Brenda Breaks it Down: Wanting to forget a relationship

Hi Brenda,

I’m a gay woman and I spent the last 5 years in a relationship with someone with borderline personality disorder and PTSD. It was on again off again many times over and I’ve finally walked away for good. She is in therapy though it’s not seemed to help, in fact, over the years her condition has worsened. I know she’s not been honest with the therapist. She drinks heavily with the meds she’s on for her disorder. I’ve seen so much, the out of control days and nights. The lies and the threats of suicide and the one attempt that landed her in the hospital. That one was supposedly to keep me from leaving.

I did walk away. I’ve finally realized I can’t fix her and I can’t be happy and healthy with her. I’ve pretty much gone through the four steps of battered woman’s syndrome, though I was never physically abused, it was all mental.

I have no idea how this will affect my future relationships and trying to explain this to someone that’s never “been there” is frustrating. I went through the depression and I’ve coped with the ideology of “fake it till you make it.” It’s working, though I still think about what I went through often. I feel like I’ve talked about this to death and I just want to forget and move on. My job is definitely an escape and I am cultivating my social life more and more. Do I just keep telling myself to give it time? I could go to therapy but I’m really not wanting to re-live it all again.

Dear I-Just-Want-To-Forget,

Wouldn’t it be great if I could tell the future? What I can tell you is that if you’re starting a new relationship with the same story you just shared with us about your last girlfriend, I guarantee you, you’re heading toward the friend zone faster than you can say “Dinah Shore Weekend” or “Meet Me in Michigan.” It’s frustrating because you’re leading with the frustrated you, the you that carries the shame or embarrassment or remorse or regret for getting into this relationship in the first place or for having it fail.

Here the deal darlin’, it’s okay to be human, to fail at something, to outgrow a lover. It’s okay to say yes to your own health and happiness. Yes, give yourself some time and while you’re at it give yourself some compassion and forgiveness, too.

Mental illnesses aren’t like other conditions, often they are hidden unless our potential partners share that information or are even healthy enough to do so. It’s up to us to know what feels right and to know that we deserve health and happiness, too. You walked away; you knew you deserved more, so there’s no need to “forget” what happened. You need to only remember what you’ve learned. I think you’ve got that covered.

– Brenda

Gardening, walking, and girl talk: Mama’s soup for the soul

This week has been tough for Mama. There were a few sleepless nights, two blood tests, heart racing, a panic attack, a 30 minute phone consultation, hours of research, and a little under-eating. I am one of a select few who’s body refuses food of any kind when I am upset. Today, I feel better and I owe it to gardening, walking, and girl talk.

When I am upset, emotional (yes, Mama gets emotional too), or angry, I put on my gloves. My little pink gloves designed to dig in the dirt. I grab my shovel, and dig holes in the ground. I transport plants, add mulch and compost to different areas of the garden, rake leaves, and trim bushes.

If my angst is still lingering. I grab two leashes and take Val and Gracie on a walk. When I put on my walking shoes, the pups know they are in for a treat. We walk the 1.86 mile loop that encircles my dream neighborhood. We frequent my dream neighborhood so much that I know many of the other dog walkers and their dogs by name. Some of them probably think I am one of their neighbors.

In the rare event that my mood still hasn’t improved. I talk with my friends. Someone once told me that a good friend is worth 100 times a good therapist. I wholeheartedly agree.

What do you do when your world seems to close in on you? I shared first. Now it is your turn.

– Mama

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Verbal Abuse Is Abuse

Dear Brenda,

I come from a background that may be unfamiliar to you. I’m Nigerian and our perspective of marriage is different than in other countries. For example a single or divorced woman receives a lot of stigma from our society. Another example is that a woman who is abused by her husband is encouraged to continue with the marriage and no one sees anything wrong with it, it’s considered normal.

I have been married for almost 20 years and I believe I have had enough from my mentally abusive husband. He blames me for everything that goes wrong, he treats me with no respect, and he makes me feel so old and ugly and does not appreciate anything I do. He makes me feel worthless and insecure. He does not encourage me to do anything; instead he keeps reminding me that I have not achieved anything since we’ve been married.

