Paralyzing self-doubt

I grew up in a home of … well, I can’t exactly say “emotional highs and lows.” More like emotional lows and mediums. So my judgement of what is normal and reasonable to expect in life feels like it’s never been properly calibrated.

It’s like, if I were weighing myself, I’m used to wildly fluctuating results and sometimes looking back over my shoulder and saying, “For fuck’s sake, would you get your goddamned foot off the scale?!” Never quite trusting the accuracy of my assessment. And for good reason.

I’m also used to being the ostracized scapegoat who only becomes more of a jerk in my extended family’s eyes as time passes. I had a deeply unhappy and anxious side to me when I was little, but it’s not all of who I am and I have my reasons. My family has always chosen to blame me for my faults rather than to help or even ask or get to know me. They don’t talk; they roll eyes and turn away,

Negative halos last longer than radiation at Chernobyl. And shame is pervasive and lingering, whether it’s deserved or not.

So I *get* why I have wavered for YEARS about divorcing my husband after his infidelity in 2012 and despite some other persistent marital issues. I don’t trust my ability to weigh the good and the bad.

It’s as if I think I have no right to make that choice without the approval of someone other than me, someone who is actually demonstrably good.

One cousin said to me after his affair, “He’s a good man. And that man loooooooves you.” As if that’s rare and unexpected and undeserved, and I’d better cling to the grace of him loving me while the getting is still good, before he finds out how I really am: Ugly on the inside.

And, yes, I hear the pathology and self-disrespect in that statement. Being aware you have a skewed viewpoint doesn’t automatically improve your vision, unfortunately. I have a lifetime’s worth of diaries and self-help books and hours/days/years of self-reflection under my belt. Change is s-l-o-w and erratic, with zigs of progress and zags of regression.

This is why you don’t raise a child — and an only child at that, in an isolated rural community without any nearby peers — and keep telling that child in words and in body language within the extended family that she’s an awful person, over and over and over again. Pervasive self-doubt becomes a way of life. A hard-wired mental path. One that looks and feels like the truth.

But I am not giving up on me.

I have realized there are two major unacceptable things about my marriage. Now I am working on the decision whether to keep communicating with him about what I won’t tolerate anymore … or just to remain silent and save my money for an escape plan. (I may do both — address the problems AND save. Or I may just save.) It’s going to take me at least two years unless I get a pleasant financial surprise out of the blue.

I am so tired of reaching out to him, going to marriage counseling, doing individual therapy, and expecting change. I’m willing to grow and adapt. But he isn’t, and he won’t give me the benefit of even talking with me on this. I’m also sick to death of the status quo. We have some very lovely and contented moments together. But the deeply dysfunctional threads in our marriage are something I don’t want to live with anymore.

I’m trying to teach myself — and believe — that I have the innate RIGHT to change my life, even cut the threads of our marriage entirely in two, without anyone else’s permission or approval or validation. Just because it’s my life.

I’m afraid. Of being alone, being unable to support myself, having no safety net. Of losing a “good man.” Of making a bad choice. Of being hated or despised for any choice I make.

But staying like this is a bad choice too.


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