Wednesday, the 13th of August, 2014.
For a very long time, I thought that intimacy necessarily came with intense anxiety, foreboding and even dread. I believed that a normal part of me getting to know someone involved me breaking down. I believed that I would always hold a low level of discomfort in my body around the people I was closest to. I didn’t believe that I could ever truly trust another person, because whenever I tried to exercise my version of trust, I would end up feeling betrayed.
Not receiving any proper guidance in these matters as a child has meant that I have had to muddle my way through them on my own. I have had to make a lot of mistakes and alienate myself and others that I care about, a thousand times over. I didn’t believe that I was significant enough to have any affect on another person, nor was I important enough to ask for someone to accommodate me. I would foster intimacy with anyone who seemed interested in being with me. Neglect can give a person such a profound sense of worthlessness. I bonded most closely with those who were also desperate for a life-line and because we were all drowning, none of us could be trusted.
It is much much harder to get to know people who have a stable sense of identity. They want to know all about me, they want me to be able to articulate my opinions and desires and to be able to move fluidly between talking to them and letting them go like someone who trusts that they will come back, and even if they don’t, that everything will still be okay. They talk to me as though I am a well adjusted person, just like them.
It’s somewhat alarming that there is so much casual disdain for people who are not acting in ways that we can understand. I have been in a lot of uncomfortable situations lately, where people are describing behaviours that I have fully identified with at another point in my life, or last week, or whatever. They talk about these people as though they are not “worth it” because their behaviour was tiring and incomprehensible and it makes me feel immensely thankful for all the people in my life who decided that I was worth their time and energy. I am thankful that people took the time to talk me through some of my worst episodes and that they remained my friends afterwards.
At other times in my life, I have been very ill. Because I was ill, I needed coping mechanisms that allowed me to explain what I was going through to people who might not understand what it meant to be triggered or to be having an episode. I needed to explain away their fears while I simultaneously grappled with the waves of fear, terror and dismay that washed through my body. I needed to make sure that they didn’t overreact and send me to the hospital or call an ambulance or anything stupid like that.
So many people are totally unequipped to deal with mental health issues. It’s also heavily stigmatized, with an aura of fear and danger surrounding anything that seems a little bit too instense. I have tried to reach out so many times in my moments of deepest fear and there are a lot of times that reaching out has been the worst thing I could do. It’s not necessarily true that when you reach out for help, that the person on the other side is going to be 1) healthy 2) able to help you. It’s quite possible that you might be pulled into someone else’s illness and it has been my experience that in the times when I have been the most vulnerable, I have also been drawn into the most dangerous situations with people who would go on to do me a great deal of harm.
This is all a totally normal part of my existence, almost too normal. It’s become habituated to such a degree, that I didn’t even notice when things in my personality started to shift. For one, I stopped hating myself so much. In some ways, I even started to like myself. Something that comes with that, is the ability to choose the people I am interested in getting to know. In addition to this, I can also choose how I want to get close to people, how long I want it to take and what form it is going to take. I can choose to step back, to assert a boundary, all sorts of amazing things that I was never capable of before.
I am starting to realize that with all of these new tools, I also need to reexamine my script. I don’t necessarily need to warn people in the same way when we start to get to know each other. I am much better able to negotiate myself out of a triggering situation. I am much better at navigating my stress and the intensity of emotion that I experience on a day to day basis. For the first time in my life, I can break out of an obsessive thought pattern. I have started to have the realization that I can just shift my focus. I am starting to think that there may be certain things about myself that I can reserve until I know someone better. The details of my grief are mine and mine alone and I no longer feel such an urgent need to find someone to listen to them.
The funny thing about starting to accept myself fully for who I am, is that as a whole, I feel a lot shittier than I did before and more consistently shitty. I am not experiencing the major seesaw between Godlike potency and utter despair that I once went through. As much as my lows would wreak utter destruction in my life, those Godlike highs were pretty freakin’ intoxicating. Now, it seems that I am just regularly flawed and sort of awesome, which is cool, but lacks a certain transcendent explosiveness.
