Coping With Hurt Feelings
Coping With Hurt Feelings
When we love someone suffering from addiction, chances are we’ve experienced hurt feelings at one time or another. Coping with hurt feelings can be a healthy or unhealthy experience depending on how you approach it and what power you allow others to have over you. Read or listen on for a very real story from my life and how I coped when a loved one close to me hurt my feelings.
Listen to the podcast episode here:
Read the transcript and find more details here:
Normally, when stuff happens to me in my life, I use it for this podcast, and I always put it from the perspective of addiction. But I’ve processed it. I’ve sat with it. I’ve mulled it over, and I’ve researched it.
And then I kind of present it to you as something to learn from because I’ve learned from it. But what I’m talking about in this episode literally happened to me about 10 minutes ago.
A loved one hurt my feelings and it set me on fire.
I have a relationship with my father, and my parents are divorced. My father is this incredibly wise English man who is brilliant and a little crusty and a little prickly sometimes. But he can also be incredibly encouraging and loving and thoughtful, which presented a lot of complications, mixed messages, and hurt feelings for me, my entire childhood.
It’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I’m okay with it. How I got to the point where I was okay with the relationship with my dad was recognizing that just because your parents are related to you, and they’re your family doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to all love each other and get along.
You may have the fantasy that you’re going to be one of those families that play games together on Christmas Eve, and all live close to one another, but that is not my truth. It’s not the reality of my situation. And the moment that I let go and kind of surrendered that fantasy, I made peace with my actual family. I had to have really strong, clear boundaries with my family members.
I’ve always spoken up and spoken my mind – surprise! And that doesn’t always make for the best situations. Especially with people who don’t like talking about things, which tends to be my family. I’m kind of the black sheep in that way.
I feel things deeply, on a tremendously sensitive level.
And I like talking about all things. I’m fine with conflict. I’m great with going deep and all that stuff. When you have family members that don’t operate in that space, it can be weird, right?
Anyway, I’ve protected myself to avoid hurt feelings by creating these boundaries and recognizing that even though they love you and you love them, that doesn’t mean that you need to call them all the time or spend every holiday with them. And that worked for me for a long time for many years. I have been good with that, but, with the Coronavirus, I found myself worrying more about my dad. He’s 80, lives in a very big city, and his health is not great.
So I’ve been calling him every day, which placed me in a fascinating situation. I’ve worked so hard to have these boundaries in place, and usually, I’ll call maybe once or twice a month to check-in; I keep it short, keep it sweet, keep it thoughtful, keep it positive.
But now, with the virus, I felt that I needed to check in every day. And it actually became a very nice relationship. And I thought, maybe I’ve been wrong. Maybe I don’t need to protect myself as much as I need to. Who knows? Maybe he’s changed. Maybe I’ve changed. So I let my guard down, I let my walls down, and I just called him because something’s going on in my life that I feel pretty insecure about. And I had this panic attack about it.
I don’t often suffer from panic attacks, but I was telling him about this panic attack that I had on the side of the street. And I was embarrassed about it. And before I even started telling him the story, I told him I needed to say something and that I felt incredibly embarrassed. I felt like I was overreacting, and I was too dramatic. That my reaction of a panic attack was too dramatic, but I need to talk about this. I want to talk about this with you.
So I go into detail about why I had this panic attack. And I said, “I don’t know why I reacted this way.” And my dad said to me on the phone, he goes, “Well, Michelle, I know exactly why you acted this way.” And I was like, great, oh my gosh, this is wonderful. Like so insightful, why?
And he said it’s because when you were four years old, your mom and I took you to a therapist and the therapist said, “I’ve never met a girl in all the years of my practice, who is so kind and so nice but also is so dramatic.”
Now for those of you out there that are empaths like me and feel things deeply, I know you probably understand how deeply that hurt my feelings. It felt like I got punched in the gut. It was like, wait, what?
Firstly, what was I doing in therapy at four? That’s news to me.
And number two, I’m opening up to you about something so vulnerable, and I’m worried that I’m being overdramatic. And you’re basically confirming that I am an overdramatic person since I was four.
