Tag: Coping Mechanisms

Coping Mechanisms: Little boxes, Little boxes, Little boxes made of ticky tacky

The title to this post belongs to Malvina Reynolds who composed this song about social housing, but it is so apt for my post! 

broken open box

I thought that given that I have now shared with you how three months on from starting my Mad Journal journal I had decided view to it as tool I could use for ‘A New Beginning’, that I would tell you about the discussion I had with my then teenage son; and how from it I learnt about one of the main things  that I would need to use to get us to where we are today: Acceptance. 

One day when Rich was at work Tom found me crying; he was still so worried about me, and in exaspiration he asked me why I just couldn’t let it go and be happy that Rich was back.

I told him that I just could not just move on from what Rich had done; how all my life I had always had the coping mechanism of visualising a box and putting whatever was bothering me into that box, putting the lid on it and filing it away.  But this time it was not working; I had even tried to put the fucking thing in a lead lined box and weld the lid on and still it came back out and bit me on the arse every day! I just could not stand the thought of having this thing in my mind  for the rest of my life. The things in that box broke my heart every time I thought of them: Rich laughing at me with her; Rich kissing her at Tankerton; Rich setting up house with her; the dressing gowns hung his and her style on the back of the door; how long it had been going on and on and on and on… https://makingthisbetter.com/2018/10/20/may-the-detritus-of-betrayal-fighting-for-my-dignity-in-so-many-ways/

Tom looked at me incredulously and said ‘well that’s not going to work mum, you have to face it and deal with it! How stupid that you thought you could put it in a box; that is not dealing with it!’ He was right! But I was lost! I didn’t know what else I could do to help myself because this had always been my coping mechanism and I couldn’t think of another one. I could not bear the thoughts and images in my head; and more than that I could not bear the thought of what Rich had done to me. 

So I went to my ‘thinking’ place, the Downs, and sat looking out at the expanse of sea and sky and I just let all  of the contents of that box wash over me. Rich had laughed at me, Rich had set up with someone else, Rich had sex with someone else, Rich had lied to me, everything… I cried and cried, but eventually I said to myself ‘This is where you are Moisy, like it or not! You have to get up and get on with it. Stay or go, just make sure you are sure before you make that decision. Don’t be afraid of which one you make.”

I had to accept that it was what it was; that to stay was going to be really painful and that we may not survive in the end. Accept that I was on my own. Accept that although Rich was with me I could not look to him to give me emotional support, not after all he had done. What we had was gone, what I was left with now I didn’t know if I wanted it; and for my own sanity I had to look after me and make decisions based solely on how I felt. 

I had to accept the fact that these fucking things in my head were in my head, they controlled it right now; and by accepting that I actually took some of their power away; because part of their power was the element of surprise – just when you thought you were okay there they were again! 

So I learned over time to say out loud ‘Oh! There you are!’ or ‘ I wondered when you were going to rear your ugly head!’ Another saying was ‘I knew that was coming!’ Or ‘Tell me something I don’t know!’ It worked, accepting it worked; it took a long time but it got easier every day. 

In addition to this, were the small things that Rich did during this time, Lots of small things: showed me affection, cried, showed gratitude, reflected; and over time, as you will see, this started to make new pictures in my mind. More importantly when I thought about giving up, when the thoughts overwhelmed me the small things made me realise that the man I would be leaving would be the man stood in front of me;  not the man who left me he was just a memory. I still see that today: The man Rich is today, he is not the man who left me. 

It is small things, like pieces of a jigsaw they all fit together to make a bigger thing to make something new; but the timeframe is a long one, and you have to be in it for the long haul if you want to stay; and you you have to accept that ultimately you may walk away. 

So the things in your mind: accept them, embrace them, tell them that  your not afraid of them, take their power away. 



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Journal Entry – Will the sadness go away?

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Sunday 24th June 2007

I had a nightmare last night. That Rich left me again and went off with ‘Her’. It was one of those awful dreams that just kept coming back every time you go to sleep.

I don’t know, although probably, if that was why I felt sad today. Not the wave of despair that I used to feel (I [pulled the plug on that bath a long time ago) but still sad.

As I am writing this I realise that one of the reasons for it is that Rich seems so happy because I am happy (happier); and that just emphasises how much he loves me. So it brought it home to me tonight- what he was so frightened of when he first came back – which is all he kept saying. “I am so frightened.” He was frightened that he would never get me back, that he had lost me forever.

But that makes me sad. Because although I understand the manipulation, the mistakes that he and I made, the circumstances that led us to it all, I still cannot understand why he let me down. I loved him so much, implicitly, without doubt or question. That has gone; and I am sad because I want to get that back – but I can’t.  And yes to a degree Rich has lost me. I can never one hundred per cent rely on him again. That man has gone for me; and I know that he desperately wants to come back, and I want him back, but I can’t. It is something that neither of us have any control over.

And for what? Something so stupid, so trivial, is that how much we meant to him? Why wasn’t it enough? Why did he have to nearly lose me to realise what he had? And now he doesn’t have that anymore.

I don’t know. Will it get better with time? Will the sadness go away?