I think in general, I can learn to build my way up to being as awesome as I would like to be in a way that doesn’t require such crippling backsliding. Perhaps too, I can get to know people at a pace where I don’t feel like I am losing my sanity and sense of personal identity. Just maybe.
I am starting to feel my emotions flowing through my body and I am not trying to shape or suppress them anymore. Sometimes that means a little bit more manic instability, but I think that the better I get at processing what is happening to me, the more I will be able to channel my emotions into constructive behaviours. For now, I will just continue to yell a lot and give an excessive amount of high fives. I will also continue to allow myself to be annoyed at people and sometimes give customers the finger when they are not looking, cause that’s also part of my truth.
I don’t really know what to tell people about myself anymore. I am no longer the character from my story. I am much stranger and more contradictory that I even I suspected. It’s both funny and frustrating to be dealing with this totally new person with such unique reactions to situations. It is also just a little too tantalizing to ignore. I guess I’ll just continue to see what happens.
Perhaps, having a script is a little too limiting for the person I am becoming. It may be that I may never quite know how I am going to react, because I am always changing. It may be that I develop a tool box. I can use the tools, but will only use them in the situation where they are best suited. I can put away some of my older tools, until I may need them again. For the time being, I am feeling a fairly potent dose of crazy. It just so happens that this is the closest to sanity that I have ever been.
Wednesday, the 30th of July, 2014.
Having mental illness is awful. It’s also embarrassing, and ugly.
This last week has been some kind of hell-coaster for me. At times, I really felt on top of my process, having a lot of great moments and growing beyond my limits. At times, I felt like my mind was on fire, I felt myself at the edge of sanity wondering whether or not I would be able to make it through this one.
It’s difficult, because people throw the word “crazy” around a lot. It mostly seems to mean that a person is being emotional…which seems pretty reasonable, and human. Unfortunately for me, sometimes I really can feel crazy, like crazy crazy.
My friends have been trying to explain it away for me, telling me that what I am experiencing is normal and okay. This is incredibly helpful and really comforting, but also not entirely true.
I am really good at holding things together, and have always been really good at hiding what was going on with me. Now that I am trying to open up to people, it’s becoming harder for me to hide what sometimes feels like a runaway carriage of thought, with me just holding on by the very tips of my fingers to any form of control.
I move through life with this little niggling worry that something is going to trigger me. I have arranged everything so that I don’t have to experience a lot of stress. I work part-time. I tell people it is because I need to focus on my “art”, but really it is because when I am forced to spend too much time around people, I can start to feel my mind slipping. I keep a lot of distance from people, mostly because when I start talking about what is going on in my life, a lot of people start talking a lot about the benefits of therapy.
Unfortunately for me, I can’t work enough to afford proper therapy and the waiting lists are all 6 months - a year long. I am on all of them, and even the best of them are only something like 12 sessions. That’s just enough time to open up a hell hole of emotion and then be left to cope with it totally on my own. Sounds super fun, if you ask me.
Something I have really wanted in my life of late, is to have a relationship, any kind of relationship, but particularly something casual, easy and healthy. It’s a little bit unfortunate that when I actually meet someone I like, I am pretty sure I develop something like a brain fever and they (understandably) want to distance themselves. I can’t actually manage intimacy that includes a lot of touch (so like, real intimacy). It makes me really sad to have to acknowledge that this might be a reality for me, and it might be a reality for a while, a long while.
With all the fun of developing a new relationship, how can I safely or reasonably communicate that I am unwell and need reassurance? It’s pretty interesting to try to keep that calm and cool demeanour when I am facing some minor psychosis about being killed or starved by some unknown threat and feeling quite desperate to cling onto something that feels safe.
So yeah, I am a “crazy” person. I can’t deal with the normal reality of dating. I actually almost got triggered into a real psychosis by someone not contacting me after they said they would. It’s humiliating, it’s ugly, I fucking hate it but I can’t help it. I have to and have had to go through this totally on my own and the only help that I have ever been offered is to numb my senses with medication. Because I have chosen the no medicine route, I have had psychiatrists refuse to offer me treatment.
