Of Being a Protector – Part 1

(I’ll try to keep this as brief as I can but this post is definitely going to be a doozy if you read it all in one sitting. It might take a while so I’ll break this into two parts. This is part 1.)

So my weekend has finally ended after a pretty hectic week. After my therapy session on Wednesday, something had happened on Wednesday evening that triggered some suicidal thoughts that I wanted to act on because the pain that it had triggered was far too much to bear.

The ironic thing was, I hardly felt any emotions through the night and while my brain made the conscious decision to wake up in time to leave for a walk-in session at CAPS with S the next day (Thursday), my heart was urging the critical voice to reason with my brain that I didn’t need to go in to see S – “Why do you want to go see S? You don’t need to. You’re not upset. See, you don’t even feel anything… Just sleep in tomorrow. Then go to work. You’ll be fine. No need to go to CAPS.”

Over and over those same thoughts played in my mind as I arose on Thursday at 8.30am.
“You don’t need a walk-in. You’re silly. You don’t feel bad.”

I decided to ignore that voice. Even as I still continued to mentally berate myself as I got into my car, Ren, and drove to campus (I passed my road test and got my license on Wednesday, yay!). Even as I pulled into the familiar parking lot, I chided myself for making the 30 minute drive to campus. When I told Hubster that I was going to CAPS, he was sad for me. He knew by now that going to CAPS on a day that I’m not scheduled to means that I’m in agony. “I just need to talk to S… It’s no big deal”, I had said to him.

When I went in to see S, he was as welcoming as he always is. “Welcome back” He didn’t really say anything as we walked into his office but the minute he started to close the door, he said, “Rough night?”

Neither of us had even settled down on the couch yet. I knew then that he was worried for me because usually our walk to his office was slower and he’d usually make some kind of small talk before we settle in.

What follows next is a little look into one of the most important things I’ve ever discovered about myself through one of my sessions with S. It is important because it explains why I behave the way I do and why I am often so self-punishing.

“Kind of… Yeah… Were you expecting me?” I said, as I sat down.

“No, I wasn’t actually…”

“OK… Ok… That’s good…”

“That’s good?” S asked, surprised at what I’d said.

“Yeah, I mean, I don’t know… I just… I’m just so tired of… Um, I guess, always needing that assurance… I feel like I’m all alone,” I said, as my tear started to fall. We were barely a minute into the session and I’d already started crying. It usually takes me a while to get warmed up but this session, I hit the ground running. “And um, that part of me that wants to die, that wants to give up… Also, wants to just pretend like I’m ok. Um, tell you I’m ok. And um… Quit therapy. So that you don’t have to be affiliated with me, I guess? So if I kill myself, then people won’t blame you and say, ‘Why didn’t you do something?’ and pretend like I’m okay… And… And when people least expect it, I would kill myself…”

“So just make sure that everyone thinks that you’re okay, and try and protect me and other people who might be blamed?” S asked, clarifying my statement.

“Yeah… ‘Cuz I think that part of me has just given up… It’s too difficult or too painful to keep going and if I pretend like I’m okay, then people would stop checking up, ” I said, then I fell silent for a moment. “But then I thought about it and I realized in reality, the only person who checks up on me is you. And that really hurts….”

“Sounds like that feeds the feeling that you’re alone…” S said.

“Yeah… Um… The thing is, it’s like, I think it’s that feeling of I’m tired of asking…”

“Tired of asking?”

“Yeah ‘cuz I always have to contact people. It’s like nobody ever contacts me first. Um… I mean yesterday, I reached out to my brother because he had started to post things that were like kind of depression related. I kinda noticed the signs and I messaged him and asked him if things were ok… And I think for the first time in our lives, we actually had a conversation!” I said, wiping tears away. I was trying to compose myself but the more I talked, the less successful I was at that attempt.

“Wow! That’s really cool!”