It really stung. I had very hurt feelings. It hurt like hell. And he went on and on and on and on for another 20 minutes. And I honestly couldn’t even hear what he was saying because I was still parked on that. I went through a series of emotions, and I’m sure you guys can relate. Cause often when we’re married to loved ones who suffer from addiction, they hurt us with their words too. And we have to cope with hurt feelings on a regular basis.
Or they hurt us with their actions. And when you have hurt feelings, you get defensive immediately. You start thinking they’re wrong. And then after you kind of get defensive and pissed off, you kind of move into that fear. You find yourself wondering… are they right? Is this criticism that they’re offering me, or is there any truth to it?
A lot of times, we really should take a look at that and question, is there a grain of truth here? Is there a lesson here I need to learn? So I went into that stage as my dad was going on and on, and thinking, am I overdramatic?
Is that a defining characteristic of me? Am I melodramatic? Am I an extreme exaggerator? Do I create drama? Is there a truth?
I started looking back in my life, looking back in the last five years, how I parent, and how I wife and friend.
And then, you start to fear that what they said is correct.
And then, I moved into a stage of shame. Oh my gosh, I am the most dramatic person I’ve ever heard of. I am too feeling, too much all the time. I do make mountains out of molehills.
And then I caught myself. I politely hung up the phone. I ended the conversation.
But not before I said, in a very loving way, you know what? I don’t think the whole dramatic thing is accurate. Using the word dramatic is quite hurtful. I think a more appropriate, healthier choice of words, especially for a four-year-old, would have been she feels a lot. She feels deeply; she’s very empathetic to the people around her.
That would have been a kinder, nicer thing to say. But I’ll definitely take it under consideration. And then I got off the phone. I wasn’t huffing and puffing or cursing him out. I didn’t get defensive, and I didn’t take it on either. And I didn’t say, “I’m so sorry. I’m such a bad kid.”
So now, I’m going to go through Starbucks and getting myself a coffee. I’m waiting in a Starbucks line, thinking about it. And I was like, you know, Michelle, you are forty-freaking-two-years old. You have lived a particularly difficult life. You’ve gone through a lot.
Why do you have to own his opinion or this random therapist’s opinion of when you were a little girl? Do you need to let that destroy your day? Why do you need to take that on? Why do I need to spend months or weeks or hours or days thinking… am I being dramatic? Do I belong on a soap opera?
Why can’t I just sit there and think, “Hmm, that doesn’t ring true to me. I’m actually quite proud of who I am.”
I’m pretty proud and impressed with what I’ve overcome. I love the relationships that I have with people. And I think the people that I have in my life like our relationship, and I’m going to dismiss this. I’m going to disagree kindly, but strongly and firmly say, “Nope, I am not going to own that. You can take it back. I’m giving that claim back to you.”
And that’s what I’m gonna do. At this age, I don’t need to allow other people’s opinions of me to run my life or to delegate how I choose to behave. I’m old enough and wise enough and smart enough to hear it, ask what I should do with it, and then make an adult decision. And so can you.
When you’re verbally abused, and I know a lot of you out there were in your childhood or your relationship or even in friendships with unkind people, you get to choose how to cope with your hurt feelings.
If you’re old enough to be listening to this, you’re old enough to make up your own mind about how you feel about yourself. You’re old enough to decide your own identity. You’re old enough to say, here’s my makeup.
Yeah, I feel deeply. But you know what? That allows me to be a fricking fantastic friend because I feel other people’s pain on a deeper level than most, and therefore I can listen with utmost compassion and empathy. I can write with total sincerity because it’s not just fluff.
I can speak from the heart and come from a deep place in my soul.
Thank God, everyone isn’t like me. But for me, I’d rather live there in that deep place and feel everything than be a person who feels nothing. And I know a lot of people who don’t feel anything, and we need those people. Those people help round us out. But, I’m not going to take on the label of dramatic. I’m going to take that on as somebody who uses all her feelings to help others, herself, and her kids on a daily basis.
And so what have you been told? What labels have you applied to your life? What are you still carrying around? Say it out loud right now. I know that there are things, negative things that you’ve been called, or things that people have accused you of.
You need to drop that and let it go. There’s a wonderful tool in a Brene Brown book; I believe it’s her Dare To Lead book. It’s an exercise, and I encourage you to do it too. I’ve mentioned it before; I think I mentioned it in the Stay or Go program.