Reflections 2018

Obviously not all of my journal entries are in my blog because it is a serialisation of my book; but in earlier entries I had started to write in my journal every day. It helped to take the thoughts out of my head and stop them from tormenting me. Just before this entry there had been periods of up to three days where I had not written in it, just because things had started to calm (or so I thought!). But now in this entry  I was back to writing in my journal again – every day.

The torment of feeling that one minute you are back to being ‘a little bit normal’ and then WHAM! It is all back stronger than before, for me was one of the main things that nearly made me walk away – many, many times.

Believe me, if you are going through this hell right now I have come to understand that this is the ‘new normal’ (for a time)   you will go up and down, up and down, it is not called an ‘Ocean of Emotion, or Bath of despair’ for nothing!

But I can tell you,with the benefit of hindsight, that it can get better; but you do need to get some sort of coping mechanism in place for the early days – because there was no way that I was anywhere near acceptance at this stage (even though I thought I was!)

I find this entry so sad; because the me of then, who wrote this entry, was right – once something is lost you will never get it back. I remember that immense sadness and pain so implicitly; the fear that it would never go away, and I would feel like that forever. This is one of the reasons I wrote this book, to help the person reading this understand that it can go away.

But only if you let it in time.

The saddest part of this entry is when I say ‘I loved him so much, implicitly, without doubt or question, that has gone.’ I love my husband to peices but not implicitly any more – I wouldn’t love anyone implicitly now.

I asked myself if what I had said in this entry was true – would I ever one hundred per cent rely on Rich again? The answer is clear because I live in rural France with him, on a very small monthly budget and we have to trust each other to make it work. So yes  I do one hundred per cent rely on Rich, in the same way that he relies on me. ~Do I trust him? Yes I do, but I believe it is a different trust, it is for me, because I will always have myself first, I don’t look to Rich to define me.

I have often been asked “Aren’t you frightened that he will do it again?” I have always said no because  I watched Rich pull himself through hell to keep me, and I know that there is no way that he is ever going to risk losing me again.

I would ask anyone who is trying to make it work, how hard is your partner working to keep you, and do you see what they do?

Some of  you will hate this question because that little monster in your head will immediately tell you it is irrelevant because they have cheated on you so it doesn’t matter how hard they are working now. Doesn’t it?

Here is the crucial question:  if you were in their shoes could you keep going? Be honest, if you felt like a cheat, was with someone who cried every day, sometimes all day, because of what you had done. Someone who screamed at you, hated you, loved you, blamed you for everything including rainy days would you stay?

I asked myself that question, often.

When Rich came back he did say nearly every day, from the first day he returned, that he was ‘so frightened’. I had forgotten that until now, he would whisper it often ‘I am so frightened’. So for the last eleven years I have watched Rich face every fear he had, never give up, cry rivers- even now – and  I can assure you he will never do it again. If your partner is trying as hard as Rich do you really think that they will do it again?

Only you can answer that question.

I have communicated with a number of people whose partners are not showing remorse, refuse to go to counselling, ascknowledge their failings but continue to act in the same way. To those people I will say what I always say – for me this is the first, primary, golden rule:

Always have yourself, without yourself you have nothing. From there you can decide what you want for you, and then you can decide if that is what you are getting now, and then you can decide what you want to do, based on your circumstances now, and then you can take action, for you! The risk is that you may walk away, your partner may never give you what you really want, and there lies the crux of whether you want to stay.

The second is: Do not be afraid of what might happen because the worst has already happened! So what is there to be afraid of?

Only by facing up to these things – becoming stronger – not bitter, will the sadness start to go away.

Despite how much I love Rich I know how strong I am, and I know to quote ‘Chantay Savage’ or ‘Gloria Gaynor’ ‘I will survive!’ I learnt that lesson well.


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Coping Mechanisms – The Bath of Despair

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Since I have started to share my book a lot of you have asked me what coping mechanisms I put into place to get me to where I am now, and I realised how important it was to share anything that I used to help others. So here is my first one:

Visualisation was key to my survival at this early stage, I had to put mechanisms into place to get my mind under control. At this point, four or five weeks into our reconciliation, it literally felt as if I was on an ocean, with huge waves coming along when I least expected them, pounding me and pushing me under the water and at times I felt as if  I was literally drowning in pain and heartache.

During these times I would breathe deeply close my eyes and visualise myself standing on a cliff top overlooking the sea with a handful of balloons; those balloons held my pain, some of them even held our relationship, and I would let them go, and I would watch them float away, and imagine them taking the pain with them, all the time whilst I breathing slowly and then I would get myself back under control.

But as the realisation of what had happened, where we were, and the fact that we would never be  the same again hit home I would just feel so down, so sad; as if there was nothing to believe in any more’ because really life was a piece of shit and everything I had now was contaminated and was not going to get any better.

When I felt like this I would visualise myself sitting in a huge roll top bath (we had a roll top bath at that time in our old house in England) and this bath would be full of blackness, it looked like tar; and i was sitting in it and it was sucking me under, and I could feel it sucking any joy I felt about anything out of me.

