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#249: How do I reclaim my awesomeness?

Hiya Captain,

I need some help putting myself back together again.

Maybe they’ll be charming in 100 years? Right now they’re jerky and awful.

Basically, my partner and I moved into his parents’ house for about a year and a half after the birth of our second child owing to some financial complications we hadn’t anticipated. This was very kind and generous of them, and I want to acknowledge that. However, living with them was painful and destructive in ways I had thought I could handle, and it turns out I was wrong. They’re pretty right-wing, Fox News-watching types, and are unconsciously racist and homophobic to boot. That year and a half of living with them was filled with micro- and macro-aggressions enough to have thoroughly sunk my spirit – I spent so much time holding my tongue and gnashing my teeth around them that I’m finding it really, really difficult to recover the me that I was before I lived with them. It’s like I sat so hard on all the parts of myself around which I was the most vulnerable that I may have actually permanently squished them, and now I’m a person that I don’t really recognize.

Before we lived with them, I was a person who Used My Words; now I struggle to actually have feelings without second-guessing them and talking myself out of talking about them with the relevant parties because really, those feelings aren’t very rational and anyway talking about them will just make things worse. Before we lived with them, I was a person who could hear something like “If one of my children told me they were gay it would be like finding out they were a rapist or a murderer” and be instantly filled with righteous fury; now my reaction is a kind of subdued, repressed anger and thoughts along the lines of “well I guess they’re entitled to their feelings.” And along with those changes have come changes to my relationship with my partner, and I don’t like them apples neither – I don’t want us to turn into them, or for our relationship to in any way, shape, or form resemble theirs!

I can’t do therapy right now because it’s not financially feasible (our health insurance won’t cover it because they consider it “therapy for self-improvement,” as opposed to therapy for “legitimate” reasons like having a medical condition manageable by medication), so I’m really looking for concrete steps I can take to get myself out of being this sorry sop of a doormat. I know I can’t go back to the person I was, completely, because that’s not the way time works, but it would be nice to be able to move forward into being someone who knows hirself and is comfortable in hir own skin and good about having hir own feelings and opinions.

Things I am currently doing, in case it helps:

  • Making friends again, and putting people on Team Me.
  • Actively seeking a spiritual practice that will help me deal with my feelings.
  • Practicing actually talking to my partner again about things that matter to us.

Anyway, I’d really appreciate your perspective and advice.

Thanks,

Toasted and Kinda Crispy

Hi there, Crispy.

First, all the past tense stuff tells me that you have already moved out of that toxic hellhole, so CONGRATULATIONS. You didn’t die AND you didn’t kill anyone in a fit of repressed indignant rage. Gold stars all around!

More gold stars:

  • You’ve identified the problems.
  • You’re already doing the things you need to do to get unsquashed.
  • You’re already looking into therapy (just a sec!).

All of those are hallmarks of someone who doesn’t really need any help from we uncredentialled internet advice spinners. What you need are atagirls (Hey Awkward Army! Got words of encouragement?) and advanced strategies, since you’re already mastering the basic strategies (another gold star! quit it or I’ll run out. (that’s a lie. I have, like, a quajillion gold stars here.)).

All I’m going to do here is take the stuff you’re already working on or planning on and kick it up a notch.

Muriel Hesslop tells us that being fabulous is about loving what you love, and not apologizing for it. Also, ABBA needs no context.

1 – Making Friends Again
SWEET MERCIFUL CRAP did you not have any friends to help you through this time?  I cannot even tell you how much my heart hurts for hearing that. Yes, go on friend-dates and get yourself a confidante, or rekindle an old relationship gone radio-silent, even if that person is far away now. The internet is a glorious thing.  If you need tips (it does not sound as if you need tips, but for reference (also, GOLD STAR!)) check out these primers on new-friend-making.

2 – Spiritual Practice
This might actually help with the friends thing, if you decide to find a congregation. Go on Spirit-Dates (er, sit in on a service or two) with different religious communities and see if any of them speak to you. If none of them do, that is OK, and if the first one does, that is OK, and if a different congregation of the same denomination as your in-laws does, that is OK. You don’t even have to believe 100% in everything to find a community that feels right to you. You may decide that in the end, you’re a committed Brunchian and that, too, will be OK.

