Posts tagged with "vulnerability"

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. []

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.

a million distractions to keep me warm

Two hours lat­er, I woke up with­out any sense of direc­tion.

Now I’m try­ing to fig­ure out how to stay awake so I can be tired enough to fall asleep again. The fatigue isn’t enough to keep me down. I had a big break­fast, some­thing I haven’t done in as long as I can remem­ber, owing to the fact that they used to be the rit­u­al of a per­son with week­ends and a need for rit­u­als.

At some point along the way, I real­ized it’s eas­i­er to take care of my friends and help them fix their prob­lems. I can’t fig­ure out why I’ve avoid­ed deal­ing with my own, but I decid­ed that as long as my dis­trac­tions are ful­fill­ing and healthy in them­selves, there’s noth­ing wrong with that. Sometimes, there’s noth­ing else one can do.

In turn, they’re help­ing me through this odd pas­sage of time, where I find myself unsure of what to do or feel. I’ve had to open myself up to give them a chance to help me. It always leaves me vul­ner­a­ble at first, but when they lis­ten and under­stand and sup­port me, all my inse­cu­ri­ties go away. It’s a tan­gi­ble love that goes far beyond words and inten­tions.

this is interlude

I was­n’t ready for the snow. I pic­tured myself at home with noth­ing bet­ter to do than sleep in as it was falling, but instead I’m too busy to enjoy it. Now there’s noth­ing left of the snow that has fall­en, cause fate seems to be con­spir­ing with the weath­er to make this Christmas any­thing but white.

Unfortunately, this is when I need to be buried under snow. I’m con­vinced the win­ter will wash every­thing away, and I’ll emerge clean again.

boy plays with man

I don’t know what to do with myself late­ly. Ever since Will was born, catch-up time with ____ has been a call he gives me every now and then between meth­ods of pub­lic trans­porta­tion as he makes his way home from work. I just want to talk to some­one and have their undi­vid­ed atten­tion, cause it’s the old habits I miss the most, the late nights when you’d rather stay in some­one’s com­pa­ny than sleep. But the only peo­ple who under­stand are also the peo­ple with their own lives, and too often I’m left to my own devices.

As a result, I’ve been feel­ing vul­ner­a­ble. I hold myself back from reach­ing out to the wrong arms, the ones who touch my face and drag their nails across my skin, the ones with famil­iar smells and com­fort­ing weak­ness­es, the ones who appre­ci­ate the things I want to be appre­ci­at­ed for, but none of whom can give me what I need.


Dennis’s socks.

I’m sure I’d feel as lone­ly as ever if I was­n’t so over-stim­u­lat­ed and ready to be by myself for a while. This prob­a­bly won’t hap­pen until some point dur­ing the hol­i­days, and even then, I had plans on catch­ing up on per­son­al projects and chores I can only bring myself to do once a year1. Maybe this is adults mean when talk about how time pass­es more quick­ly when you’re old­er.

I’m in between places now, unsure of where I am or where I’m head­ed. But at the very least, I know what I’ve been through and what’s behind me.

  1. i.e. Cleaning the floor­boards and walls of the house. []

the lives of songs

She told me she tried to find this album I used to put on when we were hud­dled in the dark­ness. The prob­lem was that she could only remem­ber the cov­er, and it was after we stopped talk­ing for the third time or some­thing cause oth­er­wise she would have asked.

Then she was in Chapters one day. This book of best albums of the 2000s fell down, and there it was, Ágætis byr­jun, open at the page. “What are the chances?”, she asked me.

Sigur Rós Ágætis byrjun

I used to think of her lis­ten­ing to the songs I gave her with anoth­er guy and grow jeal­ous. But I could nev­er say I did­n’t have my own mem­o­ries asso­ci­at­ed with that album, lying between a wall and warm body on a bed swollen with cov­ers in New Jersey. I watched Jón Þór Birgisson sing into the pick­ups of his gui­tar, his ethe­re­al voice gen­tly mak­ing the strings trem­ble, in a sum­mer romance so long ago.

That was my intro­duc­tion to Sigur Rós, and in the same way I passed this album on to her. It made me feel so vul­ner­a­ble to be next to her in those moments (whether she real­ized it or not). Every time it came on was an emo­tion­al flash­back, a short-cir­cuit to this part of my past about which I’ve told so few.

I used to hope she kept the songs I gave her to her­self, and that she did­n’t use them to woo anoth­er guy the way I had always tried to with her. Perhaps I was a lit­tle pos­ses­sive about my music and some­what judg­men­tal on who I deemed to be deserv­ing enough to hear it. Eventually I real­ized that it’s not fair of me to feel that way. She had shared so many songs with me in turn, giv­ing me as much as I’d giv­en to her, and I’ve since passed those songs on to oth­ers.

Now I won­der who else will even­tu­al­ly expe­ri­ence these songs, and what mem­o­ries of their own they’ll have when they hear them.