What Shame Looks & Feels Like

Can’t face the world. Want to disappear.

Can’t face those you most want to connect with – wanting to push them away – already feeling as though you have done something wrong in the relationship and that it’s not fixable. Pulling away and disconnecting feels like the only possible thing left to do.

Being in your own body and mind is unbearable. Every part of you is on fire.

Unbelievable pain and torment.

Taking medication early just so you can go to sleep and forget you exist.

The thing with shame is that when you feel it for any specific reason or even for an imagined or blown out of proportion “infraction”, your entire history of shameful feelings and events joins in, pulling you even further down the hole.

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Growing In Assertiveness

I went out with Jasmine and my business partner/friend (Kim) last night. I had sent Jasmine a message last week, telling her that I have been feeling rejected and unimportant to her over the past few months, and that I miss her. She then invited me for sun-downers with her and Kim, as well as another mutual friend of theirs.

I really wasn’t in the mood to be with people, especially having to meet someone new, but since I haven’t seen Jasmine in months, I decided to go anyway. I’ve also been having some issues with Kim over the past few weeks and wasn’t looking forward to seeing her and talking more “business” (she has a habit of bringing business stuff up anywhere and everywhere). Our recent business meetings have been all about her and her own business and I was fed up. She’s back to her old pattern of constantly relying on me to help her with things she can easily figure out herself or Google. I’m trying to work on building up my own businesses and this is taking me away from that. I don’t get time to work on my own stuff because I’m constantly helping her out.

Last night when she started talking about our next meeting (on Friday) and how there are some more things she wants to change/add/remove on her website, I felt my anger rise up. I took a sip of my drink to buy myself some time, because I didn’t want to react immediately. Thanks DBT and Mindfulness. I told her that we’d talk more on Friday. Once the anger died down, I decided that I needed to talk to her about this now because I’m not sure whether I want to meet up on Friday anymore. Jasmine and her other friend were in the middle of a conversation, so I felt it was okay to talk to Kim about this quietly. I told her that I feel as though our meetings have changed. That I used to enjoy them, because I almost always left feeling inspired and motivated, and they had been a benefit for both of us. These days I just feel overwhelmed and frustrated. I wasn’t nasty about it, but made sure to use a firm tone of voice. She insisted on just one more meeting focused on her business and website, so we can get that out of the way and she can relax. I agreed, but told her it will be a short meeting. I’ve also decided that after this, I’m going to start charging her for any new work on her website. I’ve shown her how to do certain things herself, but she keeps losing the papers she writes the instructions down on. That’s not my problem. I’m going to make this clear to her on Friday. I just can’t continue on like this with her. It’s draining me. I know I’ve been enabling this behaviour lately by giving in to her demands. But at least I realize this. Being assertive doesn’t come naturally to me, so it’s okay that I slip up from time to time and don’t have it down perfectly. It will take time.

I left early last night as I was exhausted, and while I enjoyed talking with Jasmine, there were two other people there as well so we couldn’t just ignore the others. In the past I’ve always been afraid of leaving early, not wanting to offend anyone, but these days I find it much easier to excuse myself and not feel bad about it.

Assertiveness had always been a foreign concept to me. I took on the passive, people pleasing role in all of my interactions with others. Now that I learned there’s another way, I’ve realized just how much damage I was doing to my own self-esteem and mental and physical health. Assertiveness is vitally important, but it’s also damn hard if you’re not used to that way of communication and interaction.

A lovely online friend of mine created a new course on assertiveness and kindly sent me a copy. If you struggle with assertiveness, this course will help dispel common myths and help you toward achieving a healthier style of communication. Reading through the PDF helped me cement my decision to stop being passive, and it has lots of helpful advice and action steps, complete with examples. If you’re interested, you can find it on her website here:

How To Communicate Effectively & Stop Being A People-Pleaser

This is one of those things that will only improve with a willingness to change and lots of practice. Oh, and lots of uncomfortable feelings at first. But it does seem to get easier each time.

“Be Kind To Yourself”

These were the words spoken to me by my therapist yesterday. I’m struggling, a lot, and needed that reminder. It’s times like this that I’m especially grateful for therapy and a great therapist.