3 – Reconnecting with Your Husband
You, of course, know your husband way better than I do; I don’t even know his name! So you’re going to be the best judge of what will work here. But I’m going to recommend a wee bit of couples therapy.  You guys sound super good in general, so you could frame it as a marriage physical exam, or a check engine light.  “We’re great, but the transition away from your parents’s house has made me feel off-kilter. Are you feeling that way? Can we go talk about it with [therapist] for two sessions max?”  You don’t want there to be a heart attack or your engine falling out on the highway before you seek help, right? Right.  “It’s just four hours total, and it would make me feel better.” If dude can’t get on board with four hours to make you happier, there are deeper issues afoot than a couple sessions of therapy can deal with.

Bonus 4 – Therapy
You need to talk to somebody, and your insurance says it won’t cover it. Fine.

  • Will they accept that you’re afraid you’re showing symptoms of depression and maybe they can pay for some diagnostic therapy?  Be frank with your prospective therapist about your insurance issues, and they may be able to work something out.
  • Are you working for a large company? If so you may have access to a mental health hotline.
  • Back up to #2 – if you find a religion/congregation that you like, the pastor/rabbi/priest/imam/whoever probably does pre-marriage counseling all the time, which translates pretty well to post-marriage counseling. Not to mention helping congregants one-on-one.
  • Call a crisis hotline and see if they have a non-emergency line.

Bonus 5 – Self-Therapy
If you’re making friends and doing things that you want to and not having to be around your in-laws all the time, you’re going to be fine in time.  I swear. You won’t be the same person you were before, that’s true.  But you’re not a worse, horrible, squashed person now, and you will not be a horrible muted version of yourself in the future.

It sounds kind of hokey? But do some mindful appreciation of awesome things in your life. My hand to God(ess(es)) I do this all the time when things get to be too much or too stressful.  I look for something to appreciate.

Optimism is different from wonder, and you’re looking at the patron saint of wonder right here.

“Today is 100% perfect weather. Wow.”
“Husband looks super sexxay today! I will tell him so!”
“It’s almond croissant day at favorite bakery. I am so happy some goddamn genius invented almond croissants.”
“I made two entire human beings. That is WACKY COOL.” (I mean, I didn’t, but you did, and seriously that is some amazingness, right? YOU MADE HUMANS.)
“Mmmm hot shower. Dude, less than 100 years ago, this was unspeakable luxury.”
“I can talk to people thousands of miles away and never meet them, but still be supported by them. What a fascinating modern age we live in.”

And perhaps most importantly: “I am self-aware enough to make the choices that will prevent me from turning into my in-laws. When they choose hate and fear, I will choose love and curiosity.”

And then act in such a way that you are choosing the loving and curious path. I’m sure you are already (gold star!), and I give you all the Jedi Hugs.

Best,
CommanderLogic

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50 comments
  1. monsterzero said:

    I think “God(ess(es))” might need another ‘d’.

    I heart me the nested parentheses.

  2. robiewankenobie said:

    oh, let’s gold star up the joint. honestly, you did a great job feeding, clothing, and housing your kid under difficult circumstances. huzzah! and now you’re freeeeeeeeee! double huzzah! and you’re getting help with the transition. triple huzzah!

    for me? i found three things terribly helpful. first step? FREE THE BRAIN. i got a job in the service industry that i didn’t have to think about. i needed something that i could leave to itself and not care about when i was out the door. not everyone has that luxury, but it was lovely for me. this is also a job that appreciates sarcasm, so extra points for that.

    secondly, i GOT SUPPORT. through a regular out of the house activity. shout out to the stitch’n’bitch! as a new mom, i needed both validation, and time away from the kids – this was the perfect fit for me. i’ve made an amazing number of friendships there.

    lastly, I FOUND A PLACE TO BE SUCCESSFUL! every time i lose my mojo, i learn a new skill. it’s usually something i’m not good at, but when i triumph at something that’s outside all the vry srs life bidness, it gives me skills for dealing with the very real crap that is very real in my life. from knitting to ukelele, i’m building a set of useless skills that serve no purpose but to give me joy.

    your mojo may be missing right now – but i promise – you’ll find your way back.

    ATAGIRL!

    • Ace said:

      First, I want to say Atagirl and Yay for you LW!

