The Hangover – Adventures in Recovery

The Hangover – Adventures in Recovery July 27, 2012

by Calulu

It seems in spite of our attempts to be completely free of what we’ve suffered at our old church there are some issues that linger, things we need to deal with. Some of those things involve the relationship between my husband and myself. Hangovers.

First allow me to say this is not one disgruntled woman bitching about her significant other, rather this me talking about the day to day in dealing with a false belief my husband still harbors from our days as fundigelicals. There are many wonderful qualities my spouse possesses I am grateful for every day. He’s kind to others, he’s smart, he’s educated, he’s outgoing in contrast to my quieter self. I once watched him sit outside over a storm drain every evening for a week, luring out tiny feral kittens before capturing them. Any man that would do that for a clowder of defenseless kittens has a heart of gold. Plus he balances my checkbook, one of those tasks I’m not so good at. I still love him, more now than when I married him.

But it’s a long long time since we stood before the altar and pledged ourselves to each other. We’ve traveled one long strange road that’s left us with road rash, fender benders and flat tires at times.

One of the things that has consumed my life in the nearly six years since we left our poisonous old church was to determine what things we learned there that still hold true and which aren’t. Deliberately putting to death the old lies takes time and determination. It doesn’t happen overnight. For me it’s taken about six years to get to this point.

But I was so busy with my own stuff after we left our old church that I didn’t realize the longest time that my beloved husband had his own ‘stuff’ to deal with after leaving. Unlike me his own healing has been less introspective, it’s been more returning to what he knew to be true before we joined the cult. But he still has one very troubling belief from those years, a belief that I am personally responsible for making sure everything in his life is perfect.

During those years not only had I worked full time I also took on all home repairs, ran all his errands, did all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, raised a large veggie garden, tried to be Quiverfull without any success, mowed the lawn and trimmed the bushes because that’s what a good submissive Lord-lovin’ wife did. I’d do things that seem insane to me now, like if my husband lost his watch I’d drop everything to help him find it. I did it all. His life ran smoothly.

This has been very difficult to accomplish in recent years because five years ago I became extremely ill with asthma that did not respond to any traditional treatment combined with a handful of other niggling immunio symptoms. The only thing that brought me any relief from the asthma was chemo therapy treatments. Between the four or five times per week I ended up in the ER with an epipen hanging out of my leg with a severe asthma attack, and later when I started chemo I stopped being about those things he expected. My life became all about managing my health, regardless of how high the dust piled in the house.

At first he was somewhat less than understanding but not too bad about it, mostly just carrying on about finding a doctor that could ‘fix’ me. He didn’t understand that I had one of those thousands of unnamed immune system disorders that was driving all the symptoms. Mayo Clinic, National Institute of Health and John Hopkins doctors all said ‘unknown immune system disorder’ I found a wonderful local critical care lung doctor that’s given me a small measure of my life back. Four years ago he started treating my illness with a brand new immunio suppression drug. My life is still all about managing my symptoms.

During my years of different treatments my husband has been less than understanding, refusing to admit there are just some things without names or real treatment regimens. We have come to a stale mate where we just don’t talk about my health much. I don’t consult him, I do what my body tells me to do.

The problem being that being ill has seriously affected my ability to work. I cannot handle anything more than part time work and even then I’m frequently triggered by others grooming products, the smell of chemicals in every day things.

In the mindset of my husband I’ve not kept my end of the bargain because my illnesses have prevented me from bringing in my old high salaries and I’ve put housework way down on my priorities lists now. It’s a big change.

Too big a change obviously as I learned again a few nights ago. I was stripping wallpaper off the stairwell, a task I started at least a month ago (as Vyckie can testify to, she saw the stairwell with ripped up paper). Scraping, sponging, bits of old wallpaper covering the old carpeting like snow, I’m grunting and sweaty but having a good enough day that I can do this. In walks my husband from work. He became very angry to figure out that I’d left fives boxes of clothes to donate on the floor of our bedroom, had not put any of the laundry away in our closets and I’d neglected to wash a few dishes. The rest of the house was pretty clean for a change but these few things were undone. He ranted for a long time about how he did everything and the only thing I did was eat bon bons and lounge around. I told him succinctly anything he was bothered by he was welcome to do. But he didn’t, just moaned that he did 100% of everything and I did nothing. Whatever, dude.

