Of Being Happy and Mindful

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.

New Year

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.

Much Needed Update

I know I’ve disappeared from here for a while. I didn’t want to but everything was too overwhelming to handle. I’m glad that 2016 is about to end. It’d been quite an awful year for me. 

Although extremely challenging, I’d definitely grown a lot as a person. I’d like to believe that I’m much stronger than I was before. I’m now able to recognize my positive traits – able to self validate a little better than I used to – and somewhat be okay with being who I am. 

School had finally let out for the semester so my greatest stressor for the past couple of months is gone for now. I ended up doing very badly in school and my cumulative GPA of 3.83 dropped to a 3.332 because this past semester, I’d gotten a D for Calculus, C- for Computing 2 and a C for Discrete Computational Structures for a total GPA of 1.733. I nearly didn’t sit for my Calculus final because I was so discouraged, and I barely did anything for my Computing final project. I’d been a consistent D student in Discrete as well throughout the semester. It’s a wonder I managed a 60/100 in my final exam! 

I definitely could’ve done better but at the same time, I had been so overwhelmed by my divorce, my sudden increase in bills which led to a serious financial problem, my juggling 3 jobs, my struggle with reconciling my faith and my sexual orientation, my suicidal ideations, and my lack of time to do any homework or studying, it’s a wonder I’m still alive. 

It’s hard for me to ditch my perfectionism trait. It causes me untold amounts of anxiety, but I can’t help it. I can’t stop the critical voice in my head that perpetually reminds me that I’m unworthy, I’m no good, I’m a loser, I’m not smart enough, and I’m a bad girlfriend. To be honest, I’m surprised that I feel at peace with my grades. I thought I’d be wracked with guilt but strangely, I feel okay. I think this is probably because I see my victory against my suicidality to be a major achievement, and so because of that, not getting good grades doesn’t seem to serious. 

Anyway, so I finally have some time to write an update. So school’s out for the next couple of weeks for the holidays. I’ve been spending the past week and a half with Chérie and it’s been a blessing. She helps me affirm myself, and helps me see my worth and purpose. She also helps me overcome all the negative things that I’ve been told – by myself, and by others – which then leads to a better perspective of myself. 

Group therapy is also taking a break and will begin again in January. To be honest, I’m so glad for us to take a break. I’m tired of some of the conflict, tired of hearing the same stories from everyone, and I’m also tired of my own self-imposed savior tendencies. It’s a relief to be able to not work so hard. 

My sessions with S have been more insightful than usual lately, perhaps because we’re finally moving away from my suicidality. The biggest achievement I’ve been able to attain in this aspect has been the fact that I’ve been able to lower S from the high pedestal that I’d placed him on for the longest time. Through the interactions I’ve had with the CAPS staff in my work as a Peer Educator, through reading their social media updates, through speaking to the CAPS interns, as well as interactions with S outside of his office, I’d been able to see that my psychologist is just as human as everyone else. I was able to see a different perspective – one that affirms that S is highly trained and is able to help me most of the time, but that he’s also just as fallible as I am. 

Lowering S from the pedestal has been a good progress because now I can reduce the amount of time I loiter around the lobby. I don’t obsess over S anymore, the way I used to. I don’t walk by his office just to catch glimpses of him. I don’t have a desperate need to talk to him outside of our scheduled appointments weekly. I also don’t feel as dependent as I used to. I still like hearing him say nice things, and to validate me, but I no longer hang on to every word he says like they’re all the gospel of life. In this aspect, I’m able to feel less anxious about seeing or talking to S. 

Besides that, I’d also been much more accepting of my own sexual orientation. I got myself a ring that is in the colors of the bisexual flag and I wear it with comfort and pride.

​So, I don’t know what Chérie and I were talking about recently but it ended up with her making the quip, “You’re so gay!” to me indicating my preferences. I laughed because though I identify as bisexual, I do lean more towards the gay side of bi. That said, tonight she pointed out that gay women were often associated with carabiner clips with keys on their belt loops. It made me realize something. 

