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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Talking about things doesn't always make sense anymore. There was a time when it was crucial for me. Not talking led to the feeling that I was less, shameful, that if I actually spoke the things that were hurting me, I would be left alone. Talking about that helped me understand a few things:
1. I'm only one of many with similar experiences (in other words, there is nothing special about suffering silently).
2. Initially, when I am most vulnerable, there will be people who will take time to help me through the hard part. When I am stronger and need them less, they will return to the important things in their own lives.
3. Nothing that happened to me indicates shame on my part. Being defenseless is not a weakness, it's simply a part of being young and small. A person who takes advantage of one who is defenseless is shameful.
4. I am allowed to say the things that hurt. I may or may not find an audience for my words, but I am still allowed to say them.

My initial hope was that I would talk to a professional, there would be a "fix" for every problem, and all my past hurts would go away. I've spoken with people who have basically told me that was their experience. It has not been mine.

It's possible that I'm my own worst enemy. When one aspect of the trauma I experienced begins to feel better, I immediately identify and tackle the next one. Maybe I just need to stop doing that and be grateful for the progress I've made.

One of the biggest problems I have is that I function beautifully in a social situation, but I have no idea how to understand the emotional complications of close relationships. My impulse is to simply say the things that are causing me distress, or to enthusiastically crow my deep, loving feelings for anyone who is close to me. I've learned that most people don't do that, nor do they respond well to me when I do. These are the tacit rules for close relationships that I have gleaned over the past decade or two:
1. Ignore the small things. Pretend they will go away (they won't, but if you use your energy ignoring them, you can be surprised or uncomfortable when I tactlessly point them out and ask if we might do something about them).
2. You actually can tell someone you love them too many times. I'm not one of those people who becomes annoyed when it's said too often. I spent my childhood and teen years not hearing it once from my family. When I was 16 and 17, a few of my peers said it to me. Two of my teachers from church told me they loved me. That absence created a vacuum inside of me. I can never hear it enough now. Always it is welcome. Always it makes me feel beautifully happy. It is a mistake, though, to believe others will feel the same when I say it to them. They have boundaries. I'm not always good at recognizing those.
3. I should not scoff at the "Love Language" thing. It's real and it serves a purpose in close relationships. I was skeptical when it became a cool discussion item many years ago because in my head, everyone needs some form of touch, time, affirmation, service, and gifts from the people they care about. To identify a main one, in my mind, was to exclude the importance of any other needs a person might have. Shifting the focus to a main love language seemed like a bad idea. However, as I've come to understand myself better, I've realized that someone could send me a lovely gift, but if I've not spent time or talked with them recently, the gift feels meaningless. I'm just not a person who cares about "things." And unless I have time to connect frequently with someone, it's very likely that the other four love languages will have no impact, with the exception of touch which will probably freak me out and repel me.
4. I don't get to choose the way a relationship changes. Well, that's not true. Restated: I only get to choose 50% of what happens in a relationship.
5. Time and space in relationships are vital for some people. I need to respect that. I also need to understand that I probably won't know how to interact with them when they come back because I'm sort of broken. And they don't like to be told that. They want to believe that they have the freedom to come and go and nothing will change in my level of close feelings for them because that's how it works for most people. It makes people who have been close to me uncomfortable when I tell them I'm happy to see them, but I'm not really interested in frequent interaction with them anymore. I need to stop talking after the "happy to see you" part.

This is a crazy week for me emotionally. I don't know how I feel most of the time. It seems that when I decide how I feel, or what I should do next, someone surprises me. For example, on Saturday my life seemed to suddenly melt down. I couldn't stop panicking or crying or shaking. Eating was not happening. Sleep was not my friend. Life felt completely painful in every way. Therapist had told me this might happen. He suggested when it did, the I send a text to people who have been supportive of me in the past, just asking for some reassurance. Lame. I hate doing that. Saturday, though, I was sort of desperate.

So I sent the text to a few people, knowing that because it it was Saturday there would probably be no immediate response. When my phone rang a moment later I was almost too surprised to answer. I let it ring a couple of times, debating whether or not I really wanted to talk to anyone. Then I answered. And I had a really wonderful conversation with a person who allowed me to know of the things that were causing him difficulty in his life, as well as showing interest in the things that were bothering me - letting me support him as he did the same for me. That's balance. That's what is missing very much in my life right now. He gave that to me.

So now I'm sorting through stuff and trying to make sense of what's going on inside of me. I'm still too overwhelmed to really address anything, and if I'm asked questions I probably won't be able to really express the things that are painful and confusing. I tried talking with Darrin about it. Darrin is not stellar about listening without fixing or personalizing. It did not go well. So right now I feel a little bit isolated and misunderstood. When I'm done being self-centered and stupid, I'll probably stop feeling that way. Mostly, though, I need this week to be over, I need Darrin to get a job, and I need to go for a run. Right now.

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