Vulnerability is Strength

As much as I love writing potential scenes between my and another character in my friends’ Exalted (tabletop role-playing / collective storytelling) game, I feel like I’ve been getting too far ahead of what has actually happened in the game. It’s been a difficult temptation to resist, so I tried to compromise by initiating a conversation with the player of the other character – in which I intended for us to discuss how the bond between our characters might develop. I figured if I’m gonna keep getting ahead of things, it’s better to do so with the other player’s input instead of allowing myself to become overly attached to an alternative / inaccurate version of his character.

Instead we ended up having an awesome, rather long conversation that included the friend who pulled him into the game and mostly had nothing to do with Exalted. We geeked out, laughed at ridiculous YouTube videos, and were otherwise very silly together – which was just what I needed, honestly; it was so much fun! At one point the conversation took a surprisingly personal turn, considering it was like maybe my fourth time talking to this individual and the first time that wasn’t primarily focused on gaming. We touched briefly on some of the trauma / loss we’ve each experienced, were honest and supportive of each other, and agreed that it’s important to be vulnerable. I shared that that’s something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember: whether it was needing to suppress my grief in order to function in school, trying to “be strong” for my mom because (I thought) she couldn’t handle my emotions, or otherwise just wanting to ignore my depression and have a “normal” life, I have fairly consistently fallen into the trap of what my friends called stoicism and I’ve seen referred to online as toxic masculinity.

Vulnerability is a theme that’s gaining prominence in the scenes I’ve been writing between the two characters. My ‘healer’ character initially wants to ‘fix’ the ‘wounded’ character; they avoid touching this individual because doing so evokes overwhelming emotions that make them feel vulnerable, and that terrifies them. But even in the earliest scenes I wrote they tell their story and literally show their wounds (scars), revealing that in a way the two characters aren’t that different. In one scene they instinctively reach for the ‘wounded’ character’s hand as the latter leads them through the Underworld; the ‘wounded’ character responds by squeezing the ‘healer’ character’s hand reassuringly (and it works). In another scene my ‘healer’ character braves their fear of touch and vulnerability to hug the ‘wounded’ character, with the intention of supporting them through a particularly difficult and absolutely essential milestone. Both characters end up holding / supporting each other while crying on each other’s shoulders; in that moment the two characters are both simultaneously ‘wounded’ and ‘healer.’ It becomes a milestone in both characters’ growth, as well as the development of the relationship / bond.

In the most recent scene I’ve written, the ‘healer’ character is severely wounded in battle and ends up unconscious. The ‘wounded’ character holds them until they awake because that is the only way to keep them safe, warm, and relaxed enough to get the rest they need to heal. Upon waking, the ‘healer’ character is able not only to accept but to enjoy the touch, and is finally honest regarding their ambivalence toward intimacy / vulnerability with the ‘wounded’ character. While explaining this they begin to consciously acknowledge that they trust in the ‘wounded’ character as a result of that character’s actions, which are more important than the character’s status as a Deathknight instead of a Solar. The two are finally able to enjoy being close without the ambivalence / awkwardness that has defined their relationship up to this point. (Of course the scene is getting way, way ahead of the game and relies on my – not necessarily the other player’s – interpretation of how the ‘wounded’ character may develop.)

For so long my whole inner Committee has perceived the Wounded One as needing protection, incapable of fending for themself or really doing anything. We – especially the Healer – haven’t considered the Wounded One’s agency or strengths, to the point that they may not even be aware of them. But the Wounded One was the first out of all of us; they created many if not all of us. Maybe we need to trust them more.

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(Don’t) Let them in, (don’t) let them see …

So… umm… I “might be” in love with Ron. And ze’s in love with me. And we’ve been connecting on so many amazingly awesome levels … It’s magical. I feel like I can talk to zir about anything. And I want to share the universe with zir.

(I should probably take a moment to mention that I’m in a polyamorous vee with Fox and Banji, and we’re open to additional romantic partners. They both seem more comfortable with this new development than Ron and I are!)

