Keep going

Thought of the day!

keep going

The only thing standing between you and success is you. Failure is only where we choose to stop, if we keep going, even slowly, we will meet our goals. Don’t let your preconceived notions of what “should” be stop you from what can be. All any success takes is time and not giving up.

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Women have to either get married, or learn something

I started to ramble about this over on facebook, but as I went on I realized it was more of a blog post than a facebook ramble. I’ve been enjoying the articles on Elephant Journal quite a bit. This morning I read Learning from Good, Bad & Ugly Relationships by Andrea Charpentier. I identify quite a lot with most of what she says. I think and blog so much about relationships, it’s fun to find similar perspectives. Carrie Bradshaw (yes, she’s a fictional character, I know) said: “People say ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ These people are usually women. And these women are usually sorting through a break-up. It seems that men can get out of a relationship without even a ‘Goodbye,’ But, apparently, women have to either get married or learn something.”

I think that learning something from each “failed” relationship is not just a woman thing, it’s a human thing. It’s important because from each relationship we can learn something about ourselves: what we want out of life, or more importantly what we DON’T want from/in a relationship; where the boundaries are and where they need to be, for those are often very different; etc. It’s also important because no one wants to waste time. If we can come out of a relationship having learned something, we can reassure ourselves that it was time well-spent. In the aftermath of a romantic implosion, simple need-meeting like companionship, sex, or even just something to do with our time don’t feel meaningful enough to justify the pain. Heartbreak seems less devastating if we can tell ourselves that we’ve learned something that will keep us safer the next time we open up. Because the vast majority of us will want to open up to a romantic partner again, no matter how long it takes for us to heal and build up the courage again.

I think it’s ultimately an exercise in control. If we figure out exactly what we missed about the relationship that did not last – red flags, trust issues, attraction to those that need “fixing”, or any number of things that in hindsight show us that the relationship was doomed from the start, then we can make sure that we don’t overlook those things in the future. At the very least, it can make us feel that we will not make those same mistakes again. I have spent countless hours analyzing my last two relationships, trying to figure out what motivated me to get into two long distance relationships after I said I would never do long distance again. Pondering why on earth I decided to date an active alcoholic and realizing that I actually find it easier to open up to people I know it cannot last with because it’s not scary when I know the ending. Learning about how when we do not let go of people and the past we will seek out closure even against our own best interest – because the last two relationships were for me really to prove to myself that neither of my two great loves from the past were who I was “supposed to be with.” I call it “wish-fulfillment,” a phrase I picked up from one of my therapists over the years. Getting exactly what I always thought I wanted, even when it was more about my feelings and wants and needs than it was about the person, allowed me to in a very limited way live in the fantasy that had always accompanied “the one that got away.” As it turns out, and it should be of no surprise to anyone, fantasy and reality are polar opposites.

I like to think that what I’m left with, at this juncture, is the very first emotional clean slate I have ever had. There is no one from my past that I think was “the one” because I no longer believe in the concept of soulmates as lifetime lovers, but believe they are meant to teach us the things we need to know. I don’t have a nagging suspicion that maybe I should be with either one of them. Both unfinished relationships were allowed to run their course, and because of that I believe that for the first time in my life I am able to give myself 100% to another person, physically, emotionally, spiritually, not a single bit of my heart is residing anyplace except inside of me. It’s a ridiculously frightening feeling, to no longer have that “out”, to no longer be able to say “well it didn’t work with this person because really I’m supposed to be with F.” I just hope that I’ve also learned what I need to know to make a smarter decision about whom I choose to open up to in the future, because I’m afraid there’s still a part of me that wants to follow my feelings and ignore my mind – which has never turned out well for me before.

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How to Get Flat Abs, Have Amazing Sex and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps | Kate Bartolotta

This is an amazing, yet simple piece about changing your life by changing your thinking.

