The Next Right Thing

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“I’m trusting that it’s okay to just keep doing the next right thing – even when the long-term plan isn’t quite clear. Enough right things will get me where I need to go.”

– Brené Brown

I didn’t know where my life was going. It all seemed so pointless and hopeless. I actually still experience this often, but lately I’m just allowing things to unfold as they do and dealing with what I can in each moment. Acceptance is often hard to achieve, but fighting against things we have no control over just exhausts us. Acceptance allows us to breathe, explore, and plan.

We don’t know the future. All we can do is keep taking the next best step, whatever that may be. I have to ask myself, “what’s the next right action for you?” It’s not about what other people say I should do. People can give us their opinions but they’re not living our lives. We are.

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Love, You’re Still Here

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Slowly making its way into my consciousness
The feelings came first, then the memories
And I saw you everywhere that night
As the old year started fading away
I knew I’d have to face the new year without you
But your shadow wouldn’t let go of me
It felt like just yesterday you were by my side

Remembering the previous December…
The restaurant where we had our last meal
The sandy beach we sat on that night
Welcoming in the new year together
The way you clung to me when you got scared
As if I alone could keep you safe

I’ve tried to forget you, erase you from my life
Removing all traces of you from my world
But the heart has a harder time letting go
I’m not sorry for loving you
But I am sorry that love wasn’t enough
To keep you with me, to keep you close

I had thought you were my whole world
But I realize you were just the center of it
Now, even without that center
The grass still grows, the sun still shines
Everything looks pretty much the same
But the atmosphere has changed somewhat

I loved you like no other, I adored you
I had felt safe and content in your love for a while
When you told me you don’t feel the same anymore
It tore me apart, down to my core
How could love fade so fast?
And I wonder, did you ever really love me?

I avoided talking about you, thinking about you
But I didn’t know I’d have to pay attention soon
I had to feel it, open up to the pain again
In order to finally let go fully and completely
It’s been a few days and you’re fading once more
I’ll always love you, but we were only meant
For a season, for a while, and that’s okay

It Didn’t Work: Attachment Styles

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Over the past couple of years of learning about boundaries, I’ve learned that I can choose who and what I allow in my life. It’s been a liberating lesson, but also a difficult and sometimes heartbreaking one.

Since Elizabeth and I broke up a few months ago, I’ve often wondered whether a friendship would work between us. I tried to make it work. But two weeks ago, I realized that I just didn’t want to try anymore. It wasn’t working for me, and was only causing me frustration, anger, and pain. It’s been a learning curve, but I now know better what I just won’t stand for in any type of relationship anymore. I’m done letting people walk all over me, treat me like trash and a problem, and not respecting my boundaries. I unfortunately still have to put up with it in my home life until I can move out, but outside that environment I have more control.

I started reading a book a while ago “Attached: The Science of Adult Attachment“. I have an anxious attachment style (anxious/ambivalent more specifically), and almost instantly recognized Elizabeth in the Avoidant attachment style. Looking back, and armed with this new information, the signs had been there from the beginning, but they became far more obvious as our relationship progressed. When I realized all this, I felt a sense of relief. I’d been believing that the relationship not working out was almost entirely my fault, and due to my own issues. And Elizabeth seemed convinced that was the case as well. Being made out to be the “guilty” one was one of the reasons I decided I just can’t have her in my life anymore. I take responsibility for my part in the relationship not working, and I refuse to put up with someone unable to see her own faults and constantly pointing fingers at others. The point is, our attachment styles aren’t compatible. It just doesn’t work out well. I’ve now let go of all the guilt and self-criticism regarding the relationship. It doesn’t serve me and just keeps me stuck in a negative loop.

I learned a lot from this relationship, and now it’s time to let it go. To let her go. I have to do what’s best for me. Even if it hurts initially. And it hurts.

 

Healthier Perspectives

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On Wednesday I had a therapy session with the psychologist I was seeing while an in-patient at the clinic. I’ll write more about what’s happening with my therapy once I’ve had a session with my usual therapist, who is currently on leave.

When I got to the clinic, I ran into one of my roommates (who is still there). It was lovely to see her again, and we spent a few minutes catching up before my appointment.

In our session I told the therapist everything that I had mentioned in my previous post. I was worried that I’m disconnecting myself from people. She told me that she doesn’t think that’s the case. Especially since I’m still keeping in contact with my friends and family, and have made plans with two of my closest friends for Sunday (today), which I’m looking forward to. She saw me interact with my roommate before our session, and with the OT I used to have sessions with (she walked by and I made a joke with her). When the therapist told me all this, I knew she was right. I’m not pushing people away.

Since my time in the clinic I’ve developed a healthier view of connection. It didn’t start in the clinic though. I believe it’s been happening for a while now, and the breakup with Elizabeth also played a big role towards pushing me toward that healthier perspective faster.

