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Hypervigilance

messyleslie posted 6/9/2020 14:46 PM

I talked to my therapist yesterday and we discussed how living with my WH, who is an alcoholic and has mental health issues, not to mention the affair, has been me be in a state of constant hypervigilance. When he lived her and I was trying to save our marriage it was probably to see if he was lying and if he was drinking or being honest or what. Those were important things for me to know.

He hasnít lived in our home since November. Our divorce papers are being written up right now. He has seen our kids once in the last three weeks - if I donít reach out to him he barely calls or texts.

But yet Iím still checking to see where he is. Where he has spent money. Did he watch something on Netflix today. Itís bizarre. I feel like maybe having some information, and maybe even knowing that he is alive and not doing more damage to our lives gives me a sense of security - and for a while knowing he was at the place he was renting and wouldnít be coming to the house gave me some peace, but now Iím not sure why I am doing it.

When does this end? Will I have just to force myself to stop? I feel like I will always have to know whatís up with him since we have kids so in a way Iíll always be checking up to make sure he is medicated and such.

Maybe once the divorce is final and there is some history of him paying his support in time I will feel safer? No legal ties to him?

And Iím really scared this will transfer into any other relationship I have in the future.

Phoenix1 posted 6/9/2020 16:07 PM

I see several issues wrapped up here.

First, there is a difference in being the infidelity police in an attempt at R or to gain useful intel for D and pain shopping. Since you have been separated since November and divorce papers are being drawn up now, what you are doing is pain shopping. It's a habit, and like any habit you have to actively work to break it. At this point, what he does or does not do is not your concern (unless it affects the kids in some way or is a violation of any agreements). It is called pain shopping for a reason, and it will only serve to keep you emotionally attached and stuck.

Second, regarding him seeing the kids. Do you have a visitation agreement in place? If so, he knows when he can see the kids. It is not your job to remind him he has kids, and they should see their father on a regular basis. That is ALL on him. Send him a final email/text (put it in writing that you can save) and keep it open - "let me know when you plan to see the kids so I can have them ready for you." See how that puts the onus on him to follow through? You are not preventing him from seeing his kids, but he is the one that has to make the effort to do so.

Yes, it is sad for the kids. But remember, you are not responsible for managing his relationship with his kids. If he blows them off, they will see if for what it is and formulate their own opinions. You cannot control him and force him to see the kids, nor should you try. You just need to keep being the stable, supportive parent that is there for them (and not trash talking your WH to them). As long as they have at least one such parent, they will thrive.

Third, when does this end and how do you stop it? It stops when you say it stops. Sounds easy, but like any habit (as mentioned above) you have to work at it actively. Some people use negative reinforcement such as putting a rubberband on their wrist and snapping it every time they are tempted to check up on the WS. If you DON'T actively work to detachment, you likely WILL carry this over to any new relationship, which is unhealthy.

You are divorcing him. Once final, you hold him accountable for paying support or other financial agreements. You try to parallel parent (he doesn't appear to be co-parenting material). If he is ever a danger to the kids, you need to document and act decisively. For example, if he ever shows up to pick up the kids intoxicated, you refuse to let them go (be prepared to call police). If he is driving drunk with the kids, for example (and you can prove it), or creating any other unsafe condition due to mental health issues, that may be grounds to get sole physical and legal custody and possible supervised visitation only. You should be talking to your attorney about these concerns to create a path forward and the best way to approach it. Being watchful is warranted (if/when he has/plans to have kids), but over the top pain shopping for the sake of simply knowing what he is up to every minute will only hurt you. Finding that balance is hard, but you have to take care of yourself as well.

TrustedHer posted 6/9/2020 16:23 PM

Phoenix is right on all three of her points, but I want to also let you know that it's not abnormal. Well, at least, it's not uncommon.

Speaking from personal experience, I went through 3 months of obsessive checking up while I was trying to save my marriage. Besides groveling and begging her to commit to me, I was also monitoring her phone calls, her emails, and I even put a GPS tracker on her car.

When I decided to divorce, I should have stopped all that. I didn't. In fact, it went on for months, and all I got from it was pain. Like the Memorial Day trip she took with OM#3 to... Well, gee, I don't remember. Maybe Kentucky. But it was important and painful at the time, and because of the tracker I knew which hotels they stayed at and which of his relatives they visited and what restaurants they ate at.

