Note: some of you may recognize parts of this story. I ask that you please respect the thin veneer of anonymity I’ve created by posting this here and only reply in the comments here, on this post. Thank you.
Why am I always the reliable one? I’m tired of people depending on me.
When my ex and I first got together, I announced that I was going to be teacher as a means to support my novel-writing. She thought that sounded swell, so she was going to be a nurse to support her art. That lasted a year or so. She finally had a little mental “snap” and quit school, just two classes short of a degree in English and art.
“If it’s what you want,” I said, “then do it.”
A friend later claimed that my now-ex had “supported” me as I went through grad school. Wrong. I worked full-time through grad school just as I had through college. I brought in at least half of our income. I paid my bills. On time, no less.
My ex’s little “snap” got worse. There were times she was catatonic on the couch. I pleaded. I begged. As a last resort, I yelled and that seemed to be what she wanted at that moment. Not something I could do ongoing – so I pleaded and begged her to get counseling. “Sure,” was the response, but it never happened. She met someone else. He convinced her to get help. So she did. For him.
She showed me a journal entry not long after she started therapy. The first blow was when she said that I was her financial stability while the other guy met her emotional needs. I thought this was her way of announcing she wanted a divorce. Apparently, however, she didn’t see anything wrong with this and pointed to the most disturbing part of the entry – “This, THIS is what I wanted you to really see!” This was the part about how she was so full of love that she loved everyone, and more than that, that she could bed anyone. Including her mother and grandmother.
We went back to her counselor to answer the question that had been posed the previous week: why are you married? My answer was: I want a divorce. There was just no coming back from that journal entry. Not when she couldn’t see how screwed up it was. Not when she only thought of me as her financial stability.
My next wife couldn’t believe I’d put up with so much from the ex, much less for ten years. But I don’t believe you leave just because someone is ill. I stick to the commitments I make and I take that responsibility seriously.
My current wife moved in with me because, well, because she was falling apart and because I keep things together. It’s what I do, what I’ve done since I was very small. We fell in love. And then we got catastrophic news – I had cancer. No health insurance, not even breaking $20,000 a year, despite having a coveted professional job at a very prestigious place. My new wife worked, but didn’t have a career and was not sure what she wanted to do next. We were dead broke.
But just as I fought my way through childhood sexual abuse, I beat the shit out of the cancer as well. About then, I was offered full-time employ at another prestigious organization. I thought I had a career. I began to relax into my life.
We fussed over the hours I kept. We fussed because I have difficulties taking breaks and tend to work myself into a state of exhaustion. We fussed over keeping the house picked up. We fussed over what to do on vacations.
We never really fought or had an outright argument, not really. We were good at dialoguing and compromising. I’m not saying sometimes there weren’t sometimes emphatic words, but we worked hard at being reasonable and at not actually yelling.
Until I woke up one day and realized that I felt like I’d made all the compromises.
Please note that I said I felt like I’d made all the compromises. I don’t think that’s strictly true; I’m sure she has her list.
I lost my beloved career. Part of me thinks it’s because she complained about the hours I kept. But I have the feeling that’s not true – there were political reasons for getting rid of someone like me, many of them. But I can’t help that feeling ….
I found a new job eventually. It was dull and boring and I said I was only doing it until she was done with school and ready to head to graduate school. Then I could – perhaps – afford to be more picky with my choice of employ. So I waited. And I grew to love my job. The longer I worked there, the more they fitted tasks to me instead of trying to fit me into a particular little round hole when I’m so obviously a triangle. She asked me to quit talking about it because she hated her job.
She had one class left. The one class I was most fit to help her with. But she put it off. Dropped out. Took it by correspondence class, but then didn’t keep up with the work. And somehow, still got her diploma in the mail.
But she didn’t apply to grad school.
She continued at the job she hated. Insisted that there were no jobs in her field. Her workplace is making her sick constantly, but rather than look for any job just to get out of there – even a temporary job instead of something in her career field – she continues with this one. Fusses about it.
The job I’d started out hating but had grown to enjoy and was launching a new career for me, abruptly and unexpectedly closed just before the economy really tanked. I eventually found a new job at the most dysfunctional company I can imagine and have spend the last three and a half years trying to find something else locally.
