Disassociation

The brain is a wonderful thing. It’s complex in it’s ability to reason and it goes to great lengths to protect us. I didn’t realize how much my brain has been protecting me until I had a day where it stopped.

I’m not dating. I like someone very much but for reasons beyond my control, we are not dating. We are, however, roommates. This is proving to be more difficult, in my head, than I previously thought it would be. Silly me, I’m always lying to myself about how my heart feels. I missed this person for so long and wanted him around so badly, I figured I’d be ok as just roommates.

I find myself often sad because we aren’t dating. Even though the reason we’re not dating is a good and valid one, my mind still twists this special type of rejection into self loathing and shitty self talk. Apparently I think about all of this more than I thought. I did not realize how much being desired was tied to my sense of self worth.

My brain has been telling me that I’m unattractive, I don’t have anything to offer anymore else, nobody wants me and probably never will (except for sex, but that’s all I’ll ever be good for in their eyes) and so on. For a little while now, I have been numbing to get away from the negative self talk track. I get higher than usual in the evenings. I’ve had more to drink recently. Whenever I tried dating apps, I’d see pictures and think, “They’d never want me” and I’d swipe left on everyone. I had a massage on Saturday and afterwards, I felt grounded for the first time in quite a while. I realized all of this stuff has been suppressed and that’s why I’ve been disassociating.

I have a therapy appointment on Monday. I know my therapist will want to know if I’ve asked my roommate to leave. That was her casual suggestion at our last visit. Somehow, I don’t think my problem is my roommate. I think my problem is more my mind and my crushing lack of self worth and self esteem. I’ve had a long history of people treating me very poorly. I was bullied quite severely, into my young adulthood. It’s a lot to get past/over/through and I’m so angry that those scars still effect me in this way.

I want to be ok with myself, find myself valuable and loveable, whether or not there’s anyone else in the picture. Seems like a good goal to strive towards.

Mother’s Day 2021

Today was a good day. Better than I expected it to be. I had been dreading Mother’s Day for about a week now.

Last week I started thinking back to the person I was when I got pregnant. I remembered all the things I wanted to do but didn’t, largely because of anxiety and depression. When I would tell my mom wanted to as a career, her anxiety took control and she discouraged all my ideas. Instead of seeing her discouragement as a byproduct of anxiety, I decided early on that I was too stupid and ugly (yup, the body image shit was well and irrationally in play) to ever succeed. All of this reflection got me very sad. (But hey! At least I don’t hate my birthday anymore. It’s no longer a reminder of all my failures)

My mom and I didn’t have a great relationship. I am now able to see her as an imperfect person who was doing the best she could. She lived with a lot of anxiety about pretty much everything. Back then it was called “worrying”. I was her bigger, stronger child who was kinda fearless as a little kid. I think that scared mom because she couldn’t predict what I would do next. She couldn’t control me so she used fear as a way to break me down instead. Thinking about the past brought up anger. I’ve had to work through a lot of anger since mom passed. While visiting her gravesite today, I didn’t have any anger.

Instead, I was thinking about how she would have loved to see all of us today. She would have enjoyed the dark humor her youngest granddaughter was whispering to her mom. She would have enjoyed meeting my roommate because she appreciated wit and humor and meeting new people. I was thinking about how much I did miss her. I miss her laugh and her ability to see the funny side of life. I wore a pair of her earrings today. We got Mexican food after visiting mom’s grave, had some beers and enjoyed the afternoon. Despite the mix of emotions, it really was a good day.

Stop Apologizing

I’m nearly certain I’ve written about my propensity to apologize, unnecessarily. I’ll definitely apologize if I’ve done something wrong but this impulse is a bit different. In A League of Their Own, they even mentioned it.

A societal expectation of women has been, be “sugar and spice and everything nice”. Step outside of that expectation and you’ll get labeled a “bitch” or be viewed as “difficult”. I know I certainly was raised to not rock the boat. I was raised to be agreeable and to “obey” (a word that STILL makes me angry).

