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I am toxic AF.


I’m toxic AF.

(AF means “As F#ck” for those who don’t know).

Everyone is toxic in some way. That’s such a hard realization. I’m more toxic than some and less than others. I’m aware that I have my own issues to work on, and I’m grateful for that awareness. How can I recognize triggers and repair my reaction to them without it? We all have baggage that we carry, conscious and subconscious. Do you know what your issues are? Do you know where they come from? I’m still learning how to be deeply honest with myself but what I’ve learned so far is that my issues are your typical low self esteem, trust, and a sprinkle of jealousy. I wasn’t always that way though. Well, that’s not entirely true, low self esteem seems like it started in my teen years, but the other two came later in life from past relationships.


My side of the story only. Two long relationships.

I’ve had only 2 long term relationships in my life. I was married to one, and not married to the other. I won’t say what I believe their issues to be, because those are theirs to own, recognize, and repair. I don’t have permission to talk about either of them in this blog, so I won’t. This is about my toxicity anyway, not theirs.


Where do I even start? I learned that I have trust issues. I didn’t always have them, but I do now. Simple things like a phone always lying face down, or in a pocket, or just “hidden” is a huge trigger for me. I’ve always lived my life like an open book and am very loyal to my significant other, so the hidden screen of someone else’s phone screams “they are hiding something” and it sends my anxiety into overdrive. Even if it’s just a habit of theirs, it’s a trigger for me and eventually my composure and restraint fails to the anxiety and I sneak a look for messages or photos that shouldn’t be there (as far as I’m concerned). Have you ever had anxiety so strong that it affects you physically? Like, can’t sleep, heart racing/pounding, overpowering thoughts and the inability to stop them? It’s super fun. I had one therapist ask me “what is something you can do to occupy your mind instead of looking at their phone?” At first, I was like - I have no idea, why don’t you freaking tell me? If I knew the answer to that, I would already be doing it. But you see, this attitude does not lead to progress in therapy. So after some prodding and more thought on my part, I said “maybe if I get up and go in another room and watch a show or movie it would occupy my mind until the anxiety passes or I fall asleep”. That therapist thought it was a brilliant idea, I haven’t had the opportunity to try it yet - so I guess we’ll have to see if that works.


Have you ever been with your partner and you catch them looking at someone very attractive? Not just a look though, a look that lingers too long. What’s too long? Long enough for you to notice their distraction and maybe even the other person? I guess this is the right time to mention that I’m really good at reading body language. For years, in my career, I’ve had to read body language because clients don’t like to admit that they don’t like something that you recommend. They don’t want to hurt your feelings, or husbands concede to their wives because they want her to have what she wants- but they hate what she picked out. So when someone looks too long, I notice. I’m also an empath, which means I can literally FEEL other people’s vibes, so when they shift, I feel it. My toxic trait is that I don’t always believe that feeling, I ignore it. Listen, we’re all human. I can see a good looking guy walk by and in my mind I’m like “daaaaaaammmnnn” but I can respectfully glance and move along in stride. I have been out with a man who actually stopped and turned around to look at someone. That simple little act, devastated me. Over the years, I have conditioned my mind to be jealous of other beautiful women. Going to the gym is the WORST. I see someone that has been working their ass off and the results are showing, but the script in my mind these days is “I’m glad (blank) isn’t here, he would be staring at her the whole time”. Before I developed these toxic issues I would see the same woman and the script in my mind was “daaaaaaamn girl! I see you and all of the hard work you’re putting in! Good for you, you’re beautiful.” I’ve even high fived women before and said “keep doing what you’re doing, it’s working!” I was a lifter-up of other women. Not so much right now. So currently, not only is my mind not right which causes a lot of jealousy and anxiety, my self esteem is probably a 1 out of 10. Well today it’s a 2 because I bought new jeans and they fit just right, so that bumps it up a little.


I love hard, I love easily, and I trust too much. I trust so much that I ignore red flags when I shouldn’t and then once the trust is broken (which it has been both times), I just keep going like it’s all gonna get better with time, pretty words and “hail Mary” dates. I have a habit of seeing the best in people and the potential they possess. I think it’s because I want them to be a better person more than they want to be, and I mistakenly think that maybe they just need someone to believe in them. I've been wrong every time so far. And hurt. I guess there is a thing called an “attachment style” and mine is Anxious attachment. Basically, even if you’re in a secure relationship with someone by definition, an anxiously attached person never feels quite comfortable where they stand. To you, there’s always a chance that the other person could leave—even when you least expect it. (source: Women’s Health Magazine). Do you know what your attachment style is? I’m just learning about them, and it’s pretty interesting. Here’s a link to find out: https://attachment.personaldevelopmentschool.com/quiz/?utm_source=google-search&utm_medium=cpc-lead&utm_campaign=19098355903&utm_term=&gc_id=19098355903&h_ad_id=638403401476&utm_content=anxious%20attachment%20style&gclid=Cj0KCQjwrMKmBhCJARIsAHuEAPSNeSthclq7G5YURrPMRc-WRuyXTvUVlJ_m1zHgL0mt5eoSIJ5HVLAaAhz5EALw_wcB


Counseling.

