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Embarrassed And Ashamed Of My Weakness

Question:

About two months ago I ended a long-term relationship with a woman and by extension with her son. I ended it due to her addiction to crack cocaine. Despite the addiction, I stuck with her for another year after discovering it. (Although I did move out and into a different house during that second year). She was losing the battle with it and I had became a giant enabler. And during the relationship she did very nearly every negative thing that someone with such an awful addiction can do: From cheating, and stealing, to surrendering custody and visitation with her own son. And finally, in recent weeks I have discovered that she has chosen to terminate a pregnancy (probably a pretty good choice regardless of the readers’ political or spiritual views). The child may or may not be mine, and is probably devastated by all of the crack in the mother’s body. Although this was not my first serious relationship, this is affecting me very deeply. And this is where my question comes in. I stayed very strong while with her, taking each challenge in stride. Every decision I made was thoughtful and done calmly with strength, and I dare to say courage–right down to dealing with her dealers and getting her son safely away with a stipend. I stayed strong while living apart from her as well. I even remained strong after breaking up with her during her most serious relapse. But now, suddenly I find myself unable to cope with anything having to do with ending the relationship and it gets worse. I lashed out verbally at perfect strangers, hurting their feelings very deeply! I have been behaving irrationally in my dialogs with others, and am saying things I deeply regret. Mostly by making poor choices about who it is appropriate to talk to and with whom I can share information. I have not done anything harmful beyond these hurt feelings. I just feel that I am losing control of my thoughts in this time of depression. It is as though I am saying things like a person who simply needs to be heard and does not care what he or she says. This has never happened to me before, and I am embarrassed and ashamed of my weakness. I am also afraid of this weakness, as it reminds me of a person I knew a decade ago who was very mentally ill. I have become some sort of provocateur. Is there any easy advice that can help me control my thoughts, and words and actions during this time of grief? I cannot stand the idea that I will continue to harm others with my words. And I am terrified by the loss of control this represents. Where will your response be posted? Email?

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Answer:

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p> Did you ever work furiously toward a deadline on a project only to find that shortly after you got done you ended up with a cold? I sure have, and I don’t think I’m alone. You get a cold because your immune system becomes depressed in the aftermath of your work binge, and your defenses are down. While it doesn’t work exactly the same way with psychological issues, there is an analogy. Your defenses are currently down and you’re overwhelmed. That is the most likely explanation I can think of as to why you are acting in an irritated and irrational way these days. It’s okay. It will pass.

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p> You remained strong through some very stressful situations. Ending a relationship can be just about the most devastating thing that can happen to a person; anyone who has been through such an ending can attest to that. And for you, it wasn’t just the radical adjustment of leaving; it was also dealing with the helplessness of watching someone you care for destroy themselves and not being able to do anything about it. You remained strong during the time you had to remain strong, and it got you away to a safer place that did not require so much vigilance. Now that you are safer, your body and mind are paying the price for being strong so long. You are likely dealing with the helplessness feeling now rather than pushing it down so as to hold yourself together. You are grieving your terrible losses. This is all normal.

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p> It may not feel normal to you, because as I read your letter, it seems a good guess that you are normally not a person who is terribly comfortable with being emotional. My guess is that you are a rather buttoned down type, meaning – not that you aren’t sensitive – but that you deal with emotions by controlling them rather than by expressing them. The thought of being out of control, even in this relatively normal way, must feel frightening. I say, so long as you are not hurting anyone directly or hurting yourself, just breath deeply and let it out. There isn’t really any good way to control feelings like this; to the extent you do, rather, they’ll just hang out and fester. Grief needs to be expressed. You can target how you express it, however. Write in a journal whenever you feel tensions. Find a trusted friend, family member or counselor and vent to them. Things like that can help. Again, grief and overwhelm is normal given the circumstance you’ve described, and it will run it’s course after a while if you let it be what it needs to be.

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