stay together, I would have to work on my fear of being close to Matthew again.

I cried my way through lots of therapy sessions before I could decide to let myself take that risk again. Matthew had changed, so I needed to do the same.

I talked a lot about my fears and realized that I was the only one that could truly fix them. Over time, I’ve been able to be fully intimate, meaning emotionally and physically, with Matthew again. It’s helped our marriage a lot.

Thinking

How Can I Make Changes?

Changes are definitely possible, but they may not be fun.

Coming to terms with this fear can be difficult, depending on individual circumstances. Some may require therapy. Some can work through this fear on their own.

Either way is okay. Everyone’s different and heals in their own way.

A few steps for facing the fear of intimacy:

  • Think about it- what is it exactly that makes you fear intimacy so much?
  • Write it out- this can help sort out your thoughts.
  • Talk. Then talk some more. Rachel, my former therapist, once told me “If it’s on your mind and bothering you, you should probably say it.” I admit this was a big struggle for me, and it’s still an issue sometimes, but it is worth it.
  • Get informed. This is a deep fear for many and there’s information all over the Internet. The information for this post is from Psych Mind
  • Take small steps. Don’t rush into something because you’re trying to get past a fear. It may take years for intimacy to feel okay for you. Examples: Try opening up to someone you have wanted to but only about one topic. Let someone take care of you.
  • Seek a therapist if this fear is keeping you from living your best life.

Forming a sense of intimacy with others can be tough. Facing this fear can create personal growth that you may not have expected.

Has intimacy been a problem for you? What has helped you face the fear OR what keeps you from facing it?

Taking A Step Towards Fearlessness

There was a time in which I was afraid.

I was afraid of being myself.

I was afraid of love- because I had a bruise on my heart.

I was afraid that I couldn’t handle what was in front of me.

I wasn’t able to see that in the background, (or maybe not so far in the background) there was a man trying to change me and my life. I brushed him off without even knowing it. I barely knew who he was. I was in my own world and didn’t want to add to my pain. Who does?

That man, for some reason, didn’t give up. He just went home, talked to his brother because he knew me better and kept trying.

I don’t know how or why, but finally, I took the first step into fearlessness. I’m forever glad that I did. It entirely changed me and my life. I hope that if you are reading this and want to become fearless, your story ends a lot better than mine.

A few tips:

  • Don’t be reckless. I took a few interesting changes and looked over my shoulder more than once, but there’s a line between fearless and stupidity. Also, don’t do anything that will put you and/or others in danger. Don’t break laws either. I can’t promote that.
  • Stay true to yourself. Being fearless does allow for growth and changes, but in the end, you have to stay true to who you are. Learn as you go along.
  • Don’t expect perfection. On the path to being fearless, I messed up quite a bit. I’m still scared of some things- like letting my kids do things on their own. People tend to think that fearlessness means automatically letting go of everything. I don’t exactly agree with this, but everyone has differing opinions.
  • Enjoy the good moments. It can be nice to not have so many fears and worries about what others think. Doing something that scares you can be a boost in so many ways. (I absolutely do not promote cheating, but…)
  • Have an open mind.

I’m a huge Swiftie- Taylor has basically written my life since about 2013. This isn’t a song lyric but a quote (thanks, Pinterest)

Do you feel that you are living your life fearlessly?

The Aftermath of Abuse

*Trigger Warning: this post discusses emotional abuse. If this is something you have a hard time processing please feel free to take time to do self care and/or come back to this post when you feel you can.*

I wrote The Reality Check to discuss my own issues with emotional and verbal abuse within my marriage. I didn’t, however, discuss the aftermath. It’s not pretty. I had to work on it in therapy. I had to relearn self-esteem and self-worth. I’d lost both. Jake had helped me regain my self-respect- I learned a lot about what I was willing and not willing to take from someone.

Those two things aren’t easy to learn, much less a second time. The decision to stay wasn’t an easy one. I stayed up many nights wondering if I’d screw myself, and more importantly, the kids, over, by staying. Did I? In a way, yes. Things have happened that I didn’t forsee and changes are ongoing. If I’d known these things would happen, I’d have left in 2015.

I was guarded. I didn’t trust Matthew to not hurt or leave me. I wouldn’t let him in, talk to him about anything major. Bills and kids? Sure. Anything else? Forget it. I ended up walking around with all kinds of thoughts and feelings.

The Thoughts that Echo

What if he goes back to being who he used to be? This stays with me daily. I think it always will. Matthew has made so much progress, but even my former therapist said this is a legit fear. I believe her.

If we get into an argument, is he going to blow up? Therapy helped me learn tools for this- arguing can be done in a healthy way. Taking breaks is very effective.

It’s okay to talk to him..right? I’ve got to try to trust him. This remains a daily struggle. Even with therapy, I’m not sure I’ll ever fully trust Matthew, much less any man, again. I know it’s okay to trust people, but I don’t want to ever be broken again.

