The Discard Detox

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The relationships in our lives, are like our eating habits. Our interactions with family, friends, colleagues, and our community can be considered similar to the need to consume, be sustained and to provide nourishment to others. From simple snacks, wholesome fruit and veg, fad diets, ‘bucket-list’ cuisine, and the ‘sometimes only’ indulgences that should be taken within moderation….or maybe not at all, all form part of our life experiences.

An important part of our spiritual maturity involves learning the tough lessons that relationships may not always turn out as we expected them to. Humans are flawed and broken. The chilli chicken wings may be a pleasure on the way in…but could burn on the way out! For those of us who are the people-pleasing type, the hard reality that some humans choose to discard, can be difficult to process.

Christians are particularly vulnerable at being manipulated in this area due to the mis-teaching of forgiveness, the tendency to be exposed to judgment, and the high value put on achieving holiness, and prosperity preaching which is believed to be achieved through sacrificial love.

Whether relationships initially begin for romantic, friendship, family, or work purposes, some are life-long, mutually giving and enhance the quality of our lives. Others may begin like this however naturally lose energy and fail to survive as circumstances change. Then there are relationships that exist purely to provide a supply of attention, image, and power which often follow a trajectory of idolisation, depreciation then discarding. Experiencing this can be soul destroying, therefore it is crucial that as spiritually mature Christians, we learn how to identify these traits within our relationships and manage the effects.

The Discard Detox

Ingredients

  • ½ cup of firm boundaries
  • A dash of emotional highs and lows, seasoned according to taste
  • 4 tbs staying connected to others
  • 2 tsp of movement and sensory input
  • 500g of positivity and remembering who you are in Christ

Method

The only way to move forward, is to remove the harmful substances that are causing your demise, similar to that of a fasting period. Just like any detox, there will be emotional sensations and withdrawals that will be initially intense and confusing, especially if you have been ‘idolised’ during your relationship. Where possible, go ‘cold turkey’ (no contact) and put in place clear boundaries to protect yourself. If this is not possible, rely on written contact (with at least a 24-hour gap between drafting and sending communications) and limit interactions for when trusted people are there to provide a buffer and accountability.

Your recovery will not be linear. There will be times where you are on top of everything, can see the relationship for what was with clarity, can pursue a clear direction for your future, and feel empowered. Then there will be times when your insecurities and emotions will get the better of you, and you will struggle with feelings of grief, rejection, and despair. Stay with all feelings and ride them out, they will become less painful over time. Try not to avoid feeling the lows by returning to the bad diet, as this will slow your personal progress to emotional freedom. If you do cave and indulge in a sample, go easy on yourself, and allow it to be reflected on as part of your cleansing ritual. Consider activities such as journaling, listening to music, escaping into a good book or movie, or the slightly more controversial but highly therapeutic ceremonial purge of items that represented the relationship!

Feeling discarded is a huge threat to your self-esteem. Counteract this by surrounding yourself with safe people who have been there for you long term. Keep communicating with others through visits, phone and video calls. Substitute activities from the old relationship with new ones, even if it is only to ‘fill a gap’ until you find a new direction. If you used to go for walks together, keep doing it while listening to a podcast or speaking to someone on the phone. If you used to have date nights, do similar activities by yourself, with others, live or virtually. If you worked on projects together, come up with new professional goals for yourself that you can pursue. The other important part of this it to also connect with yourself. Take yourself out for coffee and do things with your inner self that make you happy. Take delight in the kind people that cross your paths each day, whether that be a hello from someone in your street, the care of a health professional or light conversation with the check-out chick.

Movement is key to mental wellbeing and a great way to counteract a change in affection if your relationship was the romantic type. Some days a gentle walk will be enough, but other days you may benefit from high intensity cardio to get the feel-good hormones pumping. Exercise will increase your positivity and self-reliance, regardless of whether you were in the mood to do it in the first place. Sensations of anxiety may be experienced if you are still required to interact with the person, therefore also consider what self-care and sensory needs you can alleviate. Sunshine, fresh air, hot showers, a walk on the beat or rugging up in something cosy are all methods of calming and grounding yourself.

Lastly, you are strong and you will get through this, no matter how sour the detox juice tastes and how much you crave a chocolate delight. You will learn from this and it will form an important part of your life journey. Similarly, regardless of whether you have supportive people by your side or not, you are not alone. Jesus 100% understands the phases of idolisation, depreciation and discarding more than anyone….and even more than you! His experiences were such to the extreme that he nailed himself to the cross to end the lifetime effects of it, for all humanity. Your long-term happiness, has already been paid for and your new, liberated lifestyle free from the distasteful toxins, is awaiting you.

