Finally Feeling It

I spent some time with my uncle yesterday. Since he was diagnosed with cancer, I’ve been feeling pretty numb about it. I have had fleeting moments of anger and disbelief though. Driving home after seeing him yesterday, a deep sadness came over me. The kind of sadness you feel everywhere inside your body and that just sits there. I couldn’t cry. Just feel it as it took my breath away. Such a deep pain with nowhere to go.

It scared me when I saw him yesterday. He’s lost so much weight, I don’t know how he has the strength to even stand. We went for a short walk on the beach and then sat there for a little while until he got too tired. When we got back to his place I only stayed for a few minutes so that he could get some rest. He told me that I’m the only person he looks forward to seeing and that he can really talk to. I’m glad that he feels like he can talk to me, and that he phoned me the day he was feeling at his worst. He doesn’t need people telling him at every turn what to do and what not to do. How to feel. Which is what the rest of the family does. He’s got doctors that do that. He needs family who will listen with no judgement. Who will be there for him. I don’t always know what to say. Most of the time I don’t say anything. I just listen. And apparently that’s exactly why he feels he can be open and honest with me.

We have a special bond. We always have had, even during those times where I felt far from him. The time it felt like I had lost him. I feel like I have him back again, and the thought of losing him forever, terrifies me. A part of me wants to push him away. To not feel the fear, the pain. But I also want to hold tightly onto him. I love him so damn much, and hate seeing how much he’s suffering. I wish I could just take it away from him. But I can’t. All I can do is be there for him. It’s so hard and painful though.

The one person I really want to talk to about this is my previous therapist, A. But I can’t. She knew the relationship I have with him, and was there when he moved out and I was having a hard time with that. I’m missing her even more than I usually do. I’m aching to hear her voice and see her face again. For a hug from her.

Tonight, the sadness is still there. But I can cry now. It’s got somewhere to go.

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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.

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.

I “Forget” People

I may have written about this before, but it’s really bothering me today. One of the most frustrating things about myself is that I seem incapable of holding onto an image of a person. I can miss that person intensely. I could have known that person my entire life and seen them nearly every day. Yet, when I try to recall what they look like, there’s nothing but a shadow. That shadow is blurred as well, so there’s no edges or silhouettes providing clues to their facial features, or even their body and the way they move.

When I walked into work on Friday there was a guy sitting talking to my dad. He left about 5 minutes later. I asked my dad who that was and he asked me how I couldn’t know, as that’s the guy that was sitting in the office talking to him for an hour the week before. The thing is, there were moments when that guy was talking the week before that I just stared at him (I enjoy watching people when they’re not aware of me), so you’d think I would have recognized him. Not so. I have to see the person a few times before I recognize them. According to certain people, this isn’t normal. I was once even told it might be ADHD related. That I’m just not paying attention. But that’s not always true. And I don’t have ADHD. Maybe something in my brain is broken. There have been a couple of times where I’ve seen a face in my mind during an extremely stressful moment, such as in a flashback or suicidal moment. I can count those on one hand though.

This has always been a part of my life. I remember a movie I watched as a kid. I can’t remember the name of it now. The boy in the story had just lost his mother, and told his father that he’s afraid he’ll forget his mothers face. The father told him that when you love someone you don’t just forget how they looked or the sound of their voice. This confused me. I thought that maybe it meant that I didn’t love my own mother or grandmother enough to remember what they look like when they weren’t around. Even if I had just seen them recently. I don’t think I ever asked anyone about this, but it haunted me back then.

There are a few people I wish I could “remember”, one of them being my grandmother, but I have to look at a photo if I want to see what she looked like, and I only have one of them. I can remember some exact sentences and things she said to me, but I can’t remember the sound of her voice. This really doesn’t help when you have attachment issues. It’s difficult to hold onto someone, to self-soothe with memories of that smile you got from an attachment figure or loved one for example.

I can’t even see an image of my dad’s face in my mind, and I just saw him an hour ago! Sometimes this thing is a blessing, but most of the time it’s just confusing and frustrating.

It Didn’t Work: Attachment Styles

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.

 

A Nightmare, and Trust

In a previous post I mentioned a recurring childhood dream that had come back. I had this nightmare quite a few times over the past two months or so. I spoke about it with my therapist two weeks ago, and thankfully haven’t had it again since then.

The dream is always the same, sometimes just with different characters and settings. Even though the end scene always takes place in a kitchen, the house or area is different.

It starts off with me running through a dark forest. I’m hungry, cold, lost, and terrified. There are people chasing me. The closer they get, the more their features start to change. They’re suddenly not human anymore. They’ve become monsters, and they’re trying to kill me. I find places that look safe and run into them, only to be greeted by more of these monsters. Among them are people I know or used to know. Even people I like or love.

In the final house I run into, I find myself in the kitchen. There I see someone else I know (a family member, friend, teacher, etc), with their back toward me, chopping vegetables. I feel a sense of relief, and start telling this person about the monsters and asking them to help me. As I get closer to this person, they turn around slowly, smiling. Their familiar face starts to change and distort, the smile becoming threatening and evil. Eyes glowing. I see the knife they’re holding is dripping with blood. I try to scream, but no sound comes out. This person, my last hope, and it’s gone. As this person lunges at me with the knife, I wake up. Sometimes the dream goes on, and I’m fighting this person who is now on top of me, strong and heavy. I realize that I can’t escape, but carry on trying to fight this monster off. I always wake up before I get killed.

I don’t know when these dreams showed up in my childhood, as that time of my life is fragmented, blurry, and a lot of it, forgotten. But I can certainly understand the context of not knowing who to trust, where to go for safety.

Growing up, I rarely felt safe. My parents got divorced when I was still very young, and whether I was visiting my mother on her weekends and holidays, or at home with my dad, step-mom and step-sister, I didn’t feel safe or that I could really trust anyone. There was shit going on in both households. We moved around a lot as well, and I went to quite a few different schools in different cities, each time moving further away from my mom. Back then, my dad and step-mom would tell me that my mom didn’t want me, so it shouldn’t matter. They made me believe that she didn’t really love me. And when my eldest younger sister came along, I got even less of her attention, and those words they would constantly feed me, just embedded deeper within me. It was only in my late teens that I learned the truth of the situation. So is it any wonder I have trust issues?

When I told my therapist about this dream she said that it makes sense that I would have that dream now. I’ve had a difficult time this past while, with certain relationships changing and ending. Having to build up trust in a new relationship as well.

What I’m wondering is why I have dreams and nightmares that I had when I was younger? Shouldn’t they be a thing of the past? A child/teen’s mind that changes and grows? Do any of you have recurring childhood dreams show up later in your life from time to time?