I have been debating on whether or not to share things besides my daily post-its here, but posting only once a day and only original content is sort of not the point of tumblr. So I am going to post other things here and there that I feel are relevant. I’m never going to be able to post 100 times a day because I’m really ridiculously busy. Some days I feel like I’m taking valuable time away from homework when I study 😛

But I digress. Here is a great article I highly recommend!

How to Get Flat Abs, Have Amazing Sex and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps | Kate Bartolotta

Graduate school!

I’m excited and stressed and enthusiastic about beginning a graduate program this fall! Unfortunately what this means is that I probably will not be able to blog as much. I hope to keep up with it, as I am sure that the things I am studying will inspire posts. I will be a full time student, and while it is not “recommended” that full time students work, I will still be working part-time at my current job. This is going to make for a very full schedule! I have always worked while going to school, except for the last year of my undergraduate degree, but I certainly don’t have the energy at 32 that I had at 26.

My goal over the last month has been to implement a better, more consistent exercise routine into my day before I start school. That way it will be closer to being a habit and hopefully will not fall by the wayside. I have definitely seen that an advanced degree is the best way to find a full time job with benefits while remaining in the mental health field, which is what I want, so overall I am really optimistic. Even though I have only been out of school for two years, the thought of re-entering is a bit daunting though. Wish me luck! I begin August 26th.

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The most expensive “free” book I’ve ever bought

I think Jillian Michaels is hot. I don’t watch “The Biggest Loser” because I have problems with a lot of the things they do. You don’t have to be an expert to understand that it’s dangerous for someone who is completely sedentary and 400+ pounds to start running on a treadmill for an hour. There’s a reason “Couch to 5K” programs have you work your way up to things. It’s common knowledge that the trainers on the show tell the contestants to do things that the doctors say are dangerous. I had the opportunity to hear Patrick House, the winner of season 10, speak and he mentioned things like “standing up from the table and passing out.” That might get you thin, but it sure as hell ain’t healthy. I watched a couple episodes of TBL but I stopped after one of the “cupcake challenges.”

That being said, I’ve always liked Jillian Michaels. I watched her short-lived show “Losing it with Jillian Michaels” where she helped families lose weight, usually one person had already lost weight and had hit a plateau and wanted to lose those “last 10 pounds.” I liked she seemed tough but gentle, and how she really seemed to care about the families. That show aired in 2010 and that was about the time I signed up for her free newsletter. For 3 years I have gotten emails that I sometimes read and sometimes delete, until about two weeks ago when I received this one:

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I love books, and I’ve been just getting into working out again so I thought “Hey, for $5 that’s a pretty good deal.” Nowhere in the email does it say anything about signing up for a “free trial” of JillianMichaels.com! I followed the link and I saw that in addition to the $5 book, I had to sign up for a “free trial” of JilliamMichaels.com I wasn’t really interested in that, I’ve been using SparkPeople.com on and off for years and I like it. I have the app on my phone, when I’m doing what I should I use it to log my food, and it’s linked to my FitBit account so all and all I’m really happy with SparkPeople. I put a reminder in my phone’s calendar to cancel prior to the “free trial” ending, and went to take the first little quiz on the JillianMichaels site. It said I have a pretty normal metabolism and I should eat 30/40/30 carb/fat/protein. I wasn’t impressed. I breezed through the rest of the site, saw that the meal plans didn’t offer a 100% vegetarian plan (for some reason none of these places ever do) and promptly left the site and didn’t go back. Until the day before my “free trial” was supposed to end. My phone’s calendar popped up and reminded me to cancel. I also had a free trial of Hulu Plus that I needed to cancel, so I went to their website, clicked on “My Account” and then where it said “Cancel my Hulu Plus account.” I was never charged.

When I went back to JillianMichaels.com I did the same thing, but oddly – there was no place on the website to cancel the account! I looked throughout the whole “My Account” section and while there was a place to update a credit card there was nothing about canceling. Annoyed, I clicked on “Contact Us” and was redirected to a 404 error page asking me what I was looking for. Now, I was even more annoyed. I found an email address and sent them an email stating that my free trial was about to end and that I wanted to cancel and could not find a place to do it on their website. I almost immediately received an email saying they’d get back to me within 24 hours.

