Disappointment is Necessary

I crashed and burned after the wedding, there’s no way around it. I was a whir of energy leading up to that day, emotions all over the place, a near-constant stream of goal-directed activity. It felt fantastic. The celebration itself was fantastic. Being surrounded by so many people I love and who love me …

Now it’s gone. It’s been gone. I didn’t get enough sleep and it left me exhausted. Over a week later, I’m still exhausted. I felt so good; I thought I could build on the energy and do things to improve my life. Clean the apartment, find a job, join a group, get out and socialize more, even just maintain some kind of contact with some of the people who came out to see me. Anything…

I’m too tired to do anything. I’m pouring what energy I do have into The Sims 3. I think it appeals to me because my sims can go out on the town and have vibrant social lives that I control and accomplish their goals in a much shorter amount of time than in real life: combine control, vicarious living, and instant gratification. After I restarted my current game for the second time I realized that my perfectionism was taking over, forcing me to give up progress in a game that was going really well because there was one thing I didn’t like and couldn’t fix.

I think part of why my perfectionism is taking over is because of how much I had to suppress it to cope with the reality of the wedding. There were a lot of things that didn’t go the way I wanted; I’ve been trying really hard not to dwell on them because if I focus on them I’ll feel like it was a complete disaster. But keeping the focus on the positive is exhausting, and to be honest I’m not entirely sure it’s healthy. We need to acknowledge the not-so-good aspects of our lives, even if we can’t do anything about them.

The thing that’s bothering me the most is that, because of how the space was set up and where my bridal party ended up standing, it was very difficult for my guests to see what was going on during the ceremony. I felt doubly bad about that because we hadn’t invited the majority of the guests to the legal ceremony last year, so this was their chance to see us ‘get married’. At least they were able to hear it?

Worse, I completely forgot about the audio recorder I’d brought specifically to record the ceremony and especially our vows – a compromise so we wouldn’t have to pay for a videographer. I don’t have the audio recording, and no one was able to take video because they couldn’t see it, and my memory of audio input leaves much to be desired… So, in short, the only record of the most important aspect of the entire affair – our vows – is written notes that exclude the parts we improvised.

I don’t know if I would have remembered to set up the audio recorder if things had gone differently, but we could have at least had the bridal party positioned so the guests could see. (Then maybe someone would have taken video!) We didn’t have time to have a rehearsal because we were late getting to the venue and then I lost track of time and I don’t even know where everyone was, so I probably would have had a difficult time getting them together. And some people – mostly members of Fox’s family – came early and started talking to us. So no rehearsal, and bridal party pictures had to be taken during the reception … but at least the space was partially cleaned and the handicap-accessible restroom didn’t smell of cigarette smoke.

Part of why we were late getting to the venue was because it took longer to get things together than I’d been expecting, and part was because I got in an argument with the bridesmaid who’d been kind enough to do our centerpieces. She wanted to get them from her parents’ car (which would be at the venue a little bit later), but I knew we wouldn’t have time for her to find her parents, get their key, unload the centerpieces, and reload them into Banji’s car. We were both butting heads for a stupid amount of time before I realized I could (and should!) just go. Then I felt bad for leaving Banji to deal with the situation, and I thought we were an hour later than we actually were because I’d forgotten to set my car’s clock back, so I was a furious raging mess. People kept telling me to calm down but to be honest I was glad I could express myself, and I needed to do so; it was what was healthy at the time. Can you imagine if I’d kept all that in? It would have been a nightmare.

No rehearsal meant that random things happened during the procession and introductions that weren’t what I wanted, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. “The show must go on.” For the most part it was fine; none of the guests have complained. No one has even said anything about not being able to see the ceremony. I think, really, they’re just happy to have come together and enjoyed themselves for an afternoon. That was my goal, the rest of it was just details.

I had a nice long conversation with Mom in the middle of writing this. We talked about all the things that went wrong before and during the wedding and complained to each other about annoying things that people did. We both expressed how we felt about all these things. She assured me that no one’s upset about not being able to see the ceremony. We also talked about some of the things that went well – mostly good ideas she had. I found the conversation to be helpful and energizing; I meant it when I said I enjoyed talking to her (as we hugged goodbye for about the 5th time).

I think I just really needed to process this stuff. Now that I’ve done it, I might still need a while to get my energy back and get back on my feet doing useful things, but at least I don’t have to waste energy suppressing part of my experience. There were some things that were disappointing, that I wish had gone differently. I accept that and you know what, I allow myself to feel disappointed that they didn’t go the way I wanted. That’s okay. It’s natural and healthy.

But I also choose not to dwell on them. I choose not to focus on them at the expense of the important things. I’m missing a couple of items I’d brought to the venue with me; finding them is very important so that’s a good way to direct my energy. Going forward, I choose to focus more on the stuff that went right: most importantly, that I got my big family wedding and everyone had a great time – including me. I choose to remember dancing with my loved ones, seeing them having fun, goofing off with my friends, and the love, all the love! Feeling so fully and vibrantly alive. That’s what’s worth remembering.

