Two weeks before our LA trip, you were describing to me on the phone what had transpired between you and Ellen. You had felt she had been critical of your relationship with me, and you had responded by being critical right back to her about her relationship with Frank. When the subject of "Boo-Boo" came up, I tried to tell you that I thought it was our own special private thing, that I wish you hadn't told Ellen about that. Immediately you pulled the famous attack-withdraw stunt, snapping at me and then falling silent and refusing to say anything to me. Is this the way a grown 40-year-old adult acts?? Can you blame me for getting frustrated, telling myself there was no way I should put up with this, and hanging up? However, I was not in control of myself, with what happened next. I had this overwhelming need to immediately come over, to try to "make it right." Somehow I knew this was not the right thing to do, that I would be sorry for it later, but I couldn't stand your being mad at me when I felt I hadn't done anything wrong!
I drove like a maniac in the rain up Barrett Avenue, desperate, hating myself for doing it, but unable to stop. When I got to your place, it was the same old scenario that we had been through hundreds of times before. But the final result, was that we did eventually "kiss and make up." So I was totally unprepared for what happened next.
On my way back to my apartment, I felt ten times worse than I had before. I hated myself for having, in effect, come crawling back to you after you had been abusive toward me. I hated myself for having not listened to my rational side. I hated myself for loving you. It got to the point where I became suicidal, for probably the first time in my life. I was on 2nd call that night--I considered going in at around 5 AM, gathering up some drugs and iv tubing, and killing myself (it would have been so easy). That way, they'd find me there at around 6 AM, and there wouldn't have even been a lapse in coverage.
Thank God I didnít go through with this (because nothing is worth taking your own life). It was just two weeks before my boards, so I couldn't even address this incident with you. I had enough to worry about without stirring up the pot with you. But I did discuss it with Alan, who, being a psychiatrist, was duly alarmed. To me, it should have been a sign from God that being in this relationship was seriously hurting me. But still a part of me was in denial, because I loved you so much.
The week before my boards was the incident that probably truly put our relationship over the edge. It was Friday afternoon, I had gotten out early, came to pick you up, you seemed to be in a good mood, until we got to Thrift Drug. Once again, like so many times before, I saw your mood switch right in front of me. Just the mere concept of taking antimotion sickness medicine put you in a foul mood and you hardly said a word to me on the way home. Then, we had that great "where should we go to dinner" episode. If you werenít feeling well, why couldn't you have just said, "I'm not feeling well, you guys can go out without me." Instead you hostily vetoed every single suggestion that was made. Olive Garden, Chili's, Houlihan's, Friday's--every one was rejected with an angry scowl from you. After a few minutes of this your mother got understandably frustrated with you since you were snapping at everyone unrelentlessly. It's no wonder she got upset! I was just sitting there minding my own business. Once again, I made excuses for you, to myself. I thought, "Maybe she's just tired of having Ellen underfoot" (since she'd been there for several days recovering from her surgery). You stormed off down to the cellar to put something away. When you came back up, I suggested that perhaps we could go to Chinatown, just me and you. I thought maybe you'd feel better away from your family. So what response do I get?? You stormed past me, and when I turned to face you, accidentally bumping into your foot, you furiously shot out with total disgust, "Why do you always have to step on my foot!!" or something to that effect. I felt like I had been slapped in the face!
My response was completely different to what I would have done before. Before I would have pursued you. But I knew I couldn't do this, because the last time I did it, I felt so horrible that I became suicidal. I had new insight into the consequences to myself of my actions. So in less than five minutes, after I told you flat-out that you were being abusive, I left.
You didn't call me all that night. I was extremely hurt. I was furious with you, and more importantly, I knew that I would never be able to excuse you for this. I knew that whatever response I got from you, it would not be adequate. This was more than a year after the "throw-out-all-of-Chrisís-stuff-out-on-the-porch-and-donít-call- her-all-night" episode, and I was still having to put up with the very same crap?? To add insult to injury, the next morning, when I got back from my appointment with John, there was a message from you on my machine. I wish I could have saved it to play back to you. You said in an angry tone, "Call me back, if you want" (emphasis yours). Now what on earth justification did you have for being mad at me at this point? There was no way I was going to call you back, and I embarked on a 36-hour "flight," during which I realized that our relationship was probably over. However, two things intervened. First, my boards were coming up in one week, and I did not want to have to take my boards in the midst of an emotional crisis. Failing my boards would have just made the whole situation worse. Second, you pulled the famous "I'm sorry please forgive me I love you" thing. I still had enough love for you, that I accepted this.