When my husband first started giving me grief about my inability to bring home the bacon, cook it and clean the pan I cooked it in I brushed it off as a tantrum of cranky. Everyone gets moody, right? But now it’s started to happen like clockwork, at least once a month. I’ve started to realize that the mindset that I have to do it all is something both of us carried out of our old church. While I’ve managed to start putting that thing to death my husband clings to that belief with both hands. I feel like taking a hammer to those fingers on his clutching hands to put this thing to death but I know that’s not going to do any good.

Once I realized this is just an old patriarchal mindset he’s carried out I started to understand why he’s so upset. I’ve screwed with his comfort levels and I’m sure it feels to him like I don’t give a damn about him or his comfort. So it’s delicate line I’m going to have to walk to help him in his own recovery while keeping my own emotions in check.

I’m at a loss as to how to get him to let go of this false belief of his but I’m hoping that it happens soon. I’m no ones servant. I’m sure from watching him struggle with this issue and others from our old belief system that I’m not completely over everything myself. Recovery is a ongoing process.

Comments open below

Read everything by Calulu!

Calulu lives near Washington DC , was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 6 years ago. Her blog is Calulu – Roadkill on the Internet Superhighway

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Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce



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  • That’s a tricky one. Can you remind him, gently, that you don’t do as much as you used to do because you’re just not as young or as healthy as you used to be? Is there any way to point out that trying to do everything may very well have contributed to your current health issues (though there’s no way to know for sure)? Or, to turn it around, could you ask him something like, “Honey, I’m doing as much as I can and I just can’t do all that stuff right now. Is there something I can do that would make you feel better?”

    Admittedly, a lot of this is something he’s going to have to work through, too – realizing that his expectations are not realistic, and then working to find a new balance for how (and how much) things get done. Maybe you can gently remind him of things you have been doing? Or maybe a more direct approach is in order: “I know the mess bothers you, but I don’t think you’re being fair.”

    I don’t know. Those are just some thoughts, and probably worth about what you paid for ’em.

  • Debbie

    I, too, did everything so that he could do whatever else he wanted to get ahead. Yard, house, finances, homeschooling, gardening, sewing, banking.
    I think that if I were in that situation now I’d say ,”Gee, thanks for the support”, and let him fix his own dinner. Sometimes people don’t realize they are being selfish. He needs a gentle reality check.

  • Ana

    When the two of you are in a good place, relationship-wise, and both in a good mood, you could bring up his prior rant and say that you think it would be a good thing if you two got down on paper all the things that need to happen to make your house and family “work”. You don’t have to do it then, just set a time in the future. Then when you get to that pre-set time, you can work together to write it all down, and figure out what actually is getting done, what needs to be done, who’s doing it, and how each of you FEELS about that. He may have a task he performs that’s more typically considered “male” that he hates doing and it takes him forever to do. And you may have a similar task. Once you talk about what you’re doing, and how you feel, you may want to switch! And if he sees that you really are keeping tabs on tons more stuff than he is, and can recognize that more equity is in order, you’re in a better place there as well.
    Yes, it’s on you that he was so comfortable, but it’s not your job to baby a grown up. If the two of you are actively working to support and nurture each other, you’ll be a lot happier, and he won’t be in the negative situation of being so reliant on another person for his feeling of “OK”.

  • EEB

    I’m so sorry that you’re going through this.