The next day, my paypal account was charged for $52 and then I received an email saying they had “canceled my reoccurring billing as requested” and I would have access to the website until October. Now I was angry.
I emailed them again and said that I wanted my $52 refunded because I did not subscribe, I signed up for a free trial because it was required if I wanted the book and I had attempted to cancel before the free trial was over but they made that impossible.
I was really starting to feel like this was a big scam. I gave my paypal account to pay for shipping on a book. I attempted to cancel during a supposedly free trial, but obviously you can’t cancel on the website because they want to make it difficult for you. Hulu Plus let me click a button. Apparently JillianMichaels.com excepted me to call them. I don’t feel like I should have to take my time to pick up the phone and call a place when I responded to an email and it’s an online subscription to a website; everything about it was web-based except canceling.

After I received the identical email in response to my asking for a refund. “As you requested, I have turned off the automatic renewal for your Jillian Michaels Online account. You will have access to the website until 10/31/2013, but you will not be billed to continue. As explained in the terms of service, when you cancel, billing stops and no new charges will be billed to you. This plan is non-refundable. (If you have been receiving daily emails from us, emails will continue free of charge.)” I picked up the phone and called them this morning. I was not happy, but given that I worked in customer service for almost a decade, I tried very hard not to be rude to the woman on the other end of the phone who was just doing her job. Obviously, this is all set up to make it as difficult as possible to cancel because they want to keep taking your money.

In the end, I am getting a $48 refund. I figure that’s a success. This whole thing has left me pretty disgruntled with “Everyday Health” the service that runs JillianMichaels.com. It has also really affected my opinion of Jillian Michaels. Even though she pays this company to run her website, her name and photo is all over it. When I called the 800#, a recording of her plays; this is her brand and it reflects really poorly on her. This isn’t an isolated incident, sadly. When I first complained on facebook, a friend posted a link to a MyFitnessPal message board where someone had a similar experience a year ago. The main difference is, the people complaining there didn’t do a free trial, they expected to pay something and then cancel if they didn’t like it. I never even wanted the damn website, I just wanted to book!

I guess the silver lining is that I really like the book. I’ve never read a Jillian Michaels book before, although I do have one of her DVDs that I bought in January and haven’t opened yet. If I had known what an ordeal this would be, I would’ve just bought the book on amazon. It ended up costing me $9 and I could’ve bought it new from an amazon seller for $5 + shipping so it would’ve been just about the same price. I don’t know that I will buy another Jillian Michaels product after this. I know she’s not directly involved in things like how you cancel your subscription, but it’s her name, her photo and her brand, and frankly her responsibility who she chooses to run such a huge portion of her brand. I will keep on using SparkPeople, like I have for years. I like that it’s free, although I would pay for it. I like that it’s linked to my fitbit account, and it’s silly but I like that it’s brighter colors and prettier/perkier than the grays and blacks of the Jillian Michaels site. I don’t use SparkPeople’s meal plans, for the same reason I wasn’t interested in Jillian Michaels – I’m a pescatarian, I only eat fish and seafood, no chicken or pork or beef. I know what I need to do anyway. Logging calories helps me stay on track, but I can keep myself in my calorie range without using meal plans. My problem has always been motivation, not that I don’t know what to do. I already eat clean, I know what I need to do.

In case you’re interested, here’s the disclaimer I accepted when purchasing the book:
*Jillian’s book, Master Your Metabolism, is yours FREE! All you pay is $4.95 shipping and handling. You will also gain free access to Jillian Michaels’ customized Web site and online advice for 14 days. Your online access will continue uninterrupted, and you will be enrolled under our standard membership agreement. Online membership is just $4 a week, billed quarterly (every 13 weeks). The charge will be applied to the same account you provide at sign-up. You may cancel before your free trial ends at no charge. If you choose to continue, your quarterly membership will be automatically renewed after each term. You may cancel your membership at any time. When you cancel, billing stops immediately and no new charges will be billed to you. You will continue to have access to your account for the remainder of your term.