Take a piece of paper, a little tiny piece of paper. Write down the list of people whose opinions you should care about. The whole purpose and intention behind it are that it’s an incredibly small piece of paper because it should only be an incredibly small amount of people. It really should only be one to four people. If you’ve got four, you are blessed, right? That you’ve four true people in your life who will be honest with you, but who will love you.
And their opinion matters. I remember Oprah being interviewed by Brene Brown one time. And Oprah said I have three people in my life whom I go to for their opinion, and nobody else. And this is Oprah; she knows everybody. She could have a master scroll of thousands of people, presidents and dignitaries, and self-help gurus. Her list includes her partner Steadman, her best friend, Gail, and as she calls him, her brother from another mother, Bob Green. And that’s it.
If Oprah only has three people, four would be amazing for us. Be diligent, be cutthroat, be real. Ask yourself, who am I going to choose to be vulnerable with? And who am I going to allow to give me labels to reflect back to me who I am in the world today? Who will treat my thoughts and feelings with tender care, love, and appreciation? And who will also give me the truth?
Make your list. Be super diligent and picky.
What labels are you sticking to yourself?
Imagine you’re standing in a room, and you have one yellow sticky note for every label you’re carrying around, maybe since you were little. What do those notes say?
Take inventory and ask yourself what notes do I need to peel off, rip up, and throw away because they’re just not true? Ask yourself who is responsible for putting that sticky note on you? And is that a good thing to have that person in your life still?
Or do you need to put up your boundaries? Maybe you can’t get rid of them entirely because they’re a family member. Or maybe they’re your partner, and you’re not ready to leave right now.
You can still live with someone and have very healthy boundaries with your loved one that can prevent you from getting hurt. Right? If they’re suffering from addiction, you can’t turn to a hurt person to make you feel better. And you sure as heck can’t rely on a sick person to help you define who you are. They can’t even define themselves. They’re sick and filled with addiction.
They don’t think clearly. So if there are some sticky notes you need to remove, then get rid of them. You are a grownup. You get to choose what sticky notes and labels stay on you. And hopefully, they’re all good. You can then pay attention to those labels and honor your soul and yourself and who you are.
Because here’s the deal. At 42, I realize (thanks to my teenagers reminding me!) that my life is likely more than halfway over. I don’t want to spend the next half of my life feeling as crappy as I did about myself during the first part of my life.
I would love to walk into the second part of my life, be joyful, be happy, and be proud of who I am.
To quit being afraid of making people upset. Of being worried about what people think about me and own my labels and go, “Hell yeah, I am empathetic. And that’s a good thing. It’s not always easy to feel everything all the time, but I’m going to stick with that. I’m not going to run away from that or try to change that. I like that about myself.”
So what do you like about yourself? What are you proud of? What labels are you sitting with proudly?
I’m dyslexic. I cannot spell worth a darn. And I’m a writer for a living. How is that possible? Spellcheck. Thank God for Bill Gates creating spellcheck.
I’m not going to sit around embarrassed that I write for a living, but can’t spell. My dyslexia helps me think outside the box. It makes me a more creative writer. I’m not going to be embarrassed about it. So label me dyslexic and label me proud.
This is part of our growth. Let’s spend the rest of our lives celebrating ourselves and making sure that the only people we really care about how they feel about us are those people on that little piece of paper.
If you are in our secret Facebook group, those women are absolute rockstars. And I use that word intentionally. Those women, they are the real deal. They get you like nobody else. When you share what you’re going through, every single person can go, “Yep, me too. We feel that, right on, sister. You are okay.”
Consider putting that community on your list because when you’re married to somebody who struggles with addiction, many people don’t really get it. Even though they care for you, they’ll offer you well-intentioned, crappy advice because they’re comparing your relationship to theirs. And it’s vastly different.
I feel very nervous that I was so forthcoming with you. It’s very nerve-wracking when you’re super real, but screw it, right? We’re going to do this together.
I’ve always been honest with you. Why would I stop now?
One more thing for this episode because I drove home and then I thought about one more thing I wanted to tell you. Nobody in this world, walking on this planet is going to tell you how great you are, except for you.
