Alone in a Social Space

For me, campfires are social places, and I can’t put my finger on why that is. I suppose that it’s simple: I’ve eaten around them with others, grabbed firewood for others, built fires for others, chatted over them with others, and so on. Maybe that’s the whole reason that I feel lonely right now.

I built this for myself. I stoked it myself. I’m sitting at it alone. I keep thinking of people I could invite over, but it’s not practical today. So I’m quietly enjoying my own fire.

Or maybe I would be enjoying it if I weren’t lonely. I’m somewhere between content and ready to cry, so it’s hard to read.

Last week, I had to make a difficult phone call to a friend of several years. I had been dreading our weekly phone calls for more than a month, and I’d simply endured them in relative silence. She started a relationship a few months ago, and some of the things she’s told me about him make me nervous for her safety. Some of the things I know about her past make me unsure about why she’s in the relationship and whether or not it’s an unhealthy coping mechanism.

So I called her. And we talked about my concerns. And she patiently explained to me that I was wrong and that if I lived closer and got to see them interact with one another, I wouldn’t think what I think.

Ouch.

On top of that, she’s been unreliable since they started dating. We had been watching a K drama together and chatting about the characters and plot- just hanging out like we used to when we lived close to one another. For a while now, every week, she’s told me that she didn’t have time to watch the next one, but that she definitely would get to it before a set date that week, and I believed her, and then we repeated it the next week. I understand that she’s got a lot going on, but I wish she would just tell me that she didn’t have time for it instead of… essentially lying to me every week. I know it’s not intentional, but either way, I still have to choose between believing her at face value and getting hurt every week or not believing her at all and being left with a wistful desire that we could be more honest with each other.

After 4-6 weeks of this, I’ve picked the second option because I can’t afford any more pain over something like this.

I don’t wish her harm, and I’m not angry. She’s an adult and she can do what she wants. Right now, I just have to accept that we’re growing apart. I cried a lot last Saturday and then some on Sunday, but the rest of this week has been peaceful, and I almost feel guilty.

Part of me thinks that I shouldn’t be able to let go of her or that there should be a path forward.

  • We disagree on some key issues, so neither of us is open to the other’s input on significant topics any more.
  • We aren’t able to interact on a casual level because she doesn’t have time for our shared interests any more.
  • This is her first relationship and she’s still in the emotional tidal wave stage, so it’s all she wants to talk about. My thoughts on her relationship aside, we don’t talk about her upcoming grad school program, her job, her friends, or her mental health any more.
  • I miss her complexity and depth. I don’t want to hear that the only thing in her life is some guy. It’s hard to accept that she’s withdrawing from things she’s used to love.

I can’t find a path forward.

It’s hard to lose the vulnerability and depth that we had. It hurts like losing an arm.

But if there’s nothing left, what can I do? Just carry on one day at a time and open up to more people. Who knows what blessings the future holds?

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Somebody That I Used To Know

I’m not going to pretend that there isn’t a particular song playing in my head after I typed that title, so here’s a cover of it that I enjoy.

Dear Pysch Major,

I thought of you again yesterday. One of my current friends was apologizing for having forgotten to tell me there was a scheduling conflict with our regular hang out time. She had been crying over it, actually. It was strange, because it was ok with me. I know her character well enough to take that mistake in stride and keep going. While I was reassuring her, I told her about you.

Do you remember the anime convention that you didn’t attend with me? I scheduled time with you and our mutual friend in January, so that you guys would definitely be free in July. We had gone together the year before and enjoyed our day. Moving 3 hours away from you guys after college was hard, but that’s why I wanted to make time to hang out.

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Photo by Mark Cruz on Unsplash

I drove 3 hours, looking forward to seeing you guys. It’s a long, straight road with nothing to see. I arrived and found our friend. We hugged, laughed, and chatted. I asked her if she had heard from you. She hadn’t, but apparently, you had become harder to reach since you started dating your new boyfriend. So I called you. Do you remember what you said?

You had forgotten. I told you that’s why I tried to set this up so many months in advance! You said you hadn’t put it on your calendar. I asked if you were still coming. You said you had something with your boyfriend. I hoped you would say that you were gonna reschedule with him and hang out with me, like you promised.

You didn’t.

I think I asked one last time if you could come or find a way to make it work. You said no. I tried to pretend I wasn’t hurt, and I hung up. I ended the call and I ended my emotional connection with you. How could I trust you or spend energy caring about you?

You wouldn’t apologize for forgetting our plans. You didn’t even try to reschedule your plans with your boyfriend who lived like 15 minutes away to spend time with your friend who drove 3 hours to see you. You expected me to understand. Well, I understood that I didn’t mean anything to you. I understood that I had been pouring more into the relationship than you had. 

I understood that it was over. 

It still hurts me, you know. Yeah, one of the two of you remembered our plans, and was looking forward to it, and she made room in her life for me. We had a good time, in spite of your choice.

I was just completely blindsided by it. I never suspected for a moment that our relationship dynamic was… unbalanced? Unhealthy? Broken?

I know we’ll never talk again, but when I get past the pain, I miss you. I hope you do well in graduate school and clinicians (or whatever the counseling version of apprenticeship is called). I hope that you grow and bloom and help others to do the same. I hope you laugh and run.

I just wish I could be around to see it.

Take care.
~J

Day 166 With Dora- A Two Way Bond

Last night, I ran out to the store quickly to get some last minute items for a surprise house guest. I left The Flutenist with Dora and our guest and set out to the store. Success! Got the stuff! A few hurdles along the way, but I cleared them fine! Hurray!

