Posts tagged with "reflection"

facing eternity, or the lack thereof

Heather man­aged to snag a job at a great com­pa­ny on the oth­er side of town. She start­ed her train­ing last month, and I could­n’t be more proud of her for mak­ing the cut after months of resumes and appli­ca­tions, hope and patience.

While it makes sense for her to start work­ing, I’ve been forced to deal with an unset­tling void in the house — like the deaf­en­ing silence of a black­out, when the elec­tron­ic hums and glows cease to pro­vide their per­pet­u­al com­pa­ny. We nev­er spent more than an hour apart before this, when she might have stepped out to grab some gro­ceries or a pre­scrip­tion1; near­ly two years where we could­n’t help but be close­ly in tune with each oth­er’s needs and moods. Now, it feels like we bare­ly have a chance to get our dailies with a bit of extra con­tent before it’s time for bed.

Cadem Forest in Plains of Ashford

I always trav­el with my menagerie of cats; this month with Zuzu, Cat of Darkness at my feet (in cel­e­bra­tion of Halloween) and Brill on my back (who’s actu­al­ly a tiger cub).

Losing so much of each oth­er has been a dif­fi­cult adjust­ment. I was­n’t ready for this. It was­n’t a deci­sion I made. I’m not use to being so alone, or even tak­ing care of myself, for that mat­ter2. When she’s away, the void makes it painful­ly clear how much I sur­round­ed myself with her. I can’t even write with­out men­tion­ing her, cause there’s rarely a deci­sion I make with­out con­sid­er­ing her first, whether it’s how we’re going to spend our time or what I’m going to say next.

It’s a dif­fi­cult reminder of many years spent with­out a part­ner or par­ent to rely on. I’ve been try­ing to reclaim my inde­pen­dence by pick­ing up small respon­si­bil­i­ties. Something as sim­ple as mak­ing my space more com­fort­able, whether it’s a thor­ough clean­ing or new light­ing arrange­ment, turns into a chance to suc­ceed and feel accom­plished. Even games become lit­tle projects, ways of exer­cis­ing my cre­ativ­i­ty or keep­ing myself sharp.

I knew Heather would even­tu­al­ly be work­ing, and I’d be alone. Now the day has come, and I’m con­stant­ly won­der­ing: who am I when I’m by myself? What do I do to fill the hours that she’s away?

At least it’s giv­en me a chance to write again. The break has­n’t been entire­ly inten­tion­al. Part of it is the fact that writ­ing takes ener­gy, and I rarely have any to spare when I’m try­ing so hard just to feel okay. Another part is the fact that I haven’t need­ed this in the same way since I met her. She’s become an impor­tant out­let, one who always makes her­self avail­able to me. There has­n’t been the same long­ing to write, cause I haven’t need­ed to vent, or sort out my thoughts, or feel val­i­dat­ed.

Nevertheless, this peri­od of empti­ness has become a chap­ter in itself. A change that will be a great deal of the rest of our lives. I’m stuck here, while the days stretch out before me with end­less pos­si­bil­i­ty. The hard part is final­ly stum­bling into the life I’ve always want­ed, find­ing a part­ner who fills in my gaps in all the right ways, but not being ready for it all.

  1. Aside from a few days she spent vis­it­ing her fam­i­ly last year. It was the first sig­nif­i­cant amount of time we were away from each oth­er since we met, and I had a pan­ic attack before she was out of the city. []
  2. She still han­dles the meals, and has a sys­tem where most things are done in the slow cook­er; all I need to do is pour the con­tents of a bag into the pot and turn it on at a cer­tain time, although, some days, even this can slip my mind. []

quiet revolution

Depression has added an extra cost to every­thing I do. Something as sim­ple as buy­ing gro­ceries means mak­ing sure my ener­gy lev­els are care­ful­ly paced for a few days before I leave the house, and being too burned out to do any form of inter­ac­tion for a few days after. If some­thing goes wrong dur­ing the process — a night of poor sleep, a sick cat, a loss of moti­va­tion, a col­i­tis flare-up — and I run out of spoons, the prob­lems cas­cade and I end up hav­ing to can­cel my plans.

That’s why I choose to spend time with peo­ple who under­stand what it tru­ly costs me to func­tion; they hap­pen to be the ones who are con­sis­tent­ly reli­able, very under­stand­ing if I have to can­cel, and put as much effort into main­tain­ing the rela­tion­ship as I do.1

Heather portrait

Heather start­ed taper­ing off her dose of ven­lafax­ine cause she feels sta­ble enough to take the risk2, and wants to start work­ing with­out the asso­ci­at­ed men­tal haze. Even though music is still a joy­less expe­ri­ence, the fact that she’s get­ting excit­ed about Halloween again is a sign that she’s final­ly heal­ing.

