As promised, here is part 2.
I’m still alive.
(This post will be in two parts. Part 1, which is this one, will be about school.)
I am happy today.
I am so happy that my anxiety, and depression are temporarily gone from my awareness. It’s different.
Something else is different too.
For the first time in my life, I am not afraid to say that I am proud of the fact that I am happy. I don’t have to make excuses and downplay my happiness, like I’ve always felt like I had to in the past. I could never tell people positive things about me because of how afraid I am of others judging me for being happy as a depressed person.
In group today, I told Jenny and Brandon that I love them so much that it hurts me tremendously to see them both in the darkness, still struggling to climb out of the pit of depression. I told them that I felt really sad that Jenny have been victim shamed so much in her life that she can’t even bring up the topic of sexual assault or even believe that women are right to talk about their survival with her significant other, and that Brandon felt that he can’t feel okay with who he is. I recognized their pain because I was just a few months ago, steeped in it. I’ve been through all the shit, and muck, and though I still visit the pit from time to time, I’ve also been spending a lot more time in the sun lately.
I told the two of them (because only 3 of us attended group today) that I didn’t want them to misunderstand me – that for a moment, I didn’t want to tell them how I felt because I was afraid that they would judge me as ‘hypocritical’. I felt hypocritical because back when I was in the thick of depression, many supportive people have told me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That there is hope. At that time, I had scoffed at every single one of them and in my mind, had resolved that none of them knew how I felt. I refused to believe them because I didn’t think that they’d understand. That no one would.
Now I’m more stable, and can cope with my difficulties better. And I suddenly realized that I now know what those well-meaning people had been saying to me. I knew now that they weren’t just saying words to make me feel better but rather they really believe it.
I said, “I decided to say what was on my mind anyway even though a part of me felt like a hypocrite but I trusted… Or at least, I hoped that you two would get what I was saying, and where I was coming from. You both have seen, and experienced me at my lowest. You know how much I’ve struggled. So I hoped that you’d hear my message and see it as coming from someone who did go through shit and who did do all the hard work to come to this sunny side. And it is my hope, I am so so hopeful that you two can feel this way too because it hurts me so much to see you two struggle. I want so much good for you guys!”
Of course, I cried. I got very emotional and I explained that I didn’t know why.
T offered an explanation, “Jules, when you said all those things to Jenny and Brandon, I could tell that it came from your heart. That you genuinely wanted good things for them. And in saying those things, telling them that their issues are valid, that they’re worthy to feel the way they do despite what others have told them, is also in the same way, self validating. You were also talking to yourself, Jules. You told yourself that you were worthy, and that you were valid…”
What he said struck me. He was right. I was validating myself too. And that’s why I got emotional. I still have trouble telling myself good things without crying. It’s so emotionally impactful for me that I can’t do it without the tears.
Later, I shared with Brandon how I’ve been able to climb out of the pit – it was that I had built a support system around me who would remind me from time to time that I’m doing well, and that I’m heading the right direction. I told him that it’s all and well to be able to self validate, but to also receive such recognition, and encouragement, is huge. I told him that I felt so much stronger now because I have recognized who my people are.
I then told him how much of a privilege it’s been for me to watch him grow, and to see how much he’s grown. He used to be high strung, philosophical, cold, distant, and so stressed out. Today, he sat there with an even temper, and was able to participate in the conversation without even once going to the philosophical arguments. He was vulnerable, and allowed himself to be, and he was accepting of all the feedback he was given. I felt so proud of him. When T asked me how I felt towards Brandon, I said, “I feel so good. I feel so privileged to have seen such a huge change. It makes me extremely happy that you are reaching that point, and are working so hard yourself. I feel so much affection for you right now. It’s almost like you’re my little brother, and you’ve done so much good work!” I wanted him to know that his hard work is being recognized. It made me feel so happy to be able to say that because not only did it impact him, it also rebounded and hit me with the fuzzies.
Just before group, the Director of the Office of Health and Wellness said to me,
“When you learn to love yourself, those who love you will come back around to you. You don’t have to acclimate to others. You are a square trying to fit in a round hole. You’re not meant to fit!”
The Health and Wellness Promotion Coordinator then added,
“Those who are for you can’t go. Those who are not for you, can’t stay”.
Those two things have changed my life today. The words reverberated through me and I felt the anxiety that has been holding me back all this time ebb away. I was so afraid of losing people, and losing good times, that I was willing to settle for mediocre just so that I don’t have to rely on only myself. When I heard all that, I learned that I could let go, and the world will still revolve… And somehow, that helped me let go today.
