I've spent a lot of time during the past ten days thinking. During the month of June I had no days off. And there were too many days to count when I worked more than 15 hours. So Thursday night I packed my bags and left home for the weekend.
I spent time with my very large, very loud family. This does not seem like it would be restful, but I scheduled quiet time when I was alone - time for regrouping and more thinking.
As expected, the reunion with family had its ups and downs. That didn't matter.
I've realized that I've come to a place where I would like to allow friendships and even closer relationships in my life. I believe I've learned that I can trust - however, whether or not I will trust is still something I will allow only sparingly. I'm not ready for anything more. But I'm also understanding that if relationships with people become less close or transparent, I'll be okay. The need for reassurance and frequent connection has eased.
Therapist will tell me that's healthy and good. I'm sure he's right.
Therapist will remind me that frequent interaction between people who do not share a household requires a great deal of work and emotional stamina on the parts of both people involved. He'll say that sometimes one or the other won't be able to contribute what's necessary. He'll talk about being patient and forgiving and coming together again when the time is right. And I'll listen and believe him because again, he's right.
Finally, after a decade, I have figured out how to ignore the impulses and feelings that are the result of living with PTSD. The ones that tell me if someone really cares and wishes to have me in their lives, they'll work just as hard as I do to make that happen. I'm no longer heeding the voices that say I'm unnecessary or disposable. And I think I'm too tired to feel the intensity of emotion that has bound me to people but made me feel the relationship was unbalanced and that I was vulnerable.
I suppose I just feel calm. For the past few weeks I've sent texts that weren't answered and phone calls that weren't returned to a number of people with whom I have a close relationship. Therapist asked me how I felt about the silence. I surprised us both when I said it didn't matter. I further surprised myself when I explained that I knew those people had things going on in their lives and we had moved beyond the point when they could take time to be playful or responsive when I communicated with them. Therapist asked why I sent the texts and made the phone calls if I knew they would not receive answers.
It's a good question. A year ago my answer would be very different from what it is today. The truth is that while the sent messages and voice mails, no doubt, seem trivial and pointless to those who received them, I was including them in the little things. To me, that's when you really love someone - when you say whatever is on your mind whenever you want to because you want to share with them. Probably they don't understand that. Probably the messages from me are intrusive and annoying.
As I said, a year ago I would feel sad, wish things were different, try to figure out how to make changes so I could fee more comfortable and less vulnerable. Today, it doesn't matter. I cannot be anyone except the person I am. Which means I might randomly communicate with someone I consider an important part of my life regardless of whether or not they respond.
Therapist's next question: And how long will you do that without reciprocation?
Another good question, and not one I'm really going to spend time on. No doubt, at some point I'll take the hint and stop being so noisy, but I'm not going to do so until I can do it without feeling resentful or hurt. The silence on the other end has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them. Their lives are busy, or maybe I'm communicating at inconvenient times, or maybe they just don't want to play anymore. I'm okay with that. I've felt that way, myself, occasionally.
I came to this place once before, a very long time ago. I realized that my circumstances - the fact that I was largely ignored and clearly unwanted in my family relationships - were causing me to feel angry much of the time and always desperately sad. I didn't know how to obtain physical affection on a non-sexual level, so I avoided touch at all costs. My interactions with everyone were tainted by the knowledge that I could never invest in friendships or other relationships because I had no worth or desirability.
When I understood that I felt that way I was 17 years old. I looked in the mirror and said this, "There is nothing wrong with you. You're no uglier or prettier than any other person. You have a lot to offer. If the people in your life are too blind and stupid to notice, the best course of action is to find a place where, if love is not a possibility, you feel, at the very least, appreciated. But you can love people. You know how. So it's time to leave the place where you feel invisible and make a place for yourself somewhere else."
So I got a job a few hours from home, told my parents I was leaving, and I left. Within weeks I had made more than one wonderful friend, I was dating, and I never looked back. I lived at home briefly after my first year of college, but left again after two months. I needed to be where I could thrive.
I think I'm in that place again. I've become strong enough to weather whatever life throws at me. And while I'd rather do that weathering with support from people who care about me, if that doesn't happen (for whatever reason), I can do it myself. Being with my family these past few days has helped me understand, with clarity that has been missing from my life for quite awhile, that I'm resilient and I'll be okay.
So Therapist wonders if the texts and phone calls that received no answers were a test on my part-- not for the recipients, but for myself. I suppose they were. I was watching to see how I would respond. I was making sure that being ignored would not bring panic attacks or PTSD episodes. I needed to see exactly how strong I was. And now I know.
Therapist's question: Does this mean you no longer want to reach out to people or foster close relationships?
No. I've worked very long and very hard to build and foster relationships in my life. But I've also felt that I was being controlled by my need to have them and my intense fear that I might lose them. I'm absolutely willing to continue those relationships indefinitely, but I'm not afraid anymore. It's a good place to be. I'm loving the calm.