I got home and found out that Dora had not been herself while I was gone. She was sad and listless. “She kind of wandered around,” they said. After I returned, she stayed right with me, often laying her head on my lap or snuggling close, for almost an hour.

She’s been doing this when I leave her inside for 45 minutes to mow our grass. (Dog + lawnmower = trouble, I think. 🤔) I finish up and come in and then she naps on my leg for more than 30 minutes. If I get up, she looks at me carefully to be sure I’m not leaving again. I just thought it was separation anxiety; she is a rescued dog, after all. But now?

It looks like affection to me. Given a choice, Dora would rather be with me than on her own. Me- the person who was a toxin passively killing those around her. Me- whose death would not have been remembered or noticed by anyone. Me.

(Depression and being actively suicidal create some horrible thoughts. I am not saying I believe them, but I need them here to show the contrast.)


Here, Dora is waiting outside the bathroom for me to finish brushing my teeth. She chose to do this, instead of playing with her toys.

Over and over, Dora chooses me. Me. I hope that one day, I’ll understand why.

Unexpected Call Back

Yesterday, I heard from one of my friends from high school. And she didn’t hate me. I’m not sure what to do now.

Maybe I should back up. 

I haven’t talked to any of my high school friends in over a decade. During school, I pretended to be someone else. I was even more socially awkward and going through a gangly limbs phase and deep in depression without knowing it yet. Then I hit college and things started to fall apart. I started failing classes. I got my diagnosis. I became suicidal again.

I came home. Slept as much as I could, to avoid being awake (and in pain). Cried. Alternated between anger and sadness (and forced numbness) over the 300+ people (yes- I counted them once) who stopped talking to me once they found out I was suicidal.

Because abandoning someone who thinks that killing herself is the only way to stop her constant agony… Abandoning her is a very helpful thing to do.

Now, I get it. People in the state I was in are not easy to be around. They radiate pain and anger. They are actually incapable of thinking of anyone else because the pain they’re in is so severe that it blocks out everything else. I know why people abandon us.

All that I’m saying is that it made suicide look like the right option, because 300+ people already believed their lives would be better without me in it.

So, to hear from someone who predates this period (but was also directly burned by it) is… Terrifying, I guess. Part of me wants to reach out. Part of me wants to scream, “What do you want?! Leave me alone!” But, despite it all, I am committed to growing as a person, so I need to see her, just to know for certain what it would be like.

Game Therapy: Dragon Age II, Unpacking Part 2

It’s time for me to come back to my last post and examine the contents. This one is kind of complicated, because it includes both an experience and recounting that experience to someone. I will try to account for both layers.

  1. Desire for Intimacy: I use this story consistently, and I can’t really imagine a romantic relationship that doesn’t involve a deep knowledge of one another. Someone who wants me needs to take all of me, including any pain or baggage that I’m carrying.
  2. Selective Vulnerability: Hawke has never shared this story with everyone in her party. Some of her companions would end up fighting with her over her father’s ideals. Some wouldn’t care. She only shares this part of her past with those who really seem to know her.
  3. Growing up Fast: Hawke’s father really asked a lot from a child. She didn’t get to relax and enjoy her childhood. I imagine that she smiled enough to avoid attention and laughed for time to time, but she probably also brooded when no one was watching.
  4. Responsibility Comes First: Obviously, Hawke didn’t want to kill her father, but she did it, because she had sworn she would. She didn’t want to lie to her family either, but she did it. In a single day, Hawke sacrificed most of her life for the sake of her family’s safety and her sworn duty.
  5. Pushing Past Exhaustion: The escape required a lot from her physically, but it didn’t matter. Realistically, someone probably couldn’t do that much running in a few hours without training for it beforehand, and the emotional burden and adrenaline rushes would take a toll as well, but it never matters. Hawke always gets her family away, finds her father, and escapes his captors because she needs to.

I think that’s about all that I can see in this story, and I don’t want to start grasping at straws here. Happily, two of these traits are positive, which is better than last time, at least. 

The desire for intimacy has brought me some really good friendships and a marriage that continues to surpass my expectations. It turns out that the type of people who text you again after you break down crying over coffee and childhood trauma are also the kind of people who are also willing to show emotions and discuss hard things. It’s a real blessing.

Selective vulnerability is also good, and a healthy development for me. I lost A LOT of friends when I left college unexpectedly. Like, all of them. Even the ones who tried to keep up contact with me weren’t able to break through my pain to reach me, which isn’t their fault; however, I watched many relationships atrophy and change after my diagnosis became public, which was their fault. Treating someone differently all of a sudden is a choice, not an accident.

So after that, I became… bitter. That words is insufficient. I was angry, hurt, scared, unwilling to trust, and more. I was vitriolic. NO ONE WAS GOING TO HURT ME EVER AGAIN. I WOULD LEAVE THEM FIRST.

False vulnerability became a club, and I slammed people with it as soon as possible. ‘I know we just met, but *insert major pain that someone else has already abandoned me over*, so yeah- go ahead and leave now.’ And many people did. It was great. I could rejoice in my correct understanding of selfish, mean humans. I could be safe.

One day, someone stayed. I hit her with my pain, and she stayed. I tried to scare her off, but she wouldn’t leave. Together, I learned how to build deeper friendships, and later, I learned that I don’t need to wear my pain for all to see. I can feel it without needing to tell anyone. Being vulnerable is a choice.

So yeah. The first two behaviors are actually healthy, and I’m partially pleased by it. I just can’t be fully happy because I read the other three as I typed them, and I need to talk about those as well. Eventually. This is enough for now.