Being and Becoming
My high school yearbook quote was, "Life is not a having and a getting, but a being and a becoming." I aspired to fulfill this quote, but didn't truly understand what it meant until I was much older. For as long as I can remember, I battled anxiety. I was extremely high functioning in public. In private, I had very severe coping mechanisms which included gagging until I vomited bile. I didn't recognize this daily morning ritual as a coping mechanism until I was in my 20’s. Anxiety felt normal to me. If I wasn't anxious about something, I believed bad things would happen to me. I inherently believed I had to suffer in order for life to be good. It's no surprise that I married a narcissist. The type of the love he poured into me in the beginning was so powerful and intense that I felt worshiped. I needed that kind of love. I needed that help with my anxiety. I needed someone to "save me" (from myself or from life). Of course, that's the biggest mistake anyone can ever make and I've paid dearly for it.
I was an incredibly healthy child until I got Mononucleosis during my senior year of high school. It took me weeks to recover, but I managed to feel well enough to enjoy my final months of high school. I never fully recovered. My body didn’t make the antibodies necessary to protect me from getting mono again. During my sophomore year in college, I was diagnosed with Epstein Bar Syndrome—a fancy name meaning the mono virus would continue to attack my body. I got bronchitis and pneumonia every winter throughout college. Between bouts of illnesses, I was full of energy and truly enjoyed my college experience. I got a bachelor of science in psychology and was accepted to several law schools. I had no idea that my dreams would be derailed by my own body.
During my first month of law school, I got an autoimmune disease I’d never heard of called Ulcerative Colitis. I didn’t have time to be sick. Who does?!?
Compounding my denial was the narcissist who insisted I was healthy and imagined that I was ill. For over eleven years, I didn't take care of myself and ended up deathly ill. I endured two radical, lifesaving surgeries and made excuses for the narcissist when he left the hospital while I was in surgery. We constantly argued as I desperately tried to get him to see me as a human. I thought he simply wasn't good with the sickness part of the "in sickness and in health" vows. I thought if I could just get him to understand me and how severe my illness was, he'd be supportive and stop berating me. Of course, I now know that could never happen. The difficulty was in my learning not to care about what he thinks of me. It took a long time and I still struggle with it because we have children together and they're influenced by him. However, I am learning to trust my instincts and understand that what others think of me is none of my business! One autoimmune illness begets another and I now suffer from four autoimmune illnesses. I divorced the narcissist so I could try to get well.
I am a lifelong empath and nurturer. I am the oldest of four kids and was responsible for raising the others as well as raising my mother! I have three children and ALWAYS put my needs last. I am the mommy who ate leftovers over the kitchen sink, if I ate at all. I am the mommy who never had a moment of privacy, even in the bathroom. I love that my kids know they can always count on me. However, I became burned out, exhausted, sick, short-tempered, and sad. A trivial phone call regarding a bake sale took priority over my eating dinner with my family because the idea of not accepting the call was palm-sweatingly stressful! When the narcissist was cruel or rolled his eyes when I spoke, I made light of the situation to our kids. "You know how cranky Daddy can get. It’s okay. It will blow over." My kids were watching and learning from my behavior. How could I teach them self-love when my model was that I'm not important? Even if I could accept this for myself in order to maintain an “intact family,” did I want my daughters to grow up and eat crumbs over the sink? Did I want my son to learn that emotional cruelty is okay if you're a cranky dad? My answer was, "No Way!"
I filed for divorce and quickly learned that hell hath no fury like a narcissist who doesn’t want a divorce. I wasn’t discarded by the narc. Rather, I bruised his ego by leaving him and he continues to punish me for that. Since the kids have a narcissistic father, I overcompensated as a nurturing single mother. Gradually, I physically broke down. My adrenals were shot. I couldn't take anymore and wasn't functioning well at any level.
Twenty years ago, I stepped away from my legal career to raise my children. Now, court litigation with the narcissist consumed my days and my mind. I was forced to brush up on my legal skills. The courtroom is a narcissist’s playground. Litigation isn’t about negotiating or mediating. It’s about winning. Plaintiff vs. Defendant means a winner must be declared. How could I ever prevail against Goliath when I was battling with a toothpick sword? The answer was incredibly difficult to accept. I couldn’t prevail. I had to pick my battles wisely and stop fighting over the small stuff. Like a petulant toddler, I had to let him “win.” I needed to save my soul and try to provide a shed of stability for my children. Predictably, the narcissist didn’t care about the heart of the battles. He just wanted to defeat me. When I stopped engaging with him, he could no longer fight with me because I wasn’t playing.
I've revisited my high school quote with the intention of living its true meaning. Being and becoming is about fulfillment, self-love and evolution, not about career, status or money. Shifting those values is essential to my healing. Focusing on all I am instead of all I'm not is crucial to my emotional wellbeing.