Light and Wilderness

Life is strange. I am strange. I had forgotten that there was a pandemic going on. And that it was the Easter weekend. How did that happen so quickly? Didn’t the year basically just start?

I had run out of food and some other necessities, and managed to return to the real world just in time to sort that out.

I had made an appointment with the interim therapist and only discovered it the next day. Way to go dissociation! But I think it was the right thing to do. So, my brain does have my back sometimes it seems.

The move? Didn’t happen. Two days before the time, I woke up to a message saying that due to unforeseen circumstances they had to cancel. For the first time in days I actually felt something. Not sure what that feeling was. But I couldn’t stop laughing. Weird. The place I was currently staying in had someone moving into it the day after I left, so couldn’t stay. I spent hours trying to find another place, but most of those I found within my budget were already booked. At some point during this process, panic showed up.

Funny thing is that up until then I had only managed to pack one big box, which was just less than half my stuff. So no need now to rush-pack after all.

I phoned M, because I knew she had a spare bedroom, and explained the situation to her. Asked if I could just stay for the month of April while I find another place or wait for one of them to have a room available again. I was going to pay her upfront for that month of course. She told me that it’s not a problem, but she’ll let me know for sure later that day. I was a bit worried because the guy who’s renting from her (and is like her surrogate son, subconsciously replacing her son who passed away, in my opinion) is rude to everyone but her. Even M’s friends don’t like him, saying he’s manipulative. I agree with that, but it’s her life. I was sure that she meant it when she said she was okay with it, but that the “I’ll let you know for sure later today” was so she could discuss it with him.

Late that evening I got a message from her with nothing but two links to places found on a local marketplace website (a website where dodgy people love hanging out). The places were old listings. Not helpful. When she didn’t reply to my message, I knew… that was her way of saying it wasn’t going to happen. So now I had that evening and one day to find another place. And you can’t call people at that time of the evening. I was pissed off. Hurt. Overwhelmed. Exhaustion hit me and all systems went offline again. Don’t tell me something is okay, and then change your mind, but not talk to me about it in a truthful and direct manner. Ignore me. Why do people play games like this? Just come straight out and say “no” or whatever it is you want to say. The worst part of it is that M knows that I need honesty and openness. Even if it hurts, I handle it.

My two best friends were also going to be moving the same day I was due to. I phoned them to ask if they could possibly help me out. But since it was a new place they didn’t want to ask the landlord whether it would be okay to have another person move in as well. They actually made the effort to have the open and honest discussion with me, so I have no ill-feelings towards them.

Thankfully my last shot was my saving grace. I went to speak to the owners of the place I’m currently staying in and explained the situation. Asked whether there was any other way. Or knew of any other places I could stay. The lady said that she’d see whether they could make a plan. Turns out that the guy that was going to be staying in my place was only going to be here for a week. The owners managed to sort it out with him, so I could stay. I can’t explain the relief and gratitude I felt. It worked out!

When I had first found that other place I was anxious (moving is stressful, no matter how great the move), but excited to be moving back to an area I knew and loved and was so close to the beach, bus service, M and doggy. That place was also dog friendly, so M’s precious little girl could stay with me for a few days and we could go for walks on the beach (which was only 5 minutes away). I was also planning on volunteering at the dog shelter again as I could actually get there by bus.

So yes, while I’m extremely grateful that I have a roof over my head, I’m also very disappointed that that place hadn’t worked out. But such is life and there’s nothing I can do about it. Oh, and I have to stay here now until I finally get to move to Sweden, as my dad doesn’t want anything like that happening again.

I’m still floating between here and nowhere. Some days I’m actually able to work and study for 10-30 minutes at a time here and there. So that’s good at least. Every little bit helps. When your executive functioning is in a state of disorder, you’ve got to take the small wins when they occur.

My uncle is still in hospital. But apparently there are some good signs for a change. Wish I could see him. Sent him a message and asked my aunt to let him listen to it. That’s better than nothing.

I don’t feel the connection with my therapist anymore. It’s like it just vanished. Like she never really existed. Yes, that again. But it doesn’t feel bad anymore. I’m thinking that it’s only temporary and a product of my self-protective mode. She said she’ll be back, and I want to believe that exclusively, but I don’t. I also don’t believe that she won’t come back. There’s not really any emotion going on with regards to this. We’ll see what happens.

Taking A “Time Out”

I’m having one of those extreme exhaustion days. Had a meeting this morning with the husband of M’s best friend’s daughter. I’ve met them a couple of times. The wife came with, even though she has nothing to do with her husband’s business. It was a very awkward and anxiety-provoking meeting. I wasn’t sure whether I had to be in “professional” or “familiar” mode. The husband wants a website and redesigned business cards, and heard from M’s friend that I do those things, which is why he wanted to meet up and discuss it. I thought that because I already knew him and his wife and thought they were nice people, that it would be easier. Well, it was actually harder. Mostly because I wasn’t sure how to “be”. Discussing the website side of things went well for the most part, but it was the after, when business talk basically stopped (but still busy with our drinks), that things became very awkward. For me at least. Continue being “professional” or engage in the friendly banter from a more familiar place? My mind felt like a ping pong ball. We were in a restaurant where it was noisy and a cold wind coming through the door (they had chosen a terrible place in my opinion), so that was already not helping. Add in small talk, and I was a wreck on the inside. Don’t know how I came across to them though, but hopefully they didn’t notice. Although it’s kind of hard not to notice when someone is stumbling over their words and taking too long to formulate responses to (useless) questions.

