Posts tagged with "self-evaluation"

days of heaven

I don’t get up to much late­ly. Living the life of a gen­tle­man of leisure does­n’t involve a lot more than the front page of red­dit, scrolling the infi­nite feed that nev­er leaves me bored. I also tend take a lot of naps; par­tial­ly cause I’m a poor sleep­er, par­tial­ly cause it makes the hours go by faster (and as a per­son who does his best to nev­er be sober, it resets my tol­er­ance).

Rideau Canal

On Ottawa’s bridge of locks, over­look­ing the Rideau Canal.

I want to devote myself to the pur­suits that inter­est me, but being pro­duc­tive has­n’t been easy. I haven’t had the inspi­ra­tion to write, the moti­va­tion to clean, the ener­gy to exer­cise, the dis­ci­pline to prac­tice, or the patience to med­i­tate. I only man­age to do the bare min­i­mum, which usu­al­ly just involves cook­ing a week of meals for Heather and some vac­u­um­ing before guests arrive.

It’s been hard to form pos­i­tive mem­o­ries cause I can’t con­cen­trate on any­thing for more than a few sec­onds. It always seems like there’s some­thing bet­ter to do, anoth­er but­ton I can press for a quick­er reward. Everything just becomes a dis­trac­tion from how bro­ken I feel.

chocolate poutine

Chocolate pou­tine, where the “fries” are chur­ros, the melt­ed “cheese curds” are marsh­mal­lows with vanil­la ice cream, the “gravy” is crunchy hazel­nut fon­due, and the “panties” are dropped. Then every­thing is cov­ered in Maltesers and driz­zled in choco­late sauce.

Maybe cause I’m old­er, grey­er, fat­ter, more tired, a shad­ow of my for­mer self. Most nights I go to bed feel­ing defec­tive or worth­less, then wake up feel­ing too help­less to do any­thing about it. A few months ago this would have been a sure­fire recipe for depres­sion, but now I’m try­ing to prac­tice non-action over weeks and months instead of days or hours.

Coming to terms with myself and my dif­fi­cult emo­tions — no mat­ter how unpleas­ant they may be — is help­ing me reduce my wants, end my com­pul­sive strug­gling to do every­thing bet­ter, and live more in the moment. For so long I’ve been try­ing to accept the things I can­not change, with­out also try­ing to accept the per­son to whom they’re hap­pen­ing.

Leaning into my trau­ma with open eyes and an open heart also involves pur­pose­ly think­ing about a past I’ve tried my best to for­get, and cry­ing1. It has­n’t been very pleas­ant, but I’m start­ing to feel like less of a vic­tim when I can con­front my suf­fer­ing from a posi­tion of strength and con­trol.

Heather and Jeff

I haven’t had a col­i­tis flare-up in a cou­ple years, which means I put on weight quick­ly, most­ly in the mid-sec­tion. These days I can’t fit into all my pants and rock a dad bod. For the first time in my life, I’ve been cut­ting back on por­tions and snacks.

None of this would be pos­si­ble with­out Heather, who’s been mend­ing the hole in my heart ever since we met. She’s the only rea­son I have the time, the resources, the strength, and the will to car­ry on. Anytime I feel like a bur­den, she reminds me that I’m a wor­thy one; a load she glad­ly shoul­ders, because I add to her life sim­ply by exist­ing.

When I over­hear her telling the cats to be good and take care of dad­dy before leav­ing for work every morn­ing, I can’t help but believe it. No one has ever loved me so much — not even myself — and as my bene­fac­tor, she wants noth­ing more for me than to be hap­py. I’m try­ing to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for that hap­pi­ness by show­ing myself com­pas­sion, even when I feel like I haven’t earned it.

  1. Only pos­si­ble months after I made the deci­sion to stop tak­ing arip­ipra­zole. []

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. []

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. []

I don't sleep, I sit and stare

Autumn in Canada is often as short as it is beau­ti­ful, but this year we lost it to win­ter in just a cou­ple weeks. I sup­pose I’d mind, if there were more rea­sons to leave the house, but at this point I’m con­tent to live in my cozy won­der­land, even if it means deal­ing with the ennui.

It’s hard to tell exact­ly why I’ve lost so much will be pro­duc­tive when my men­tal health is improv­ing, though I sus­pect they’re indi­rect­ly relat­ed. Maybe I no longer feel the need to val­i­date myself or occu­py my time with huge projects. I have to won­der if the med­ica­tion is mak­ing me a fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent per­son, and whether it’s to my ben­e­fit over­all.

That’s not to say that my emo­tion­al scars don’t run deep. I still wor­ry about my worth, my attrac­tive­ness. Still wor­ry about los­ing Heather to some freak acci­dent. Still wor­ry what peo­ple think of me. Still get embar­rassed about things I did when I was 15. Still feel indig­nant about the way I’ve been treat­ed by peo­ple I haven’t spo­ken to in years. The ghosts of the past still haunt me; I’m just not as scared by them.

Magic playing couple

One of my major projects this year was the design and con­struc­tion of my first MTG cube. Now that it’s built, I get to enjoy it with my friends, but that also means I fin­ished an activ­i­ty that took up a lot of my time, and I’ve yet to replace it with any­thing as deep and engag­ing.

Usually, I’m a busy­body when there’s so much hap­pen­ing in my head but the most I’ve been able to do this month is browse the depths of the inter­net, wide-eyed, wait­ing for Heather to fin­ish work, count­ing down the time until I see friends on the week­end. I nev­er thought I’d live long enough to grow old, and here I am in my late 30s with my metab­o­lism final­ly catch­ing up to me.

As the days stretch on it feels like I’m walk­ing a dark­ened path, one that leads in an unknown direc­tion, and I’m too scared of the floor falling out from under me to be excit­ed. I sus­pect that’s why I’ve been roused to inac­tion. Nothing can go wrong if I don’t take any risks. As a per­son who’s still recov­er­ing from a life­time of trau­ma I’m okay with play­ing it safe for now, even if it means my world is small­er and the sky less bright.

an eternally new now

I’ve grown hes­i­tant when it comes to writ­ing about my emo­tion­al state. More often than not, I’m in a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent head­space by the time I hit pub­lish. It’s left me feel­ing like I’m per­pet­u­al­ly wait­ing for a chap­ter to end before I have enough per­spec­tive to get some­thing down. Days turn into weeks into months into scenes get­ting ever small­er in the rear-view mir­ror. By the time I have the words, I’m lost in a new scene again.

It has­n’t giv­en me much of a chance to be mind­ful or present. I can only hope my cam­era will help me remem­ber the details as they pass.

4/20 protest on Parliament Hill

The 4/20 protest on Parliament Hill this year was blessed with mild weath­er and good friends.

Most recent­ly, I’ve been hav­ing con­tigu­ous days that weren’t filled with mis­ery or hope­less­ness, and the fact that I can make “days” plur­al is a small won­der. I can’t explain it on any­thing oth­er than a new dose of anti-depres­sants — 2mg of arip­ipra­zole to top off the 100mg pre­scrip­tion of desven­lafax­ine I’m already tak­ing — but I can tell it’s work­ing. The bot­tom isn’t as deep when I’m feel­ing low. My reac­tion to any set­back isn’t imme­di­ate­ly giv­ing up (on life). Being buoyed by two lit­tle mil­ligrams feels like a cheap answer after search­ing des­per­ate­ly for mean­ing and rea­son for all the pain for so long, but I’ll take it glad­ly.

Continue read­ing “an eter­nal­ly new now”…