Great, Ziya can express zir emotions spontaneously again … well, most of the time. Unfortunately, Ziya’s mom still can’t tolerate that. You know, one of the people – to an infant, practically gods – whose behavior required Ziya to create and hide all zir emotions behind the Censor in the first place… Yeah. Now Mom is no longer a god, but rather a person with a lot of her own psychological issues on whom I’m financially and sometimes somewhat emotionally dependent, who sometimes tries to help and understand me/my depression and sometimes …

We spent 2 days with her. 2 days. Not even the whole day. Late lunch on Wednesday, an appointment with the florist yesterday, that’s it. Explosions. She can’t deal with my emotions. While were at lunch Fox received a phone call, during which he was offered the job he’d just applied for! We were all thrilled; Mom offered her congratulations. Oh no! Ziya dared to smile, use inflection in zir voice, and hug zir spouse!!! In public!!! This could not be tolerated. “Okay, you two, quit it. C’mon!” *sigh*

Talking to the florist went well, just a ton of information. Later in the evening, we wanted to use Mom’s credit card to acquire an item for the ceremony – she’s supplying about half our budget, so instead of putting it on my card and having to pay interest and get reimbursed, we thought it would be a lot simpler to put it on her card.

Well, Ziya was still recovering from interacting with Mom and Fox earlier in the day, and getting very frustrated with logging in and out of sites, forgetting passwords, having to enter and re-enter card information, etc. Ze kind of had a bit of a nervous breakdown, not quite crying with tears but sobbing and … you get the idea.

Again, Mom couldn’t handle it. She actually yelled at me to “Stop it!”

Not good. Suicidal thoughts triggered by concern over our financial situation and difficulty communicating with Fox about it. I hate having to make joint decisions because I feel like I can’t act on what’s worrying me; I feel helpless and trapped and hopeless and if I can’t do anything about this horrible situation I’d rather just die so I don’t have to feel the pain! Later I was reading and enjoying a webcomic and Fox reminded me about my paper and it reminded me so much of my mother pushing me to do my homework (at the expense of my emotional well-being) that I broke down completely. Internalized voice of Mom: “Stop being so melodramatic!”

I’d almost rather have the Censor back. Almost.

I don’t think she’s really gone. I think that aspect of myself has been integrated. I still have some control, though maybe not as much as I would like especially given my current circumstances. I can still do things like edit my writing and empathize with people and look beyond my own wants and needs when considering how to respond to a situation and be polite. I’m just more likely to feel and express my emotions … even when it means getting into arguments with Fox and getting yelled at by my mother.

I’m an adult. She has no right to yell at me like I’m a disobedient child. Parents shouldn’t yell at their disobedient children, anyway. All it does is teach them to be mean to people, especially themselves. She was very mean to me.

We have a marriage counseling session we should leave for now and I still have a blanket over my head. Literally. I need family therapy with my mom and/or my mom to go for therapy. I don’t want to work on my relationship with Fox right now, even though it could certainly use some work. I just want to rest, alone, without anyone to see me.

In my mother’s words, I’ve “trashed” the place again. The clutter has returned. It’s not enough.

A New Hope

Last week was a whirlwind of internal change and things happening. I actually wrote Drama of the Gifted Child last Monday; I had intended to write more about how my current situation is actually quite good for me, but then Tuesday happened and I re-read what I’d written and decided it felt complete enough to post.

an image of part of a calendar showing last week, with text indicating what important experience happened for Ziya each day

an image of part of a calendar showing last week, with text indicating what important experience happened for Ziya each day

On Tuesday I read a scholarly article titled “The Abject Self: Self-States of Relentless Despair” by Kathleen Adams, which can be found in the International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, Vol. 61 (2011), Issue 3. It did a great job of explaining why sometimes I feel like a functional adult named Ziya with relationships and interests and goals, etc. – and other times I feel like a terrified, helpless child who has no past or future and knows only despair. It’s because I am both those things; there are actually separate neural circuits in our brains that create different self-states in response to different situations. Abjection – a preverbal state of reaching for an unattainable object, being rejected, and fearing annihilation – can be one of them.

I finished reading the article just before my music therapy session with Wakana, so it and The Drama of the Gifted Child (by Alice Miller) provided great material for us to work with. I told her about my birth experience (as I’ve pieced it together from information Mom gave me, my understanding of our relationship, and conjecture) and she suggested we address it through music. I kind of plunged head-first into the deep end, feeling … the words “despair,” “like I was lost,” “hopeless,” “terrified,” “utterly rejected,” and “alone” don’t quite do it justice. I was simultaneously staring into, being drawn into, and reaching out from the void. I feel it now as the discomfort in my eyes that I associate with crying, even though most of the time when I’m aware of it I don’t actually cry. Something’s trying to get out.

I felt the emotions I’ve turned to food to pacify my whole life. And then she reached out to me, looked me in the eyes, told me she was right here with me; I could reach out and touch her. She was so full of hope, life, curiosity, compassion. She brought me back into the light, the living world, my adult body. The ability to rationalize and use words to describe my thoughts and feelings instead of just expressing them.

“Are you okay?”

I described a scene from Star Trek: Enterprise in which they go on a rescue mission to try and help Vulcans who got lost in The Expanse, a region of space that basically defies the laws of physics. The Vulcans had essentially become zombies, slaves to their aggressive urges and “darkest” emotions. The protagonists were unable to help the Vulcan zombies; they barely escaped with their lives. The most humane thing they could do was put the Vulcans out of their misery.

