It’s not me; it’s you.

There is a generic and unspoken “Do’s and Don’ts” list of friendship…but here are some do’s and don’ts for being friends…with me.

In no particular order–

Do be honest.

Don’t lie to me.

Do trust me (most of the time).

Don’t make promises you can’t keep. I’m okay with an “I’ll try to…”

Do respect me, my life and my journey. It is a given that anything I say to you should be kept confidential.

Do call me out on my bullshit (tactfully).

Don’t ask me a question if you don’t want to hear the answer.

Do say what you mean and mean what you say.

Don’t bottle up the ways I’ve pissed you off/hurt you; talk to me about it so we can resolve it.

Do respect my OCD tendencies.

Don’t assume anything.

Do be kind, but don’t kill me with kindness. I’ll start to think I’m unworthy.

Do keep calm and carry on.

Do be okay with expletives. I have a lifetime supply and a faulty filter.

Don’t talk to me if I have headphones on.

Don’t doubt my ability to find shit out.

Don’t underestimate me.

Don’t fuck with me; I’m not afraid to walk away.

Don’t be afraid to say something to me, just do it tactfully.

Don’t walk on eggshells around me no matter what mental state you think or know I’m in. I may be fragile but I’m not an egg.

Don’t expect me to chase after you if you leave.

Don’t invite me to a pity party; I hate parties.

Don’t get butt-hurt if I don’t want to talk to you. It most likely has nothing to do with you because I would tell you if it did. I probably just need some quiet time, time to isolate and I’ll call you when I’m okay again.

Don’t question me if I ask you to borrow a shovel.

Do provide me with an alibi.

Don’t offer me cliches. (Example: “This too shall pass.” NO! This too shall start running like a scared little bitch when I put on my track shoes and chase it with a sledgehammer.)

Do let me know that you love me and care about me. Just don’t suffocate me.

Do be an “all-weather” friend…rain, sun, hail, thunder, lightening, pigs flying, hell freezing over.

Don’t expect to be with me when I’m at my best if you can’t be with me when I’m at my worst.

Do expect me to be sarcastic. I put that shit on everything.

Don’t ignore me.

Do send a text or message every now and then just to say hi.

Don’t take me for granted. I’m not afraid to walk away.

Do like music. We will never ever get back together if you don’t.

Don’t kick me when I’m down.

Do appreciate the little things I do or give to you because sometimes, I only have a little to give.

Don’t involve me in drama. Save it for the theatre.

Do be prepared for random WTF texts/messages/mail/notes/pictures.

Do taste your words before you spit them out.

Don’t give up on me.

Don’t mistake my silence for ignorance, my calmness for acceptance, and my kindness for weakness.

Don’t ask me to meet you for coffee any time before 11 AM. I am NOT a morning person. As far as I’m concerned, the early bird can have the stupid worm because both mornings and worms suck.

Don’t try to fix me, my problems or my issues. Sometimes I just want to vent. If I wanted you to fix it, I would have handed you a power tool.

Do be yourself.

Do no harm…but take no shit.

Don’t leave me.

Do be okay with a response of “I don’t know.” if you ask me what’s wrong because sometimes, I don’t have a fucking clue.

Don’t fuck with my feelings just because you can’t figure out what’s going on in your own messed up head.

Don’t stop in the name of love.

Do just call to say you love me.

Do stop, collaborate, and listen.

Don’t stop believing.

Don’t forget that I love you.

You’ve got a friend in me…or do you?

friend (noun) \ˈfrend\
1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement.

Where. The hell. Do I even. Begin. Let’s start with me. I am an introvert. It doesn’t mean I’m painfully shy (just normal shy) or antisocial, it just means that I prefer my own company over the company of other people. People stress me out…be they family, strangers, parties, whatever the case may be. Too much social interaction will send me into panic mode. My idea of a nice Saturday night is a hot bath, drinking a Coca-Cola and a good book or movie…not being at a packed bar getting shit-faced drunk. I’ve always been this way. It doesn’t mean I don’t have friends, but I’m a tad more selective about who I choose to let into my private world and I don’t have a lot of friends and that is purely by choice, not happenstance. Sometimes I wonder if something is wrong with me because I see a lot of my friends on Facebook have friends into the 300’s and I’ve never had more than 90 at any given time. I’m also not one of those people who sends a friend request to anyone and everyone I’ve ever met over the course of my 30 years of life. My Facebook friend rule is that you don’t have to be my BFF, but you have to have known me (e.g. went to school with me), know me now (e.g. you’re in my contacts list, work with me), or you have to have meant something to me, are more than just an acquaintance or someone I said hi to once back in ’96. I try to keep my insanity at bay “in public”…be it on Facebook or in real life. I have my good days and my bad days and I may post a snarky comment here and there but you will never see a status update from me that says “I hate everything #slashwrist”. If you’re around me in public and I’m having a rough day or week, I’ll probably just be pretty quiet; I try really hard to not bring people down with me when I myself am feeling down. Also, if I’m not in a good place, you probably won’t catch me out in public anyway…but commitments are commitments and I tend to be someone who follows through with what they say and doesn’t break promises, appointments or commitments.

I have some absolutely amazing and awesome people in my life that I am beyond grateful for and I am honored that I am their friend and that they are my friends…my best friends. I have two friends in particular that I just love the shit out of. They both insist on living on the east coast which is their only fault, but I like to think we’ve done a pretty bang up job keepin’ it real with each other despite the distance. One lady, C, is the Ethel to my Lucy…the Patsy to my Eddie…the Thelma to my Louise…the Shirley to my Laverne. And I’m quite sure, if there ever comes a time when we do live closer to each other, there will be some new state laws passed. The thing that makes me sort of giggle about this relationship and makes me appreciate it all the more, is that C is over 50. But if you look at our text/e-mail/Facebook conversations, you wouldn’t ever know that (I’m not calling her immature). How we ever even came to be so close given the age difference escapes me because it was just one of those magical awesome things that just happened and I’m so grateful to have her in my life. She plays many roles in my life, however. She can be that level-headed mom voice because I despise my own mother and am more apt to go to and listen to C than I am my own mom. She also has that experience thing that older friends and moms have…the kind where they tell you that the adventure you are about to embark on is a really bad idea, but they know you’re gonna do it anyway, so they just grab a bowl of popcorn and sit back and watch…and you come back to them later with your tail between your legs because you know they were right and you hate that they were right and you’re kicking yourself for not listening to them…and then you turn around and do it again. Yeah…that. But C never says, “I told you so.” She’ll more than likely just laugh at me, call me a “mattrez hag jynseckz hooka ho” and tell me she lives me (yes, I meant to type live…inside BFF joke). C is also someone who will help me hide a body and if you can’t say anything nice, come sit by us. C and I have some of the most epic conversations in the history of friendship (made even more humorous by our autocorrect typos) and we can cover everything from LOLcats, World of Warcraft, dickwagons, relationshit (we’re really good at making up new words), why certain laws exist and why they should be banned…and how to import shit to get around those laws. In summation, C and I often tell each other that we know too much about each other to NOT be friends…so I’m pretty sure we’re in this for life…which is fine by me.

(I am on the right, the darker text bubbles.)

C1

C2

(Ignore the arrow; I have this weird thing where I ALWAYS catch the clock at 11:11, AM or PM, doesn’t matter. I’ve been keeping track since December. Add that to the list of reasons I’m insane.)

C3

(If none of the screen caps/conversations made sense or made you laugh…it’s not you, it’s me and C.)

