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.

todd-diemer-160708.jpg

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.

Collateral Damage

One of the worst things about having my cocktail of mental illness/being me is that I can’t control when I hurt people. I mean, I suppose that’s probably true for everyone, but this morning, it wasn’t a matter of me being careless and saying something cruel. Instead, I got thrown off, and started melting down within the first 20 minutes of being awake.

Two impossible situations stood before me and I needed to merge them but couldn’t. Time passed. I was stressing out and hurting The Flutenist, and I knew it, and I got more angry at myself and more ashamed of being caught in this struggle at all, and I got more paralyzed and more frantic and…

It was bad.

Sometimes, stress can empower us- give us extra energy (more blood flow), extra clarity (more oxygen to the brain), and more motivation (tension fuels action). For me, there are days when all of those processes work, but I can’t find an outlet. The energy and tension funnel inwards, my body shuts down, and my mind just becomes a whirlpool of rapid, frantic thoughts. 

Nothing gets done. I know I’m stuck but I don’t know how to get out. Or if I can.

But it’s internal; no one but me can affect it or communicate that it’s happening. But I don’t know what to do!

So I almost made him late to work today and I sent him an email while he was at work, explaining everything that had been running through my mind. (I usually regain writing before speech, so it’s my go to response.) I wanted him to know that I knew that I was hurting him and making things worse for him and that I took that seriously. I don’t know why. 

It’s been a few hours and I can’t see how that could have helped anything.

I’m so stupid.

Yeah- today has been very bad in terms of self-talk. I’m back-sliding and I hate it but I don’t know what to do. I just!

Argh!

I wish I were normal.

Or that I could tell where my depression stops and where I start.

Or that I knew what I was capable of.

Everything, every tiny thing, is this epic struggle between being too hard on myself and not pushing myself to grow. I never know whether I’m doing it right or not.

Game Therapy: Dragon Age 2- Unpacking Part 4


Here is another shot from foxybcosplay, and you can see other images from this photo shoot and more of Brooke’s work on her deviant art page.

I’ve been thinking about what I said before about Anders, and how I keep choosing to romance him even though I know that betrayal is coming. Why do I do that? What does it say about me? 

The strangest thing to me is that I just feel peace over it all, like there is nothing wrong with walking into pain over and over again. Like giving someone special the chance to hurt me so many times is fine. Maybe it is. After all, what does this really reveal about me?

I think that I’ve really grown as a person. I used to shut people out when they hurt me. Sometimes, that would even be the end of our relationship entirely. (Hurt me once and you will never touch me again.) It was very effective for protecting myself, to be sure. The problem is that no human can live forever without hurting someone, even if they love that person.

Instead, today, I am able to look at my husband and say “He is going to hurt me some day. Sometimes, it will be small and only scratch my pride. Sometimes, he will do or say things that reach into my core and crush a part of me. I know that. And I’m going to let him, because I know that I’m no better equipped to hold his heart than he is to hold mine. I will hurt him too. Sometimes, it will be minor and sometimes, it will feel life threatening. He knows that too, but he’s still giving me that chance.”

Love involves risks, being brave enough to let someone get close to you. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Hawke and Anders have a healthy relationship by default, but they spend 9 years of their lives together before everything gets to the explosion point. I’m not sure when Anders becomes consumed by anger and despair- I suppose it’s probably around or after year 6. By that point, it’s easy for me to understand why Hawke stays with him, but things do get messy after that. 

I like to think that those uncomfortable quests (the ones where he flat out lies to you) are signs of Hawke’s trust and desire to see Anders restored to his original state. The results of these quests says more about Anders/Vengeance than it does about Hawke. The only bad thing it says about her is that she sees what she wants to be true, rather than seeing things as they are. She needs to believe that Anders can be saved, that the demon can be removed, but she can live the rest of her life with him. Everyone around her can see that Anders is slipping further and further out out of reach, but she won’t listen to any of them.

I don’t think that I have this problem, honestly. As a pessimist/realist, I don’t often become trapped in unrealistic expectations for outcomes. I have more trouble believing that things are going to be earthshakingly fabulous than believing that they will be difficult. In addition, I’m not interested in changing my husband or my friends. I want to support them if they decide that they need to change part of themselves, but people are people, not projects.

So, whether I should or not, I feel pretty calm about my approach to love. That’s good enough for me.

Game Therapy: Dragon Age 2- Unpacking Part 3

It feels like a million things have happened since I wrote the last entry. The tidbits I pulled out of it just feel… Empty? I mean, yes- I think parents should protect their kids as much as possible, and yes- I did develop a nasty complex in real life where I had to be miserable in order to be alive. Both true. But hatred? Hatred comes from pain.

I guess that I just feel empathy for my Hawke because her mom wasn’t there for her as a kid and mine wasn’t there for me either. In my life, there are a zillion small strong tied to why my mom didn’t provide what I wanted, but with Abigail and Leandra? It seems so simple and small. She never protected me, so I had to protect both of us.

The pleasant, idealistic belief under all of this hurt is this:

It is possible to protect someone from the bad things in the world.

Spoilers: This is a lie. 

I couldn’t protect mom from her anxiety and she couldn’t protect me from my depression. Any parent can look at their child with a lifetime’s worth of love, but eventually, there will be someone who sees them as ugly, stupid, stuck up, weak, lazy, too emotional, too cold, boring, or worse. Someone will hurt them personally.

Beyond that, there are larger issues- social, societal, political, religious, sociological, biological, psychological, et al.- that will eventually hurt that child as well. Exponentially more if they happen to belong to one of the oppressed groups in the crosshairs of the powerful.

They will get hurt. Torn to shreds. They might hate the world some days, and they will likely be justified in that hatred. So, if you can’t protect them, what should you do?

I guess that maybe it’s enough to teach them how to handle the darkness without being destroyed by it (if possible). Or how to value themselves in spite of the darkness (if it attacks them directly). Or how to recognize the times when it absolutely sane to be hurt and angry because of injustice, and how they can channel that energy to change things (if possible). 

And maybe, you help them to find the bright spots in the world. How to love friends and family deeply and without distractions. How to focus on the people in front of them without phones or Facebook getting in the way. Maybe you teach them to find a tenuous balance between pain and joy.

Maybe that can be enough.

*sigh* I’m sorry, Leandra. Your life and death were both difficult. I just wish they had written more dialogue for us so that I could have felt loved as well. Rest well, virtual mother. I’ll see you again someday, and we will run away from Lothering together.

“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.

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.