As promised, here is part 2.
I’m feeling pretty wiped out today because of my monthly blood loss so I’ll just plonk this one here until I have more time to expound on it:
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”.
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.
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?
“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.
It’s been quite a while since I’d written and I do apologize but life has been a roller coaster lately.
Since I started crawling out of my post-divorce rut, I had taken a misstep and had fallen back into another rut – the school/academic rut. As I am slowly recovering from the post-divorce rut, I realize how badly I’ve been doing in school lately.
I’m doing 3 classes officially with the fourth class being a supplemental 1-credit hour class and despite only doing 12 credit hours, I’m floundering really badly. I am failing Discrete Computational Structure (which is essentially just Discrete Math) and can’t keep up with the class. I am not doing well in Calculus despite this being the second time I’m taking the same class (the number of homework and tests/quizzes for this class is truly relentless!) and I’m also struggling really badly with Computing 2 (mainly because the midterm project has crushed all motivation that I ever had in me).
All this has led to an unfortunate amount of stress and tension. I kept backing myself into the corner again – telling myself that I am so weak, and that perhaps I need to reconsider my dream of being a computer scientist. That perhaps, I had made a mistake in thinking that I was smart enough for this venture.
Thankfully, through all this, Chérie has been steadfast in her encouragement and commitment to me. Despite all the whining I’ve been doing about school, she has been very supportive – she even sat me down (figuratively since we’re almost 400 miles apart) one day to help me reorganize my schedule. She and I both successfully helped me cut out 8 hours of work from the restaurant as well as 3 and a half extra hours from private tutoring. Just having her sit with me and discuss my plans was very useful. It calmed me down considerably. It allowed me to refocus.
We’ve only been together 2 weeks so far and things have been going really well for us. It’s interesting how well we’re doing and how much we’ve planned and discussed. I suppose that since we’re both in our thirties, it’s not hard for us to be mature in our outlook and steadfast in our decisions. I truly am fortunate to have found such an amazing person to share my life with.
Group therapy had been very interesting on Friday. The issue between Kyle and Brandon came up again (see: A Most Intense Group Session for context) and I pointed out that since this came up again, that the issue must be pressing enough to warrant another look.
This time, the gloves were off as both Kyle and Brandon got heated with their ideas and opinions. Brandon still didn’t understand why Kyle would not empathize with him or just show him some compassion while Kyle didn’t understand why Brandon is so “fanatical” in his beliefs. Brandon took offense to Kyle’s w0rd choice. Kyle responded that he had no idea why Brandon would so arrogantly presume that everyone should see things his way.
As the conflict got more heated, J was good to jump in and diffuse things before they escalated even more. She cut in a lot and mitigated the conflict very well. At one point she said, “Okay, the content of the disagreement is not what we’re trying to discuss here. We’re trying to discuss how we can approach each other when something like this happens!”
She was right. The content of the argument was not important at all. As both men continued to argue, I interrupted them and jumped in. I didn’t think that I would ever have the guts to do something like that but I did.
I said, “Okay guys. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way but I can really see both sides here. I can empathize with both of you and I do. Brandon, I am part of the LGBTQ community too now and I understand how you feel. I get how angry you are and how much you just want to punch everyone who even utters a tiny homophobic comment. I get it. It makes me mad when a Christian acts like total assholes. At the same time though, I see Kyle’s point – I see what he means by how the Westboro people are just lunatics – it’s because they are. No matter how much we fight them, we’ll never win because they are not only brainwashed to hate people who are different from them, they are also delusional! Doing nothing sucks but sometimes we just need to have compassion for these misguided people. That said, Kyle, I feel like you’re not really empathizing with Brandon. I mean, this is what I perceive. I perceive that you have a great reluctance to just say that you care for Brandon. There were easy outs and you refused to take any of them. J asked you if you cared to be here and your answer was ‘Well if I didn’t care I wouldn’t be here’. Brandon asked you if you could just give him some empathy while T flat-out told you that Brandon just needs to feel some connection from you. Yet you refuse all three offers to let you off the hook. It makes me wonder then if you’re just afraid to show yourself to us – that is to be vulnerable and humble. I have two theories. One it’s that you’ve invested too much into this argument between you and Brandon that if you don’t get any resolutions from it, then it would make the last year for us to be pointless. All I’m saying is that, I feel like you could also be a little less judgmental toward Brandon and just reach out to him, offer some support, and just be there!”
I felt my heart hammer in my ribcage as I spoke. I was afraid of how I was going to be perceived. This was why I didn’t like conflicts. I was afraid of the fact that Kyle and Brandon could both hate me because I was being blunt.
It turned out that what I said opened up the conflict into smaller more manageable chunks. We were able to mostly sort through our emotions and reactions toward the conflict. When asked what we learned from the experience, I talked about how fearful I was to share my opinion and how uncomfortable it was to be amidst the conflict. T pointed out that he was glad that I came to that realization and reminded me that through this experience, we’re able to see that just because we’re not directly involved in the fight, we are actually still a part of the conflict as it still affects us “bystanders”.
I learned a few things from group this week – one was that I don’t always have to follow my instincts and pick a side (I’ve always felt like I had to pick a side. Otherwise, both sides will hate me…) because chances are neither of them were right and choosing a side merely makes everything even more petty. I was able to resist my instincts this time and was able to overcome the discomfort of not knowing what to do. I was also able to sit through the discomfort of being in the middle of a conflict and not run away. I was able to do this without having a meltdown. I was also able to realize how brave I was to say my thoughts and perceptions.
At the end of the session, I called Chérie excitedly on the phone and conveyed everything that had happened in group. She was ecstatic to hear that I was able to do what I did – “Good job!” she had said.
“I actually feel kinda proud of myself,” I said, feeling the same kind of embarrassed shame creep in to my cheeks. I was proud of the fact that I was proud of myself because self-validation has never been my strong suit. I think I’m really moving forward towards a mentally healthier me with my improvement in self-validation, self-pride, and self-encouragement.
So that’s been my week so far. I hadn’t had time to really write any Thoughts From Therapy posts either but as assignments pile up, I barely have any time to be online anymore, much less spend time writing blog posts. I hope to be able to post more thoughtful posts when things start to cool off for me. Until then, I’m just grateful that I still have people I trust here in the blogverse and people who care enough to come back and check to see if I have new posts.