However, this time when you "won me back," there were several major things which I could not ignore. I refer to this as "the royal mindfuck." First of all, the content of that letter you left me when I was out of my apartment. When I read it, I just could not believe it. You were talking about how "overwhelmed with despair and anger" you were that night. You described sitting in your bedroom staring for hours. "Everything in my life came to light in that moment." All this from a lack of consensus about where to go for dinner??? It seemed that your response was so out of proportion to the inciting event that it was absurd. Second, you claimed in the letter that during this event, even though you were snapping at me and then refused to interact with me, that you were actually wanting me to comfort you! Is this a mixed message or what!? What was even more preposterous, was that when I proposed that if the situation were turned around, and I had been snapping and cold toward you, would you have surmised that I was actually in need of comfort and would you have comforted me, you said yes. This is the biggest crock of shit I've ever heard!! All I have to do is look at you funny and you attack me! You would never ever in a million years comfort me in that situation. Talk about a double standard.
What was even worse, was when I broke down and let you come over to my apartment, and you invoked all these childhood things as an excuse for the way you acted. You talked about the mixed messages your siblings gave you when you were young (e.g. when they locked you in your room and then afterwards acted like nothing had happened). At the time I didn't say anything because it was right before my boards and I couldn't handle a major confrontation or discussion, and also because I wanted so much to understand you and accept your explanations. But afterwards I had two different reactions. The first was angrily suspecting that since you realized a mere "I wasn't feeling well" wasn't going to suffice anymore, you were now furiously backpeddling to offer more elaborate excuses, invoking your childhood and family. The second, more profound realization, was that it probably really was all the shit in your past, that made it so difficult for me to be with you. And that this pile of shit in your past was just so huge that it would never be conquered, or even dealt with. I felt totally helpless when I realized that no matter how much I loved you, you would still always be tortured by these things, and they would probably remain there as a wall keeping us apart forever.
But despite all this, a part of me still wanted so much to be with you. I wanted everything to be all right because despite everything, I loved you. So we went to Los Angeles.
This trip was the strangest I have ever taken. In my mind, there were two levels to everything. While on the surface I may have seemed like I was having a good time, and I desperately wanted to prove to myself that I could have a good time with you (since being able to travel with a partner is very important to me), on the other level I was miserable being there with you. You continually nagged me about my packing and my stuff in the hotel room. I spent the whole time in fear of you snapping at me, which you did. The day before my exam, when we stopped to look at the postcards, at the moment I really wasn't in the mood to pick any out. I figured you could pick some out if you wanted, and I became distracted and merely walked a few feet to look at some audio equipment in the store window. In an instant you became totally pissed, stormed off, wouldn't look at me, and when I protested snapped, "Forget it, you're obviously not interested." The whole "attack-withdraw" thing, just in a miniature episode, complete with the "I'm sorry come back honey" conclusion.
Several days later when we were looking for the frog socks for Ellen, you came up to me with the three different pairs and go, "Which one should I get?" Now, I had absolutely no opinion so I shrugged my shoulders and said I didn't know, they were all nice. That was the truth! But then I could see that instantaneous rage about to come flying out at me, because I hadn't given you an answer. I just knew I was about to be yelled at, probably because I "didn't care about helping you pick out socks!" In order to protect myself I think I just pointed to one, to avoid another confrontation.
Then, the way you approached the thing about the jasper pyramid--this was another classic attack-withdraw scenario. The way it unfolded that night at Michaelís, was first you began snapping at me over unrelated things (my packing, then my stating the time on my alarm clock). To your credit, you did not persist in this snapping over other things for very long, as within one or two minutes you told me what was really on your mind. This was good. However, canít you see that the way you approached it--being angry, then completely pulling away from me, shutting me out and giving me the seething silent treatment, completely cancelled out any good that had come from your bringing it up right away?? This is not an effective way of dealing with conflict. It does not accomplish anything except to punish your partner, without any room for discussion at all.
At this time I would like to point out another major issue, which I was beginning to grasp around the time of our LA trip. It pertains to your not taking responsibility for your own health. I believe that a part of you is self-destructive regarding your ear/hearing and your stomach. First of all, I do believe you have real medical conditions--recurrent chronic ear infections, and an ulcer and/or gastroesophageal reflux. However, I believe these conditions are worsened by emotional factors, and that you subconsciously worsen them through neglect in order to obtain secondary gain.
