Author Topic: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD  (Read 16894 times)

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Offline MadelineB

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MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« on: September 08, 2012, 07:30:25 pm »
Hi everybody,
I have a confession to make.
I am just about the worst housekeeper in the world.

It is obvious that the problem is mine, because my wife is fully disabled, so all of the cleaning, organizing, and housework in our small two bedroom duplex is done by me or not done at all.
Emphasis on not done at all.
I wasn't always a terrible housekeeper.
Growing up, I kept an entire household together, while raising my two younger sisters, and helping my single mom mother get her mind and her life back together.
I worked in janitorial services from age 13, and have cleaned banks, chocolate factories, libraries, schools, cafeterias, a beer distributor, a spectacles factory, and a trailer filled with pesticides and rotting meats. I can handle this.
Except for the feelings.
My ability to organize and clean my own home has deteriorated in starts and fits over a 25 year period, coinciding with worsening symptoms and flareups in my PTSD.
I still have the ability to clean and organize other people's houses and places of business, just not my own. I shut down, panic, tremble, palpitate, freeze, flee, dissemble, distract, and numb when dealing with my own. It has gotten bad enough that just the start of those feelings coming on can bring on panic and a full shut-down protocol. Whoop Whoop Whoop. I would do anything to avoid feeling that way, I guess. Including letting my house descend into pandemonium.

This thread is the journal of my struggles to overcome the anti-cleaning demons in my own body and head.
That's why I refer to MENTAL housekeeping.

Willpower, tough love, self-deprivation, and other negative feedback techniques have all been tried for years and discarded as they only make things worse.
I know every organizational and cleaning tip ever invented by womankind. This isn't a lack of knowledge or of skills.

I have made tremendous progress with my therapist in the last six months because every time I try to deal with this problem, I end up facing and healing some other intractable problem instead. So my life is running out of intractable problems except this one.

I have been healing EVERYTHING in my life BUT THE KITCHEN SINK.

Damn you sink, I am coming for you. If my heart was scouring powder, I would shake it at you!
This is how my story begins...
Pray for me now, oh ye believers....
doubt for me now, oh ye skeptics...
I'm going in.


-Madeline
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
~Maya Angelou

Personal Blog: Madeline's B-Hive

Offline MadelineB

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2012, 01:48:23 pm »
DAY ONE. MISSION BRIEFING.

Today I will use the tools I have on hand, to overcome my panic disorder/PTSD/whatever you wanna call it, long enough to make a dent.

Tools I know I have that I know I can use:
1. Music. Played in the background, music puts me in a different place and time where the horrible stuff isn't so present and so horrible. I will play it as needed.
2. TAT. Any technique would work (square breathing, mindful meditation, titrated alcohol intoxication - ok maybe not that one). I'm picking Tapas Accupuncture Technique today because I can do it instantaneously, without being in the right frame of mind.
3. Measurement (and timing as a focus). I will display a clock or timer at all times that I am cleaning or organizing, and measure the time I spend in actual cleaning, and write it down. I am consciously aiming for quantity, not quality. Minutes spent not shut down, not dithering, not in a panic, not in distraction, but working on the tasks at hand. I will add these minutes up honestly at the end of the day and count them for the days measure of progress.
4. Commitment. I always do better in facing my fears when I have to do in order to keep a promise. Today I committed to a friend to have my place acceptable to host guests in 14 days time.

Not going to use today: lists of things to get done; situation report; anything that smacks of smacking myself.
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
~Maya Angelou

Personal Blog: Madeline's B-Hive

Offline MadelineB

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2012, 04:46:49 pm »
DAY ONE - SUCCESS REPORT
Life has its interruptions, including caring for my wife and diverting myself on the Forums. And yet, I've made a good start.

Sustained effort periods so far today (as of 2 pm

1) 4 minutes
2) 22 minutes
3) 38 minutes
Beginning to see a pattern!