I started to realize that a lot of the things I gravitate to or like are things that seem very gay. I like carabiner clips, I like my wallet chain, I like leather cuffs, short hair, jeans, plaid shirts, and many more things associated with queer women! Heck, I was even a softball player in high school! 

As I came to this realization, I felt much more validated for how I’ve always been and what I’ve always been interested in. Suddenly, things clicked in my mind and I understood why I was the way I was when I was younger. Things made much better sense now. I feel less like a freak. 

Despite the fact that 2016 had been so difficult for me, I actually feel like things may be on the mend. At the very least, things in my life are starting to go back on an upwards climb toward the more positive side of recovery. Unless some huge, and drastic things happen in my life in the near future, I don’t anticipate things to dip for me. 

I’m still depressed – especially now during the holiday season (being reminded that I haven’t seen my family in 5 years is painful) – but I’m definitely much better at managing my emotions, as well as make positive progress. 

I’m also at Chéries’ parents’ home to celebrate Christmas So, that helps me feel less lonely, and less hopeless about not having family. 

I hope that I’ll be able to have a good rest of the year. Chérie has definitely been a much needed plot twist for my 2016 story and ever since we got together, my life’s trajectory had been positively uphill! 

As much as I can, I’ll try to be more consistent in my blogging habits. 

Happy holidays to everyone! If you’re not feeling this season, or have terrible you have no choice but to be around, please know that I know how you feel. Please don’t hesitate to call a crisis line, or to reach out for help! I’m also happy to chat should you need to. 

Be safe everyone! Have a wonderful time! 

Group Therapy – Conflict of Communication Style

Last Friday, I had a difficult group session. Every time I go to group, I get triggered and I often leave feeling unsettled or sometimes even outright upset. It’s just that the things we talk about are very difficult things and a lot of the times, we bring up issues that everyone identifies and relates with.

The Friday before the week of Thanksgiving, I ended the session by saying that there is something important that I want to bring up in the next session. What had happened was, just moments prior to that, Kyle had shared something that had upset him. Like always, I jumped in to offer my empathy by relating to him and showing him that he’s not alone. When asked what his response was to my show of empathy, he told me that he wasn’t listening – that he couldn’t. I felt invalidated at that moment. So I brought up at the end of the session that it seems like every time I try to empathize with Kyle, he rejects my efforts. I talked about how I thought this wasn’t a big deal but since it’s been coming up more and more, and because I had been keeping it buried inside, that perhaps it was time we talked about it and processed it.

So, last Friday, after some hemming and hawing, we finally got to that point of opening up about the issue that I had brought up. We’ve had 2 weeks to process it because we were all on Thanksgiving break so group didn’t meet. Kyle confessed that he had been very nervous and stressed about the topic – he said that he had wished that he didn’t have to talk about this topic.

Since I was the one who brought it up, I was given the onus to explain what was so upsetting. I provided some context – some of the past things that had happened in group. I talked about how every time Kyle is upset, I would try to empathize by showing him how I relate to his story and how it’s affected me, in hopes that he’ll see that he is not alone and that I totally get it. I said that it was how I’ve always related to people whenever they’re upset or distressed. I explained that it was how I would like others to relate to me because I want to know that I’m not alone in how I feel (because I fundamentally think that I am a legitimate outcast of society, and that’s why it’s so important to me to feel like there are others on my “side” too).

Kyle then offered his perspective of the issue. He told me that whenever he’s upset and he’s sharing his story, he is often in such a distressed mindset that he can’t even listen to anyone else. He also said that he doesn’t want to – “It’s off-putting to me,” Kyle had said. “It’s off-putting because here I am telling my story of why I’m upset and another person chimes in and says that they’ve gone through the same thing, and that they know how it feels. At that moment, it’s like they’re trying to steal the spotlight from me! I’d rather someone just say that ‘things suck, the situation is bad, and I’m sorry’,”

Another group member, Sam, chimed in and called him a hypocrite for saying that because in the first few sessions of group, he had said that he didn’t want people to relate to him that way. Kyle’s defense was that over the course of group (we have been at it for 2 semesters now) that he had changed his mind about how he wants others to relate to him and how he wants to relate to others.

