Billy and Brian sit down with Billy's friend (and devoted listener) Mina to discuss her complicated childhood and how she's had to unpack that as an adult, the death of her best friend by suicide, and her current trial separation. We want to thank Mina for her willingness to be vulnerable during this episode. Please listen with an open, kind heart.
Mina describes herself as someone struggling through the human condition who thinks being more open is a good thing.
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Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis, a podcast for people navigating the complexities and possibilities of life second half. Join your hosts, Billy and Brian, a couple of average dudes who will serve as your armchair life coaches as we share our life experiences, both the good and the bad, in an effort to help us all better understand how we can enjoy and make the most of the life we have left to live in a more meaningful way. Take a deep breath, embrace the present, and journey with us through The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Billy: Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I’m your host, Billy, and, as always, I’m joined by my good friend, Brian on the Bass. Brian, how you doing over there, man?
Brian: I am sensational with no further explanation.
Billy: Maybe at the end of this episode there’ll be further explanation for that right there. Hey, we don’t have a lot of time for idle chitchat. You got to get home and watch the kids tonight as Cathleen’s going out clubbing tonight, huh?
Brian: Oh, yeah, she’s going partying with her girlfriends.
Billy: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Cathleen, live it up tonight, baby. You deserve it.
Brian: She definitely does, holy cow.
Billy: Yeah, you absolutely deserve it. I am a little perturbed though that you did double book tonight because what else am I supposed to do with my Friday nights?
Brian: Oh, you’ve got a million things to do, Billy.
Billy: Oh, do I?
Brian: Yeah, you’re always out helping people and being cool and stuff.
Billy: I’m going to go home and I’m going to eat leftover Heggies Pizza by myself when this is all said and done.
Brian: That’s a good evening.
Billy: It is a good evening. Are you a Heggies Pizza fan?
Brian: I love Heggies Pizza.
Billy: I actually think I would have Heggies Pizza over any other pizza.
Brian: It’s up there for me too, for sure.
Billy: It’s really good. Shout-out to Heggies. Feel free to sponsor us.
Brian: Oh, yeah, we would plug you every minute, Heggies, if you sponsor us.
Billy: We would eat Heggies Pizza on the air.
Brian: Right on the air.
Billy: And you would hear us smack our lips and just enjoy the whole thing the entire time. Our guest over here, Mina, is not a fan of that idea because what is it that you said you struggle with?
Billy: That sounds like a 2 Live Crew song.
Brian: That’s pretty funny.
Mina: That was a good one.
Billy: Thank you. Thank you. I just came up with that off the top of my head right there. So we have a guest in house today, it’s our friend, Mina, and we’re going to pull back the curtain just a little bit. We have completely recorded this season out of order so we started recording about the love languages and then we went into dating coaches and then we met with Dr. Yvette Erasmus and talked about compassionate communication and I was like, wait a minute, no, we got to explore the female brain before we talk about that other stuff because that’s an important part of the show is to understand the female brain because, as Brian and I have said, we understand nothing of the female brain and it’s been great having female guests coming on and talk about how their brain circuits fire and what their experiences are because it’s certainly, again, a different mindset, a different experience than what Brian and I have ever lived. So thank you to all of our guests so far. We wanted to end this season, though, by having another listener on. At the end of season one, we had Scott and Lee, brothers who talked about the struggles of depression and the effects that it has on their family. And our friend Mina reached out and said, “You know, your podcast has really been helpful during a challenging time for me.” Mina says that she’s someone who’s struggling through the human condition, who thinks being more open is a good thing.
Brian: I happen to agree with Mina that just talking about it and being open about stuff actually makes you feel a lot better, just talking about it and getting it out there. Oftentimes, we bottle these things up and you feel like you’re alone, you feel like no one feels the way you do, and when you talk about it, it’s very cathartic.
Mina: It is, especially when you feel like you’re the only one.
Billy: So we really thank you because we know you’re going to have a vulnerable conversation with us, but before we get into that, we just kind of want to get to know you a little bit more. You and I have been friends for over 20 years.
Billy: Is that weird to think about?
Mina: Yeah, it is.
Billy: Yeah, we’ve been friends for over 20 years. So, Mina went to high school with my college girlfriend and my college girlfriend and I are still on good terms and her husband is amazing, I went to their wedding, they’re just a really cool people. So I got to meet Mina through them and Mina is also awesome. So we really appreciate having you here. So tell us, what are the 10 roles that you play in your life?
Mina: So it took me a long time to come up with these but I have mother, friend, writer, musician, armchair political scientist, professional swearer, communicator, problem solver, secular humanist, and minimalist goth.
Billy: All right, we’re going to get to the three roles that you’re most looking forward to. I’m genuinely curious about minimalist goth. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
Mina: Yeah. So I don’t do the whole goth regalia thing but I’ll do one item, like I have bat earrings on. So I don’t do the whole like Victorian Goth thing —
Brian: Black lipstick, that sort of stuff.
Mina: But I’ll do like one thing because I have a little goth heart, I grew up listening to the Cure and Joy Division and all that nice —
Brian: Depeche Mode?
Mina: Depeche Mode, all of it, but I don’t on the full gear. I just have one item, I’ll wear a shirt with bats on it or something like that but not everything.