      Second, Robie’s totally right about the freeing of the brain. Parts of my job require much less active thought than other parts, and it’s so nice to think through things while my hands are busy. It’s like the hands being busy frees up the thoughtful parts to sit and have a chat with themselves. It’s not therapy, but it’s a good way to deal with my feelings sometimes.

      Beware though, if you’re the kind of person that can get into a harmful feedback loop with themselves (I am sometimes) this might not be the best.

      • Randi said:

        Seconding the danger of the feedback loop. I have a hard time kicking myself off the mental hamster wheel of doom sometimes.

      • robiewankenobie said:

        yeah, it’s a particular kind of mindless job. the details are important, which keeps me paying attention so that evilbrain does not reign terror.

    • J-Dub said:

      Having an activity/hobby/job that busies the hands and/or the body while freeing the brain is an excellent idea! Personally, I’ve never been able to get into meditation (or church going, when I was younger and forced to attend by the parents) because I would just get too fidgety to pay attention to my brain/the priest/etc, but I eventually learned that I gain tremendous benefit from mind-freeing and body-occupying tasks. For me, yoga, cooking, knitting bring me the same…spiritual clarity? I guess? For lack of a better term…that I understand many folks get from a more traditional spiritual practice.
      And knitting had the added benefit of getting me out of the house and making friends. I spent a good portion of my 20’s with basically no nearby friends, then I started knitting, then I found knitters online then I found them in person. Now, two years after joining my group, I consider these people true friends, linked by more than just yarn.

      • Ethyl said:

        I find cycling does this for me, either mountain or road. Everyone’s mileage varies, of course, I’m just throwing that out there to make the point that “meditation” doesn’t have to be the sitting still kind 🙂 I think at some point I’d like to learn to knit, too, nice I think I’d really enjoy it!

        • MissPrism said:

          Oh yes. I adore both knitting and cycling and feel it a terrible shame that one cannot do both at once.

          *designs pedal-powered knitting machine*

  3. Diane said:

    It took me about six months to feel normal again after moving away from a place that squished my awesomeness. Trust me, you will eventually remember how to be you. I spent a lot of time just being happy to be out of that situation, and, as the Commander says, appreciating the little things.

  4. Tosca said:

    I have a conservative family and where I live, I am pretty alone in my feminist/anti-racism/pro-gay/generally-all-around-liberal viewpoints. My husband listens to me a lot, but doesn’t really grok why it’s important to me. As a white male, he has the privilege of “not really thinking” about politics when he doesn’t want to.
    What keeps me sane is reading liberal, feminist, anti-racist, whatever blogs! Whenever I feel alone, reading an in-depth article by people who really Get It does wonders. Some of those blogs have communities attached to them too. Sometimes I feel like the entire world is becoming a Giant Flaming Asshole, and those blogs are like a refreshing drink of cool water.

    • turtle said:

      yes! I second this! also, if you can swing it, finding a like-minded group of people you interact with in person is nice too. I’m a grad student and was lucky to find an awesome feminist group on campus. It’s not as easy outside of the campus bubble, but maybe see what’s out there on meetup.com or else look for a nonprofit for some progressive cause you care about. For example, if you start volunteering at a local planned parenthood, chances are, the other volunteers you meet there will share a lot of your politics. It’s just nice to be in a space where you don’t feel like you’re either constantly delivering the privilege 101 lecture to an unreceptive audience or you’re letting some racist/sexist/homophobic bullshit slide.

      • Annafel said:

        Me too! Currently this site, Shakesville, and Yo, Is This Racist? are my lifelines. But also: since leaving university, I moved to a small, sort of conservative, very rural town. And I have found people who are maybe less intense than I am in their feminism, anti-racism, and general anti-bigotry, but still totally interested in having in-depth conversations. It is entirely possible to find awesome people no matter where you are!

        And Commander Logic, thank you also for noting Anne Shirley as the patron saint of wonder. I love her. (Although I am increasingly aware of the very problematic issues of racism and patriarchy in those books. Sigh. I still love her.)

        A related point: people (and fictional characters) are complicated and imperfect and everyone needs to decide for themselves what they can tolerate. I’d like to recognise your grace and maturity, LW, in noting your in-laws’ kindness and generosity in addition to their fear and hatefulness. I think you sound like a really excellent person who is going to be okay.

