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.

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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.

No One To Take Care Of But Myself

It’s been such a relaxing day, and I’m feeling pretty good.

On Thursday I felt stressed because it looked like it was going to be a busy weekend. I had plans to meet up with my business partner friend on Friday, go to the dog shelter on Saturday morning, meet up with a lady from group afterward (not the other lady that I’ve vowed never to meet up with again), and spend time with Jasmine on Sunday. But I made a decision on Saturday morning. Jasmine could wait a week, and I would rather go to the shelter on Monday after work when it’s quiet (most people volunteer over the weekend).

I’m so glad I made that decision, because when I do too much over a weekend, especially socializing, I’m left feeling exhausted and am overwhelmed at the thought of work on Monday. My week then starts with me already feeling irritable. So this was a form of self-care.

Yesterday was a good day as well. I met up with M from group, and had a nice time. She’s absolutely lovely. She’s 75 years old (but looks 10 years younger), and had a daughter who shared my name, who sadly passed away a year ago. Yet, M is such a ray of light. She’s calm and positive (not annoyingly so). We spent almost two hours together and I left feeling relaxed and content. She’s definitely someone I want to make time for and keep in my life.

I slept in this morning, which was glorious, and have been feeling peaceful and relaxed the whole day, doing little things I enjoy. I’m content being on my own, and love being in my room the whole day without having to go anywhere. I don’t really get bored. I realized on Friday that I don’t have anyone to take care of anymore. It was never really my responsibility to take care of anyone, but it was a drive I had. It still feels a little strange only having myself as a responsibility, but it’s starting to feel okay.

As I’ve discovered, managing my time, social interactions and activities is so important to my well-being, and I feel like I did a great job with that this weekend. I’m grateful that I get to learn and practice taking better care of myself now and getting my own needs met. I still believe in kindness toward others of course, and helping where I’m able to, but I’m done neglecting myself in order to do this. I matter too. We all do.

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My Boundaries Still a Work in Progress

Yesterday I met up with a friend from group. I hadn’t seen her since our last session in December last year. I wasn’t planning on seeing her again. She invited me for brunch, and I felt obligated to go after having turned down a couple of invitations from her earlier this year, so accepted. That was my first mistake.

It was the longest and most exhausting 4 hours. As soon as she started talking, I realized that I really didn’t want to be there with her. She didn’t have one nice thing to say about anyone, complained about everything and everyone in her life, and didn’t give me a chance to speak. I should have left sooner, but I didn’t feel like I could. I was scared of upsetting her. I didn’t listen to or respect my own boundaries. And I allowed her to cross them too.

I left feeling drained, irritated, and barely able to form a coherent sentence when my dad asked me a question when I got back to the house. I desperately needed a nap, and proceeded to sleep for 3 hours straight! It was dark when I woke up, which made me even more frustrated with myself. But I’d had enough negativity for the day, and decided to watch some Frasier. I needed some good “feels”.

Another reason I had felt obligated to meet up with her is because she’s often told me that she doesn’t have friends. She said it again during brunch, complaining about a new friend she had made who she quickly unfriended due to what seemed to me a silly reason to end a friendship, but to each their own I guess.

I was thinking though that I’m not responsible for her not having friends. It makes me sad to think that she doesn’t, but it’s not something I have to, or can, fix for her. And it also doesn’t mean that I have to be her friend just because she doesn’t have any others. That’s not a true friendship. That’s a sympathy friendship. So I’ve decided that I’m not going to meet up with her again. I just can’t do it. I won’t.

I need to take care of myself first.

A Need For Solitude

The older I get, the more I seem to want my own space away from others. Socializing exhausts me. I spent time with two of my closest friends this weekend, staying over on Saturday evening. It was lovely, but I didn’t want to stay another night. They know me well, so I don’t have to wear a mask around them and I feel comfortable enough to tell them when I’ve had enough. They know it’s not personal. That I love them to bits, and enjoy spending time with them.

It’s not just being sociable that exhausts me. It also depends on the activities we engage in. For example, if we go on a hike or a walk on the beach, I can spend more time with people. But when it involves sensory rich environments such as carnivals/festivals (this is where we went on Saturday evening), concerts, movies, etc, I become overwhelmed and over-stimulated, and want to get back to my comfort zone (my room, my bed, my stuff) much sooner.

Every so often (very often actually) I long to just disappear for a while. Go somewhere quiet, surrounded by nature, with not a soul or building in sight for miles. Switch my phone off and disconnect from everything and everyone. But my financial situation won’t let me do that. I wouldn’t mind going camping, which is more affordable, but it’s too dangerous to go alone. So I feel stuck in an overwhelming world. My little corner of the world.

So when my friends asked me whether I would house-sit for them for about a week at the beginning of August, the decision was an easy one. Granted, I’m not someone who enjoys sleeping in unfamiliar environments and beds (even when on holiday), and I always have to prepare myself for it mentally. But I’m usually okay as long as I have my “comfort items”. My family and friends always tease me about the fact that even if I’m going or coming for one night I pack as if for a week-long trip. And it’s not clothes and other essentials that are taking up all the space. But I can’t help it, it makes me extremely anxious any other way.