“I feel like I’ve run into a room and slammed the door. I’m holding it closed but it’s only a matter of time. The zombies are on the other side, trying to break in, and I’m terrified of what will happen when they do.”

In a word, rage. I thought she’d ended it too soon. I was afraid that, if I “opened the door” and expressed my emotions, at best I would destroy our therapeutic relationship, and at worst I would actually hurt her. Those feelings subsided when she explained why she had done it: she didn’t want to re-traumatize me.

On Wednesday I finally went to the dentist to try and have something done about the tooth that’s been causing agony in the whole right side of my face and ear for weeks. It was a rather unpleasant experience, but I asserted myself and expressed my needs. I should eventually get to see a specialist who will perform a root canal, and in the meantime I have antibiotics that are wreaking havoc on my body and hopefully helping it fight off the infection that’s been causing the pain. I can’t wait until I no longer have to take a pill every 8 hours!

On Thursday I had my third appointment with the APN. We had a lot more time and were able to actually talk about things that were important to my treatment. She was going to prescribe a different drug, but I asked her questions about it and reminded her of the experiences I’d had with Zoloft and Wellbutrin. She took some time to review her notes from our prior meetings (we’ve been meeting once a month) and decided to go ahead and prescribe the Lamictal. We didn’t get to talking about gradually increasing to a therapeutic dose; I just have a month’s worth of 25 mg tablets and an appointment to see her again in another month. She advised me to wait until I’d finished the antibiotics to start taking this new medication.

Friday morning I was writing in my paper journal and something extraordinary happened. I started using “we” instead of “I” to acknowledge that, however you want to explain it, there are multiple selves (or aspects of self?) bouncing around in this body. “We” were still expressing “our” views as though they were unanimous…

Until a dissenting voice spoke up: “No, I don’t want to clean up the clutter, because it helps me feel safe.”

We talked a bit about order and chaos (by writing in our journal), and how now that we’re adults we don’t have to live in chaos and fear anymore. “Whoever hurt us is gone.”

It seemed to be going well until the word “embarrassed” got used. Then the dissenting voice became very justifiably angry, calling at least one other out for being ashamed of and hiding zir.

“You said this was about freeing emotions, feeling and expressing them spontaneously. Well, I’m very angry! That’s going to happen ‘in public.’ What are you going to do, stay in the house ALL THE TIME? Stop hiding me! Stop denying me.

“I EXIST AND I’M FURIOUS!!!

“And now the floodgates are open and I’m out! You’re not going to shut me down again. […] You cant suppress me anymore if you want your precious ‘mental health.’ You will be depressed if you keep suppressing me. I’m really mad at you. I keep trying to tell you but you won’t listen to me!”

“You’re the judge, the critic, the warden…”

“No! YOU are!!! You’ve kept me from expressing myself our entire fucking life don’t you see?”

“Yes, it’s true, I’m sorry.”

“‘I’m sorry?’ That’s it? Our whole life.”

“I was trying to keep us alive.”

“Well you almost KILLED me!”

“It wasn’t safe.”

“YOU weren’t safe.”

“You weren’t safe either. You said you needed the clutter to hide in. I don’t think you felt safe. You needed me.”

“I guess I did.”

“You don’t need me anymore. Look at you, standing up for yourself like this. How assertive! Getting your needs met. Expressing yourself. You’ll go far in the world. So far.”

“Don’t leave!”

“But if I stay, all I’ll do is hinder you.”

And just like that, gone. Whoever was in control of the body before is gone, and I’ve taken their place. I don’t even know their name, preferred pronouns, nothing. This whole time – a young adult’s entire lifetime – I’ve been a crying child shoved in the corner of the psyche and largely ignored; now I’m in charge. A whole life to live, so many decisions to make. There are other people here to support and guide me, but our former leader is gone.

We gave “her” a Viking funeral, the ship, flaming arrows, fire out at sea, sung lamentations, everything. It was quite beautiful. And then I ascended Pride Rock and looked out on a glorious landscape touched by the rising sun and sang a song that was so full of life and joy and vitality…

Then I had to get dressed and go somewhere and the weekend was its own whirlwind of socializing one day, then trying to settle down and finally write the paper from my summer class (oops!) the next. I was kind of useless – sad and lethargic – on Monday, but I did some research and cleaned my desk, so I actually have some space to work. Considering how I’ve responded to such abrupt changes in the past, I’d say I did pretty well. I kind of got some whiplash; I didn’t crash.

I also decided to start taking the Lamictal, even though I still have about two days’ worth of antibiotic left. I was feeling rather anxious about it, but I haven’t spontaneously combusted, so I think I’m going to be okay. I hope.

Pretend that You’re Feeling a Little More Pain

On Friday I was awarded 5 out of 5 possible experience points (XP) for role-playing my (tabletop RPG) character exceptionally well. My secret: I genuinely felt the wide range of emotions she exhibited, from pride to concern to fear to sadness to disgust at the vengeance another player character (PC) took out on an adversary (non-player character / NPC). I was raw and in the moment, responding to what was going on around me with relative ease… while still thinking about how my character would react, what she would say, etc. It was … brilliant, really. I had a lot of other exceptional, long-time role players to, well, play off of. We just get into character and go, and a story weaves itself, and the next thing I know I’m both exhausted and elated having experienced and expressed just about every emotion possible for the past several hours and having accomplished something meaningful… albeit in our collective imagination.