      • Yes! And depending on your skill set, sometimes there are unexpected ways to volunteer that you might not think of till you ask. For instance, I used to volunteer at Planned Parenthood, but because of my editing experience, they wanted me in the fundraising office in my town rather than the clinic — and I met some very cool women there. No lifelong friends, but a bright spot, socially, at a time when I needed it.

  5. statusstories said:

    I don’t really have anything to offer except gold stars and Jedi hugs, but you are welcome to all of them!

    One thing that sometimes helps me when I’m noticing how a hard situation in my past is affecting me now is proclaiming that I am The Farthest I Have Ever Been from that thing. You know those “x days without an incident” signs? It’s like that, but with automatic success, because barring malevolent time travel, I will NEVER be there again.

    So, yes, you were in a hard situation and it’s still affecting you. But the good news is a) you are building yourself an awesome Team You and b) this is the farthest you have ever been from that situation! Hell yeah, linear time!

  6. karinacinerina said:

    Gold Star from me, for what it’s worth: LW recalls that she has an innate awesomeness to rediscover, which for me seems quite a goodly percentage of the battle.
    Many, many Jedi hugs!

  7. alphakitty said:

    Seek humor, preferably lefty humor. I went through a really tough time a few years back (oh, wow — just realized it was a decade and a half ago!), when a truly oppressive work situation made every day about coping, not about joy or even modet happiness. Though it was about a situation, I had gotten so battened down in order to cope with it that even when the external situation began to change, it took a while for my wings to unfurl again. I still remember the first time I laughed aloud at some silly thing on TV… it made me realize that the real me was still in there, and helped her come back. Try, “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”?

  8. blogromp said:

    Hang out in progressive feminist spaces, like Shakesville, and soak in the feeling of being part of a community that is actively fighting against sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, fat hatred, and other oppressions. Read to boost your courage, and when you’re ready, start to post. Actively participating online will help you get your fire back, and you can then spread that to your offline life!

    • This is a really good tip for getting back a sharp tongue after it’s been bitten down for a while. Once you get used to having social justice discussions again and refresh your lingo in an anonymous space online it’s only a matter of time before it trickles into the “real” world and you’re back fighting fierce and not afraid to call out bullshit anymore.

      Good luck LW, you’re doing all the right things so just keep chugging forward and hopefully one day soon you’ll wake up with that mojo. Jedi Hugs

  9. case-in-point said:

    Now would be an excellent time to make some art. Even if you don’t have a speck of talent, now is a good time to do something creative. If you make some paintings, drawings, macrame, knitting, storybooks, ceramics, jewelry, or whatever else is available and would make you feel creative. You can use that time and that creative space as a way to get back in touch with your feelings and give them a safe space to breathe. Exploring feelings with other people is great, but I find that when my feelings are unbalanced, then I spend a lot of time looking for feedback from the other people I’m exploring feelings with. Doing something creative in your own brain-space gives you time and space to explore your feelings only getting feedback from yourself. You’ll probably wind up creating some FEELINGSart that you’ll never want to see the light of day, but I think that’s actually a good place to start when the feelings themselves are feeling a bit bruised and squishy.

    • FEELINGSART is great, if you aren’t giving it to the object of your FEELINGS. Very therapeutic. So is unsent FEELINGSMAIL.

    • Ethyl said:

      Ooh, something that I find really fun and relaxing with an added side of pampering yourself is to make your own all-natural beauty products. Crunchybetty.com has a ton of ideas, and you don’t need any special crafty skills (lord knows I’m deficient in that area!). It makes me feel good that I made something, and then I get to use it to make myself feel good!

  10. Your in-laws sound like a significant other I had many years ago, and thankfully managed to get away from. But it did leave my head a mess.

    One thing that I had to learn to rebuild my mojo was to learn to actively recognize when I got in a negative thought-cycle. And then I could evaluate what was triggering the thought cycle – was I just too tired and needed a nap? Was I doing an activity that left me frustrated and needed a break? I also learned that bad thought cycles could be broken by physically extricating myself from a situation – like taking a nap, or a walk or something.