It helped me stay uplifted, and positive.
So much so that I went and watched Power Rangers at the theater by myself. I was giddy with excitement because I felt like a child again, and Power Rangers was one of the more positive aspects of my childhood. I remembered how hopeful, and strong I had felt every time I watched the show. Watching the movie today reminded me of that. I also felt that the interaction between the characters to be similar to what I’d felt for Jenny, and Brandon today. It felt good. They feel like family.
I also was able to learn that when I love myself, it makes me love my partner, Cherie, even more than I already do. It made me secure in our relationship, and I am not worried about a thing right now. I confessed to her, and to group that my relationship has been going well – despite some fights – and it’s been going on so well that I have consciously caught myself thinking, “Wow. This is going well. Now what can I screw up so that I can go back in the pit again? What can I do to make it so that I feel depressed again?” I’m so used to being in the dark that being in the light feels strange, and uncomfortable. I know that now.
Today has been one of those really mindful days for me. I’m just so aware of my life, my speech, my actions, and my feelings. I don’t know if it will last or not, but I am hopeful that even if it doesn’t, that I’ll be able to handle it and turn the negatives into good growing experiences.
So it has been quite a hot minute since I last wrote anything here, huh?
Well, I’m still alive.
I’m still anxious. Still depressed. And still ADHD. Those thing have not changed, and I don’t think will ever change. I think I’ve finally come to terms with that and have decided instead to take each day as it comes.
That said, I’ve been really busy with school, mostly because I am a such a slow programmer that the last time I had a Data Structures assignment, it took me an entire 2 weeks to finish programming it when it took my friend less than an hour to do the same thing (then again, C has been coding for a year more than I have, and he spends at least 60 hours of coding a week. While I spend maybe 10… Or less…). So really, my busy-ness is merely due to my lack of skills, and knowledge.
Due to that, I haven’t been able to log in to WordPress to write or read anyone’s blog. 😦 I’ve missed the mental health community here in the blogverse. I’ve been wondering how everyone’s doing – especially Q, This.Shaking, skinnyhobbit and PaperDoll. I think about these wonderful people often enough.
Not writing in my blog makes me miss my advocacy work – I have recently been way more active as a Peer Educator but since a lot of our programs lately have been on sexual health, and sexual violence, I haven’t really been talking about mental health as much. Also, I’ve been feeling guilty about my recovery progress – of the times when I’ve slipped up and regressed, of the times when I’m less than a model Peer Educator, or the times when I don’t seem to embody the message I want to share.
Other times, I feel guilty for being better. I think I feel that way because then it’s like others see me as somehow “more successful”. But then again, I’m pretty sure I’m just projecting.
S and I have been continuing our work, and lately, I’ve been getting paranoid about termination, merely because I feel like I’m getting better, so that must mean I don’t need therapy anymore. The child is still in there, still scared. Despite realizing that she has the capability of being strong, and moving on, she’s still scared. She still wants S.
On that front, therapy has been going well enough. I am still dealing with the aftermath of the divorce, but it has been months since I’ve cried over the ex. It’s also been a while since I last spoke to him. I cut all ties with him some months ago (I don’t even remember when!) but from time to time, I still think of him, of the things that have happened, and of some of the better times we’ve had. Yesterday, I stumbled upon an old album that had all kinds of photos of us and for the first time in months, I broke down and cried seeing it. Then, after seeing it and feeling all at once angry, hurt, disgusted, and sad, I deleted all the photos that had him in it. It was painful to do it but the more I deleted, the easier it was to face the pain. This incident merely reminded me of the fact that this rip in my heart will probably never fully heal. There will be scar tissue, which means that I’ll probably always hurt whenever the scar tissues get aggravated. Thankfully, they don’t get aggravated all that often.
I’ve also been working hard in group therapy. Ever since I spoke up and told people how I actually feel about them, I have not been able to stop. It is almost like an addiction now – to say, “To be honest… This is how I feel…” and just say my mind. It feels great every single time because of how liberating it is not to have to keep secrets. The response from my group members have been positive, and it has helped me see that conflict, when avoided, often brings pain when not resolved. And that despite how uncomfortable it is to confront someone about something, it’s also equally uncomfortable to hold it inside. I have also learned that if you tell the truth, and give people the chance to tell their truth, and then both of you decide to give each other a chance, then things will work out.