Things I said to myself during TAT to get unstuck and start each of the first three efforts:

1) I can begin. The end will take care of itself.

2) My thoughts do not rule me. I rule my thoughts.

3) The energy that wants to shut me down is my energy, it comes from me. I chose to own that energy and divert it in a new way.

Rest of today sustained effort:

4) 255 minutes (3:20 pm - 7:35 pm)

TOTAL: 318 minutes (5 hours 18 minutes)

Great day.

I posted two funny anecdotes from today's struggles:
https://www.susans.org/forums/index.php/topic,126316.msg995234.html#msg995234
and in the same thread
https://www.susans.org/forums/index.php/topic,126316.msg995238.html#msg995238

I guess I overcame some fears today.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2012, 12:34:11 am by MadelineB »
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
~Maya Angelou

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Offline MadelineB

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2012, 02:11:12 am »
More progress every day. Been too tired for major cleaning, but keeping up with stuff and not shutting down is a good thing.
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
~Maya Angelou

Personal Blog: Madeline's B-Hive

Offline MadelineB

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2012, 09:52:48 pm »
Had a good, scary cry today and a bit of a breakthrough.

I was keeping it quiet the whole day so that my wife could sleep, and listening for when she would call out.

She held my hand and said, "I just realized one of your problems with cleaning. You are worried about me and don't want to not be able to hear me if I need anything".

"Yes" I said, and cried a bunch. "It would be just my luck to turn up my music, have the vacuum, washer, dryer, dishwasher, etc going, my head in the sink full of dishes, and when I had it all cleaned up, come back to the bedroom and find you with blue lips, dead in a clean house".

I realized I've been afraid for a long time, but didn't want to burden her with my fears.
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
~Maya Angelou

Personal Blog: Madeline's B-Hive

Offline Ms. OBrien CVT

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2012, 10:52:25 pm »
Have you ever thought of an intercom system, or a buzzer of some sort?

   
It does not take courage or bravery to change your gender.  It takes fear of living one more day in the wrong one.~me

Offline MadelineB

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2012, 10:37:55 am »
Last Sunday I cleaned for 3 1/2 hours. Anette hung out on the couch while I worked. The presence of another person helps alot. I'll see if I can do even better today.
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
~Maya Angelou

Personal Blog: Madeline's B-Hive

Offline MadelineB

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2012, 10:40:21 am »
Have you ever thought of an intercom system, or a buzzer of some sort?
Intercom system: Banff and Sonya, the insanidogs.
Buzzer of some sort: Ellen DeGeneris, Cockatiel in Chief.

But you're right, something electronic might be more reliable, as long as it doesn't have batteries that I can fry. Hmmm.
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
~Maya Angelou

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Offline Beth Andrea

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2012, 10:52:02 am »
Had a good, scary cry today and a bit of a breakthrough.

I was keeping it quiet the whole day so that my wife could sleep, and listening for when she would call out.

She held my hand and said, "I just realized one of your problems with cleaning. You are worried about me and don't want to not be able to hear me if I need anything".

"Yes" I said, and cried a bunch. "It would be just my luck to turn up my music, have the vacuum, washer, dryer, dishwasher, etc going, my head in the sink full of dishes, and when I had it all cleaned up, come back to the bedroom and find you with blue lips, dead in a clean house".

I realized I've been afraid for a long time, but didn't want to burden her with my fears.

Congratulations! Insight into one's hidden (unspoken) fears is always a good thing!

*hugs*  :)

Maybe another thing you could do is make a checklist, with tasks divided into, say, 5 or 10 minute intervals. Do one thing to completion, check on the wife/pets/house, do another thing to completion, etc. Longer tasks could be done while she's in the area "supervising."
...I think for most of us it is a futile effort to try and put this genie back in the bottle once she has tasted freedom...

--read in a Tessa James post 1/16/2017

Offline MadelineB

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2012, 11:12:31 am »
Congratulations! Insight into one's hidden (unspoken) fears is always a good thing!