    Sometimes, like when I was at work (and I imagine when you have kids), it can be tricky to extricate yourself physically. But if you learn to recognize when bad feelings come on or come on more strongly, you might be able to structure your day to prevent them. Alternately, it might help to recognize them to yourself,”I am feeling this way because I am tired, and everyone gets tired. It does not mean I don’t have any mojo.”

    Another thing that really helped me was to keep a journal. That way, I wasn’t keeping all my feelings inside, but I could also self-reflect, learn to recognize certain triggers, and become strong again. And, like others, discovering cool blogs and online communities!

    Gold stars and jedi hugs to you for the fortitude and strength that got you through the tough time. Maybe another way to think about your mojo is that for the year or so of life with the in-laws, those strengths were re-directed to survival and keeping the peace. You didn’t lose them, you just used them for something else for a while.

  11. Jake said:

    So many gold stars! LW, you are doing awesomenesses!

    If there is no free/cheap therapy available to you, can I recommend maybe using a CBT-style workbook to help you change your habits of thought? I’ve had a lot of success with these sorts of books. I’m not recommending specific books that have worked for me, because it sounds like you have very different struggles than I do, but anything that gets you into regularly practicing new kinds of self-talk could be very helpful.

  12. Britt said:

    Definitely many attababes and gold stars for you, LW. I was in a crappy work situation, crappy home situation, crappy overall life situation for a few years and am not quite a year out from escaping that and am just finally starting to really truly feel like myself again, so just another vote for everyone saying that you’re on the right path and to be patient with yourself.

    In terms of the specifics of learning to use your words again and let yourself out of your squished little box, I can so so very much relate and one of the big things that has helped me is being really conscious of opportunities to speak up about little, mostly inconsequential things. Things like asking my brother if he could please wipe the bathroom counter off after he brushes his teeth aren’t *really* that big a deal and aren’t likely to cause an argument or anything, but they’re things that I couldn’t have said without risking an argument in my previous living situations, and being able to say “hey, brother, can you clean the toothpaste off the counter?”, have him say yes, and everyone move on happily go a LONG way towards getting me back into the place where I can speak up for myself more readily. If you can think of some places where you can speak up a bit without it seeming like some big fraught thing, it might help you feel more comfortable speaking up in the more tense situations where it might really matter more.

    Love and light to you, LW. You’re on the right path.

  13. Lesley said:

    Hey LW,
    As usual CommanderLogic & the Awkward Army have given amazing advice. 🙂 I thought I’d contribute a few more strategies –
    1) leading in from CL’s awesome idea, why not try a gratitude journal? That is, write down those moments that you appreciate or moments when your awesomeness returns. At the start this can seem REALLY hard, but start small – could be as simple as “wow the sky is so blue!” or “wow, when that coffee guy stuff up my order & I asked him to fix it, that was a flash of me not-having-my-opinion-squished” etc.
    2) I don’t know what the state of play in the US is, but here in australia there are quite a few online therapies that are FREE. Yep, FREE!!! They are by-the-manual treatments, so they can’t adapt for you, but as Jake commented these things can be helpful for us in working through our horrible thoughts & stopping our jerk brains from taking over. You can try anxietyonline.org.au ontrack.org.au & moodgym.anu.edu.au – all of these sites are run by universities in Australia with great reputations, so you can be sure they are the real thing. Not sure if they are for international use, but if you need a postcode/address to put in for Aus let me know.
    2) look up mindfulness exercises on YouTube. Mindfulness is great for relaxation, as well as putting jerk brain in its place & helping you live more in the present moment.
    Take care LW & best wishes on your road to re-awesomeness.

    • bananananadaquiri said:

      Heh, I was just going to recommend those same sites. I will also vouch for their proper academic credentials. They are not so flexible, but way better than nothing.

      • Ethyl said:

        I can vouch for Mood Gym as well, and can also state that you don’t need any kind of Aus-specific info, just an email address.

  14. Yan said:

    Dude, you’re awesome — the fact that you’re in a hole right now does not make you less awesome at all.

    Time. You need time, to give yourself time and space (headspace, especially) to get back to yourself — or in other words, do not beat yourself up for not bouncing right back. You can do all the things people list above, but also consider giving yourself a break. Declaring that right now, you don’t have to do anything at all “this weekend” except enjoy your family. For me, sometimes taking a break from my own expectations is really what I need most.

