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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Strategic Withdrawal

I have been blogging more than eight years. This blog, Beautiful World, is and extension of another blog, Magical World, which I began in March of 2006. I have other blogs, some of which are private, some which are dead, and a couple under my real name which sporadically live and die depending on my time demands. My reasons for blogging as "Samantha" are varied.

1. There was a fellow blogger I wanted to meet, so I fashioned Magical World after his template. I had questions for him. We met and talked via our blogs. He ended his blog a few months later. We continued to correspond through email for about a year. Then he disappeared from my life.

2. I wanted to meet other bloggers who were in similar marital arrangements to my own (i.e. mixed-orientation spouses). We corresponded through our blogs, then moved to chatting online. Most of the blogs that then existed are now gone. Some of the marriages are, as well. I still communicate with a number of the people I met. A few have become close friends.

3. I wanted a place to express what was happening to me as I went through therapy. Blogging served that purpose and seeing my thoughts and feelings written allowed me to work through a number of issues as they appeared. Today I see Therapist on an as-needed basis. Most of the time we communicate through chat or email (something I could never do a couple of years ago). I don't know that I will see him again in person, but I might continue to write about things I need to work on or work through. I don't know that the writing will take place in this blog, however.

4. I needed to talk about my experience with rape and abuse in a place where other people could see it. I didn't necessarily want people to read my blog, I just wanted my story out there, visible, no longer hidden. Initially, I had no desire for anyone who knew who I was to connect the truths on this blog with me in real life. Blogging under a pseudonym allowed me to speak with impunity. Today I don't care if people know what happened to me. I say it sometimes to friends or family members or even people I don't really know. I wrote a Facebook post about it, inviting all who have known me (some for all, or most, of my life) to understand a bit more about who I am and what I have been working on for the past decade. I no longer need a pseudonym.

I have had difficulty with shifting identity. A few months after I started this blog, I found myself BEING Samantha. I lived on a blog. My social circle consisted of people I had never met. My real life felt imaginary unless I blogged about it--and I blogged daily. I registered on social media and other online sites with the pseudonym. I purchased items online, created email accounts, and commented on other blogs under my pseudonym, feeling comfortable and at home in that persona. When Samantha borrowed a friend's birthday so I could play an online game I recognized the unhealthiness of the situation. There was no need for anonymity in that case. I was registering as Samantha simply because I was online and since she needed a birthday... Yeah, the insanity was beginining.

Knowing I needed to get back to MY life, I decided I needed to schedule more offline time. I made certain I was outside more, or practicing, or spending time with my family. I took steps to meet the people I communicated with most often. Most of the time we chatted online for a week or so, then we spoke on the phone or met in person. The feeling of being Samantha persisted for more than three years.

When I finally finished my integration work, I had included a segment I did not talk about here--that of learning how to recognize and really FEEL that Samantha was an extension of me, a persona created for blogging, but not really the entirety of my existence. I am Samantha in the sense that I write this blog and I experience the things I write about, but that is not my real name nor my reality. In a sense, I had to work backward. The integration purpose was to incorporate parts of my persona that I had separated and withdrawn from in the past. But with this, I had to recognize that my life existed outside my blog and was real regardless of how many people noticed or commented on it. In essence, I had to withdraw from my blog persona, recognize that this was a pseudonym, and allow Samantha to be a part of me, but not all of me. I know--I'm whole lot of crazy, but there it is.

Today I am older. My children have grown up; much of their growing up time has been recorded on my blogs. As they have gotten older, I have drafted many of the posts that they might feel self-conscious about. I want to respect their privacy. It's interesting that when blog readers meet my children now, they often feel that they watched them go from adolescents to adults--that they have known them for years even though they may have only just met. Blogging is an oddity in that it allows a sense of intimacy and community between complete strangers.

Most of the blogs I began reading years ago are now gone. Mine has continued to exist purely to serve me as I needed a place to write and work through issues linked to PTSD. I continue to write, but I no longer do so every day. Samantha becomes less real as time progresses, and when people refer to me by my pseudonym, it sometimes takes me a moment to register what we are talking about.

Today I feel a great deal of distance in the relationships that were created online. I'm guessing that's just a symptom of what I'm going through right now. I'm hopeful that those who are involved in my life will help me a little bit. Therapist would say I'm emotionally depleted. Darrin would agree, as would DJ, Adam, and Tabitha. And Samantha. But I don't know what "help me a little bit" means. That sentence stems from a conversation with Therapist a few years ago:

Therapist: That's called emotional depletion.
me: No emotions? I've experienced that much of my life.
Therapist: This is a little bit different. Emotional depletion occurs when you expend a lot of energy with people who seem to need a great deal and/or when a lot of things that affect you deeply occur simultaneously. 
me: Okay, that's what's been happening. How do I fix it?
Therapist: Sam, you don't have to fix everything.
me: This seems to be something that needs to be fixed. Being emotionally depleted does not sound healthy.
Therapist: I think it's just a state of being. Give yourself time. Rest. Be with people who help you feel relaxed, accepted, and loved. Your emotions will balance out eventually.
me: I'd rather just fix it.
Therapist: I'm not surprised. It doesn't work that way. 
me: The "be with people" thing-- I'm pretty sure that's not a good idea for me right now.
Therapist: Why?
me: Because when I'm with people I feel like I have to be engaging or listening or building them somehow. And I like doing those things, but right now it sounds exhausting.
Therapist: Because you're emotionally depleted.
me: I guess.
Therapist: Actually, Sam, being with people - the right people - will help your emotions stabilize more quickly than time will. 
me: I don't agree.
Therapist: Why not?
me: It still sounds exhausting.
Therapist: You know, you don't always have to be the one "helping". Sometimes you can ask other people for help. You can tell them you're tired, or emotionally spent. Maybe you just need a hug or some quiet time sitting with someone who loves you. Maybe you need to let someone else make dinner or do the dishes or read the story. Maybe in these times you need to say, "Can you help me a little bit? I'm having trouble feeling. I think I need someone to say it's okay, and that they love me. Maybe I need someone to take care of me for just a minute."
me: I don't think I can do that.
Therapist: Work on it. 
me: I'd rather not.
Therapist: I know.

So I actually have worked on it. I'm not good at it. I don't believe anyone is good at it, which is why we have passive aggression and emotional manipulation. Needs aren't being met, emotions are spent, so unhealthy tactics are employed to get the things we need from other people. I'm not really good at passive aggression or emotional manipulation. But I'm also not good at saying I need some TLC because I'm a little bit fragile right now. Mostly I just stay away from people and let time work its magic because time doesn't care if we use it and people do.

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