T, the co-facilitator, told S of my progress in group. According to S, he expressed his awe, and admiration at my courage, and how hard I’ve been pushing myself in group. He also told me in person in the last session how excited he is to see my progress, and how happy he is every time I open my mouth to offer my opinion. He asked me if I now feel burdened by this – my answer was yes. I feel some pressure to perform – to be courageous all the time. To always be vulnerable, to always face my fears. It is stressful because now that I know I can do it once, I know I can do it again – but I don’t always want to. And that is another uncomfortable feeling I have to live with.
On the more personal front, my relationship with Cherie has been going well. We had our first huge fight recently that felt very scary and threatening to me due to how I always blame myself whenever a conflict arises, and how fearful I am at a loss of connection. Instead of letting the conflict tear us apart though, we were able to work things out. It is becoming clearer to me how much I love this woman, and how much she means to me.
I sometimes freak out though because of how I just don’t know how to do relationships – so being in a stable, and mature relationship with Cherie unnerves me because I don’t really know how to be. For 8 years, I was a certain kind of partner but that is me at my utmost dependent, weak, and whiny state. Now that I’m with someone who works hard on her mental health, and is a strong independent woman, I keep doing things that I find to be annoying such as being whiny, child-like, and dependent. I drive her insane sometimes because I can’t stop asking her if things are okay between us. I push and push and push because I feel insecure.
S and I have been talking about this a lot too – we discovered that I have such deep separation anxiety that it makes me so clingy. However, S has been reminding me for the past 3 weeks that I need to be kinder to myself and not immediately call myself names like, “Childish”, “Weak”, “Loser”, but rather recognize that uncomfortable feeling of being in conflicts, or the uncomfortable feeling of feeling like something’s wrong in the relationship when there really isn’t, and embrace that; hold the pain in my mind, and sit with it. That has definitely been happening a lot more for me than it has ever been. Whenever I am aware of my issues, I try to sit with whatever uncomfortable feeling it is that have brought me the issues.
I really miss posting here because this is a space where I can word vomit, and not be judged for it. I can provide as much context as I want. I can speak freely and express my thoughts and feelings. It helps me process my feelings, and situations. I think not being able to write here has been detrimental to my progress because I haven’t really had a way to express all the pent up analysis that goes on in my head – and when I share the thoughts with Cherie, it often ends up at a point where I get super clingy. This blog is my space to just blah, without any expectations that anyone is even going to read it. And that’s fine because I think this blog keeps me sane.
Anyway… Overall, I’d say that I’m well enough. I might still have suicidal ideations but at least, the degree in which I’d act on them have definitely decreased. S is keeping an eye on my mental health. Cherie, and I are also doing the same. My group members have been supportive, and while I still have trouble in school, I am feeling a little better about programming because I feel like I’m slowly starting to understand some things. Unless there’s a huge trigger, I am usually feeling much better than I have been 3 or 4 months ago.
I think I’ll visit here more whenever I can. It really does free up a lot of mind space in my head when I write all my analysis, thoughts, and feelings down. So I hope all of you reading are well, as well, and I hope that I can have some time to check out the things you guys have all been up to as well then.
When J asked where we’d like to start, I said that I would because I wanted some feedback. So I started to explain some context about my selves – about how I have a conflict between the Adult and the Child selves. I also talked about something that I’ve found too embarrassing and even shameful to say – that I feel like I should be entitled to getting help from people, that I think that this world is so unfair, and that because I’ve had many traumas in my life, and that my life has been so difficult and painful, that I deserve to get help, that I deserve people to cut me some slack, and that I deserve a better life. I talked about how financial strain has caused me to reflect on how angry and bitter I am at my life – to be left with a $10K credit card debt, to not have money to do anything I need to do (and now that I don’t have any shifts at the restaurant, to feel like I’m going to be homeless as soon as I run out of my savings), to not be able to focus all that well in school because I had other adult responsibilities, and so on. I told the group how ashamed I feel and how guilty I feel for saying that I want attention. That I sometimes do things to get attention or to elicit sympathy and empathy.
A couple of the group members chimed in and told me that I shouldn’t feel ashamed for being who I am. That I shouldn’t be ashamed to feel like I deserve the things that I’ve mentioned. Brandon talked about how his life had been similar and how he could relate because of how horrible his life has been as well. Then he said that he got over it by learning to love himself better – that he was able to come up with reasons why he does deserve to be treated fairly, that he does deserve to be loved, and that he should never have to be ashamed of himself.
