Loneliness, or the fear of abandonment whenever I was dating someone, have been reoccurring themes since my childhood.
I’ve never regretted the decision to cut out my parents for the sake of my mental health, but that still means I lost the only people who had a responsibility to help and accept me (as terrible as they were at living up to that). It was a necessary but traumatic choice. Then I had a falling out with my ex-bestie, which came about after I realized he wasn’t the type of person I needed or wanted in my life, and further robbed me of stability. ____ became my best friend after that (even though I was extremely reluctant to label her as such after my experiences), until I finally stood up for myself and she decided she didn’t want to be held accountable for her actions. Heather and I compared notes afterwards to discover she was avoiding me every time I was in a crisis. I’ve had a lifetime of significant relationships with emotionally ignorant people who would never apologize or admit that they’ve ever hurt me.
Then there’s Pat, who acknowledged he was a being a poor friend for not staying in contact the last time I spoke with him. Maybe it was the fact that I was crying that pressured him into promising to call me more often. That was about seven years ago, and I haven’t heard from him since. I’m still mourning my relationship with Shawn for the same reason; a person who literally saved my life who no longer has time for me in his. Relationships with positive people whom I loved and looked up to, that withered when I stopped initiating contact, leaving me with more questions than answers. Relationships where I’ve done nothing wrong and still suffer a loss. Part of me can’t help but feel confused, and scared that anyone in my life may disappear simply cause they’ve lost interest.
Surviving the fallout of each experience meant I came out with really messed up expectations whenever it comes to other people. Even now, it’s hard for me to feel safe, no matter how close I am to someone.
My first truly secure relationship — one where I could express difficult thoughts and feelings without being blamed or abandoned or invalidated — started in my mid-30s with Heather. When my depression and colitis kept me isolated the last few years, I was particularly worried about being overly dependent on her. At the slightest hint of trouble, it felt like my world was coming down because she was my world. When I turned to other people for help during my lost weekend, I soon realized I have a wonderful network of friends and family.
Continue reading “no man an island”…
I used to have a rule. If I ever feel like getting high and staying home instead of going out and doing something — anything — then I’d make a point to do the latter.
Otherwise, it would mean I’ve given up. That there’s nothing out there for me, and anything the world has to offer is no better than what I have in my house and on the internet. It’s a rule that served me well for years; one that kept me healthy and balanced and off my ass.
So when I found myself in my neckbeard nest after another month, not particularly caring whether I got up or showered or shaved, I knew I was in a bad spot. Of course, just knowing there’s a problem isn’t enough to rouse one into action when basic hygiene hardly feels worth the effort.
Continue reading “lost weekend”…
With bones weary, a lion shuffles along the bank of a narrow stream, seeking a gap to cross without getting wet. His gait is unsteady and laboured. A lopsided clump of hair frames his face, edges darkening along the mane. The gamut of scars he wears — from light scratches that have faded in the sunlight to deeper wounds that are still healing — add depth to his coat, and speak of the battles he’s survived.
He doesn’t make the jump. His back paws dip in the water but he walks on without shaking a leg. With a pensive nose raised high, he explores the boundary of his territory.
Sets of eyes watch him as he trots. They keep their distance at first, then more pairs join the further out he goes. Before realizing it, he finds himself amongst a clan of hyenas, scattered and curious and very alert. They gradually circle and close in.
Continue reading “reprieve”…
For Christmas vacation, Heather and I decided to head to her hometown for a few days with her family. Every holiday is uniquely difficult in its own way; this year I could tell it was hitting her harder than usual. She’s been my foundation since I met her, but under the strain of travel and the pressures of the parents, she began to crumble. It didn’t help that her brother — who suffers from schizophrenia — went missing in November.
One of the highlights was seeing old family photos, especially Heather at various stages of her life.
To be helpless in the face of such hardship made me feel like a burden, perhaps cause I’ve been struggling to regain my sense of self-worth. The most I could do was be present and extra attentive to her needs as she sat in her chair each night and chewed the inside of her cheeks for comfort.
Continue reading “don’t add me to the weight you carry”…
A while back, my therapist asked, “Do you think Heather will love you, regardless of whether you’re actively contributing to the relationship?”. I told him I wasn’t sure, cause I was still trying to understand the concept of unconditional love. As a child, my parents told me they wouldn’t love me if I wasn’t a good boy, and a good boy would do exactly what they wanted. The affection they doled out was directly related to how well I did in school, or how much I impressed other parents. They used it as a tool to control me, and this dynamic has influenced my understanding of relationships to the point that it feels like I constantly need to be making efforts in them (or they’ll decay).
So my therapist instead posed the question, “Do you think Heather will love you, no matter what?”. My first reaction was one of confusion; I heard the same question as before. When I realized it had completely different implications — would Heather still love me if I was an axe murderer; if I was racist; if I burned the house down; if I didn’t love her back — it dawned on me that I was projecting this monumental requirement on myself to be constantly making efforts towards the relationship. It wasn’t an expectation Heather was bringing, but my own; one I projected on her due to my childhood trauma.
To realize that I was doing this in such a specific and significant manner was a shock. My mind inadvertently made bounds in logic, and every time Heather said, “I’ll always love you”, I would hear, “I’ll always love you, as long as…“
Continue reading “projector”…