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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Day 37 With Dora

Well, I’ve done something that backfired a little. Something we probably all know we shouldn’t do. I compared myself to others. I compared my disability to others’. What is wrong with me? 😞

I started at the service dogs info session. Is my depression and anxiety worse than hers? Do I deserve a service dog as much as he does? Am I faking it? (Yes. After firmly establishing that I have had depression every day of my life since early childhood- I was actively suicidal for 6 months at age 9- I still asked that question.) Should I just suck it up and forget this whole thing? (Again. This is also a dumb question. Sure, I have lived in much, much darker stages. Yes, this is a fairly bright season of life, but even now, I’m still strangled by fear and doubt and… 😑)

I shouldn’t have done it. I shouldn’t have tried to measure my paralysis and fear and breakdowns and everything against other people’s issues. I knew better, but I still did it.

And today, I was watching a YouTube video, and someone mentioned “fake service dogs.” For context, I want to make a few things clear:

  1. This person has a traditional disability, one that has used service dogs for many years.
  2. They have been respectful, assertive, and polite in all their videos that I have watched. They honestly seem to want to make the world better by sharing their experience with others and answering questions.
  3. They never ever said what they meant by this term (i.e. that my disability isn’t real because it’s invisible). I’m only reacting because I’m insecure.
  4. They also have acknowledged invisible disabilities in a different video. There is no evidence that they do not believe in mine.
  5. Some people buy vests and put them on their untrained pets. There are fake service dogs out there.

So… I guess you could say that I was set off by their comment, exploding because I’m so scared of people telling me that I’m exaggerating my struggles that my defenses are being triggered by indirect criticism, without any verification steps to determine if it even was criticism.

I’m insecure, so I panic. I’m overwhelmed, so I lash out. 

I feel awful, like I’m screaming inside. 


It’s paint. Just paint. But if you see blood instead, you understand the feeling and intensity of it.

… 

And now, she’s pawing at my hands, trying to convince me to play with her. I suppose I’ll let her win. I need it, after all.

Good girl, Dora. Good girl.

Game Therapy: Dragon Age II, Part 3

In “Game Therapy” posts, I’m going to unpack some of my thoughts and interactions with the games. Despite the fact that some games I discuss have been out for a while already, I will include spoiler warnings for those who need them.

This entry contains spoilers for Dragon Age II, from the prologue through the end of Act 2 and Dragon Age: Origins’ human noble opening.


When I played Dragon Age 2 for the first time, I was really saddened by my family’s fate. My father died before the game began. My sibling died in the beginning. My other sibling died in the Deep Roads because I brought the wrong party. My mother was decapitated by some sick necromancer so her head could be cobbled into his flesh golem/undead wife. I was alone.

With my backstory, both of my parents died by my hands: I killed my father’s empty husk after his soul was torn from his body and I killed my mother’s mind after her head and spirit were forged into an empty husk. I know that the cut scene for mother’s death shows her slowly fading in Hawke’s arms, but I was so horrified by the zombie bride when I first saw it that I knew my character would have killed that thing as quickly as possible.

I felt so, so alone.

I remember Aveline being very comforting at the time. I loved that she gave me permission to grieve for as long as I needed to and in whatever manner I needed to. She was so kind.

But this time…

On this playthrough, I have hated my mother. My lazy, selfish mother who won’t lift a finger to defend one of us. Who makes demands of me (“Leave your sister here, please! I can’t stand the thought of losing both of you!”) and then blames me for her inaction and inability (“If you had been here, they never would have taken Bethany away!”).

Bethany would have been safe with me, you know. I would have done what I could to keep her safe. But mother? No. Mother didn’t do anything to help protect Bethany. Or me. Or any of us.

You could argue that ‘she’s just an old lady, blah blah blah,’ but I don’t buy it. When my Warden was a Cousland, a member of a noble house, and our home was attacked, my mother and I met up in the hallway in full armor, with our weapons drawn. She took action to protect us all, and I was so proud to be part of that family. My sister-in-law came from the ‘helpless beauty’ school of femininity, so she died in the attack. 

Women are not inherently weak. It is a choice. But this woman, Hawke’s mother, she let others protect her as a noblewoman. And she let her husband protect her once they went on the run. And she let her children protect her in her old age.

I tried to protect my family. I sacrificed my childhood, my happiness, my needs, my friendships, my chance for love… Everything for my family. But it wasn’t enough. Never enough. And to top it all off, this willingly helpless woman kept blaming me for all of our hardships. 

No. Not this time. For some reason, this playthrough, I just won’t accept it any more. So as I fleshed out Abigail’s life, I knew that she didn’t spend much time at home. That she resented her mother’s plans to pick a spouse for her. That she just wanted to stop running for once, to have friends, to belong, and maybe to fall in love.

I mentioned above that Hawke sacrificed friendships and relationships for her family. I always believe that once we hit Act 2 of the game, Hawke has now lived in Kirkwall for longer than she’s lived anywhere else. Four years without running. So a part of that lifestyle, of moving at a moment’s notice to protect the family’s mages, is leaving all of your friends behind without being able to say goodbye. Which means not being able to fall in love, because you know that you’ll have to leave again, and you can’t expect anyone to join your family of well-armed vagrants.

At the end of the day, this family only works if Abigail, Bethany, & Carver are all willing to be miserable indefinitely. None of us really got to be children.

I guess that the main things I see here are these:

  1. New expectations for parents
  2. Belief that my suffering enables other people’s happiness

As always, I’ll talk about these in future posts. Thanks for reading. The image of Hawke’s mother is from the Dragon Age wiki.