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If you don’t love me, I’ll kill myself

The title of this post is a music reference, for those of you who for whatever reason don’t remember the 90s or aren’t into obscure tunes; it sounded so much more interesting than my working title “Emotional Blackmail.”

The first time I heard the term “emotional blackmail” I was a child. My mother told me she would not allow herself to be “emotionally blackmailed” by me. I can’t remember what I said or did that prompted it, nor do I know where she heard the term, probably from a book about parenting a difficult child. Out of the Fog, a website for people who have a loved one with a personality disorder, describes emotional blackmail as: “A system of threats and punishments used in an attempt to control someone’s behaviors.” As I’m sure you can imagine, growing up with an undiagnosed emotional sensitivity disorder (or personality disorder if you prefer, I find the clinical term too stigmatizing and prefer to use the phrase that Dr. Linehan mentioned when I saw her speak at the 2012 NAMI National Convention) was difficult both for me as well as my family members.*

I know I said and did many things that were manipulative as a teenager, I think that’s pretty common. Some teens are difficult and it’s hard to know where the line is between “teenager” and “has a diagnosable disorder”, it can be very blurry. What happens though when manipulative maladaptive behaviors aren’t something we grow out of? Some people – perhaps many people – grow into dysfunctional adults who use techniques like emotional blackmail and gaslighting to get their way, people who have no diagnosable disorder at all. It can be hard to know what to take seriously and what to dismiss, and it can be even more difficult to know exactly where the boundaries should be with someone who engages in these types of behaviors whether they are a friend, family member, partner, ex-partner, boss, etc.

One of the most extreme forms of emotional blackmail I have ever encountered is what I call “If you don’t love me, I’ll kill myself.” It happened after the alcoholic and I had broken up. As can happen with relationships, especially dysfunctional ones, a break-up had not stopped us from fighting with one another. I was trying to set and maintain clear boundaries, but that can be difficult for me as I did not grow up with boundaries and didn’t realize I even needed them until I was in my 20s. This particular day I was traveling for work (my job covers the whole state) and I happened to be driving back from the Gulf coast. My ex called me and we started to fight about one thing or another, I don’t even remember what at this point. She was baiting me with some secret mean thing that she had started to tell me but then said “no never mind” knowing it would drive me crazy. During the call, the man that I was working with to secure a mortgage called on the other line. I told her that I had to take the call, my mortgage broker was calling and it must be important. I switched over without giving her time to protest. During the twenty or so minute call with the mortgage broker, the alcoholic called me four times in quick succession. I did not answer, because it made no sense to. I had told her the call was important, in fact this was the middle of my workday and I was traveling for work!

When the call with the mortgage broker was concluded, I picked up the 5th call. I told her that it was inappropriate to call me multiple times like that, especially when she knew I was on an important call. I told her that there was really no point in us continuing to fight, because we had broken up, and then I terminated the call. Not the most mature thing to do but under the circumstances it seemed like the best way to not have to spend another half hour fighting with her on the phone. At some point in the hour and a half between that call and my arrival back home, she sent me a text message saying it didn’t matter anyway. She had taken a “bunch of pills” and was feeling “sleepy” now. Threats of suicide, whether the person is serious about attempting or not, can be a form of emotional blackmail. However, as a mental health professional who is trained in applied suicide intervention (ASIST) and mental health first aid I knew that one thing you should never do is not take someone seriously when they talk about suicide. There is no “boy who cried wolf” when it comes to suicide threats, because the 9th time may be the time they succeed or decide to actually go through with it. Whatever the reason someone decides to either threaten or attempt suicide, action has to be taken. It is possible however, to help the person while maintaining your boundaries.