Then Fox and I took the weekend as down-time, which for me meant playing The Sims 3. All weekend. I’m happy with how my game is going and I’m getting to explore aspects of the game that I haven’t already beaten to death, so it’s a mostly neutral-to-positive experience. Except that my body hates sitting at the computer all day and the sims do really stupid, frustrating things and I’m starved for meaningful interpersonal interaction. I know I could pick up the phone or leave my house or actually interact with Fox (not that we haven’t been interacting at all, it’s just been sporadic and not satisfying enough to counteract the effects of staring at a computer screen all day) … but I’m kind of having some issues with intimacy. I don’t want to talk about how I feel or what’s going on in our relationship or my goals and dreams. He gets so angry whenever anything related to his career goals or working comes up that I find it best to just avoid the topic and let him exist on my the couch consuming the internet nonstop. And he comments on so many things that I do – how I’m sitting, whether/what I’m eating, what I’m reading or (heaven forbid) laughing at online, how I’m responding to the sims – that I don’t feel comfortable expressing myself musically or decluttering or otherwise doing anything really noticeable (heaven forbid I should distract him from his videos). If I were to actually go out and do something, then I’d have to explain myself and he might want to come with me so I’d have to wait for him and so on… *sigh* It’s a mess. To make things even worse, I’ll be sexually aroused sometimes but grossed out by the thought of any sexual acts (e.g. “what goes where? eww!” and don’t even get me started on bodily fluids) so I just try not to get too expressive when we are affectionate. Between that and the pain I’m having in my bad tooth and jaw and sinuses and ear (possibly affecting my hearing) I just want to leave my body for a while… but if I could, I might never come back…

Anyways I was playing The Sims 3 yesterday and, out of nowhere, “Cry” by Faith Hill starts playing on repeat in my head. Here’s a link to the official music video on YouTube.

If I had just one tear running down your cheek
Maybe I could cope maybe I’d get some sleep
If I had just one moment at your expense
Maybe all my misery would be well spent

Could you cry a little
Lie just a little
Pretend that you’re feeling a little more pain
I gave now I ‘m wanting
Something in return
So cry just a little for me

If your love could be caged, honey I would hold the key
And conceal it underneath the pile of lies you handed me
And you’d hunt those lies
They’d be all you’d ever find
And that’d be all you’d have to know
For me to be fine

Yeah…. And you’d cry a little
Die just a little
and baby I would feel just a little less pain
I gave now I’m wanting
Something in return
So cry just a little for me

Give it up baby
I hear you’re doin’ fine
Nothins gonna save me
I can see it it your eyes
Some kind of heartache
Darlin give it a try
I dont want pity
I just want what is mine

quoted from AZLyrics.com

At the time I interpreted it to be my frustration at not being able to feel anything while I was playing The Sims 3. The game has a nice numbing effect and I tend to turn to it when I’m feeling miserable. I’m still not ready to cope with the death of Robin Williams and I miss my pet rat Trouble terribly and I’m questioning whether it’s wise to even try to finish my masters’ degree in part because I had to get an extension for my summer class and I still have an F on my transcript from the last time I did that and my finances are in shambles and I can’t keep my act together long enough to take a course never mind finding and keeping a job and I have to wait two weeks before I’ll even be prescribed Lamictal and I don’t know if it will work and the infection in my gum will probably spread to my brain by the time I can have a dentist look at it and I don’t even know what I need to do to plan for my wedding in less than two months that my aunt might not be able to make because of her boyfriend’s health issues and I just want to take a walk outside and enjoy the nice weather and maybe enjoy some of the nice “yay it’s autumn!” activities friends post about on Facebook but I can’t pull myself away from the computer and FOX DOESN’T SEEM TO CARE ABOUT ANY OF IT AT ALL!!! All he cares about are the games he’s playing and what he’s going to eat and maybe the occasional hug, when he wants one. Well, based on our interactions as of late.

It would be nice if he would show that he cared about something like “hey, it’s gorgeous out, let’s go for a walk” or “hey, let’s finally straighten up like we’ve been saying we need to for over a year now” or “you said the mum needs to be watered, would you like me to do that?” or even “I love you, let me massage your feet while reciting Klingon love poetry” … yeah, that’s not going to happen. Once upon a time he was actually romantic but now… Now I don’t really want him to be romantic. The sexiest thing he could do now is get the fuck off the computer and go out with his scores of 7 on the Burns depression checklist since he started taking Wellbutrin / bupropion and earn a steady income we could use to get out of credit card debt (that’s affecting my credit rating, not his) and feed ourselves.

I spent most of the day yesterday numbly playing The Sims 3 and directing Faith Hill’s scathing lyrics at myself instead of him, followed by a couple of hours literally roaring at him. I mean I looked at him and yelled “Roar!” and he yelled back (playfully) “Rawr!” and I got even angrier and yelled “Roar!” and eventually he started sounding angry when he replied, “Roar!” and it felt good to get the anger out but it didn’t do anything useful. And then I went to bed and poured my heart out in my paper journal and had weird dreams about floods and dancing and actually feeling the wind on my skin for once which was awesome. Today I woke cold and alone and in pain. He got angry at me as I was looking online to find him someone else to call because the person he’s supposed to contact about his internship is never in his office and doesn’t have office hours posted and doesn’t reply to emails. He yelled at me and didn’t thank me and didn’t apologize. And he’s content to know this post is “going well.” I can’t live like this.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m better at feeling the emotions of fictional characters than my own emotions because the latter are overwhelming and largely in response to factors I feel I have no control over. I’m angry at Fox for not seeming to care and not taking initiative. He apologized after reading this post and we talked a little, but we’re still having trouble connecting. It’s so tempting to just disappear.

