Process, Vulnerability

Be Still

As we enter into the holiday season, my heart starts to settle a bit.  My assault anniversary is now behind me, and I find that my heart starts to still.  What comes with outward stillness, is inward movement.  My brain is famous for stirring up all sorts of memories and thoughts and I find that I start to spin a bit.

This year was a bit different.  I am and was dealing with a health crisis around the time of the assault anniversary, leading to my need to backburner my feelings.  As the emergent issues of that health issue passed, I found that the refuse of the anniversary remained, strong as ever.

So what happens when life around is still, but your mind is moving so quickly? What happens when there isn’t a big T trauma happening?  Where does your mind go?

For me, I start to spin on trust. My physical issues have led me to need to step back from my roles as wife/mother more and rely heavily on my partner to take care of a lot of the day to day things I’d typically do.  This dependence has created a feeling of vulnerability in myself.

What IF our value was simply based on what we contribute?  And if that is the case, when our ability to perform those roles diminishes, what do we become?  Are we less worthy?  Are we less of a partner? Are we less of a value?

When looking at the 5 love languages, I fall STRONGLY into the quality time and acts of service camp when giving love to others.  I deeply desire to connect authenticly with those that mean most to me, and when possible, meet needs.  Over the past months, my ability to do either one has gone down severely causing me to question my value in my friendships.

Being still, and vulnerable is a very big struggle for me.  What am I if I am not at my best?  Then, to unpack that further, what is “best”?  Once boiled down, “best” equates to optimum efficiency and output, as if I am a wifebot, mombot, or friendbot and my value is based on what I can do, how much and how well I can do it.  And isn’t that the kicker?

What if they don’t find me valuable anymore?

We all just want to be seen, heard, connected and valued.

 

 

 

 

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The Sands of Time

These past weeks have been hard, friends.

I’ve been hurting, my soul has been hurting, my body has been hurting.

What people don’t talk about much as much is how depression/anxiety can manifest in your body as aches, pains, migraines and general exhaustion.

I’ve been living in a 10×10 room for much of these past few weeks.  Looking as the world passes me by.  At times I have enough energy to shower, to eat. Most days I only leave the house if I have an appointment.  Most days I only shower when I have to leave the house for an appointment.  It’s a planned life.

I wake up exhausted, I go to bed awake.

My husband has been holding our home together when he is home, while I hold down my bed.  He parents, he cooks, he has taken on the administration that I typically do.

The times I feel most alive are in real conversation with my friends, which are rare right now due to the amount of exhaustion and effort it takes to arrange.  Recently I met with a friend on my couch for a couple hours and it was just lovely.

We all just desire connection, understanding, truth, authenticity.  So right now this is me.

Authentic me.

 

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“You’re So Brave.”

Brave: having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty; making a fine show 

“You’re so brave.”

When people say this to me in regards to my story, my go-to outer response is “thank you.” My inner response is “I have no choice, so it’s not bravery, it’s survival and even that isn’t always a given.”

The past two weeks have been full of the bravery of a different type, simply figuring out a way to stay alive. I walked among the living, not feeling a part of them.  I smiled and joked, and played the part of the living, but was not one of them. I am around people, but alone.

PTSD is a Liar.  Anxiety is a Liar.  Depression is a Liar. Trauma is a Liar.

As someone aptly mentioned, trauma is like “my neighbors who not only play their music super loud but have extra bass that you can feel from across the apartment.” Wednesday night, that music brought me to the brink after a full week of operating at emergency trauma level, and I took a handful of pills on top of my typical nighttime medication.  This was brought about by quite a few of events involving a mix-up with a member of my care team, a person from my past coming up on Facebook surprisingly, and continuing feelings about the friend-breakup from the prior weeks.

 

My thoughts were scattered when I made this choice.  I can’t describe it.  I didn’t want to die.  I just didn’t want to live.  Or didn’t want to feel.  I’m not sure, maybe both.  Trauma is a liar. You can’t escape your brain, it’s always there.