Remember,

“We have been set free because of what Christ has done. Through his blood our sins have been forgiven. We have been set free because God’s grace is so rich.” Ephesians 1:7

and…

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

May your future self-thank you for the healthy relationship diet choices you begin making for yourself today!

Letting Go

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In my dreams, my husband loved me. He looked at me with desire, he wanted to know what I thought. He cared about me.

Then I would wake up, and know it wasn’t real. My heart would sink into the loneliness of my bed as he left in stony silence for work, or was already gone. No morning hug, no kiss goodbye, the most a grunt, a hassled sigh.

“I’m not happy.” he said, “I’m angry and I don’t know why.”

“Will you go with me somewhere to find out? To try?”

“No.” His face darkened like a storm was brewing. “I am who I am.”

Unkind words came, making me smaller, sneering and patronising until I stopped fighting back, and tried to creep inside of myself for safety. I watched helplessly as the chasm widened. The floorboards rattled with his stomping steps and his fist smashed through a wall near my head in frustration. I saw my things swept from one side of a room to the other. I felt his grip on my arm, squeezing so hard to convey his anger. I had to laugh and pretend it was so ridiculously absurd it was funny when friends noted the bruises that looked like finger prints.

I felt his rage. His rage at life. His rage at me. And his anger that no one worked as hard as he did, or could measure up to his capacity. I bore his disgust that I couldn’t come close.

He would not touch me, he would not look at me, he refused to love me, to punish me for his own dissatisfaction at his situation.

I felt so lonely, so incredibly alone and lost. I longed to connect, to smile and laugh together like we once had, but it was all gone, and my attempts to bring it back were met with “not now, I’m too busy… Do you have any idea how hard I’m working!”

I did know. He made sure I did as I hovered around his temper, trying to show him love and light. But he pushed me away, again and again…yelling, snapping, snarling…and I retreated further into myself and felt he must be right. I must be incompetent and unable to hold my own in the world, or survive on my own.

I felt tiny and sluggish, like I didn’t belong. I felt unseen and unheard and humiliated. I felt like his shadow, slinking around his ego, or his puppet, with him yanking the strings. I felt like his servant, fussing around his needs, and tip-toeing around his temper. But no matter what demands I met, no matter how hard I tried, it was never enough to reach inside his heart and soften the dissatisfaction and wildness of his tortured soul.

Then one day it happened. With the blackest eyes and booze in his veins, he spat at me with venom, “We have nothing in common!”

My heart kicked from my chest; it slithered away into a dark murky corner of the room, whimpering quietly while the rest of my body stood frozen in shock, staring at a man I barely recognised. A man so brimming with unhappiness and anger he looked empty and haunted. Tears ran down my face and he stared back impassively, wanting me to hurt, wanting me to be as miserable as he was. Why should I enjoy life if he has chained himself to work and commitments and responsibilities? Why should I ever be allowed to rest or smile, or create…or just be?

My heart wouldn’t come back, it cowered in the corner and refused to come…broken and bleeding and wounded beyond repair.

So I called for my courage. It came slowly, pressing quietly against me side as I packed my things with shaking hands and an aching hollow agony in my chest that threatened to overwhelm me. My legs gave way, I couldn’t breathe. A panic attack, they call it. How would I survive? Where would I go? What would I do…it was all so huge and scary and empty and grey and bleak. It was all too hard…but staying was harder. Staying was lonelier. Staying was emptier.

I told him I loved him, and would come the minute he wanted to seek happiness with me, to find a way to soothe his soul and hunt down his demons. I told him I’d do anything, if he’d just try to save us.

“I am who I am.” His eyes no longer met mine, “and I’ll never change.”

I did not leave my husband because it was easier. I fought every way I knew how. With words of love, and hours of prayer, messages, old pictures to remind him of who we were before the anger seeped in and destroyed us.

But I knew. After so many years, I knew. You cannot force change on a person who doesn’t want to change. Love slides off, it doesn’t seep in, against a heart of stone.

I went to the corner of the room and collected what was left of my deflated heart, stuffing it back inside me, even though I thought it was damaged forever, and would never beat the same again.

I left with fear at my back, and despair settling over me like a heavy cloak. There was no joy left inside me, no stability, no assurances in life that anything would ever be okay again.

But there was one tiny emotion left that enabled me to force one foot after the other.

It was hope.

The only thing could get me out of my bed day after day and keep me going. Hope that one day I would feel strong. One day, I would feel like me again, and be happy with that. One day I would feel worthy of love again. One day I wouldn’t be broken anymore. That I could put myself back together, and be stronger for it.