I know I was wary about this before, but I feel like our efforts to get to know each other are having a positive effect on me – including in the direction of finally doing something about all this clutter …

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Honesty

Wakana and I had a very productive conversation yesterday, perhaps one of our most therapeutic sessions yet. She was completely straightforward and down to business; she wanted to know what was going on last Friday and why I didn’t feel comfortable talking to her – at the very least, letting her know I was still alive. Most importantly, she asked what it is I need from her that I feel like I’m not getting.

Friday. It’s like something is actively trying to block my access to what was going on that day. In a nutshell, I just didn’t want to be bothered – with her, or anyone, or anything. That’s not entirely true: I wanted to spend time with Fox and I did. But he came to me. I didn’t want to face the world, reality. I really didn’t want to go out in it. I didn’t want to put on shoes; none of the shoes I own were quite right for the weather that day. And I didn’t want to face whatever we’d reveal about myself.

And yes, I was more interested in focusing on The Sims 3. My escape. She’s really concerned about all the time playing that game, and the narrowing of my world. On some level, I’m concerned about it, too. But on some level I feel like it’s what I need all I can handle right now. Anything else requires me to wear the mask, and it’s just too heavy.

What do I need from her that I’m not getting? Music. I need to spend more time making music – and, more importantly, using the music to get at the heart of the matter. It’s hard, it’s painful, I don’t really want to do it most of the time. I guess I need her to push me a little more, or pull me, or … do more to help me feel safe. And to help me put my armor back on before I have to leave her room and face the world again. I hate being so vulnerable. But I think I can do it in front of her, as long as it’s contained within the session.

It felt good to be able to have that conversation with her. It was extremely uncomfortable, but just the fact that she really wanted to know and understand my experience – without judging it or telling me what to do – meant the world to me.

Bad Day Blues

Thursday was just a Bad Day. A prime example: I accidentally spilled crumbs on my laptop keyboard when I was initially getting ready to write this post, and even hours later my keys keep sticking. I have to press very hard, often multiple times, to get certain keystrokes to register. It makes every word I type painful.

I woke up – or so I keep telling myself, maybe I didn’t really – feeling tired and completely unmotivated to do anything. I was sad for most of the day. I didn’t have fun playing a game I usually enjoy. I wanted to do something, but nothing seemed appealing enough to be worth the effort it would take. I kept falling asleep, having weird vivid dreams, and waking up feeling disoriented. I felt frozen with fear and stayed very still for what felt like long periods of time. I didn’t want anyone to see me, so I hid in my room and stayed as quiet as possible. My thoughts wouldn’t organize themselves.

I realized human interaction might help, but I didn’t feel comfortable reaching out to anyone. Quite the opposite: I wanted to withdraw from everything and everyone. I wanted to die. When I’m at my most vulnerable, interacting with others is like walking into battle without armor. Even the most well-meaning people want something from me, and in those moments I have absolutely nothing to give. I need a hug and permission to be miserable.

I scratched myself, leaving a solitary long thin red line down my left forearm. I tried really hard not to do it, to use non-harmful pressure and rubbing instead, but those sensations couldn’t cut through the depression fog. The pain did, at least partially. At least temporarily. Everything became clearer; I was in the world again.

None of the strategies I’ve developed or had suggested to me were even relevant. How can I refute harsh thoughts when they won’t form themselves into words? All I had was feeling sad and lifeless. How can I direct anger outward when it’s barely glowing ashes that refuse to form a flame? All they do is gnaw at me and hurt. How can I use tools when I don’t even have the strength to lift them? What good is it to think about what I can do, if I lack the energy and motivation to get out of bed? All those choices just overwhelm me and I end up doing nothing – and feeling worse.

All I could do was give myself permission to be a bum all day. To feel miserable. And if I did manage to get myself to do something, I picked an activity that would get my mind off my emotions. It sucked.

But at the end of the day I’m still here. I’ll be really impressed if Friday manages to be worse. It’s a lot more likely to be at least a little bit better. That gives me some hope.