A Different Hierarchy of Needs

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A few weeks ago my therapist sent me this image, which she said reminded her of me, and it “hit the nail on the head”. It follows the same format as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which I found quite cool.

I’ve taken this “Enneagram” personality test before and my results pinned me as a nine, so this image was even more interesting to me. I never take personality tests seriously, as there isn’t any scientific validity to the majority of them, but they’re fun to do anyway.

Running Away

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “running away” lately.

Before I get into that though, I want to provide some context. Earlier this year when I moved in with M, my uncle moved back in with my dad and family as he lost his job. A few months ago he decided he wanted to go to live with a friend in another part of the country. My dad paid for his bus ticket there. Then, my uncle discovered it wasn’t all it cracked up to be, and because he had no where else to go, he had to move yet again to a different part of the country, to live with my aunt. My dad them had moved into a smaller place in the mean time, so he couldn’t stay with them.

He was there for a couple of months. Then last week my dad got a call from my aunt telling him that my uncle had taken his stuff and left a note, telling her that he heard about a place that helps people struggling to find work and provides them a place to stay. That he had to find his own way. No one knew where he had gone, and he had shut his phone off. He had the whole family worried and in a panic as we couldn’t get hold of him, and what made it even worse is that he’s sick and on a lot of medication. A few days later my aunt got a call from him saying that he made a mistake and wants to come back. So once again my dad and aunt had to pay for a bus ticket for him to go back as he had gone to the city he went to the first time.

My relationship with him has changed. He lied to me too often and broke so many promises that I don’t trust him at all anymore. I tried to be there for him as much as I could, but it got to the point where I was the only one he was speaking to and it was always filled with so much negativity and darkness, that I was a wreck after speaking to him on the phone. Every day. Sometimes more. M, and my therapist, saw what it did to me and they both told me that I need to take a step back. That I wasn’t responsible for him and needed to think about my own mental well-being. I could still be there for him but have firm boundaries in place and communicate them to him.

This event with my uncle dredged up old feelings. When my first step-sister ran away, and a week after that, my step-mom leaving. When my step-brother ran away from home about two years ago. While he came back eventually, the others never did.

As a child I longed to run away. I would make the decision to do so and pack a backpack with everything that I thought I would need. I never knew where I would go. I didn’t think that far ahead. After about an hour or two though I would get scared (the world is a scary enough place even for an adult) and go back home. My parents never even knew that I had attempted to “run away”.

There are still times where I want to just disappear. Just leave everything and every one behind. There were times where I went as far as starting to plan it. At first it would fill me with excitement and feelings of possibility. But when I really started considering all the variables, reality set in. Sure, some problems wouldn’t be problems anymore, but there would be new ones to deal with. And the biggest thing of all, is that I wouldn’t be able to escape from those that originate from within myself. You can’t run away from yourself.

Running away doesn’t solve all our problems. Taking some time away is valid and even necessary sometimes, but it’s not fair on those who care about us to just disappear and not let anyone know where we’re going. There’s a difference between running away and just taking time away. Time away can give us a better perspective on things.

As for my uncle, he has finally agreed to see a professional. That was one of the conditions for him going back to live with his sister. While I’m still a bit angry with him for a number of reasons (I’m working through it), I can also understand and empathize with him. I just hope that he will get to a better place within himself eventually.

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Time & Space

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Time seems to be going by so fast. In a few months time it will be that dreaded time of year again, the festive season, and a couple of months after that, I’ll be another year older.

While time goes by, I seem to lag behind. I’m nowhere near where I want to be in life, but at the same time I have no idea where I want to be in life. It’s a confusing and contradictory mess. But I have a better sense of self now than I’ve ever had. Maybe the rest will come in time.

My mood has been relatively stable, and I feel like I’m in a state of limbo. When I’m in such a place, I find myself reflecting on a lot of things.

It’s been almost one and a half years since I stopped seeing A, my previous therapist. I started this blog while working with her and she was such a huge part of my life. There are days where I still miss her (she’s at least only a text away). But those moments aren’t as intense as they used to be and don’t last as long. The first 8 months were agony, but I made it through with the help, care, and patience of my current therapist. I’m not seeing things from the lens of extreme attachment anymore. When I think about A, I smile (no more tears) now. There’s a fondness there that will never go away. She can never be replaced. Even though our time together, the work, feels like it belongs to a different lifetime. As if I’m a different person now. Perhaps I am.