Billy: So you rotate what it is that you’re going to sport?
Mina: Yep. It might be really heavy eye makeup but then nothing else will be goth.
Billy: I like that.
Brian: I think that’s sensible.
Mina: Yeah, it is.
Brian: That’s sensible, it is.
Mina: I used to call it goth lite, but I decided that it’s more minimalist.
Billy: I like that.
Brian: I think you’ve created a subgenre here.
Billy: I do too.
Mina: Feel free to pick it up, because it really works for me.
Billy: I feel like if somewhere you always wanted to be goth or you’re feeling that way, this is like a way to dip your toe into it.
Mina: Right, and it can be totally office appropriate.
Billy: Yeah, that’s a good point. Do you feel like it allows you to express yourself in a very minimal way but you’re just like, “Hey, I know that I have this little thing here that makes me unique,” while you’re at the office?
Mina: Right, like I’ll wear my bad earrings and they make me feel like I have this thing that I like but, otherwise, I look completely appropriate and nobody’s going to care what I look like but I know I have it.
Brian: You know, we could also call that goth professional.
Mina: Yeah, or business casual goth.
Brian: That’s great. That’s perfect.
Brian: I think we’ve now created three subgenres.
Billy: This sounds like a whole clothing line.
Brian: We’re effervescing today.
Billy: Yeah, we are just bubbling with ideas, I love this.
Brian: Mina, great start to the episode.
Mina: Oh, thank you.
Billy: Can you also talk about — I’m also genuinely curious about secular humanist.
Mina: Yeah, that’s more of what would be in most people’s religious area so I don’t believe that there needs to be a deity for morality so, basically, that’s kind of where that all lies.
Billy: I like that too. Listen, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re stealing all your ideas, we’re going to market them, we’re going to take 80 percent of it, we’ll give you 20 percent of whatever is left over.
Mina: I have a problem with your math.
Billy: Do we need to switch the 20/80 around?
Mina: Well, we’ll talk about numbers.
Billy: Deal, deal. All right, so of those 10 roles, what are the three that you are most looking forward to in the second half of your life?
Mina: So mother, of course. My children are very different and kind of agreeable people mostly.
Billy: How old are they?
Mina: My oldest is nine, my middle child is seven, and my youngest will be four in July.
Billy: Okay, so you’re right around Brian’s children’s ages.
Brian: You’re pretty close. I’ve got four, nine, eleven.
Mina: Okay. Yeah. So I had two boys and then a girl.
Billy: Was it intentional? Like, “No, I wanna get a girl,” or were you like, “No, I want three kids”? I’m always curious about that.
Mina: No, I want three kids. I mean, I was happy it was a girl but I wouldn’t have been disappointed if it was a boy.
Billy: Want to give them back?
Mina: No. I mean, I wouldn’t have been like, “Well, we’re just gonna give it a girl name and hope for the best.”
Brian: According to last week’s episode, actually, we’re all girls for like the first three or months.
Mina: That is true. Yep.
Billy: So that’s out of order. See, this is why we had to pull back the curtain because that’s actually not last week’s episode —
Brian: It’s a future episode?
Billy: No, no, it’s episode 1 and now we are on like, I don’t know, episode 10 right here with Mina. So there you go. This is what happens when you record things out of order is we think that we’re talking about something that is going sequentially, we’re not. So we’ll just cut that all out. So then you also listed friend. Can you talk about that?
Mina: I’ve been really close to my friends most of my life. My childhood was unsettling so I’ve always fostered really close friendships. And because of that, my friends have almost been like my family so we’ve all been invested in each other’s lives quite a bit. So, I really look forward to seeing where all my friends’ lives go and playing a big role and just moving forward with all of them as well.
Billy: I can speak from experience that you are a wonderful friend.
Mina: Well, thank you very much.
Billy: Yeah, absolutely. And then you said musician. Talk about that.
Mina: Well, my whole life, I was told that I actually wasn’t a great musician and then, suddenly, out of nowhere, I decided, “Well, I don’t care,” so I taught myself how to play the ukulele and then I was actually told that I have a very decent singing voice and so I was like, “Well, I like singing so I’m just gonna sing all the time because I do it anyway.” So at work, I used to sing constantly. And then I started teaching myself how to play the guitar and now I have what I call my axe wall and I have a couple ukuleles, a couple guitars, a mandolin, a banjo, and I can play two of them.
Billy: Some of them are there for decor right now.
Mina: Some of them are wishes and hopes and dreams and —
Mina: Yes, goals.
Billy: What do you feel the most comfortable playing?
Mina: The ukulele is definitely the easiest and I learned it first so, yeah.
Billy: What kind of — because I play the ukulele —
Mina: I do know that.
Billy: We do need to start a little band, the ukulele band —
Mina: We sure do.
Billy: — and, Brian, you can be the bass player in it.
Brian: Are there bass ukuleles?
Billy: There are. I’ve played one before.
Billy: Yeah, and it’s tuned just like a regular ukulele — excuse me, like a regular bass guitar. It sounds crazy. But when you plug it into the amp, it sounds just like a bass guitar.
