no man an island

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 cri­sis1. 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 Heather2. 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 world3. 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”…

  1. During a par­tic­u­lar­ly bad day a few years back, Heather asked her to send me a text in sup­port. She replied, “Jeff and I don’t text”. Not only was that com­plete­ly untrue, it was a real­ly shit­ty excuse for her to do noth­ing. []
  2. I’ve since learned a great deal about the qual­i­ties that make a rela­tion­ship healthy and suc­cess­ful. Consequently, my stan­dards have risen. []
  3. Part of my ven­ture into polyamor­ism is because I want to expand my sup­port net­work. I’m inter­est­ed in hav­ing more peo­ple care about me, per­haps cause I’m eter­nal­ly try­ing to fill the hole left by my par­ents. []

lost weekend

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”…

reprieve

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.

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don't add me to the weight you carry

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 November1.

cute girl

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”…

  1. The fact that we now know he’s home­less and liv­ing on the streets of Toronto is cold com­fort. []

projector

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…1

Continue read­ing “pro­jec­tor”…

  1. It blows my mind to know that Heather’s love for me isn’t con­di­tion­al, that she loves me deep­er that I’m even able to under­stand at the moment. []