It’s Just a Letter

She came to see me at school perhaps weeks after she left the hospital treatment program, probably May (2018). 

She had come from outpatient group on Hastings, gotten a ride (probably told me she got a ride with another patient attending outpatient day programs, which I know now was true), though I was skeptical so thought “she probably walked; typical.” 

She didn’t sit near me to chat. I should have hugged her and asked, What’s up. I was mad at the disorder (that she could not control, but I assumed she could) and thoughtlessly I took it out on her. 

She said program hadn’t worked out in April, she had left—been kicked out for not complying. possibly asked me “What should I do?” Without much thought all I offered was “Well, can you get back in?” I continued to work, doing simple marking, and after a few moments resting on the back table she left in a hurry, and I thought she was being dramatic and willful. As she, fast, headed to the classroom door I said, whined, “What about me?” Let’s talk about me, stupid, to realize I was so screwed up, all the pieces that were not in place, and the one I landed on just then was my personal marital woes. One hundred chances to show compassion, respect, humanity, curiosity, and I was consistent—in not seeing a role.

I was my mother—but this was a time when I should have been happy, contented, settled and open to hear Gemma out. Instead I was my mother—feeling ripped off without a nurturing, fulfilling, supportive relationship, menopausal, looking for ways to either revive or create my married relationship, trying to dutifully follow while believing he knew what was best because he said he did.

She ran from the room and found her own way home. If I never told you about it it was because I felt I was justified and that she was merely being willful and cranky short-term. That she would feel better in a while and we would have better days. Eventually, certainly by spring 2019, I had the recurring thought in my head “something’s got to give.” But I thought it would be we sell the condo and move or split up, rather than that our daughter would go into psychological free-fall, no supporters professional or personal, shrink, and die unheard, October 2019. Woe is me.

Unloved, unloving, unlovable, four generations of women. I resemble mother and grandmother so much (to my mind), unhelpful, self-centred, bystanders. The final victim, the only real victim of our generational self-preservation, selfishness, depression, sense of rudderless reliance on others and reliance on “fate that-would-change,” was Gemma.

Here I am, wallowing in self-examination, self-revelations, not much that is new to me (been at it for years), except to acknowledge how damaging it was. This is why therapy, a proper counsellor, and writing even compulsively, to reveal truths to yourself, are important. “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Plato, Socrates. Woe. Regret. Selfish was my angst. Woe is me.

~ Edit. A total aside. I found this whole chunk (that follows) on the Internet. It speaks to me for me of us. Reflecting or wallowing in regrets. “Who am I,” not realising one only sees self reflected in what others say, relying on that. Upshot is that you fail people. You aren’t you, no substance. Get support or step out of the shadow–something that makes you whole and strong.

I love my boyfriend, but he twists things so they seem like my fault

Annalisa Barbieri ~ Fri 22 Dec 2017 15.00 GMT

I want to spend my life with him, but our constant arguments make me feel sad and like a shell of myself. ‘I always try to do right by him, but a lot of the time things seem to get twisted as me doing the wrong thing.’

Three years ago, I moved to Australia after having spent my 20s in the UK, where I had been in a serious relationship for 10 years. Moving to Australia was supposed to be my time. Nine months after the move, I met a wonderful guy. He is the complete opposite of my ex – outdoorsy, fun and outspoken, and we have many a debate, which is something I have felt I needed. Although we do have many differences in personality, I feel it works because my ex and I were so similar that there was no spark.

My boyfriend and I have a lot of spark. By this, I mean we have a lot more arguments than I am used to, or that my nerves are used to. I am by nature quite an easygoing person who avoids confrontation if necessary (this doesn’t mean that I am a doormat). At first, I thought it was fine. We are both passionate people and I feel a bit of fire is healthy. However, the arguing is becoming more and more of the central focus. This has led me to start questioning the overall relationship.

I love my boyfriend and want to live with him and spend my life with him. But he makes me very sad. I feel as if, to an extent, the level of arguing has driven me to become almost a shell of myself. I no longer argue as passionately or “stick to my guns”, because I can’t bear it. My boyfriend can be very abrupt and argumentative. He is very good with words and perhaps I am not, or I am not used to having to make such an effort to win arguments because it is not in my nature. I always try to do right by him, but a lot of the time things seem to get twisted as me doing the wrong thing.

I honestly don’t know what to do or how to turn this around. In the back of my mind I have had the thought that it should end.

~ I think when a relationship leaves you as a “shell” of yourself and “things seem to get twisted”, it is time to look not only at what the relationship is giving you, but also at whether the relationship may be abusive. I was not absolutely certain from what you have said whether or not it is: the wheel of violence is good to refer to here (despite the name, no physical violence need be used to make the relationship abusive).

You didn’t mention feeling scared for your safety, but I know you are isolated without many friends or family, so, before you do anything, I would like you to look at the link below, which leads to helplines that you should ring to talk through your situation with someone. Please do this.

Because I don’t know if your relationship is abusive, I also need to talk about this as if it were a normal relationship that has gone wrong. In healthy relationships generally, you should be able to argue/disagree freely and the other person should listen to how you feel – if not immediately, then at some point when you are both calmer. You shouldn’t routinely feel silenced. It is not uncommon to come out of a long-term relationship (in other words, your first one in the UK) and look for the complete opposite of what you had and sometimes this is a mistake because, in so doing, you are ignoring the fact that the first relationship did have some things that were right for you.

You want to spend the rest of your life with someone who makes you, in your own words, very sad

You know you are with the right person when that person loves you when you are most yourself, whatever that self is: quiet, exuberant, whatever. It sounds to me as if you are trying to talk yourself into thinking that this relationship is right. You say in the same breath: “I love my boyfriend and want to live with him and spend my life with him. But he makes me very sad.” I want you to read that back to yourself. You want to spend the rest of your life with someone who makes you, in your own words, very sad.

I contacted Penny Pickles, an analyst ( She feels that, “you are a woman who has lost her confidence, and yet this is an articulate letter and you know a fair bit about yourself.” You are not only articulate, but aware, too.

We both wondered about your past, why you left the UK and went to the other side of the world and why you felt you needed “a debate”. You were quite emphatic in your longer letter about having “me time”. Pickles wonders “what familiar buttons you are trying to get away from and which are being pushed” [in this situation].

“The thing about choosing a partner,” says Pickles, “is that sometimes you can choose a partner who is the opposite of yourself, and they hold the thing(s) you feel you can’t be. In your case the ability to be confrontational. But after a time, this can become difficult to accommodate. As you see, not only are you finding this situation difficult but it [all the arguing, etc] is not who you are. How you feel about this relationship is not how you should feel in a relationship.”

I want to stress that if this relationship is abusive, nothing you do or don’t do deserves that behaviour – it is his responsibility. He needs to own it.

Every week Annalisa Barbieri addresses a family-related problem sent in by a reader. If you would like advice from Annalisa on a family matter.

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