When Fear Rules !

How About Me ?

by on Feb.18, 2012, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD


How About Me ?

A client who I had treated for panic attacks, and had been doing quite well, came back because she had just experienced the worst anxiety she had in over a year. However, this time she understood why and what she needed to do about it.


Lara had conquered her previous panic attacks because she gained insight and took steps to deal with the sources of that anxiety. She had been a great mother and wife, and daughter, taking care of everyone and pretty much had put her life on hold while taking care of three kids, her ailing mother, and her selfish and needy husband.


Gradually she had realized her need for approval and  her conforming personality had pretty much caused her to set her needs aside. She always knew what each of the kids needed almost before they did. She acted as a buffer between the kids and their father, because he was often more a child then her kids were. She took care of everything for him.


Now the last of the three kids was off to College, and mother had past on, it was her turn to have a life, or was it ?


“I was just sitting at the kitchen table sipping my coffee and the anxiety just came over me and I wondered, why is this happening again? But I instantly realized that while staring out the window, I had been thinking of all the things I would like to do now that I have time. But then my thoughts drifted to how I would have to adjust any plans I had to please the last remaining child, my husband. I thought of going to the orchestra with my friend Melissa, but then thought about the look on my husband’s face if I was not home for dinner. I thought of taking a weekend to go visit my daughter for Mother’s day but then could feel the displeasure of my spouse that I would be gone over-night.


Yes, I had made gains setting boundaries with the kids whom I had previously spoiled. Yes, I had gradually allowed the caregivers at my mother’s nursing home to take over more and more of her care until she  died, but my thoughts of freedom from all the responsibility were hitting a snag. I still had to set more boundaries with my husband, and I realized he was a “mission impossible”. I felt that trapped feeling and the cold sweat came to my forehead as I realized that my transformation was just beginning and I was actually facing my biggest hurdle.”


Lara’s husband knew how to make her feel guilty. His comments would sting as he knew his wife was a caregiver and needed all the approval she had received in her role of mother, daughter and wife. He had become quite dependent of his wife and did not want any changes. He had many bouts of being jealous of his own children when he felt they were getting more of her attention. He had little insight a to what she was going through emotionally, burning out and feeling anger and resentment. He expected to be taken care of as this was the wife’s role as it had been his mother’s role.


Lara and I got busy creating new boundaries and steps to deal with her grown up husband-child. She created a plan that would see her gradually taking more time for herself while at the same time, step by step, cutting back on her “duties” that were expected by her husband. She would verbalize her plans and make sure there was prepared dinners needing to be warmed, but she would have plans to not only be with friends, but take some courses and revive her interests of her pre-marital years.


She practiced being respectful but firm in setting those boundaries. She did not attempt to defend herself, but simply stated when she had plans, giving her husband ample time to adjust and make plans on her own. She made sure he was taken care of, but not always requiring her to be at his feet.


She did not expect him to just swallow the changes. This was the greatest fear. As in the past, he would mention that if she did not perform her wifely duties, what is the use to being married. Those comments would shut her down because she had become dependent on him emotionally and of course, she would never think of disturbing her children’s lives with divorce.


But things really were different now. Now she must plan for the very real possibility of a life without him. But she knew that it would be up to her, not him to start that ball rolling because, what would HE do without her ? She would work to be less dependent on him financially, she would finally talk to an attorney to know exactly what her rights would be if there was a separation. She would take it in STEPS and not be overwhelmed.

She would just take life a day at a time and experience freedom and see where it led. She would develop a life of her own and take time to develop a healthy support system of old and new friends and no longer isolate herself in her previous roles which only made her MORE dependent and fearful of change.


Gene Benedetto, Coach


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8 Comments for this entry

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    • Hamid

      Short and sipmle .You are both what the other is used to and change is scary.It would be so easy to slip back into the security of your old life with her but you KNOW it doesnt work.It looks like she has moved on, but by telling you personal things she is keeping you right where she needs you as a fall back.I dont believe she loves you as she was not willing and could not see that you needed her physical contact to feel secure, and she really wasnt bothered about that in the slightest.She is obviously enjoying not having the ties of a proper relationship and is doing pretty much what she likes, with you there just in case.And you dont love the other woman either, or you could not have chosen your wife over her. Dont mess her about, let her do her thing.A marrage can never work with only one person giving and the other taking.Move on, be by yourself and get to know yourself again.Then one day you’ll bump into someone just for you!good luck-x-

  • Marilyn

    Sounds so much like me…I was a pediatric oncology nurse on top of it. Had a breakdown ,left and am still so fearful of rejection.

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