Therapy with C is going well. It’s safe to say that she knows me better than anyone else does. Her stability and calmness, no matter what’s happening, provides a space where I feel so safe and contained. When my life and mind is chaotic, she brings a much needed sense of peace. She’s my guiding hand, and has helped me see that I have worth and value. That I’m not broken or damaged goods.

It’s been about 6 months since I left home and moved in with my friend M. It’s been quite a journey. But just like a bad habit, there are times when I feel like I want to live at home again. When I want to go back. To my dad. Wait what?! I know, it’s strange, when all I ever wanted was to get as far away from him as I could. My relationship with him has been so much better now that we’re apart. When I visit them I get to leave whenever I feel I’ve had enough. With space I tend to forget all the bad and just see what I’m “missing”. It’s the same way when remembering my ex and those who came before her. All of them have made an imprint on me and that’s something that time and space can’t erase. But I need to remind myself to have a balanced view. There are valid reasons that they’re either not a part of my life anymore, or have limited contact.

Time may be an illusion, a construct, but it has meaning. Value. I have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow, or even an hour from now. I can’t manipulate time. It moves with or without me. And that’s both terrifying and fascinating.

Can’t The World Just Forget I Exist For A While?

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It’s been a frustrating and horrible two weeks. It seemed like everything that could go wrong, did, and I feel like I’m running on fumes, ready to explode. Again. I just need a damn break.

The first difficult client I had, wanted an update to the website I made him. He opened another restaurant in a new area. Good for me, because it’s work (every little bit helps). But I forgot just how stressful and frustrating it is working with him. I really should charge him double my hourly rate due to this, but of course, I can’t.

At the same time I was going through a bit of a medication mix up, which I’ll write about at another time. I was also redesigning a website for my ex business partner, as I wasn’t happy with the first one I made her, which was the first website I made when I started my business. She’s also a lot to deal with, and there were so many issues (with her server) with putting this website up that I thought it would never happen. I actually told her last week that she lacks impulse control and needs to work on that, because she makes people (me) anxious. Her website is sorted out now and it’s the first website that I’m actually really proud of. It reflects my style so much better. So I’m happy with that.

I was supposed to join her this weekend for a photography meetup, but canceled yesterday because I feel I just can’t cope with that right now. Being away from home, with a woman that stresses me out and is way too loud and over the top, as well as being with a group of people I’ve never met for a whole weekend, was making me panic. If I hadn’t been struggling so much these past few weeks and wasn’t feeling so overwhelmed, I probably would have gone. I was planning on sleeping in today, but that didn’t happen either.

Last night was the first night in a while that I actually slept through. As I already mentioned, I had planned on sleeping in as much as my body needed today. But I was woken up by M who had a hair appointment and needed me to take her. I’m so irritated and pissed off, but I know it’s not her fault.

On Wednesday she fell at home and banged up her face, and fractured a rib. It happened while I was at therapy, and instead of coming home straight after like I usually do, I decided to go buy some stuff that I needed. When I got home I was greeted by a bloody mess and found her in a state of shock, white as a sheet and shivering uncontrollably. I’ve been through enough medical emergencies with people throughout my life to know what to do in situations such as this. The strange thing (and which I’m so grateful for) is that during times like this my mind is clearer than usual and I remain completely calm.

She could move and talk, but with great difficulty and a lot of pain. But I knew it was safe to get her into my car so I can take her to the hospital. I didn’t want to call an ambulance because I don’t trust them to come quickly enough. I called one of our neighbours who is always at home, so that he could help me get her into the car because there was no way I’d be able to do that on my own. It was only once she was in the hospital, having x-rays and a CT scan done and I went outside, that my body and mind started feeling the effects. Shock, fear, adrenaline. I only went back inside once I could compose myself again.

M came back home with me that night, as her CT scans came back clear. There wasn’t a reason to keep her in the hospital overnight as they can’t do much anyway when it comes to fractured or broken ribs except for pain management and rest. She got some stitches in her face, but other than that she’s fine. She can’t drive for the next few weeks, so she has to rely on me for that. She’s a very independent and tough old lady, so I know that’s not easy for her. Before I found her, she had been lying there for almost two hours waiting for someone to come!