BFF

My other BFF for life, B, is just a couple years older than me, but in a very different place in life…and in the country. Also on the east cost, she’s married with kids. (For clarification purposes, C is also married and has a grown child…who, coincidentally [or not?], has the same name as I do. C had to invent a nickname for me so her daughter and I know which one of us she is yelling at.) B and I have a relationship based on just pure love and nerdiness. We like to be crazy, off-the-wall, different…we don’t follow the crowd, we make our own damn crowd. Our conversations often consist of baby poop, breastfeeding, The Beatles, Harry Potter or Twilight. (As an example, I will be trying to communicate just how much I heart her face…in a text message…and I’ll say, “So the lion fell in love with the lamb. What a stupid lamb.” B: “What a sick, masochistic lion.” I let her be the lion because she is so totally Team Edward…I even bought her a Mrs. Cullen t-shirt for Christmas one year.) We also talk about normal 30-year-old shit and she bitches about her hubby when he’s being a douche-nugget and I’ll tell her that if he doesn’t get his shit together, I’ma go all Lorena Bobbitt on him and cut his dick off and throw it out somewhere in Texas, where hopefully a chupacabra will eat it so it can’t be sewn back on so he can’t make porn movies after B dumps his ass. And she knows I’m not kidding. (Hmm…maybe I should edit that part out…”premeditation” gets thrown around WAY too easily these days…) We are totally convinced that we were separated at birth and when we’re actually physically together, people think we’re sisters; we look that much alike. I think it’s awesome. I just hate the distance. But if you really want to test a friendship, keep it going from across the country and if you still have it after 5+ years, you got something worth holding on to. Both B and I and C and I get into some crazy shenanigans just through texts and Facebook alone; you should see what happens when we’re actually together. I think people are slightly frightened when we are in the same state together at the same time…and people should be frightened…because it’s awesome…and really loud…between the music and the raucous laughter. (Did you a hear a raucous? I didn’t hear a raucous. Can you describe the raucous?)

(A typical afternoon conversation with B. Again, I’m on the right, the darker bubble.)

B4

B3

B2

B1

(We’re dorks…I know…but this is love.)

I would call those two, and probably a few other people in my life, my tried and true friends. They love me for me, all of me, good and bad, and with all the shit I’ve pulled over the last two years (and over our entire friendship), they’re still the ones who’s texts wake me up in the morning and the ones who can make me laugh from a couple thousand miles away with a single word. Aside from all the awesomeness and fun stuff, we’re always there for each other during the bad stuff too. We’ve stayed up late for each other, talking, making sure one or the other is going to be okay. We listen to any rants and always keep close tabs on each other. We don’t have to constantly “check in” or “report” to each other…we know each other SO well, that we just know when something’s not right…when there’s a disturbance in the force. That’s how strong our bond is…for both B and C.

That stuff is all fun and awesome, but it’s not why I’m writing this post. I’m writing this because I’ve had the topic of “friendship” on my mind and some questions that have kept me up late at night. As an introvert, I’ve already told you I don’t have many friends and that’s the way I like it. Quality over quantity. Another reason is because it will take some time and patience on your part if you want to be a part of my life. I don’t let just anyone walk in and out of my life as they please. As harsh as this may sound, you have to prove to me that you want to be in my life and that you’re not gonna fuck with me before I even consider letting you past the threshold of the door. (Some of you will end up fucking with me anyway, but that’s the way the ball bounces. Don’t be sorry I trusted you; my mistake, not yours.) If I tell you I trust you, don’t make me regret it. If I tell you I love you, I mean it. I love hard and with all that I have and if I have been given the opportunity to be your friend, I will do my best to be an awesome friend for and to you. I’m not saying I will be perfect…in fact, I’ll probably tell you straight up that I’m gonna fuck up here and there, but we’ll talk about it and I’ll apologize and we’ll resolve the issue and then hug…promise. To those that mean the most to me, I try hard (especially with those girls on the east coast) to remind them that I do love them, that I think about them often, and that I value and appreciate them. I’m the kind of person who will mail you random cards and shit just to make you smile and/or give you a warm fuzzy. I will post stupid YouTube videos and pictures on your Facebook wall that will make you snort-laugh. If I’m out and about and I see something that makes me think of you, I will buy it and give it to you, take a picture and text it to you, or just holla somehow and tell you, “Yo bish! I saw dis and I thought of you! I heart your face!” That’s just how I roll. That is how I like to be a friend for someone. I do the same shit for people who live down the street as I do for those who live across the country. (And just to tell you how corny B and C and I can get, we’ll watch the same movie/TV show at the same time and text our commentary and sarcastic remarks back and forth to each other or on Facebook for the public to see [the SuperBowl was festive this year]…because we are dorks and that’s how we roll. It’s also quite entertaining to our mutual friends…especially C’s daughter who thinks her mom is insane when C is in the computer room busting a gut reading my running commentary on Downton Abbey.)

(Side note: If I’m weird around you, it means I’m comfortable.)

I am also that friend who, despite her own insanity, will drop everything to be there for you. This sometimes backfires on me. I am SO gun-ho about wanting to be needed and wanting to be liked, that at times, I forget to take care of myself because I’m so busy trying to take care of you. I know what it means to feel like you have no one to turn to and no one who understands you, especially in regards to mental illness. But sometimes I question if I am really THAT friend you should call if you are experiencing/going through some of the same hell that I am (e.g. depression, anxiety, suicidal ideations, etc.). On one hand, I’d like to think that I’d understand more than most and that I can probably empathize better than those who are not in the same boat. But…it’s kind of like AA. In AA (I only know this because my half-brother is going through AA/rehab), you are told to NOT associate with other people in recovery. It’s not hard to fall off the wagon, be it alcohol or depression. Yes, people in AA will probably understand you a lot better than your never-been-drunk-in-her-life BFF, but you and that person may be at two completely different places in your recovery. One of you might have been sober for 15 years and can easily say no to a beer…then the other one of you sees an episode of the Simpson’s where Homer is chugging a beer and you don’t have the tools to stop yourself from running down to the corner store to grab a 6-pack. I learned this lesson the hard way during my time in group therapy.

As I’ve said before, I was initially very quiet and closed down in group, not even letting the therapists into my world and there was no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks that I was going to let the OTHER crazy people that made up the rest of my group in. That just sounded like a bad idea from get-go. BUT…it happened anyway. Right after I opened my mouth for the first time, I was invited to a little coffee date with some of the “groupies” after group. They had been doing the Starbucks thing for some time and I knew that, but I never had any interest in joining them and there was something that just didn’t sound right about it…I just didn’t know what it was…until I started going. Then I was like, “THIS is the reason this is not a good idea.” Picture this: a bunch of crazy people (across the board from BPD to bipolar disorder and everything in between, a lot of whom have interpersonal relationship issues, including myself) sitting at a Starbucks…talking about…what else? Crazy shit. Suicide. Depression. Issues. And I was like, “No no no no no no…see, we just spent 90 minutes in a group therapy session doing this shit…I ain’t gonna do it in PUBLIC at a Starbucks with people I don’t really even know or trust.” I went a few more times but then things started going downhill and I saw the drama coming from a mile away and got out before shit hit the fan (praise the sweet eight-pound homebirthed baby Jesus!). Some of the others weren’t so lucky and I’m sure they needed extra individual therapy time after that fiasco (even I needed extra therapy time because they dragged their drama into the group room and I said, “HELL. NO.”). I told myself when I started going to that group that I was not in it to make friends and I slipped a little because I was trying to give myself a push and get my butt to do something out of my comfort zone and get some bonus points with my therapist…but I ran the hell away from the Starbucks group when I saw things starting to go awry. Group therapy was not/is not meant to be a social or support group, it’s a skills training group and it just does not sound like a good idea to make friends with people who are just as fucked up as you are.

But what do you do when you have people like that who were already in your life before you lost your marbles? I’ll tell ya right now: I don’t have a fucking clue. Hence the reason for this post.