So I talked about it.  First in a terrifying text to my therapist- where I downplayed exactly what I took.  Second, to my husband when “the story in my head” told me that likely my therapist would call the police to do a wellness check (which didn’t happen.)  Third, I reached out to my sister-wife, Diana.  Fourth, to Katherine.  Fifth, made a small circle post to my trusted people.  Oddly enough, the scariest reveal was to my bodyworker, as I was totally feeling very vulnerable about sharing this very deep scary part of my soul.  With previous attempts, I kept silent.  This time needed to be different.

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I was talking with a gal on Insta today about how she was worried about her mental health stories being depressing.  And maybe they are.  Maybe we ARE telling the depressing stories.  We talk about clawing against the walls to get out of the well.  We talk about the awful side effects of medication and how we want to crawl out of our own skin with it, and without it. But here’s the thing, these stories HAVE TO BE TOLD.

Mental Health HAS to be talked about.

Suicidality has to be talked about.

I can appear at a mom’s group at 9:30 AM on Wednesday looking perfectly functional, joking, and at 5:30 pm try to end it all.  The person right next to you could be struggling with trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety, all sorts of things and we AREN’T talking about it.

This HAS to change.

I’m not brave.  I’m alive.

Sometimes, despite my best efforts.  This week, despite my best efforts.

Bravery, in this case, is “Making a Fine Show.”

 

 

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Dear Yellow,

Yellow, you are a feeling.  I saw you this morning in the sun, and I wasn’t ready to see you.   Minutes later you hit me in the face with a pretty Insta post with the hashtag #goodmorning and #wakeup.  You symbolized the feeling of dread I had today. This feeling of “the world just isn’t ready for the rage I have to unleash on it today.”  I wasn’t ready for this pure lemon cake color.  I was ready for coffee and grunge brown.

Yellow, I didn’t think I could interact with you today.  I didn’t think I could start to see the good in the world.  I didn’t think I could start to think that there are people out there that aren’t trying to be subversive and mean.  I started the day spinning on my current friendships and wondering how they too are going to plot against me and suddenly flip the script and dump me in a dumpster fire like I was a couple days ago.  This is not the color yellow.  This is is pea soup green, and not the pretty kind.  The kind with lots of bacon grease and goo.

Yellow, you started to find me today in reassurances.  In little moments where I was told that I was a good person, despite words to the contrary.  I found you, yellow, in snuggles with my kiddo.  I found you in pre-lunch almond rocas.  I found you in little social media messages with new friends where I got to share little inside jokes, about the color yellow. I found you in the acoustic version of Ella Vos’ “Down in Flames.  I found you in the sun that snuck in through a small crack in the blinds.

Yellow, you were in my therapy room today, where I raged, and cried, and shook for 20 minutes explaining why I was so hurt and angry.  And I looked across the room and saw this hilariously drawn unicorn with zebra stripes.  I smiled and realized that you, yellow, were in the room.  In that moment I realized that it really didn’t matter anymore. The truth will never be heard by the one person who would need to understand it. I was just the person in the way at the moment in their story of hurt.  And that’s really sad.  I can move on, but they are likely lost in a sad story.  I wish I could be there, as I had been before, but I won’t be. That was the choice they made, and maybe one day looking back they will see that.

Yellow, thank you for being so beautiful.  I went back to you today and noticed how pure you are.  Thank you for putting amazing people in my life who talked me through amazing things over the past few days, especially those who knew both of us in this conflict and could really stand with me in understanding.  I feel such a burden of release and relief.  It’s weird to have a color associated with it, but I do.  Thank you.

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Waves of Grief

Grief: deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement

Through my life, I’ve had seasons of relationships, several of which have come and gone naturally as people have moved away, or as men have entered and left my life.

The largest relationship that ended was the divorce of my father and I. Divorces are often referenced when speaking of marriages, but as time has moved forward through my life, I’ve come across more and more people who have moved through divorces with family members (particularly parents) and even deep friendships.

