it’s not always your fault, part 2

or, my mom called me a stalker

I went to see my doctor yesterday… again. The hospital was almost empty, but the staff were still there. Said everywhere that they’re not accepting patients atm. But I had come there with a specific goal in mind, and I wasn’t leaving until I had accomplished it. I needed to talk to him, and I didn’t care if it came across as stupid, reckless, or desperate. Truth be told, I probably am all of these things.

When he saw me, he reacted in much the same way he always does: hardly at all, with a hint of annoyance. He got impatient and tried to send me home, because of course he did, but I kept talking, kept apologizing.

… I guess I need him to like me — or at least to forgive me — after all…

At that point he interrupted me and assured me that everything was fine and I should really just go home.

I heard him say it, but I didn’t believe that it could possibly be true… it just didn’t register that he could have just forgiven me, forgotten the whole thing, and moved on with his life. (Even though logically of course I know he simply cannot take stuff personally at his job, or he would have gone insane long ago.)

I didn’t know how to react, so I decided to behave as if I’d believed him, and I just said, I guess I just tend to overthink people’s — he interrupted me again — May be so. But there’s nothing wrong with that, you know. Now go home already.

And it’s a good thing I was forced to get up and leave his office, because otherwise I would have just opened my mouth and stared at him in stunned silence.

Was that it all along? Was he just a doctor being all doctor-y, and I took his professionalism as a sign of hostility? I suppose that what I could have said instead was, I guess I just take everything personally because I need everything to always be about me. It would have amounted to pretty much the same thing: they both lead to misplaced guilt & excessive self-consciousness.

Realizing that he truly didn’t care was the greatest relief I had felt in months. That comes with its own set of problems, such as my obsessive need for his approval to feel okay with myself. At the moment he’s one more person I define myself by. But I can work on that in therapy.

But to have it pointed out to me just how much I read into everything was… something. When I left the hospital, I was like, Of course he doesn’t care, why would he?… but my brain works rather differently when left to its own devices.

Every neutral expression, every resting bitch face, every blank stare directed in the general area of where I’m standing, gets automatically interpreted as anger or annoyance. Never mind that more often than not a blank stare is nothing more than, well, a blank stare, but even if the person does happen to be annoyed at something or someone,

it really isn’t always your fault.

walk down memory lane

A high school friend reached out to me (hi, P). It’s nice, though admittedly somewhat strange, to get back in touch with people who knew you way back when.

I feel so much different, but I am pretty much the same person I was all these years ago: just as dumb and aimless as i was, only now it’s more obvious. I’m more aware of it, so i dont even try to hide it anymore.

Because that’s all I talk about, it may seem as if I were capable of change. I don’t think I am though, and I worry that people like her will give me a chance and I’ll just disappoint them all over again.

(by the way, it’s really quite strange being able to tell you’re idealizing someone as it’s happening. She’s my savior. She understands. She inspired me to quit my job. P, if you’re reading this, please don’t be overwhelmed. it’s normal for me, it happens all the time. and let me tell you what comes next: i see a sign of rejection or mild disapproval, and i withdraw into my shell. Or that’s what usually happens… I’ll do my best not to let it.)

talking to her made me realize that my self-perception is even further from how other people see me. which one is more accurate, then? if, going by what she said, in high school I appeared driven and conscientious, does that mean I was? even though it was the last thing i wanted to be?

I have had people comment that i seem really calm, and i always had to stop myself from laughing in their faces. but, i mean, they only have my behavior to go on, so i guess their impression kind of makes sense??

all this makes me wonder how much of what I think about other people is drastically different from what they believe about themselves or feel internally.

But yeah, apparently people admired my good grades or my English or whatever. but who the fuck genuinely wants to be the teacher’s pet in fucking high school? of course i would rather have had a social life of some sort and had people actually like me,,,, but i was unlikeable and insecure, so i resorted to controlling the only things i knew how to control.

But maybe the image we project unintentionally is more genuine and has more merit than your own self-judgment? if i seemed like a nerd, then, well, i must have been a nerd. so what i didn’t feel like one. so what “driven” or “ambitious” were far from what i would have considered accurate descriptions.

I was so lost. So lost. I had absolutely no clue what i was doing. I clung onto school because that was what gave my life a semblance of meaning or a sense of direction, but the truth was, all I needed was a friend, a true friend who would have called me out on my bs and made me confront all my pain and grief and get real about what i wanted.

but none of that had any chance of happening since i was so proficient in the art of denial and keeping people at arm’s length.

still nothing’s changed.

bottomless well

You seek to protect your ego at all costs. But that requires a great deal of cognitive dissonance, since your particular brand of self-acceptance, if you can even call it that, is very conditional: you’re only worthy IF.

