Thoughts from Group – The Pain of Admission

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!

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.

 

 

Lessons in Recovery

“I know from the way you stroke my hair, the way you talk to me, the way you look at me, that you really love me,” Chérie said to me yesterday as we laid in bed.

That made my heart melt. As someone who constantly feels like I’m never enough for anyone, it made me realize just how my girlfriend – and also others – see me. Just from the things I do, and the things I say to her, she could tell that I cared about her greatly.

Although my school life has been a huge mess lately, being with Chérie has brought a different kind of clarity and stability to my personal life – this has made it a lot easier for me to deal with the distressing situation that school has become.

I was lucky enough to have gotten the weekend off from work that I was able to spend almost a week with my beloved at her apartment. Her family even invited me for Thanksgiving and I got to meet her parents, and some extended family. Although nerve-wrecking because this was the first time meeting them, I also settled in comfortably without much difficulty shortly after. It was the kind of ease that I never got from meeting my ex’s family.

I was supposed to leave for home tonight but I found that I couldn’t. I had been crying the whole day today because I didn’t want to leave. The pain of separation from Chérie for the next 2 and a half weeks was great and unbearable. I am glad that she’s strong enough for both of us to not cry with me because that would have made it even harder.

I finally decided on a compromise – I would leave at 5am tomorrow morning instead, to make it in time for my shift at the MAC. This has given me a few more precious hours with her. My friend, El, told me that though it’s hard, it must also be a great feeling knowing that there is someone amazing I could look forward to seeing. She’s right. I never looked at it from that perspective because I’ve always just been so used to seeing life from gray-tinted glasses.

The changes that Chérie has catalyzed for me in my life has been so drastic that I really just can’t imagine life without her anymore. I know that I am so much better than I was just a month ago. Even S has noted that several times – telling me how proud he is of me and of the changes I’ve made in my life.

Last session, he asked, “Do you think you could’ve done the same a year ago? Maybe even 6 months ago?”

I shook my head as soon as the words left his lips. “No! No way!” I responded almost immediately. “I couldn’t have done this a year ago… Not even 6 months ago. I feel different. And I can see that I have come a long way…”

“You have!” S said, smiling. “I’m so proud of you!”

His words made me smile. It made me feel proud too – I am proud of myself for how far I’ve come. I know that he and I have done a lot of hard work – he would also often remind me that most of the hardest work was done by me – but I also know how much Chérie has helped catalyze things for me as well.

Most of the hardest work in my recovery happened over the course of a year and a half with S. However, not even a week after I met Chérie, I had managed to take all the groundwork that S and I have laid down and made leaps and bounds of progress. It’s amazing just how one person can make a difference in your life.

Despite that, I am still struggling with many more things – there are days when I still wish that my marriage had worked out; that I didn’t have to struggle as a bisexual person; that I didn’t have to struggle with understanding my faith and the judgments I’ve had to deal with; that I didn’t have to feel so insecure about myself and what I have to offer. It’s just that despite the struggles, I am able to work past them – with Chérie by my side, I am able to let myself see the positives that she sees of me. She’s able to help me accept who I am, and learn new skills to cope with life as a non-neurotypical person.

The last 5 and a half weeks that I’ve been with my girlfriend have been the best time of my life – not only have I been able to learn to value myself more , I’ve also learned that it’s much easier to go through difficult times when you have someone to help you. Through it all, I’ve also learned that it’s okay to still struggle and that recovery doesn’t mean that everything is 100% fixed.

I’m thankful for this amazing woman in my life. I am sad that in just a few hours I’ll be packing up to leave, but I also know that like El has said, I have someone incredible to look forward to seeing again in a few weeks’ time.

Progress on Self-Affirmation

So almost a month ago, I had posted about someone that I had been chatting with – someone that I had met over a dating site in this post (Love Bug). I was supposed to meet them last weekend for the first time and they had reservations about our date. They cancelled, and told me that they felt stressed out with the pressures of school, with how their relative is sick, and how it’s so much pressure to meet me for the first time.

I felt like I had been too pushy and too insistent for us to meet. At that point, I was very burnt out with life itself and felt that if I gave myself a reason to leave the city I live in right now, that I might feel better. That if I could meet this person, I could feel better.