When I got home I got straight into my PJ’s and into bed. It felt as though I had been awake for days, running a marathon. Took two hour nap but I’m still so tired, I can barely think straight. That meeting really took a lot out of me. So I’m taking a “time out” from the world and having a bed and series day. Just don’t have the energy to do anything else. M got a dog a couple of months ago, a miniature French Poodle. I’ve never really liked that breed, but this little one crept into my heart within a few days. M went to her best friend’s place for dinner (I was invited but didn’t want to go), so doggy is lying with me on my bed.

I guess I should go make myself something to eat before I pass out. Been procrastinating on this for the past two hours. Think I’ll just make a sandwich. That’s easy enough.

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.

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.

The Dangers and Complications of Assumptions

I finished a Wilbur Smith novel a few weeks ago. The ending unsettled me.

In the second last chapter, the main character’s wife finds “evidence” that her husband has just been with another woman. All the signs were there. Her assumption could easily have been correct. But it wasn’t. Things weren’t as they seemed. It ends with her taking her own life.

Because of an assumption, a husband lost the wife he adored.
Because of an assumption, a young child lost his most significant attachment.

This really disturbed me. I felt like throwing the book out the window. If you’ve ever watched the movie “Silver Linings Playbook”, you might remember the scene where Pat (the main character) reaches the ending of a book, yells “what the fuck?”, and tosses it through the window. This scene resembled my reaction upon reaching that part of the book I was reading. The only difference was that I didn’t actually throw the book. I treat books like gold.

I had been wanting to write this post since that evening, but hadn’t gotten around to it. But then today, something came up that reminded me about it. I’m not going to go into what it was, as I want to keep some of my relationship details just between me and Elizabeth, where it belongs. I’m not one of those people who will call up their family or friends to complain about their relationship. It’s okay to discuss these things in therapy, but that’s about it. That’s a personal choice.

I accidentally stumbled on something that looked very suspicious (regarding Elizabeth), and my automatic reaction was one of shock, horror, and I felt the blood drain from my face. I went ice-cold. The assumptions came fast. When I became aware of these thoughts and the accompanying emotions, I decided to take a step back. It wasn’t easy, as the adrenaline was coursing through my body. It was difficult to focus. Once I had calmed myself down enough, through the square breathing technique I read in my CBT for Anxiety Workbook (it works!), I started challenging those thoughts. The strangest thing is that deep down inside I already doubted those assumptions, knowing that Elizabeth wouldn’t do something like that, but the feelings and thoughts were so intense that it kind of muted that doubt every few minutes. I knew the thoughts wouldn’t stop (I struggle with obsessive thoughts), or that I would continue to go around in circles with my thinking, so I did what I believe everyone should do when situations like this arise. I asked Elizabeth about it. I told her what I had seen, and asked what was going on.

Something like this had happened before. Not to such an extreme, and nothing this intense, but still significant none the less. I had held onto the assumption I had made, and indirectly accused her, which she quickly picked up on of course. That day, after talking through that, Elizabeth and I had made an agreement. We would ask one another when things like this happen, and not let assumptions rule until we have a chance to talk things through. I remembered that, so this is what I did.

After we had spoken about this thing today, she thanked me for asking her and not accusing her of something that wasn’t true, or automatically running with, and believing the assumption without having spoken to her about it and listening to her side of it. I feel like our relationship has strengthened as well. I’m more secure in it than I’ve ever been.

Anyway, it was not what it had initially looked like, and those assumptions actually didn’t even make sense. They didn’t add up, but the facts did. What she told me, the truth, made complete sense. She even sent me proof, even though she didn’t have to do that, because I trusted her word. There was no fighting, no argument, just a mutual exchange of information and facts. I chose to trust her. I still choose it. She told me that something like this might come up for her in the future too, and then she’ll also ask me before making major assumptions and letting those assumptions dictate her behaviour. I like this agreement. It works. I do trust her… More than I have anyone else in any of my previous relationships. She’s geniune, and has been completely open and honest with me from the start, so I have no reason to doubt her.

In the past I would have believed the assumption though, pushed her away, and vowed to never trust her again. I’ve dealt with lots of negative consequences due to believing the assumptions my mind threw at me. We can’t stop that initial sting, that initial doubt, anger, or any other unproductive emotions that pop up. But we can choose what to do with it once we’re aware of them. Do we challenge them, or do we let them consume our minds, causing further distress? The choice is ours.