And every time you find out that you don’t meet your own arbitrary criteria, you have to go through a grieving process. One of a number of things can happen as a result:

  • total denial of the issue (not sustainable)
  • you can tweak something here and there by lowering the bar and/or overestimating your own abilities (not likely)
  • or, you can accept that you’re a failure & give up on yourself altogether, which is what I usually go for.

and you keep letting go of condition after condition, but not of their “objective” significance. Meaning, you still believe them to be true and right, you just lower your standards to accommodate your new & ever evolving definition of “bare minimum”: you expect less of yourself, but you also think less & less of yourself.

and you keep adjusting to the new lows, until apparently there is nowhere else to go, but it is never enough. and right when you think youve reached rock bottom, it turns out there is one more thing you’ve been taking for granted.

and you keep reevaluating your situation. You’re forever chasing after the most accurate way to assess how you compare to others, because you cant be happy UNLESS.

Of course a happiness predicated on the notion of being somehow “better” (as “good enough” naturally implies that some people… aren’t) is presumptuous, superficial, and bound to always induce anxiety and a lingering sense of inadequacy — ready to come out the moment you sense that you are “worse” at this thing or another.

What’s more, I don’t actually believe the same things about other people: I think everyone else can & should be happy, regardless of their looks, health, intelligence, personality, sense of humor, you name it. Well… that is all fine and dandy, but people who were blessed with more desirable traits probably are happier.

But okay… let’s not consider social approval for a second. How do you maintain a steady sense of self worth regardless of external validation? Or put differently, what amount of reassurance and compliments would it take to make you feel secure?

…ah… I see.

two I’s in friendship. one I in… I?

The day L left, I went into survival mode. I’ve been hanging on by a thread for going on a decade now, which is more time than we were close friends while she was still here. Of course L is her own person, and I shouldn’t be building my healing around her any more than I should have built my life. She has her own identity that goes way beyond being a signpost for my life or my recovery. Above all else, she’s a dear friend, and the last thing I want is to objectify her like that.

Regardless, in my mind, she stands for everything wrong with me. She wasn’t a person in my eyes; she was way too perfect for that. And by idealizing her, I failed to acknowledge that she, too, might have her own feelings & needs; I was too immature & superficial to meet them, though.

She went on to develop more mutually satisfying relationships, and I was hurt… now I know why: ours was a very asymmetrical one; I got emotional support, she got blind loyalty. Now she gets to be vulnerable and understood, too.

All this being said, even though I understand those dynamics in retrospect, I can’t change the past. Her departure was the catalyst for a process that had been a long time in the making: the disintegration of my own identity.

She is her own person. But, to me, she is also a stark representation of the idea of relying on someone else for your own sense of self, like I did for mine. She deserves more than being reduced to an archetype… but, again, to me she is both.

Since she left, I’ve been… getting by. Coming up with countless ways to not think for myself; to not think at all. I always had poor impulse control. I feel like it might have something to do with not using your internal monologue to its full potential. And when I shut it up altogether to avoid confronting painful feelings & ugly truths about myself, I also deprived myself of a tool that could have been incredibly helpful in regulating my behavior.

It’s not a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” kind of situation. I know I must have always gravitated towards certain types of people because of a natural inclination to follow rather than lead. It’s just that I wouldve saved myself a lot of pain if I had figured it out sooner, and perhaps taken steps to counteract it.

As things stand, I still seek that perfect relationship to lose myself in. I have this need to merge with the other person so completely that there is no more “you” or “I”, there’s just “us”. And I still believe that finding that person will solve all my problems: that they will live my life for me; that they will regulate my behavior; that they will fulfil all my needs.

I don’t (intentionally) deny the other person their right to privacy and their own complex and separate identity… As far as I’m concerned, they can even lead a life all of their own; Ill be sad and jealous, but I’ll understand that I’m not enough for them. But I need them to know & take care of me. To take the lead. Anticipate my needs. Tell me what to think. Is that mommy issues or what? 😬

In the absence of a favorite person to cling on to, and with no hope of ever finding one (because now I know it’s simply not possible in the sense in which i mean it), I am completely lost. I know I’ve discussed this before. But here I’m not talking about emptiness or idealization themselves; im talking about how they relate to impulsivity.