I reached a point one day that I actually said out loud “I hate this life. I hate these people. Something has to change”. I wanted to book a trip, buy a house, cut my hair, or just drive away so that I felt better. I just thought I was overwhelmed or sad that some things were not going the way that I expected. I thought if I just said these ridiculous things out loud, they would get out of my head and I could move past it. I was venting. Screaming at the top of a proverbial mountain top, if you will. Turns out, the emotional stress that I’ve unknowingly been carrying for years had reached the point of explosion like a volcano. I knew I had to get myself some kind of help and fast. And I did, in fact, cut my hair. Well I made an appointment and my stylist cut it (not me crazy with scissors like that one time when I was little).



At first I thought that online counseling was the answer for me. I could do it anywhere, sitting in my car or my office. The places I called closest to me didn’t have any openings, so online therapy was my only immediate option. I had a couple of online sessions but they didn’t feel right, and the counselor I was paired with wasn’t a good match for my personality. I like face to face interaction. I feel that it’s more powerful. That might go back to the body language thing I said before. Plus, I look at a screen all day for work. I needed a live person. Luckily, I got a recommendation from a family member and set up an appointment with a new therapist, and I’m so happy I did. It’s been amazing so far. I think I’m a whole 6 sessions in, but I’m making great strides. One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned in therapy is that if you are 100% honest in your session, the answers you need are already inside of you. It’s fear that keeps you from admitting them. I’ve cried a lot in my sessions. Not intentionally, I’m just digging up lots of repressed emotions I guess. My therapists will ask a simple, but very pointed question and it’s instant waterworks, out of nowhere. She asked me something in my last session (if I could remember the question I would tell you what it was- but my memory is crap anymore) and my immediate answer was “I don’t know”, then the tears started and I looked at her and said “that’s a lie, I do know” and then I said out loud what I have always thought. I had never said those words to anyone before, and I felt a wave of instant relief. Maybe I should start recording the sessions so I can go back and reflect in my journal after I walk out of there. What I do know is that there has definitely been a shift in my emotional strength since I started counseling. I highly recommend it to everyone. The more you know about yourself, the better parent, partner, sibling, child, co-worker and friend you become. Words have become more intentional and I’m starting to slow my reaction to others. I spend my time more intentionally as well. I’d say I’m winning.


Managing stress. Yoga. Breathing.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought to yourself, “I am disgusting. How did I turn into this person that I don’t even recognize?” I realized that I started comparing myself to every woman at the gym, so I stopped going. After a few weeks of doing nothing, I started doing yoga at home every morning. I did this for a couple of reasons. One, I didn’t want to keep comparing myself and Two, I was feeling really guilty if I didn’t make it to the gym or if my workouts were weak. I had some hormone testing done and my cortisol level came back as really high, so managing my stress became my priority. I have to tell you, yoga has helped me more than I expected it to. It’s helped me get more in touch with myself physically by learning to breathe, and also by slowing down my motions to rely on control rather than strength. In the gym, it was “how much weight can I lift and how many reps?” “If I don’t do more, why did I even bother coming?” “How much can I get done in 30 minutes?” “I have to get up earlier to go work out.” I was stressing myself out. Yoga at home is done in my pj’s first thing in the morning. My balance is coming back. I did driveway lunges yesterday and didn’t even fall over, it was awesome, lol. My strength is increasing, and I’m really learning to control my breathing. I sleep an extra 15 minutes because I have no drive, and I even add little 5-10 minute “flows” later in the day to activate my body again. I will likely add weight lifting back in, but it may be more in the form of kettlebells, medicine balls, and a tractor tire rather than traditional weights, thanks to excellent coaching I received at Bling Dog Gym a few years ago. I lifted weights with my brother in his driveway yesterday and then did a cold plunge in his outdoor tub. I felt AMAZING after that. I’m sure it was partially because of the company, but just doing something different really makes an impact. Part of managing stress includes the realization that much of my stress was emotional and probably has been for decades. This realization has led me on a journey through not only counseling, but self awareness, journaling, and lots of self reflection too.


Faith and Forgiveness.