    Tell your husband that he’s awesome. Have him tell you wonderful things about you. Tell your little humans they are awesome. Build a family bank of awesome for you to draw on.

  15. LW doesn’t say a single word about the role her partner played in the situation. Maybe I’m reading too much into that omission, but it seems glaring to me, and suggests that while shit was online the partner allowed LW to take the entire brunt of the parents’ assholery while the partner stayed below the radar. That is shitty.

    And there is no mention of the partner making any attempt to provide solace to LW offline in terms of “Yeah, my parents are dickes, try not to let it get to you.” Also shitty.

    So I am seeing more of a partner problem and less of a partner’s parents problem.

    • commanderlogic said:

      Maybe I’m reading too much into that omission

      I know you’re trying to look out for Crispy, but I’m going to say you’re reading too much into it. The question wasn’t about “omg how do I handle my horrible in-laws” but about how to deal with the aftermath, which is primarily internal to the LW. That is, not involving the partner so much.

      This isn’t a partner problem OR an in-law problem, it’s a LW living life problem. Cool?

      • Of course it’s “cool”. But baldly asserting it is or isn’t a partner problem doesn’t make it so or not so. My own life experience made it noteworthy to me that the partner doesn’t make a single appearance in a letter all about how the partner’s parents were so horrible that it has had a lasting adverse influence on the LW. I could be wrong, but so could you.

        • Jinian said:

          I found the partner’s absence from both problem and solution pretty interesting, too. At this point, though, the terrible time is a thing that happened. If Crispy can recover from it some more, it’ll be easier to deal with any partnership problems. If recovery isn’t working past a point, maybe that’ll say something about the current situation.

        • And just to go a little meta here: I have a blogge of my own and I understand and embrance the whole “my blogge, my rules, I can do whatever I want” concept. And I also understand that at this blogge there are a few very useful rules that enhance discourse in light of the purpose of this blogge, such as “no Internet diagnoses of mental illness”.

          However, a rule that I am inferring from this interchange with the Commander and the whole “This is how it is. End of discussion. Cool?” dealio is a bit troubling: The blogger interprets what the LW meant in his or her letter, and commenters are required to accept that meaning and not to speculate about other possible meanings or to read between the lines of the letter.

          One of the major things that makes this blogge interesting beyond just reading the interpretations and advice of the bloggers to the LWs is that fact that there are numerous perceptive commenters with diverse life experiences who see many different things in the letters and who lucidly explain their perceptions in the comments. This is interesting to read and, one presumes, at least sometimes useful to the LWs. When dealing with complex life situations, one frequently doesn’t even know the right questions to ask when seeking advice, and so this second level of between-the-lines interpretation is central to the advice-giving enterprise.

          Is it a general rule on this blogge that the bloggers are the final arbiters of what, if any, between-the-lines interpretations of letters are permissible and will just cut off any discussion of any such interpretations that are non-approved? I certainly haven’t noticed before that this is a rule, other than in a narrow few special cases, such as Internet diagnosis of mental illness (which I totally agree with). If it is, I suspect that it will make this a less interesting place for readers and commenters and a less useful place for LWs seeking advice.

          • JenniferP said:

            Read the site policies. It’s a dictatorship. I delete stuff ALL THE TIME. Believe me, the reason that this is such a productive place to comment is that we weed the flower beds.

            I happen to think that you are right that the relationship with the partner needs some work. The LW says “And along with those changes have come changes to my relationship with my partner, and I don’t like them apples neither – I don’t want us to turn into them, or for our relationship to in any way, shape, or form resemble theirs!

            It sounds like there’s some serious reconnecting that needs to occur between them. Whether that becomes about date nights or counseling or whatever, they need to get on the same team and shake off the time with the parents together and the LW needs to feel like he’s got her back. However, the Commander was trying to keep to the questions the LW asked. Sometimes we get into diagnosing relationship problems the way we do mental illnesses and it turns into badness, and it’s not actually for you to say that the LW’s partner is “shitty.”

            If you have some constructive suggestions for things the LW can do to reconnect with her partner, by all means share. If you want to “diagnose” their relationship problems, I’m going to back up the Commander here and ask you to refrain. Thanks.

          • commanderlogic said:

            Thanks for the back-up while I was away, Captain!