I need to make it all look okay.. I didn’t know it then, but everyone around me knew what was going on. Even his dad knew. I withdrew a lot from everyone. I was severely depressed.

Am I going to mess up again? Is this going to be the day everything goes to hell? This has gotten better, thanks to a lot of self talk, progress and therapy. There are bad days but I am able to get through them a lot easier. This is also known as “walking on eggshells”, when you feel everything you do might upset your partner. This is a terrible frame of mind to live in.

The Drinking Years

I do not blame Matthew at all for my drinking. That was my own decision. The situation we were in, however, crushed me. I could have stopped drinking. I just liked it too much. It was a fun escape, but it got a lot worse after Jake died. My former therapist almost sent me for an inpatient evaluation. As of this post, I’m almost 20 months sober. Many abuse survivors do turn to some sort of substance abuse and that’s a sad fact. It helps dull the pain for sure, but it’s right there the next day.

My liver took a hit, and I’m forever grateful to my primary care physician because she might have saved my life. I’m pretty sure I would have ended up drinking my way into rehab otherwise. It may take years for my liver to return to normal. I damaged my own body because I let someone else destroy me. Let that sink in.

I drank to forget all kinds of pain- the pain of being what I thought was a horrible mom, definitely not a great wife, and the crumbling of my marriage. I kept drinking to forget the pain of losing the future I’d planned. I’m so glad I stopped.

What Happens After?

Abuse, in any shape or form, is wrong. I chose to cover emotional abuse because it’s not discussed nearly enough. What happens after needs to be looked at so much more.

The effects can last for years, even if the survivor is able to move forward and find a loving partner. The scary thoughts remain in the back of their mind. Some, like me, always have a backup plan just in case the nightmare comes true- they end up where they never thought they would be again. Some avoid relationships altogether for a long time out of fear. Some, sadly, end up in a chain of abusive relationships.

No matter how things turn out for you, please remember that the abuse is never your fault.

Pics courtesy of Unsplash and Pinterest

Resources:

Curejoy

Healthy Place

The Internal Turmoil of Sobriety

I’ve had a lot of comments thanking me for my honesty and openness on this blog. In an effort to continue that, I decided to not write the post I had planned, but one that needed to be written: about the inner thoughts of someone struggling in sobriety.

The Best I Can Do

My sobriety date is 1/1/2017. I hope every single day that I never have to change that date. I continued therapy for another year after that, because I needed to do more work on myself. I needed to finish the work Jake started. It was a promise I made to myself when he died. I finished therapy in May 2018.

I have the phrase “One day at a time” tattooed on the inside of my left wrist. It really is the best I can do. It’s the best that anyone in recovery can do.

I look fine on the outside. I have great kids and a husband. I finally got myself back together. Not too far below the surface, however, lies the thoughts that can ruin my life.

It’s Not As Easy As It Looks

I don’t have thoughts of drinking every day, or even every week. I do get stressed, I do feel pain. I’ve had issues in my marriage lately that are breaking my heart. I didn’t see this stuff coming but yet, here I am.

One night recently, I barely slept. I was able to sleep for a couple hours but woke up and was awake for hours. I sat in my bed, in the darkness, and among many other thoughts, I thoughts about having a couple of drinks.

I knew that my pain would be gone for a while, but when I was done drinking, it would be there all over again. Plus, I’d feel awful for ruining my sobriety and letting down everyone that’s supported me. I also knew one drink wouldn’t do it, thus a very fast slide back into heavy drinking. The kind of pain I was dealing with would have required a huge bottle of Fireball or vodka.

I’m not sure what my tolerance looks like these days, but I’m almost certain drinking doesn’t go well with RA meds. My record is tied: 7 shots on the day I learned of Jake’s death(and I barely felt that) and the night I fell off the barstool.

I didn’t drink that night. I am glad to say that. I literally talked myself out of it. I’m not sure how long it took me to do so, but I did it. How? I reminded myself of a few things:

  • I’d be so upset with myself for having to restart my sobriety time. 18 months is a lot of work. So is 18 days, years, or even 18 hours. Any time that you’re sober is good.
  • my issues would still be there later.
  • The hangover really isn’t worth it. I wake up in enough pain as it is.

Self-talk does work wonders if you do it the right way.

A few days later, the same thoughts came back. This time, I listened to music. This is one of my best coping skills. I left “Starting Over” on repeat until I felt better. I went through my reminders again and I was okay. I’m still struggling but I haven’t wanted a drink in a few days.

I know everyone’s got their own ways of coping but these are two of mine. I wanted to highlight this issue for those who are going through it. It’s not easy. It’s far from pretty. Drinking can and will ruin your life- I’m so glad I stopped. The challenge is to stay sober.

Pics courtesy of Unsplash and Pinterest