She does­n’t mind car­ry­ing more emo­tion­al labour (and I remain will­ful­ly igno­rant, for the time being), cause she knows I’m play­ing life on hard mode. My job is to make sure she feels appre­ci­at­ed for doing more than her fair share. The crises we’ve been weath­er­ing togeth­er since we met means our hon­ey­moon phase was cut short, but nei­ther of us mind, cause inti­ma­cy is what we were miss­ing for so long.3

self portrait at 35

The fact that it takes me few­er days be to com­fort­able around any­one when my inse­cu­ri­ties get the bet­ter of me means I’m gain­ing some small form of equa­nim­i­ty. I still have moments when I feel too dam­aged to be hap­py, too worth­less to be loved, or too bro­ken to be fixed, but it takes me less time to realign my per­cep­tions with real­i­ty. The lows aren’t as debil­i­tat­ing­ly deep either.

I’ve been using the momen­tum to take small steps out of my com­fort zone; spend­ing more time in dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions, learn­ing to be emo­tion­al­ly vul­ner­a­ble, explor­ing new ways of express­ing myself4, pro­cess­ing parts of the past I’ve tried my best to for­get. Even though I’m anx­ious to feel nor­mal again, I’m forced to rec­og­nize my lim­i­ta­tions and keep myself paced. I know I’m not where I want to be, but I’m mov­ing in the right direc­tion. That’s enough to keep me going for now.

  1. Also, per­haps not-coin­ci­den­tal­ly, usu­al­ly peo­ple who have deal with some form of depres­sion or chron­ic ill­ness in their lives. []
  2. I still have no idea whether mine are keep­ing me afloat, but the fact that I don’t suf­fer any side-effects means I’ll be on them for the fore­see­able future. []
  3. Finding my under­wear washed and fold­ed one day — a respon­si­bil­i­ty I’ve nev­er shared with any girl­friend — gave me the weird­est bon­er. []
  4. The only lux­u­ry pur­chase for me this year has been an Impact LX-49 MIDI con­troller. []

you die, all you do is die, and yet you live

I nev­er intend­ed ther­a­py to take such prece­dence, but it’s become the re-occur­ring event around which I work all my oth­er plans. I’m still learn­ing how to be an emo­tion­al­ly healthy per­son, while unlearn­ing the destruc­tive habits I devel­oped to sur­vive the rela­tion­ships of my past. They affect me every sin­gle day, and I know I’ll be doomed to recre­ate the dra­mas of my ear­li­er life unless I have out­side help. At the same time, it’s not a process I can rush. Every ses­sion leaves me emo­tion­al­ly exhaust­ed, and I need a healthy dose of hap­py to recov­er1. It also takes time to process what I learn, reflect on ongo­ing behav­iours, and put new tech­niques into prac­tice.

I’m for­tu­nate to have found a com­pe­tent ther­a­pist with whom I’m com­fort­able, espe­cial­ly when doing cog­ni­tive work that often leaves me unsafe2. After so many months, he knows enough about me and my his­to­ry to under­stand the kind of guid­ance I need. There’s no struc­ture, but he always lets me start. As a per­son who’s spent his entire life being social­ly sub­mis­sive, the role rever­sal is a wel­come change. It’s a reminder that the time is mine, that I’m free to be myself, that I get what I want out of our hour.

Sometimes, I catch myself wish­ing he would val­i­date me with­out the need to explain myself, but he con­sis­tent­ly remains the neu­tral ally (albeit one with plen­ty of com­pas­sion). I’ve learned that it’s impor­tant he nev­er side with me out of loy­al­ty the way a friend might, so I can trust his opin­ion is always bal­anced and fair. Other times, I wish he would sim­ply tell me what I need to know, but he lets me come to real­iza­tions by myself, to make sure I’m always in con­trol, and to avoid influ­enc­ing me by the act of mak­ing a sug­ges­tion. It’s a unique role in my life that he plays well.

I dread the pain, but still look for­ward to every ses­sion. So much of my progress is tied to the mem­o­ries I’ve kept in the back of my head and the emo­tions I’ve left to expe­ri­ence. It’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty to show myself com­pas­sion, while flex­ing men­tal mus­cles I don’t get to use often enough nowa­days. Not to men­tion the grat­i­fi­ca­tion and hope that comes with uncov­er­ing long-seat­ed, self-defeat­ing thought pat­terns.

Heather has­n’t been com­ing in with me late­ly, but she still comes with; I don’t need her as a wit­ness as much as a sup­port when it’s over. It’s com­fort­ing to know I have a part­ner who accepts me now amid all this uncer­tain­ty, and will con­tin­ue to no mat­ter who I become. She’s the one who tends to my wounds at home, the love I’ve been miss­ing my entire life, the rea­son I’m strong enough to do this work. The least I can do is strength­en my bond with her by learn­ing to be more a trust­ing, patient, and accept­ing per­son.

  1. Something that usu­al­ly involves turn­ing into a blitzed-out her­mit for a few days. []
  2. I’ve always won­dered what oth­er peo­ple’s expe­ri­ence with ther­a­py is like. I don’t know a sin­gle per­son who goes on a reg­u­lar basis. []

so soft with scars

It’s hard to imag­ine what life will be like when I’m still try­ing to sur­vive from one day to the next. I’ve nev­er been more dis­con­nect­ed with real­i­ty, but dis­tance is what I need. At first it was days; now weeks have start­ed blend­ing togeth­er. Stretches of time feel short­er as they get longer. It’s been more than a month since I took a step out­side, and about as long since I’ve seen any­one but Heather. I can’t even remem­ber the last time I answered my phone or made a call.