My inner critic has been especially boisterous this past while, as have the critical voices from my childhood and beyond. Every attempt at positivity and self-compassion has been met with these negative voices shutting it down. Separating out the voices and recognizing which is my own inner critic, who is ultimately just trying to protect me, and which belong to those people in my life, who due to their own issues and projections have targeted me with their hurtful words, has been helpful.

“You’re useless, a waste of space, and will never amount to anything”, “you don’t deserve love, a hug, attention”. The voice of others. When these kinds of words come from people you love and are supposed to trust, who you are dependent on as a child, they build up and almost become like a part of you. It’s extremely difficult to challenge them.

“You can’t do this”, “it’s not good enough”, “you’re too much or not enough”. My own. To my inner critic I can say “thank you for trying to protect me, but it’s okay if I am unsuccessful at this. I’ll learn from it and do better next time”, “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s good enough”. This voice is trying to protect me from rejection, shame and pain. See the difference? For me at least, it’s easier to deal with my own inner critic.

When I got home from therapy I was exhausted and wanted to take a nap. But the critical voices were so loud (“you’re just lazy, you should be working”) and I was struggling to tap into my own self-compassion. I then remembered C’s words “be kind to yourself”. In that moment I decided to pretend that she’s talking to me instead, and to speak to myself the way she speaks to me, with kindness and compassion. And it worked. So I ended up taking a guilt-free 90 minute nap, one I desperately needed. By pretending that C that was talking to me, I slowly started to find my own self-compassionate voice again. So that’s another simple little tool for my coping toolkit.

It’s so easy to get lost in all the voices of negativity. Both those around us and those within us. So if you struggle with this, maybe this concept can help you as well. I hope you have someone whose kind and gentle voice can help guide you in finding your own voice of self-compassion.

The Place Of Emptiness, Apathy And No Purpose

I just finished an amazing book by Donna Tartt titled The Goldfinch, and want to share a paragraph from it that sums up my feelings (and opinion) about life.

“Because I don’t care what anyone says or how often or winningly they say it: no one will ever, ever be able to persuade me that life is some awesome, rewarding treat. Because, here’s the truth: life is catastrophe. The basic fact of existence-of walking around trying to feed ourselves and find friends and whatever else we do-is catastrophe. Forget all this ridiculous ‘Our Town’ nonsense everyone talks: the miracle of a newborn babe, the joy of one simple blossom, Life You Are Too Wonderful To Grasp, &c. For me-and I’ll keep repeating it doggedly till I die, till I fall over on my ungrateful nihilistic face and am too weak to say it: better never born, than born into this cesspool. Sinkhole of hospital beds, coffins, and broken hearts. No release, no appeal, no “do-overs” to employ a favored phrase of Xandra’s, no way forward but age and loss, and no way out but death.

I know. Morbid and dark.

Emptiness is a part of me. Even in my happiest moments, it’s there, lurking in the background. Waiting. It’s almost as though that’s my foundation, with all the other emotions laying upon it, and then when those emotions pass I return to that foundation of emptiness.

I’ve had a couple of those nights lately where I’m crying in a dream, and wake up crying. The sadness overwhelms me. But once I’m up the numbness sets in, and I go through the day not feeling much of anything. Not seeing a purpose for this life. For existing.

I’m just at the point where I don’t expect good things to happen anymore. For my hard work to pay off. Hope feels like something not meant for me. Accepting where I am. What my life looks like. Going through the motions, doing what needs to be done, but not really caring.

What’s the point of hard work when the only thing that comes from your effort is more shit. Never feeling like you’re able to move forward, because things just continue breaking apart around you.

But whatever.

Contemplating Romantic Relationships

I’ve been single for the vast majority of my life. Part of the reason is because I find social situations challenging and overwhelming, so don’t go out much or meet new people often. Another reason is that I enjoy spending time alone and can quickly become irritated when I don’t spend enough time by myself and can end up feeling claustrophobic.

Even though I enjoy my own company, I get lonely sometimes. I’m human after all and crave intimacy and closeness. That intimacy and closeness isn’t just available in romantic relationships of course. Any type of relationship can have those elements, but for today I just want to focus on the one type.