None of which was important at all. I already had all the info I needed: She cheated, she wouldn't commit to the marriage, and I was going to divorce her.

And then Phoenix said this:

It stops when you say it stops. Sounds easy, but like any habit (as mentioned above) you have to work at it actively.

In my case, I decided to wean off it, with a little help from XWW. She figured out I was looking at her cell phone bill to track calls, so she took her phone off of the family bill. I got the tracker off her car and put it in a drawer. I blocked her on Facebook, I quit taking her phone calls, and, finally, I quit monitoring her emails.

It was a compulsion, and I had to work to overcome it.

Cold turkey would be better, but weaning off did eventually work for me.

Strength. All of this crap takes baby steps, and this is one (of many) hurdles for you to cross.

messyleslie posted 6/9/2020 16:34 PM

So normally yes I would think this was pain shopping - but in all honesty it really isn't. His mental state is one in which I legitimately think he could be dead any day (he has threatened suicide and seemed suicidal often and is doing some things now that make me think he is cycling and not doing well emotionally) - so I think I just want to see that he is alive? I was scared for a while that he would just show up at my house, so I called the police and let them know about the situation. I really just wanted them to note it somewhere so that if I called again they could come right away without me having to tell them the full story before sending someone out - the person i spoke to said that unless I wanted to do an order of protection that they didn't really do anything like that. Since he hadn't said any specific threats, it was more just that I could see his behavior escalating and it felt like he was capable of anything.

We don't have a specific visitation agreement - I have the kids full time. He has not been alone with them since probably September. He hasn't had them overnight alone for years. There has been a series of events that have made it clear that he cannot have unsupervised visitation, at least for a long while. Our parenting plan will reflect that, and he has already agreed to it. He will have to do a soberlink breathalyzer before any visit and I really think he will struggle at doing what he needs to do to show stability for more visitation and parenting time. Our custody order will give him one dinner a week and one visit every other weekend. We sort of did that for a while after being separated, or more than that, but since I told him I want a divorce he has gone off the deep end and will often say he doesn't feel up to it or doesn't want the kids to see him that way. A couple of weeks ago he was horrible to be on the phone and I told him that he wasn't allowed to treat me like that. Then he didn't call for text for two weeks - so I feel like its not my job to ask him if he wants to see them or not?

I guess to me, its like I am waiting for the bottom to be ripped out again and for some reason knowing some of his actions make me feel like I am maybe more aware and prepared for it? I had a police officer ring my door bell at midnight last friday because he apparently backed into a car and then took off and they found his registration to our home. I called him on speaker phone and then it got disconnected - gave the police officer all his information and our insurance information and then haven't heard form him since. I really thought he was dead, but then saw him at his office on Monday morning and was like "oh okay..." I even talked to my therapist about what I would say to my kids if he did die.

He once parked his car on the next block over from our home and I could see it and had a friend drive by and he was just sitting there. I stayed up until I saw that he went home and got down my wooden club just in case. He hasn't been physically abusive with me (although he once pushed me up against a wall and has grabbed my arms and such) but I just worried that something more will snap in his brain and he will show up here and act crazy and scary.

He went on a business trip a while ago and I literally felt so much peace while he was gone. Like the knowledge of him being far enough away that he couldn't get back to us quickly was just enough security that I felt like I could put my guard down.

Phoenix1 posted 6/9/2020 17:17 PM

His mental state is one in which I legitimately think he could be dead any day (he has threatened suicide and seemed suicidal often and is doing some things now that make me think he is cycling and not doing well emotionally) - so I think I just want to see that he is alive?

I don't want this to sound harsh, but it is not your job to determine if he is alive or not. If he is actively making threats of self harm, or you are genuinely concerned because you haven't heard from him for a while and he has missed visitation with the kids (once the visitation schedule is in place), then you call the police and ask them to make a welfare check. It will either stop his hollow threats that are intended to manipulate you, or he will get the help he needs.

My ex made numerous threats of suicide. It was for the sole purpose of trying to manipulate me. I got tired of hearing it and I told him I would call the police if he ever said it to me again. Magically, I have not heard such a threat since.

You cannot let your concern for your STBX run your life.

Since he hadn't said any specific threats, it was more just that I could see his behavior escalating and it felt like he was capable of anything.

Document, document, and document some more. Be prepared, but again, don't let it rule your life. Keep a can of wasp spray handy (shoots 20 feet, aim for eyes).