I’ve been feeling so strange, because I’m not used to this new way of being. Over the past few days it’s starting to feel more normal. I think I’m settling into my “new” self. I’ve been practicing mindfulness every day, and am starting Yoga tomorrow. I’m taking much better care of myself these days. I’ve been learning what my limitations are. How to listen to my body. To my mind. I’m working on myself from the inside out, and I can feel my self-compassion and confidence grow. I’m also less compromising on my boundaries.

On Friday I went for a job interview. It’s for a half-day position, which is perfect for me. The interview started off well, and I was enjoying talking with the lady who was interviewing me. Then, the general manager of the company walked in and took over the interview. I wasn’t expecting this at all. My agent told me I was only meeting with the accounts manager. It was also a last-minute interview, so I didn’t have time to prepare beforehand. His questions, and the way he asked them, threw me. I felt a panic rise up inside, and the urge to run. In that moment, I mentally took a step back and allowed myself some time before I answered one of his questions. I told myself “It’s okay. Just do the best you can. That’s enough. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get this job.” That helped calm me down enough to put on a confident face again and continue on with the interview.

I was so relieved once it was done. I had been there for almost an hour… One of the longest, most intense interviews I’d ever been for. As I was walking back to my car, the old familiar voices started coming. “You blew it.”, “You can’t even interview properly.” etc. As soon as I noticed these thoughts, I started reframing them and talking back to that critic with words of compassion and love. After the interview I was convinced it was a failure. But after some self-compassion I realize that it wasn’t a complete disaster. There were good points too. Within 10 minutes I started feeling better. I bounced back quickly, and felt pretty good the rest of the day.

Last night I felt sad for a while. That my relationship with Elizabeth didn’t work out. We shared a lot of good times together. I miss our early days, and even some of the more recent moments. I miss her touch. The way she used to look at me. I miss her. But this wasn’t an overwhelming sadness. It felt more of an acceptance type of sadness. It didn’t work out. And that’s okay. I hold no resentment or bitterness toward her. She did what was best for her, and it was also the best thing for me. She’s coming through to my place tomorrow to collect her things, and I don’t know how I’ll feel when I see her again. But I’m ready. I don’t know if we can still be friends, but I’m not making that decision yet. There’s no rush.

All in all, I’ve been well. And I’m grateful to be alive.

Not Going To Happen This Year Either

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This was going to be the year where I finally start my Psychology degree.

For the past couple of years, from the beginning, I kept coming up against roadblocks. Even so, every semester, and each year, I’ve tried to make it work.

Last Saturday I was able to finally start the registration process. I really thought this was it. I was so excited. After hitting “submit”, I got a message telling me that my registration couldn’t be processed due to outstanding documents.

I know what documents they were talking about. Only, here’s the thing. I had already sent those documents through in early December, and had a generic confirmation of my email having been received. In early January I had sent through another email to confirm that the documents were in order, but haven’t received a reply as yet. I tried calling a few times too, but, as I’ve learned (both from personal experience and talking with others about this specific university), they never answer their phones.

Their admin is crap. I’ve also heard of other unacceptable issues by people who have studied there, or are busy studying, but wanting to continue at another institution.

Do I really want to study with such an institution? One that’s in any case on its way down? They’ve apparently already lost some accreditation for certain subjects. Their fees are very low for a university, so I guess you get what you pay for. I’ve been looking into other universities, and found one that I have my heart set on now. It’s more expensive, but everything looks good. I’ll just have to save up more and wait longer. But it will be worth it.

I know I’m doing the right thing. But it still sucks, and is highly disappointing. The situation sucks, and it doesn’t feel good. But it’s not as discouraging as it would have been in the past. I’m not the same person I was a year ago. Or even a few months ago. I find I can handle situations in a more mature way.

Maybe the time wasn’t right. Maybe this wasn’t where I was supposed to study. So I’m willing to wait and continue doing what I can to make my dream come true.

Sometimes we have to let go of one thing, to make way for something even better.

It’s not the end.

Practicing Acceptance

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For the past two weeks, we’ve been talking a lot about Radical Acceptance during our group sessions. I felt as though my mind was fighting against this idea. It wasn’t until Friday morning that it grabbed a firm, positive, foothold in my mind. Since then, I’ve been working through the concept, trying to understand it better and just basically thinking about it from every angle.

One of my biggest challenges is in accepting myself. I’m my own worst enemy. Aren’t we all? No matter how many compliments I get, what kind words come my way, I struggle to believe them. How can I believe that which I don’t feel is true? I’m still trying to get to that place of being able to accept compliments without feeling embarrassed and like I don’t deserve them. Or that people are just saying these things without actually meaning them. I have become better at this over the past year, but still have a long way to go. I also struggle with the concept of being accepting of myself, the way I am, while also working on changing that which needs to be changed.

Then there’s acceptance of others. It’s easier for me to be accepting of others, than of myself. But of course, I said “easier” not “easy”. One of my biggest irritations is having people cancel plans with me, too close to the time. The reason I feel so strongly about it, is because keeping commitments is very important to me. I stick to my commitments, unless of course, there’s a very valid reason for cancelling. No matter how depressed or tired I may be, or how much I want to cancel, I will keep that coffee date with a friend, for example. But I need to accept that not everyone is like this. We all have our own values, and what’s important to one person, might not be important to someone else.