Now you might get compliments from other people, and you might get loving reminders, but they’re not going to stick because if you are looking for true self-confidence, like the kind that you own, the kind that cannot be rocked or shaken or taken away from you.
When times are tough, that unshakable confidence that you are building a foundation on cannot be ripped away from you. If you want that kind of confidence, then you’re going to have to give it to yourself.
It can’t rely on anything anyone’s told you. It can’t rely on what I’m saying, or on what your therapist is saying. And it can’t rely on the pep talk your mom’s giving you. Lasting confidence has to come from you.
So here’s what I want to tell you.
I want to tell you that the fact that you are listening to me right now, that you have listened to this podcast makes you more determined than millions and millions of other people walking this planet.
So you can label yourself determined.
You can say, I am determined. I am a determined person.
The other thing you can do is you can say I am the glue that holds my family together. I am the steady, sober one. You’re the one that’s looking for resources to make things better. You’re the one doing the research. And you’re the one that’s trying to make everybody happy almost to the detriment to your own health. But you are the glue. You are the reliable one. You are the rock.
So you can say with confidence, I am strong, and I am the glue. You can also say, I am a freaking survivor. You are surviving right now, no matter how bad you think your relationship is with your loved one, suffering from addiction, you are surviving it. You’re not dying from it.
You’re waking up every day. Whether you think you have a good day or bad day, it doesn’t matter; you’re still alive. Your heart is still beating. Your blood is still pumping through your veins. You, my friend, are a survivor.
And guess what? Because you are so determined, because you are the glue, and because you are a survivor, you’re going to get through this. And you’re going to come out of this even stronger, with more confidence, with more courage, knowing exactly who you are.
Your decisions are going to be becoming healthier and healthier. And they’re going to honor you and your spirit and your soul and everything around you. And you’re going to start to glow, and people will ask, what are you doing differently? Is it your hair? Are you eating better?
And you’re going to think, no, it’s that I am becoming who I was born to be. I am starting to feel exactly how I’ve wanted and dreamed of feeling all of my life.
You deserve to feel good. You’ve done too much work. You’re too wonderful of a human being. Don’t pay attention to the noise and the darkness and the yuckies because other people’s agendas have nothing to do with you. They’re sick in their own way. And that’s none of your concern or none of your business. You just focus on you.
I’m fired up today, and I wanted to pass it on to you because we’re in this together.
The thing is that the work doesn’t end, just because you leave them as I did.
If you ever leave, it doesn’t mean that your life becomes wonderful all of a sudden, and you’ll never go through anything again. No, here’s what it means. It means this relationship, this heartache is preparing you for the rest of your life so that you can master these skills and tools.
And when life tries to kick you down and when you start to get upset or worried or concerned, you can call on those skills that you mastered while loving someone with addiction. And say, I remember this pain, and here’s what I did to cope with hurt feelings. I don’t have to stumble in the darkness anymore, or talking to a dozen people about their opinion about what I should do or how I should feel.
You know the answers. Why? Because you figured it out already. And that is the blessing of addiction. Sometimes, I feel sorry for the people that don’t get to experience this because they don’t have anything that fast-forwards their emotional growth and forces them to make peace and be overjoyed with who they are. A lot of people just coast. A lot of people don’t really get it. Don’t feel alive and don’t know who the hell they are.
You are given an opportunity. This relationship is your opportunity to celebrate and be the person you were meant to be for the rest of your entire life.
Maybe we look at people who don’t love somebody with addiction and think, “Oh, that’s too bad. I’m sorry for them because I’m on a fast track here. I’m on a fast track to feeling good and creating the life that I deserve, that I want, which I have always dreamed of.”
If you’re looking for extra support through the tough times, consider joining the Love Over Addiction online program.
If the timing is right and you’re feeling called to join us, please do.
Michelle Anderson has over 10 years of personal experience with loving someone who suffers from addiction. She was married to a good man who suffered from addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography. She's used her experience to create powerful resources for women in the same circumstance. Using her own personal experience, combined with years of research and studying, she presents ideas, tips, and tools on how to handle this disease, and take care of yourself, and your family.
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