A couple of weeks ago he was horrible to be on the phone and I told him that he wasn't allowed to treat me like that. Then he didn't call for text for two weeks - so I feel like its not my job to ask him if he wants to see them or not?

No, it is not your job to ask him. Make sure you put in specific days/times for his visitation and add a clause that he needs to give XXX notice if plans to actually see them, and if he doesn't show he forfeits the time (i.e., doesn't get "make up" time later). He has a history of NOT seeing his kids, so in this case it would make sense for him to give notification if he plans to to so. Also, if he is XXX late, he forfeits the time. You give him very specific parameters that HE has to follow (based on his pattern of behavior) and if he doesn't life goes on without him. This way, you do not need to remind him of anything or even ask if he is coming or not. It puts it squarely in his lap to act, or not.

I even talked to my therapist about what I would say to my kids if he did die.

If he dies by his own choices, THEN you deal with it.

I get it. I really do. My ex used the suicide threats for attention until I shut it down. He was also known to drive down my street during the middle of the night (he even admitted it to me). This is the same man that told me he could put a bullet in someone's head and not blink an eye or lose any sleep. He is also a firearms collector (and retired law enforcement), and was definitely had a mindset of the "if I can't have her, no one will." I put some security cameras up outside and he knows I am armed just as heavily as he is. I warned my XSO about him and didn't bring him to my house for a long time. Xhole didn't let up with his stealth stalker behavior until he latched onto a new victim (now wife). He now has someone else to focus his insanity on and leaves me alone.

The point is that I took precautions, but it did not rule my life. Nor did I constantly keep tabs on him to see what he was up to. I refused to give him that much power over me and my life.

If he is seen parked around your house, take pictures. Talk to your neighbors to keep an eye out as well. Try to keep any communication in written form (email/text) so you can have any escalations in writing. If he keeps up, you may get enough for a protection order. This is all stuff you can do without being so wrapped up in "checking on him."

As Trusted said, baby steps.

messyleslie posted 6/9/2020 22:50 PM

My ex made numerous threats of suicide. It was for the sole purpose of trying to manipulate me. I got tired of hearing it and I told him I would call the police if he ever said it to me again.

I've called the sheriff on him before (well I didn't make the call - a counselor did that I was talking to and called for advice as he was making these weird threats) - and taken him to the ER for suicidal thoughts once, and he checked himself him a couple of weeks ago. So I don't really think its for attention.

But yes, I have spent way too much of my life taking care of him and I'm sure there is a component to this that is me trying to take care of him now. And I know its not my job to check on him.

I am working on changing the belief that how I treat him somehow effects the way he behaves and the choices he makes. I know I can be wonderful and loving and he will still be crazy so I don't know why I continue to live and act like somehow I can impact how he is.

I do need to get a security system and I think this will make me feel safer in my home.

And perhaps being not legally tied to him will stop me from having anxiety over his choices to some degree- I won't be worried about property damage he will do and being responsibly for his choices.

This is all really hard stuff and I have so many years of being totally messed up with all this abuse. :(

Phoenix1 posted 6/9/2020 23:59 PM

You're going to be okay. Baby steps. It likely will be a little easier to navigate once the D is a done deal. Just make sure your agreement closes all loopholes for his wiggle room.

Keep repeating to yourself: I can't control anyone. I can only control my reaction to them.

And keep coming back here to vent. You've got this, you really do!

EllieKMAS posted 6/10/2020 08:45 AM

messy, just reading through all this and a couple thoughts came to me.

Firstly - Phoenix is right. The pain shopping will not help you at all. AT ALL. It will just keep you wrapped up in his crazy and his drama and prevent you from moving on with YOUR life.

Second - some of this sounds like infidelity-related stuff, but a lot of this sounds like addict-codependent behavior. I am an adult child of an alcoholic, and these really resonate with me:

...When he lived her and I was trying to save our marriage it was probably to see if he was lying and if he was drinking

...His mental state is one in which I legitimately think he could be dead any day (he has threatened suicide and seemed suicidal often and is doing some things now that make me think he is cycling and not doing well emotionally) - so I think I just want to see that he is alive?

...But yes, I have spent way too much of my life taking care of him and I'm sure there is a component to this that is me trying to take care of him now.

...I am working on changing the belief that how I treat him somehow effects the way he behaves and the choices he makes. I know I can be wonderful and loving and he will still be crazy so I don't know why I continue to live and act like somehow I can impact how he is.