When I was young, my dad had an temper. I later learned that my grandpa had the same temper. It was the “hold everything in until you explode” type of anger. Seems I recall spilling milk at dinner and it being a big deal at the time. Seemingly silly annoyances would set my dad off. I never quite knew what would trigger my dad’s temper and I was scared of him. Keep in mind, I’ve always hated confrontation and I still do.

I think I started apologizing unnecessarily for things when I was quite young. Mom was often frazzled and overwhelmed. My sister was annoyed by me and my dad had this temper. Whenever I couldn’t get a read on the collective mood of the house, I’d hide in my room, because odds were good that my being around was going to rub someone the wrong way. Most likely it would have been my sister or my mom. After I got married, the annoyed person was my ex.

After I did some work in therapy, I became more aware of this impulse to apologize without actually being wrong, or even sorry for that matter! I’ve noticed recently that I’ve started apologizing again. I catch myself doing it when I can’t “read the room”. Anytime someone’s mood is off, I feel the need to take up less space and ideally, become invisible. Even though my head knows that whatever someone else is upset about probably doesn’t involve me, my impulse is to shrink.

When my roommate is processing whatever he’s dealing with, he pulls away and keeps to himself. I get it, because I do the same thing. However, whenever I don’t know what’s going on and someone pulls away from me, I instantly think I might have done something to upset them. I reign myself in. I’m more reserved, I don’t make eye contact and I’m not affectionate. Why? Because in the past, those actions made someone react with anger towards me. Ever go to hug someone or be otherwise playful and affectionate and they bristle? Not a great feeling at all. It’s rejection on a differently painful level. (Which happened with my ex)

One thing I did learn from therapy (which I *just* remembered as I hit ‘publish’ on this post) is: you’re not responsible for another person’s emotional state. How they react to the world is on them. Likewise, kids are not responsible for their parent’s emotional state or stability. You can’t control other people, you can only control your reactions to them. I often forget these truths, especially when faced with any tense situation where tempers may flair.

My instinct is always to hide instead of being brave in the knowledge that the other person’s reaction has nothing to do with me. I want to be braver and I’m trying to get past my fear of confrontation.

Too Much Time to Think

A day off is normally a fantastic thing. My work week consists of two full days and two half days. With my schedule, I have a good amount of recovery time between weeks. Today is Monday and I’m off. I caught myself falling into an unhelpful, shitty loop of negative and destructive thoughts. I’ve been in a funk for a few weeks, with life stuff on my mind. My roommate hibernated today so I was alone with my thoughts. The morning started off well enough. The dogs woke me to go out at 6:30am and I took my time waking up. At some point, I decided to clean my massage room’s closet. There were two boxes of my mom’s things hiding in that closet. I’ve gone through them before but today, I actually got rid of things.

I kept some jewelry and a few trinkets. I came across pictures of my kids when they were young. There was one of my ex, the boys, my big dog Chico and me. I could remember that period of time in my life and I could see how dead my eyes looked in that picture. I was depressed for a huge portion of my boy’s childhood. I hated my life, all the while knowing there were people out there who would kill to have what I had. The guilt was heavy and it only compounded the depression. I’ve felt unloved and unwanted my entire life and getting married didn’t squash those feelings. I think seeing that one picture brought back all sorts of painful feelings from the past. Seeing that picture transported me to that time in my life and I could feel all my insecurities rise to the surface. I felt all the unhealed parts of myself, as if they’d been freshly bruised and battered. It set off the old and tired loop of: “No one will ever love me. I’m used up and have nothing of value to offer. I’m a waste of space and oxygen”. When this loop kicks off, I also hear myself start apologizing for silly things which require no apology. I actually caught myself doing this last evening.

I took a nap after going through mom’s stuff. Naps seem to save me from my thoughts and I tend to wake up with a better outlook on the day after a nap. I cooked dinner tonight and I’m now back in my room with the pups. When I feel bad, I go on social media to distract and numb myself with animal videos. While on Instagram, I saw a good reminder. I can’t remember it exactly but the essence of it was, everything is temporary. What I’m feeling hurts but it’s important to feel it, but it’s temporary. What that loop is saying hurts but it isn’t true and I won’t feel like this forever. My logical mind knows I’m just dealing with some old wounds and I need to work on healing from it. I don’t quite know how though. I seems like acknowledging these feelings and showing myself some grace could be a good start.