One of the new girls, let’s call her Kayla, told me that she’s a realist and that the way she sees it, that I shouldn’t expect so much from people because then I set myself up for disappointment. She also said that no one is entitled to anything except to be accepted as a human being. Beyond that, we are to make our own life. That we are not to expect help from anyone. She said that she will admit that she comes from a supportive middle-class well-off family and have never suffered from anything traumatic in her life so she didn’t know if her views are just her being a realist, or if it’s her privilege talking. I didn’t feel mad at her though I did feel a slight pull to argue, and to point out that she isn’t even trying to empathize. I refrained myself because I didn’t want to derail our current conversation and get into that. I wanted to get to the bottom of my issue first. I was being selfish.
About 45 minutes into the session, we were still analyzing my situation, analyzing my thoughts and emotion. J, the lead facilitator, chimed in and said, “I don’t know about you guys but I’m currently feeling like you’re not present. Like the things that you’re talking about are not here in this room but rather somewhere out there… Correct me if I’m wrong but does anyone else feel that way?”
I nodded because I realized that I had been distancing myself from the subject. That the way I had expressed my issue and how I’d asked for feedback had been devoid of emotion. I didn’t have any emotion in my voice except for one where I was playing an analytical scientist role. At that point, I knew that I was consciously doing it. I didn’t want to go near the emotions that was related to me feeling like I’m entitled to some attention, care, love, and help from others. Those emotions were messy because aside from the shame (which in itself is already a huge beast to slay), I also had feelings of guilt, anger, bitterness, betrayal, sadness, and confusion all mixed in.
I admitted that I didn’t want to feel any emotion.
Kyle, the guy that I had had a conflict with a while ago, offered his opinion. He said that the group had been dancing around the issue, and no one is really going to the root of things – that people are content to hear my issues, and then just analyze them and find out what they can do to help fix things. He talked about how he’s noticed this happening a lot more with group lately. That we are no longer willing to do the hard work of feeling the emotions we need to feel.
J asked, “How are you feeling towards Jules right now?”
I prepared myself to feel angry at Kyle because of how in the past, he’s never been willing to connect to me. I thought about how I knew what he would feel – that for sure, he would just dismiss my feelings the way he’s always done.
He didn’t. Instead he said, “I can see why you would feel like it’s a shameful thing. I mean… As you were talking, I realized that I do this too… That I also don’t want to feel that. That I wish people would just see my situation as well. How I’m just trying so hard and nobody realizes what I struggle with… I do it too…”
J encouraged Kyle to explain what ‘that’ was.
“Admitting that I want care and concern. That I want that too…” He said, after some hesitation.
I felt my heart fill with emotions. I started to cry because as I’d explained it to the group moments later, “My emotions are catching up and I’ve been keeping them at bay. But what Kyle said has unleashed them…”
I told the group that I felt the connection that Kyle was trying to make. That although I appreciate hearing the more philosophical, and more analytical arguments/suggestions from the others because I am myself so analytical, that I really did appreciate Kyle’s empathy. I didn’t expect it. I felt a warmth emanating from him.
J then offered how she felt that Kyle had come such a long way. That initially when group had started, he had seemed very stand offish, and that he didn’t care about emotions. That he wasn’t at group because he wanted to feel anything. She then pointed out how much he’s grown and how different he is now.
I then agreed with J because I was going to tell Kyle the same exact thing too – that I see a difference in him. He definitely has changed his perspective. I felt a little tug of anger, and jealousy as I said so. I didn’t like that J always paid him compliments like that. I wanted some of that too.
A little later, Kyle took over the topic because we had beaten the dead horse with mine. He talked about how he feels like he’s not cared for, that his friends don’t understand him, or try to empathize. He said that his friends just give him quick answers. And that he recently had been having a pull to feeling like he needs to get back together with his ex. As I listened to him, I realized that what he was saying isn’t too far from what I feel. I wanted to blurt out, “You’re going through something very similar to me!” but didn’t.
J then told Kyle how she felt like Kyle had a good way of bringing the group back to the processing piece of group. That somehow every week, he was just so good at doing that. It was interesting that J had mentioned that.
I said, “I agree with you, J!! I was just going to say that. That he’s the last person I expected to do this. I mean, judging from how he was in the beginning, I really didn’t think he would be the one who would be bringing everyone back on track every week. I think it’s so awesome!” I said. I started feeling empty. That what I was saying was just so forced. That I was trying to find some positivity instead of showing my grudge and bitterness towards him. “Although, a part of me does feel jealous. I mean, not jealous in a bad way, but envious I guess… I’m envious and I wish I could be good at that too”
“What’s that?” J asked me.