            Comradde, I didn’t delete your comment, and I didn’t edit it, so your opinion is available for the readers and Crispy if they care to read it.

            Then I started to write a big retort, and that seemed like throwing gasoline on an incense stick, so I deleted it.

            I was perhaps short with you because I was on my way out the door, and I apologize. I still think it’s offsides to suggest that Crispy should mention her husband more in a letter about her own recovery, but I also think that’s something where you and the Cap can disagree with me and we can all still have margaritas together at the end of the day.

  16. Copcher said:

    I have definitely felt my awesome parts get squished before (great way of putting it, btw), for slightly different reasons. I didn’t have to deal with seriously bigoted attitudes or behaviour, but I really shy away from confrontation, so when I heard someone, especially someone I thought was for the most part pretty cool, say something kind of sexist or racist or homophobic or transphobic or ablist or just not cool in any way, I would often keep it to myself, afraid of starting a huge argument if I called them on it. (It still happens, by the way. I’m working on it.) The cause is quite different from yours, but the end result seems similar.

    One thing I found really useful was getting involved online. I started reading feminist blogs and commenting fairly anonymously. Then a few years later I joined twitter, and I would post links for the one or two people who followed me to see. Eventually, people I actually knew in real life started following me on twitter, and I kept posting my radical left-wing feminist thoughts and links, and those people still liked me! And then I started posting those links on facebook, where everyone I knew could see them, and now sometimes (very rarely) I even write entire blog posts on my feminist thoughts, and I even talk about them with my friends who might not share my politics! I still feel uncomfortable with confrontation, but I also feel like the part of me that I’d been stepping on and hiding away is now free and mostly visible.

    If you feel like some of your more awesome parts have spent so much time hiding away that they wouldn’t survive in broad daylight, it might help to take them out in more anonymous spaces, like on blog comments or maybe a new twitter account (if you already have one) with a name that people can find but that doesn’t feel like it necessarily has to be directly linked to you. That way, you can have some practice being vocal about your opinions, and also maybe stop second guessing your feelings, because you’ll have some online validation.

  17. MissPrism said:

    Gold stars to the LW!

    Be kind to yourself and give it time. Awesomeness is elastic and will eventually spring back into shape. I second all the “find a new hobby!” suggestions – singing? allotment gardening? conservation volunteering? – and would also suggest you get thee to a library and read some thoughtful books on politics/history as a counterbalance to the Fox News onslaught you have endured. Well done to you for coping so gracefully in such a suckful situation.

  18. pochiblythe said:

    A small idea: inusurance companies sometimes accept an “adjustment disorder” diagnosis- this means having symptoms (sad or anxious?) related to a situation that is hard to adjust to. I am not at all suggesting you or anyone has this diagnosis, but a mental health professional can let you know if that fits in any particular case. And that may qualify a person for insurance without having the other more “known” disorders. Just a thought- ignore if not helpful. And good luck!

  19. JS said:

    This ordeal could end up being a thing that brings you and your partner even closer, LW: your partner grew up in this environment, yet he emerged the wonderful person that you love! How awesome is that? You spent a year and a half there, and feel like your spirit has been crushed; he grew UP there, and struggled his way into awesomeness. You may have already known logically that he is pretty cool for pulling that off, but perhaps now you understand him/his struggle in a much deeper and more emotional way? Maybe if you try framing your unhappiness this way, with the emphasis on, “wow, this makes me appreciate partner’s awesomeness on a whole new level,” it will help to alleviate your own depression.

  20. Go Crispy go!!!! Yes, yes, yes to getting on the Internet. FIND YOUR PEOPLE.

    A note – the Letter Writer describes their partner as “partner” and themselves as “hir,” and while I don’t want to be all Livejournalesque and butthurt about pronouns, and it is quite easy to read “relationship/partner” as “marriage/husband”, and it sounds like the right-wing family might be the type who wouldn’t let unmarried partners sleep in the same bedroom, but we don’t have to automatically label Crispy’s fella as The Husband, do we? Since Crispy isn’t, and all.

  21. crispy said:

    Hi everybody.

    I can’t thank you enough for having answered this letter, and for the wonderful advice and encouragement that’ve come out of it. I hadn’t known that diagnostic-ish therapy may have even been an option, CommanderLogic, so thank you for the suggestion! I will look into that, and hit that Mood Gym in the meantime.