Every day, it feels like I’m falling deep­er into a hole I can’t seem to escape as I slip fur­ther away from myself. I used to enjoy being inspired and cre­ative, but some­where along the way I stopped dream­ing. The lines in my face tell me my body has paid a price of it’s own. It’s left me unsure of who I’ll become; if only I was­n’t so fond of the per­son I used to be.

My new ther­a­pist is shock­ing­ly young com­pared to the man who retired and forced me to look for some­one new. Every few weeks, we care­ful­ly explore the thoughts I keep tucked away in the back of my mind. Heather often serves as wit­ness, to under­stand what I’ve been through and have to re-expe­ri­ence. It’s exhaust­ing to go into a past that pains me so much, but impor­tant work that I hate and need and want all at once.

girl and cat

Not quite two years ago, her stay with me began as refuge from an abu­sive part­ner. She was a frag­ile girl back then; pan­icky dur­ing heavy winds, blind to her own bur­geon­ing nubil­i­ty, uncom­fort­able around any­one else for more than a few hours at a time. Fortunately, my inse­cu­ri­ty hap­pened to man­i­fest itself as a need to take care of oth­ers, and I found both val­i­da­tion and hap­pi­ness when I had the chance with some­one so deserv­ing. It’s hard to believe how quick­ly our roles have reversed. Now I’m the depen­dent, a posi­tion I have a hard­er time accept­ing than she does1, and one I’ll like­ly have for the rest of my life.

Through my strug­gle, I’ve seen her grow into a con­fi­dent young woman who knows how to cook a steak medi­um-rare (even though she’s a veg­an), enjoys every chance to exert her sex­u­al­i­ty, and often under­stands more about my med­ica­tion than the doc­tors who pre­scribe it. I thought I knew what love was, but every day her unwa­ver­ing patience shows me how much deep­er it goes.

Guild Wars 2 character with Eternity

Totally not com­pen­sat­ing.

This is the face I wear most often as of late, while explor­ing a world large enough for me to get lost in. I can set goals at my own pace, whether they’re sim­ple ones that leave me sat­is­fied enough to sleep, or com­plex, long-term ones that help me feel accom­plished enough to do big­ger things. Every day, I’m giv­en the chance to be kind, gen­er­ous, and pos­i­tive to vir­tu­al strangers, while keep­ing a dis­tance from the real world. I even start­ed a lit­tle guild with my friends, and we recent­ly claimed the hall which we’ll call our home; even if I’m not emo­tion­al­ly avail­able to them, this is how they stop by and spend time with me.

It’s hard not to hate myself when my issues are pre­vent­ing me from being the per­son I want to be. I’m in a rush to get bet­ter, when time to heal is what I need most. Heather reminds me that the suf­fer­ing I’ve been through is the rea­son she feels under­stood and safe. I tell myself that this time is just a chap­ter in the book of my life — a stop on the way to who I am — and that there’s more left to write.

  1. I keep remind­ing myself: she knows what she wants, and what’s best for her. []

in the absence of light

It’s been weeks since I left the house for any­thing but a doctor’s appoint­ment, maybe three times since November. I miss the win­ter, even though it’s right out­side my door. I miss my friends, even though they’re rarely more than a short trip away. It’s espe­cial­ly hard not being able to explain the dis­tance. All I can do is hope they trust me when I don’t feel com­fort­able explain­ing, and try not to feel inse­cure about being so out of touch.

Sometimes, the thought of being away from my safe­ty zone fills me with dread. Other times it’s just eas­i­er to not do any­thing. I bare­ly man­age the effort to wash my hair once a week, and the only rea­son I shave is to more eas­i­ly wipe off the vis­cid sad­ness that so often vis­its my face. I sus­pect I would­n’t even be eat­ing if it weren’t for the fact that Heather enjoys tak­ing care of peo­ple to ful­fill her own need for secu­ri­ty. She’s lived here a few months, and she’s already mak­ing sure the cats have their teeth brushed every day and all the bills are paid. I’ve bare­ly known her for twice that time, and I’ve nev­er been more depen­dent on any­one in my life.

It feels like I’ve tak­en two steps back, but I’m at this point cause it means I’m safe enough to start pro­cess­ing and under­stand­ing the things that led to me try­ing to hang myself from the rail­ing of my stair­case a year ago. I haven’t fig­ured out what it means to keep going, when for so long I believed my life was lead­ing up to that moment, and stick­ing around was­n’t a choice I made for myself. Just fig­ur­ing out how to write about such a large and com­plex expe­ri­ence is often too much. I’m left bro­ken when I sim­ply want to under­stand.

I’m learn­ing that recov­ery isn’t a bina­ry process, but a jour­ney with strug­gles and tri­umphs. I still suf­fer the trau­ma of being moments away from dying. I’m still haunt­ed by the guilt of sur­vival. With so many hair-trig­gers that lead to whol­ly con­sum­ing break­downs, I can’t deny I’m not the per­son I used to be. Right now, it’s hard enough just try­ing to be okay with that.