“Yeah… And um… I found out that um, he had just broken up with him girlfriend of 5 years. He told me he doesn’t know why because he told me that they just stopped loving each other. And… I wish I knew what to say to him… I told him that, I don’t know anything about relationships either. And a part of me feels like I’ve failed him…” I said, as I sobbed in between sentences. I could barely keep myself together.

“Like you’ve failed him?” S asked, confused why I would think that way.

“Yeah…”

“Why?” S asked. He sounded very concerned the whole time.

“Um… I’m his older sister and I’ve never been there for him. And this is… The first time in his life I’ve ever reached out and talked to him. He said that my mother had forced him to tell her what was going on with him because he didn’t want to tell anybody that he had broken up with his girlfriend. And I thought… My mother never did that to me… She never asked me how I’m doing… But she asked my brother… And I asked him, you know, ‘Have you ever felt like you’ve never lived your life? Like you’ve always just lived for our parents?’ And he said, ‘You know… All they ever did for us was spend half their lives being worried for us. I think they did their best they could and all they do is worry for us’. And that hurts…”

“Why does that hurt?”

“Because despite how I feel for them… That somehow there is… There is care and concern from them…” I said, as I tried to force the words out of my mouth.

“It’s definitely not how you’ve experienced it?”

“No… And I think to myself like, why couldn’t we just be more upfront? And um… Instead of nagging… Instead of all the things she’s ever done, you know?”

“If she was really that worried, why did she have to be so controlling or so intrusive or whatever…” S said, continuing my train of thought.

“Yeah… She never showed that… Why did she never show that she cared? She cared enough about my brother to ask him… How he was… She noticed that he needed… He needed the care…” I said, sobbing through each sentence.

“Mmm…”

“Here I am, having to ask people… Having to contact people all the time just to talk to them and…”

I lost it. I started just crying uncontrollably. I physically shook as I cried because I was sobbing so hard.

“It sounds like it’s just hurtful to feel like nobody cares about you. Kinda like how you’ve felt with your parents your whole life,” S said.

“And just… Just feeling bad about… Just…. I probably did the same to my brother… Just never asked him how he was. Just always assuming that he was fine.” I said, feeling the overwhelming guilt.

“Feeling guilty and maybe ashamed about that?”

“Yeah…” I cried more.

“Talking to your brother really brought up a lot of stuff for you…” S said.

I nodded, unable to answer because I was still crying.

When I was a little more composed, I brought up the issue of my confusion. There have just been so many changes that’s been happening to me lately that I can’t cope with all of them at the same time. I was confused with the direction of my life and didn’t know what I should do with it. A huge part of me just doesn’t want to continue with it. Another part is confused because it doesn’t know what are my own desires and what are desires that are influenced by other people’s – I’m easily swayed and am so flexible in how I act around people that I am often able to fit myself in to any situation and be ok. I’m very much like a chameleon – changing myself to suit the situation or the social group I’m in. It’s also the reason why I speak American English with virtually no accent. It’s because I’m able to quickly learn to adapt my accent to the regional one that I hear daily. In that situation, it’s a useful and even highly prized skill, but when it comes to making choices for myself, not so much because when is a passion my own and when is it someone else’s passion that I adapted and pretended to be my own?

S also noted that I can’t seem to allow myself to be happy, “Sounds like… It’s almost like being happy is wrong…”

“Yeah… It’s like that part of me is like ‘You don’t deserve to be happy’” I said, agreeing with him.

“It’s not just this, is it? I mean, I’m thinking specifically of Captain America, about how you were enjoying yourself at the theater and when you did, your critical voice told you that you were pathetic. I feel like there’s other times, you told me that you’d like been happy and that part of you just saying crap about yourself.”

“Yeah… ‘Cuz… I can’t trust whether or not they’re genuine. ‘Cuz there’s always that part of me that tells me that it’s not. And um… I think it’s the same with things I like. It’s the same with my perception of things. Like how do I know that that’s coming from me and not just influenced by everybody else. So I constantly feel like I can’t trust myself.”