*hugs*  :)

Maybe another thing you could do is make a checklist, with tasks divided into, say, 5 or 10 minute intervals. Do one thing to completion, check on the wife/pets/house, do another thing to completion, etc. Longer tasks could be done while she's in the area "supervising."

Good suggestions.

Thoughts I've had today while working on the house:

Momentum trumps will power any day. If I listen to the message my panic or fear is trying to tell me each time it arises, I can keep going without trying to use (a limited supply of) will power to push through it.

Interruptions are obstacles only if I let them have that power. Otherwise, they are just punctuation in the story I am writing.
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
~Maya Angelou

Personal Blog: Madeline's B-Hive

Offline MadelineB

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2012, 12:52:47 am »
Soldiering on. Breakthrough to report: no breakthrough. But grateful realization: friends/allies mean everything when you are in the trenches. My friend Janet has been helping me immensely; she did most of the work, but just having her here working on the project I had given up because of my panic attacks: priceless.

I don't have to be able to do it all to live a fantastic life. I just have to do what I can do, and have great friends. :)
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
~Maya Angelou

Personal Blog: Madeline's B-Hive

Offline Cindy

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2012, 04:24:38 am »
Hugs Maddie,

I know the feelings. Hugs.

I had some luck, I was given a three hour help for a professional cleaner to come in while my wife was having a really bad episode. I asked them if they could show me how to clean the place professionally. They were great. Of course they work to a schedule and have every short cut to do the job. The obvious to the sublime, very organised in a logical way. They never go back to a task, they finish it then move and and never walk from A to B without accomplished something. And they have to finish on time.

It might be worth while investing in a session. Pay for a pro to come in and show how to do it.

I was amazed. I was told I have a two hour house. What does that mean? I asked. You can clean this place from top to bottom in two hours, by one person. I was told.  She was right she came in three times, each time the place was done top to bottom and she did ironing for the last hour and made lunch for my wife and I. She was 65.

Try it, it may be a good idea.

Cindy



Offline MadelineB

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2012, 08:17:37 am »
Hugs Maddie,

I know the feelings. Hugs.

I had some luck, I was given a three hour help for a professional cleaner to come in while my wife was having a really bad episode. I asked them if they could show me how to clean the place professionally. They were great. Of course they work to a schedule and have every short cut to do the job. The obvious to the sublime, very organised in a logical way. They never go back to a task, they finish it then move and and never walk from A to B without accomplished something. And they have to finish on time.

It might be worth while investing in a session. Pay for a pro to come in and show how to do it.

I was amazed. I was told I have a two hour house. What does that mean? I asked. You can clean this place from top to bottom in two hours, by one person. I was told.  She was right she came in three times, each time the place was done top to bottom and she did ironing for the last hour and made lunch for my wife and I. She was 65.

Try it, it may be a good idea.

Cindy
Sounds marvelous. Biggest accomplishment in the last week was in my head: seeking/accepting help, and allowing someone to see how much I am not in control of my life. So yes, I may finally be in the head space where I can hire a pro like you suggested!
<<note to self: start setting a little $ aside for a lesson from a personal cleaning coach>>
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
~Maya Angelou

Personal Blog: Madeline's B-Hive

Offline Felix

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2012, 06:22:15 am »
Lol. Props Maddie and best of luck plowing through it all.

I don't intend to do any such thing in my own home. I think I can still put it off awhile.
everybody's house is haunted

Offline MadelineB

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2012, 09:00:28 am »
Lol. Props Maddie and best of luck plowing through it all.

I don't intend to do any such thing in my own home. I think I can still put it off awhile.
Thanks Felix.

Saturday 9/29: 43 min
Sunday 9/30: 71 + 35 = 106 min
Coincidentally, the book I am reading is 'To Hell and Back' by L. Saintcrow. Tagline is: 'Only a demon can take down the Devil'. Is also about hellish housecleaning, in a different way.