I spend a lot of time alone, voluntarily (introvert, remember?)…and I don’t mind at all. The less people you chill with, the less problems you deal with. One of the cons to doing that is that I don’t get a lot of “practice” interacting with others and really, I am not usually called upon by my friends and the people I know to be a friend…or in other words, I go to them if I need them but people don’t usually come to me when they need someone (B and C are probably the only exceptions to this rule). I also find it REALLY easy to go into “friend mode”…dropping all my shit, however heavy it is, in order to be there for someone in need. And I usually don’t mind because I enjoy being wanted/needed/chosen…I like being there for people…being that person they can always count on. Contrary to popular belief, I love to love…I enjoy caring about other people because I know how much it means to me when I know someone cares about me. I feel that I am really empathetic, non-judgmental and a good listener. I try not to act like someone’s therapist or give them advice because I know it drives ME nuts when people do that to me. I may inadvertently dispense advice in the form of sharing my own experiences and what has or hasn’t worked for me, but I try not to tell people that they should do A, B or C. Being called upon to be someone’s friend is also a great distraction for me because even though my load is heavy, it’s a nice break/distraction when I get to focus my attention and energy on someone other than myself. But this can sometimes backfire. I am SO gun-ho about wanting to be there for another person that I forget that my load IS really heavy and while that person deserves my attention (and I want to give it to them), I also need to pay attention to myself and my needs and throwing myself into someone else’s crisis sometimes makes me forget about me and then later, when the other person’s storm has passed, I’m a mess because I’ve neglected my own emotions. As much as I would like to think that I am a great friend, I sometimes wonder if I really am…and I don’t say that in order to be told that I really am a great friend and I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Here’s where I’m going with this: a few weeks ago, a friend that I got to know while attending my pharmacy school sent me a message on Facebook telling me she was feeling suicidal. I’ve known this lady long enough and I know enough about her to know she has some legitimate depression issues and that was sort of the thing that brought us together as friends in the first place…that mutual understanding and empathy. I also know that she’s been struggling with depression for a long time but she is also someone who talks about suicide “lightly”…and I say “lightly” because she’ll talk about it while having no real intent or plan to carry it out…sort of a flippant “I would be better off dead” thought…a thought that, in my opinion, everyone has (“normal” or otherwise) at some point in their life. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think most people, at one time or another, have just gotten pissed and frustrated with life and wished, for a split second, that they could just disappear…but most people don’t give it much more thought than that. I do not like pity parties and I refuse to respond to flippant comments like, “ohmygod I’m so fat/ugly/stupid”. I’m not a “chaser” either…if you want to cry and run out the door hoping I will run after you…forget that shit. I will hold the door open for you, wave, and go back to what I was doing. I don’t play that game with my mom and I don’t play it with any of my friends or acquaintances. It is not my job as a human being or friend to meet your attention-seeking desires and to pump you up and blow smoke up your ass by saying things like, “No, you’re not ugly Narcissa…you’re so pretty!” Don’t fish for compliments in my pond because I’m not biting. Please don’t take this to mean I am a cold-hearted biatch and never compliment anyone…but I do it when it’s not “expected” of me, if that makes sense. If you post a picture that I find gorgeous, I will leave/give you a compliment that says as much…or I’ll send you a random text/note or something and just tell you that I think you’re awesome, thanks for being my friend. If you take me shopping and you try on some pants and ask me if they make your butt look big, I will fucking tell you to take those damn pants off because your ass looks HUGE. I’m not in the business of lying, no matter if it’s a “white” lie or a lie that really won’t hurt anybody. If you tell the truth all the time, you don’t have to remember anything. Some people post more serious things, but it’s done very flippantly…case-in-point: the aforementioned friend…H. H drops suicide bombs a lot…either on me personally or in public on Facebook. I don’t fuck around with suicide. I am also not someone who “announces” a plan to kill myself for the world to see because if I am intent on carrying that plan out, I ain’t gonna tell nobody…I’m just gonna do it. The caveat is that when people do things like this, be it H or someone else…I get confused. Is it really a flippant comment I can/should ignore or is it a legitimate cry for help? Do I send her a text or message and ask her if she’s really okay or just ignore it because I know that she does this kind of attention-seeking stuff? I never know and I prefer to err on the side of caution and ask if she’s okay because I don’t want to dismiss a suicide comment and find out later that it wasn’t flippant; it was a serious cry for help and I ignored it. It’s kind of like the boy who cried wolf…you do/say things like that one too many times and people will eventually stop believing you/responding/taking you seriously…and then the one time you’re NOT crying wolf, people ignore you when in actuality, that was the one the time people should have really responded. So H sent me a message on Facebook late one night and I saw it as a very serious crisis (I still don’t know if it really was…if she really was minutes away from offing herself…or if it was another flippant comment said in exasperation). Again, I don’t take suicide lightly so I stayed up to talk to her (and this was the day after a mini road trip and I was tired as fuck) and made sure she was going to be okay or if she/I needed to call 911. Based on the conversation we had, I determined she was fine, at least for the night…and I made her promise to call me or 911 if shit starts going to hell in a hand-basket. In another conversation, she said she could really use some support right now and would like to see me because she knows a little bit about the last two years of my life and she knows I have the kind of empathy and understanding that only people who have been/are in similar situations can have for each other. I agreed to meet her for coffee after an appointment with M one afternoon. After confirming a time and place and saying goodbye, telling her to call me or 911 if she needed to, I began to wonder if I really should have done that…agreed to meet up with her. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to see her…but I wondered if I was really the kind of friend she needed right now because I myself am in the midst of my own personal hell and entertaining my own suicidal ideations. On one hand, I can probably understand and empathize with H more than most of the people in her life…but on the other hand, I have my own suicide and depression issues and I wondered if it was a good idea for me to involve myself in her situation. One, I’m pretty open and blunt about suicide…I don’t sugarcoat the facts or the gruesome details of my own experiences and I didn’t want to exacerbate H’s emotions. Two, is it a good idea for one suicidal person to try to talk another suicidal person out of suicide?…kind of an oxymoron if you ask me. Three, was I okay/secure enough with my own issues that meeting up with H wouldn’t be a trigger for me? In hindsight, I probably should have run this idea past M or K before doing it…but I wasn’t thinking straight when I made plans to meet H…it was late at night and I was delirious with sleep deprivation. In the end, it all worked out I suppose because after H canceled that date on me, she proceeded to cancel two more and after the last one, I said fuck it and stopped trying. So I never met up with her. If you really want to meet up with me, I’ll go…but I don’t play this “let’s make a date and cancel” game…drives me bonkers. H is also what I like to call an “askhole.” An askhole is someone who constantly asks you for advice and always does the complete opposite of anything you say/suggest. It’s like…why even ask? You’re killin’ me, Smalls! Over the past few weeks, H has pushed my buttons one too many times, to the point where I am considering unfriending her. But I hesitate because 1), I don’t like hurting people’s feelings and 2), I don’t want to kick someone when they’re down. Based on my own observations and knowledge, H does a lot of talking but not a lot of walking. She’s in an abusive marriage (I don’t think it’s physical, but it’s very much verbally and emotionally abusive) and she hates the guy and the guy hates her and if she’s telling me the truth, it’s really not a good environment to be in whether or not you have psychological disorders to add to the top of the sundae. H has kept me up WAY past 3 AM on many nights telling me just how bad it really is and in my own fucked up crazy mind, I see an easy fix: leave. I get that battered wife syndrome and all but H has SO many people, more than just me, that have her back and are willing to help her get out and get a divorce…but I guess she prefers to stay and bitch about it on Facebook. She always has an excuse/reason not to leave as she’s giving me all the reasons why she should leave. (I know that I also live in a toxic environment…but it’s not abusive to the point where law enforcement could intervene and I know that I don’t have a whole lot of other options right now. It is what it is. And I know that. Do I like it? No. Do I bitch about it? On my blog and to certain people and my therapist, yes. But there’s a difference between my situation and H’s. And that’s radical acceptance. I don’t really have a choice right now…H does. Also, I’m working on trying to find a way out. H isn’t. I’m not saying I’m better than H or any of that bullshit…I’m just trying to explain that I am in a similar situation but I’m doing my best to cope with it in the here and now while brainstorming ways to get out. I have a goal. I’m trying to be proactive and help myself. H is just sitting there complaining and not doing a damn thing to help herself.) H has asked me about my own journey and my own suicide attempts and what I’m doing to help myself in my own toxic environment. I’m not ashamed to talk about my suicide attempts or what I’ve attempted/how I’ve attempted to do it…but H was asking for details and I’m all, “Aw hell no!”…I am NOT going to give you step by step instructions on how to off yourself. 1): I put a lot of time and effort into researching that shit. 2): They were all lethal methods; the only reason I am sitting here typing this now is because I was caught/found. 3): I am not going to be responsible for you ending your life by giving you the tools/knowledge to do it. I once steered a conversation in the direction of therapy, DBT therapy specifically, and H messaged me last week to talk to me about it. And we did. And H, verbatim, said to me, “Will it make me stronger?” I did a *facepalm* and then, being the honest and blunt person I am (plus, I was getting a little irritated and pissed off at her by this point), I said, “No, H…it won’t. Not if you just go and sit there. You have to want it to get it. You have to decide you want it more than you are afraid of it. DBT therapy is great…if you are willing to make it work for you and if you are willing to put the effort into making it work. It isn’t magic and it will not happen overnight.” H didn’t like this answer because she quickly changed the subject…back to her abusive husband. By this point, I was pretty much about done. She sat there and told me all the shit I already knew and, being the tactful person I am, I called her on her bullshit. I said, “H, you are pissing me the fuck off. You sit here with me, night after night, telling me how much you hate your husband and how much you want out, and the minute he travels out of town, you blow up his Facebook page with ‘I love you’s’ and ‘I miss you’s’…this is so counterproductive and maybe I don’t know jack because I’ve never been married…but if I hate someone I once loved, you can bet that there will be no ‘I love you’s’ coming out of my mouth anytime soon, if ever.” Five minutes of silence passed and she said, “Well…thanks for talking. I’m gonna go.” I didn’t even say goodbye. I just logged off the computer and gave birth to this post. I am now Googling how to politely unfriend a “friend” because I think I have decided I do not want this person in my life, even if it’s just on Facebook. I don’t need it and I don’t want it. But what stops me from hitting that button is my heart. I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings and if H is really in the pits of despair as she claims, I know how much a simple “unfriend” can hurt, imagined or legit. I don’t want to kick her when she’s down and I don’t want to give her another reason to hate herself or her life nor do I want to be the reason she posts her next status update of, “I have no friends; everyone hates me.” I also don’t ever want to be listed in a suicide note as one of the reasons someone took their life. “The person I thought would understand and validate me the most left me.” I would never get out of therapy. So it’s a catch-22. I HAVE made it so her shit doesn’t show up in my news feed but I haven’t taken the final step of actually unfriending her…because I don’t know how.

