Monday, June 23, 2008

Staring Into a Dark Pit

Most of my life I listened to my father complain about the pains in his chest. My father loved attention and I grew up believing that his complaints were to gain attention for himself. In most instances, I would ignore him. Occasionally we would ask if he wanted to go to the hospital or if we should call an ambulance. He would say that he didn’t want to go and I would view this as proof that this was just an attention-getting ploy.

A few years ago, my father died of a heart attack. He was living alone in a mobile home and he did not show up for work one morning. His co-workers were concerned when he did not answer his phone and went to his house. My father was dead on the floor of his living room. The coroner said that it was a quick death from a massive heart attack. After an autopsy, the coroner told us that my father had several heart attacks over the years - some very small ones - but this was definitely not his first.

My father never received medical attention for those other heart attacks and now I have to believe that he was not simply seeking attention all the times he complained about the pains in his chest. My father had a high tolerance for pain; as do I. He sat out the small ones until the big one came along that took his life.

Lately I have been experiencing a great amount of stress. Yes, I have stress on my job – like most people. My children create stress – as felt by most parents. My extended family can be a stress factor in spades! But the problem that causes me stress with which I cannot successfully deal is my “romantic” relationship. I place the word romantic in quotations because it has ceased to be just that. The stress generated from this relationship has caused me pain in my chest, migraine headaches, tightness in the chest, dizziness, and other physical symptoms that concern me. I fear that I am playing the same role that was played out by my father years ago.

This relationship, which began as a mutual admiration society, has developed a constant gaping wound that sucks me dry – financially, physically and emotionally. Talk about a dark, dark pit! Financially, I am the sole source of income for all household bills. The income of my significant other pays for one legal responsibility and their gas, cigarettes and booze. Physically, I hold down a full-time job, go to school part-time, raise two children, and maintain a household. They work a full-time (almost full-time) job and …do nothing else. In their opinion, when the work day is through, it is time to come home, take a shower and go to bed. Dinner should be served in bed. Hmmmm…. Emotionally, I am often told that I don’t do enough to keep them happy. I don’t give them enough time; I don’t do enough around the house; I don’t work hard enough on my job; and why can’t I boost our income?!? Jealousy is a frequent emotion – jealous of the time I spend on homework, the time I spend with my children, the time I give to my mother, any time, quite frankly, that is not devoted completely to them. On top of everything else, they believe it is their right to tell me what I can and cannot do! That is just the final straw. I full well know that without me, they would fall flat on their face. And this is the only thing that keeps me from saying – Adios! I am outta here!

And so I battle the dark and hope that I will not wind up like my father before I screw up the courage to let another fall into the pit in order to keep my own self from destruction. Sometimes sacrifices must be made. It is time for self-preservation to kick in.

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