Just Like That…

She’s gone.

Kuno is not my cat any more.

I had to send her back to live with my parents, who live in the countryside. She couldn’t stand being trapped in our small house and I couldn’t stand her crying and breaking things. We both reached the end of our wits.
I cried once I knew that I had to let go of her- that she needed to be able to hunt and explore again and I couldn’t give her those things. I cried when I realized that I couldn’t be enough for her. I had tried so very hard to give her everything she needed. There was a darkness I couldn’t breach.


So I let her go. 

We packed the van with all of her (my) cat things and put her in her harness for one last walk in the yard. Then she went into my brother’s arms and they pulled away.


I still feel the dark clouds hanging over me. It happened yesterday, and I didn’t try to write about it at the time. Today, though? So many little moments when she should have been here… Sounds that she always ran to, places she always slept, doorways she always waited by. So many echoes of her floating around my head, as I cry and cry because I couldn’t make my cat happy.

The cat that I rehabilitated from being a terrified feral into an occasionally social cat- I took so many scratches in stride because I knew she was terrified but I needed her to feel safe around people and I was willing to give her time to learn to trust.

The cat who lived with me when I was suicidal- I got up to feed her because I couldn’t let her starve to death, even if I was allowed to die.

The cat who I let live on the shelf in my closet for almost a week because she was so scared of our new home- I truly tried to transition her to our current house well.

The cat who I took on walks in the yard to expand her world… And it worked. She wanted more, needed more than I could give her. She’s been wild before. She will never truly belong in a cage, even one with couches and catnip.

I understand why she needed to be an indoor/outdoor cat again.

So, why do I still feel so awful? 😔

“It Doesn’t Affect Me.”

I’ve been spending a bit of time cleaning out my inbox over the last few days. I’ve gotten the total unread count down to 2,670 messages as I write this, which is a big improvement. I can’t remember how high it was when I started, but I think it may have been near 3,400 unread (who knows how many read). At this point, I’m finally back to November 2015, so you can see that I have a ways to go.

One of the last emails that I have deleted/archived was about one of my friends from high school youth group having two babies. Presumably twins. I don’t know. I deleted it without reading it. And I murmured to myself “Why would I care? It doesn’t affect me,” as I did so.

I have felt like this pretty often throughout my life, but no one seems to understand me. It’s hard to connect to others because of this.

Several of my friends have gotten married. I haven’t gone to any of their weddings… Well, I went to one, but I was coordinating the reception, so it was tolerable. I don’t care about weddings. I don’t know anything about the relationship being celebrated:

  • Do they respect each other?
  • Have they been honest with each other or have they been showing their “best selves”? Do they know each other, or are they actually strangers?
  • Will their marriage actually last?
  • Are they caught up in lust or childish fairy tales, or do they understand what it takes to build a relationship?
  • If I choose to expend some of my limited emotional energy in caring about their marriage, will I get hurt by them? Will they make fun of each other, fight publicly, or tear each other down? Will I just watch them die slowly?

So, I’m not really happy when people get married. I’m apathetic. 

Realistically, these people’s marriages, pregnancies, and other life events don’t affect me. At all. I’m not… The only friends that actually know me well (the current me) are a couple thousand miles away. I’m not even a part of their lives any more, much less a part of the lives of people I knew from high school, college, etc.

So yeah. She has two kids (or two more kids- not sure) now. Kids I’ll never see. Whose names I won’t need to know. I should care because… Why?!
It sucks to be alone.

Virtual Community in a Vacuum

*sigh* I’m back to talk about Knights and Dragons again. I’ve finally realized what I meant when I kept saying that leaving my second guild in this game “felt like a breakup.” Basically, the experience contained these two parts:

  1. My guild had become a significant part of my life because I don’t really have a social life any more, and they really were the only people that I got to talk to on a daily basis (besides my husband).
  2. My guild expected things from me that I wasn’t comfortable with, but which I tried to accommodate because they were significant to me.

So, it was a big loss when I had to leave them because they finally asked for too much. I immediately joined another guild because it truly benefits my character to be a part of one (better rewards, access to more events, etc.). I had encountered one of its members earlier and the guild’s name (Life Happens) gave me the impression that there wouldn’t be many rules about participation levels, spending real money, and so on.


At first, there weren’t. It was pretty good for me, and I got to grow much stronger. I earned a promotion, I got to influence guild decisions, and I enjoyed being with them. I had boundaries this time, and I kept them. No one got to text me directly. I got to choose how I would spend my gems. Until we became successful. At that point, the top members of the guild decided to join an alliance, which is a group of players who spend a lot of time and money on the game.

They wanted me to reinstall the chat app so that they could text me. I wouldn’t. I left silently and changed my name. It hurt less this time.


Now, I’m in “Spikey Ninjas,” which has lived up to its motto thus far. No one has demanded that we sacrifice our real lives or money for the sake of the guild. It’s working out pretty well, but I’m still wary. It only takes a few people to decide that the whole guild needs to change, and if it happens again, I’ll leave quietly.

I miss having friends. Real friends. But for now, virtual communities are about all that I can have, so they will just need to be enough. I guess.

Belief Systems


I drew this today after journaling about my current spiritual state. I don’t want to say much about this, but I will explain a few parts.

  • The circles and squares represent two different, unspecified belief systems.
  • The specific shapes represent individual adherents.
  • Shapes that are connected to others are in a community together.
  • The isolated shapes aren’t (not with each other, and not with the similar shapes).
  • This drawing was created out of discomfort.