I have another post to spit out tonight, but I’ll post it separate from this one; it’s a follow up to my “It’s not you, it’s me.” post…do’s and don’ts, friendship edition. Stay tuned.

I’ma let you finish, but…

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Today is my last day of DBT group therapy. My reasonable/rational mind is saying that it’s time…it’s appropriate…all the facts (e.g. I know the material, I’ve been taught the skills, I’ve been doing this for a long time). My emotional mind is saying, “NO! Don’t make me leave! I need this!” And my wise mind is saying, “It’s time. It will be okay. Change is hard sometimes but it’s for the best.” (The fact that I am able to observe, recognize and break down those three states of mind is probably solid proof that it’s time to “graduate” and be kicked out of the nest but it still doesn’t mean I like it or that I think I’m ready to fly on my own.)

Back in November or December of last year, K grabbed me after group one day and asked me to give some thought to something she’d like me to do. I was a little wary, but I said I’d think about it. She asked me if I would be willing to attend a teen/parent DBT group session and share my DBT experience/journey because she was having a hard time getting that group motivated and committed to the process/journey and she thought that with me being young with a pretty good story to tell, my words might be able to get through those thick little teenage skulls. My immediate reaction was, “Aw hell no!” because, if I haven’t mentioned it before, I don’t like groups and I don’t like talking to a roomful of people I don’t know, especially judgmental teenagers. But then, after my 12-hour processing time, I was like…hmm…okay…I’ll do it…for K. I later saw it as backhanded compliment…that K thought so highly of me and my personal DBT journey that she would personally ask me to do this.

I never got the chance to give my “speech” and it wasn’t because I was no longer wanted, but it had to do with confidentially/HIPAA laws and stuff. As far as I know, the idea is still on the table, it’s just not really moving at the moment. I may get the chance to say this to a DBT group some day, but just in case I don’t, I’ll preserve it here. And whoa…my lightbulb just went off: my hope is that, by posting this on the interwebs, someone considering DBT therapy and/or having a hard time committing to the process will stumble across this little gem and it will give them something to think about and/or the motivation/encouragement to JUST. KEEP. TRYING.

This is a tad out-dated as I wrote it back in December and I’ve had a birthday since then and I am no longer in a DBT group. But read this as if I were and read it as if it were a real speech given to a roomful of (hopefully) attentive people. This is what I would have said:

[clears throat]

Hi, my name is J and I’ve had an okay week and some skills I used were……oh wait…this isn’t a check-in is it?

I like to write down my thoughts before saying them out loud so that I don’t cause harm to myself or others. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. Oh wait…that’s me. I chose to write and read this aloud because 1): I have been told I have some awesome writing skills; 2): it will help guide me and prevent any long-winded tangents; 3): I’m not a professional public speaker and 4): when given the time, I prefer to write as a way to “prepare” and think about what I want to say rather than fly by the seat of my pants and quickly try to put my thoughts together for an audience; it gives me time to edit myself, choose my words wisely and take out all the swear words.

I was first approached about talking to you all today by K. After my own DBT group session one day, she asked me if I would do her a favor. I gave her my signature one-eyebrow-raised-did-I-hear-you-correctly-and-if-I-did-I’m-not-going-to-say-yes-or-no-right-this-minute expressions because, if you’ve had any experience with therapists, their “favors” are usually things to be wary of. You should get the details first and not commit to anything in blood before agreeing to do it because it will usually require you to step out of your comfort zone and/or go beyond what you deem as your “normal” behavior and/or do things that test your limits. K’s favor asked me to do all of the above.

I was asked to speak to you all, in part, because I am young and most of the time, I’m the youngest member in the adult DBT group. But the more I thought about this opportunity, the more I realized that despite my age, my situation is not all that different from yours…the teenagers. I am often asked when I will be graduating from high school and, after telling people I already have a diploma and two degrees, I tell them that I am 28 years old (almost 29 actually…yikes!)…and even then, I am sometimes asked to show my driver’s license to prove my age. But apart from that, due to many circumstances and decisions made by myself and other people, I have had to return home and am currently living with my only surviving parent: my mother. (If you’re wondering, I had lived on my own for many years prior to this situation and I am fiercely independent; living at home is not easy, even at almost 30.) Sometimes even I question how old I am because I see and experience a lot of the same things I did when I was a teenager living at home.