I always used to assume that the latter was an attempt to remedy the former, substituting compulsions and obsessions for a personality. I’m afraid the truth is much simpler than that: because I don’t think for myself, all I’m left with are my urges & no way to talk myself out of giving in to them.

It’s hard to exercise any degree of self-control when you have no sense of self. I may or may not be capable of “self-discipline”, but I’ll never find out until I know what my goals are & what’s good for me. Without some sense of your own personhood, there’s no self-discipline; there are just random rules and restrictions. And why follow those, if going against them doesn’t seem to interfere with any of your goals?

Of course I do have goals. Hopes. Ambitions. Which is why numbing out is so frustrating: every time I engage in harmful behaviors, it takes me that one step further from what I’m too afraid to admit I want.

I

am so…

c o n f u s e d.

asymmetry

I’ll definitely continue writing predominantly in English. It’s an invaluable therapeutic exercise that allows me to explore uncomfortable topics in a safe context, not to mention it’s pretty much the only opportunity i get to use & practise english in my day-to-day life.

It never ceases to amaze me how much people talk about themselves. I don’t at all mean it in a bad way… I just never noticed it before. They talk about what they did, what they’re going to do, what they like to do, what happened to them, the new album that came out that they’re so happy about… they’re just never short of ideas.

It’s actually one of my favorite things to do is to listen to people talk about subjects they are passionate about, and to share in their enthusiasm and enjoyment. I don’t know why it has always felt so wrong for me to talk about things that I am interested in. For as long as I can remember, whenever someone asked me what I had been up to, my go-to response would be, oh, you know, nothing much…

yes, it’s true that most of the time i am up to nothing in particular. But even when that’s not the case, i always kind of just assume that whatever I’m doing, the other person is going to find exceedingly, mind-numbingly dull. i’m perpetually confused as to why anybody would be truly interested in my opinions or activities, and it always feels like theyre just being polite or humoring me out of pity.

of course on many occasions i have done quite the same thing, listening to people talk about topics i knew next to nothing about or wasn’t in the least interested in, just to make them feel good about themselves, and that in and of itself felt rewarding to me.

i like the concept of people putting up with eachothers shit in theory, i simply don’t believe it applies to me specifically. i don’t expect other people to be flawless or endlessly entertaining, it’s my own imperfections that are unacceptable. i can understand that everyone else is sometimes funny and sometimes tedious; but i honestly find the idea of bothering someone with my presence, or them finding me boring or annoying, abhorrent and excruciating. which is not to say that it doesnt happen; in fact im positive it happens all the time. the difference is, it’s less because of what i do and more because of what i fail to do. In other words, they can just up and leave.

my default position has always been to expect them to leave, and i am always eternally grateful to every person who, for reasons unclear to me, decides to stay and listen. …But yet I still expect them to leave at some point. it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when they have simply had enough. and i really wouldn’t blame them, either; i would probably encourage them, and ask whatever caused them to give me a chance in the first place. some kind of oversight or a momentary lapse of judgment, surely, and then they just didn’t know how to extricate themselves from the relationship without hurting my feelings.

i try to be as unobtrusive as possible, but when i cannot contain myself any longer it comes off as obnoxious or over the top. alternatively i turn into this self-righteous killjoy because im just too self-conscious to join in to whatever fun people are having.

I was re-reading what i’ve written so far, and when i got to the passage about “people putting up with each other’s shit” it felt like new information. Really strange. Like, i know it happens. I do it constantly. But the thought of someone finding a flaw in me and not rejecting me right then and there???? Wild. My friendships are always like, I’m so sorry you have to endure this, is there anything i can do to make the experience any less miserable? if you decide to leave ill understand, just tell me when. Also, thank you for being so kind and patient and trying to fix me even though that’s impossible, I appreciate the effort. i mean i dunno why you’re still here, you can go, im sure you have better things to do than to listen to me go on like that… But enough about me, tell me how you have been!

I’m not saying that that’s the way every individual interaction goes, but I’m always vaguely uneasy when it doesn’t.

at the same time, however, i must admit it’s such a relief. liberating. empowering. …to… own the spotlight for once, and not care about how im going to be received. to indulge my own feelings, my own talkativeness, rather than somebody else’s. therapy’s like that, too: it’s a foreign feeling for me to be listened to, understood, accepted, and for me to not feel guilty about it. i mean i still do. i still feel like im wasting their time. but they validate me. and reassure me. and encourage to keep going.

I think I will.