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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Fitbit: Feb. 6-12

Warning: I talk about suicide in this post.

I have a purple Charge 2 that I wear almost constantly, because I want a heart monitor. As a side effect, I get slightly warped fitness stats emailed to me weekly. I say “warped” because the days that I spend 2-3 hours on the couch crocheting usually have 5,000 more steps than the days that I exercise more, so it’s clear that some of my steps aren’t actually steps.

Regardless, taking care of my body is a part of my growth process, so I thought it might be worth posting these from time to time. It’s still relatively new for me: I’ve only cared about my longevity for a little more than 2 years. Before that? Well…

Honestly, if I took an obvious path towards suicide, people would notice. Chemicals or injuries are very obvious. Overeating is slow and subtle, and in America, it’s rude to tell people that they are having too much to eat, so it is a very smooth road. Full plates, dessert when it’s offered, and self-medicating pain with sugar… it was easy but insidious.

As I came into my marriage, The Flutenist asked me to stop. To take care of myself. To live. 

I was… surprised might be too weak of a word to contain my reaction to being loved and wanted. As someone who had believed that if she died, she would fade into the aether, and the people around her would be subtly happier without being able to remember why… having someone ask me point blank to give him as many years of my life as I could was… like I said “surprising” is just not strong enough.

I took him seriously. 

I have lost 55 pounds so far, by making small changes and being consistent. (Read: I cut out refined sugar entirely for months, I stopped self-medicating with chocolate-caffeine-sugar combos, and I started eating smaller portions.)

My BMI is 30.0 right now. 😑 Still obese, but just barely. My mom bought me a body composition analyzer for my birthday (at my request 🎉), so I will soon be able to temper that number with my % body fat. I suspect that the average healthy weight range for my gender/height/age may actually be too low for my body type, so I’d rather focus on maintaining a healthy fat level.

I had been exercising fairly frequently (about 45 minutes per day on the weekdays) before winter hit, but from November on, it’s been dicey here. My routine is ruined, and I can’t use my membership for the local indoor track (they have given us permission to bring my emotional support dog) because The Flutenist wants to wait until she’s better trained and/or has earned full public access first. It’s a good call, but it also prevents me from going.

At the very least, I’m holding pretty steady over the winter. Just going up and down a few pounds total. That bodes well for spring.

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.

Pokémon GO, With a Side of Suicide

When I go to one of the nearby parks with my husband to gather pokéballs and other items, we bring activities along to fill the time. Basically, I walk in a small circuit to activate all of the pokéstops, then we settle down at a table to read books, write emails, sketch, or whatever. Every 5 minutes, I get up to walk another circuit, and he stays at our table. Lately, I’ve been reading essays for my Book Club posts.


Yesterday, I was preparing for a few upcoming posts, and I encountered a piece about suicide. From the very beginning, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with reading the essay, because I’ve had multiple active suicidal periods and long-lasting passive ones. (Active suicidal thoughts come from the planning phase: how, when, etc. Passive suicidal thoughts come from the contemplative phase: the nature of suicide, the essence of pain, one’s profound isolation, past failures, evidence for or against one’s existence, etc.)

While reading, I kept playing Pokémon GO. I would spend 4 minutes reading about despair and 1 minute walking and checking for Eevees. Normally, Pokémon GO helps make me happy, providing me with a simple, enjoyable activity. I tend to use this type of saccharine-saturated entertainment to help to offset the pain from broken relationships, unequal rights based on petty and inconsequential personal traits, tragedies on the news, political tirades, and other things that make me lose faith in the world. It helps a bit, but it never takes away the sadness completely.

Yesterday, however, Pokémon was not enough to protect me from the dark grip of suicide. As I said to my husband, it was a bit like being a recovering alcoholic sitting outside of a bar; the longer you stay there, the more you remember about why you used to go there so often and why you could stay inside for so long. I felt my tension building, but I pushed on and kept reading.

I push past my discomfort in order to grow. If I stop trying every time that something gets difficult, I will never learn new ways to approach things, and they will never get easier. So, as a general rule, I push myself a little farther than I think I can go, in the hopes that I will discover that I can handle more than I thought.

Yesterday, I stopped reading the essay with only 4-5 pages left, because I couldn’t take it any more. My chest was tight. My throat felt constricted. My shoulders and arms were tense, like I needed to punch someone or break free from restraints. My mind was a weird hybrid of surface calm (my practiced numbness) and deep distress. I couldn’t continue.