And now she has completely folded in on herself. It’s been painful to watch in every single way. Neither of us are outgoing people but she used to go out with friends. I realized the other day not only do I not have any friends (long-standing issue having to do with my shyness and social confusion, not with her), but she no longer has friends either. It’s like pulling teeth to get her to agree to go out without me, even just to the grocery store to pick up something that she needs. (Don’t assume I don’t go to the grocery store – I do. I’m talking about a run for the one vital ingredient she forgot or the one medicine she ran out of two days ago and keeps forgetting she needs until it’s time to take it again.)
Like my ex-wife, she, too, has ground to a halt. Stopped functioning in any meaningful way. She wants praise when she remembers to do a load of laundry. (Again, please don’t think I don’t have chores – I take care of the dishes and kitchen, she does the laundry. We have split all of the household chores.) I appreciate having chores done – but I don’t see the need to congratulate her every time she does the things she is supposed to do. I don’t want to be thanked for doing the dishes or scooping out the cat box. Those are my chores; I am supposed to do them.
Now, if we’ve been really busy and she makes an extra effort to do 18 loads of laundry in an evening (I exaggerate!), then I do tell her thank you. That genuine, kind of surprised, wow, honey, that was a lot, thank you!
But I’ve felt like she’s disappearing. I’ve pointed it out, cautiously, gingerly. I’ve talked around asking her about counseling, but she has always insisted that talk therapy does nothing for her. She finally announced six or so months ago that she decided she needs counseling. But she never followed through.
And now? Since the middle of August she has been to work twice. TWICE.
She went a week and a half before telling me. Turns out work called and left a message on the machine telling her that she needed to contact them and get put on short-term disability. Or -the implied threat- lose her job. She finally did contact her doctor. She was put on short-term disability. Had a slew of doctor appointments. The “stress specialist” said given her symptoms and her general twitchy demeanor, she is genetically predisposed to panic attacks. He’s giving her exercises to do. She’s also been prescribed medicines to take to help when it gets bad. The stress doctor would rather she stay off work for a total of four weeks since he started seeing her, but for some reason, she was to go back last week, after just two weeks. She made it two days (I think. I fear it was only one day, but I don’t remember and I’m afraid to ask.)
She sits at home and honestly, it’s become a cliche. She reads romance novels and pets the cats. I have to ask her if she will please do the smallest amount of one of her chores. She is home all day, doing nothing. She doesn’t do whatever small chore until after I get home from work. (Except for the day in which her chore was to make a phone call.) I have had to do several of her chores just to make sure they get done – on top of my chores, on top of my work week, on top of my work-from-home extra job. I have cringed when she makes a commitment at the church, fearful that she will fall down and I will have to keep that commitment for her (or put up with the fallout) – and been amazed when she keeps a commitment made to others … but not the ones she makes to me.
I am wracking my brain to figure out what I’ve done wrong. Did I just fall in love with women who happened to have similar issues? Did I do something wrong to trigger such behaviors? Am I so toxic that I poison them somehow?
I fear that she will lose her job soon. There are a lot of plans we made together which were time-sensitive which will die completely if this happens, including one that I have wanted with all my heart and soul since I was a very small child, but if it doesn’t get put into motion within the next year, the window of opportunity will slam permanently shut. She’s the one who told me we could do that, not to give up hope.
And I can’t help but feeling that this breakdown is tied to the timing of that plan. That her heart is not in it, but she can’t tell me and so the breakdown. The problem is, I had given up on that plan. I had put it aside completely and given up on it. And she brought that plan back to life two months ago. Dragged it out of its moth balls, dusted it off and set wheels in motion so that I believed with all my heart that it would happen after all.
And now I fear it will not. And I fear that we will not survive as a couple if her breakdown kills that plan.
I don’t understand inactivity. And so I have a difficult time understanding how she can just not walk into work every day. I am trying to be supportive. But for God’s sake, people are relying on you to go to work every day. I am relying on her to go to work every day. I do it. I hate my current job, but I go every day. I don’t understand how she can not only not go to work, but then not accomplish anything at home either. There are so many projects that need to be done. And she reads trash fiction all day.
