The Pain of Rejection

Dear First Ex,

Part of me shudders typing “dear” and thinking about you, but I can’t think of another opening for letters. Bear with me, even though we both know that there’s nothing there.

Anyway, I was thinking about you yesterday. A few days ago, I fell into an old addiction again, and I realized that beneath the symptoms, there was an old lie. As long as I believed that my core was made of putrid darkness, and that no one could want to be near me, the addiction would keep coming back, because it’s comforting.

You are one of the people whose actions made it look like the lie was true.

Does that sound like I’m blaming you? It might, but the truth is that I’m too tired to feel any pain over what happened, and in the moment, I was only able to see my side anyway. I was in a low downswing of my depression, coming off of a suicidal period (or going into one?). There are too many emotions and too much brain fog for me to remember. It could have been too much. It could have been strangling the life out of you. Who knows? Regardless, there’s nothing to gain from another angry tirade at you, and I’m not here to write one.

All that I’m trying to say is that the choices you made, especially towards the end, were hard for me to deal with. I still think they show some cowardice on your part, because you recruited other people to break up with me for you instead of saying the words yourself. When I wanted to talk afterwards, just to see if there was a way that we could be civil enough that our mutual friends didn’t have to choose, you had someone insult me so that you could stay silent.

So I let you have our friends and our social spot. Looking back, it sounds a little like a divorce, doesn’t it? Weird.

Reading over my old journal entries yesterday was bizarre. I went from singing your praises to heaping abuse on your name in an instant. I was completely blindsided by the whole thing. I had been pouring everything I had into the relationship. You probably won’t trust me when I say that I know that depressed people don’t have much love to offer. Even before I met you, I knew that love drew energy from my very limited emotional reserves. I spent energy on trying to make you happy when I should have used it for taking care of myself or resting. I tried to take care of your needs. I didn’t criticize your lifestyle and I accommodated your needs. I poured out everything I had for you and you basically said,

“You didn’t get better fast enough.”

Yeah. It was a real high point for both of us. I’m still not “better,” by the way. It turns out that brains don’t fix themselves any more than dysfunctional organs or misshapen limbs do. Weird, isn’t it?

I’m sorry. I’m getting bitter, and I said I wasn’t here to accuse you. Staying angry with you or believing that your assessment of me was accurate is just hurting me. For a decade, part of my energy has been draining off to fuel the lie I mentioned earlier and the defense mechanisms around it. I’m done. I have to be.

Forgiveness is a strange thing. People have told me that it’s a choice: just choose to forgive someone. There are a handful of people that I have chosen to forgive, but I’m still angry and hurt when I think of them, because I still wanted more from our relationships than they gave me. I wanted love, care, an honest connection, to feel safe while I’m near them, but no. And it still hurts. Someone else has told me that it doesn’t sound like I’ve forgiven them. Forgiveness, therefore, must be more than a choice.

Today, right now, it feels like maybe forgiveness is actually part of a sequence, and that it only functions properly when done in the right order. Here’s my working model:

  1. Be vulnerable and get hurt.
  2. Mourn and feel the pain.
  3. Process the experience and its effects on you.
  4. Let yourself heal from it. Let go of the dark, angry words, even if their familiarity is comforting.
  5. Forgive the person.
  6. Move on a more complex person than you were before.

Yesterday afternoon, I just laid on the floor and sobbed. I remembered how my college friends found out about my depression and stopped talking to me. I remembered how a few months later, you left me too. I remembered how our friends just stayed with you, even though I tried hard to avoid asking them to choose sides and I wanted to find separate places to hang out.

All of these people that I was honest with, all of these people that I trusted, they got close to be and saw my broken parts, and then they left. And it sucks.

But here’s the thing- the small group of you are not representatives of humanity. You don’t control the choices that other people make, and just because you chose to leave me alone when I needed you most, it doesn’t mean that no one will ever choose to stay. My husband met me during a breakdown and he just kept walking closer to me. The messier I got, the more broken parts he saw, the more time he spent with me, and his kindness and gentle spirit still blow me away.