I actually have to think about and worry that I make sure not to let out too much of what I experience so that people don’t get scared and want to institutionalize me. It’s real. This is a threat that I have experienced before and will probably experience again. It is the reality of being someone with mental illness. It doesn’t go away. It does get better and for stretches of time, it can really seem like I am over it, but I am not and might never be totally “over it”. I get triggered by stress and life can be pretty stressful.
Just to make it clear, this is not something new. I experience this reality every day and have been dealing with it for my entire life. Being close to, or actually losing the thread of reality has been a part of my experience. It is normal for me. My normal can be really scary for other people. They worry about me and want to “help” or at least do something to feel more control. The problem is that there isn’t really a space in our society to help people who suffer from these kinds of problems unless you have a lot of money. For people who experience mental illness and poverty, it is a tough rode and can be incredibly lonely.
I guess I just wanted to come out of the closet in some minor way. Sometimes when I say I feel crazy, it’s not an exaggeration. I am sure that I am going to be fine. I have been through worse times. It’s been a while since I have been this ill, but I am fairly confident that the worst is over. Now it’s just a matter of time for my self-care to kick in and I will begin to recover.
I am really working on letting go of the shame of what I experience. I can’t change who I am. I can’t just get over it or think of something else. I fucking wish I could. I need to congratulate myself for the minor victories. I got out of bed this morning and went for a walk, I called a friend last night, I managed to talk about ski-doos with my roommates yesterday instead of dwelling on my worries. I am fucking kicking this illnesses ass and for me these things are all huge, huge.
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t understand or are judgemental. I guess these people aren’t really my people. Maybe my people will be fewer or farther between. I fucking love them, though. They have propped me up this last week and I don’t think that I would have been able to make it through without them.
So, I guess I am going to try to get back to normal today. I am going to do a lot of boring things and fun things. I am starting the journey back to myself, back to sanity. It’s just like this little vacation I went on. I am hoping that there will be a time, someday when this stuff is easier for me. At least, there is always hope.
Sunday, the 27th of July, 2014.
Every time I think I have arrived somewhere, I am explicitly reminded that I am still on my way, and that I have a long way left to go. There is no stopping, barely even any slowing down. There are no short cuts or quick solutions. There is no other way to go forward than straight through.
* * *
Lately, I have been in the process of exploring the nature of my connections with other people. I have been especially focusing on my ability to be vulnerable, to dare to open up about my real experience and even more frightening, who I really am. It is something that I usually keep tightly guarded, something that I don’t share with anyone, even the people who I consider my closest friends. I was never able to trust that people would receive me properly, especially since I had never shared with them the truth of who I am.
Part of what I am going through right now is facing up to some of my worst fears. I am putting myself out there and people are doing exactly what I was most afraid of them doing.
More so than anything else, I am afraid of people abandoning me, of going through all the fear and anxiety and strife of facing my demons with another person, of sharing some of my deepest shames, personal failures, hopes and sacrednesses. I would share all of that and then those people would take off and all of the comfort and safety and love that had been built would be taken away.
My problem is that the way I go about developing relationships is highly unstable. People can come into your life and make promises but not even they know what the next moment will hold and neither do I. Life is this way for everyone. We all would like to believe that we can be there for people, but real trust, real understanding takes years to develop.
How do we keep ourselves safe when baring our souls to the world? We don’t. We try our best, but since every challenge is new, I find myself hurt again and again in ways unfathomable to my previous self. I am hurt deeper, more fully, and with more at stake. This is my choice; I choose to dare. I have made the choice to bare my soul and to learn from every experience until I can finally make it work.
In doing this work, I am having some things reflected back to me about who I am that has been horrible medicine to swallow.
I realize now that I have been using intimacy and love like a drug. I pull people in because I want to escape my experience of myself. I haven’t been able to accept myself, to embrace my experience. I can’t wait for the agonisingly slow process of healthy intimacy to develop because the entire prospect of consciously opening is in itself a trigger. I pull people in super fast so that the intensity of the experience will numb me to the pain. I pull people close because I am afraid that the reflection I will see of myself through them will be of someone I can’t bare to witness.