“Don’t know what’s you and what’s other people… What’s other people’s influence…” S iterated.

“Yeah and even like wanting to come here today and just like… When I was at home, I was like ‘I feel fine. I feel fine. I don’t need to go in’”

“Did you feel fine?” S asked.

“I… I didn’t feel anything. I wonder if that’s just the medication. I don’t feel anything half the time…” I said, copping out and blaming my medication.

“You’ve said that before you were taking the medication… It’s almost like you don’t want to feel anything…” Fortunately, S was sharper and quicker than that. He called me out and wouldn’t allow me to escape.

I cried again. “Maybe…. I think… I think a part of me shuts it down. Shuts it down really quickly… Whenever I feel sad, I know that I am sad but the feelings just can’t quite get to me… Last night, I was feeling sad but the feeling couldn’t reach me. So, I had to look for sad songs. I had to listen for a little while to kinda coax that out from me…”

“Well, that’s really good! You weren’t avoiding it. I know it probably didn’t feel great at all but you weren’t just gonna push them back down…” S said, sounding impressed.

“Yeah, although I unconsciously something’s pushing it back down because I can’t ever quite reach my emotions…”

“Mmhmm… Seems like you’re pretty emotional right now…”

“Yeah…”

“Is there something else down there?” S asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t know what it is about CAPS. Um… Maybe it’s just habit. Just the fact that I know that when I come here I’m going to be truthful, I’m going to let myself feel… I can’t do that anywhere else it seems like…”

“Why do you think that is?”

“Um… I guess… Maybe don’t really want to um to see my true self maybe. I don’t really want to… To admit that this is how I feel… Maybe…”

“You can deal with your true self in here… But it’s a lot harder out there…” S said.

I nodded. “Yeah… It feels safer in here…”

“Mmm…”

“And someone’s watching over me. That uh… That when I’m by myself…. There’s nobody there. To make sure that I’m safe… And um… I feel guilty for that too…”

“Safety is a big thing…” S said in an assuring way.

There was a long pause as thoughts just pop into my head.

“My brother also said to me yesterday, ‘I don’t know what to do with my life, I just feel like I’m going nowhere. I don’t know what to do’ and he was like, he asked me, ‘What should I do?’ and I said to him, ‘I wish I had the answer because then I wouldn’t feel just like you’…”

“What’s that like for you hearing that he’s struggling with something similar?” S asked.

I started crying again.

“Um… It makes me sad…. And in some ways… As much as I hated my brother when I was growing up, I think I wanted the best for him too…” I admitted. It was something I’ve never admitted to anyone before.

“You’ve never really talked about him with the same kind of anger that you have your mother or the disappointment at your father….”

“Yeah…” I started crying even harder. “As much as I thought that I hated him, I’ve always tried to look out for him. I try to take care of him. At night, I would hold his hand when he sleeps. I don’t think he knows that.”

“Mmm…” S’s murmur of assurance that he was listening was very quiet.

~ Continued in Part 2

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5 thoughts on “Of Being a Protector – Part 1

  1. I have to continue to Part 2 as well…

    But what you wrote about being very flexible, adapting to the environment, accents? It’s interesting that you write that; I am like that too. I can fit into this kind of environment, and that kind, and the other kind… because I learned to be hyper observant so I wouldn’t get it trouble, I wouldn’t be caught off guard, I wouldn’t be whatever.

    But it also meant I could live in other countries and speak other languages, and after 9 months or so, people couldn’t tell that much. They might think I was just from a different region of that country. Or they would notice only if I got upset and starting slipping up.

    That part, with languages and being in other cultures, was a good side effect. but I have spent a lot of time thinking about this question: what is the environment I actually want? How do I want to live? What do I think is the right way to spend my time? It’s been extraordinarily difficult to identify what I want. I think I do better now but honestly, it’s still an issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah!! I think it might be the anxiety. Us always having to always be in control of our environments and ourselves. I’m actually glad to know that I’m not the only one who does this!

      Liked by 1 person

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