As much as I’d love a partner right now, I feel like there’s still a significant amount of stuff that I still need to work on. I wouldn’t be a good partner to myself if I tried to have a romantic relationship right now. When I am in a relationship, a big amount of my energy goes to the other person and I neglect myself. That’s what happened the last time I dated someone and the romantic relationship imploded, leaving me in a very bad place mentally. I didn’t realize how bad my mental health had fallen until things ended. It hurt like hell but it probably saved me too. The end of that romantic relationship kick started a much needed period of growth in my life. I never thought I’d be thankful for going through such a painful experience, but I am.

On The Right Path

It’s been a tough few weeks with lots of annoying introspection about what I really want in life. I finally think I can answer the dreaded interview question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years??”.

In five years, I see myself happy. I see myself finally content with where I’m living, surrounded by people who love me, in the sunshine, wearing a sun dress, shopping at a farmer’s market or flea market with the other artists and free spirits. I will have a stable, safe place to live. I’ll be making decent money, so I’m comfortable. Also, I see myself with a job that I don’t hate. I probably still won’t feel like I have things figured out, but it won’t feel so scary.

In five years, I hope I’ll have a partner too. Someone who loves me for me and isn’t trying to change me. Everything I want in a partner is equal to everything I’m prepared to give to a partner. Seems only fair, right?

I don’t understand girls who lay out a laundry list of requirements and will only reciprocate if some poor soul complies with all their demands first. I’m sure you’ve heard girls say, “Well, MY man better do x,y,z for me if they ever wanna piece of this!”. Yeah, sis…sure. *eye roll* But what are you going to bring to the table??

I don’t have much in the way of possessions or wealth, but I do have my heart, my emotional intelligence, my communication skills, an inquisitive nature and I’m up for trying new things. I’m hoping that counts for something.

I still don’t know when or how I’ll achieve this version of my life but I do feel I’m on the right path.

The Anxious Mama Bear

I saw a meme that said, ” Motherhood is really about accepting the fact that you’ll be permanently worried for the rest of your life”. I can’t think of a better description, to be completely honest.

My boys just had their birthdays. They’re both possibly moving out of the house and into whatever phase is next. I’m up 1.5 hrs before my alarm was set, just thinking about it all. My oldest is trying to coordinate a transfer to the big city. My youngest is planning to join the military later this month. They’re growing up and starting new chapters in their lives. This is supposed to happen. It means as parents, we’ve done alright. Right? I should be happy but it’s terrifying.

Now, the reason I’m anxious isn’t because I think they can’t handle it. I think they can, it’s just new. I know how I am with new things and I’m probably unnecessarily anxious on their behalf. Projection is what it’s called. I have to trust they’ll be OK with whatever challenges that come up. I have to trust I’ll be OK with any new challenges.

I feel I’ve procrastinated or not pushed as hard when it’s come to my goals because I wanted to make sure my boys were set first. It’s true but it has been a handy excuse to stay where I am right now. Both my boys have told me to just go after what I want and not worry. It brought me to tears because I’ve rarely have been given permission to go and be me. Not that I needed permission, I just needed to know they’re going to be OK if I’m not close by. I suspect the anxiousness I’m feeling will get worse before it gets better. That’s usually how it goes.

As I get older, I see more clearly how little in control of things I am. I can only control my responses to the world and that’s it. I don’t want control over everything or everyone. I just want to know everything and everyone is going to be safe and well.

The Rate of Projection and Unconscious Reactions are infinite.

I have been experiencing a lot of growth this year so far. It’s been intense. Most of my revelations have been deeply personal and all have revolved around things I need to heal from my past relationships. When people never communicate their feelings or discuss how events effect them, it’s a set up for failure, in my opinion (and experience). I was never modeled good communication skills, boundaries, or any of those important tools one needs to be successful in relationships. I learned “on the job” as it were. I was not a great student. I was an unconscious student, reacting from my own pain and unable to see anything but my own pain. Therapy helped me react from a conscious perspective and it’s saved me. Codependency was modeled as a “normal” way to operate and I am still unlearning things ingrained from childhood.