I prefer to remain hidden because being hidden means that I am safe. I want to be seen but I am barely able to see myself. The intensity of being real and present with another human being makes me want to chew off my own arm.
I feel like I am getting better at this. I noticed the other day that I went through an entire party without wondering if I belonged or not. I didn’t feel like an alien even once. Right now, I can get pretty deep with people, I can remain calm and collected for the most part. I can engage in casual touch without it feeling weird or awkward, I can accept touch.
There are still these parts of me that I have never shared with anyone, that are still very raw and that I have repressed for a long time. As my comfort with myself increases, so too do these little secrets get out. As soon as things start to get really real, I start to panic. This sets off a whole sequence of events which result in me becoming one big emotionally raw nerve. Not only do I have to deal with the uncertainty of new relationships but also being haunted by my childhood and adult traumas. The field of intimacy is forcing me to process a lifetime of pain and all of this while being observed by someone. I don’t fully understand how people can deal with it.
* * *
When the only way a person relates is through speeded up intimacy, where the truth is only revealed slowly and much later on, we develop a lot of unhealthy relational mechanisms through the entire beginning of the relationship. We learn to be with each other in a ways that are dishonest. We learn how to hide from one another and when real emotions come up, we don’t have the emotional safety to deal with them in a rational way. We get triggered and lash out and damage the very relationship we were trying to build. It’s funny because I always thought that this way of relating was more honest. We didn’t hold anything back from one another. Really, it’s not possible to move so quickly in a way that takes account for the wholeness of a person. There is no way to get acquainted with another reality without taking the time to go through our stories but also walk along the path next to each other, making new stories together.
I am working towards breaking free of the script of fast and emotionally turbulent connections, even though I don’t know how else to act. I am currently facing a lot of humiliating experiences, reacting really intensely to things that other people might have taken in stride. I feel at risk of being judged for being one of those crazy women. I mean, maybe I am and maybe also that is okay. There is no easy way to inform the people I am dating of the scope of the trauma I have experienced without it getting me into a situation where I feel exposed, but it still does come out from time to time and it means that people have to have a bit of patience with me, and not be too easily spooked.
I want the same amount of compassion from people as I offer. I move through what is one of the most challenging phases of my life. I keep reminding myself that there are a lot of people who don’t survive the kinds of experiences I have been through let alone even entertain the possibility of having a stable, healthy relationship. It is a personal victory for me that I have somehow found a way to survive in the city, hold down a job and have a happy home, a dog, good friends. It’s amazing really.
I continue to get closer to what I want, which is at it’s heart, a desire to know and to love myself. With that, I believe that I will be able to share my experience with someone else in a way that is safe and happy and honest.
Until then, I suppose I will continue to embarrass myself, put my foot on my mouth and come across like a crazy person. I believe that I will learn to slow it down. I will say nuts to anyone who cannot love me for who I am, even with all the stuff I have been through. I don’t want to hang out with people who don’t like weirdos anyway.
Friday, the 25th of July, 2014.
Friday, the 11th of July, 2014.
I’ve been having this experience lately, of people admiring my ability to open myself to vulnerability. I have to remind others that there is a certain amount of privilege in being able to avoid being vulnerable.
Thursday, the 10th of July, 2014.
Recently, I have been trying to honor the practice of setting limitations in my life. I know that a lot of the people I spend time with seem to value the act of non-definition, of simply living from moment to moment and seeing what comes of it. I often feel a pressure to be more free, less demanding, more spontaneous.
I have pursued this kind of course for a long time, trying not to define my relationships or plan my days, trying to be flowing and changing from moment to moment. On some level, I do believe it important to keep my eyes open and to try to see with clarity what is being presented to me. On the other hand, I feel that lacking definition can sometimes fall into the category of lacking intention, and this is the very thing that I was trying to avoid.