It’s unfortunate that my pain has prevented me from accepting him on the deepest level possible. That I’ve invalidated some of his choices and actions because I believed that he would be like you. That I’ve done the same thing with God’s love, because I believed that He would be like you. And I’m done.

What you did, what all of you chose to do, will never be ok. It will never be justified, but I’m not the harbinger of justice. I don’t need to carry the burden of the pain you caused me and the treatment that I needed from you. I don’t need to keep a list of areas where I gave more or tried harder. I don’t need to try to remember any pieces of the storm that was our last two meetings. God will remember for me, and He can measure out all of the pieces.

So this is it. I’m letting go of everything attached to this ball of pain. I don’t need any of the mess any more. I don’t believe the lie any more.

There are good traits in me. There are reasons that people might want to be my friend or enjoy being near me. I am not a toxic waste of space. I am a beautiful mess, just like everyone else.

So goodbye. I know we haven’t seen each other for years, so I don’t expect that I’ll even think of you again for a long time. It will be ok if I forget you entirely. It will be ok if I don’t. Either way, I’ll still be me.

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Photo by Todd Diemer on Unsplash

I’m going to leave you here. I have a lot of walking to do, a lot of me to discover, a lot of talents to develop, a lot of life to live, and a lot of love to give. I’m going to grow into someone better, someone more vibrant than I am now, if only because I’m too stubborn to quit.

I know that the beautiful, glowing me is inside somewhere. I look forward to meeting her and then introducing her to the world. She’s going to love it.

~J

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Moving Forward with Mom

Well, I actually texted my mom and asked her to make time to talk to me and she did. We met in a restaurant and talked for a while. I was really nervous about whether or not she had made any progress on being defensive, and she has. It was good, even though I didn’t expect it to be.

I brought along the book I’m reading. I told her that I’m nervous about integrating the pockets of emotion that I’ve separated from myself. (There are traumatic events that I can discuss in a flat, rational tone, because I don’t feel anything. From what I can tell, it’s not uncommon for people to become numb when they experience things that are too intense for them to handle. I need to begin the process of feeling those things, accepting the pain. accepting that the events didn’t shape my value, and moving forward.)

I asked her how she reconciled her love for her father with the pain that he caused her during the period of his life when he used alcohol to numb the scars he brought back from war. I listened to her talk through it, and it seemed like she understood that I would need to walk that path with her as well. I think she knows that it will take time, that there may be days that I’m angry, and that this process is more about me than about her. I don’t think she’s threatened by my journey.

Honestly, not much has changed since before we talked, but it was worth doing. If I had let fear make my choices for me, I never would have taken the risk of talking to her, and I would still feel alone and empty.

There’s still a lot of work to do. Healing is dirty and painful and long. Sometimes, things need to break again in order to heal properly. Sometimes, you have to pull out all of the pieces of pain you thought you had dealt with already, look at them again, make new connections or interpret them with new information, and then pack them away  when you’re done. Sometimes, you can move on once you’ve had enough new experiences that contradict your old expectations. Sometimes, you go a bit further down before you can climb again.

I’m not expecting a miracle or a quick fix.

I expect to cry and journal, to laugh and paint, to fight and scream, and to break through every wall of pain and fear that’s kept me trapped here. It will be hard. I will need breaks to heal and restore my energy. I will have to take care of my needs along the way or I risk getting sick or falling into a downward spiral.

There’s a balance between taking care of myself because I’m precious and pushing myself to keep going through the pain because it’s the only way out. I will find it and I will keep it, to the best of my ability.

Guilt and Obligation

I don’t know what to say, but I’m freezing up, so I need to do something.

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Photo by Jad Limcaco on Unsplash

There’s going to be a baby shower in my family soon. It’s being held in a private residence, and the people who live there don’t mind if Dora comes, but the people that they’re renting the house from won’t allow it. It’s private space, so the ADA is a bit grey here, and if in doubt, I try to respect private space and the people involved. Access to public space is the intent of the law, after all, and I want to respect people’s choices about their own homes. It’s the decent thing to do.

So there’s some drama there because my cousin, who’s scheduling it, is like bending over backwards trying to find a way to make this work, and I appreciate that. She’s being really kind.