I am trying to be supportive. She needs me to be supportive so she can get through this. And as long as she is working to get better….
But I am so very tired and this scenario just feels so very, very familiar.
And I am so tired of being the responsible one upon whom everyone relies.
Star Trek has been a constant companion in my life. Since I was a small child, I have LOVED the adventures and morality expressed by the series. What’s not to love about a society where none are left behind because of poverty or illness? A society where every individual is able to reach their full potential. Where people are valued above profits or power. Lives aren’t wasted on wars of acquisition. Technology is used to improve the lives of the people rather than to further enslave or control.
It’s one of the hopeful visions of our future. Somehow, I know that one day the human race will evolve away from our apish animal nature to this higher existence. Perhaps not by the 23rd or 24th centuries, but sometime. Our survival depends on it.
Not sure why I’m posting this …hoping someone out there will have an answer? Or maybe I just need to vent or find out if there are others like me? Maybe someone out there can explain why these things keep happening to me?
Anyhow, in a nutshell, I’ve had a really bad life and I’ve come full circle with it. Seems that no matter how hard I work, no matter how “positive” I try to be, bad things just happen to me. Things go wrong for no reason. People try to pump me up with positive thinking and then are surprised when the bad things I think might happen actually do happen. While things will just go wrong for me for no apparent reason, nothing really “right” seems to happen. I mean, I have no good luck. If an unexpected tragedy can happen out nowhere then why can’t something wonderful and lucky happen out of nowhere, like magic? Yet I have to work extremely hard to make things happen, and even then things seem to go wrong.
I guess I’m trying to figure out why my life is the way it is and whether there’s a way I can turn things around. I’ve begun to believe I’ve been cursed, or there’s a dark spirit following me around, preventing anything good from entering my sphere. I’m wondering how I can stop this dark spirit, karma, or whatever it is and bring positive energy into my life. I’ve gone to churches to have people pray over me, gone to Reiki shares to have the energy of the universe sent to me, seen therapists, career counselors (for my money problems), gone to Debtor’s Anonymous meetings (hated them!) Still, the bad luck continues.
I also thought that maybe I’d done something wrong to cause all this, so I’ve volunteered to help people in need, but that hasn’t changed my luck.
Okay, let me try to be brief and give a few examples. Both my parents had mental health issues when I was a child, and I spent my early years transported from friends’ or family members’ houses until my parents were ready to take care of me. Then, a housekeeper took care of me while one parent went to work to support me. Meanwhile, the other parent was hospitalized with severe mental illness. My extended family was very unloving and I never see them now, as they are toxic people. I was close to one parent who died a few years ago. Now I’m the guardian for my other parent. So I’m really my parent’s parent and always have been since “childhood.”
In addition to the psychological abuse I experienced from my family once they were ready to take care of me, I was bullied mercilessly as a child, to the point of near insanity. I became painfully shy and anxious as a result, but I put myself into therapy and have practiced meditation techniques that helped me a lot.
But even the therapy was not too helpful, as most psychologists don’t understand social anxiety or shyness. One therapist accused me of imagining I was being bullied at school. She couldn’t believe I was really being bullied and acted as though I was just being paranoid. Consequently, she couldn’t help me to stop the bullying or to learn assertiveness techniques as I’d requested. I couldn’t find a therapist who would teach me ways to defend myself as they were too focused on trying to convince me that no one wanted to hurt me, that I was just being negative, paranoid or whatever. It seemed they were just reading from psychology textbooks and not really listening to me or taking me seriously.
As an adult, I get bullied at work a lot, am told I’m “too nice,” have trouble setting limits and boundaries and being assertive. Even though I’m a well-educated person, I can’t find a decent job, so I am working at a job for which I am well overqualified. Employers and coworkers are often threatened by my intelligence and I find myself holding myself back, trying to hide who I am. Also I get very bored doing data entry or office work. I only seem to fit into creative environments but creativity seems to be only available to the very rich these days.
I learned as an adult that I have an artistic personality and am very, very creative, so I began pursuing my artistic endeavors – playing music, writing poetry, making films, etc. I’ve also found I get along better with creative people and feel happy and free when I am creative. But this self-knowledge has only caused more problems for me as I’m now living in poverty because of it. In spite of great accomplishments as an artist I haven’t found a way to make money as an artist and I haven’t found a “day job” that enables me to adequately pursue my art.
