I am a Highly Sensitive Person, meaning that I feel things far deeper and for far longer than I should. I hold on to mistakes I’ve made for years on end, turning them over and over in my head until I can make sense of them, often through dreaming. I want to make things right that cannot go back together, which often stops me from moving on and creating a future. I cower in fear at the thought that I might hurt someone with my own “crazy spatter…” especially after having done it already and never wanting to go back to rock bottom again. I have always been funny and polite, and I’d like to keep it that way… not in a “hiding my authentic self show mode” kind of way, but honestly being that person.
Watching myself “going Bodmin” was literally that… an out-of-body experience that seemed like it was happening to someone else because it was so contrary to who I’ve always been. I lost many allies in the battle against myself, the best reason I can think of for keeping myself well and healthy emotionally.
I can’t thank my doctors at Methodist enough for seeing the PTSD for what it was, and bringing down my anxiety from 11. This is because I never realized I even had PTSD until I began exploring my youth and what it had done to me on this web site. Watching it surface in black & white made the blood drain from my face, and the anxiety I didn’t even know I felt rise to my throat and simultaneously drop to my stomach.
Watching all of this happen turned me into a different person, one who pushed everyone away in every way I could think of to make them realize I wasn’t worth their time and effort… not because I didn’t need it. I needed it more, not less. I felt it was protecting them from me. If they went away, I wasn’t capable of hurting them anymore. It was cutting out my own heart with a sword, but I thought it was better than cutting out theirs.
What I didn’t realize then that I do now is that it was too late. I’d already cut out their hearts with my words, ones that I’d give anything to take back, but it’s all a little too little too late. Finding new life and new hope in DC was the jump start I needed to recover, but it doesn’t help in my darkest moments. I am more careful than I’ve ever been with friendships in terms of holding them at arm’s length for their protection, not mine. This will change the longer I know them, but even two years is too soon to know my entire life story. Everything has to unfold in its own time, even if they’re readers of this web site… because even though this site reveals snapshots of what I was thinking, it is just that. A snapshot of me and not who I am in three dimensions.
For instance, if you only read me, you’ll never know how quick I am with a hug or an arm around your shoulder when you need it. You’ll never know how I would literally give you the shirt off my back if you didn’t have one. You’ll never know the lengths to which I would go to take care of a friend in trouble, and now that I know better, how hard I would fight in the midst of you trying to push me away when you need me the most.
The hardest part of being a person with a mental illness, and I’m pretty sure this is universal, is admitting you need help. I took that brave step and admitted myself to the hospital when I couldn’t get a new patient appointment with a psychiatrist for three weeks and I needed help right the fuck now.
I will never forget Argo’s words, the ones that made everything click and all the puzzle pieces fall into place… why do you think it’s everyone else’s job to fix you? The reason those words spurred me into action is that I didn’t realize my own power. I didn’t trust my own intuition enough. I let others decide things for me to evade culpability when things became a disaster- it wasn’t my decision, it was theirs.
It was an AHA! Moment when I realized I could trust me, and that I was strong enough to take criticism for the decisions I made when other people didn’t agree with me. Criticism used to be my kryptonite, the thing that rendered me helpless because God forbid anyone think I was doing something wrong.
There are still words of criticism that gut me like an ax, words that won’t go away under any circumstances, and they are Dana’s… being in a relationship with you is too hard. They are words that keep me from moving forward, because I cannot tell whether they say more about me or her…. because she didn’t say that being in a relationship was too hard for her, but universally. So I take it to mean that I am too hard to be in relationship with, period. It’s been over two years and I can’t bring myself to let go with my friends, much less any potential romantic relationship.
The one time I put myself out there, it didn’t go anywhere, and for that, I am grateful… but it still took over two years to even take that one step in forward motion.
In a lot of ways, I feel like I am resting on my back foot, that comfortable place that isn’t scary and reaps no rewards.
What might I have gained with said friend who only wanted to talk about pleasantries a year or five down the line? What might I have gained without being so protective of myself? Would I have ever gained a safe space to be who I am, or did I do the right thing by thinking up front that it would never happen? Was I trusting my intuition, or pushing someone away that ultimately had my best interests at heart?
My protection mechanisms are too great, and I know it. I have often accused others of having a barbed wire fence around their hearts without realizing that I have one, too… and when we meet each other, closeness cannot happen because neither one will take it down.
The only people I have trusted completely are my choir, because I thought they had a right to know why it was so difficult for me to come to rehearsal and church. That being bipolar and anxiety-ridden extends even to people I know well, and my mother dying only makes it worse because she was a church musician her entire life, and there are pieces that my conductor pulls out that I just lose my snot and cannot breathe. Even though it is okay with them when it happens, that it wouldn’t matter if I cried through every piece, I don’t want them to see me that way. My biggest fear is coming completely undone in public, and it has happened twice more than I’ve wanted, which is a grand total of two. Even in safe space, I am afraid.
I am lost and crying even as I write this, because living in a world without my mother so prematurely is a different kind of lost than I’ve ever felt. Losing your mother is never, ever easy… as is losing either parent or step-parent… however, a life cut short is a different kind of grief. You are not just mourning the past, but the lost future as well. Forbes, Lindsay, and I should have had 15-20 more years with her than we got. Forbes is over a decade older than my mother, and it is inconceivable to him that she died first. It’s six months later, and time is still malleable, because sometimes it has passed and sometimes it hasn’t.
My friend Susan said that her mother was still alive, but that when she died, it would bring her to her knees. At first, I was angry and jealous that she said it, because her mother was still alive and mine wasn’t. Anger and jealousy turned to gratitude when I realized she’d expressed something that I couldn’t and didn’t.
“Bring me to my knees” is so accurate that it hurts to even type. She saw writing on the wall that I couldn’t read until I began to live it… those words have soaked into my muscles and I carry them as if they are sewn there, right next to Dana’s… mostly because my mother was one of the people who never thought I was hard to love, even when I made it so.
I’d like to believe that I’m making it right, one day at a time, by becoming more open and actively trying to live as if I’ve been hurt, but I will recover. I just have to remember that recovery is a process, and it won’t come together all in one day… or even in the same way it used to be. It is the creation of the new normal… that even if Dana and I were still married and Argo and I were still flipping each other shit across the miles time would still weave in and out because sometimes the light in me can’t help but extinguish itself….
because I’ve been brought to my knees.