Posts tagged with "friends"

laying low

At some point, the most I could do was sit by the window and face the lawn. It’s hard to say how many hours were spent looking outward, interrupted every now and then by food I could barely taste or swallow. For a person who needs to stay active to cultivate a sense of worth, it was a sign I was beyond her reach, and at a point where I was no longer able to help myself.

When she began to cry, I asked what was wrong. “I didn’t think you’d give up”, she explained, something made apparent when I couldn’t manage a veneer of pleasantness for the sake of being polite to friends or strangers alike. I once told her I would stick around for her sake, but in that moment we both understood it was a promise I couldn’t keep.


I wonder if I’ll ever be able to. It’s hard to remember what life was like before I was so emotionally exhausted. Even when the external sources of stress are far away and my head is above water, it still feels like I’m drowning. When that generically redolent scent of taxi leather hit my nose, it used to mean I had a plane to catch, a flight to take me out of the country, an adventure awaiting; now it’s a portent of deafeningly silent waiting rooms, and psychiatrists who know too little and talk too much.

I keep my fretting fingers trim but the calluses keep healing over, cause I can’t concentrate long enough to improve (also why it’s taken me so many months to write this). The house is a barely contained mess. My phone is overflowing with notes, texts, voice mails, things I can’t keep on top of. It’s been forever since I talked to Darren, even longer since I made a trip out of town. I’ve grown sensitive to loud noises. I barely recognize my own face.

That’s how I know I’m not ready to process parts of the past yet. Going so many years without a reprieve has left me drained of coping resources, and when I’m barely managing my needs for safety and survival, there isn’t any room left for growth or improvement. I need more time to heal, to replace upsetting memories with new experiences, to be in a stable place before revisiting the most traumatic parts.

Heather by the window

For the moment, that means working with my natural energy patterns and momentum as I try to develop healthy habits. It’s left me up at odd hours, eating irregular meals, and largely house-bound. Heather tends to my needs and never leaves my side for more than 15 minutes. I’m fortunate to have a small support group helping me look after things — dropping off groceries, bringing my car for maintenance, paying the bills, driving me to appointments — small tasks that seem daunting when so unsure of myself. Misun even offered to help sell the house and fly me to France so I could live under her care indefinitely; if only one could be carried by the love of one’s friends alone.

It pains me to be here waiting, feeling like I’m missing opportunities for happiness every day, but I’ve learned that progress can’t be rushed. Not just cause I have to tread so carefully through the past, but because I’ve been down for so long that it feels like it’ll never be up again. That’s why I have to trust her when she tells me things will eventually be okay. Until then, I spend my time lost in the Dark Tower, appreciating a sobriety I wasn’t prepared for, looking for duels in the borderlands, trying to feel normal again.

stay is a sensitive word

I haven’t been able to come up with a way of explaining the absence. I guess I’m still figuring out where I stand at this particular moment, and what it means to keep going. Many days were lost to the flux of ambiversion, when all I was trying to do was survive the balance of how much space I needed with how much comfort I could only get from others. Suffice it to say, I’ve learned the importance of taking the time just to feel okay, which has mostly involved enjoying the games I’ve put off playing for so long, spending time with those who make me feel wanted+needed+awesome+loved, and drafting as often as possible.

girl and cat

My birthday came somewhere in between, a day I got to pick all the shows, eat dirty bird, and nest with the cats on me when they weren’t in the cuddle train. It made the whole day mine, not because it was something I asked for, but because someone wanted to give that to me.

I’m slowly letting my guard down, letting myself share new songs in the dark, so the positive experiences become a permanent part of me. Making new memories is a step towards soothing my history with heartbreak. The comfort I find in our embraces carries me through the time we’re apart, but feeling safe is still very foreign. Just touching fingers is a vulnerable step, and it’s like being on a tightrope every time I put aside my insecurities to make progress. Thankfully, she hasn’t let me fall yet.

Magic: The Gathering and beer

Most recently, I started working at the busiest comic book shop in the city as one of the resident Magic experts. It’s left me trying to find my balance again, even though the job is part-time and never feels like work. The position mostly involves running the tournaments, trading/selling/organizing cards, and giving people game advice; things I already love doing in my spare time. A nice bonus is the fact that a new friend happens to be one of the regulars at the Modern Constructed tourney, and I get to root for him and see how he does between matches.

Shawn even came in to say hi and give me hugs on my first day. Reminders all around that make me feel worthwhile, instead of just believing it. It’s the difference between knowing something in my head to my heart, a gap I’m starting to bridge with help from the right people.

200 miles just to learn

The only time Rob and I ever had a private conversation was the night before Aaron’s wedding, when we were the last ones up out of the groomsmen staying at my house. Aside from that, I wasn’t sure if I’ve ever connected with him on a personal level; I’ve been discovering how differently some behave when others are around, and with Aaron or Mel in the mix, he’s got even more to prove than usual.