Just had a wonderful thought -- there will come a time when sustained effective effort will be so unremarkable, that I will have to measure panic-induced interruptions instead. "3 minutes today" that sort of thing. That will be so nice.
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
~Maya Angelou

Personal Blog: Madeline's B-Hive

Offline MadelineB

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #15 on: October 07, 2012, 02:37:00 am »
I walked the dogs tonight. Doesn't sound like an eventful event, I know, but I stopped walking my poor long-suffering pair when the flashbacks got too bad almost a year ago. One step at a time, literally. With leashes. :)
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
~Maya Angelou

Personal Blog: Madeline's B-Hive

Offline Cindy

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #16 on: October 07, 2012, 03:06:40 am »
Good Girl.

That is a positive be very proud.

Oh I have a pile of ironing so what am I doing?

Ignoring it :laugh:

Panic in the morning when I have nothing to wear, funny when I was pretending he would put on a creased shirt, jeans, whatever and just walk out without a shave of sometimes cleaning its teeth. Horrible person.

Now I try to plan ahead of what to wear, make my lunch, put on my make up, do my hair, have breakfast, and I'm still out before the male slob was getting ready from its previous nights drunk.

Life is good.

Offline Amazon D

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #17 on: October 07, 2012, 04:30:42 am »
I remember traveling around the USA in my old RV and meeting people who were total slobs. I would ask them to allow me to clean for them. I would work for 24 hours cleaning top to bottom. I organized every rubber band etc etc .. Then within a day or so they would have it all destroyed again. I moved on.. today i live in a old house built in 1820 and it is rustic and well i chop some wood in the livingroom if you get my drift. Life is simple and the sweepings make a good firestarter :)

hey at least you have a bathroom we use chanber pots to poo and pee in.. which have to be emptied..

I also have no indoor plumbing so i have to haul water to two big tubs to was dishes or wash up me and my 89 yr old mom  ;D
I'm an Amazon womyn + very butch + respecting MWMF since 1999 unless invited. + I AM A HIPPIE


Offline MadelineB

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2012, 10:01:59 pm »
I had a moment or two of insight this week, texting advice to one of my younger transgender sisters. I was explaining how the key to making positive changes in your life is NOT beating yourself up, but approaching your self and your situation with a realistic and loving kindness. She asked if it was ok to punish yourself when you do something wrong, and as I explained why negative reinforcement only hurts in the long run, while patient self kindness will get you where you want to go and be.

It kind of dawned on me, one source of my overwhelmed and panic feelings. In some circumstances (like a messy house, for one) I have been conditioned to expect severe punishment for failure, and I sit here shaking inside like I am about to be hit or worse; and too frightened to proceed. Some of my behaviors seem to be aimed at avoiding that feeling by avoiding exposure to the trigger, and others could be read as self-punishment like an emotional pre-emptive self-beating that takes place inside my head. Parents, this is why physical and mental abuse that are meant to control and condition, end up hurting kids for life-- it gets stuck in their heads long after you and your need to control are gone. I'm sick of it, so I'm going to have to retrain my reactions and expectations, one by one.

I was overwhelmed emotionally today; missing three weeks of shrink visits has been tough. So I went easy on myself and worked on stuff obliquely, by editing writings of mine and posting them to Susan's (the writing forum). I added five poems/writings (36 through 40), including #38, a recollection of the most sacred experience of my life which happened a month ago and 30 years ago (simultaneously). I also added a humorous biblicization of my HRT experiences. Writing helps to clear my head, and cheers me up as well.
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
~Maya Angelou

Personal Blog: Madeline's B-Hive

Offline MadelineB

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Re: MENTAL housekeeping - the diary of a working housewife with PTSD
« Reply #19 on: November 10, 2012, 02:15:49 am »
I was going to post this in "What made my unhappy today 2.0" but this feels more right.

I had am amazing breakthrough this week. I am taking a short break to write this, but then I will get back to cleaning, unless I go to sleep instead.