As I listened to him, I had a smile on my face. I didn’t want him to think that I disliked him or anything, although I felt a little offended that having someone share their story was like having them steal the thunder from him. It offended me because my purpose was to comfort – not to steal anyone’s thunder. If I’d wanted to steal the spotlight, I’d be the only one talking and I’d not let anyone else talk.

When it came to my turn to speak again, I decided to go with the truth. I said to Kyle, “You know, as you were speaking, I have to say… What you said made me angry. It made me feel angry at least… I felt angry because I didn’t like how you didn’t take into account that everyone communicates differently. Everyone has their own way of showing their empathy and for you to say what you said, made me feel like how I did it was wrong and that the only way you want anyone to relate to you is through your own way. That the ways others relate to you aren’t good enough… If all you want is for me to say, ‘Well that sucks, I’m sorry, man’, I could do that. However, that’s just not how I relate to others. To me, saying that sentence is very insincere and I hate hearing people tell me that things suck and that they’re sorry because to me, it feels like they didn’t even try to understand how I feel in that moment. It’s like they didn’t even put in any effort but rather, they just say, ‘Oh that’s tough shit’ – what it implies then is that I’m supposed to just move on…”

J, the lead psychologist, then said to me, “Jules, I want to challenge you on that… I want to challenge you on what you said about how all Kyle wants to hear is ‘Oh that sucks, man. I’m sorry’ because I really don’t think that’s what he’s saying… That’s not how I interpreted it”

I looked at Kyle, and said, “Well, that sure sounds like what he’s saying to me…” because I truly did interpret it to mean that.

Jenny, another member, chimed in and said, “That’s how I heard it too… That all they wanted was to hear that simple sentence and that’s all they need. I want to apologize too because like Jules, that’s also how I relate to others. I tend to tell them how an experience has affected me and how I’d like to relate to them…”

I felt a little relieved to know that I’m not the only one who empathizes with others this way – in lengthy expression of sadness, and relating my experiences to them.

I then said that I wouldn’t have known what Kyle needed – that I wouldn’t know what anyone needs.

Brandon said that as he was talking, he was thankful that I showed him empathy and that he takes empathy from anyone and in any form. “But if I were honest,” he said, “I think I’d much rather have just heard you say, ‘I’m sorry but that’s really rough’ and be done with that because my mind was at such a turmoil that I couldn’t even think straight anymore, so it was very hard for me to follow what you were trying to say. I tried very hard to listen to what you and Jenny said but it was just so difficult to do so…”

“But I wouldn’t have known that!” I said, feeling my anger rise again. It was so hard for me to accept that I can’t always fulfill what others need because I really can’t read people’s minds. “How can I change who I am at my core to fit others? I can’t always be on my tippy toes and try to act differently than who I really am. This is how I show others empathy. Why should I have to change myself to fit others?”

Sam said, “Now I want to challenge  you on that. You’ve been in relationships before, right? In relationships, don’t you change how you communicate depending on how the situation is?”

“I’m not saying I won’t change my tone or how I say something, but that I won’t change who I am fundamentally. That I’m not about to change who I am to suit others…” I defended.

Jenny then offered, “Well, I think maybe what Sam is saying is that sometimes we just need to know when to back down and put our own ego aside. That we just have to say simply to the person, ‘I validate your feelings’. I know it’s hard because I struggle with that too, but I think that might be what is needed at that time…”

I shrugged. I felt defeated – I felt like my point wasn’t being made and that no one understood what I was trying to say.

“Jules, it sounds like things are so black and white for you – that either you help a person feel better, or that relationship is over…” J said, gently.

It was hard for me to look at her in the eye, the way she was doing to me.

“Yeah… You’ve just talked about how you always try to empathize with others. But you take it all on yourself. It bounces back to you and becomes a negative thing. You can’t anticipate what others need but it seems like if you can’t, then you must not have done enough. You’re so hard on yourself, Jules!” Sam said.