It was hard not to feel disappointed when we didn’t meet. It’s not that easy to admit that either. Somehow, it feels embarrassing.

Every time I think of this person, and how they haven’t messaged me in about 8 days now, I feel like somehow I did something wrong. Maybe I pushed too hard? Maybe I said something that they took offense to? Maybe I am texting too much? Maybe I’m too desperate and it comes across as needy? Maybe it’s just me… Everything’s my fault, right?

My anxiety started to convince me that it’s something that I did or didn’t do.

Then tonight, something else happened. The anxiety came back because I had contact the person again through the dating site. I had seen that they were online so I decided to send them a “Hi, hope you’re doing well” kind of message. They didn’t respond and shortly after I sent the message, they went offline. I had a feeling that they didn’t want to talk to me.

I started to beat myself up again. Thinking that it’s probably something I did – that I should’ve waited a little while longer before talking to them again but now I’ve blown it because I couldn’t wait a few more days.

As I showered, my thoughts went back to what I could’ve done differently.

Then I said to myself, for the first time ever, “No. You did everything right. You did everything you knew to do and you didn’t text them every day. You texted them once every few days. You’ve done everything you could. Now it’s me for them to reciprocate”

“What if they don’t?” The inner me asked.

“Well, if they don’t respond back, too bad for them… It’s their loss really. You’re intelligent, you’re attractive, you’re pretty awesome, and interesting. For them to let you go is a huge mistake. And it’s fine because someone will recognize your talents and appreciate you for your qualities. They’re making a poor choice if they choose to leave you”

A few moments after I finished that conversation, it hit me that I had just self-affirmed in one of the most positive manners I’ve ever felt. I was compassionate and understanding of myself. I recognized some of my good qualities and was not afraid to tell myself that I did indeed have those traits.

I felt thrilled that this had happened. I felt thrilled because this is an amazing step that I’ve taken. It wasn’t easy to get to this point but now I’m starting to be more and more aware of my action and words! Wow! What progress!

Thoughts From Therapy – #85

S and I talked about what I did on Saturday at the event. I was filled with trepidation as I recounted what I did (for context, read this: Strange Social Behavior).

I was nervous because I was afraid that I’ll lose S; that he’ll be afraid of me and pull away. I didn’t want him to feel those things. I also felt bad because I felt like I had acted inappropriately.

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Love Bug

I’m struggling with the fact that someone I met on a dating site has expressed that they think that I’m attractive and that despite the fact that we have a connection that in my opinion is genuine, I don’t hear from them often enough. 

We’ve never talked on the phone or Skyped or anything like that. We’ve only been texting all this time. 

I’ve known them for 5 weeks now. But usually, I’m the one sending all the messages and I hardly ever get replies. 

I’m trying not to be the anxious, paranoid, stalker-y person that I can be but I do know that they’re still on the same dating site we met on and that. Sometimes, it makes me wonder if their feelings for me are real because in my perspective, someone who cares enough about me will make the time to talk or message even if they’re extremely busy. So, in my perspective, the fact that they still get on the dating site and with the time they used to do that, they could’ve texted me but didn’t, really makes me feel unsettled. 

Also, I don’t know to what extent I’m just obsessing because of my anxiety and to what extent are my uncertainty and insecurities founded. 

The worst part is how much I care about them and how much I want something in my life to just go right. I’m sick and tired of every single waking moment because of all the pain I’m in. I just want something good. 

This person makes me happy in ways that I never thought I could be – whenever I do hear from them of course but they manage to put a smile on my face every time I get their message. 

So, on top of my overwhelming schedule, new job, inability to catch up in class, lack of time to do homework and assignments, inability to focus, pain from the divorce, workload on campus as well as outside, and inability to digest the things I’ve learned, I now have the distraction of liking a person and getting the typical butterflies in the stomach type reactions whenever I hear from them. 

And it’s just so distracting. At the same time, while hopeful and really praying for a better time for myself, I’m also a little cynical or maybe just hyper cautious. I’m trying not to invest so much. I think I’m justified to feel that way, right?