But I could always tell that underneath the brash and indomitable impression he gives the world is a wisdom not shared by many. It was exactly that kind of awareness I was looking to be in the company of, so I took the chance to visit when it would be just the two of us. Even though we’re so different in so many ways, it turns out the things we have in common are more significant, and I discovered he’s exactly the kind of friend I need right now.

photo montage

The man-cave mostly features posters of comic book heroes and cartoon figurines, the only pictures being found in a little frame next to the computer. It was strange to see two of myself in there next to one of him sucking back a beer with Trevor. That was back when I rocked my hair with a part down the middle and occasionally some solid colour, though I don’t remember anything about it otherwise — a strange anomaly in a person with a photographic memory. Lost the hoodie, still have the coat, won’t be caught wearing those glasses again.

The only other people who have a picture of me in their homes are Aaron and Alex. I always take those photographs as a telling sign of your relationship with someone. It means they care enough to want you around even when you’re not there. I guess that’s why each of them have more photos of me than both my parents combined, and why Rob calls me brother.

changing dressings

The nurse comes every day to change the dressings and keep an eye out for infection. Aside from the listing hobble, you’d never have an idea of the punishment this body has borne underneath, until a wince when the tube drags against his shirt. That and the fact that there isn’t a bottle of Blue in his hand. Otherwise, the accident didn’t change Rob at all. He’s still the happy-go-lucky, take-it-on-the-chin kind of guy. To him, the world has always been simple, an equation that can be solved with muscle and mass, and he carries both answers in spades.

Under any other circumstance, I’d hate him. He’s obnoxious, stubborn, and proud; a type I don’t get along with. But I’m also on his good side, which means he’s loyal and loving unlike any other, and he shows this every time he squeezes the breath out of my chest until I’m weak and coming up for air. Through him, I’m learning to understand and accept the people I’d otherwise turn away from.

the loving dominant

My relationships function best in a one-on-one context, when I’m giving a single person my full attention or vice versa. I see myself as the dominant most of the time. But power flows from the bottom up and I’m a pleaser too, so I frequently assume the submissive role cause I enjoy it (need it?) so much. Knowing that I can make people happy is something I thrive on.

At heart though, I’m a very dominant person, and I never realized I was missing an outlet for those tendencies until Shawn handed me the remote as we were about to watch Game of Thrones. He read me well enough to know that I enjoy taking care of little details, and he’s even more of a pleaser than I am, so he gave me control, even though I recognize that he’s the more dominant person1.

Over time, I’ve become the one to do the talking, to decide what we do, to make the small choices that remind me I have wants and needs as much as anyone else. Shawn’s a person I respect, and he’s naturally “better” in the ways that are important to me, so being in control when we hang out has been really fulfilling. I’m getting better at speaking out about things that bother me and thinking of myself and being stronger in general.

  1. I highly value intelligence, so it’s natural for me to submit to more intelligent people, and he’s way more intelligent than me. He’s also a lot stronger of character. []

tin cans and string for years

Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.

—Alexis Carrel

I’ve been discovering that I don’t know how to take care of myself. Not in a practical, everyday sense, but a cognitive one. Consistent psychological abuse during my formative years meant I never had the chance to develop some important life skills, like how to nurture my emotional needs, how to make mistakes, and how to view myself without judgment. The poison was in the wound, you see, and the wound wouldn’t heal.

So far I’ve just started recognizing these issues in therapy, and it all makes me feel damaged and defective, likely why I’ve been hiding these parts of my life from others for so long. But I’ve been hiding them from myself most of all. It’s hard to go through the painful but necessary process of grieving when I’m alone; always easier to ignore things and keep going.

I asked Tiana to help me through this, cause now I know I can’t do it by myself. It wasn’t easy. Even the simple idea of asking for help makes me anxious. People who’ve had major roles in my life have hurt me or let me down in a very significant way, so trusting others has always been hard, and I’ve avoided being vulnerable for so long because of that.

Luckily, Tiana responded the way I needed her to, and it’s been a great comfort to give myself up to someone I can trust. To be able to cry in front of a person without feeling guilty about my emotions or how I’m making them feel. To be able to talk to someone who’s receptive and attentive and gentle and caring and appreciates my openness as well. To be the little spoon, cause everyone needs to be held sometimes. She lets me let go, and for the first time, I’ve been able to surrender myself fully and still believe that I’ll be okay. I can sigh with relief instead of sadness.

These are still baby steps though, and the whole process is terrifying. My sense of control is what makes me feel safe, even if it’s detrimental to my growth, and I’m still learning how to give that up. But I tell myself it’s progress nonetheless, which is what I need now.