One question that’s been on my mind lately is whether I want to be in another relationship at some point, or if I’m actually single at heart and would prefer rather staying single? It was a hard question to answer, so I took some time to explore it. Questions like these are also complicated because our answers can change over time. So this is where I am right now…

I’m not planning on actively pursuing a new relationship, but rather just keeping my heart open to new people and experiences and try take more chances that I would normally shy away from. I’m willing to put my heart out there again, knowing that there’s a chance I could get hurt. But my previous experiences have also shown me that I get through that heartache, and come away learning more about myself, others, and relationships in general. I don’t regret any of my previous relationships, because I believe that what I’ve gained was worth far more than what I lost. All the shitty experiences taught me something. Not only that, but I received other things that I wouldn’t have otherwise. An example of this is that my 4 year relationship led me to start work with an amazing therapist, and start the process of changing my life from the inside.

A while ago I told C, my therapist, that I’m happier alone. But I don’t think that was the actual truth. It felt true in the moment, but when I thought about it later, I found that it was more complicated than that. Because I remembered… In the beginning of my relationship with Elizabeth I was happier and more content than I’d ever been in any of my previous relationships, and in life in general in a long time. It wasn’t Elizabeth or the relationship itself that made me happy. It was a combination of that, as well as still having space and time to myself and being content in my inner world.

And that’s what I need in a relationship. There are times where I would prefer doing something, or going somewhere, alone. I have an anxious attachment style, so I’ll also need someone who will be secure enough within themselves to be okay with giving me reassurance when I need it. Anyone, no matter their attachment style, needs reassurance from time to time. I sometimes just need it a bit more often. The strange thing is, in the first couple of months of my relationship with Elizabeth I felt secure with no need to be reassured. The more she started pulling away from me in the last months (as I mentioned in another post, she’s the avoidant type; also nothing much changed in the amount of time we spent together, but somehow it was suddenly too much), the more insecure I became and that anxious style reared its ugly head. A big difference in this relationship is that I learned to communicate when something bothered me. I could confront when needed. Whereas in the past I was a doormat and would keep things inside (essentially a people pleaser and afraid of conflict), I now felt more confident and secure in myself to make my voice heard. The therapeutic relationship was one of the things that helped me develop this.

Before my last relationship, with Elizabeth, I had been aware of the three stages of romantic love, and got to see the first two play out. The first is well-known as the Honeymoon Period. I’m sure most of us have been here before. In this stage, everything is still new and seems perfect. It’s where we present our best selves. I’ll never forget the day Elizabeth told me that she feels like we’ve become just friends. Saying that things were becoming too comfortable between us, and she wanted to go back in time to how things were in the beginning. I of course knew that the Honeymoon Phase doesn’t last, and that the next stage, the Individuation Stage, is a natural progression of a relationship, and that was probably where she was finding herself. The lndividuation Stage is where “the good, bad, and ugly” parts of ourselves starts showing, and more conflict arises as both partners try to balance who they are in the relationship with who they are as an individual. At least that’s how I understand it. Relationships take work, and this is especially evident at this point in a relationship. I’m not willing to be with someone who doesn’t understand or accept this. I should have taken it as a red flag that Elizabeth’s longest relationship was 6 months (ours was as well), and she never spent much time single. I’m only using Elizabeth in this post as an example, not to blame or point fingers. I wasn’t perfect either, and all I can do is learn from that relationship. Thanks to this relationship I’m now a lot more aware of what I’m looking for.

I don’t know if I believe in “the one”. Some people find that one person they’ll be with for the rest of their lives, and in that case, they’ve found “the one”. But for the rest of us there isn’t only one person out there that we need to find. I believe that if we keep our hearts and minds open we’ll meet someone who sets our soul on fire. Most relationships may not last, but to close ourselves off to love is, in my opinion, much more heart breaking.

