Coping or Copping Out?

Feb 22nd, 2011 | By | Category: All Posts, Patty's Blog

by Patty Hite

I recently moved from Florida to Ohio. My husband and I thought it would be a great move. I was raised in Ohio, so I was ready and willing to move back. He is ill and wanted me to be around my family.

It was a hard move. The dream that it would be “greener on the other side of the fence” turned out to be untrue. We drove through snow and ice in a convoy of two U-Haul trucks. We arrived to find that the home we rented has a landlord from hell. Everyday has been a struggle to get things fixed. The weather is too drastic for my husband. We realized that we need to go back home—home to Florida.

The thought of going through another move caused many coping mechanisms to surface. I had to choose to succumb to them or to overcome them. Fear was rising within me—fear of having no control over the situation.

I’ve been healing from my abuse long enough to know what I need to do in order to feel empowered again, but the truth is, I didn’t want to deal with healing. I’ve already dealt with my past—the dysfunction of my family, the sexual abuse of my sister and me, the physical abuse from my ex-husband and the sexual abuse of my children by their father. I don’t have flashbacks, triggers or nightmares. Anxiety attacks are taken care of, behavior and boundaries are renewed and I love who I am. The past doesn’t hurt anymore. I can talk about it without pain and sometimes it feels like it happened to someone else.

But sometimes the patterns from the past, the old behaviors, try to invade my thoughts and try to rule and control my emotions. I am aware of them, I know what needs to be done and I know how to control them. But sometimes, I just don’t want to.

The first thing to surface was the desire to dissociate. I’ve dealt with this, especially over this past year. I know when I am being wooed to escape and I have learned to overcome it. This past week, it came in like a flood and all I needed to do was open the gates. Part of me knew that if I gave in, I could escape, but the other part of me knew that it would become my “sick” friend again. I knew that if I invited it in, it would fight to stay. Dissociation is like getting drunk. It feels good at the moment because it offers temporary relief, but I have to face the real world when I wake up.

Then I had thoughts of “Woe is me!” “This isn’t fair!” “No one understands what I have to go through in order to make this move!” “No one cares!“ I didn’t give any thought to what this is doing to my husband. He is the ill one, yet I wanted to be ill. I wanted all the attention and I wanted everyone to feel sorry for me. I hung onto that for a few days and made life impossible for everyone around me. There was nothing they could do to make me feel better and I rejected every great idea they had. “It’s not going to work.” “There is no way to make this happen.”

Isolation was another thing trying to woo me. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I wanted to be left alone to wallow in my self pity. When anyone talked to me, I pretended like I didn’t hear them or my answers were so sharp they cut like a knife. I imagined putting on my coat and boots and walking until I got lost. Then everyone would wonder where I was or else they wouldn’t care and be glad I was gone. Would anyone even miss me? I was becoming a stranger to them. They didn’t know who this crazy woman was anymore. Dang. I didn’t know who I was anymore.

I hate being isolated. Not only do I stay away, my family stays away. I put up my walls that they won’t cross. Then they feel unwanted and unloved. I understand this pattern since it was a close friend of mine. I always wondered why I wasn’t invited places and why people didn’t want to be around me. I stayed away from them, then they stayed away from me. Then I’d get angry because they stayed away.

I was an escape addict. It started with the first time I dissociated during my abuse and it grew from there. As a child, I was only allowed to be a victim in my own world. I couldn’t physically escape, but I could escape in my mind. I escaped from my abuse and the misery of it.

I also noticed that everything stopped. Everything. I didn’t want to take care of myself. I barely made it to the shower and ran around in the same sweatpants for days and viciously brushed my hair. I never opened my makeup and instead of brushing my teeth twice a day, I put toothpaste on my fingertips and rubbed my gums a couple of times. Meals were a thing of the past. I told everyone it was leftovers and that they could help themselves. Forget about cleaning the house. I sat in front of the television and dared anyone to change the channels. I was a like a bull taking a stance—front legs locked. No prodding was going to move me. I wasn’t going anywhere and I wasn’t doing anything.

After a few days of feeling weak and wanting to crawl into bed and not get up, I faced ME. Every one of these were patterns from my past. I went back to that time and remembered how badly I wanted to run.

I was an escape addict. It started with the first time I dissociated during my abuse and it grew from there. As a child, I was only allowed to be a victim in my own world. I couldn’t physically escape, but I could escape in my mind. I escaped from my abuse and the misery of it.

But I didn’t stop dissociating when I grew up. There were times in my life when I wanted or needed someone else to take over. If I escaped, maybe things would be better in the morning or maybe someone else would take care of it. I wanted to be rescued like I never was during my childhood.

I have always been the one to take care of things. Every man I was with passed the buck. Any turmoil was left in my hands. So I handled it, but I found ways of escaping in my mind for a while. I wanted to be a victim so someone else would take over. I wanted a chance to be the carefree child I never was allowed to be.

As the youngest of nine kids, I didn’t get much attention as a child. But I’d get one-on-one time with my mom when I was sick. As I got older, it became a way of escape from stress. When I got older and in high school, I was so afraid to stand in front of the class and read. I could literally make myself ill so I didn’t have to go to school. It was almost like willing myself and it happened. My body always followed my emotions. If I got depressed or scared enough, my body would break down. I would be nauseous and run a fever and have body aches. It would last for days. If I gave it an inch, it always took a mile.