Have you thought about maybe joining an alanon group? It creates a whole other realm of issues when you are dealing with an addict that is different than dealing with a cheater. And if that's something you've been dealing with for years, then being in a mess about it is normal.

Any way you cut it, the sooner you can untangle yourself from things the better off you and by extension, your kids, will be.

messyleslie posted 6/10/2020 23:30 PM

Thank you - yes I actually do think more of my trauma comes from addiction and mental health issues and not infidelity. The affair is like something I remember and I cannot even fathom why I stayed after that.

The affair was maybe the beginning of his complete unraveling but I honestly think if I had had a partner that was doing the work for reconciliation that I would have been able to move on from it. He didn't do the work, but I actually did and so I think some of those wounds are actually healed. I don't feel personally responsible for the affair, I don't think it has impacted my self esteem (if anything I feel like I finally understand what a flipping good wife and what a catch I am). But I think most of my PTSD comes from his erratic behavior and things he has done and said to me.

When I think back to the most painful moments and retell the story of why we are getting divorced, the affair seems like such a small part of the story. Stuff he said to me, and stuff he did inside our home around our kids is really the bigger stuff.

I actually did go to alanon and felt really out of place - it was maybe the group I was at. And now its a childcare issue - I'm on my own with three kids and even when school was in session and my youngest was in preschool I could never line up a time with a meeting without paying for a babysitter - and frankly I just wasn't willing to do that. I do have the daily devotional thing from alanon and I have read that off and on - I need to start again.

Someone recommended an alanon type group but was more geared towards family of people with mental health issues and I felt that was a good fit, but again schedules just never lined up. Its really hard with kids.

I bought codependent no more like 5 years ago - I should probably read it now right?

woodlandlost posted 6/11/2020 11:08 AM

Hi,

So sorry to hear about your situation. I know the pain of alcoholism and its destructive capacity in a committed relationship. Unless you have lived the experience, it is sometimes hard to put into words, but hypervigilalance sums it up nicely. I lived the progression of alcoholism for about 10 years as my wife went from seemingly normal, to insane. And funny thing, I went from normal to insane too:)!! Pretty normal, as they deteriorate, we compensate and not in a healthy way...but it is a survival instinct that kicks in to try and make sense of and prevent further damage (well intentioned but it does not work).

I know Al-Anon can be a great place to learn. But ya I too felt out of place at the meetings. To delve into this stuff, sometimes requires getting quality individual therapy first. What you have been through in insane, pure and simple. Get support for this. Toby Rice Drews has a 4 volume series called, "getting them sober", and I found these books spoke DIRECTLY to the spouse and to help you, not the alcoholic. My mind from the years of this needs to be re-programmed and, while daunting, this is the best thing for me. Al-anon may be something to explore a bit down the road maybe...I found being in the meetings sometimes triggered me and because there is no crosstalk, you say your story and nobody responds....and generally in the early days after you come to grips with the situation, you need and want to talk it out. I now attend all Mens groups via Zoom and have a sponsor now, and I am working through the steps, FOR ME!! To be a better person, an honest and kind and reflective person, that is what I want for myself. Al-anon, may not be the be all and end all, but this on top of all the other stuff you can get, will help in time. But seriously, get the books I suggested, or at least the 4th volume (on Divorce and separation). Damn near saved my life.

One day at a time.

ChoosingHope posted 6/12/2020 19:40 PM

You've gotten some great replies here, but just wanted to share that I still deal with parts of this now, nearly a decade after D-Day.

I think it's all a process of detaching, self-care, and dealing the PTSD. It's also simply habit.

My first therapist had me wearing a rubber band that I snapped every time I started ruminating and worrying. It worked for a while - it got me through the marriage itself. My current therapist only takes PTSD cases, and she's brought me a long way.

I've read a lot about OCD, which DO NOT have, but sometimes, the hypervigilance and the racing thoughts and worry are similar. Many of those techniques have worked for me. I used to try to complete stop the thoughts, and that does not work. I've managed to get to the point where I sort of acknowledge that they are there, and then I can move on.

And then there's the practical advice. Stay busy. Exercise. Get outdoors. See friends. Talk about other things. Get to bed at the same time every night.

You're still at the beginning of your healing. I really believe you need to work through it so that you can have the best future - I didn't fully address all the issues I had, and they still come back to cause me great unnecessary anxiety. (But then again I was dealing with a sociopath.) You will do better, I promise!!!

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