They always hurt. However, the more experiences I’ve had with them, the more I’ve been able to take things from each relationship and learn from them.  Flexing self-care boundaries and advocating for one’s own needs in relationships can feel selfish early on if you aren’t used to it, but relationships that are well-balanced will be able to handle honest open communication when those needs arise.  Those conversations may still be fragile (because let’s be honest, it’s still hard to say “I need this, and you aren’t meeting that need” and it’s hard to hear that and not react strongly as well.)  If the relationship can’t handle those conversations, it’s a great time to start looking at that more closely.

Today I am hurting and I’m raw due to the loss of a friend.  I broke up with this person last night, and I’m in mourning. I’m wishing it could be different, but also know that it was for the best, and was a long time coming.   I’m angry and sad beyond belief today.

I’m experiencing literal and physical waves of grief as I have so much to say and know it will never be heard. I’m feeling that my truth is completely right, and hers is lost in her story.

I went to my massage this morning and in the middle was asked what I was experiencing and at that moment burst into tears and said “waves of grief.”  I felt warm contractions of tightness all over my body moving through of pain and sadness as I started to process all the anger and frustration other feelings this situation brought up in my heart, and how the gaslighting of this interaction churned up remnants of past interactions I’d had in previous relationships.  I felt, as her hands were on my neck, this shooting moving through my body that landed in the pit of my stomach that was similar to this awareness I’d have when people would say things I just knew not to be true, this visceral gut feeling like a blinking warning light screaming at me to run away, but I felt stuck. There was literally nothing to do but lie there and feel, and grieve and notice.

So for 90 minutes I lay there, felt, grieved, and noticed.

I’m feeling vulnerable, misunderstood and wanting to be a right-fighter, but knowing that none of that matters because nothing can fix this, and even if it did, it could never be the same.  So it will be left, never to be talked about again and I need to face feelings of bereavement.

I have to refocus all my feelings to the future.  What have I noticed is important to me?

1. I am worthy, and others I’m friends with are worthy too- I am worthy of friendship, and of people noticing me.  I had people checking in on me last night after the divorce happened.  I had people checking in on me today.  This is how I behave as a friend towards others as well.  This is friendship.  I am not a last-option.  I am not an accidental thumb dial when you are a purposeful consistent dial.

2. I will make time for my friends, and my friends will make time for me- I value my friendships, and I will make sure they know that.  I will continue to go over and chalk their driveways with pretty messages if they are having a bad day.  Or bring them Italian sodas, or drop them a text to let them know I’m thinking of them because that’s who I am. My friends will do things that will help me know that they are there for me (in their own way.) Not only will I work to get together with them, they will work to get together with ME.  I will work harder to figure out creative ways to get together with my friends.  I’ve realized that this is really important to me.

3. I will not just rely on Social Media for my friendships, I need more.  I will continue to build relationships outside the keyboard.  Social media will enhance the friendships, not be the main form of communication.

4. I will not be gaslit.  I will remain true to what I know is right and true. I’ve worked hard to know what my gut feeling is, and it’s accurate.  I need to listen to that feeling more and use it.  It’s a powerful and amazing tool.

5. I will strengthen my friendships by sharing fun, challenging, and intellectual experiences.  These things make me feel alive, and those I want to be around will also share those feelings!

You matter.

I matter.

We matter.

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Vicarious Vulnerabilty Victim

This week I attended another Authentic Relating Event, Circling, this one much smaller than the first with only 8 people in the room.  While the setting was different, the content was focused on authentic relating.

My main worry was having nowhere to “hide” with the smaller crew.  I felt… vulnerable. (So I suppose I was right on track.)  Tuesday was a day full of anxiety, and this event was mere hours after.  I thought of canceling, but I had already paid and had bailed from this event two weeks prior.

Admittedly, I enjoyed this intimate setting much more as I was able to settle in and learn more about each member of the group rather than mingling with 20 others.  I was quite nervous to attend this particular “circling” event, however, due to an ominous review from a person from the previous larger event.