    A little over a year and a half ago, I nearly died. 14 surgeries later (and at least one more to go) I’m permenently disabled and in constant pain. My family was very understanding, at first. To be fair, they do try. But they can’t understand what I’m going through. My brothers feel like I’m not pulling my weight around the house with chores and such (because many days I can’t get out of bed), and my parents waver between not wanting me to go get a job and getting frustrated that their adult child is costing them money without contributing. The hardest part for them, I think, is that they can’t understand why one day I may be fine and able to walk around or go shopping, but the next day I can’t sit up. I’ve had to cut off contact with one brother almost completely because whenever I see him and his girlfriend, they tell me I’m lazy, that I’m faking to get attention or to get out of working, that I’m a terrible burden on my parents. (Tthe last time I saw his fiance, she said, “I know your mom would never tell you this because she’s too nice, but I know she feels like you’re taking advantage of her. You don’t know how much pain and stress you cause them. You’re an embarassment, and you’re ruining your parents lives. They should be focusing on retirement, not taking care of you. You should be taking care of them. ” And even though my parents emphatically deny feeling this way, some days I hear those words on repeat in my head. I’m already chronically depressed, so I really have to limit my time with them if I don’t want to end up killing myself.)

    It is very, very hard for people who have not experienced chronic illness to understand people who do. My therapist says I should stop hoping for understanding and settle for acceptance. That doesn’t excuse your husband’s attitude, but I don’t think it’s entirely about his past beliefs about gender roles. Illness is a huge stress on the entire family, whatever the configuration (like, my being a single adult child), and especially in a society which still feels the effects of our Puritan work ethic, having one member who appears to be getting a free ride (no matter how often you explain that you would so much rather be able to work than be sick) can cause a lot of resentment. And, personally, I think some guys have a hard time expressing emotions like fear or sadness or even guilt at their helplessness when someone they love is sick, but culturally, anger is an OK emotion for guys to express, so that’s what comes out, when the anger is in truth maybe one part frustration but three parts fear and six parts sadness. (TOTALLY just my outlook after experiencing this with my family, I wouldn’t presume to tell you how your husband “really” feels, I don’t know him or your situation. Sorry if it comes off that way.)

    Therapy has really helped, both individually so that I learn better ways of coping and communication, and family therapy where we can all explain our frustrations and learn to understand and accept each other. Really, a good therapist is worth her weight in gold. I don’t know if that’s an option for you, but it’s done wonders for me. Also, have you ever seen Chronic Babe? It’s a website community with a ton of resources for women with chronic illness. I know, the name is a little hokey, but it’s been amazing.

    Again, I’m sorry you’re going through this. After reading your posts, I think you are an incredibly strong woman, and I admire you deeply. If you ever need someone to talk to (it’s hard sometimes to find people who understand what it’s like to have a chronic illness) please feel free to email me (elyssaelizabeth at gmail etc.).

  • Madamoyzelle

    I am so sorry, Calulu, that you have to go through this.

    I don’t know if Christianity is still a factor in your husband’s life. But if so, a good question may be, “What would Jesus do for Calulu?” and therefore, “How should I, your DH, love you, Calulu, as Christ loved the Church?”

    Maybe that would be a reality check.
    In any case, if you have access to a Social Worker, ask that person if there are any resources that could help you both. It may be that he needs a Caregiver Support group. And it may well be that he does not understand that he is now a Caregiver. He does not sound like he has taken on that role. In fact, he does not understand that he is in it. He needs a “Come to Jesus” smack upside the head, because his life has changed, and he isn’t getting it.

    Very best wishes to you. I hope that you find a cure. And I hope that your Caregiver gets a clue!

  • LeeWhitt

    Hire a local unemployed teen to help a couple times a week.

  • I think I am! I’ve already told the husband that I think it best we hire someone to vacuum, dust, mop, clean the bathrooms.

    Thanks for all the ideas and comments!

  • *hugs to Calulu and EEB* It must be very tough. I haven’t had a chronic illness, but I have learned to combat the mindset that because I’m a woman, the house is my job, and if my husband does any housework, he’s “helping” me. Just being aware of this mindset is helpful in acting against it. Perhaps, Calulu, a simple question to your husband on what things he considers “your jobs” that he’s just “helping” with (and resenting how much “help” he’s having to give) would open his eyes.