I expect if I am still residing at this address two nights from now, the whole house will be clean by then. I am itching, twitching to clean. Already cleaned more this week than in the month previous.

I have been having a great and a terrible week simultaneously. Today the most terrible by far, and yet. This is what is and I am what I am and that's ok.

I HATE when my irrational fears prove to be rational fears. When I say, "I will no longer be ruled by my fears, I will do what I know in my heart is right even though I am afraid", too often, the things I feared actually do come about. They just aren't the end of the world.

All I can say is, "I told me so".

This week, in therapy, I finally was able to let go of the full time job of the lifesaving always-on-the-job protector of the weak and vulnerable, 24/7 hyper-vigilant self-sacrificing rescuer and stage manager. I was only a young child when it all began, and it feels so good to put that burden down.

But oh, I put it off for so long because my relationships were built on my staying that way.

When codependency ends, sometimes the relationship does too.

This week I stopped the delicate dance of managing my wife's moods and reactions, of rescuing her from her own destructive tendencies, of thinking and feeling for two. It had to be done. It wasn't my job any more. It never really was. But oh how this hurts.

I won't write out the whole horrific rants. Not when I am hurting like this. I will just summarize:

Wife: I don't have any problem with you having friends, but you can't stay overnight at a friend's house.

Me: I want to see my friends. One of them is kind enough to let me crash on their couch, so my Portland friend and I can spend a whole day there visiting our friends. I intend to go, as we already discussed.

Wife: Well I thought about it. You say you want friends, but you are a lesbian. If you are with a woman and her husband isn't home, you will have sex with her.
Me: I won't. You are the one with the high sex drive, I never had one even when I had high testosterone. You really think chemical castration suddenly makes me unable to keep from jumping in the sack?
Wife: I know you will. You are a lesbian, and I am not. I can have platonic women friends, you cannot. Lesbians can't help themselves. If you spend the night with a woman you will have sex.
Me: Yes I can. Lesbians aren't like that, and I certainly am not. You think I'm going to suddenly start having casual sex for the first time in my life now? Now? Anyways, I'm not a lesbian. I'm pretty sure I'm bi.

Wife: <Explosion> I was understanding when you told me you have to be a woman, even though you are a man and will always be a man. I still loved you and wanted to stay with you. You were the man I loved, and thinking you are a woman doesn't change that. I would have stayed with you, but I'm not a lesbian, so we would never have sex again if you had surgery. But I would have stayed. But this is too much. Bisexuals can't be faithful. They have to go have sex with men and with women. I want you out. You will give me a disease. I know it.

Me: we discussed this many times. I am someone who is attracted to people for the person they are, not for the body parts they have. I am in love with you, not your parts. You know that about me. When you asked me if I would still want you if you had to become a man, remember that I told you I would, but that's just me it doesn't mean you have to be that way. A person who can love someone regardless of their gender or their parts isn't gay OR straight, they are bi. [I didn't go into the pan-, but we've had that discussion before]. I really think I'm bi, not that it matters, since I'm not looking for an intimate relationship with anyone besides you.

Soon to be Ex-Wife: Get out. You are so disgusting you make me sick. It is over. I don't want to even be in the same room the same house with you. I want you out. I could handle the whole transgender thing, and you are so lucky I was willing to stay with you, but I will NOT be with a bisexual. That is disgusting. You are disgusting. I am done.

Me: So someone who lusts after specific body parts is normal, but someone who doesn't is disgusting?

Ex: Yes. You can always twist my words and make me the bad guy, but I'm not going to be taken advantage of. I married you because you were a man. I loved you as a man who is a woman inside, and needs to act like one on the outside. But I cannot love a bisexual. That's disgusting.

And so a marriage ends. I could save it once again, but only at the cost of my sanity, my soul, and my friends. It would be so easy. I know all the right words. I know the soothing dance. I danced it in my years of long waking sleep.

But some costs are too high.
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
~Maya Angelou

Personal Blog: Madeline's B-Hive