People Confuse Me

It’s been more than two weeks and I still haven’t received the deposit for the website I’ll be doing. I sent the guy a follow-up email at the beginning of the week, which has been read. I started using a mail-tracking Chrome extension a while ago, because the uncertainty of whether or not an email I sent had been received caused a lot of anxiety. The uncertainty of what I should do, “should I send it again, or just wait?” At least with this I can see that the email has been delivered and read, and now all that’s left to do is wait for a reply. Well, this wait has been tough. I need this job, as my car is just getting worse and desperately needs to be fixed. I’ve been wondering whether he’s changed his mind, or just been busy. I really don’t understand how a person can’t just take a minute or two out of their day and reply to a damn email. How hard can it be? I’m glad I didn’t do what I usually do and start on the website already. I’ve decided that I’m done stressing about this now. I’m letting go. I’ve done my part and the rest is out of my hands.

And then there are friends. I’ve been feeling a bit abandoned by Jasmine. As I mentioned here before, she has a girlfriend. I get that. I understand that it’s normal for communication to dip a little during these times and meet ups happen less frequently. But I don’t understand how a person can totally neglect their friends. It takes her more than a week to reply to a message, even though she read it the same day I sent it, and see she’s active online often. I haven’t met up with her in almost two months. She’s not the only one.

I’m going to be house sitting for my two best friends from Thursday next week until the Saturday of the following week, which I’m really looking forward to. They live about 40 minutes away. These two friends are the only one’s I feel I matter to these days, and who actually make an effort to stay in touch and get together. We don’t get to see each other often due to the distance, but the time we spend together is always amazing. Quality over quantity. The best type. I’ve only seen my other long time friend once this year, as she’s always busy. I wanted to see her when I house sit because she lives about 10 minutes away from there, and yesterday I was told we wouldn’t be able to get together because she’ll be away. I was so looking forward to seeing her, and was under the impression that I would be, since I told her quite a while ago about this. She said last night that she didn’t realize it overlaps with her trip. So I’m really disappointed. At least I have time away from work and the family, and my friends have two little dogs I’m going to be taking care of, so I won’t be completely alone.

Do I Really Love?

There are times where I feel nothing for people. Not even those I “claim” to love. This can last from hours to weeks. Sometimes I wonder whether I really do love after all? Then there are moments where I know I love that person/those people and I feel it, but that feeling can come and go so quickly sometimes.

I’m one of those people who almost never cry at funerals. Instead of thinking I’m at the funeral in order to say goodbye to someone and all of that funeral stuff, I’m dreading going due to the social aspect. It’s not about the person who passed away, it’s about my own social anxiety and unease. The exception was at my grandmother’s funeral, where I was in a dissociative bubble and so disconnected from everyone there that it felt I was alone.

When a public figure dies, for example by suicide, I don’t feel a thing. I don’t get why suddenly everyone is talking about it and seeming to genuinely feel sad about it. Sure, I pretend I care, and it’s hard (and shameful) to admit this, but I actually don’t. This always makes me feel like a hard, cruel person. Or not human at all.

I told my therapist this in our session last week. We were talking about my uncle who recently got diagnosed with cancer. She asked me how I feel. My answer? Nothing. I feel uncomfortable, but not sure exactly what that feeling encompasses. Where once I felt so close to my uncle and knew I love him, suddenly I don’t feel anything toward him. My therapist mentioned something about trauma and PTSD symptoms, but I can’t really remember what all she said… My mind and memory have been cloudy lately. Want to bring this up again in tomorrow’s session.

I saw there’s a new X-Men movie coming out in February, and just watched the trailer. When the first film of this movie franchise came out I was obsessed with it. I’ve watched the first 3 movies at least 40 times each, and the later ones about 10 times or so. Which is why when Jennifer Lawrence was cast in one of them a few years after the first 3 I was ecstatic. The point of bringing this up now is because while watching the trailer I got the same feeling I did all those years ago with the first film. These are my people. I’ve always felt like an outcast and “defective”. I would pretend I was one of those characters. My favourite used to be Phoenix (Jean Grey) and I took on that character. I was Phoenix. These days I still feel like a mutant, an alien on this planet. And this questioning whether I truly love is just one of the reasons for that. This new X-Men film is Jean’s journey on the “dark side”. Maybe I’m closer to that version of her.

Sometimes I feel like I have a lump of coal in place of a heart. That’s how I feel right now.

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