One day is hope. And one day I will find my way again, whole and hopeful and knowing who I am in this world.

I am not worthless. I am courageous. I did not give up, I fought to the end.

I am not done. I am only beginning.

Boo to the Bubble

Photo by Lucas Insight

Some bubbles are good bubbles. Like hubba bubba and the types in spas and champagne.

But some bubbles are really, really bad. Like these covid response Australian ‘border bubbles’.

I don’t like these. At all.

I understand the importance…and to be honest it’s reassuring to know my interstate family and friends are safe. But I’m one of those on the outside, wanting to pop them.

The moment border restrictions became a ‘thing’ (I seriously never knew they even served a purpose other than to take my fruit in the Riverland), and then an even more serious ‘thing’ when Victoria went to Stage 4, I cried.

I was triggered and I felt trapped.

It reminded me that I had once been told it was my duty as a wife to leave my home state when I didn’t want to. It reminded me that the move had not been easy. That my marriage was not ideal and I had been isolated from my support people. It reminded me that my sacrifice had not paid off and my family situation had not gone to plan. That I was still outside the border bubble, even though if I’d had the chance, I’d be safely encapsulated inside.

Since leaving my home state, travelling the country roads or taking off into the skies on weekends or school holidays has been my way of finding the rainbow lining.

When I left my home state, my marriage was tough and it deteriorated further after the move. Dreaming of the next getaway to see family or friends, would help me hold on, in the knowledge that I would soon have care and love. I could get help with the children. I could get things done for me. I could be around people that knew me well and could see the situation for what it was without me uttering a word. Travelling interstate kept my head above the murky water.

Another reason getting away was imperative to surviving this difficult season was because there were never any dramas when we were around others, particularly friends. There could be a surface level facade of love, public displays of affection which were otherwise very rare, all the while creating some happy memories with the children. These would later wreak havoc on my perspective of the toxic dynamics that usually occurred, however for this time, they could temporarily be put aside. Holidays with others meant guaranteed safe family interactions.

Following the disintegration of my marriage, travel continued to be an important aspect of my healing. I could hold together my single-woman powers, as long as I knew when I could drop the superhero act and get care from friends and family once every so often. More importantly I could also control my movements with new agency. I could choose where to go and when! I could hit the country roads packed up with kids, luggage and the dog and relish in the achievement of getting this to work from the finances to the planned activities, to the accommodation. I could create authentic, happy family memories. I could be proud of the adventures me and the kids got up to and laugh at the things that didn’t go to plan. Road trips as a divorced, single mother, gave me the temporary illusion of freedom from my circumstances.

I also developed an appetite for flights and weekends away on my own, when I didn’t have my kids and the loneliness hit badly. I relied heavily on this to not feel the sting of being a part-time mother of my children. During these times I morphed into a lady of leisure…with her coat, leather boots, scarf, and cute cabin luggage. I became comfortable at hanging out alone in airport lounges, drinking lattes and reading a book. I would take off for a weekend or week, indulge myself in fun things, then come home to single parent life, content and refreshed. Loneliness crisis suitably averted…for the time being.

Travel has also been a suitable mode of escapism. Marriage break ups are hot gossip especially, and unfortunately, in Christian communities. Divorcee’s are often subject to assumption and judgement, which regrettably often displays a lack of understanding of complex relationship dynamics and the effort that may have gone into overcoming them. Then there are also the accompanying court orders, co-parenting dramas and social intricacies of managing post-divorce acquaintances who may have their proverbial feet soaking in two foot spas. Getting away from the local community, to a place where I could just be me, not the ‘divorcee’, ‘single mother’ or alleged ‘bitter one’ or ‘unforgiving ex’, was a true blessing.

A common trait of post-traumatic stress is the need to have a lifestyle that kind of floats around, like bubbles in a gentle breeze. Those who have been victim to abuse, often have a hard time maintaining deep connections to people and situations. Travel is the perfect antidote for this. They also find incredible hope and confidence in the ability to make their own choices and to have control over what they do, when it has not been an option in the past. Travel can be a healthy way to manage trauma.

So for people like me, for whom travel has been a method of dealing with what life has squirted at me, travel has been a life-saver. The closing of state borders is an unnerving experience. It has forced me to learn a new way to manage the trauma triggers related to my past, by instead finding solace at home and within myself.

I will continue to work at this but I will breathe a huge sigh of relief once the bubbles are burst for good!

Please share a comment if you have experienced any of these feelings in relation to border restrictions.