As an example, you are always complaining about your stomach. At least in the time Iíve known you, you have never made an effort to get to the bottom of it. You seem content to just complain about it. The times when Dr. Ford prescribed medicine for your stomach, you just complained louder, that they were making it worse. But sometimes, you seemed to almost deliberately make it worse. Once this past summer, we were going to Chinatown for dinner. You kept insisting that no matter where we went, we would have to get something bland because "your stomach was bothering you." You said it about five times, even while we were sitting there looking at the menu. So what do you order? Hot and sour soup!! And as it figures, this time it was particularly spicy (I tasted it). I told you very nicely, "I donít think you should eat that, letís trade soups instead" (I had ordered wonton). You sat there looking at your soup like you really wanted to eat it and I had to practically wrest it away from you. As another example, you steadfastly refused to see an ENT specialist for your ear. Sometimes at my mere mentioning of it (which I was doing out of genuine concern for you), you would get into a bad mood and snap at me because you "didnít have the money!" (Yet, I will point out that you had health insurance, and you had hundreds of dollars to spend on baseball cards.)
And why did you persist in maintaining these conditions--your ear and your stomach? I believe that 1) they served as convenient background excuses for being in "a bad mood" and to yell at me whenever you wanted--youíd simply claim you snapped at me because you "werenít feeling well," and 2) they were great ways to obtain sympathy and attention, not only from me but from everyone else as well.
This issue came to the forefront of my mind around the time of our LA trip. First, that episode about Thrift Drug and where-to-go-to-dinner. Then, after months of my advising you to see an ENT specialist, of course your concern about your ear reached a feverish pitch right before we left for LA, because you were worried about your ear on the flight. At the last minute you saw Dr. Ford again, and he prescribed you medication. Remember a few days before we left, and you got sick coming home from Chinatown? I believe this was perfectly timed to elicit the maximum sympathy and attention from me. You cried on my shoulder about how upset you were that your hearing was just getting worse. Yet during months and months of recurring ear infections, you had refused to take my advice to do something i.e., see someone other than Dr. Ford! I almost felt as if I were being manipulated to feel sorry for you.
About your pills and your stomach during the trip--this was the worst of all. The whole situation kept me extremely anxious the entire trip. Anytime you were "not feeling well," I had to be extremely careful with anything I said or did for fear that you would snap at me. You were so fucking anal about when you were supposed to take your medicine. I studied pharmacology in med school, I prescribed these very same meds when I was an intern, and I think I know a thing or two about medicine. An hour or two early or late doesn't matter. Yet, every morning, on my vacation, I had to wake up at 6 AM, so you could take your medicine. The entire week, you obsessed about taking your medicine with food at precisely the scheduled time, practically down to the minute. This was absolutely absurd (and 99 out of a 100 doctors would agree with me), but you absolutely refused to listen to me.
As I could have predicted, by day 8 or 9 of your 10-day course of antibiotics, your stomach was bothering you. (I think almost any medication is eventually bound to bother you, due to psychosomatic reasons.) Now I knew your symptoms were real, since you really were running to the bathroom several times a day. It reached the worst point, of course, when Michael had taken us to his favorite Mexican restaurant. You hadn't eaten anything yet, complaining about your stomach. I had told you earlier my opinion (because you asked), that I thought that since you were almost done the 10-day course, stop taking them (for heaven's sake) if they're bothering your stomach. Stop taking the antibiotic, and you can probably continue taking the decongestant. So at the restaurant you made a big scene coming back from the bathroom, saying you absolutely had to speak with Dr. Ford about what to do. So we ran around, my cellular phone was out of roaming range, and we finally got the restaurant people to let us use their phone. So I called Dr. Ford's office, and via his secretary, transmitted the information and asked for his advice. And what did he say? "Stop taking the antibiotic, and continue taking the decongestant." EXACTLY WHAT THE FUCK I SAID!
It got even better, or worse. It was the first time you ever met Michael. Upon hearing about your plight with the antibiotics, he recommended to you that you immediately take some Acidophilus capsules. And wouldnít you know it, he took us to the store, you plunked down some $10 for this stuff, and gulped it down.
I cannot even begin to describe to you the feelings I had watching this. Here I was, a licensed physician, and you had completely disregarded any advice I'd given you about medicine, yet you take Dr. Ford's word as gospel even though it was exactly what the fuck I said. Then, despite the fact that with me you are constantly wary of any medicine because it might "bother your stomach" (just look at your foul mood upon considering the anti-nausea medicine at Thrift Drug), you gleefully pop this unknown Acidophilus capsule on the advice of someone you don't even really know.
How do you think this made me feel? Devalued, perhaps? Like my genuine concern, advice, and opinions didn't amount to squat with you?