I try everything to please him and make him feel happy. I am always afraid of losing him because he keeps threatening that he will leave me for a younger woman when I am old. This makes me to feel insecure to the extent that I always demand sex. I was surprised the other day when he accused me of always thinking of sex and calling me a sex addict. This really shook me and made me start thinking about my life and whether I want to continue with this situation.

I am going through great depression. I don’t understand why he is behaving this way.

Please help me!

Dear Please-Help-Me,

Your husband’s abusive behavior comes from his own lack of self worth. Abusive men are notoriously insecure. He feels worthless and abuses you in order to feel better about himself. Does he know this? No. Will he ever be able to admit it, even if you pointed it out to him? No. Please know that you will never be able to please him, not with sex, a clean house, or a hot meal. Nothing you do will keep the abuse from happening. Stop trying. He needs psychological help and that is the only way you will know why he behaves the way he does.

Also, know that depression is a sign from your body, saying something is wrong here. You’re listening and that’s a good thing.

I get a good sense that you know what he is saying isn’t true and that you know you deserve a better life. Which brings us right to the show down. Would life be better with the devil you know, meaning your husband, his expectations and the verbal abuse you feel or the devil you don’t know, meaning the societal stigma you talk about.

Here’s the deal:

Picture two homes. One belongs to you and your husband, and one belongs just to you.

When you are in the home of you and your husband it is noisy, words fly back and forth. There is tension. When you open the door and go out there is peace and quiet.

When you are in your own home, there is peace and quiet. However, when you open the door it is noisy, word fly back and forth, and there is tension.

Where do you want to live?

Choose wisely.

– Brenda

Dealing with holiday stress and the holiday blues

The Holiday Blues

I was walking with my boss this afternoon to grab an afternoon snack when he turned to me to and said, “I know this is the season and we’re supposed to be all happy, it’s Christmas time and you hear the music, but B, I’m fighting the sadness, I’m struggling.”

I write a lot about ‘happiness being a choice’ and I stand by that, but what he was telling me was different than keeping a positive attitude.

Winston Churchill called his feelings of overwhelming sadness the “Black Dog,” author J.K. Rowling turned depression into characters and called them “Dementors” in the Harry Potter series.

Truth be told I feel blue every holiday season too.

What is supposed to be a time of togetherness turns into one hassle after another. Negotiating time with the ex? Yeah, that’s not exactly pleasant. Spending half of the holiday with my kid? That’s a downer too.

Downer or not, what my boss said is what a lot of folks feel during the holiday season. And it’s easy enough to go down the list and tell you to spend time doing for others, not to have high expectations or over-indulge in drink or food. And then there’s the one about creating new traditions. I agree with all of these suggestions. But what I wonder is what works for you?

What do you struggle with during the holiday season? What do you do to get through?

– Aunt B

When We Are Not The Brightest Bulb

The Tween-let is sprawled in front of the television. She’s ‘in the position’ lying on her stomach, her hands holding her head, her legs crossed at the knees, staring into a Sony Trinitron that’s older than her, as a drug commercial takes up another 30-seconds of our life.

“No one needs that. It’s all in your head,” her tone is strangely authoritative, she turns to glance at me. I say nothing, wondering what she’s going to say next. “Mom what kind of virus or bacteria causes de-pres-sion?” She says the word depression slowly, mimicking the sing-songy voice-over that accompanies the ad.

“First of all, it’s not all in their head,” I say slowly wondering where her first comment came from. “Secondly, there are two types of illnesses, physical illnesses and mental illnesses, both are very real. We wouldn’t tell Nana that her diabetes was ‘all in her head’ so we don’t say that about mental illness either okay?”

Depression affects about 14.8 million people here in the U.S. Usually more women than men and 1 out of every 33 children. It sometimes occurs in tandem with other diseases and depression, just like any other chronic illness, needs to be managed.

I’ve had family members who have suffered from depression and have gotten through it with therapy or medication or a combination of both. It’s real, it’s not ‘just in our head’. Life is challenging and sometimes we are overwhelmed and it is difficult to cope… we all need a bit of help sometimes, Aunt B is saying it’s okay to reach out and take it.

– Aunt B