When we lived in Florida, being outside and walking to the lake where we live was a way for me to nurture myself. It brought calmness to me so I could think and relax and make plans. But here, I couldn’t do that. It has been miserable outside since day one. There are other things I do, but spending time outside is my solitude. I plan on doing a lot more of this when we get to Florida. I don’t want it to be a way of escape, but a way of life.

I wasn’t taken care of as a child and my coping methods were the best I could do then. But keeping them around kept me from taking care of myself now. I can’t undo the past, but I can give myself the care I never got as a child. Doing that helps me face my adult responsibilities.

So, here I am now. I took the time to face them all and I am glad I did. I feel strong again and I’m ready to make the plans to move again. I’m actually looking forward to it. I know I can do it.

My mind is clear and focused. I am actively involved with the thoughts and ideas of my family. My husband feels secure and safe again, knowing that we are a team. I am back. I’m laughing and hugging and kissing and holding. I am ME again. I found my “moving” notebook (I threw it behind the television in a fit of anger and self pity.) I crossed out “Ohio – Here We Come” and replaced it with “Florida – Homeward Bound.”

As a survivor of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, Patty Hite has been tenaciously pursuing her healing for over thirty years. She’s a passionate advocate for all survivors and dedicates her life to inspiring emotional wholeness in others. As a former victim of spousal abuse, she’s delighted to find true love with her husband of ­­­­five years. She’s blessed with four children and six grandchildren.

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8 comments
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  1. WOW! The dissociation part of your email is ME. It is something I deal with everyday. I am much better these days after years of EMDR therapy….I am still with my therapist.

    This was the part that I felt like I had written: WOAH…thanks for your post.

    I also noticed that everything stopped. Everything. I didn’t want to take care of myself. I barely made it to the shower and ran around in the same sweatpants for days and viciously brushed my hair. I never opened my makeup and instead of brushing my teeth twice a day, I put toothpaste on my fingertips and rubbed my gums a couple of times. Meals were a thing of the past. I told everyone it was leftovers and that they could help themselves. Forget about cleaning the house. I sat in front of the television and dared anyone to change the channels. I was a like a bull taking a stance—front legs locked. No prodding was going to move me. I wasn’t going anywhere and I wasn’t doing anything.

    After a few days of feeling weak and wanting to crawl into bed and not get up, I faced ME. Every one of these were patterns from my past. I went back to that time and remembered how badly I wanted to run.

  2. Patty, I love how you said, “Dissociation is like getting drunk. It feels good at the moment because it offers temporary relief, but I have to face the real world when I wake up.” I never understood why others used alcohol or drugs until today. The mind knew it but not the heart. I use disassociation to cope and isolation, too. I don’t use it as much as I used to but really saw my coping in your blog. Thanks for sharing your struggles with us, you turned my lightbulb on. ?

  3. Nadia,

    I am so glad this touched you and you could relate to it. It helps to know that others can really relate to what we go thru and have “been there.” Dissociation does get better. I didn’t know I was doing it until a few years ago. Now I have been able to trace it back to it’s roots. The weird thing is, that I like it. I used to call it my “hiding place.” It was hard to give it up, but knew I had to, because I couldn’t remember so many things in my life. I’m glad yours is getting better.

    Yeah. Stopping seems to be a combination of everything for me. I can’t do this, and I cant’ do that, and I want to do this. So I just stop.

    Thanks for responding to my blog and letting me know it spoke to you. Patty

  4. Awww, Linda,

    I am so glad this spoke to you. I’ve been looking for a way to get drunk without getting drunk my whole life. I don’t drink anymore, it used to make me sick, so I found other ways to escape. Keep that light on, as you know, it only gets better. ((hug)) patty

  5. Pattie, Thanks for this article! I was in the process of just trying to escape for just a little while in old behavior patterns. But found your article first and realized what I was in the process of doing. Thanks for the insight! David

  6. David,

    I am so glad it was a help to you!! Patty

  7. I am so tired of trying to get better. So tired

  8. Bill,
    I can understand feeling that way. I used to view healing as a long mountain road to climb. it seemed as though I would never heal. I wanted to finally say, I’m healed. I overcame. I conquered. The more I tried to get to the finish line, the more pressure I put on myself.

    Now, I have a different attitude about healing. First of all, I am not trying to get to the finish line, because I’m happy with the knowledge of knowing how to change different things in my life. The flahsbacks aren’t near as harsh as they used to be because I learned to face each one and get to the root of why it was so harmful in the first place.

    And then I look around at those who don’t want to change or even know that they can. And I see how far I have come. I’m not the same person I used to be. I’ve learned how to remove those masks that used to protect me, yet always hurt me. And I like who I am becoming.

    With every flashback or trigger, I’ve gotten stronger in myself. Not because of the abuse, but because I’ve chosen to use them to my advantage as a way of changing. They’ve helped me to trust myself and listen to my own warning signals, they’ve helped me instill boundaries, and I’ve learned limits along the way.

    And most importantly, I’ve learned to stop putting so much pressure on myself. I’ve learned to nurture myself along the way. I think that is so important for us all. That instead of running to the finsih line, believing that is the only answer, I’ve learned to walk, rest, and enjoy those things around me. If I don’t feel like facing a flashback or trigger, I tell myself it’s ok. I’m not ready right now. And I do it in my time and when I am able to emotionally and physically.

    Bill, it does get better. Honestly it does. There is hope in healing. Along with the hard work it takes, there is also the rewards of being closer to who you really are. And if you are tired, then take a break. Rest in it. It will be there tomorrow or a week from now. Take the time you need to nurture yourself and gain your strength back. You can do it. I know you can. ((hug))

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