“Um, to be good at bringing the group back to processing. To be able to process and to know what that’s like…” I said. I felt myself burn with envy. And how I wished that J had told me something so powerful too – that I play a pivotal role in creating a positive time for group. “You know, Kyle, I feel like we are both going through so much that are similar. As you were talking, I thought to myself, ‘You know… You’re not that much different from me at all…’ and I realized that we really aren’t… I guess that’s why in the past, when we had that conflict, I felt so upset because I felt like you were just constantly pushing me away. I was trying to connect but you weren’t letting me. So I felt like I was getting the impression that you just didn’t want either of us to be the same. Like there’s something wrong with us being the same…”
Kyle reacted in a surprised manner. He looked like he was going to disagree.
The new girl, Kayla, interrupted.
“Can I just say just how much I loved that? That interaction was amazing! It was so sweet to see that. Wow… That was so cool how you were able to tell him all those things!” she’d said.
As she spoke, I felt a huge tug in my gut. I realized that I needed to recant my words. I needed to be truthful and I felt that it was time. I had been carrying the anger and bitterness around for 3 semesters now. It’s time for me to let it go. So I mustered up all the courage I had, and threw caution to the wind.
I said, interjecting Kayla as soon as she stopped, “Actually Matt… I want to take back what I said. I just realized, as Kayla was talking, that I want to take it back… The part I want to take back is the part where I said that I felt like you were constantly pushing me away because you don’t want to be like me” I hesitated. I was trying to find the right words but couldn’t. I didn’t want him to be mad at me. But then the other part of me said to myself, Just go for it. The worst that could happen is that he’ll stop talking to you.
So I did. “Kyle, I realize now that the reason why I said that is not because you were trying to push me away, but it’s because I was. I didn’t like you. I mean, not 100% didn’t like you because we do have good interactions, but I think in general, I just didn’t like you. I felt that your point of view was different than mine and how you approached empathy was so jarring for me that I felt like you were attacking me. I was wrong to say that and to put it on you because I realize now that it’s on me. I was projecting all these things on you because I didn’t want to change my views to look at yours. I wanted you to conform to me but since you didn’t, I was angry and bitter. I have been holding a secret grudge against you since we’ve met. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but I have. And I know that it hasn’t been overt but I want to apologize. It wasn’t right. And now I feel differently towards you. Today, when you reached out to me, I felt a connection. I felt like you were really trying to feel how I felt. I realize now that I had been bitter for no reason. I didn’t want to tell you this because I was afraid too. I was afraid that now that I’m being real with you, and telling you exactly how I’ve always felt, that since this is the beginning of a better relationship, that it would end because you’d be mad at me for saying all these things. I’m afraid of potentially losing this relationship because now I actually like you. And I realize that we’re not that different after all. I think the reason why I had not liked you before was because of how I realize that we are not actually pretty alike. And I hated that because I don’t like myself. So seeing how you are just like me, I hated you because I hated myself. I get that now. I’m expecting you to be mad at me…”
Kyle looked extremely shocked. J gave me the impression that she was smiling on the inside, and that she had not expected that either.
“How do you feel, Kyle? To hear that from Jules?”
Kyle was flabbergasted. He couldn’t speak for a few moments. When he finally did he said, “I feel… A happiness in me. I feel happy that she said that to me. I never knew she had a grudge on me. I feel happy… This is what I’ve been wanting all along. I want people to be this way…”
“To be brutally honest?” J asked.
“Yeah! To just tell me how I really am. How they perceive me. I am happy because she told me exactly how she’s been perceiving me. I mean, I don’t know how to react to it yet… I’d have to think about it… But yeah… Wow… I didn’t know that at all. I’d rather someone tell me something like this than to pretend to like me!” Kyle said.
“How did it feel to hear that, Jules?”
“I’m glad that you didn’t take it badly, Kyle. It wasn’t my intention to start a conflict. I just felt a strong pull to say that. To let you know that… I also feel relieved because I’d been holding on to that for so long. That being real makes me feel better. I no longer feel the anger, and grudge the way I used to. And I hope that we can now be real friends. But I understand if you wouldn’t want that because I did say some horrible things…”
“You don’t seem to trust Kyle’s words…” J said.
“Well, not fully. I mean, part of me is hopeful that going forward things will be better, but at the same time, another part of me thinks that he’ll be angry. I mean, if someone told me something like that, maybe I’d be angry at them…” I said.
Then our attention turned to Brandon. I don’t know how we’d transitioned but we did. I wiped up all my tears, felt so much relief. It felt like I had let go of a heavy burden and now I’m able to walk better.