Brian: All right, what should we call the group?
Mina: Minimalist Goth.
Brian: Or we can call it Don’t Uke On My Shoes.
Billy: Don’t Uke On My Shoes?
Mina: That’s a good one.
Billy: Yeah, no —
Brian: I was going for some wordplay there, just didn’t turn out very well.
Billy: I liked — but still, I like it.
Mina: I like it.
Brian: I’m running on two hours of sleep here, that’s the best you get. That’s the best you get on two hours of sleep.
Billy: All right. Well, everybody out there, look for the Don’t Uke On Our Shoes tour. That’s coming sometime in the future. We hope.
Mina: We hope. We’re huge in Japan.
Billy: Yes, exactly. Yes, we are. Yes, we are. So, what kind of guitars do you have? Because I know Brian is geeking out on what kind of guitars you have. Do you even know what kind of guitars you have or are you just like, “I bought some”?
Mina: I have two acoustics, one is a travel size because just a regular acoustic I was having trouble learning because my hands aren’t very big so then I bought a travel-sized one to just learn on and it was much easier. I can show you a picture of my axe wall later.
Billy: Yeah, I’m curious. I think that sounds great. So part of our added question here is what advice would you give to your younger self?
Mina: And I wrote “to learn to love yourself” because I never learned and I still haven’t.
Billy: And we’re going to get into that a little bit more. Can you talk a little bit about what you mean by that and how of navigating that, and if we peel it back a little bit further, like your teenage years or your 20s, why were you unable to show yourself that love? Because I think that’s something a lot of us struggle with because I would argue that I too have struggled with that and this podcast has helped me appreciate what I have to offer the world and what value I have in this world.
Brian: It’s probably the number one thing I hear surrounding mental health is just that you have to learn to love yourself first so, absolutely.
Mina: Right, and it’s such a perspective shift to learn that. It’s not like a playbook or like a rule that you can do, it’s actually you have to change the way you think and that’s so hard to do. You have to get down from the place you’re standing, go to another spot and look at yourself from a completely different spot and it’s really difficult to do because when you live your life from a place from not loving yourself, it’s a filter for everything that comes to you. Your relationships are tainted, how you approach things, how you deal with things that happen to you and how you deal with other humans. Like, for me, I tend to minimize everything that happens to me. Everything. Like for the longest time, when people asked me about my childhood, I said, “Oh, it wasn’t that bad,” but then I would talk to a couple friends like just about a few instances that happened and I would look and their eyes would be huge and they’re like, “No, that’s not normal. That’s not normal stuff.” Because, in my mind, I deserved it. I had no sense of self that didn’t deserve that. And then, later, through my relationships, especially into my marriage, a lot of that love that I didn’t have for myself I was looking for from somebody else and that bucket that was never filled by my parents or other people, in fact, it was damaged by them, well, that bucket was so empty, there was no way somebody else in my life could fill it up, like it was the wrong people. I had to fill it up myself. It was just there was no way that relationship was what was going to do it.
Billy: So I asked you here before if there were things from your childhood that you’re comfortable sharing, so what are some things that you feel, what are some experiences that you had that your friends would pop their eyes out and say, “Well, that’s not normal”?
Mina: For example, like if I wasn’t nice enough to my dad, he would threaten suicide. Or one time, like when I was in maybe sixth grade, he pretended to be dead for several hours when I was alone with him and we didn’t have a phone and I panicked, but at the same time, I was angry and just things like that, just a lot of emotional and psychological abuse. And there was some physical abuse but it was much less. And then my mom was much more covert with it but she was very — she saw me as an adversary for my dad’s attention.
Brian: Oh, wow.
Billy: So I was really alone growing up. I didn’t have anybody.
Billy: And you’re an only child.
Mina: I have a sister, she’s seven years older and didn’t live with us so I was alone.
Billy: Have you attempted to have rectifying conversations with your parents about these things?
Mina: My dad is highly abusive and so I haven’t actually spoken to him in a couple years so I don’t think that’s a repairable relationship. He’s not a sane person. My mom, on the other hand, is much more approachable about it and so there has been conversations there and some healing.
Billy: I’m going to drift towards a stereotype right here but do you think that that then is part of the allure of the goth image?
Mina: You know, as much as my dad was an insane human, nobody’s 100 percent bad and so my dad was a musician and he brought my sister to see The Cure in 1984 and he brought Depeche Mode into the house in the early 80s and all that stuff so that actually was already there. So, the music and stuff has been throughout my whole childhood. I remember picking Speak & Spell from Depeche Mode as an album to listen to when I was a toddler. So that was already there, and then the whole goth thing is just more of just an image preference but I don’t really dwell in the darkness. I’m actually a pretty positive person. I just kind of like bats and silhouettes of trees and Halloween.
Brian: Kind of like that Tim Burton aesthetic.
Mina: Yeah. It’s more of an aesthetic than an attitude.
Brian: There you go.