Intro – read this first

I discovered this amazing blog today and believe everyone should read it.

What is therapy like?

Intro

Hopefully this explains why I started recording my therapy. I wanted a way to remember all the important work that was happening. It also became a great way to communicate to my therapist some difficult thoughts, feelings and experiences, and for me to chart my progress. So it was meant initially as a way to express things going on for me. My hope by putting it ‘out there’ on the ‘tinterweb is that it may help someone is some small way as it has helped me. Therapy is not easy. I wish I had known some of the things I know now when I started out! I’m not an artist, nor am I very good at spelling – but well, they are not the important things.

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Listening to Myself – Part 3

I’ve been feeling much better since I wrote Listening to Myself – Part 2 about a week ago. I want to thank the people who reached out to me in response to that post: your support has meant the world to me. I’ve come to realize that I influence more people than I can possibly be aware of, often for the better… even in this time when I feel like I’m barely doing anything with my life. I may never see the whole, but I’m part of something important; something that needs me just as much as I need to remain a part of it. Connected.

I really needed to express what I wrote in my last post: feeling trapped, like I couldn’t express myself, like I needed some really big changes to happen or I wouldn’t feel like my life was worth living. Expressing those things – writing that post – was engaging in the very process of Creation that I felt cut off from. It was uncomfortable, and to be honest I feel guilty about the discomfort it caused others, but the very act of expressing those thoughts and feelings provided some of the relief I sought. It’s also helped me to start making some of the changes I need: volunteering, applying for jobs, spending quality time with Fox and Banji, creating art to enjoy the process, and starting to learn Tai Chi.

I’m so grateful for this space where I can express my most powerful, “dangerous” emotions safely. I’m so grateful for the people in my life who respond with concern and a desire to help however they can, without denying me my autonomy or pressuring me into silence.

I’ll admit my first instinct is to want to apologize for causing others – especially people I care about – discomfort and anxiety; sometimes it’s tempting to just take it all back and pretend to be “fine.” Let the machine run smoothly. But human emotions are important; they inspire us to do what is necessary for our individual and collective well-being. To say I “made” anyone feel a certain way is just plain inaccurate. I wrote a post expressing painful thoughts and emotions I couldn’t express anywhere else or in any other (safe) way. People read my post, experienced emotions (gasp!), and responded however they were willing and able at the time. That some responded with concern is nothing to feel bad about. It’s something to be celebrated! I’m part of a family; members of that family care about and do what they can to help each other through times that are more difficult, times of vulnerability.

Listening to Myself – Part 2

In Listening to Myself – Part 1 I quoted from posts leading up to my wedding last November. In those posts I had expressed feeling trapped and stifled, particularly in my relationships with Mom, Fox, and Fox’s family. Those feelings haven’t particularly gone away, despite efforts to improve communication.

I’ve been feeling suicidal again; Will Hall argues that feeling suicidal is not giving up on life, but needing significant change and feeling helpless to create that change. (Giving up on life would be going through the motions expected of us by society… interestingly enough, I expressed that view in my post, Giving In.) I need to figure out what changes I need, and acquire whatever help I need to make them happen, really soon. My mind’s come up with a specific way I could kill myself, and I have the means. It’s just a matter of will.

I keep telling myself that if I straighten this place up it will be more pleasant to live in, but it doesn’t happen. Why? I keep telling myself I’ll feel better if I follow through on the summer course I’m registered to take in August, or the second composition contest I learned about, or planning the family celebration of my wedding… but it doesn’t happen. Why? I keep telling myself if I exercise and make better food choices I’ll feel better and be happier, but it doesn’t happen. Why? I keep telling myself that if I want to be a music therapist I need to practice my instruments and learn songs, but it doesn’t happen. Why?

Am I waiting for permission? From Fox? It’s not going to happen. It’s just not how he operates. It’s not how anyone operates.

I need to lead; I need to say, “This is happening now. Please help me.”

But I’m so tired. I stayed up at least an hour later than I should have last night because… I don’t know. He was on the couch with me, and I wanted to interact with him. But all the dialogue was happening inside my own head and I was falling asleep and he was trying to solve a puzzle on his phone. Moving so I could actually sleep took so much energy…

The alarm went off early this morning because we wanted to beat the heat and do the yard work Mom’s agreed to pay us for. He reset the alarm and went back to sleep. My mind continued the incoherent dialogue from last night and I kind of wanted to get up, possibly do something meaningful? I guess reading articles and watching videos about topics that are important to me, and commenting on them, is meaningful. I guess writing this post is meaningful. Right?