In fact, I don’t fit into today’s job market at all. I ended up homeless a few years ago, and that was a real eye opener. I found that I have no friends. The people I thought were friends really didn’t care about me at all.
I also have chronic pain which, in time, is getting worse. I don’t have the money to get the health care I need.
Anyhow, as I’m writing this, I’m losing some of my sadness. It’s good to vent. But at the same time, I’m in a situation where I’m an adult, not considered to be young anymore, and I don’t meet people who are similar to me, so I feel pretty isolated.
Now, I’m staying in a situation where an acquaintance has been helping me a great deal but this isn’t a sustainable situation. I might end up homeless again soon unless I can find some way to start my own business, as there really aren’t any jobs out there for me.
I just don’t know what to do anymore.
Please don’t anyone respond with platitudes, i.e., “Think positive, things will get better…blah…blah…blah.” Look, I’ve been there and done that. I’m really a very intelligent person who overcame and extremely painful childhood. I’ve gone into therapy. I’ve been to self-help groups. I’ve gone to college, graduated with good grades, but now I have huge student loan debt and the jobs just aren’t out there. So what to do?
Anyhow, I know it’s a terrible thing to say, but it really would have been better if I’d never been born. My parents weren’t able to take care of me, my extended family didn’t want me, I’m not aggressive enough for this society, and I can’t earn a living. I cringe when I hear people try to talk other people out of committing suicide by telling them they’re suffering from “depression” and that things will get better. First of all, “depression” is not an illness but a natural reaction to things that happen to you that you can’t control. I can’t control this economy. I can’t control the fact that other people don’t appreciate my talents and skills. I know I’m capable of doing great things but I can’t get other people to appreciate what I have to offer.
I remember the day I found out my family were migrant farm workers. I was sitting in my tio’s kitchen, and we were talking about something, I think it was about Cesar Chavez or something, and he said it, “You know they were migrant farm workers, right?”
At first I thought it was a joke, because come on now. Only illegal immigrants work as migrant farm workers—illegals or the Joads from “The Grapes of Wrath”. But this wasn’t the Depression, so there is NO WAY that MY grandfather, a Tex-Mex born and raised in AMERICA, would be picking fruit for a living!
I remember coming home, and asking my mom about it. “Tio Lou was joking around, and he said you guys were …that you picked fruit …haha”. My mom said, “That’s right.” Whoa whoa whoa! What??? “Your grandfather would drive from Texas up north, working all summer on the different farms.” She sounded so nonchalant, like she just told me to pass the salt.
What the hell? Was everyone playing a mean joke? We live in Villa Park Illinois, for God’s sake! There’s a Target five minutes away! From what my ignorant mind could grasp, migrant farm workers were like sharecroppers—freed slaves that got ripped off by the big bad white man. I couldn’t reconcile the fact that my grandfather, the gentle mechanic with the wicked sense of humor, was picking apples while some guy named Zeke yelled at him to “git.”
My mom just kept talking. She said that when they moved to Chicago, my grandfather took them along to the farms. It was like an adventure for her. She was 13 years old, and she and my Tia Gloria tried to help by working in the lettuce fields. They were supposed to pull weeds, but ended up pulling all the lettuce. They got fired their first day on the job.
She was smiling as she told me about it …I couldn’t believe that—I mean, how humiliating. “Why are you being so calm about this, can you see how awful it was for you?” My mom replied, “Awful for us? No. You see, a lot of the people …I don’t want to say they worked professionally at it, but they were used to that kind of life. I remember my friends would be pulled out of school because it was time for their families to go work in the fields. Some of them would never come back. When we got sent back to the camp, you know, for weeding out the lettuce, there were a couple of girls that were sent back too. We were laughing about the whole thing, but they were crying, because they knew they would get in trouble with their parents. You see, I knew with our dad we would be okay. He didn’t want us to work, but we had wanted to try. I mean, we really worked hard. That poor lettuce really suffered.”