I feel so guilty. And I’m trying to make up for that. If I had come home straight after therapy, she wouldn’t have had to wait so damn long! I was also angry with her (but I didn’t tell her this because I don’t want to make her feel worse than she already does). I’ve told her before to always make sure she has her phone with her. What would have happened if I hadn’t been living there? So that’s another reason I didn’t go to the photography weekend. I’m scared to leave M alone again. I’m hyper alert (and overprotective) every time she moves through the house or goes outside.

The thing is, I’m struggling to take care of myself at the moment, and now this added responsibility just feels overwhelming. I feel selfish for even thinking like this, but denying I do doesn’t help either.

There’s nowhere to escape to at the moment. I feel trapped.

On Friendship and Solitude

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Growing up, making friends was never easy for me. I enjoyed my solitude and doing my own thing in my own way. I found out recently that I’ve always been that way. Even as a baby and toddler I didn’t interact with other children or people and always seemed to be in my own little world.

I made my first friend when I was 7 or 8 years old. The memory I have of that is sitting alone on a low wall during break time, eating my lunch and watching the other kids play. Then Christina came. I didn’t know her, and think it was the first time I saw her. She gave me a sweet, or something like that, and the rest is history. I can’t remember much about our friendship, only that it was short. My family moved and I started at a new school the following year.

It’s still not easy for me to make new friends. I meet someone and we get along. Or so it seems. I automatically think then that we’re friends, only to find out a little while later that that wasn’t the case. I’ve always had the habit of rushing into a friendship (or romantic relationship for that matter) and go all in, only to discover that they had only needed me for something. It’s my own fault though. I would try to be the perfect friend. Always paying for things (even though I couldn’t afford it), giving them compliments and plenty of “feel good” words, and going out of my way for them. But I would get drained, never quite seeming to get anything I needed. Once I slowed down and they discovered they weren’t going to get quite as much as they used to with me, they would disappear.

These days I’m better at setting and maintaining boundaries. Earlier this year, I walked away from a few friends that were only causing me anxiety, anger, and heartache. Since then I’m more careful about who I let into my life, and how much I give to others.

I’ve always tended to make friends with those much older than me. As a child and adolescent I would spend most of my time with my grandmother during the school holidays. Watching something on TV, listening to the radio, baking, watching her knit, etc, while the children were playing outside. Their games didn’t interest me much.

Here’s the thing. I’m more than happy in my own company, doing those things I enjoy. It’s very rare that I actually get bored. I’m a life-long student and enjoy learning about psychology, animals (especially dogs), science and technology. With the internet, TV and library, there’s a never ending amount of study material available. Then there’s of course things like writing, reading, movies, and series. If I don’t get enough time to do all these things I burn out very quickly. So for me balance means 80% of time spent on my own, and only 20% with others.

Solitude is a beautiful thing, so I don’t understand how some people can constantly want to be around others and get bored when they’re alone. But, they probably feel the same way about me. How can I actually enjoy being alone? And that’s the beauty of being human. No two people are perfectly alike. Nor should we be.

My Self-Care/Self-Soothe/Sensory Kit

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I thought I would share a list of those things that help me regulate and provide comfort.