I have mixed emotions about being here and talking to you all…this will make more sense when I tell you that I didn’t utter a single word in my own DBT group for about ten months. I have been in my DBT group for about a year now, I think. I have been through all of the modules at least twice. My own personal journey that landed me where I am now has been going on for about 18 months. I started out with individual therapy and after a few months of that, I was “strongly encouraged” to start going to group therapy. You should note here that I am very introverted and I “don’t play well with others.” So when someone says “group” to me, I cringe…I don’t like being around people as a general rule and I really don’t like strangers and I really really don’t like being in a situation that requires me to get personal, to any degree, with a roomful of people I don’t know. I like it even less, if that’s possible, when it is “forced” upon me or “strongly encouraged.” I fought my therapist (who is not K, but is on the DBT team) for a good two months or so before finally agreeing to go to group. I will admit that initially, I agreed to go just to make my therapist shut up and stop nagging me…and because she asked nicely and said please. If you guys haven’t covered it yet, you will get to an interpersonal effectiveness lesson on intensity…your “asking” intensity level and your “saying no” intensity level, which are both on a scale from 1-10…with 1 being not very assertive about asking for something or saying no to something and 10 being very assertive about your request and not taking no for answer or being very adamant about saying no to a request. My therapist was a firm ten in asking (I like to think it was more like “telling”) me to go and I was at a firm ten…probably more like a firm twenty…in saying no to her request. Don’t ask me how I came to be sitting here because after a year, I still don’t know how I got duped into it. I sat in the same chair, in the same spot for 90 minutes every Thursday afternoon for ten months and would not even introduce myself or say my name, much less comment on my week or mention any skills I had used or worked on. I’m sure some people wondered if I even knew how to talk. I listened to what was being said…sometimes. But if I may be honest, a lot of it went in one ear and out the other for the first few months. I don’t know why or when I started to actually listen and pay attention. I still wasn’t saying anything, but I was at least participating now…even if it was only in my mind. I was frustrated with the group from the get-go. Aside from not wanting to be there, I was all, “What the hell is this mindfulness crap?” (It was a few weeks before I even understood what mindfulness was because I was so hell-bent on not speaking that I didn’t bother to question something I didn’t understand.) Please note that me choosing to be quiet and making it no secret that I didn’t want to be there was not done out of defiance or stubbornness. My behavior was the result of a distorted belief that I wasn’t worth it, that I couldn’t change and that any and all efforts to help me do so would be in vain. I felt I was wasting the therapist’s time and a space in group that could have been given to someone else who needed it more than I did…and no one could have convinced me otherwise. So there I sat…for ten months…rarely making eye-contact with anyone who spoke and not saying a single word. The most you usually got out of me was a shake of the head to let the facilitating therapist know that I wasn’t going to say anything or participate. Then one of the therapists would ask me if it was okay if they could say my name and introduce me to the group; that usually elicited just a single nod from me.

I cannot tell you what the turning point was for me…I can only tell you that it happened about two months ago. I have a couple theories about what led me to finally open my mouth, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter why because I think I’ve said more in the last two months of group than I have in the last two years of my life. I had not only stunned myself with my new behavior, but for the first time, I had rendered the therapists speechless…which is not an easy thing to do. I just opened my mouth one day and said, “My name is J.” and I haven’t shut it since. (This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on who you ask.) Not only was I taken aback by my newfound voice…the therapists were too…not just because of my willingness to finally talk, but by how much information I had actually been absorbing from just sitting there quietly for so long. At first, I felt that my mouth was a faucet that couldn’t be turned off…I felt like I was talking non-stop and that people in group, including the therapists, were getting irritated with me. Apparently, after not talking for so long, I had lost the ability to determine when I was talking too much because it turned out that I was actually doing just fine. Not that I had to prove anything, but me finally talking and participating proved to the therapists (and myself) that I was actually listening, absorbing and, albeit, using the skills that were being taught. And not only could I parrot what was being taught and what the acronyms DEAR MAN and GIVE FAST stood for, I had my own fifty cents (that’s like the “two cents” phrase but I’ve adjusted for inflation) to offer on almost anything we talked about. That’s not to say that I knew everything and was all of a sudden a black belt in DBT…but I was putting all this information into more relatable and understandable terms and putting my own unique spin and interpretation on things. And it came as quite a surprise to me when I learned that the therapists enjoyed and appreciated this new side of me…but my fellow group members did, too…some of whom had been in the group with me for some time and knew this was not my usual MO. I remember having a one-on-one session with my personal therapist after one of the first days I had said something out loud in group and K actually came into her office (courteously) and told me to not be so hard on myself and come out of my cocoon a little bit and share my thoughts and experiences. K thought I had a lot to offer and she asked me to open up a bit and give people a chance to benefit from my personality and any two cents I had to offer on a topic.

After being in this group for as long as I have, I have seen many people come and go…but one of the first things I almost always hear anyone new say is, “Damn…I wish I had been taught these skills in school or earlier in life.” Just because you are here and/or diagnosed with a disorder does not mean you are crazy or condemned to a life full of chaotic emotions, bad relationships and poor coping skills. While the information taught here is geared towards those of us who have difficulty regulating our emotions and such…the information is also very pertinent to “normal” people, too. If I had a class in high school that had taught me this information and these skills, I probably could have saved myself (and many other people) a lot of headaches. I could have substituted a DBT class for a math class because Lord knows I don’t use the Pythagorean theorem out in the “real world”…but I do use DBT skills. But my personal conviction is that all things happen for a reason…there is no such thing as luck and there are no accidents or coincidences. The reason why I ended up in the place I now find myself may not be evident right now…or ever…but there is a reason for it. And for all I know, part of that reason is to be here today to share my experience with all of you.

If you find me smiling or laughing as I talk, it’s because I can talk the talk but I’m not very graceful while walking the walk. (Judgement, K…I know.) I know the right answers to the questions being asked and I can regurgitate the DBT book word for word, but it doesn’t mean I always excel in the execution. Am I better able to work through my emotions and deal with stress and relationships now? Yes…but I’m not a master of it and I don’t/can’t do it all the time. I have my good days and my bad days. One of the most frustrating things for me, even now, is that one day, I can be very mindful or I can execute a DEAR MAN or opposite action with such awesomeness that someone has to call Marsha Linehan so she can give me a gold star. But then the very next day, I feel like I have completely failed because the skills and knowledge I used yesterday aren’t working for me today. And to be honest…it pisses me off sometimes. But that’s part of mindfulness…no judging…just rolling with the punches…accept it for what it is. Yesterday was yesterday. Today is today. Do what you can and what you know how to do in the moment you are called to do it. It won’t happen perfectly every time…sometimes it might not happen at all. There are still days where I just want to throw the DBT book out the window and there are still concepts I struggle with. I am a textbook Type A personality and an OCD perfectionist to the core…so when I don’t understand something or things don’t go as I feel they should or how a book tells me things should go, it grates on my nerves. But I’ve finally learned (sort of) that it doesn’t matter that I don’t do it perfectly or that I don’t do it all the time…all that matters is that I continue to try. There’s some radical acceptance for ya. So…I have continued coming to group…even on the days I don’t want to…even on the days I am having a panic attack…even if I am having one of the worst days of the last week or month. I may not hear or absorb a single word anyone says…but at least I go…I participate just by showing up. (And over the course of twelve months, I think I’ve actually only missed two days of group…one because of snow and one for a personal reason.) I even surprised myself about four months ago when I showed up to group not even 24 hours after making another attempt on my life. I was still dealing with some of the physical and emotional repercussions of what I had just done and I wasn’t really coherent. I sat in here for 90 minutes, tears silently rolling down my cheeks and I don’t remember who was in group that day aside from the facilitating therapists and I can’t tell you a single thing that was said that day…but I showed up.