Billy: I like the way you put that. One of the reasons that you had reached out to us is because you’re going through a trial separation right now with your husband and we want to take a little break and then when we come back, we’re going to dive into that a little bit so thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
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Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are here with our friend Mina. Mina, thank you again for being here. Thank you for your vulnerability and sharing your story here as you navigate this complex trial separation. We imagine that we may have listeners out there who are going through this or can relate to some of the experiences that you have had or some of the experiences that you and your husband had leading up to this and we asked you if you would share the timeline of your marriage leading up to this point and you said that you would share so can you elaborate?
Mina: Sure. My husband and I met at work and, oddly enough, we were also roommates right when we met. We shared a house with a co-worker. So, we lived together for two years before we ever started dating and worked together but not in the same department. He’s a quiet guy, super easygoing, really good-natured. He’s IT, he’s a programmer, just a nerd. He has a Star Wars tattoo, just complete nerd. So we got along really well. I was really comfortable around him and that was one of my first things was I fell asleep in his presence and that was one of my first clues that I could be with somebody like him because I’m one of those people that I’m always hyper vigilant and I’m always not — I’m never really looking or I’m never really comfortable ever. And so the fact that I could fall asleep around him was a sign that I trusted him and, because of my childhood, I was never comfortable ever and so what really drew me to him was a sense of comfort, safety, security, and that was what I had been looking for my whole life. That’s what I was building my life on. So, eventually, I moved out, he moved out, we stayed friends. We had a lot of ups and downs. We would flirt all the time, have a lot of back and forth, and then I would be like, “Well, hey, why don’t we just date?” and he’d be like, “No, I don’t want to,” and so there was a lot of rejection there. I’m like, “Okay, then let’s not.” And then, eventually, I was like, “Well, obviously we can’t be friends because this keeps happening,” but then my best friend committed suicide and I couldn’t deal with his bullshit friendship and my grief at the same time. So I said, “I can’t do this anymore. I have to just essentially break up with you and I have to take care of myself here,” and I did, I broke up with him. I didn’t — I mean, I was pleasant to him because we still worked together but we didn’t hang out at all. Well, then, he reached out to me because his grandma was sick and passed away so he needed something. Of course, I was like, “Yes, I’ll help,” whatever. It all started up again and then, this time, I was like, well, I kind of gave him an ultimatum. I was like, “You’re in love with your fear or you wanna date me, it’s one or the other.” So we started dating but, honestly, it was a shit show from the start. Red flags. Huge. And it wasn’t because he was a bad person, it was because he was a broken person, just like I’m a broken person. He didn’t tell his mother we were dating for seven months. He wanted to keep the relationship a secret for a long time, like he was really tentative about a lot of things and just really not enthusiastic and there was a lot of issues with just arrested development, very immature about everything. So it didn’t start out well, it didn’t go well. I drove the whole thing. It was just me. Me putting everything in, me propping everything up. I was the relationship. He was in the passenger seat playing a game. That was it. So, eventually, we got engaged, well, he wanted me to move in and I said I don’t really want to because if I don’t think this relationship is going to go anywhere, I don’t want to waste time and he said, “Well, I guess it is gonna go somewhere,” and I said, “Well, okay,” so then we got engaged, got married a little while later, and things really, I noticed that they really were a problem when our first son was born and he was 12 weeks early and so I spent a few days in the hospital before he was born on hospital bed rest and then 80 days in the hospital with him in the NICU.
Brian: Oh, wow.
Mina: Yeah. And I was alone and my husband was emotionally 100 percent unavailable.
Billy: Would he come visit or, I guess, physically unavailable or just emotionally unavailable? Was he there at all for support?
Mina: Physically, he was there, like he had to go to work, which that’s essential. I was physically at the hospital with my son. But when he would come after work, he would just sit on his phone and then when I would have a hard time, he would just be like, “Yeah,” and kind of pat me on the back and mosey along and just — he was checked out, just completely emotionally checked out. He noped out of there and I was essentially alone. And then he kind of never returned after that. I mean, it really started even during birth, like I was giving birth to this baby that had a percentage chance of survival and he was checking football scores on his phone and there was an issue. He was emotionally checked out and it wasn’t that he was trying to be a douche about it, it was he just really could not handle this.
Billy: It’s interesting that you bring that up because when we talked to Krista earlier this season about the emotionally mature female brain and how that differs from the emotionally mature male brain, it says in the female brain book that men usually don’t read a woman’s emotions until it’s way too late and so there are tears involved and men are like, “Wait, why are you crying?” and it’s because we don’t read expressions very well and we don’t do that because it’s just too much work for our brains to process, to understand and read emotions, which is something that comes second nature to women, according to the book here that women’s brains are hardwired to be able to do that and they’re hardwired to handle emotional rollercoasters, which can be frustrating because men don’t want to sit with discomfort. Men want to fix things. We are inclined to — there is a problem, let’s fix it. And men will become distant when they themselves are having a difficult emotional time. As I’m hearing this, it sounds like both of you, and you had said that both of you were struggling emotionally even just coming into it because you hadn’t learned to love yourselves and there’s that underlying current of emotional discontent and then when this traumatic situation happens with you, it sounds like his inability to check in and be supportive falls in line what we discussed with the female brain.
