Posts tagged with "friends"

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. []

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.

Self-portrait

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. []