In reflecting on the past year plus, it occurred to me that group participation and the one-on-one sessions with my therapist have been (and continue to be) great practice arenas. All of the therapists in this building, and I would think even more so with those on the DBT team, are all trained to listen, validate, and not pass judgement. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think those are things we want from most anyone we come into contact with. I, to this day, have a very rocky and toxic relationship with my mother. She doesn’t even know what DBT stands for…she just knows that I go to some “safe house” for 90 minutes every Thursday and that I will fend for myself regarding dinner. I think you guys, as teens and their parents, have a very unique opportunity here…to learn and work on these things TOGETHER. It allows you to validate each other…to even know what validation is and how to do it…and being here will probably help you learn to take a deep breath and think before you say or do something that is harmful to either yourself or someone else. Even if you don’t follow a specific skill step by step…if you can at least be mindful enough to just stop yourself for that split second and take that breath before acting upon an urge or saying something you may regret later…congratulations, you are one step ahead of most people. If you get nothing out of this group other than how to be mindful and recognize when you need to take that deep breath, I consider you a success.

Being able to be here every week and practice these techniques with the peers in my own group and then one-on-one with my therapist has given me the confidence and reinforcement I need to be able to use these skills out in my own world. Sometimes, my therapist will call me or we will be sitting down during a session and I will point-blank tell her that I am pissed off at her…be it something she said/didn’t say or did/didn’t do. And she will look at me with the biggest grin and tell me, with such exuberance, that she is so proud of me and loves it when I say things like that. And I’m like, “Are you deaf? I just told you I’m mad at you!” I laugh at this because it isn’t a “normal” reaction to anger and you probably won’t ever see someone so happy to be told to take a hike into next week. She is proud of me because I’m now able to be assertive and communicate and express myself in a way that gets my point across effectively, efficiently and without the fear of being judged, chastised or attacked for whatever it is I am upset about and for not physically hurting myself or someone else in the process. She listens to me, validates my feelings, and doesn’t judge or criticize. She doesn’t retort with, “Well you shouldn’t feel that way because of x, y and z.” or “You have no reason or right to be mad at me.” or “Oh yeah? Well I’m pissed at you, too!” She tells me, instead, “I hear you and I understand why you are upset.” Then we discuss it and resolve it…whatever the situation calls for. Sometimes all I need is just the opportunity to express my feelings and explain why I feel the way I do and I’m over and done with it. Sometimes the situation calls for deeper exploration and resolution. But being able to practice doing that with her has given me the confidence to do the same thing out in the “real world.” (I know…as a teenager, I hated it when adults used the “real world” cop-out, too.) Keep in mind that while my own therapist loves it when I tell her I am mad at her, you more than likely will not get the same response out of people you come across in your daily life…but that’s where the practice comes in. I probably won’t get that type of response from most people but I’m prepared enough now to handle that, stand my ground and just focus on my actions and thoughts, not theirs. And as a little tangent: my own therapist has watched me go through a good chunk of this DBT journey but she hasn’t seen it all. She wasn’t leading the group in the beginning…but K has been here with me since day one. I pushed her away many times. (As I picture this in my head, I see it like palming someone’s head and keeping them “at arm’s length” as they’re swinging their arms wildly at you in hopes of being able to clock you.) I never even let K cross the moat that surrounded my fortress. In fact, for many months, I didn’t even know what color her eyes were because I would never look at her. But she was patient. She didn’t force me to do anything or push me beyond my limits, but she never gave up on me either. And while the person you see here today is a result of my own effort and is my own personal triumph…I think it’s K’s, too. It means a great deal to me that someone was not only as willful as I was (which is no easy feat) and didn’t give up on me, but is now also so…I don’t know the right word…impressed?…proud? Whatever word you want to use…she is enough of it to ask me if I would come and speak to you all today. I think it is a testament to my progress and I consider it a privilege. To be thought of as such a “success story”…to know that someone thinks my journey is remarkable and worthy enough to be shared with others is one of the best compliments I have ever received.

We are all here because we essentially have unhealthy habits…be they unhealthy coping skills, unhealthy distress tolerance skills or unhealthy communication skills. For me personally, I came into this group with 27 years worth of bad habits. Some of you are younger than I am and some of you are older…but I think you will all concede that habits are hard to break. So don’t be hard on yourself or give up easily…you all have habits, good and bad, that have had 20 years (more or less) worth of reinforcement…give yourself more than a week or two to unlearn those and/or learn to use healthier ones. It’s hard to wait around for something you know might never happen…that you might never get better…but it’s even harder to give up when you know it’s everything you want…to get better. This type of therapy isn’t immediate gratification; it doesn’t happen overnight; it isn’t bibbity-bobbity-boo magic…the thingamabob that does the job. It takes effort and there has to be some flexibility, acceptance and willingness on your part…you have to want it to get it. A joke I’ve had in my arsenal for many years is this one: How many therapists does it take to change a lightbulb? One…only if the lightbulb wants to be changed. Don’t give up on this group and this process. The minute you think of giving up, remember the reason you’ve been holding on for so long. Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it. I’m still working on that. Some days, mindfulness happens naturally without any conscious effort on my part. Other days, I have to literally stop myself in my tracks and take a minute to get my bearings and take note of what’s going on, either with myself or my world…and go forth using whatever skills I need to in order to navigate through my day or situation. Some days are better than others. I still have a long way to go, in my opinion…but I also think I’ve come a long way to be able to be here talking to you…because Lord knows if this were three months ago, there is not a chance in H-E-double-hockey-sticks that I would have agreed to talk to you all today. If you had told me a year ago that I would be here doing this today, I would have called a therapist for you. I consider myself a “work in progress” and am by no means the poster-patient for DBT…but I still earn gold stars every now and then. If you take anything away from me today, take with you some self-validation and a reminder to not give up when you get frustrated or don’t understand the material. If I had succeeded in my missions to abort my participation in this group, I wouldn’t have this journey to share…and I would probably still be wondering what the hell mindfulness was.

[drops mic]

Why?

Why

I’m not trying to justify this or persuade you to think it’s okay to do…that it’s not wrong. I’m just exploring a thought/question that came to mind. Yes, I think about suicide a lot as it relates to me personally…planning, questioning if it’s really something I want, all the pros and cons, etc. But I also think about the subject in general…I am that proverbial preschooler who incessantly asks, “Why?” So I want to know…what makes suicide wrong? Why is it the “wrong” choice? Who decided it was so wrong, bad and taboo? Is it because of the aftermath that often lies in its wake…all the people that would be hurt…all the unanswered questions…leaving all of your affairs behind for someone else to pick up/deal with? Is it because we think that someone who wants to end their life is crazy and therefore, that person is unable to think clearly and make a rational decision? Is it because a/the Bible says it’s wrong, that it’s a “sin”? I did not choose to be born…I did not choose life…it was given to me. No one asked me if I wanted to go hang out on planet Earth for 80 years or so. I also didn’t choose the path I am on now. I suppose, indirectly, that I did choose this path because of the choices I made and what I’m dealing with now is the consequence for making those bad choices…it is my punishment. Is suicide so socially unacceptable because life is viewed as precious and to just “throw it away” is the ultimate form of disrespect and irreverence? Or is it because other people have passed away without being consulted…they didn’t choose to die (e.g. cancer, auto accident) and therefore, because I have the chance to experience and live my life, to end it would be disrespectful to those who aren’t able to? I have to live because I wasn’t chosen to die and I have to live my life for all the people who died when they didn’t want to…like I owe my life to those who have died. They lost their life and therefore, I am obligated to keep mine out of respect. It’s like the proverbial guilt trip about the starving children in Africa. Finish all of your food and don’t waste any because there are thousands of starving children in Africa that would give anything to have the food left on your plate. Most people don’t think that returning an unwanted item to a store as wrong…so why can’t I return a life I didn’t ask for…a life that isn’t the right color or size for me? Why can’t I choose to spare other people the misery I would inflict on them if I choose to keep living? Yes, it would be painful for some people if I passed…but in the grand scheme of things, is the temporary pain “better” than a lifetime of the pain and misery I would inflict because I chose to stick around and people have to deal with me? I think of it like ripping off a band-aid…it’s going to hurt no matter what…so you have a choice: rip it off fast and deal with the momentary discomfort or rip it off slowly and experience the pain of prying off the band-aid from each and every hair and skin cell it has attached itself to.

