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Running Away from Home

by annie

My bags were all packed and I was ready. I was running away from home. It felt kind of good to be packing and scheming on the best, most dramatic way to make my departure. I was initially going to leave before he got home… make him suffer and worry about where I was and when I’d return, and if I was all right. But as I packed, I knew that wouldn’t be fair to him. After all, what happened that morning didn’t warrant what I was now contemplating, but I was needing to run. I couldn’t decide what to do—leave and make him suffer, or stay and try to sort through the gamut of emotions I was feeling. I knew it was an accumulation of things. I suspected it was also partly due to the fact that I had been trying to eat in a more healthy way, which means I hadn’t been stuffing my face to numb out. So I decided to wait until he got home from church and then greet him with, “I’m leaving and don’t know when I’ll be back. I just wanted to let you know.”

The longer I sat waiting for him to come home, the more confused I became. The thought of staying in a motel room all alone appealed to me, but I also suspected that if I did that, I might just get more isolated and withdrawn and would never work out what was wrong.

He came home and looked at my bags and asked if I was going somewhere. He didn’t even ask me what was wrong. When I said I was thinking about leaving, he just said, “I thought we could spend the day working on the newsletter.” I thought, “typical man.” By this time, total, permanent separation was looking pretty good.

I sat on my bed staring at my packed suitcases trying to decide. Then I did something I seldom do—I called a friend. And I told her what I was doing. Even as we talked, I found myself calming down and thinking more clearly. Tim really wasn’t to blame for my anger, frustrations, and hurt—at least not entirely. I had been on an emotional roller coaster for a couple of weeks. I was in the middle of another conflict with a friend and I was afraid of the outcome. I was not feeling well and had been stressed out. Two days before, I had even gotten upset at work and wanted to just walk out and quit. I just wasn’t myself. I had let myself run down physically, the pain and fatigue had set in, and as a result, I wasn’t able to see or think as clearly, and even small things seemed too big to handle. So after talking it out on the phone, I decided to just stay. I went and asked my husband if he wanted to go out to eat. He said no, but would I bring him something. I said, “Don’t you think we need to talk?” He said no. Again, I felt unimportant and uncared for.

When I brought this experience with my husband up in my therapy group, I was helped to get an even better handle on the situation. It was pointed out to me that I had assumed my husband’s reaction to my packed bags and not wanting to talk over dinner as uncaring on his part. Now I can see that he may also have been afraid of facing the conflict, or because of his own depression, may not have been able to respond any other way at the time. But I interpreted his actions, or non-actions, as proof that he didn’t care and would actually be glad to see me go. I now had the responsibility of checking out my interpretations and assumptions.

I was also reminded that saying to him, “Don’t you think we need to talk?” was not the best way to appro+ach him. Letting him know that I felt a need to talk and making a direct request would have probably elicited the response I needed.

At the same time, I was facing a conflict with a friend in my group. She had shared some feelings with me, and I in return, shared some of my feelings about our relationship with her. From past experience, I was pretty sure she would hate me forever and reject me as her friend. For a week I played out scenarios in my mind trying to prepare myself for her reaction to me. I could imagine her saying she wanted nothing more to do with me and telling me how horrible I was as a friend. When the day finally arrived, I was afraid to go to group. But I went because I felt it only fair that she get to speak her mind. I was really shocked to hear her say that she was afraid I would resent her and that she was sorry. This isn’t what I’m used to. I didn’t even know how to respond. But I realized I needlessly tortured myself for a week worrying about this encounter and beating myself up for ever sharing my feelings like I did.

Here I was getting ready to quit group and thought I had a pretty good handle on my recovery. But the experiences with my husband and my friend have shown me I still have things to work on. It felt like a major set-back because all my old thinking patterns returned; but actually, maybe I’ve made an important turn around a corner in my recovery. It was only a week in my life. Before, I would have run from both situations and would still be stuck thinking the worst. This time I made a decision to remain despite my strong feelings. That’s progress. And as for my husband and I—we will be re-entering marriage counseling. I really believe we can push through our unhealthy coping styles with each other. We’ve been through a lot together and are committed to the relationship, so it’s worth it to make it even stronger and bring more intimacy into it.

  • by Annie reprinted from "Survivors & Friends" newsletter - 1997 Volume IV, No.3&4

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