At his last statement, I started tearing up because it hit me that I do take things on myself and that I take so much responsibility for others, even when it’s not necessary. I articulated this through sobs because I couldn’t control my cracked voice and my emotions. I tell the group how I feel like everything’s my fault, or that everything’s my responsibility because that’s how I’ve been raised – that was the model of behavior I was shown. I was always punished for my brother’s sake and because I was never given affirmation, I never knew when what I did was ever enough. So I have never felt enough. Not for anyone.

This feeling creeps into other aspects of my life – and right now, it’s something that I feel with Cherie sometimes. I often ask her why she would fall in love with me, when I don’t think I can ever give her enough. She would chide me and tell me that I’m silly – that I’m worthy, and that I deserve to be loved. She would always say things of that flavor to comfort me.

T then asked me if I felt like the burden had been taken off me now that we’ve talked about how I don’t have to take on everyone’s responsibilities in communication. At that time, it did feel like a load had come off my chest. I did feel a lot calmer knowing that I couldn’t have anticipated how Kyle needed to be comforted.

After group ended, I felt fine for a little while but then later, as I shared with Cherie about what had happened, I started to feel unsettled again. She gently shared with me that sometimes, some people just need someone to sit there with them without saying anything. That sometimes saying things make things worse. She shared her experiences in her training as a pastor that sometimes, all people need is someone there. She reasoned that perhaps Kyle is one of those people, but then also added that she thinks that Kyle is also someone who doesn’t want empathy and that I should not keep pouring in energy and effort to comfort someone who doesn’t want to be comforted. She told me how big of a heart I have and how I feel so deeply for everyone, and everything. She also told me how painful that is for me and how painful it is for her to watch me suffer through so much anguish for others.

I listened carefully to her – as I always do. I realized that she’s right. That really, I invest so much into people that don’t want my efforts. That I also don’t know when to keep quiet. That hit me the hardest because I know that it was something that I had been trying to practice in the first group I had joined. I had since forgotten that. Cherie gently encouraged me to start practicing that again.

“I know it’s hard for us people with ADHD to do that. To sit still. To be silent… But sometimes, that’s what is needed, my love,” Cherie had said.

I will definitely try to practice that more.

After all this, another feeling had also come up – it’s the feeling that I don’t really want to continue with this group any longer. Initially the reason I had even joined this group was because it’s an ongoing group – an experiment of sorts by CAPS to see how a group that doesn’t change in terms of who the members are would work and if that would be beneficial for other groups to do the same. I wanted to be able to talk to the same people without establishing prior context – however, lately I’ve been feeling jaded by everyone’s contexts. It doesn’t seem like anything’s changed in terms of what brought us to group and that to me, is getting stale. I’m hearing the same stories repeatedly and I’m getting tired of it. That said, I’m sure if I bring this up to S, he’ll ask me what I can challenge myself to do in this situation – how can I make this something that will benefit me in the long run… Perhaps the experience of being “called out” and experiencing people’s challenges really is at the core of this issue (of me wanting to leave), and perhaps I really am just stretched too thin with group… I’m not sure what the real reason is.

All I do know is that I definitely have to talk to S about this to see what his views are. For now, I’ll deal with the uneasy feelings myself and see what comes next.

 

 

Still Alive

Anyone who follows my Facebook, my blog, or knows me personally knows that I’ve been through a hellish year with processing the traumas of my life, processing a painful and messy divorce, battling suicidal thoughts and intents, battling self harming tendencies, processing my sexual orientation and what it means to be Christian despite it, dealing with the pain of intense self-shame, self-punishment, self-defeat, as well as experiencing all those feelings as I project them onto others, working two jobs while contributing as a Peer Educator, and struggling with financial issues.

At the end of the day, we’re on the cusp of the beginning of the final month of the year – I’m still here, after all that shit, I’m still fighting.

I’m going to fail all my classes – in retrospect, that shouldn’t add to more shame for me right?

Then why do I still keep feeling like I’ve wasted an entire semester doing nothing? – Even though, I’ve done more in this semester where my mental health is concerned than I’ve ever done in my life.

The critical voices in my head need to stop.

After all the shit, I should get a medal for still being here. What are 3 F’s in a transcript compared to how I’m still alive?