In my community, definition seems to be a dirty word, as though by defining something, you take the life out of it. I believe that our definitions don’t have to be prisons. By defining something, we create a container, something to direct the energies with our collective intention.
I enjoy having responsibility towards others. I like having definitions in so much as it helps me to feel like I am creating something. I believe that we have the power to revisit our definitions as soon as they no longer serve us. Perhaps we need to expand our containers, change their shape, create some openings.
Definitions do limit us, but so do bodies, and being alive. Limitations are part of existence and pretending that somehow we can escape all sense of limit denies the potential greatness of those limits. Limits can help direct energy. We can be ambient light or we can be lasers.
Definition creates focus. Commitment can deepen intimacy. Being responsible to another person can enable a greater sense of freedom. When definitions and limits fail to enable our focus and growth, we sometimes need to break out of them, like a chick from an egg, or a butterfly from a cocoon.
Limits and definitions can create a sacred container, within which we can perform a transformation. Accepting my own limitations and creating boundaries around them gives me the comfort and safety to explore going beyond them. Without a container, I am directionless, I deny form and limit my own growth.
The only way I can surpass my own limits is to first accept them. I need to work within the limitations of my body, my emotional maturity, my understanding and comfort. It is an act of love to say no to someone who wants me to go outside of my comfort and capability. Everything within its own time and space.
I am becoming much more comfortable expressing my needs and acknowledging the shape of my container. I deserve to feel safe. I deserve to have my limits honored by others. I will wait for the right people to come along, who can be served by the kind of space that I am in and who do not need me to be beyond myself. I might not be enough for everyone and that is okay. I am enough for me right now, and when that is no longer true, I will push myself to expand.
Thursday, the 3rd of July, 2014.
What does it mean to be a person? I want to be myself but it sometimes feels like just trying to be me, trying to be honest and open and real, hurts people. I feel as though opening myself up into the world means that I am forcing other people to adjust. Being myself sometimes means that other people will feel uncomfortable, and afraid. Sometimes just being me, makes someone else question what they know to be true. Though, sometimes, during those very special moments, I can be just who I am without effort at all. I think that those are the moments I live for.
These days, I am really trying to have integrity. I am trying to be honest, and open with people. In doing so, I have begun to hit a wall around making other people feel uncomfortable. I notice that I have a desire to care for people, to try to make sure that my actions do not negatively affect the people around me. It is an incredibly onerous task and requires me to be very methodical, observant and controlled. I work very hard to make sure that I don’t negatively affect those around me. Unfortunately, I think that I also take discomfort upon myself in the perceived service of others. I deny my truth in order to protect those around me from something that I perceive in my inner-most core.
It has seemed much easier for me to enter into spaces of discomfort when it meant that I would spare someone else that same feeling. I think that in seeking to alleviate people’s suffering, I have in some very important way, failed to see the value of the experience of pain.
I would never want to give people discomfort for the sake of my own ease, but rather, in the pursuit of my ultimate truth, health and growth, it may be necessary to cause others to suffer.
What is the invitation? The invitation is to live, to fall on our faces, to hurt people. The invitation is to live, to fall in love, to want things that are bad for us and to hurt. The invitation is to accept that life is madness. We are all lost. No one knows what they are doing and that means that as a person who feels incomplete, I will make mistakes because can’t realise the truth. All of us who have failed to realise the truth of how perfect and complete we are, will continue to tear into each other and scramble to get away from the very place where we need to be.
The path isn’t upwards, it’s within, it’s towards the centre. We don’t need to transcend but to descend. To be human, to be bodies, to be imperfect and seeking and full of desperation. I feel fucking alone, and weird, and horribly ugly a lot of the time. I reject myself. I reject my needs, I reject other people, I stop myself from reaching out because I worry that people are going to see the cracks. I stop myself from reaching out because receiving just a little bit of what I need makes me feel even more desperate than receiving nothing at all.
I stop myself from living life because taking up space for myself means that I am participating in this place where we have to eat other living things to live. I take up resources just to live and somehow in the space of global catastrophe, pollution, war, famine, poverty and everything else, I feel like I have to justify my comfort. I feel horribly guilty for laying around, I feel horribly guilty for inflicting any more suffering on the world than it already has. How is it possibly to have enough integrity to make my existence here worth it?