Mina: Yeah, and I think it was even exacerbated because I was taught not to show emotion as a child, so I don’t cry. I’m one of those people that I don’t show emotion, I communicate emotion. And then my husband, Mike, he was raised by somebody who does not also show any emotion. She was actually emotionally neglectful. So he really never received any emotional responses from his mother so he really had no idea what to do so retreat was all he really knew. So, everything was just kind of kicked up a notch even. Like all he knew what to do with emotions were lock it down and run away.
Billy: Where would you see that then as the marriage progressed? Where would you see — you talked about your inability to love yourself, how would those two things then collide to the point where we’re at a trial separation now?
Mina: Where I really think it spun out of control is we got really locked into this toxic loop of demand-withdraw. So I would demand something from him, I would demand some sort of reaction, I would demand that he treat me a certain way or that he express a certain thing or be a certain way, and when that would happen, he would get so stressed or he knew he couldn’t do it or didn’t feel a certain way and he would withdraw. The more he would withdraw, the more I would demand. And it was just this toxic loop and he always felt like he was in trouble or I was always mad and the more he would withdraw, the more I would up the ante on the demands and things just got more and more and more toxic. I mean, there’s other things that call it a pursue and withdraw but, really, I played my role in this. My demands got toxic, and his withdraw got toxic. We both played our roles in this. And so things were spiraling out of control. We were at an impasse. And I was miserable. All I was doing was fine seeing what he was doing wrong, seeing how he was hurting me, seeing what was happening to me. That’s all I could see. And he had this thing where he was so insecure that he would demean me because of it. And when I brought my baggage in, my low self-image, well, that just made it ten times worse. So I was feeling even worse and things just were going downhill really fast.
Billy: At what point did the two of you say, “You know what, we need to try something drastic”? It sounds like you did marriage counseling for a little while.
Mina: We tried four.
Billy: So you did four. I’m always curious, how does the conversation go? “We need to do marriage counseling,” and then how does the conversation go, “This isn’t working”?
Mina: So I’m lucky that Mike isn’t the type of guy that says, “No, I don’t wanna do that.” No, he’s really open to stuff like that. The problem happens when a marriage counselor can suggest things all you want but if you don’t do it, it’s never going to work. So, the other thing was, and it happened a few times, where Mike’s issues were so pervasive and so not dealt with that it really became the Mike Show a lot. A lot of his issues were so pervasive and so obvious and so not dealt with that the therapist would just focus on him. My issues, I came from a dual alcoholic family with abuse, a lot of what I ended up with were type-A personality traits where I’m hyper focused, I’m hyper vigilant, I’m really good at my job, I’m an overachiever, so they would look at me and be like, “Well, you’re self-sufficient. You’ve made it. You can deal with all this. You’ve done it. You don’t need help. He does,” and so it kind of became the Mike Show all the time. And it always seemed to be like, “This is what Mike needs to work on,” which wasn’t really — I mean, yes, he did need to work on those things but that was only part of it. There were things that I needed to work on but when he was singled out, he’s going to lock it down. He’s not going to want to do all those things.
Billy: So the more that the therapist focused on Mike, he’s shutting down —
Billy: — And you’re feeling like, “What about me?”
Mina: Right, right. I mean, in a way, I should feel validated, sure, yeah, they’re pointing out all the things he’s doing wrong, but at the same time, I know that that’s not how it works. Logically, I know that’s not how it works. He’s not a tyrant. He’s not a bad person. It’s both of us. It has to be both of us. So, the therapists were doing their job. Unfortunately, we weren’t good candidates for it.
Billy: What do you mean by that?
Mina: Well, Mike wasn’t going to work on his stuff so that we could move beyond that. He was locked in his withdrawal and just shutting down on everything. So, I mean, he felt like he was in trouble all the time.
Billy: What do you think you both needed from a therapist then in those sessions? Like if you could do it all over again, what would you what do you think he needed? What do you think you needed?
Mina: Honestly, I don’t know if marriage counseling was going to help us at all. We’re both in individual therapy and one thing I suggested was that Mike’s therapist that he had maybe wasn’t a good fit because he wasn’t making any progress there either so he switched therapists and that seems to be helping, but we stopped going to our marriage counselor and just kind of we’re treading water, nothing was really happening, nothing was getting better. Basically, the hole was getting deeper. And, one day, I just looked at him and realized that he looked as miserable as I did and that it wasn’t just me. He looked tired, he looked sick. And I thought about it and I brought up the idea of a trial separation to him. I approached him with the idea that it was for him and me to work on ourselves because, I, honestly, like I’ve been in survival mode my whole life, I’ll figure it out no matter what. I’ll always land on my feet. I don’t think he has that same thing. He was never really given those tools, where I had to. So I didn’t think he could work on himself and loving himself with me holding the knife of our marriage to his throat the whole time. So I brought up the idea of a trial separation because he needed to find himself. He has no voice. He doesn’t have a voice. He doesn’t know what he wants. He doesn’t know who he is. That was kind of where it came to, and the decision we made to do it was one made out of love because, really, no matter what happens, I want him to be happy.
Billy: And so how does that look then for the two of you and how does it work with your kids?