While I’m looking forward to getting away from this place for a few days (and from work), I’m also a little scared as I’ll be staying alone. They have two cats (I’m not really a cat person) and two little dogs, so that’s a comfort at least. The neighborhood they live in is quiet, so I’m looking forward to the peace, and plan to enjoy my time there as much as possible. Maybe I can see it as practice for one day when I eventually have my own place.

I’m supposed to be seeing my friend/business partner on Friday, but I just don’t want to, so I’ve decided to postpone it until next week. I’m going to group tomorrow anyway, so really don’t want to have to socialize more than that this week.

 

Life

The writing block I’ve been experiencing has lifted. It happened on Thursday after my therapy session. I had this desire to write a poem, and it just flowed so naturally again. And damn did it feel good.

During our session I could actually feel some mental block crumbling. I managed to express myself relatively well, and talk about some of those things I haven’t been able to even write about yet.

There are a few things I want to write about that I hadn’t been able to. I still have processing to do with those topics, so I’ll definitely be writing as I get around to it.

As most of you already know, I’ve been having a hard time since stopping the medication (Lamotrigine) that’s been serving as a mood stabilizer. I don’t believe that the decline in my mental health has just been due to that. There were other factors involved as well. I think that just made these other things harder to deal with.

My step-brother ran away from home again. Once again without so much as a hint to me that he was going to be doing that. I’m disappointed and hurt because he promised me after the last time that he would tell me when he’s planning to pull that stunt again, and let me know that he’s safe. But he didn’t. And once again, his phone was off for a few days. He eventually let us know that he’s moving out. He’s living with a girl friend and her uncle. He asked me whether I would help him take some of his stuff to his new place, so at least I know where he’s living (I’ve promised not to give my dad the address though). This whole situation has caused a lot of family conflict and issues. Things are tense here at home at times, and plain weird at other times. My heart sinks every time I walk past my brother’s room and remember that he’s not here anymore. I’m going to miss seeing him every day. Things just aren’t the same without him.

I’m also worried about my eldest younger sister, who my mom is convinced is back on drugs again. All the signs are apparently there. It’s hard living so far away from my mom and sisters. It’s frustrating, especially at times like these.

Then there’s Jasmine. I haven’t seen her again since the time I wrote about in my post “Elizabeth, and the Dilemma“. I’ve sent her messages from time to time asking how she’s doing, and letting her know that I’m still around and here for her. It takes her a few days to respond. Last week I sent her a message saying that I think it’s about time that we get together and talk this whole thing through. She agreed to meet on Friday, but then sent me a text telling me that we won’t be meeting up anymore. It’s Monday, and I still haven’t responded to that message. This is the first time I’m “ignoring” someone. I’m angry. Hurt. At this stage, I’m not even sure whether it’s a good idea for us to remain friends. That maybe it will be better to just cut ties completely. That idea hurts. But it feels better than this feeling of being in limbo, and not knowing when or what is happening or going to happen, and knowing that there’s a possibility that she’ll end our friendship anyway. I mean, if she’s not even able to meet up with me for coffee, how’s it going to be when she meets Elizabeth for the first time? Is it going to be awkward? Probably. I just don’t know what to do. I don’t want to do anything I might regret, so I’ve decided to rather just step back. I’m not going to reach out to her anymore. The next move (if there is one) will be hers. I’m done.

Another little update. I’ve started a new medication, Dopaquel (Quetiapine). So far so good. No side effects as far as I’m aware, other than the obvious drowsiness that this med is known for. I take it in the evening’s, and it helps me sleep… It’s glorious. I’m hoping this one will be it for me.

Elizabeth, and the Dilemma

About an hour after writing my previous post, my mood started climbing again. All memories of Wednesday’s “negative” events just vanished. It’s like they stopped existing, and never even happened. The happiness I’ve been experiencing has been amazing and intense. I had a few hours of mania on Monday last week, and that was insane! But no, the happy space I’ve been in lately is the more stable kind. Extreme, but not in the “danger” zone as it was that Monday.

So, about Elizabeth. We met just less than three weeks ago, dated for just over a week, and then on Friday we made it “official”, as the kids say these days. There was a connection between us from the first date already. We spent almost 3 hours together, and would have continued if we didn’t have to catch our bus home (to our own houses of course). As it was, we ended up having to chase after the bus, as it was the last one of the evening. That was a hilarious (and fun) moment! Life is an adventure with her. She’s already been opening up new worlds for me.

She’s an extrovert, but not the extreme type that makes me fear for my sanity. She enjoys spending time alone too, and up to turning down invitations if she wants a quiet night in. She’s an artist (I love her art!), but that’s not her main job. She’s working in another field (don’t want to give too much away for the sake of anonymity), and studying for her social sciences degree. I really like that she loves learning new things. It’s something we’re both passionate about.