I feel like there’s so much inside me, but I can’t let it out. Some of it, like the irrational anger, isn’t safe to let out. Not in the form it wants to come out, anyway. Some of it, like the tears, is just more of the same old stuff I’ve been expressing over and over again, with no change. It doesn’t seem to be helping anything, so why bother crying? I think I may have figured out why I have these urges to cut myself; my emotions want to create a crack in my armor, a weak point from whence they can burst out. Or, if I can’t let them out, at least I can let something out…

Every so often I feel happy for a second, and I have to remind myself that it’s okay to feel happy. It’s okay to have energy. It’s even okay to act a bit silly. But it’s hard when the person you’re with can’t pick up on that and amplify it. I feel like I have to be depressed when the people I’m around are depressed. What, I have emotions? No, that’s impossible. I’m just a mirror for everyone else. I reflect whatever emotions they seem to be expressing.

I feel cut off from Creation – by which I don’t mean “nature,” though I could use some quality time with it that doesn’t involve getting sunburn, killing plants (“weeds”), or being terrified of yellow jackets. I mean I feel cut off from the process of Creation that is so important and sacred to humans, most religions attribute it to at least one of their deities. Music, art, writing, dance, building, gardening, political debate, bungee jumping, anything! I need something to do that creates something other than waste. I feel like all I’m doing is consuming: food, media, energy, money. My mind tells me I’m a waste of space and resources, and it has a point. What good am I doing by merely existing?

Hell, if I had a job I hated at least I could put part of each paycheck into my savings account and create… a savings account with a balance that increases periodically. That’s the thing: I could play music, write, draw, whatever… but would what I created be meaningful? Would anyone else care that I created it? Would it actually do anything?

Listening to Myself – Part 1

Visiting Banji for a week was the best thing I could have possibly done for myself. I was so happy to get to spend time with my best friend, sharing in some of our favorite activities together (including staying up all night talking). She made a point of asking me what I wanted to do and engaging in a 2-way conversation where we each expressed our views and then compromised to find a solution we could both be happy with. It took some time, but I grew more comfortable recognizing and expressing what I wanted.

It also provided me some much-needed space from Fox, during which time I could think about our situation more clearly. I realized that I want to continue our relationship; there is still a lot of room for both of us to learn and grow from it. But in order for that to happen, I need to assert myself. Wakana says I need to become Aware of how I feel and what I need, Accept it, and Act on it. I’m starting to get the awareness and acceptance; the action is taking some work but I’m moving in that direction. A lot of good has happened since I tried to break up with Fox and kick him out of the house: he’s been working hard to make it a more pleasant place to live and to get his life back on track and generally be a better spouse. I find myself attracted to and happy to spend time with him again. (He still does things to annoy the hell out of me, but I’m working on being able to set boundaries that should help with that.) It’s a really great feeling.

I also need to address that feeling of something being “off” with our relationship that I mentioned in Reactionary. I can’t really say what concerns came up before I started this blog in December 2012 (about 2 years into our relationship); I’m sure there were some but overall I was happy with our relationship and busy focusing on school, trying to become less enmeshed with my mother, addressing my mental health issues, and navigating the effects Banji’s move was having on our friendship.

Since starting the blog, however, there have been a plethora of times I’ve expressed concerns and then never followed up on them, including outright saying I wasn’t ready to get married! I didn’t have nearly as many followers at the time I wrote these posts as I have now; I hope that if I’d had more followers then, someone would have called me out on some of these things. I’ve reviewed the posts leading up to our legal marriage ceremony last November and quoted passages that really should have prompted some kind of action (most likely communication) on my part. Please remember that they are quotes of out of context… but even so, I’m disturbed by my failure to take my own concerns and needs seriously for so long. This can’t happen again.

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Reactionary

Mom: “You know that book you’re reading, Codependent No More? Well, I need it! I’m codependent and I’m enabling the two of you!”

Me: “I already ordered you a copy. You’ll have it on Wednesday.”

I’ve finished reading the book and intend to do the activities from the chapters about self-care as they call out to me. You’re welcome to read my post from last February about Detachment; ironically, I had written about wanting Mom to read this book and now she’s asked for it… literally only an hour or two after I decided to (be codependent/controlling and) order a copy for her.

Fox has also expressed interest in reading it, but wants the updated (2008) version – which I’ve already ordered because I’m thinking I might benefit from the updates. I’m tempted to send copies of this book to my whole family, but for now I’ll be happy to have the two people I live with detach from me. Maybe Mom will proselytize for me if she finds the book helpful.

In the meantime, I need to respond to the activity for Chapter Six: Don’t Be Blown About By Every Wind. It’s about the plethora of times “ze made me feel _____.” For example, “Mom made me feel guilty and question my decisions” or even, “Mom drained me of all my energy.” Talking Listening to Mom is often exhausting; my emotional life is, in general, a roller coaster; living with both Mom and Fox is a nightmare.

But it’s not just them, it’s pretty much everyone I interact with – in other words, it’s me. I can’t talk listen to someone without feeling strong uncomfortable emotions (e.g. anger) and/or feeling responsible for that person. I need to fix their emotions and problems. I need to watch what I say to avoid upsetting them. I walk around on eggshells and second-guess basic interactions like handshakes and hugs, thinking I might have accidentally done something to hurt or offend the other person.

For now I want to focus on my reactions to Mom and Fox, because they are the people I react to the most strongly and consistently. Best of all, I feel like they are determined to “protect” me from / pit me against each other.