    I’m also really liking the idea of keeping a “family bank of awesome” and, more personally, a gratitude journal; it’s easy for me to sometimes get stuck in a rut of negative thinking, and that way lies madness and depression, so focusing on things for which I am grateful and recording those things feels like a good, concrete step in a better direction. I can even put “I am grateful for the Awkward Army” as my first item 🙂

    Um, the bit about my partner – who is also my legally wedded husband, so, both fit – I appreciate that he’s come up, but I don’t feel right about asking him to take “my side” against his family. It’s enough that he supports me when I lean on him around a specific thing they have said or done that has hurt; I can’t ask him to try and change them. I especially appreciated JS’s perspective here. Thank you, JS!

    Again, just wanted to thank you all. It means so, so much to me to hear all the ‘attabees’ and cheerleading, and to feel like I have some direction attached to these new steps I want to take. Thank you, and thank you.

    • commanderlogic said:

      Hooray, Crispy! I’m so happy for you, and thank YOU for updating us!

      • robiewankenobie said:

        yipppeeeeeeeee!

  22. R.J. said:

    LW: Your situation sounds like the one I’m going through as I move back in with my Dad (who is so nice, and then so homophobic…) so I’m thrilled for you that it sounds like you’re back in your own place and can relax back into raising your kids to be the chill, embracing people that you and your husband are. That right there, raising your children like that, is a service to the world. Jedi hugs and all that 🙂

    Hey Captain Awkward and Commander Logic, long time reader, first time poster and all that jazz. A) Thank you all so much for taking on questions about dealing with relatives whose values are not your own. The Captain’s stories about your relationship with your grandfather, in particular, are helping me get used to living at home, queer and all, with a loving but homophobic dad.
    B) “What a fascinating modern age we live in.” Master and Commander reference, or coincidence?

    • commanderlogic said:

      Thanks R.J.!

      Two things:
      1 – I read raising your kids to be the chill, embracing people as “raising your kids to be the chili-embracing people. Thought I’d share!

      2 – Oh, totally a Master & Commander reference. I love throwing one in sometimes. My particular geekdom, let me show you it!

      • JenniferP said:

        Gather ye rosebuds and embrace ye chili where ye may.

  23. superfluous consonants said:

    Before we lived with them, I was a person who Used My Words; now I struggle to actually have feelings without second-guessing them and talking myself out of talking about them with the relevant parties because really, those feelings aren’t very rational and anyway talking about them will just make things worse.

    i spent my first 18 years in households whose dysfunctions led to a similar feeling of squished-ness. my family isn’t homophobic or right-wing, but there was emphatically NO PLACE for my feelings or wants or needs, and i was probably wrong for having them, anyway, right? there are a lot of situations in which i’m just learning to have feelings period, let alone feelings i immediately second-guessed. one startlingly effective way i’m working on this is to practice having feelings.

    the captain’s “mindful appreciation” is a lovely way to regain some access to awesomeness, but it’s also a nice, nonthreatening way to practice having feelings–and maybe even expressing them. if you notice that your husband is looking sexy, maybe you could take a second to really roll around in that opinion you are having. what about him, in this moment, is sexy? does he look kickass in blue? does he prep dinner veggies with style and panache? see how precise you can get about your own feelings. then express them! “husband, you are a dreamboat when you wield that vaccuum. i love that you are a strong and cleanly fellow.”

    for me, finding room in myself for any opinions made it easier to acknowledge scarier, troublesome ones. and the more possible it was to HAVE them, the easier it was to express them when necessary.

    i’m still working on it, and it’s hard. good luck to you and congratulations on everything that’s excellent!

  24. I agree with all commenters who suggest FELLINSart/FEELINGScraft/FEELINGSjournals. Sometimes when your emotions get squished it’s expressing them that really helps them start flowing naturally again.
    I just really grossed myself out, and probably anyone else who knows enough about veterinary practices.
    ANYWAY, something concrete that helps my boyfriend and I in these situations is to pretend to be dinosaurs. No seriously, I’m a T-Rex and he’s a Triceratops. We go stomping and roaring around the house yelling about how mean and fierce we are, and after I can take off my work face and have opinions again. It’s both awesome and effective, and will probably entertain your kids.

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