I’ve gotten a bit better at analyzing my uncomfortable feelings and reactions when they pop up. When something has touched an old wound, I do withdraw and become pensive. Some might call my reaction “pouting” but that isn’t completely accurate. Withdrawing is a protection mechanism and the whirlwind of discomfort has been the birthplace of many epiphanies.

What’s happened recently to make me write this blog post?? I’ll tell ya.

I was sitting on the couch with my roommate (who is a fella I dated before, I care deeply for but we aren’t “dating” right now because we’re just trying to survive life at this point) and I was rubbing his back a little. Maybe “petting” him might be more accurate. Nonetheless, he said he hated it when people did that. To him, it’s feels like someone giving false comfort, paired with a throw away phrase or two of fake reassurance. This is hard for me to explain so I’ll paint a scene instead. Picture upset person #1 with comforter person #2 gently rubbing their back and spouting flimsy platitudes about whatever being “OK” (when it most certainly isn’t). Make sense? Now, this wasn’t our actual scenario at all. But to him, it reminded him of such an scene and possibly feelings from a past experience. My response was to stop and slap his back instead! Not in anger, but in a playful way. I actually was checking on him because I thought I heard him getting sick in the bathroom. Turns out I heard wrong and I decided to go back to bed. I noticed this morning, when I woke up, I was feeling sad and had uncomfortable (and familiar) feelings bubbling up. Something about this short interaction from hours earlier was bothering me. But, why?? To fully understand, you’re gonna need some context.

I got married way too young, to a man I didn’t know at all. As I found our years later, he was planning to go back to Mexico when we found out I was pregnant. He only decided to stay because he didn’t want another man else raising his kids. Noble, but he didn’t stay because of me. We got married and he didn’t love me. I thought I loved him but I wasn’t even experienced enough to understand what loving someone looked like or meant. During the early years of our marriage, he was angry and resentful about seemingly everything. He was with a woman he didn’t love, working hard to provide for children he didn’t plan for in a country he had planned to leave. He was often angry towards me, said unkind things often, wasn’t helpful around the house and felt that since he earned all the money, he shouldn’t have to lift a finger. As the years went on, the resentment turned into acceptance but I still never felt loved by him. I felt like he put up with me because this was the hand he was dealt whether he liked it or not. I felt rejection from him often, especially when I tried to be loving in a physical way. Even reaching out to touch his arm felt like an intrusion and annoyance. Reaching across the space between us in our king sized bed felt like an unwelcome invasion. Physical intimacy dwindled to once a month, if at all. We became roommates, at least that’s what if felt like. Living separate lives, existing under the same roof, much like my parents did for years. We’d get along but there was no emotional connection one might expect after spending 22 years as a married couple. This is why we’re divorced.

When my roommate said he hated when someone pets his back, I felt rejection all over again. My roommate did nothing wrong. He wasn’t mean to me. He only voiced a preference. That’s it. But I felt all those icky past feelings of rejection and being made to feel like a bother/nuisance/unwanted all over again and it really sucked. I still haven’t had a proper cry either. I do still feel a bit sad, even though I’ve analyzed the hell out of this and understand it all on a logical level. I probably need to take a nap to help me fully process. It’s quite exhausting being me sometimes. This is definitely coming up in my next therapy session.

My Inappropriate Client

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does happen, I never respond how I wish I could in the moment. My flight, fight, freeze response seems to be stuck at “freeze”. I was told this has been the familiar response by other massage therapists who have encountered this particular client.

In my email to the office manager, I said I should not know what any client’s bare backside or genitals look like, and yet I do. Basically, the situation I found myself in was not as “harmless” as I was lead to believe. If any client moves the drape to expose themselves, it’s inappropriate, needs to be addressed and I’ll leave it at that.

I finally got back to practicing massage therapy at the end of 2020 after a year long hiatus. I signed on at a great place which offers chiropractic care, decompression, acupuncture and massage. I love the environment. We are treated like people with value. That’s quite a switch from the massage franchise chain where I first started practicing. When I signed on at my current employer, I was told they’d always have my back if ever I had a difficult client. True to their word, I was told this recent client would be spoken to and I do not have to see this person again.