In Thursday’s support group, near the end, I awkwardly shared a tiny bit of where I am in life. Living in an environment in which my boundaries aren’t respected, but unable to get out due to a lack of financial resources. One thing that stuck in my mind since then is when they said that I’m doing the best I can. But I can’t get the inner critic to stop telling me that I could do more. I feel this constant pressure to do better, be better, and I get so angry and frustrated with myself because I can’t think of how to do that. This constant striving and fighting is exhausting. Adding fuel to the fire is the feeling of excessive guilt. That maybe I’m doing something wrong, did something wrong, or just not trying hard enough.

I need to accept that I’m doing the best I can with what I have. The circumstances in which I find myself. But I still need to be aware, and open to anything that comes my way (including ideas or solutions that cross my mind) that will allow me to change these circumstances. I just don’t need to fight so hard anymore, which hasn’t accomplished anything worthwhile anyway, and just keeps me in a constant state of high anxiety.

Something else that came up during Thursday’s support group, is how much I tend to compare myself to others. Everyone there had such positive things to share, and seemed so mentally stable. While I was struggling, and in a very dark space in my mind. On Friday I realized that I need to accept that I might not be as far in my healing journey as some others are. Just like there are those who are not as far along as I am. We’re all dealing with different problems. Our lives don’t look the same. Besides, just because someone is having a good day (or seems to be), doesn’t mean that they’re not still struggling. Healing and growth looks different for all of us. There’s no mould for this.

As the writer of a good article I came across yesterday, says:

“Radical acceptance takes lots of practice. And understandably, it might feel strange and hard. But remember that radical acceptance is about acknowledging reality – not liking it or contesting it.”

You can read the article here.

The Question Of Sexuality

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I’ve received a few emails by some of my amazing followers (aka: my people), regarding my sexuality. So I thought I’d write a post for those who are curious.

I’ve never liked labels. I never identified myself as straight, lesbian, bisexual or any of those labels. Firstly, because I was confused about my sexuality, and secondly, because it filled me with shame and embarrassment.

I remember when I first started therapy. We got on the subject of sexuality, and I told my therapist that I don’t know what I am. What I identify as. I’ve read that those of us with BPD struggle with our sexuality. So that made perfect sense. It was the story of my life.

But over the past few years, I’ve started realizing that it doesn’t matter. Why should it matter who we love? After all, isn’t it the soul that attracts us the most? And if it’s purely physical, is it really love? To me, it isn’t about the outer shell, but rather what’s inside. It’s not about the body. It’s about connecting to the soul. It’s a deep soul connection.

I’m a human. Not a label. I’ve never been opposed to falling in love with a male. I actually used to wish I would. Just so I could conform to society’s norm. But fuck the norm. Why shouldn’t love be the norm, and not the form that love takes?

Over the years, I’ve only fallen in love with two women. My ‘first love’, which was never actually a relationship in the first place. And now, my current girlfriend. I’ve been attracted to guys, sure, but I never felt that connection with them. They always felt like brothers or just friends.

An example is my first ‘real’ boyfriend. I just wanted to be friends with him, but every time we’d go out he’d ask me to be his girlfriend. I would always turn him down, but he never got the picture. Until one day, I just gave in and said “okay”. I liked him. I sometimes thought I might be falling in love with him. But the truth was, I saw him more as a good friend, and sometimes even a brother. Which confused me a lot. Especially when it came to the physical intimacy.

In my early twenties, there was another guy I liked. I thought I was in love with him. We had only gone out once. I was friends with his sister, which is how we met. One night we all went out to a bar, and I went to go order drinks with my friend. When I got back to the group, I saw him making out with another girl. My heart broke. I downed my drink, and went back for another one. And another. But the next day, I was over it and realized I wasn’t actually in love with him. I was just lonely and desperate. I had just been trying to conform. To force myself to feel something for someone because he was a he and not because I liked him as a person. As a matter of fact, I didn’t really even like his personality. He was a complete moron.

Why should labels exist? The answer: They shouldn’t. It’s not an illness. We’re all human. Our sexual orientation doesn’t make us who we are.

With my current girlfriend, I wasn’t looking for a relationship. I was happy being single. Sure, I got lonely, but it didn’t make me want to get on the relationship bandwagon again. So I didn’t expect things to go the way they did, and to feel this way about her.

I used to wonder… Am I the way I am, because of the trauma I experienced? Or is it simply how I’ve always been? I can’t tell, because some things happened before I reached the age where children start becoming interested in boys or girls. I didn’t have a stable mother figure in my life, and I had bad experiences with men. But it’s not something that bothers me anymore. I don’t care either way, I just thought it was an interesting train of thought.

The way I see it, is that at the end of the day, love is love, no matter how you look at it. It’s two people who care deeply about one another. Who connect on an intimate level.

That’s all that matters.