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Monday Reflection: Balancing Hurt, Accepting the Seasons

By Rae Lewis-Thornton

October 15, 2012

This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.

When someone alters your life without your permission, you are in the land of "this is fucked up and how do I recover?" You are faced with very hard decisions of how do you balance the thing that has happened to you with the person who has done it.

They are not mutually exclusive and cannot be compartmentalized; they are very much connected. This becomes very complicated, especially when the person who has done that thing, you love, like for real, for real.

I remember when I was in a relationship with an addict. It was some hard stuff trying to balance my love for him and my love for self. After each time he went out on his monthly drug binge he came home, remorseful, full of guilt and shame.

Yep, he said everything I needed to hear for me to keep him in my life and let him stay in my home. Actually, it was everything I wanted to hear. He always said the right thing, like, "I'll go to AA every day if need be." As if going to AA was going to actually help him be better; rid him of the sickness of addiction and he wasn't really working the program. Going and working it are two different things. He even agreed to my demands, let me manage all the money, as if me holding onto the money would stop his addiction. But I went along with the new plan each time, because I loved him and wanted him in my life. I understand that addiction is a sickness and I was prepared to stand by my man at all cost. I believed it hook, line and sinker and I actually think he believed it, that is until he went to the crack house again.

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It was a tangled web. He would go out ... hurt himself and me in the process. Let me tell you, there is nothing worse than waiting on the man you love to come home from a crack house. Nothing like watching someone you love hurt themselves over and over again.

During that time I became sicker than him. I spent all of my time trying to figure out how to keep him clean. My life stopped, trying to save his life. His sickness was addiction and my sickness was him.

Then one day he left and I thought my world had crumbled. Life without him was no life at all. But, looking back, I think God did for me what I was unable to do for myself. Get him the hell out of my life, before I destroyed myself trying to save him. Love of a person should never trump love of self, whether family or friend.

It's hard balancing whether that person should continue to take center stage in your life. First off, you must time take to process and recover from the trauma, drama, the hurt, the change, the breach. While that person's sickness is important and of concern, it cannot trump self care. You can't help no damn body, if you don't help yourself first.

You must allow yourself time to heal! I tell my BFF Luke all the time, "You can't be a person's 'friend' who just hurt you, right now." That shit is too fresh. You need time to recover from the hurt. But most importantly, redefine the relationship. For sure, once there has been a breach of some sort, things change. It does not matter the context of the breach, it is what it is. To not consider this new information is not only foolishness, it's dangerous to you emotionally, and potentially physically.

Trying to operate business as usual in the face of change that someone else caused is not self love or self care. I say all the time, when someone shows you who they are believe them, don't explain it away or make excuses.

I can't tell you whether to keep that person in your life or let them go. For a fact, some people are for part of the journey. Everybody ain't meant to be in your life forever.

We get in God's way, trying to have our way. I heard Bishop T.D. Jakes say once, "the problem comes when God removes that person and you try to hold onto what you should have let go." For sure, the Bible says for everything there is a season.

And truth be told; some people should have never been a part of the journey. You see the signs early, but you dismiss them. That conflict, your gut, your inner voice, whatever you call it, should never be dismissed out of your need for love and fellowship. If it's too good to be true, it probably is. There is a price for everything and don't you ever forget that. When you don't listen to that inner voice, you end up in a messy-mess. That mess becomes a diversion from God's plan for your life and then God has to get you out of that mess, help you recover from that mess, before you can get back to what has been planned for you.

My mother with a book and cup of tea.

My mother with a book and cup of tea.

I had to learn this lesson with my biological mother. Accepting the seasons of a person in your life is not easy, this I know for a fact.

My mother didn't come into my life until I was 18. She and I were building a relationship. But by the time I was 24 her mental illness took center stage. Half of her life as an addict, her demons and self-loathing became king in her life. She tried to kill herself through self mutilation. It was devastating and it sent me to therapy for the first time in my life. It was the start of learning to balance her mental illness and accepting the seasons.

At first I tried up close and personal but it was too overwhelming, too damaging to me. Then I got in a groove. I found a balance to keep her in my life, but that was not overnight. It took well over a year and six months of therapy to get to that place.

For over twenty years I met my mother where she was at in her mental illness, not where I wanted her to be. I loved my mother and although she didn't raise me, I know for a fact that I got my love of books and tea from her. I held on for as long as I could. I held onto the person she had become as a result of her mental illness, not the person I first met. I got out of denial real quick.

Then after twenty years there was another major shift, a new breach that was directed at me in the most hurtful way. It's one thing when the hurt is about them. You can balance it, understand it, sympathize with it and have empathy for it. But when the mental illness becomes about you, you must redefine the relationship immediately.

Mental illness is not a plaything. The difficult thing is accepting that they are operating out of mental illness and not a place of recovery. You remember the person they used to be, the person you want them to be, the person you thought they were. But accepting this season in their life is a must, a must for your own mental health and the new season in your life.

It was one of the most painful things in my life. But I had to redefine the relationship for my own emotional and physical well-being. I cut my ties for almost two years, until the week that she died. There is no remorse or guilt. I know that I did the best thing for me. In fact, when I arrived to her bedside in Buffalo New York, I learned that she had started to use drugs again. Probably as a way to self-medicate her mental illness, which is not uncommon. I got out of her web before I was tangled in it. I saw it for what it was and I acted out of my best interest. There is nothing wrong with taking care of you.

I am glad, though, that I went to her bedside. It was the best decision for both of us at that moment in time. It was a new season and I listened to my inner voice yet again.

Looking back, it was a great balancing act for me over the years. You must learn to take the moments in time as they come and weigh out the best decision for your well-being. Nothing is set in stone, take it as it comes. But for sure, your love for any one person cannot negate your love for yourself.

For sure, you cannot operate in a relationship that has hurt you as business as usual. You must step back, take the time to heal. Then take the time to redefine the relationship. But healing must be first.

Hurt clouds your judgement. It's a nasty emotion that can control you for the rest of your life. And if you allow that hurt to fester, you are giving the person who hurt you even more power over you. No one should ever have control over you, whether emotionally or physically.

You must work on your healing, whether through therapy, or prayer. I recommend both! They both offer you some newness. Therapy offers a neutral place to reach your a-ha moments. Prayer offers comfort, relief and newness.

As my Pastor L. Bernard Jakes said on Sunday, "It's OK to hurt from betrayal, it's actually Biblical. But unaddressed hurt will create a vengeful spirit." Prayer is a privilege, a gift from God to us. We should use it!

Psalms 55:12-14 If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.

55:18-17 But I call to God and the Lord saves me. Evening morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.

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See Also
Ten Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Emotional Well-Being
Depression and HIV
Feeling Good Again: Mental Healthcare Works!
More Personal Viewpoints on Coping With HIV

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Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.

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