I have past experiences with sexual harassment, sexual trauma and dealing with this situation stirred up all that old stuff from before. I found myself apologizing for existing, again. I found myself thinking my roommate was upset with me (for absolutely no solid reason whatsoever). I started feeling like I was an annoyance again. A perfect storm. Let the overthinking begin.

This experience flipped me into that person who diminished herself and tried to live smaller. One who felt she needed to apologize for existing. I’ve fought hard, for years, to stop needlessly apologizing and living small. I didn’t see what I was doing until my roommate gave me some perspective. It helped me dig deeper and analyze what I was feeling and why.

Healing from the past rotten experiences is a continuous process. I welcome the growth and epiphanies. I just wish it wasn’t so uncomfortable at times. This feeling really challenges my impulse to apologize for being a human who is working through past trauma. I’m still learning to relax, ask for what I need and be kinder to myself overall. Finding an emotional response balanced between ferocious tiger and stoned sloth is my goal. At this point, my emotional barometer lies closer to that of a Chihuahua after 2 espressos, but I’m working on it.

Better Out Than In

Feelings. Who needs ’em, right?! What pesky little monsters they are. Who knew suppressing them could mess me up as long as it did?!

I have a roommate now. He arrived the second week of December and I welcomed him here with cautiously optimistic arms. You see, we have some history which was very painful on both sides. We used to date and we dove into dating, bypassing out brains in the process. A year ago, we were two battered, well meaning, imperfect human beings who triggered each other’s wounds frequently and thus, split in an abrupt fashion.

We reconciled, thankfully, around Thanksgiving 2020. Honestly, this is one of the bright points of 2020 for me. I needed this renewed friendship for my soul. There’s some folks in this world that are so rare and you don’t want to let them go. He is a kind, caring and understanding person. That is my friend, my roomie, the one I couldn’t simply forget.

I wrote about this before but, having him here has made me realize my old patterns and conditioning within relationships. Living together has brought up this sort of stuff for both of us, which has been good. I welcome the growth. Lately, I have been processing so much of my own stuff that I’ve felt really disconnected from reality. At work I’ve been going through the motions, here but not present. Lights are on but someone is in the basement smoking weed in the dark. Their face illuminated by the glare of Seinfeld on TV, completely ignoring life. In the distance, a dog barks. I’ve felt like this for about 2 weeks now.

Last night, I finally talked about what was going on inside my head. Last week, I was working on a lady who reminded me of my mom in a way. This lady was around the age my mom would have been if she was still with us. I got to thinking how I wish I could have given my mom a massage. I finished massage school in 2018. Mom died in 2016. I started to tear up during the session and stuffed those feelings down so I could finish my day. I didn’t address them once I was home either and my mood started to sour. After evenings of drinking, distraction and suppression, stuff finally came to the surface last night. I had to talk about it and my roomie was there, listening and supporting me. He lost his dad and can understand and empathize, which helped tremendously. When one brings their heart to a conversation, making the other person feel safe to share and doesn’t judge? It’s amazing. It’s what I want in a person and it is what I strive to be for others.

A lightbulb week

I’ve been off work since Dec 10th thanks to a Covid diagnosis. Today is December 30th and I’m still testing as positive. Hopefully my next test will be negative so I can get back to work soon. A few days before I got sick, a friend came to stay with me. Him being here has been a blessing and we’ve had a great time together. We’ve enjoyed cooking together and watching shows, football and movies.

It’s funny how being under the same roof with a man that I think highly of, sure has made my former relationship wounding rise to the surface. To the surface, but most importantly into my awareness. This week especially, I noticed my past conditioning has bubbled up. I noticed myself apologizing for being me. I noticed that I felt compelled to shrink, as a conditioned reflex, even though no one expected that of me in my current situation.

Becoming aware of these old responses made me angry at how I once existed. It also made me quite sad and that sadness lingers. I’m sad because I spent so many years in a relationship where I couldn’t fully be. I’m thankful for this lightbulb moment. Now I have the awareness and opportunity to unlearn living small in relationships. I’m getting better at being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Bring on this new season of growth.