  • EEB

    Oh! Yes, I second this! Sometimes those of us with chronic illnesses can forget how tough it is for those who have been thrust, unwilling and unprepared, into the caregiving role. Especially, I think, for guys who are culturally trained to think of caregiving as “women’s work”, maybe even more so for guys coming out of patriarchal Christianity. Just like we didn’t ask to get sick, they didn’t sign up to spend the rest of their life caring for a sick partner, with all that includes. Obviously, it’s not your fault, but it’s natural for resentment to kick in (and then guilt over feeling that way) and suddenly you’ve got emotion soup boiling over, and it’s not pretty. So, yes, finding a support group for your husband (or even getting a reccomendation from the social worker for a therapist if he’s uncomfortable with group therapy).

    Also, a social worker might be able to help you find services you didn’t know you had access to. In California, if you are under a certain income, the state will pay for someone to come over and help you out. They do an evaluation to see how many hours a week you will need someone, from personal hygine to cooking and cleaning and transportation; you then have to find and hire a worker, but the state will be the one paying him/her (11 an hour, I think). There might be other services available; it’s hard to find those things on your own, but a social worker will know the local programs. Sometimes different medical insurances provide a social worker (when I had Blue Cross, they did), sometimes you might have to go through your local governemnt agency. Like a therapist, a good social worker is priceless.

  • Persephone

    Calulu, I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

    My first husband told me that, “Men marry thinking nothing will change; women marry expecting things will change.” He had an aunt, who was a psychologist, who was married to a psychiatrist, and I believe he probably heard it from them, but I find it sadly accurate.

    My mother-in-law is a divorce attorney. She told me that it is extremely common for a man to divorce his wife if she becomes ill. I don’t want to freak you out, but men settle into a pattern with their marriage and seem to have great difficulty adapting to the changes that are common to human life. This means that it will not be easy for him to change. If he is to change, it will take a lot of work from both of you to do it.

    It also means that he is probably extremely fearful and uncertain. You’ve left the cult, which is a huge shock to the system, and has required adaptation for him. He no longer has the cult. He has you, and you’re very sick. His foundation is eroding like the glaciers in Greenland. He is selfishly focusing on what he has lost and could lose, and not on your needs. This is probably a combination of being brought up in a patriarchal society and the intense influence of the cult.

    Is he willing to sit down and discuss things with you? If he is, please, keep in mind how shaky he is. I know it’s very hard when you’re chronically sick (I know this from personal experience), and it’s even harder knowing how stupidly selfish he’s being, but you need to relate to him to get him to relate to you.

    EEB made a good suggestion to find out about cheap or free therapy. Your doctor or his office should have some information on referrals for help with chronic illness. Your case can’t be the first chronic illness they’ve treated. Do search online. Ask for help from the experts. And definitely ask them for help in dealing with your husband. It doesn’t mean you need to push him into therapy, but they should be able to give you pointers on how to approach him.

    Take care of yourself. Keep us updated.

  • suzannecalulu

    I actually attend a chronic illness support group plus I was a social worker for many years so I have that end of things covered. When I wrote this it had finally dawned on me that my husband had issues and was shaky inside from all the changes. He’s already stated he’ll never to go counseling (bad previous history) but I go. I’m just going to keep on keeping on.

    Finding that humor is one of the few things that works well. Yesterday he asked me where his pants were (he hadn’t looked in the closet where they always are) and I started laughing and joking that I wasn’t the Royal Keeper of the Pants. He laughed and went off to find his pants like a big boy.

    Part of the deal with him is that he was always taken care of by his mother into adulthood and I took care of him at the same high level till we joined the church and my ‘taking care’ of him went to insane levels. He’s used to it. He’s frightened by my illness too. It’s a ball of nasty wax.