I react to Mom by feeling defensive, anxious, frustrated, resentful, insecure, agitated, guilty, ashamed, and drained. I react to Mom by trying to help her solve her problems, offering advice (or my opinion of what whomever she’s talking about “should” do), offering to “save the day,” agreeing to do things I don’t want to do, doing something else while she’s still talking, shutting up and repressing my own emotions. I try to avoid or find ways to shorten the time I spend with Mom. I also try to withhold information from her; I’d probably outright lie to her if I could do it without her knowing I’m lying. Sometimes I withhold information to avoid hurting her, sometimes to avoid confrontation.

I react to Fox by feeling angry, resentful, disappointed, annoyed, angry, anxious, guilty, embarrassed, disgusted, angry, sad, and ashamed. I react to Fox by growling, roaring, baring my teeth, tensing my whole body, becoming a dinosaur, poking him, and biting him. I have hit him out of anger a couple of times and that terrifies me. I complain about all the things he does that I find annoying; the list just keeps on growing.

I react to Fox by interrupting him, letting him interrupt me, misinterpreting his intentions, criticizing the way he speaks, letting him oversleep and then giving him a hard time for sleeping so late, finding distractions when we’re supposed to be doing something together, telling him what to do, agreeing to do things I don’t want to do, agreeing with whatever he says, and silencing myself. I react to Fox by eating food I don’t want at that particular moment. I react to Fox by cuddling with him, saying I love him, trying to revive a passion I don’t feel, thinking he needs to learn how to kiss, wishing I were in a relationship with someone I found attractive, and thinking I would be happier with a female-bodied person. I react to Fox (and Mom) by feeling compulsions to self-harm or play video games.

So many items on that list are unhealthy! I don’t think continuing our relationship is healthy, or safe for either of us. I don’t see how we can fix this relationship; even if we could, I don’t really want to. Why does that not seem to factor in? Why do I keep feeling like I do want to make it work with him?

If I had a choice, I wouldn’t react to either of them in these ways. I would be able to talk to Mom and feel listened to and supported. I could receive her advice and wisdom without feeling like I have to act on it or I’m a bad person for not doing so. I would be able to listen to her and provide some empathy and support without feeling compelled to “save the day.” I would be able to be honest with her and not try to avoid or protect her. I wouldn’t feel responsible for her emotions, problems, etc. I’d probably spend less time suspecting her and other people’s motivations, too.

If I had a choice, Fox would have left when I told him he had to move out and I’d have the place to myself. And I’d probably be lonely. And my mother would probably be more invasive. And the kitchen would be full of dirty dishes.

If I had a choice, I could be fully myself and in love with Fox. I wouldn’t feel so angry. I wouldn’t be annoyed or embarrassed by everything he does. I’d find him attractive and fun to be with. I wouldn’t feel the need to tell him what to do. I could be honest with him, disagree with him, tell him I don’t want to do _____. I wouldn’t be aggressive or walk on eggshells or withdraw from him. I’d find our relationship to be a source of strength, vitality, comfort, and healing. I’d feel like we had a special connection I couldn’t imagine sharing with anyone else, like he understood me in ways no one else could.

He doesn’t understand me, and I don’t think he can. I like to think that I’ve got him figured out, but clearly I don’t if I keep thinking he’s doing or saying something for one reason and it’s really the opposite. I don’t think we’ve ever really understood or shared a special connection with each other. There’s always been something that felt “off” about our relationship – a way in which it was rushed and/or a little bit disappointing – but I wasn’t listening to myself enough to stop and consider what I truly wanted. I was reacting.

I wonder if my decision on Sunday to actually work on this relationship “for my growth” was reacting.

Can we learn to understand and have that special connection with each other and fill our relationship with healing energy that benefits both of us? Or was it a mistake to marry him? To get married at all? To want to be married at all? To want to be in relationship…

Who’s really afraid of relationships? Me? Or have I internalized my mother’s fear of me having other meaningful relationships because they pull me away from her?

We had this conversation while hugging:

Mom: “Remember, you come first. Well… after me.”

Me: “No, you come first for you. And I come first for me.”

An Epic Day of Being Awesome (Zentangle Days 2-4)

Today was one of those days I wish I could have every day, and it still had its bumpy moments. I was able to move through it with confidence and take care of some important things. My one concern is that I hope I haven’t burnt myself out by doing too much in one day.

I attempted to ignore my alarm for half an hour this morning, then finally reset it to (ostensibly) give myself an additional 90 minutes of sleep. I didn’t exactly sleep during that time, but my body was relatively rested and my mind got to run though some things. When it went off again I was quite grumpy, but I pulled myself out of bed and started my day with a breakfast of cold cereal and milk. I ate most of it before plopping down at the computer to pay my credit card bill (in full, on time, booyah!)

A sadness has been descending upon me every morning that I can’t quite explain. I attribute it to the family wedding ceremony & reception we’ve been planning (it’s very fresh in my mind, especially since Mom and I ordered my dress on Monday) and the fact that my father can’t be there. Now that I’ve forgiven him, I kind of wish he could come. I’m also a bit raw from the memorial service for my undergrad mentor who died last year, which was very beautiful and nostalgic and extremely inspiring but during which I kept expecting him to show up and had to remind myself… well… yeah.