We started to talk about Brandon. He kept talking about the presidency issues, the civil right issues that are going on right now, and about how the world and society is just messed up. How he wishes he could just fix everything. He talked about how angry he is at the idiots who support Trump, and how paranoid he feels of his life now because of his LGBTQ+ status. I empathized. I knew how he felt. It’s painful. He also talked about how misanthropic he feels – how he just wants to withdraw and stop connecting with anyone. He also talked about how depressed, hopeless, confused, and desperate he was. He told us that he just doesn’t think that he can ever find such a vulnerability. He said that he was jealous of the vulnerability that both Kyle and I had showed each other. “I’m like an outsider looking in on that interaction, and here I am wishing that I could have that too… I don’t feel like I can feel that way. I’m just so unable to feel any kind of vulnerability…”
Kayla interjected and told him that she doesn’t believe that such a thing could ever be lost. Brandon snapped back at her and told her that he’s hard a difficult traumatic life. That his vulnerabilities had been beaten away by his rageful alcoholic father. That he just can’t feel anything a normal person can. I felt his pain. I realized where he was coming from. Brandon was standing in his own little island – wanting desperately to connect with people but also at the same time, vehemently denying that he wants anyone to care for him. He was concerned for humanity and the way we’re headed. He talked about his philosophies of life and how there are just so many simple solutions that if man were smart enough, they would realize how to fix our shitty lives. He started to float back into the upper strata of philosophizing this life, and society, etc. It was a good intellectual discussion topic, but J insisted that we stay down on Earth where all the feelings were.
Brandon was angry that J kept asking him how he felt and made him reconnect back to his emotions every time he floated up into the world of philosophy. I felt so bad for him. I see how hard he is working – how much of his passion is expended on trying to make people see the truth. How disappointed, and disillusioned he is with life, and with people. I get it because I used to be the same exact way. I felt a tug to tell him how I really felt about him though.
“I have something to say. And I wasn’t going to tell you at first but I figured since I’ve already been negative and said such horrible things to Kyle, why the heck not?”
Jenny sighed loudly and said, “Oh no…”
“Well as you were talking, I thought about something. And this might make you really mad but uh… I was thinking about how you sound like all those preachers who come to campus and tell people they’re going to hell. But instead of those things, you’re telling people they need to be vegan, and that they need to be awake to the political things that are happening… You’re out there screaming at people and no one gives you any care. And all you want is some recognition that you’ve worked hard. That you’ve done so much. It’s so lonely being there by yourself screaming at people who don’t care. It’s so painful… I totally see where you are and feel how you feel. It really really sucks…” I said.
“How did you hear that, Brandon?” J asked.
Brandon looked angry.
“It was painful. It was painful to hear that because I now have a similarity with the people I hate. The preachers I hate so much. I don’t like that. It’s definitely so painful…” Brandon said. Then as he mused some more, he started to philosophize again.
Kayla and Jenny jumped in to try and fix things for Brandon. I felt like it was too soon for them to do so. I felt like no one was pointing out the obvious.
“Okay, I have something else to add. It’s another bad thing. I mean, I hope not… But it kinda is, I think…” I said. I started to tremble.
“You seem like you’re having a hard time, Jules” J said.
“Yes I am! I’m shaking!” I said. I took a deep breath and just said it. “You know, it definitely sucks being there by yourself. To see others and to see the whole picture but no one else does. When no one else agrees with you. Yeah, it’s super hard… But… Uh… But…. Have you ever… I mean… What would it be like if you stepped down from the pedestal? I mean, yeah, I know it’s scary. It’s super scary because you don’t know what’s down here. But what if you tried? If you step down from the pedestal, then you can stop seeing everyone from just the perspective of someone really high up, but rather, face-to-face. Right now, all you see are everyone’s heads. How is that connecting to anyone?”
“That’s vulnerability!” J exclaimed as I said what I said.
Tears sprang to my eyes again and I started sobbing in my seat. I was terrified of saying that – to tell Brandon to get off his high horse and join us down here.
“Yeah!” I exclaimed too. I was afraid that this was the last time I’d speak to Brandon again.
“Well, it’s painful to hear that. And I don’t know if I can do that anyway. If I were to go to an activism group, no one would know me. I make things awkward for others. I don’t have any social skills. What if my friends don’t want to go with me? Yeah, I’ve also been doing meditation. You know, trying out some self-love because I know that will help…”
I was a little disappointed that Brandon didn’t catch my meaning – or perhaps he did and was trying even more to not feel it. To not feel my hand reaching out to him.
Jenny tried to help. She told Brandon that it seems like he’s just speeding off somewhere and that he’s not stopping to see the signs even though both Kyle, and I have been trying to reach him. That he’s not willing to pull over and get the help he needs.