Mina: So, initially, what we are doing now is we were doing something, I think it’s called nesting where we got an apartment, a one-bedroom really close to the house and we switch week by week. I go to the apartment for a week, he stays at the house and then we swap. However, that just messed me up. It messed me up because I’m always seeking safety and I felt not having a home base, I was messed up, like the not having a home and just routes, I didn’t like it. So, starting next month, I’m getting a three-bedroom in the same complex and we’re shuttling the kids back and forth in more of a traditional way. We see it just as a change in logistics, it’s not any sort of shift in the trial separation. But Mike and I are still very close. We still talk every day, we still co-parent. When I went through a rough time recently, he was the one I called. We’re very close. I mean, there’s still a good chance that this might be what we needed. But if he decides or if I decide that we’re happier apart, this also could be it.
Billy: Does it blur the lines having that frequent of communication with each other?
Mina: I don’t think so. One thing that we did is make this our own. I started reading some stuff about trial separation and all the rules and I was like, “Well, that doesn’t seem like it would work for us,” so —
Billy: What are some of the rules?
Mina: Like one of the rules was like nobody should date or you should only have conversations about the children and nothing else, stuff like that, and it just didn’t feel like that would work for us. Not only that, but this was something that we had no experience with and we figured, like some of it had to be learned as we go. And one thing that, for example, was we didn’t know what to do with holidays, like Easter came up, we’re like, okay, is it the parent who has the children or are we going to spend it together as a family? Will that confuse the kids or what do we do? Well, I didn’t know how he was going to react. Mike had the kids during Easter. The idea of spending a holiday without my children was really difficult for me. What I did is I talked to Mike and he’s like, “Oh, okay, well, we’ll just have lunch together and spend it as a family and just hang out.” So just keeping things surfacey with Mike wasn’t going to work for us because we’re a very close family. And then the dating thing, well, my self-esteem doesn’t exist. It’s in the toilet. So dating, me dating and finding out where I fit was part of my journey. And the other thing is I’m a very open person, I will just like open my mouth and say what I’m thinking. So I’m very open with Mike about it and that was part of it before we even started is I talked to him about it, I put it in there, we have an agreement that we signed and he knows all about it.
Billy: Do you work through lawyers or is it just this is an agreement that we wrote up or is there a third party involved in it?
Mina: It’s an agreement that we wrote up. There’s nothing legal about it, because our finances are still combined and this is all just us. Just us.
Billy: I guess I’m always curious how many couples in a similar situation like that coexist in that way, because my parents are divorced but we do all our holidays together. My dad’s still mows my mom’s lawn and my mom will stop on my dad’s for lunch, that kind of thing, but they couldn’t be married. They just were better off not being married, they’re better off being friends than they are being married. And I have that with my ex, like I think my ex is the most amazing — I don’t even like calling her my ex. I think she’s one of the most amazing people in the entire world but we’re just really good at being friends and it’s a very platonic thing and I hope that we’re friends forever and it’s just one of those things where it’s like there wasn’t a romantic connection. And I don’t know if there was a lack of intimacy or affection in your relationship or what brought that on. It sounds like the two of you really are just struggling with this idea of how do we love ourselves because you can’t pour from an empty cup. And so how do I extend love to someone else when I don’t even love myself?
Mina: Yeah, I think that is the foundation of what our problems really are. And because of who we were and what we lacked growing up, we entered into this relationship having needs that we were getting from the other people and we’re looking to rectify those needs ourselves and so if we end up getting back together, it’s because we want to, not because we need to. Whatever choices we make, it’s a want, not a need. So all the needs are being taken care of on our own. We’re not looking for those things in the other person because that’s not how relationships work. Nobody can do that for you. Nobody fills up holes that are in you, not in a gross way. I mean, that does happen but nobody can make you whole. You have to do that yourself. So we’re going to make ourselves whole and then deciding what our future looks like because, in my mind, the worst case scenario is we’re friends, because Mike will always be part of my family. He’s the father of my children. I always will care what happens to him. I never ever want to get to a point where I hate him. That’s why this happened now, a decision out of love, not later, a decision because we couldn’t stand each other.
Billy: And I think you bring up a good point about the importance of making ourselves whole so what we’re going to do is we’re going to take a break, and then when we come back, we’re going to talk about what that process has been for you. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Thanks for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We will do our best to put out new content every Wednesday to help get you over the midweek hump. If you’d like to contact us or if you have suggestions about what you’d like us to discuss, feel free to email us at email@example.com or follow us on Instagram at @Mindful_Midlife_Crisis. Check out the show notes for links to the articles and resources we reference throughout the show. Oh, and don’t forget to show yourself some love every now and then too. And now, back to the show.
Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We’re here talking with our friend Mina about going through her trial separation and the importance of learning to heal ourselves and love ourselves so that we can love those that are around us. And, Mina, we ended talking about I liked that idea that no one else can make you whole, you yourself have to make yourself whole, and what I wanted to know is what have you done in order to heal yourself from the trauma of your youth? What have you done to emphasize that you need to love yourself?