In this case, I did try to call her, which I am sure was the intended response. I had refused to talk to her before, and now she had manipulated me into calling her. She did not pick up, and I realized that I had a choice. I could frantically continue calling her, violating my previous statement that I did not want to continue talking to her on the phone and validating the power that her threat had over me, or I could take action to make sure that help was given to her whether or not she needed or wanted it. In case you’re not familiar with my story, this ex lived over 1,000 miles away from me in New Mexico. As it happened, I had her mother’s (whom she was mostly estranged from) phone number in my cell phone. I texted her mother and told her that her daughter had told me that she had taken pills in order to kill herself, that I did not know whether or not it was true but that someone needed to get her help. Thankfully, her mother intervened, going to her house with one of her friends and knocking on the door. Apparently she did not answer at first but eventually they did get into contact with her. Her mother texted me to let me know that she was ok.

I do not know whether or not she did what she said she did, and really it doesn’t matter. Every life is important, every person deserves to live. Later, the alcoholic did accuse me of “bothering” her by sending her mother to her home, and claimed that she had been in serious condition, implying she would have died if intervention had not happened. I also do not know whether that is true or an exaggeration/outright lie (she was prone to lying.) I simply told her that because of my licensure with the state, I am a mandated reporter of suicidal or homicidal intentions expressed to me. Had I not been able to get in touch with her mother, I would’ve tried a friend and finally the local police. Truthfully, she has been slowly killing herself with her drug and alcohol abuse all these years, but that isn’t my responsibility. By telling me that she was in the process of attempting suicide, she made her possible impending death my responsibility.

Obviously her intention was not to be bothered by her mother. Whether or not she intended to die that day, the response she wanted from me was attention, perhaps guilt, quite possibly the guilt of feeling like she had ended her life because of me. Often emotional blackmail suicide threats have an attitude of “I’ll show them. They’ll be sorry when I’m gone.” The entire process was very emotionally draining for me, and in a lot of ways she did get what she wanted by upsetting me, forcing me to deal with her, and then acting as though I had somehow wronged her by asking her mother to intervene. Emotional abuse takes a toll on us whether we set boundaries with the person or not. In the end, I had to finally tell her that she had no place in my life. I did not want to be her friend because we were never friends in the first place. Anyone in the throes of addiction is much too self involved to be a friend to anyone else anyway. I wrote this post partially because I find blogging about these things to be freeing, the ability to let out what I am holding inside. This was one of the most extreme situations I’ve ever been in, and it was incredibly difficult to experience.

My final thought is this – don’t give in to emotional blackmail, it does no one any good. Think outside the box if someone’s life is at stake, but you don’t have to allow them to get whatever they are seeking from you. Also, take all suicide threats seriously. You can take measures to save someone’s life even if they don’t want it, and you can do it in a way that doesn’t compromise your boundaries. Read through the different types of emotional abuse on Out of the Fog too. Just because someone has a mental illness, a disorder, an addiction, etc it does not give them the right to treat you in a way that is abusive.

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* If you want to know more about BPD and my experience having an emotional sensitivity disorder, visit my “What is BPD?” post.

More on red flags

Yesterday, I blogged about red flags and why we ignore them. I had seen an article over on the Huffington Post that I wanted to read and perhaps link to if it was relevant. As often happens, I lost track of it, so I searched on their website to try to find it. 207,000 hits on HuffPo searching “red flags divorce”. Wow! A lot has been written on red flags, apparently. I guess ignoring them or not seeing them is truly universal behavior.

Although it was not the article I had been searching for, I read Susie & Otto Colllins’ “Red Flags In A Relationship: 10 Behaviors To Watch Out For” which touches on some much more dangerous red flags than the ones I mentioned in my post. “Calling you fat”, “yelling when drunk”, and “putting you down.” These are obviously red flags that you are in a relationship that is potentially emotionally abusive and could become physically abusive as well.