Like most things at that time I was not going to let it beat me; so I would picture myself holding on to the sides of that bath and pulling myself up. I would close my eyes and I could see the blackness clawing at me trying to pull me back and I fought against it, I pulled one leg up and stepped out of the bath and then the other leg until I was out of the bath. There was residue of the blackness on me but I knew that I would win, I would win.

And I did.

I thought that it was overcoming those powerful emotions that would keep Rich and I together. I was right at that time that I had to use something just to bring them under control but eventually I came to realise that my most powerful ally was acceptance.


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Coping Mechanisms -The Demon

I Image result for images for goblinsIn the May that Rich returned I went back to work towards the end of the month. I wanted to take on the extra hours and I needed, in my head, to be independent financially from Rich. (See my entry after our first visit to the counsellor together and you will understand why – Counselling – It is he who should be sorry not me! )

But every day I struggled. I was still not eating and permantly had tears in my eyes; O l kept finding myself in the toilet crying; although I could cry in front of any of my colleagues I just did not want to keep putting my misery onto them because they had all been so understanding; they knew that although Rich was back we were on a knife’s edge of surviving.

I felt such a fool, so humiliated, and a voice in my head kept telling me that I should not be here now, sitting at my desk with tears in my eyes, and telling me it was all Rich’s fault. (It was!)

It told me that if I left him now I could have my sense of pride back and people would not be pitying me any more, that I would not cry any more. I started to believe it; I just wanted to stop crying, to not feel a fool, I wanted my self respect back and I believed that all of that was impossible to achieve all the time I stayed with Rich.

Once a week a man from another department, we’ll call him Josh, would come to our offices for his weekly meeting with his boss. He was a lovely, gentle man who had a strong sense of faith in God; and he came in to see me to give me a hug and some moral support for what had happened.

Josh said that I had done the right thing in having Rich back, that trials are sent to test us, to help us become stronger and different people.I told him I was struggling, and I explained that it was as if there was a voice in  my head, a demon, that was constantly whispering to me to  leave Rich, telling me what a bastard he was, how he didn’t deserve me, more than anything reminding me of the fool that they had made of me: how they had laughed at me.

Josh looked at me and said “I am glad that you have called it a demon, because that is exactly what it is: It is evil.

Evil does not want you to be happy, does not want Rich to be happy, it doesn’t want anyone to be happy. It will tell you that if you leave Rich you will feel better because your sense of pride will come back, because you will have distanced yourself from what Rich has done. It will tell you that you will feel better because you are not with Rich anymore and that you will be able to leave the situation behind. But will you?  Will you feel happier? Will you stop crying? Will you get your pride back? Just remember, evil wants to destroy any possibility that you have for happiness, destroy the possibility of anyone else’s happiness, and the only true possibility for happiness is to stay with Rich and try.”

And this is where my strong personality came into it’s own: I thought about it, about what Josh had said and I knew that it was true. If I left I would not feel any happier than I did now; I would still be broken hearted and so would Rich. Tom’s life would be affected, as would everyone who was supporting us. What was I going to achieve by leaving? Just more devastation! I could move away from Rich, sell our house and walk away but I also knew that I would be consumed with bitterness for what Rich had done to us, and that over time that bitterness would destroy me; whether Rich was with me or not.

I was not prepared to let that happen to me; I did not want to become a vindictive vicious person who trusted nobody. I was not going to let that bitch do that to me.

After my conversation with Josh, when the voice started to whisper in my brain, I would imagine it as a green evil, imp like demon. Something that just wanted to cause mischief, hurt and pain; I knew  we had all been through enough of that already and I could see what it was trying to do, it was clear it was lying to me. Now getting this demon under control was hard, trust me it was so hard, but visualising the demon to whom the voice belonged  helped me tell it to ‘FUCK OFF’. I would literally shout it out loud when I was in the car.

My advice to anyone going through this now: get a coping mechanism for that voice in your head; and be careful who you talk to because they may (just may) want you to fail and will enhance that voice and it’s message. It’s your voice take control of it! Imagine it as what you like but don’t let it beat you.

What happened to us all those years ago led me to read many psychiatry books, ‘Counselling for Toads’ being the first  (for those Wind in the Willows fans – careful you will never look at the in the same way again!) I know now that the demon was in fact what psychiatrists now refer to as the left hand side of your brain. Byron Katie gives an explanation in her book: ‘Loving What Is’:

“perhaps the most important revelation is precisely this: That the left cerebral hemisphere of humans is prone to fabricating verbal narratives that do not necessarily accord with the truth.”

In the same book there is a  quote from Michael Gassaniga:

It is like ‘having what amounts to a spin doctor in the left brain…’

For me over the years I have learnt that it is in fact your ego, which most times in life is your worst enemy.

So call it what you like, a demon (it still is to me but only as a memory now because mine died years ago!) a spin doctor, whatever; I can tell you now that yours is going to run riot if you are in the situation that I was in at that time. So my advice is get a coping mechanism and don’t let that bastard beat you!

Stay Strong, be in control even though it is hard.

It was the first coping mechanism that I put into place because of his advice and  I know if I had not listened to him Rich and I would not be here today. We have a lot to thank that man for.

As always I hope this helps, and if you know someone it might help then please, share it with them.


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