Brandon’s anger flared up and he snapped, “What would you have me do?! I’m stressed, shut down, angry, depressed, not feeling anything… How can I do what you’re asking me to do? I told you I can’t!”
J said, “I want to take this opportunity to bring it all back to the beginning when Jules said, ‘You just want some recognition that you’re working your asses off’ and you are!”
I took a deep breath and spoke again, “Yeah. I see you, Brandon. I see you working hard. I see that you’re standing there yelling at people and you’re working so hard to have people look at you, and stop to listen. You are working so hard. I recognize that. And I know how hard it is to take that first step. I know it feels unreacheable right now. But at the same time, I can’t help but ask you if you could take the hand that I’m offering you. I’m reaching out to you. Let me help you take that first step. Let me help you get down from the pedestal so that you can see my face, and reconnect with people… I see you, Brandon…”
“I think instead of asking Brandon that he just needs to do this and that, that maybe we need to be on Brandon’s speed. I mean, it takes both sides to do something. And we’re all just telling him what to do. Maybe one of us needs to get up on the pedestal with him. And then help him down. We need to meet each other halfway.” Kayla interrupted.
I didn’t completely agree with her because I felt like I wasn’t trying to tell Brandon to do anything. I am already offering my help. I am already offering my love and care for him. All I wanted him to do was to hold the hand that I was offering. I could sense a reluctance.
“I have a lot I definitely need to think about. I want to get there. I do… I just don’t know how…” He said.
J then had to wrap up the session because we had gone 5 minutes over.
“You all did hard work today. But unfortunately we have to stop here because we’ve already gone over time…” J said regretfully. “We’ll meet same time next week though, right?”
We all nodded our assent.
I felt light as I stood up and collected my coat. Sure, I still was recovering from all the crying I was doing but I was definitely feeling a lot better than I have. Lately, I’ve been disconnected from my feelings and it felt good to feel them again. There were a lot of uncomfortable feelings today but at least, I had embraced them instead of pushing them away as I’ve been doing a lot lately.
I felt a lot more love for my group members than I’ve ever had. I realized that this was more evidence that just because you’re real with someone, or that if you call them out, or say something negative, that the relationship not only can continue, but will continue in a better, and stronger way because it means that we are all being brutally honest with each other.
I felt so proud of myself as I walked out of group today. It was incredible how I was able to stick through the uncomfortable, and terrifying feelings as I spoke my mind (something that I rarely do). I realized that this is how it feels to stop protecting people – to stop making excuses for them, or to just shield them from pain. It means to say tough things, and hope that the other person doesn’t blow up on you, and that you’ll be better friends/partners/colleagues/family/etc in the future.
I learned so much today in just an hour and a half. It was such an incredible session!
Today, I’m proud of myself.
Now, that’s quite a rare one, isn’t it?
If you’ve been following my blog for a while now, you’d know that I have a high level of self-shame, self-hatred, and I find it hard to self-love.
Lately however, I’ve been coming to terms with how I feel about myself and learning what it means to self-love.
I said to S today, “Part of me can’t believe that I got to the realization that I need to cut off ties with my ex in order to heal in just a matter of days…” (I had come to terms with my decision early this week since having made said decision just a few days prior) and he said something that I’d known in the back of my mind but never really paid much attention to.
S said, “I want to challenge that notion that seems to undermine the amount of work you’ve done here. We’re coming up to 2 years of working together, and in that time, we’ve been dealing with the same things over and over again. You’ve worked incredibly hard!”
I thought hard as he said that and I realized that he was right.
Come April, it’ll have been 2 years of therapy. It’s almost unbelievable how long I’ve been grinding away at this, and how much I’ve worked. It still feels surreal. How could we have known each other that long?
Is that why I could just saunter into CAPS and say hi to everyone there as though I’ve been buddies with them for ages? I walk in through the doors and just casually say, “Hi D! How’s it going this week?” or “Hi K! Whatchu up to?” (K is the new receptionist that was hired to deal with the increasing demands of front desk work)
Is that why I could plop myself down in S’ client couch and just lean back like I was very comfortable? And is that why I can now ask him questions more plainly without having to ruminate over them for months before I bring anything up?
Wow. I don’t know why I am thinking like this is such a big deal – I mean, sure, I’ve been there almost 2 years now, so what, right?
That said, a part of me recognizes just how important this is – how important this journey has been thus far.
I keep undermining my efforts because I’m so short-sighted – I only see what’s immediately in front of me. S, on the other hand, had the privilege of being a third party observer who has his own informed perspective to use.