“I take thee to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part”

I said these vows once. I really tried to make it through the “for worse” part. I was counseled by my pastor at the time, I prayed like crazy, and I let go of lots of things I shouldn’t have. So much so that I reached a point that I put myself in anger management because I wanted to physically hurt my husband. Did I ever physically hurt him? No, lol. But if you knew the whole story like I did, you might ask me why I didn’t. I lived in anger for years, even after the divorce. I probably caused way too much emotional stress for my kids during that time because I didn’t have the emotional intelligence to handle it any better than I did. Better late than never I guess. There are still some unresolved issues from that relationship that I’m working on now because I carried them into my most recent relationship. Shame on me, but I didn’t know. I know now, and I’m doing something about it. I think sometimes we as christians jump into the bible and try to make scripture fit our circumstances or justify how we feel rather than use the scripture to fill our soul or give us a new perspective or hope. I know I have done this. I forgive and move forward. Forgive and forward. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. But the honest answer is, in both of my long term relationships, I never really forgave. I certainly have never forgotten. I just sweep it away and move forward while it eats away at me a tiny bite at a time, for years. Forgiveness is something I’m still learning how to do. I guess I feel like I need to understand why someone does something in order to forgive it and that’s why it gets stuck. This is something I’m working on. Some days I wish for amnesia, but only selective amnesia because I don’t want to forget everything. I even started writing a book about my marriage, mostly for myself as therapy, but partly because I want my kids to know about the love that was in my marriage and the great stories of us falling in love in the beginning. I think it’s important that they have that, because they saw a lot of fighting and hatred towards each other, and I don’t want that to be the only part of the story they know. I also know that God’s hands were all over me then, just like they are now, and I want them to see that too.


Friends and Family.

I have the best friends and family anyone could ever ask for. They are very protective of me, probably because my boundaries are made of pudding and they know it. In my family, we talk too much, lol. We share too much information about our relationships with each other and it leads to hostility towards our significant others. Have you seen the movie “Because I said so”? It’s a lot like my family. It’s a blessing and a curse having siblings that you are so close with because you really have a safe place to share your feelings and vent, but that venting causes us to take sides when we have no business doing so. We project our own opinions and experiences on each other’s relationships and that isn’t right either. That’s also a topic in my counseling sessions. Some of us (cough cough) have tempers, so I’m learning to listen with love and just try to be a sounding board. If you ask my sisters though, I’m the mean one. Mostly because I will say what others are thinking, even if I shouldn’t. I’ve actually said to my brother “I am not the right audience right now to respond in a positive way” because I was busy drowning in my own feelings at the time, so I’m making some progress there too! After I had some time to focus on him instead of me, I was able to respond more positively without the projection of my own experience that I immediately sent him.


Boundaries. Cutting people off.

Man, I wish I could just cut people off and not think twice about it, but I am simply not built that way. I’ve had lots of conversations with God about this, and this is the way he has designed me. I think my siblings don’t understand this part of me, because they can't all do this. Once I’m connected, I’m connected forever, like it or not, I will always care. Back in my single and mingling days, I was “seeing” (loosest interpretation of that term as possible) someone that was fun once in a while. Fast forward years later and I see him on social media married with a little family and I’m over here behind my screen like “Yay! I’m so happy for you. I hope you're happy and loving life. I always pictured you with a happy little family.” We don’t speak and haven’t for years, but I’m still thrilled for him and the happy life he made for himself. The connection shifts to me just basically being a silent audience clapping for you and covering you in prayer if you need it. It’s just how I’m wired. I can not speak to friends for a year or two and still be loving them from a distance. What I’m learning to do is create healthy boundaries with people who have hurt me. I don’t exactly know what those look like yet because I’m learning. Staying involved isn’t healthy, but neither is cutting someone off, I don’t think. I’ll let you know after more therapy. I would bet money, my friends and family have a comment they really want to insert here. I love you guys.


Depression, rest, and grace.

In the past few months I’ve been battling a little depression. I really like being at home these days, because I don’t have a lot of energy to be out when I’m not working. I venture out here and there to intentionally spend time with friends and family and I enjoy every minute of that. When days come up and I feel physically or emotionally exhausted, I pay attention to that. I trust that my body is asking me to rest, so I do. As a child, I watched my mom physically work herself into illness. She would go go go go go and go more until she woke up too sick to move or do anything. I never understood this. She and I are very different and very similar at the same time. Her off switch is much harder to push than mine, lol. The benefit of taking the time to rest is good health. My last relationship, he was the same way. Work work work work. Crash. Sick. He taught me how to work a little harder, and I taught him how to rest. We found a good balance between us in that regard. I hope he always remembers that. For the last year of our relationship, he was only sick one time and that’s because of a nasty germ that went around, and he didn’t know what to do when I was down and out for a day or so because I rarely get sick, even if my kids are. Neither of us got Covid either (probably from a lifetime of biting our nails. Gross, I know, but my immune system is a rockstar because of it). Mom got Covid twice, hospitalized once. Rest is a good thing, I’m telling you. Pay attention to your body when it tells you to rest. Give yourself the grace to know that life is a series of minutes. Mistakes happen, patterns evolve and if you’re willing, you can change anything you want. I give myself the grace to rest when I need to. To cry if I need it and to surround myself with the people that I love. We only have one life, every minute counts as far as I’m concerned. You are only responsible for what makes YOU happy. No one else. Everyone will judge, it doesn’t mean that you have to accept their judgment. You only have to answer to yourself. And if you make a bad decision or a choice that you regret, give yourself the grace to reflect on it, learn from it, and grow. This is how you love yourself as far as I’m concerned, but who am I? What do you think? That’s all that matters.


May you be surrounded by love and comfort,

Lis




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