Mina: Well, one thing I was doing is I started dating, which, I mean, it’s really just a little bit, I’m not like swiping all the time really. Another thing is really kind of identifying the wounded child that I was, which actually just happened, and starting to protect that child and recognize, because, like I said before, I’m the type of person that minimizes everything that happened to me and so when I think back to my childhood, I perceived myself as coming through unscathed. I protected myself, I’m fine, I’m fine. But that’s not true. I was incredibly wounded. I was incredibly — just things were not good and, obviously, it’s playing a role now. So, recognizing actually the problems that it caused, recognizing that I’m still that wounded child and protecting and taking care of that wounded child now. And then, from that point, I’m still working with my therapist about the self-love, that’s still something I do struggle with. I really don’t know what else I’m going to do but, I mean, that’s where I’m starting. The dating thing is kind of me putting to rest some of the things I was told to believe about myself, which is nobody else will want you. That was the I’m — you’re unattractive and all that stuff, and so the dating isn’t for the person I’m dating, it’s not to get back at Mike, it’s 100 percent for me. It’s just to put those things to rest in my own brain. And so that and the wounded child, and then I don’t know what’s next for me, but I’m working with my therapist to see how that goes.
Billy: What are some of the tools that your therapist is trying to provide for you?
Mina: Well, I mean, she definitely does the wounded child work.
Billy: Can you elaborate a little bit more on that?
Mina: Well, I mean, recently, she’s talking about how I’ve been rejecting, for example, not talking to my abusive father and that in and of itself is me protecting that wounded child, saying, “No, you don’t have to just take that abuse.” It’s you as an adult protecting that wounded child, saying, “No, I’m not taking this anymore.” So things like that and even recognizing, just the act of recognizing that I didn’t come out unscathed was something that just happened because it’s that shift in perspective, like I viewed myself one way, just like it took me 38 years to realize I was an abused child. It took me that long. Because when you’re emotionally abused, you’re gaslit. My dad told me, “I’m all you have. Nobody else cares about you like I do. I’m all you have,” and when your tormentor tells you that and you believe it, you think that that’s love. So it takes that long and the shift, when it happens, it’s great because you never really look at it the same, but to get that shift to happen is extremely difficult.
Billy: Are there things that you’ve heard from our guests throughout this season or in the previous season that have resonated with you and you’re like, “Oh, wow, I never really thought of it that way. That makes me want to look into that more. It makes me wanna connect with that guest a little bit more just to see how that may benefit me emotionally, mentally, physically”?
Mina: Well, there was the brothers, was it Scott and Lee? The depression. I mean, I know I was born this way. I know. My dad used to call it, my maiden name is Johnson, the Johnson melancholia, and we’re just this way and I wasn’t diagnosed with clinical depression until after my best friend committed suicide and I went for the first time to see a therapist because of grief counseling and, right away, she was like, “Yeah, you’ve got normal grief but what’s this other stuff? Something else is definitely happening here.” And so, at that point, I was diagnosed, and I’ve always had issues there, just struggles, like things get pretty dark up here, and not in a goth way, not in like a cool Tim Burton way.
Billy: Was that diagnosis an aha moment? Like, “Oh, that’s why I think this way,” or was it more of a…
Mina: I think the diagnosis wasn’t an aha. When I started medication and realized that I didn’t have to feel that way, that was the aha. When I started taking medication and talking about things and living more, that was the aha. I mean, it took a little bit because, I mean, after my best friend committed suicide, that’s where I was at the, when you talk about going back and listening and identifying your suicidal ideation, I was right there. I was the last person to see my friend alive. And then, the next day, he’s gone — or a couple days later, he’s gone, and I had people checking in on me daily to make sure I was still around because the trauma of his loss was just so great. And I wasn’t actively suicidal, I was passively suicidal. I didn’t want to live anymore. I was just done. I was tired. I was just so tired. And so, at that point, when I started taking medication, it gave me just the kick I needed to start talking more and moving and getting out and living and realizing that I didn’t have to be stuck there, because I think I would have spiraled down lower.
Brian: As someone who just met you, I have to say, it really does seem like you have your head around this and you’re starting to come to grips with some of the stuff that happened. So, I mean, good for you. It’s really encouraging seeing that and inspirational, honestly, that things can evolve for the better.
Mina: Well, I think that’s one of the things that openness does is when you articulate it, it comes out and you can process it and other people can give you their input and you talk through it and you hear different perspectives and that’s part of what the podcast does is people tell their stories and you can identify and hear it and apply it.
Billy: Funny that you say that because I actually stopped going to therapy because this has been therapy for me. This podcast and writing the episodes and recording these with Brian and just talking openly about these things but then also bringing in people who have shared experiences or listening to the people who have provided insight about a better way to just live your life has really been therapeutic for me. And if my therapist is out there listening, I just want you to know that I’m doing really well, because of this. I told her that I wouldn’t be back for a while and as long as I do this podcast, I don’t know if I’ll be back. And I just want you to know that this has really helped. I feel like finding a purpose, for me, has been the greatest therapy, like I actually am able to take things day by day at my job but then really look forward to this.
Brian: All right, so we can pretty much wrap up the podcast. If anybody’s got problems, just start your podcast and you’re good.
Mina: Everybody’s got a podcast now.
Billy: Yeah, a lot of people have podcast —
Brian: That would be a good shirt. “I have a podcast.”
Billy: Just like everyone else.
Mina: Yeah, I have a podcast, what’s yours called?