People think suicide is selfish…and on one side of the coin, I understand that…but on the other side of the coin, in my opinion, not only would I be committing the act, in part, to end my own pain (that’s the “selfish” side)…but I would also be doing it to spare others’ pain. I hate hurting people and their feelings and their lives would be so much better and less chaotic without me around. Thinking in terms of minute details…I would be saving people time and money (and probably their sanity and emotional well-being too). Give that time and effort to those who want to be here, those who are more deserving and those who would make the best use of their time on earth…don’t give it to someone who will only flush it down the toilet. This is where my own guilt comes into play. I feel guilty for taking up so much time…the time of other people, therapy time, individual and group time. I feel guilty for being a financial strain on my mother and for being a pain in everyone’s ass. Give your time to someone who wants it and needs it more. I don’t believe I can be fixed. I missed the boat. I missed my “golden window of opportunity” somewhere and I can’t rewind time in order to go back and seize whatever opportunity I missed…whatever boat I missed. I don’t think I get a second chance. What makes me and my life so valuable? Why am I worth someone’s time and energy? Am I simply valuable because I am breathing? Why am I worth all of this?

How did suicide become so wrong? People can’t put a price on someone’s life…most of us agree with that…yet life is thought to be so amazing, such a precious gift…so valuable, in fact, that to throw it away or take it away is viewed as the ultimate sin and insult (be it abortion, suicide or murder). We, as humans, have been given the freedom and right to be alive and stay alive…a right to seek medical treatment and/or fight whatever battles we encounter that threaten our lives. On the walls of hospital ER’s, there is always a sign that states that any and every person has a right to medical treatment regardless of their inability to pay. So I have every right to have and save my life, but absolutely no right to end it (a living will is irrelevant). If you walk into a hospital or a police station and you are clearly in need of medical attention (e.g. bleeding badly) or you tell someone that you’re experiencing a serious symptom (e.g. chest pain)…people don’t hesitate to get you help and save your life. But if you walk into the same hospital or police station and tell someone you want to end your life…people still won’t hesitate to help you…but it usually comes in the form of being thrown into a padded room and being reprimanded for wanting to make such a stupid and selfish decision; people will sustain your life for you (I view this as a violation of a person’s right to choose) and that is not the “treatment” you were seeking. I get mad about surviving my first (and most serious) suicide attempt because I feel violated…out-numbered…out-voted. I didn’t do it on impulse. Some may disagree, but I didn’t do it because I was crazy. I coolly and calmly calculated every last detail. I weighed all the pros and cons and gave it a lot of thought and then I purposefully and consciously made an informed decision that I was completely content with and one I felt was right for me. People took a decision I made away from me. I didn’t want to live, however stupid my reasons were, so I made a choice to end my life…but even though I made it to a point of unconsciousness, blue in the face and not breathing…air was forced back into my lungs against my wishes. How is that fair? How is that not a violation of my rights and my freedom to choose? I have the freedom and opportunity to do anything I want with my life…but I don’t have the freedom to end it. I can do anything I want to…as long as I do it while breathing. People see suicide as wrong…I see not giving me the choice of suicide as wrong. (Yes, I know I technically have a choice…but if anyone gets wind of my plan…they do anything and everything to prevent me from carrying it out…from making that choice. So I have a choice…yet I don’t really have a choice.) I see no value in my life at all but people still tell me that every life is so valuable and precious…that to end it and throw it out with tomorrow’s trash would be wrong and would be the ultimate form of disrespect…a slap in the face. Why? If I wanted to move across the country to pursue a futile dream of being an actress…a dream that is likely to never come true and a dream I would waste so much time and money on, you wouldn’t stop me. You may express concerns and try to reason with me, yet if it’s something I really want, you will more than likely support and encourage me to go and try. BUT you’ll go to great lengths to stop me from ending my life. And I don’t understand why. My possible importance and worth is irrelevant…I’m only talking about the choice. Why is it wrong?

Voodoo Magic

Today’s edition of “Voodoo Therapy” has been brought to you by the letter M…the first initial of my therapist’s name. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that my therapist and I mesh like no other two people I have ever met. I still don’t know if it’s because we’ve just each invested so much time into each other and I have had to be completely vulnerable and honest with her in order to get the best treatment…or if she possesses some weird sort of voodoo magic because this chick is cray-cray, y’all. (And I realize how funny that statement must sound coming from the true crazy person calling her therapist crazy…but hear me out…) And I don’t mean crazy like me crazy, but crazy because she possesses voodoo magic and she “unleashes” it upon me when I am least expecting it (and yes, I do expect it now…but she uses voodoo magic to catch me when I’m least expecting it). Let me give you some examples so you can better understand.

I see M every week, usually twice (one-on-one and in group therapy). We usually don’t talk on the phone during our time away from each other unless I’m in a crisis or have a need to get something off my chest. Sometimes, I even hold off on calling her even when I really should because I am about to lose my marbles. M somehow gets this message telepathically and will call me on those days. And I’m like, “Really, M? Really?!” Of course I’m glad she called but there’s that voodoo magic. For the next example, I was texting my BFF on the east coast and I was in the middle of typing out a text message saying M hadn’t called me yet (because she had been out sick and I left her a voicemail asking her to call me once she was back in the office). I wasn’t even finished typing out the message and M called me AS I WAS TYPING THE TEXT SAYING SHE HADN’T CALLED ME.

Voodoo

(I used to refer to this as just really good ESP/telepathy and chalked it up to us just knowing each other so well but now I am totally convinced she’s into voodoo magic because I CANNOT make this shit up.) Last Friday, for another example, I was having a really hard day and I was talking about it with my across-the-country friend via text message. She “listened” to me as she always does but then she told me to call M because I was clearly in distress and I needed someone local. I didn’t call M for a few reasons. 1) The day before, during group, M said she wasn’t feeling well and so I didn’t even know if she was working on Friday. 2) M works in a different office on Fridays and I cannot call her. I have to send her an e-mail through the healthcare website that says, “Call me.” And she will when and if she can (and she always does, even if she only has a minute or two). 3) Because I didn’t know if M was working or not, I didn’t know if her e-mail inbox would be covered by another therapist and the coverage is for safety and such and I get that…but if you know anything about me AT ALL, you know it’s a huge step for me to call M voluntarily and talk, it’s another huge step for me to let K (M’s “partner in crime” and my backup therapist…they’re totally double-teaming me) into my world and allow her to be a suitable substitute for M when she is on vacation or out of the office. If M was gone, I didn’t want to talk to anyone else…safety was/is irrelevant…I wanted somebody who knew me and my shit without me having to explain everything and why I am the way that I am. (I can see some of the regular followers questioning why I didn’t e-mail or call K…and I have an answer: K doesn’t work on Friday’s…so if M is also out on a Friday, I’m pretty much SOL.) Back to the story…so my friend is telling me to call M and I didn’t even know if M would get my message that day so I didn’t even try (my bad)…BUT…cue voodoo magic. I recounted this day to M the following week and I shit you not, people…the woman told me that she picked up the phone TWICE on that Friday to call me. She hung up the first time because she “didn’t want to bug me” (and I chastised her for thinking that because she knows I won’t answer the damn phone if I don’t want to talk) and the second time she picked up the phone to call me, she hung up because someone walked into her office. I am 100% totally telling the truth. It’s voodoo magic. There have been other things too…just thinking about each other at the same time, having the same thought at the same time, saying the exact same thing at the exact same time, or just feeling that feeling you feel when someone is talking about you or thinking about you but you don’t know that someone is talking/thinking about you so you just file it away and never say anything about it. M can also accurately guess/speculate/predict how I will react to a situation/event/person. She also has a “knack” for knowing when I really need to hear something…a kind word or some form encouragement (when I haven’t even said anything that would communicate that that’s what I need). And sometimes she’ll give me a quote or a really pertinent metaphor or warm fuzzy without even realizing just how pertinent it is. I’m sure I could fill this entire blog with all her voodoo magic displays but let’s get back to my point and why I’m writing this…