I also feel like I have to go, because I’ve never really been given a choice about these events. From childhood, I have been forced to attend every bridal and baby shower to which I’ve been invited, because, you know, I’m a girl. If I’m honest, really honest with myself, going to these parties has caused me more damage than I care to admit.

For years, I’ve been broken-hearted about my lack of a meaningful love life, and both weddings and bridal showers just served to reinforce my worthlessness. But I had to go, so I went.

And baby showers?

Do any of you remember my old entry called “Diagnosis”? Well, the lady in the painting is me. I received the diagnosis in… 2004, I think. It still hurts. Honestly, that’s mostly because I was basically like ‘nope. into the pain box you go. not dealing with you. nope. nope. nope. you’re just too big and complex and i don’t want to be honest with myself about this topic and no. bye!’

I say that, but at the same time, I got an onslaught of really horrible thoughts dumped into my head about how I was so fundamentally flawed, I couldn’t even be a woman right. Like, somehow the fact that I have glands and organs that just decided to stop working is a sign of how truly flawed I am as a person, since 99% of the females on the planet do not fail in even this basic way.

Add in the fact that my grandmother who is a dangerous, passive-aggressive lady may well be there, and perhaps you can see why my husband suggested that attending the event without Dora might be a bad idea.

So I told my cousin not to worry about it, that I was sorry that I was changing the answer that I gave her just last night, that I would figure something out. But now, she feels bad about the whole thing, and so does her grandmother (a kind lady who smiles easily). And I don’t want her to feel bad, so I should go without Dora.

But I don’t want to hurt myself any more because I already have mountains of pain and lies to dig through and process, so maybe I shouldn’t go at all. If I choose not to go, for my wellbeing, then everything with the location and the invitations she’s already ordered just sorts itself out nicely.

But I’m making people upset by not going, and I don’t know how to communicate ‘it’s ok; i didn’t want to go anyway because i hate baby showers,‘ without sounding rude or… whatever characteristic is associated with disliking things that I am supposed to like.

Yes! I know that I am supposed to be able to experience other people’s happiness with them instead of ‘making everything about myself.’ I have been told already. Thanks. I don’t know how to do that when the events in question are both bound up in unhealed traumas that I never get to make progress on because every time they surface, people essentially tell me that I shouldn’t have them in the first place, so I have to bury them again.

I just… ARGH!

Why? Just why?

I can already tell that I shouldn’t go to this. The healthiest choice I can possibly make is to avoid being hurt any further, whether that makes sense to anyone else or not. The only alternative I have is to go, sit silently, pretend that I’m having a decent time, and just marinate in my pain… like I always have, because it makes people happy to think that I am happy about the same things that they are.


I am so jealous of my husband and brothers for not being invited, not being put in this situation, and not being expected to enjoy this type of thing. It’s just difficult sometimes.

Day 144 With Dora

Social anxiety has never been fun, per se. It’s quite a handful, and I can’t predict its rhythm. The last 16 days, however, have been awful.

Sixteen days ago, I was at the grocery store, with Dora in her vest, sitting on a bench, talking to my brother, who I met by chance. The Flutenist was getting our car, and I was minding my own business. Some random stranger, an old man with white hair a brown duster and- I kid you not- some sort of badge on his buttoned white shirt, says to me “Pretty dog you have there.”

Never mind that he’s a stranger. Never mind that he cut off my conversation midsentence. Never mind that he doesn’t look like law enforcement but is actually wearing a brass badge.

As a disabled person, strangers now expect to be able to interrupt me at any time in order to talk about my dog. On a date with my husband? Who cares?! Reading a book in a park? Not important! Trying to juggle six other things at a cash register? Not their problem.

Whatever. So he compliments Dora, I say “thank you,” and my mind starts loading up the relevant info. Her breed. Her name. Her age. She’s a rescue. Etc.

“Be careful with that collar. One good lunge and you’ll rip her throats out.” Drops mic. Turns and loads his groceries into his car in one of the handicapped parking spots. Drives away.