The invitation is to live life, even though it hurts, even though I suffer, even though I also make other people suffer, even though I have to eat, even though I make garbage. I live because I can’t see any other way around it and I am going to have to stop feeling guilty about my impact on the world. Just like I deserve to be here, so too do I deserve the space to make mistakes, to hurt people, to cause death and destruction. This is a part of being a human being that I need to come to terms with. I am a destroyer.
Life is destruction as much as it is creation. It is the bloom and the decay. I am part of this cycle of birth and death and sometimes I am the site of creation and sometimes I bring death. My hands are workers of miracles and atrocities. It is not about morality, about right or wrong. It just is. I just am.
I am a being who has yet to realize my integrity, the wholeness of my being. I have not realized my fullness because I have not accepted my capacity to harm.
Sunday, the 22nd of June, 2014.
I am beginning to realize that every single situation that I get myself in, has a potentially limitless amount of interpretations. I believe that it may also be possible for each and every one to be individually true, to some extent. The number of interpretations seem to mirror the complexity of feelings that they are trying to make sense of.
My feelings about my recent breakup are as numerous as they are mercurial. Each moment seems to bring waves of fresh emotion, each different from the last. First, I am consumed by anger, annoyance, a sense of violation, betrayal, sadness, despair, longing, shame, despair again…
Each person that I talk to, gives me a different shade of perception to add to the picture I am forming, trying to make sense of something that strains to remain senseless and there is something terribly unsettling about a pain that does not fit into my understanding of what is.
With every new type of pain comes the need to catalogue the sensation into a larger understanding of the things that can hurt me. However, it seems that the more I try to understand what happened between us, the more it eludes me. To leave it alone seems like allowing some lurking danger to hover just outside of my perception.
How does a person understand heart break? I can understand people’s motivations: not being ready, getting in over our heads, being scared, and even essentially not being the right fit for one another but the heart doesn’t listen to reason.
My heart longs, while my body aches. My mind rebels from the supremacy of desire and tries to take control, to halt, to direct this overwhelming flow, to channel it into some productive course. I am making art, I am writing; this pain has sparked in me an incredible amount of creativity. At least that has the potential to make sense of what is happening, because art doesn’t have to make sense. Art can embrace the multiplicity of feeling effortlessly. In my pursuit of an expression for my feeling, I can define it and not in concrete terms but in the same slippery and undefinable motion that characterizes the world of sensation.
I don’t believe that the heart can understand heart break and I don’t believe that I can ultimately protect myself from being broken again. The heart learns from the ache by learning how to ache. I want to teach my heart not to shy away. I want to continue to dare. I feel the force of love that seeks to be known through me and I hope that I will not deny it through fear.
Perhaps daring in a grander fashion, and learning to heal from the scrapes and bruises that come from flinging myself into the great beyond, will give me a greater capacity for love, and perhaps during those moments, it will all be worth it.
For now, I attempt to remain present to an incredible pain that is at this very moment deepening me, opening me, bringing me closer to myself. I am trying to be thankful for it, even as I struggle against it. Pain is my experience as much as joy, it beings me to joy in the same way that joy brings me to this place.
I am going to stop trying to understand what is happening and just try to be it, to be in it and move through it. In slowing down to try to make sense of everything, I can never be fully present to the rapidity of evolution that seeks to draw me closer to the source.
May it continue to bring me towards the highest and greatest good
Friday, the 20th of June, 2014.
I don’t want to be fixed
I want to be cherished
I want to be surrounded by people
I don’t want to be fixed
I want to embrace all the parts of myself
I want to trust that the tide will come and go
I want to love broken things
Because seeing them trying to hold their shape
Because seeing them struggling to be
I don’t want to be fixed
And the only way that I can be whole
All those little fractures are the roadwork of my life
It isn’t about fixing something
Wednesday, the 18th of June, 2014.