He said, “I don’t want you to sway you to my perspective but that’s how I see it. I see it as you, having put in so much time, energy, and effort into this recovery process, that it took you only a few days to come to terms with your decision because it’s been a long time coming. All those months of work have prepared you for this. You didn’t just wake up one day and decided that you were over the divorce…”
As I chewed on his words, I realized that I started to feel the warm feeling of pride inside. I started to realize how strong I’ve been – despite all the batterings I’ve endured last year, I emerged through that alive.
I started to realize that I am proud of myself for all that I’ve achieved.
I told S that. He beamed and assured me that I completely deserve to feel that way. He also told me how impressed he was with my ability to pull myself out of a suicidal thought 2 weeks ago.
It had been a rough time for me and I had reverted to the old habit of self-punishment, and suicidal tendency. I wanted to kill myself – I was triggered by my ex, and was led to believe that I was crap. That I should just die so that I didn’t have to feel the awful way that I do. I had also hurt Cherie’s feelings – something that I couldn’t believe I would do. I felt worthless.
While beating myself and telling myself that I deserve to hurt myself again, another voice chimed in. It was a different voice this time – it sounded nothing like the critical voice that I was used to hearing. It was a strong, confident, pleasant, and kind voice.
The voice said, “No! You’re not worthless. Why do you have to hurt yourself? Why do you have to die? If you do that, he wins. If you let him get to you, he wins. You’re better than that, Jules. You’re stronger than that! You’re worth more than what you’ve ever been told. You are too valuable to have to resort to self-harm, and suicide. Punishing yourself doesn’t do anything but hurt you more. You’ve already hurt enough”
When I had shared this with S last week, he had beamed so brightly, and told me several times how happy he is to hear that, and that I was able to get there. Today, he told me that he was impressed with my positive self-talk. He said that in the past, my pattern had been suicide –> self-depreciation –> worse thoughts of suicide –> visiting CAPS for emergency sessions –> have good sessions –> leave feeling better –> if lucky, the good feelings last for a couple of days –> get triggered again –> suicide –> rinse and repeat.
“So the fact that the affirmation didn’t come from me, or anyone here at CAPS, but rather, from yourself… That is very strong. It makes me happy to know that you’re reaching a stronger point”
I was already proud of myself but hearing his words made me even more proud. It added to my affirmative feelings and validated me.
This, I believe, is my first step toward breaking more bad habits, and being a stronger individual. I know that I will regress – as S kept reminding me, “Progress and recovery is not a straight line upwards. It looks more like a zig zag upwards, where there will be times when you will slip. But that’s okay. All that matters is that you keep going”.
So it’s Day 5 into the new year – technically, as I type this it’s Day 6 but since I don’t count a day as ending until I turn in to bed, it’s still Day 5 for me – and I’m happy to say that I’ve had an eventful holiday/semester break.
Ever since Christmas at Chérie’s family’s, we’ve been inseparable. Below are some photos of us to highlight our stay together. She left for home a few hours ago and this apartment has never been quieter. After she left, I thought about how perfect this woman is in my life, and how she fulfills all of my needs, and more.I can’t imagine how my 2016 would’ve ended had she not entered my life.
I also thought about how great of a positive impact she’s had on my mental health. She’s been very encouraging during all my lows – and I discover that I am able to be vulnerable with her, and allow her to see me at my weakest, as well as allow her to help me. Much of what she says is still hard to believe but with repetition, I’m starting to build the habit of listening to her and to trust her. It’s been quite an experience.
I realized that having her around for the holidays, the impact of my depression has definitely been dulled. I still get into my low moods but they’re not as bad as they were back in the period of April – October. I see how important it is to have a significant other who understands my struggle as well as woks hard to help me in my walk.
Between the two of us, I have a more severe anxiety disorder, while she has a more severe ADHD, so it really works out well because I provide for her the coping skills that she lacks, while she provides me the coping skills I lack. She’s always able to see past my anxiety and help me see past it as well, while I’m always able to remind her to do the things that she needs to do (having poor short term memory is pretty typical in ADHD sufferers).
I know I’ve talked about Chérie a lot lately, and it seems like I can’t talk about anything else but her. However, if you have someone who’s impacted your life so drastically, I don’t think you’d be able to stop talking about them either…
In any case, I’m going into 2017 with more positive feelings. I hope that things will continue to go smoothly – I can’t help but feel like after such a shitty 2016, I need a breather, and I need a year that won’t keep pounding me down.
I hope everyone else’s year started out right! I hope that I will be able to have more time to blog.