– Weighted Blanket. Best investment ever!
– Weighted lap pad which I use while driving and working/studying. It helps me focus a little better, and provides some comfort and deep pressure stimulation.
– The Rose Quartz stone my therapist gave me.
– Therapy/Exercise Ball. Sitting and bouncing on this is soothing, especially when I’m overwhelmed and anxious.
– Aroma dough. It’s like play-dough for adults, with the added benefit of healing essential oils. 😉 (Website: http://aromadough.co.za)
– Hot Chocolate sachets.
– Pillow Mist (Lavender & Patchouli oils).
– Cuddly (soft toy).
– Baby blanket.
– A set of candles in beautiful crimson and azure blue glass containers.
– A pair of thick, fluffy socks.
– Lavender and vanilla hand lotion.
– A book of pictures of cute puppies.
– Vanilla soft-lips lip balm.
– Photo’s, letters and notes from those I love and care about.
– Essential oils and a diffuser: Peppermint, Lavender, Jasmine, Chamomile, Rosemary, Ylang Ylang. Will use one of these or a combination for specific purposes.
– USB drive with a couple of my favourite movies.
– Various fidget toys. I have the habit of playing with my hair, which isn’t a problem, but my dad used to yell at me when I do it around them, he hates it, so that’s where the fidget toys come in handy. Skin picking, chewing my fingers, etc… These toys all help. Wish I had had these while growing up.
– Noise cancelling headphones. I never leave the house without this.
– Chew toys (eg. Chewigem). I have a habit of chewing the inside of my cheeks and my lips, so I’ve found this helps when I feel the urge, or find myself unconsciously started. For some reason chewing gum doesn’t really work, as I still find myself chewing my mouth with the gum. I try to stay away from chewy sweets as the sugar, just like caffeine, makes me more worked up.
– Rainbow bubbles. These are awesome; they have this beautiful shimmer and different colours depending on the light and direction.
– Bullet Journal and favourite stationary. I started a bullet journal earlier this year, and it’s been so much fun and very helpful. I use it to keep track of my moods, habits, sleep, books, series, movies, favourite quotes, daily reflections, pre-therapy and post-therapy notes etc. If you don’t know what a bullet journal is and would like to learn more, here’s a nice link: https://littlecoffeefox.com/ultimate-bullet-journal-cheat-sheet/

So, these are some of my favourite things that help me cope with life and the world around me. What are yours?

What Exactly Does It Mean To Be Authentic?

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I’ve often wondered what it truly means to be authentic. The concept confused me. I came across an interesting article the other day, and a particular paragraph described my confusion well.

“One big problem with authenticity is that there is a lack of consensus among both the general public and among psychologists about what it actually means for someone or something to be authentic. Are you being most authentic when you are being congruent with your physiological states, emotions and beliefswhatever they may be? Or are you being most authentic when you are congruent with your consciously chosen beliefs, attitudes and values? How about when you are being congruent across the various situations and social roles of your life? Which form of “being true to yourself” is the real authenticity: was it the time you really gave that waiter a piece of your mind or that time you didn’t tell the waiter how you really felt about their dismal performance because you value kindness and were true to your higher values?”

— Source: Authenticity under Fire (Scott Barry Kaufman)

Throughout my life I’ve had to present myself in ways that didn’t feel true to who I felt I was. I would sometimes change my views, opinions, and preferences to fit in with those around me. This would make me even more confused. Which person was I reallyAs humans we have the tendency to present different parts of ourselves to try to fit in, taking on aspects of the group and people we’re interacting with. It’s normal. But some of us take it to more of an extreme. Does this make us inauthentic during those times? Maybe.

There are certain ways in which I sometimes interact with the world and other people, that aren’t considered “normal” and that have either gotten me into trouble or caused people to view me as “weird”. Which is why I love those friends I’ve had for years that love my “weirdness” and who aren’t bothered or surprised by it. Everyone is different. Everyone has ways of being, of coping. Social anxiety is a big thing for me, and maybe this is one of the reasons I try to blend in so much. To the point where I question who I really am. I was bullied in my primary school years and labeled a “freak”, and was an outcast (along with my merry band of fellow outcasts) in high school. So trying to fit in, trying to just be “normal”, has always been something I felt I had to do in order to stay emotionally safe. And it’s only been the last few years that I’ve realized it doesn’t have to be that way. Not everyone will or should like us. Not everybody will accept or understand us. And that’s really okay.

Society expects us to behave a certain way. Our culture and environment shape us. What’s considered the norm in one culture or place, may be seen as inappropriate in another. There are certain norms that I’ve grown up with that I’m not comfortable with. Things that make me anxious. But I’m expected to fit in anyway. So I did.

I’m finding though that being inauthentic towards myself isn’t worth the price of fitting in. I no longer have the desire to do so. Sure, I still care what others think, and a part of me probably always will, but not to the extent to which I’ve always done.

I’ve come to believe that there is no single, congruent, true self that exists in all situations and environments. We are a complex mix of values, beliefs, biases, desires, etc. Both conscious and unconscious. These can get activated around different people and situations. It doesn’t mean we’re being inauthentic though. All of these are aspects of ourselves. Striving to always be authentic can sometimes backfire. Cause us to constantly question ourselves. So my goal is to not judge myself, and just try to be my best true self in that moment, for that situation. I think that’s good enough.