Elizabeth has a nice solid, stable sense of self. I never have to worry whether she’s “faking it”, as she’s very expressive. She speaks her mind, so I don’t have to wonder what she’s thinking or feeling. She’s not afraid of talking about the difficult things. One evening she told me that I have a very expressive face, and she really likes that. Now that came as a surprise. It was in that moment that I realized that it’s true… just how much of my guard I drop when I’m around her. For some reason I’m not afraid of being vulnerable with her, and allowing my feelings to be shown. It’s easy. She has a lot of empathy and compassion towards others. My family adores her… Even my stepsister, who never liked anyone in my life. She gives them her evil eye. But from the first moment of meeting Elizabeth, she liked her. Once Elizabeth had gone home after that first meeting, my stepsister kept telling me how cute and nice she was. I felt so proud.

I don’t over-share with her. I find that I only share certain things when it comes up in conversation somehow. It just comes, and flows naturally when I do share with her. When I first met Jasmine, by the second week, she already knew my whole life story (well, a lot of it at least). So I’m enjoying this, taking it as it comes, and not feeling this pressure to lay it all out on the table in one go. Elizabeth knows I have BPD. It started when she asked me one Tuesday what plans I had for the evening (she had dancing practice). I told her that I was going to a support group. On our next date she asked me type of support group it was, and I told her. She didn’t seem to be bothered by this at all. During the conversation that ensued, she told me that one of her closest friends has BPD (she was speaking very fondly of her). This was the perfect moment! So I told her I also live with it.

I was expecting her to either get up and make some excuse to leave, or look at me differently. But she didn’t even flinch when I told her. I kept waiting to see her expression change, but the only thing I could see on her face was compassion, and genuine interest. She asked questions, of course, but knew exactly what BPD is. I felt so heard and at ease talking to her about how BPD, depression and anxiety affects me.

I can’t be someone’s entire world again. Best friend, lover, parent, saviour, etc. In all of my past relationships I’ve often felt claustrophobic, and there was a whole co-dependent thing going on. Even with my ex-boyfriend (yes, I have one of those). So I love the fact that Elizabeth has her own group of friends (who I’ll also hang out with from time to time with her- and vice versa), and her own hobbies and activities that are just hers, and that I have mine. It’s a breath of fresh air. Thankfully, when she goes to dancing or out with friends, she sends me a little voice note just checking in sometime during the evening. It helps me feel secure in her and our relationship.

With Jasmine, relationship wise, we were a match but not a fit. If that makes sense? As friend’s we’re the perfect fit. With Elizabeth though, it feels like both a match and a fit. Jasmine obviously knows about Elizabeth. I was completely open and honest with her from the very beginning.

It’s so hard though. I feel like I’ve let Jasmine down. I don’t want to lose her. But she has been pulling away from me, which is completely understandable. It’s a tough situation. Even though she was the first one to say that we should rather be friends, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy for her. I guess that’s why people don’t remain friends with their exes… And especially not best friends.

I invited Jasmine out for dinner last week Friday, since I knew she really needed a friend then, as she’s been struggling lately. Especially with her new job. I didn’t bring Elizabeth up, but I was open to her bringing her up. I tried to be my usual self with her as far as possible, and I think I did a good job. I know there’s an overconfidence bias where we think we did or know something better than we actually do, but I still think I did quite well here. Jasmine didn’t end up mentioning Elizabeth either. The conversation and dinner went okay, but Jasmine didn’t talk as much as she usually does, and didn’t open up much. I sent her a text a few days ago, telling her that if she wants to talk about all of this, she’s free to. That it might be helpful and good for her to get it all out in the open. I invited her for coffee today, but she turned it down.

I always have to drag things out of her. Even when we were still in a romantic relationship. The way we’re going to get through and around this is if we sit down and honestly talk about it. I’m aware that she probably just needs time. But how much time? I care about her so much, and just want her to be okay. Even if that means we never see one another again, if that’s what she thinks will be best for her. But I want to know how she’s feeling, what she’s thinking. I just want her to say something. Even if it’s something that hurts me.

We’re all (a few other friends of mine and Elizabeth’s) going to an event together on Thursday, but I’m not so sure whether Jasmine will still be joining. If she does, I’m a little worried. I can’t not hold Elizabeth’s hand (her love language is also touch, and she’s very affectionate in public too- to a reasonable extent of course), but I also don’t want to put our relationship on “display” in front of Jasmine. It’s not fair to her. But it’s also not fair to Elizabeth by keeping a bit of distance between us. So I don’t know what to do. I don’t want my relationship with Jasmine to interfere with my relationship with Elizabeth. This relationship is too important to me. But I also don’t want to hurt Jasmine anymore than I probably already have.

When I first started developing feelings for Elizabeth, I thought of Jasmine, and how it might affect our relationship. I even considered ending things with Elizabeth for the sake of not messing things up with Jasmine. But then I got a flash of insight. I’ve always sacrificed my own happiness, and put my life on hold, for others. But what about me? Don’t I also deserve to be happy? I never used to think I did, which is why I always lived for others. But through my healing journey I’ve come to realize that I’m important too. That I’m only responsible for my own life and happiness. Yet, I’m still struggling with this feeling of guilt.

What do you guys think? I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this.