The story unfolded with such gentleness, just a woman sharing her memories with her daughter. My mom ended by saying “We should always walk in someone else’s shoes. It’s one thing to see something like that on TV or hear a story, but it’s another thing to know what they are doing, to know how hard it is. It makes you that much more grateful for what you have. Your grandparents wanted us to go to school, not work long hours in a field. It’s a different world out there.”
I thought of myself at 13 and how my biggest problem was having to wear generic gym shoes instead of Reeboks. I thought of my mom at 13, trying to work hard to help her family, but knowing deep down that it wasn’t entirely necessary …and I saw those two other little girls crying because that’s all they had. We just sat quietly, my mom and I. We sat there and all that kept running through my head was …God, I have SO much to learn.
I guess this really started when I was first born. I’ve always wanted to feel loved by my father…but he didn’t want me. Because of that I spent my whole life wanting to be loved and wanted by a male figure. Now I’m 22 and I’m in a physically abusive relationship. I’m not sure what I should do.
When I first met my boyfriend 3 years ago he was the sweetest man. He respected me so much. He did everything a genuine gentleman would do to earn my trust.
It wasn’t until 2 years later that I found myself hiding in his bathroom crying while he tried to rip the door off so he could grab me and scream at me. That was just the beginning though. I almost wish it was still that way…
Now here I am. I have a house with him, a life, and I am financially dependent on him.
Our fights usually start with me being upset at him over a stupid issue, to any other couple it would just be a regular argument that ends with the couple coming to a compromise… but not for us…
I will usually threaten to go to my moms house so I can have time to calm down, but he doesn’t like that. If I ever threatened to go to my moms house or just even go into the other room to calm down he will get on top of me and pin me down, usually on the floor or bed. In the process of pinning me down he will grab me and squeeze me until I can’t breathe and no matter how much I ask him to get off of me and I beg and plead while crying he ignores me. I usually end up hyperventilating and crying so hard that I urinate myself and even then he won’t stop. I have had a few circumstances where he has tried to choke me. I have gone through other situations with him where he’s hit my head into a wall or with his fist and given me a concussion.
I feel like I can’t escape. Over the past two years I’ve gained weight and I don’t feel worthy of really anything. I feel like all I ever wanted in this world was to find a good husband and to marry and have beautiful children and be happy and I really thought this guy would be the one who can give that to me. I keep staying with him because I feel like when he tells me that he is sorry he means it and that eventually all of these issues will be in the past it he will never do it again. But I still hate myself because I know if I ever walk down the aisle him I’ll be walking down to my abuser and not a man who truly loves me. I feel like I can’t leave because I love him and I’m extremely dependent on him. I really don’t know what to do.
This is my first visit to the Band. I looked for this site because, at 54, I am still struggling to understand why my father won’t acknowledge my professional successes. I sent him an email last week asking about his holiday plans and mentioning that I am having a book published (we live about 5 hours apart, driving). I’ve been working on this goal actively for nearly a decade, and dreaming about it since I was in grade school.
I’ve nearly raised two children (they’re teenagers), I have a good marriage, and I’ve supported my family financially through my husband’s 5 layoffs. Don’t I deserve a pat on the head (realize this is an infantalizing image) for also pursuing my own dream all these years, while still doing all that was “expected” of me? My mother died many years ago of cancer. In fact, she was 54, the age I am now.
I signed this book contract six months ago but never mentioned it directly to my Dad, even though we shared a rental house for a week in the interim at a family vacation. Last week, in an email, he praised my daughter for academic persistence in high school, and I felt as though I should point out that she was taking a page from her Mom (me). I’ve written 4 book proposals, each 50-60 pages of work, and finally I made a sale! But, this revelation was met with total silence from my Dad and step-mother. I’m pathetic to still care and need and want this acknowledgement. I shouldn’t even ever have tried!! I should just admit that I’m invisible and stay that way. Why do I keep trying for normal?
I have a lovely mother in-law who takes pride in my accomplishments, all around: wifely, motherly, writerly. My husband does, too, as do many friends. I should be grateful. I AM grateful. I still want to make my father normal! Oy. Hopeless. I am grateful that I woke up from this crazy relationship in time to raise my kids without a narcissistic or victim-mongering mother. But there are bits that won’t go away.