Saturday, September 07, 2013

Wrestling with those "I can't stand it" thoughts

A more personal post today. Hubs and I have a painful, ongoing conflict over where we're going to live when he's out of seminary. Where we go initially likely depends on where we can get a paid internship for him, and then a job with a paycheck sufficient to pay off the federal student loans that are paying for his degree. So we may not have an abundance of options. Maybe, though, if we decide where we want to be, we can aggressively pursue connections in that area as the job search season approaches. If the doors open up, what he really wants is to move to Hawaii (or some other tropical island).

Usually when he brings this up, a storm starts to rise within me. I hate to deny him anything he really wants... so externally I may try to just go with it. I try not to camp out on the subject, but just let it float by. Especially in front of other people. Because after all, who wouldn't want to go to Hawaii?

Me, that's who. And my emotional reaction is so strong and frightening it's probably important to figure out what the thoughts behind it are and if they are sound, or helpful. It's clear they are not helpful, since they create such a storm within me and between Hubs and me.

I think it's what my professor this summer (see "How Not to Sabotage Your Efforts") called "I can't stand it" thoughts. Or to put it another way (and this doesn't sound very flattering...) "low frustration tolerance." The way those thoughts work is that you freak out when something starts to develop or threaten to develop which is more than you can handle: if that happens, you believe or fear it will destroy you. You "can't stand it." This kind of thinking actually increases your level of fear and pain, because it adds to any list of pros and cons the major con that whatever it is might kill you. And chances are that is not true.

I know why I think moving to Hawaii might kill me. Well, not kill me, but bring on a nervous breakdown, which is maybe my biggest, deepest fear. Having a nervous breakdown, that's what I think might kill me. May have some level of PTSD from how freaked out I was about having suicidal thoughts when I lived in Central Asia more than a decade ago. Result, I think going overseas (to live, not visit) would cause me to explode into a hundred little pieces. True? Probably not. And Hawaii, while literally "overseas," hardly holds the challenges of living in another country!

My concern is not about Hawaii; I could take it or leave it. I like the green parts. I like being near the water. I don't like the wind whipping around my hair and getting dust in my contacts and not having seasons. But all in, all, it's as nice as anyplace else, and better than many other places.

The problem is leaving the continental US. I'm concerned about an increase in social isolation if we move further away from all our family, colleagues, friends, and supporters. The logic breaks down when I confess I hardly ever see any of these people anyway. My responsibilities - two jobs, grad school, house & family - seem too heavy for me to justify getting out of the house on a regular basis. I work from home and find a surprising and persistent lack of alternatives in our current circumstances. But sometimes I get to travel. If we moved further, I wouldn't be able to travel much at all, and I really like the things I get to do when I travel - conferences and events, face-to-face meetings, teaching and taking classes, etc. In fact, I'd probably have to quit my job and find another.

Apparently, the problem is not Hawaii... It's how I'm living when I'm in Eugene: isolated and frustrated. And aaaargh... I can't stand it!

Of course all this is pretty tough on Hubs, because he wants to be the good guy who would never force the woman he loves to do anything she didn't want to do. He also wants me to get out of the house and spend time with other people. I don't know which one of us is more surprised that I haven't been able to do that. But the more emotionally whacked out I become, the more my native shyness and flat-out fear of interacting with other people increases, and picking up the phone seems impossible. Is this how agoraphobia begins?

Sigh. May be time to bring in the big guns. Professional counseling. Hate it. Can't afford it. But the alternatives are probably worse and more costly. Meanwhile, there are some smaller steps I can take, so that's what I'm going to do. Took one step today. What step can I take tomorrow?


California Girl said...

Sending you an e-hug. Hope you guys can work it out and you have peace about both now and the future. It is hard being geographically away from friends and family, even the ones you don't see very's knowing they are there if you all need each other. You've also gone through a lot of new things getting married etc...figuring out this new life together. Praying for you. : )

Marti said...

Thanks for the prayers and words of encouragement. Hubs had no idea, when he asked me to move here, how difficult it is - or can be - for me to deal with change. I don't think is how I used to be and may not be how I will be, but it is how I am just now.

Megan Noel said...

i would not want to move either. i understand that, i have trouble meeting people in my hometown. the only way i have been able to is through knitting and drawing. if you ended up on the big island you would be near a few relatives - or not too far away. that is joyce and melanie. melanie plans to retire there isn about 2 years. but i don't know if that would be all the time or half the time. i'd sure rather live in the rainforest part, but i think there are less jobs there. and i think i am having a nervous breakdown already.