There’s also a user-submitted comment slideshow of “red flags I should not have ignored” that vary quite a bit, everything from “He told me to STFU and get out of a cab in NYC, he didn’t follow me, we were tourists.” to “when I felt lonely when I was with him.” But here’s an interesting one in that slideshow, “her taking too long to do her makeup.” It doesn’t clarify if that was a red flag that she was having an affair, but let’s assume that she’s not having an affair – would that be a red flag to you? Would perhaps a disregard to your time and need for punctuality be a problem? It’s funny how some of these things can be really personal but red flags nonetheless.

Sandy Weiner’s article “Dating After Divorce? How to Spot Red Flags points to some less obvious but still problematic thoughts and behaviors that can be big red flags. (This article is applicable for anyone, not just those who have been through a divorce.) Here’s a great one that you might not pick up on in the moment: “He says too much too soon. Dave’s first personal email to me was over 2,000 words long (yes, I checked). He shared his life story… from birth. I’m not kidding. TMI… he argued that it was important for me to know his history in order to “get” him. I disagree — telling too much too soon is a great way to freak someone out. It usually signals insecurity. Less is more. Healthy relationships build slowly and steadily.” What do you think? I’m torn on this one, obviously with the other things she mentions about Dave there was a problem there, but what if this stood alone without the other red flags?

It’s interesting how what anyone could see as a problem, such as abandoning someone in a strange city alone at night could be a deal breaker or a big red flag but what if things just aren’t right? Different senses of humor for example, is that a red flag that could indicate a compatibility problem? What about people with fear of commitment, could they see things as red flags as an excuse to abandon a relationship becoming more serious? Absolutely. The question really is, how do we know in the moment what is a red flag? Can we know for certain without waiting for the clarity of hindsight?

In my opinion, it is knowing not only the universal red flags, and as I stated in my previous post having the strength to walk away when the big red flags start waving, but also knowing what is a deal breaker for you personally. Think about it if you haven’t. Write it down if that helps. Start with things that your ex did that made you upset/angry/annoyed/hurt you, along with the red flags you identified after the relationship’s demise. Get to know what you’re willing to compromise on and what you can’t. Let me be clear here, I am not saying learn how to tolerate intolerable behavior such as the cab incident – if someone is emotionally or psychologically abusive that should be a big sign for “run away fast and now” not a simple red flag. I’m talking about the things that are your personal pet peeves or issues. For example, a red flag for me is a political incompatibility. I am a flaming liberal loud-mouth and notoriously so. My ex-husband and I got into heated arguments over abortion that I took personally. I absolutely cannot date someone who is not pro-choice; I’m simply not capable of getting over that particular incompatibility. For others, political views mean very little and they have zero problem being in a serious relationship with someone whose views are radically different.

There’s also a respect component to red flags. A lot of my exes have been “neat freaks”, to an extreme degree. One ex wouldn’t let me vacuum the carpet because I did not perfectly match up the lines that were made in the carpet the way she did (they had to be parallel, you see.) That was a red flag, because I do like things clean and orderly but I’m not a “neat freak” – I can kick off my shoes in the middle of the floor and leave them there for two days and be fine with it. By not allowing me to clean because I didn’t do it “right” it was setting a tone for the rest of our relationship. I respected her enough to attempt to keep our home in the manner in which she needed but she was not able to appreciate that effort unless it was done perfectly to her very specific guidelines. The adverse is also true, had I been unwilling to be more neat and orderly than my norm, simply because chaos made her uncomfortable, that would have/should have been a red flag to her. A normal amount of change and compromise is natural in a relationship. Someone who is unwilling to make a simple change or is inflexible is someone that it is going to be difficult to have a relationship with.

I didn’t expect to give red flags so much thought when I first blogged about them! Obviously there’s a lot more to them than it seems on the surface. Red flags and how we deal with them may very well be the first sign that we are in the wrong (or right!) relationship.

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