Circling is formatted around two “circles;” conversation sessions that happened among the eight of us over 45 minutes with a break in between.  The first circle was dubbed a “birthday circle.”  Birthday circles are focused on one person, where the conversation organically moves around this person topically.  Due to confidentiality, I will not mention what we talked about specifically.  However, broadly, the topics involved how this person reacted to insight given by the others in the group and past experiences.

Though this circle was directed and focused on this one individual, I noticed that I was internalizing a lot of interesting facts about myself.  How would I react to certain situations that were brought up?  How would I feel if I were asked this question?  How would I react if I were asked this question in that particular way or tone?

When this truth bomb was so casually thrown out in the middle of the circle…

“Self-care can disguise itself as isolation.”

I mean, holy shit.  Prepare me next time, Y’all.  I don’t know about you, but I can count on 1845493 hands how many times my self-care has looked like just me retreating into my soul in an unhealthy “omg just leave me alone I’m dying here but save me but leave me alone but help me” way.  However, I label the retreat as “self-care.”  Dude, get over yourself.  Sometimes needing to be alone is self-care.  Totally.  But if you are unplugging from the people you tell when you are having a hard time… if you are running away (especially if you are running away from yourself), first off, good luck.  Second off, let someone know that you are struggling and let them know that you are going to wade around in the shit for a day.  Then do it.  Go ahead.  But then plug back in.

Self-care can disguise itself as isolation.” 

Okay, back to the night. More broadly, once I got comfortable with the questions being asked, I started to probe my ideas about the askers themselves.  What about their experiences brought them to this space, and why did they think what they did?

All this thinking, of course, led me to be quite quiet during this circle. I asked a couple of questions to appear engaged (though I was DEEPLY engaged internally), and then we went to break. During break, it became apparent that several of the people in attendance were friends, and they started to speak with each other.  I noticed that I started to feel left out.  I tried to engage by eye contact with the story and laughing when there was something funny, but there was still a level of disconnect.

We started the second circle which was an “organic circle,” which was waiting to see what would come up.  One person talked a bit about drifting and spoke a bit about feeling disconnected from the group then hesitated to speak further because the topic would be dark.  This was REALLY interesting to me because the first circle was so light and I resonated with the disconnect.  Again, I won’t go details about the topic due to confidentiality.

We closed the circles and two of the people turned to me and said they wished that they had heard me talk more, and they wanted to get to know me better.  My immediate response was that I wish I had talked more as well.  It was an odd thing to come out of my mouth as I didn’t really even think about it.  I had just spent so much time listening to people be so brave with their thoughts and feelings that I just felt I was holding space to hear them.

I drove home feeling very warm and lovely.

 

When I walked in the door I sat next to my husband and told him about the event and I sensed a weird vibe.  As I talked more about the events, I felt a heavier and heavier cloud settling.  I had just spent 3 hours being in tune with people’s emotions, and I knew there was something wrong.

“Are you okay with me going to these events?” I asked (sensing there was something much deeper.)

“Yes.  I just don’t get why you go to them and share thoughts and feelings there.  I mean you have family and me for that.”  He replied.

I had an immediate thought that I couldn’t hold back, “Are you jealous?”

“No!”  He was so quick to reply that there felt like there was some truth there.

“Okay.  Tell me more about what you are feeling then, because I don’t understand, and it seems like you have some concerns.  Is it because there are guys at these events and I share these experiences with them too?” (Knowing that cheating is never ever a concern on either of our minds, I wanted to give him a starting point to work from.)

“Not at all. I guess where I come from is that the feelings and thoughts you mention are things that I generally share with you or my family.  I just don’t understand why you feel the need to seek these experiences outside of us for…”

And he paused.  And cried.

So I waited and thought. And got it.

“So what I’m hearing is that since your emotional needs are met by me and family, the only reason you’d do something like this is if those needs WEREN’T being met.  So, since I am doing this, you’re concerned that YOU aren’t meeting my needs as my life partner?”

“BINGO.” And he took a deep breath of understanding.

 

So then we hashed out how lovely our relationship is, and that the reason I do things like this is to be brave.  And I can be brave because I feel so secure in our relationship.

I married up, Y’all.