Brian: That’s great.
Billy: I like that. Dammit, Mina is continuing to crush these marketing ideas —
Brian: Yeah, she ups the ante every time.
Billy: Oh, my goodness gracious. We have to write these down and you have earned your 80 percent.
Mina: Oh, thank you.
Billy: You’re very welcome. Very welcome. I know that the conversation that we had with Dr. Yvette Erasmus hit with you as well. Can you talk about that?
Mina: Well, one of the things that I really identified with was the grid she talked about with the axes, the caring and uncaring and skilled and unskilled and that really hit because I thought about my behavior with the demand and withdraw loop and I know I was in some of those bad quadrants. I was in some of the manipulation quadrants and all that. I heard her explanations of, That’s when you’re getting to the manipulation and that’s when you’re getting to coercion,” and stuff and I was like, yep, that was me. That’s my role. That’s where I was toxic. That’s where I was not being a good wife. So that’s part of why I think our marriage counseling failed was my role wasn’t being highlighted because I was also, going back to Dr. Yvette Erasmus where she was saying you’re looking at things from a “This is what you did wrong,” you’re looking at things from a “What’s wrong” perspective, I could only see what was being done to me what was wrong so I wasn’t seeing my role. I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture. I couldn’t look at it. The perspective could not be shifted. I wasn’t seeing it. So those two things, really, just that perspective of how we’re looking at our relationships, that everything is, “I’m going to control you by telling you what you’re doing wrong,” and how you’re communicating, that skilled, unskilled, uncaring manipulation type tactics where that’s where I was dwelling too often. And I’m glad that, maybe, hopefully, Mike was completely shut down and it didn’t penetrate, I hope. But there’s been a few times where I now have gone back and said, “I had a reason for saying it but it wasn’t a good one and I apologize.” That was me in my role reacting, demanding, and that you deserve an apology.
Brian: You should be proud also because just being able to acknowledge that, I think, is progress.
Brian: It’s perspective on yourself so good for you there too.
Mina: Right. Mike and I are both pretty open with our therapy too, like not everything, obviously, he has his private stuff and I do too, but I think no matter what, he and I, there’s something there. We’re close. We’re very close. I think part of me will always find a home there. I’m connected to him in a way. So we’re still sharing our journeys with each other because I care what happens to him and he cares what happens to me and we’re always going to be connected through our children. It’s been cathartic to just share how we’re evolving with each other as well, because a lot of what he’s doing, it can’t be for me, he has to do it for himself, and it’s really good to hear that he is doing it for himself.
Brian: If there’s one thing you could say to somebody that’s experiencing maybe what you were, the situation that you were in, what’s your best advice for them to move into a better spot? Because it obviously seems like you’re in a better spot than you were, you’re able to acknowledge this and process all of this stuff, but what would you say is the best bit of advice for somebody that may be struggling with these same feelings?
Mina: You know, maybe really tried to take a bird’s eye view of the situation and look at it, are you at an impasse? Are you just looking at it like this person needs to change in order for this relationship to work? Because, chances are, that’s not it. That’s not it. There is no key in a lock that’s going to fix everything. Also, a trial relationship looks exactly how you want it to look — or a trial, I’m sorry, a trial separation looks exactly how you want it to look. So it doesn’t have to mean the end. It could be a week long, you could take a week break and go stay with a friend and just take a break. Just take a break. Or it could be you could still cohabitate and do it that way or do it any way, but recognize when you’re at an impasse, recognize that it’s probably just a blanket underlying issue for both of you, it’s not the other person, and recognize that there needs to be something done and it doesn’t have to be bad. Try to make the decision out of love, not dislike.
Billy: Mina, we want to thank you so much for being here today and sharing your story and sharing your vulnerability with us and with our listeners. We think you are amazing for doing that. We think you’re amazing in general anyway, and we now have some amazing marketing ideas that we can steal from you and —
Brian: Who knows? We may have yawn again just if we run out of ideas. We’ll be like, Mina.
Mina: Yeah, just spitball, just — well, our new podcast will be called Spitball.
Billy: Oh, maybe that’s the name of our band.
Brian: Our uke band.
Billy: Our uke band could be Spitball.
Brian: Okay, done deal.
Mina: No, it’s Don’t Uke On My Shoes, are our first single, Spitball.
Brian: There you go.
Billy: I like it.
Brian: Yeah, that’s good.
Billy: I like it. You continue to take this to another level. Mina, once again, thank you for being on our show. We really appreciate it. For Brian, this is Billy, thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved. Take care, friends.
Billy: Welcome to the mindful midlife crisis. I’m your host, Billy, and, as always, I’m joined by my good friend, Brian on the Bass. Brian, how you doing over there, man?
Brian: I am sensational today.
Billy: Oh, sensational. How lovely.
Brian: Yeah, there’s lots of sensation. That’s dumb, cut that out.
Brian: See, I just want to make you feel comfortable, man, and so I figured I’d just —
Billy: By talking about the sensations?
Brian: True. I’m going to be worthless today. I had about two hours of sleep last night so I’m going to be worthless. Let’s just start it over.
Billy: Okay, all right, that sounds — we might throw that in at end.
Brian: We might.