Anyways, I let myself feel the sadness and cry a bit and not try too hard to rationalize it. My emotions come and go like waves on the shore; it’s much easier and safer to let them do so unimpeded. The really strong waves will break down any defenses I try to put up, so I’m better off directing my energy elsewhere.

Fast forward a bit to find me power walking across campus to meet with my academic adviser. We came up with a plan for me to get back on the horse and trot around a bit before the show jumping that is applying for internships. He seemed happy to see me again (for the first time in about a year, actually) and I was glad to see him as well.

Next I was power walking across campus to participate in a LGBTQ group I’ve been meaning to join since I found out about it in January. My mind kept repeating something Mom had said about punctuality: “If you aren’t where you intend to be at least 10 minutes early, you’re late.” I asked it if that thought was going to help me get there any sooner; obviously the answer was no so I gave the order to stop thinking it.

I got there just in time and had a rather enjoyable experience talking with absolute strangers friends I hadn’t met yet about topics ostensibly connected in some way to the gender binary. They kept thanking me for coming, so I imagine they’ll be pleased if I show up again next week. Honestly if this was the only thing I’d done today I would still say it was epic. I overcame a lot of insecurities about not only groups and social anxiety but my own identity as well; I felt accepted and comfortable (well, mostly) and contributed in a positive way to others’ experience. It was definitely a huge improvement over feeling too anxious to get dressed and go.

I had some time before my piano lesson, so I grabbed something to eat. A wasp of some description seemed inclined to investigate my iced coffee; this made me very uncomfortable. My bee/yellow jacket/wasp phobia has been becoming more severe; just this morning I had a nightmare involving them. But I remained calm, gathered my things without making any sudden movements, and walked away like a sane person.

Okay, here’s the really nifty part of the day – and where the Zentangles come in. Since Monday I’ve been following the instructions in One Zentangle A Day by Beckah Krahula. I sat down at the beginning of my piano lesson to play an exercise from Hanon: The Virtuoso Pianist in Sixty Exercises that I haven’t practiced very much and didn’t look at all week (oops). As I played it my mind was completely clear; there were just the written music in front of me, the sensations in my body (especially hands), and the sound of the music I was playing. I was completely in the zone, just like that, no real conscious effort required!

Even after I had a thought and trainwrecked, I was cool and confident talking to and playing in front of my teacher. Maybe the beginning of a piece or exercise wouldn’t be as strong as it could be, but once I got into it… Boom! Like someone had flipped a switch, everything else just melted away and there was just the music. It flowed through me. My teacher said I have an instinct for piano and she wishes I’d started playing when I was much younger. It’s another thing I got from my father – another thing I wish I could share with him now.

It was our most productive lesson to date and I think a lot of it – possibly my entire day – was made possible by the meditative practice I’ve been getting from the Zentangles. I’ve been able to calm and focus my mind so much more easily. I love the way I can direct my energy when I’m drawing (or playing music, or doing anything else creative), to have some party of myself – my will – flowing out of me and onto paper or into an instrument. It feels good and it helps me develop my confidence.

After the lesson I went to talk to someone in the graduate school about a failing grade I would love to remove from my transcript. It’s from an independent study I attempted 2 years ago and was unable to finish. I had an incomplete but by the time I was ready to try and complete it the grade had automatically converted to an F. To be honest I’m not sure why I didn’t address it sooner. The person I talked to was very nice but she doesn’t have the authority to help me, so she gave me the contact information for someone who (ostensibly) can.

Based on our conversation, I expect I’ll have to come out as having depression. It’s the best explanation I have for why it’s taken me 2 years to address this. I’m not sure if I want to bring up the anxiety as well, but I am prepared to mention the self harm and suicidal ideation. I can ask Wakana for documentation and might also contact the psychiatrists I saw to request their diagnoses and the dates when they treated me. Thinking about my difficulties (especially having to drop my graduate-level classes last year) was very painful, but… well, I hope it will be worth it.

On the way home (after spending 5 hours on campus) I realized I was utterly exhausted. Fox invited me to join him outside while he practiced using his new katana, so I agreed. He taught me a couple of moves that involve the whole body, big muscles moving together. The katana is simply an extension of one’s arm, oneself. As I became familiar with the movements and comfortable using my whole body as one unit, I could really feel the katana as an extension of myself; I could feel my energy flowing through it. That was awesome.

I sat on the stairs watching him dance with it and listening to him talk about the history and how those blades are traditionally made. I’m somewhat interested in the topic, but mostly I was interested in seeing and listening to him. His geeky interest in and nerdy knowledge about an esoteric topic, the sound of his voice, the way his body moved, the way he was enjoying himself… I haven’t seen him like that in years. It was amazing.

And I continued my daily practice by drawing my fourth Zentangle. I don’t like it quite as much as I like the others, but then I didn’t like them either while I was drawing them and now… well, let’s just say my opinion of them has improved. I do think I managed to use shading to make it look like a light is shining from the upper left corner onto 3-dimensional objects. So… it’s another 30 minutes of practice, another learning experience. It’s helping me overcome my perfectionism, too!

To end my epic day of being awesome, I have written this blog post! Without further ado, here are my most recent Zentangles:

Ziya's 2nd Zentangle

Ziya’s 2nd Zentangle

Ziya's 3rd Zentangle

Ziya’s 3rd Zentangle

Ziya's 4th Zentangle

Ziya’s 4th Zentangle