M, at the beginning of group yesterday, told me we were going to play a game (just me and her)…but she didn’t tell me what the game was…until today, Friday…the day after group. M knows I am neurotically observant about the most stupid, irrelevant things (I can tell if a chair has been moved an inch or if K got a really subtle haircut…I also notice band-aids). M had a band-aid on during group and I didn’t know we were playing “Find The Band-aid” but we were. (Note here that I have previously found two of K’s band-aids which is why/how M knew I knew the game even if I didn’t know I was playing.) She called me this afternoon and gave me three chances to pinpoint something I noticed about her (M) yesterday. I said her nails – she got them done. True but not the answer M was looking for. I said her shoes – I hate it when she wears those shoes (even though they’re cute) because they leave red marks on her feet and it looks like they hurt even though she’s adamant they don’t hurt her feet. Nope. My last and final guess (I was holding back because I didn’t want to offend her or make her self-conscious because of what I observed) was her hair – it’s naturally curly like mine and it looked a little more frazzled yesterday than it normally does. While that was true, that wasn’t the answer M was looking for either. Three strikes, I’m out…or in this case, called out. M then told me that she had a band-aid on the inside of her right ankle and the game was to see if I would find it/notice it. And when she told me that, I said that she cheated because, during group, I always sit on her right, thus the inside of her right ankle is always facing away from me…I wouldn’t have ever gotten the “opportunity” to notice the band-aid. That was her whole point. I sit in the same seat, next to K, by the door every time I go to group. (Without fail, people! You could set your watch by me.) It wasn’t always this way as I had sat ACROSS from K for the first 10 months…in a position that, had I stayed in/revisited every now and then, I would have seen M’s band-aid yesterday. M knows I’m shutting down in group and I chastise myself for thinking she wouldn’t notice/see it. She mouthed the word “please” to me yesterday in group when I didn’t really want to add my two cents on whatever it was that we were talking about. I even sighed heavily (and audibly) at the beginning of our 2-minute mindfulness exercise and K nudged me…her way of telling me to “just shut up and do it” (in that sweet, nice K tone). I laugh at this now, but there are two types of chairs in the group room…one has arms on it, the other doesn’t. I prefer the one with arms (much easier to *facepalm* that way). “My” chair yesterday was one that didn’t have arms and I had time to exchange chairs. My “old seat” was a chair with arms…so I switched chairs…NOT position…chairs. (See? More voodoo magic. I was this |__| close to blowing M’s cover…sitting/moving somewhere else and winning a game I didn’t even know I was playing.)

Let me back up the truck just a tad and tell y’all that I am being “kicked out” of group therapy. I’m sure the therapists would like to say it’s more like “graduating” but it doesn’t feel so pomp and circumstance to me. At the beginning of the year, M and K (and this particular healthcare organization as a whole) started tightening the reigns on all the groups…more structure…less tangents…making sure we cover all we need to cover. One of these changes came when they announced that it takes 6 months to go through one round of DBT therapy and all its modules. (This, apparently, isn’t a new revelation/rule but is just one we’ve been letting slide.) At that 6-month point, you will have a conversation with your therapist/a therapist on the DBT team and then that therapist checks in with the team and it is then decided if you need another round/6 months of group or if you are ready to “graduate” and set loose to try all the skills on your own (while still following the DBT modules and being held accountable for using them in your own individual therapy appointments). The maximum time in group is 2 rounds/1 year. I’ve been doing this group thing since November 2011. More than a year. When I first heard of this new “change,” I point-blank asked M if her and K were going to kick me out of group and at the time, M said no…if I wanted to stay, she would support that and advocate for me. A couple weeks ago, M and I sat down to commence an individual therapy appointment and she asked me how I felt about group. I was caught off-guard because I’m like…we just had this conversation…and before I even lifted my eyes to meet M’s eyes…I said, “ohmygod, you’re kicking me out of group, aren’t you?” M said she wasn’t, but her boss was…my time is up…I need to be kicked out of the nest now. I didn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of the situation until later…because I didn’t flip out until later. This group has been part of my therapy and routine for over a year…it’s comfortable…I don’t take it lightly…I still participate and learn (and I even talk now!)…and it’s scary as fuck to think I won’t be going to group anymore. What the hell am I going to do on Thursdays?! I already have a lot of time on my hands and now you want to give me MORE time? Y’all are nuts. And after I calmed down and made my pros and cons list…I saw the dialectic…both sides of the coin. I have been doing this for a long time and can regurgitate the DBT manual word for word…but it doesn’t mean I’m great with the execution. I understand why I need to be kicked out of the nest but that nest is so damn comfortable. And what about K?! She was so patient and kind and never gave up on me and now I’ve finally let her cross my moat, slay my fire-breathing dragon and enter my fortress…enough to even consider her a suitable backup to my M…and you want me to give her up cold turkey?! Ha…um…no. But I’m out-numbered. I told M earlier this week that I don’t like the idea of leaving group, but the decision has been made and communicated and I will comply…I may comply while kicking and screaming…but then I said that’s probably appropriate because I went INTO group kicking and screaming and it only seems fitting to go OUT kicking and screaming. Full circle. BUT…it still doesn’t mean I like it…hence all the kicking and screaming. I asked M when my “termination” date was and she said I could finish out the current emotion regulation module but that when we are done with that, my time is up. I said okay to this at first, then I started to get so irritated and upset in group that I was like, “What’s the fucking point of me continuing/finishing out this module?” I asked M if she wanted me to stay and finish out the module and she said yes…and please…and because she said please, I said, “Fine.” Over the last couple weeks, I have slowly started to distance myself from the group…not being so active and talkative…so that when my last day comes, it doesn’t hurt so bad. OMFG…LIIIIGHHTTTBUUULLBBBB…you try to tear a band-aid off slowly so it won’t hurt…but what you really need to do is just (wo)man up and rip the fucker off because you know it will hurt like a bitch…for a nanosecond…and then you’ll feel so much better once you get it “over and done with.” Holy shit. VOODOO MAGIC! I’m so totally not kidding…damn…mid blog post epiphany…I think that’s a first. I won’t edit that part and hopefully, whatever scene you envision will bring a smile to your face. M and K love the look on my face when my “lightbulb” goes off in the middle of group. Totally just happened…

ANYYYYWAAAYYY…M’s entire point/metaphor: If I never change…I miss out. If I don’t change my point of view…I miss out on other perspectives. I’m sure I’ll have more to add to this later but all I can say now is, “Touché.” And cry…but…”Touché.” Damn her and her voodoo magic for being so fucking right.

(And after recounting this week’s episode of “Voodoo Therapy” to my BFF across the country, this happened:

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She has my phone #, my license and registration, my e-mail, my home address, my license plate #, my social security #, my library card, my iTunes password, my Blockbuster card, my birth certificate, my passport, my bank account #, my debit card pin #…)