Assumptions can be dangerous, as I saw in that novel. I know it was only a novel, but these things happen in the real world as well. That’s the scary part.

The saying “assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups” is a true one. The “ass” in “assumption” rings true as well.

perceptions

It Was Okay

On Monday I phoned the OT who lead the group last week. I’m going to refer to her here as D from now on. I told her how hard I had been taking the events of last Tuesday’s group. That I’ve been holding onto this feeling of shame. Side note: I don’t really know how to let go of shame, other than to try to bury it. But that’s not helpful either, as it keeps coming back. I told her that I don’t want to go to group on Tuesday, but at the same time, I do. I asked her what I should do. She didn’t tell me what to do, but instead, gave me the tools I needed in that moment to make my own decision. She reminded me of a skill I “learnt” previously. Doing the opposite action to how I’m feeling. So if I don’t feel like coming to group because of the emotions I’m experiencing, then the opposite of that would be to go. Something like that. The moment she said that, it fell into place and I made the decision that I’m going to go in. For some reason, she has a strong influence on me (along with my therapist and the OT I’m working with individually). Their words hold more power than anyone else. I felt better after that call.

Walking up to the clinic last night and going inside, my heart was racing, and I felt nauseous. In our session on Thursday my therapist told me that she’s concerned about how often and how many of my Benzo’s I’ve been taking recently. So after that session, I decided to lay off them for a while. Last night was the first time I had it again, and just one, the lowest dose, just as prescribed (even though that dose barely takes the edge off). I had taken it before I left for group. Walking into the coffee shop (where we usually meet), I didn’t even look at anyone. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to stay, but I had already ordered my coffee. Which, by the way, is my weekly splurge. Who thought cappuccino was something to get excited about? I look forward to that cup of coffee every week… Don’t know what I look forward to the most. That or the group. I know, that’s sad. As I held the warm cup in my hand, and heard D’s voice in my head, I suddenly felt this calm come over me. Like a soft, comforting cloud.

It was then that I felt I could face everyone again. That it was okay. So I joined those outside, and that feeling of calm stayed. None of them seemed to look at me any differently… Like I had assumed they would. Assumption really is the mother of all fuck ups, isn’t it? Thinking that they were all judging me, when I was just projecting my own self judgement onto them. At some point I somehow (I have no idea how it happened), spilled coffee all over me. I’m one of those people who always falls over things, spill things, etc. I’m never without bruises (and never just one). My friends joke that when I get my own place I must child-proof it. Thanks guys. When these things happen when I’m around people (other than my friends), I get so embarrassed, turn bright red, and try to cover it up with a joke or two. But this time, I felt… Nothing. It didn’t bother me at all. I didn’t even care that it had spilled on my phone as well, whereas other times I’m paranoid about anything happening to it. Even a drop of water. Yes, I’m that protective over my phone. With all my stuff actually. Even my books. I could have read them twice, but they still look brand new. I look after my things because I can’t afford to replace any of it, and I only keep things around me that serve a purpose in my life.

One of the clinic psychologists was leading the group last night. I’ve always been somewhat wary of him. But the past two times that he’s run the group, I’ve been slowly warming up to him. But I’ll never talk to him or open up to him outside of the group. It was a small group last night, which was actually nice. The psychologist asked who wanted to check in first. One of the guys shared his week. When the psychologist asked who wanted to go next, I actually raised my hand! What?! I hadn’t gone in with the intention of sharing anything. But now, here I was, ready to do just that. I didn’t hold anything back. I told them about my struggle regarding last week’s group, and the aftermath of it. The shame, embarrassment, and fear, I’ve been feeling since then. I didn’t talk down to the floor this time, but looked at everyone as I spoke.

They were all so supportive, kind and validating. I felt relieved, like I could breathe again.

In the second half, we were going through the Barriers to Interpersonal Effectiveness. One of the guys was explaining how he experiences one of those barriers. I had noticed that he used the word “should” a lot. For example, “this person should support me”. I kept hearing my therapist telling me that she doesn’t like the word “should”. So I somehow managed to find the perfect time to jump in and give my input. I told him (and the others) how my therapist catches me when I say the word “should” (and all those other “have to” words and phrases), and has me rephrase it. Such as “I would like this person to support me”, or “I would prefer to have their support”. So I feel as though I at least contributed a little bit. And I still felt so calm. It’s very rare that I feel proud of myself. I’m way too self-critical. But last night was one of those rare times. I did it! And it was okay!

At first I thought (and said) “it’s probably just the meds that’s making me feel so calm and able to talk about this now”, but the psychologist was quick to point out that I can’t attribute it all to medication. That it was me, and that I did well. Thinking about it, I know it’s not “just the benzo”. Because last week I took three of them before the group, and I was still anxious. So one couldn’t have made such a big difference yesterday. I wasn’t dissociated either. I was fully present. At least that’s how it felt.

I felt relatively good driving home afterward. But at the same time, I had this subtle feeling that all was still not okay on the inside.

I’ll write about that in another post. I’m all out of writing fuel for today.