Dora wears a prong collar when she walks. It is properly sized, has rubber tips, and we have walked well over 100 miles since she got it. We both know each other’s walking speeds, distractions, expectations, needs, etc. 95% of the time, she stays right with me. 5% of the time there is a gust of wind or a new dog or a running child, and Dora gets excited, but she has never once hurt herself with this collar. I have not hurt her either. 

Dora chooses to stand politely next to me because she doesn’t want to be poked in the neck. I appreciate her not requiring the use of both arms and all the muscles in my torso in order to walk her. It is working for us. Neither of us is in danger.

What is wrong with this retired Texas Ranger wannabe?! Why does he like going up to disabled people and talking about their dogs dying in graphic language? Doesn’t he know that our dogs start to feel like an extension of ourselves? That after a few months together, we are closer to them than to any humans we know. Every good day, bad day, sick day, adventurous day- Dora is with me each step of the way. And I am with her when she is sick or scared, excited or happy. We are a team.

I love her.


Long story short: I’m scared to go in public now, because of this one selfish jerk who cares more about himself and his ego than reality. He didn’t ask any questions; he didn’t want to know about how Dora and I interact; he was just certain that he knew best, even though he knew next to nothing. All he could possibly have known about us is this:

  1. Dora is a medium sized black dog in an orange service dog vest, striped flat collar, and prong collar.
  2. I am an adult woman who is apparently not deaf, since I acknowledged hearing him.
  3. Dora was sitting politely at my feet without pulling at all.
  4. I was polite enough to drop everything and interact with him despite him rudely interrupting my visit with my brother.

That’s it. That’s all that he could know about us.

😩😡

And now, I get panic attacks in public, just by walking into stores. Why?! Wasn’t it already hard enough for me? Did I really need more burdens?! And most importantly: why can’t I just ignore him and move on when I know that’s what I need to do?!

Day 129 With Dora

My family, extended family especially, is not on board with my service dog. “You’re invited over, but Dora isn’t.” “I can’t believe you’re making me choose between seeing you and having a dog in my house.”

I just…

I expected this to come. I really didn’t think these people who have been selfish and distant for years, who have caused me pain and never tried to reach out to get to know me, they were never going to take it well. 

I just didn’t think it would hurt so much.

Day 26 With Dora

I guess that today, there are two things on my mind: calluses and chores. 😏 It is what it is.

I have thick, painful calluses on the middle and ring fingers of my hands. From walking Dora. Who pulls like a train. An adorable 50 pound train. 


Everyone is like “That’s what pit bulls do!” and I’m like “Her profile said she was a lab mix!” 😆 Oh well. In any case, we are working on walking- for her health (and mine) and for obedience class.  Two handed grip: one hand above her on the leash, other hand by my opposite hip. So basically, Dora stands besides my right foot, the leash comes up from her harness to my right hand, then it crosses in front of my body to my left hand, and the loop is usually around my left wrist. I try to keep her there.

But she pulls. And the leash cuts into my fingers. And I pull back.

This week, we’re supposed to work on a new technique: stopping and sitting every time she pulls until she eventually chooses to walk nicely so we can walk further. It’s… slow at this point, but Dora is smart. It will come together eventually.

The other thing was chores. I’m on my 3rd load of laundry today. This hasn’t happened since before we got her. I’m pleased to announce that we are FINALLY getting her bathroom schedule in hand. I now have 2-3 hours between trips instead of ~40 minutes (because it takes so long to get bundled up for the cold and unbundled for the house). It’s…. it’s nice, but that’s not all of it. It’s like…

You’re outside I’m a park or something and the clouds break. Rain- hard, fast, and cold- pours over your shoulders. You’re soaked and 30 minutes from your car. You walk, because the path is covered in mud and loose rocks, and it’s not worth slipping and cracking your skull over this. Part way back, the rain slows and the clouds part, and the sun- the sun pours through this little hole in the storm, spilling out onto the trees and the mud. At that moment, you can tell that the worst has passed. It isn’t over; the rain is still falling, the breeze still pierces your sopping clothes, and you didn’t bring a spare outfit in the car; but somehow it all feels like it will work out.

That’s how today feels.