So I stopped.

And I gave myself assurances that it would be ok. Because the world will not end as a result of me finishing or skipping the rest of this essay. And I asked my husband to walk around the pond with me. We held hands. I tried to focus on the sights, smells, pressure on my fingers… To come back to the present and regain feeling. It went ok, over all, but I probably shouldn’t be so accustomed to involuntarily shutting down during my day.

Oh well. It is what it is.

This week, I need to play Pokémon GO without interspersing in large chunks of pain. I need to let myself just enjoy living in a world with augmented reality (which is really cool technologically). I need to make time to relax and enjoy my life, because it is important. I am important.

Sharing the Spotlight, Part 3

It’s hard to say where I am with this issue right now. When I try to ask myself “How do you feel about your husband surpassing you in something by a wide margin? How do you feel about him becoming very skilled in an area that you have very little experience in?”… when I ask these questions, all I feel is chaos.

Here’s what I know so far:

  • It is good for him to be driven to learn and grow.
  • I want to be supportive, but I’m not there yet.
  • Most of my issues come from feeling insecure, as though lack of skill is the same as lack of value.
  • I don’t need to be the best at everything.
  • I can’t succeed at everything, and that’s ok.
  • Sometimes, factors besides talent and effort determine how well someone will do.

So, where does that leave me now? I think I should feel better than I do, and that I should be more secure. After all, no one around me is expecting me to pursue the same thing as my husband. All of the people around me truly do expect me to find my own way and live my own life. There is absolutely no pressure for me to learn this skill too. There is also nothing preventing me from learning it if I wanted to.

I am completely free to do what I want here, so why do I feel trapped?

I guess I’ll just move onto the next assumption.

3. Performance is the same thing as ability.
One of the common responses to high performing children is to immediately equate their performance with their ability. “You got 100% on that test- you’re so smart!” It seems beneficial, or neutral at least, but it can really set those kids up for future problems. After all, if I succeeded because of my ability, then when I fail, it must also be because of my ability. If I do well because I am smart, then I fail because I am dumb.

Sometimes, people who believe in this connection will work even harder than before once their performance drops, because they are terrified of feeling like a failure. In my case, I have pushed myself very, very hard before and still failed at my task. I have crumbled down in despair because I had internalized the performance=ability correlation. I have gone to some very dark places because my value and ability were tied to my performance. I was worthless. I was empty. I was very close to ending it all. Because I had nothing to pursue and nothing to offer but pain.

I’ve been aware of the jagged, rusty edges on this assumption for a while, so at least with this issue, I’m not wandering in unfamiliar territory. I know in my mind that my performance doesn’t reflect my value. In my heart… I suppose that it’s fairly clear as well, but there are days when the old thoughts are triggered, and all at once, I’m back in my old mindset, staring down some new “failure.” It’s a process, and I am definitely making my way on this issue. Step by step, each time that it comes up, I just keep going.

What else could I do? My life is on the line here, and it’s worth fighting for.

Winding Back Down

Ok, I’ll be honest with you guys- I write these posts in advance and schedule them for future dates. I really want this blog to grow into something and consistency is important for that. So, I usually take a day and write 3-5 entries and schedule them out on alternating days. Normally, it’s fine.

Yesterday, though… Ok, honestly, yesterday, I wrote the entire Deafening Silence series. The three entries about the topic and the fourth one, which was intended to help me wind down so I could sleep. (It didn’t really work for that purpose, honestly, but what it turned into instead was fine with me.) I told you that I took breaks in between the entries, and I did, but they were measured in minutes and hours, not in days. It was a very heavy day for me.

So, after I finished writing, I ended up crying and bringing the most difficult questions to my husband. (Am I a bad person for not being the friend that my neighbor needed? Am I a bad person for not being able to mourn her death? Am I important- would people really miss me if I died?) He is a very kind man, and he answered me well. (With my depression in full-on strangle mode, it’s not reasonable to blame myself for not reaching out to others. Likewise, it’s understandable that I didn’t have energy left to feel pain when she died. And, yes, my life and death both matter.)

It’s still hard for me to weep around people- not to cry a little, I can do that just fine- but to genuinely, honestly mourn. There’s a story there, of course, but maybe that’s for another time. Yet, I am learning  how to do it, and in turn, how to allow others to genuinely mourn in my presence. This is important, because without this, I cannot be the compassionate, warm person that I want to be. I need to be comfortable with my pain to be comfortable with other people’s pain.