Put on your galoshes, kids because we’re going in deep today. Vulnerability. Before you continue reading, think on that word for a moment and think about what it means to you and what it looks like to you. It means a lot of different things and looks so many different ways, doesn’t it? And naturally, it’s going to mean and look different for everyone.
I got started on this vulnerability thought process because, again, my therapist possesses voodoo magic and just has the most epic timing of anyone I know. She assigned me a TED talk video about vulnerability (given by Brené Brown) to watch for homework this week (and, as always, this blog post was not assigned as homework but so many fucking epiphanies and light bulbs went off that it HAD to be a blog post) and she assigned it not knowing I had already seen it (for once, I had a one-up on her) but I was told that I could watch it again if I wanted to (but I didn’t have to) but come back next session ready to discuss the subject.
Brené Brown is an amazing speaker and has some abso-fucking-lutely amazing ideas and thoughts and theories. Her book, “Daring Greatly”, has been in my “To Read” pile of books for…probably a year? (I’ve been having a hard time with concentration don’t read as much as I once did/as much as I would like to). I don’t know when I first came across her but when I did, her words hit me like a sack of potatoes. So true and so real…right in the gut.
Before I talk about Brené’s version of vulnerability and why it strikes a chord with me…I want to talk about MY version of vulnerability, how my therapist’s timing couldn’t be any better and why all this matters to me.
First, the actual definition of vulnerable:
adjective \ˈvəl-n(ə-)rə-bəl, ˈvəl-nər-bəl\
For me personally, vulnerability means shedding my protective outer shell (which is like titanium) and…like a turtle in the same position, I suppose…stand there naked as a jay bird and deal with whatever comes my way. I don’t like to be vulnerable. At. All. Because it sucks and it leaves me open to so many wounds and punches to the gut and if I just keep my titanium shell on, no one can penetrate that and thus, I don’t have to deal with all the hurt and emotions that come from allowing myself to be vulnerable. I’ve come to use and rely on my protective outer coating more in the last two years than I ever have before. You aren’t born with a shell…you build it with experience…or at least I did. You get burned once or twice, so you start out with maybe like a paper bag shell…then you get burned/taken advantage of a again and you upgrade to maybe aluminum foil and so on and so on. Not everyone is like this, of course…and I envy those people…those who can be vulnerable and take whatever comes their way. Personally, I’m tired of picking up the pieces each time being vulnerable backfires on me and I find it easier to just completely shutdown and guard myself (and my heart) rather than even chance a good or bad outcome (because really, that’s a lot of what vulnerability is…taking chances).
As I thought about this topic and the ways in which I myself am (or choose to be) vulnerable…I noticed marked contrasts in my life. I have NO problem whatsoever in being completely vulnerable with my therapist, M (and even her cohort, K…who worked very hard to break through that titanium shell). But I have a HUGE problem being vulnerable with my friends, family and other people I encounter in my everyday life. Why? With M, I have complete trust in her as well as complete confidentiality…by law, no less. By law, she is required to keep my shit to herself and not divulge it to anyone unless she feels I am a danger to myself or those around me. That means, for example, that if my mom isn’t getting her way at home and she thinks I’m the problem, she can call up M all she wants but M cannot (and would not) tell her anything I said, even if our last session was all about that very issue: mom. I think there are a lot of different components that allow me to be vulnerable with M…I’ve been seeing her for a long time, I’ve had time to build up the trust I have in her (I didn’t just waltz into her office and spill my guts during our first session), and the laws just happen to work in my favor in this situation/relationship. I know M talks to K about me and I get brought up in meetings and with other therapists too and when I first found out about that, I didn’t like it…but once I realized that me and my case are still confidential, that it never leaves their offices, I was like, “Aiight, cool…whatevs.” I think it’s great that I can be vulnerable in the very place where I should be vulnerable…in my therapist’s office. If I didn’t let it all out there, nothing would ever get accomplished and our time together would be completely futile.
I cannot, however, be vulnerable with a lot of my friends. Well…I should say that I choose not to be vulnerable with others. Why? I’ll tell you why. I have tried to be vulnerable on several occasions and with several different friends over the course of my twenty-nine years of existence. Sometimes it’s paid off but more often than not, I end up hurt. (Don’t take that to mean I’ve dumped a friendship down the drain once I got hurt, I may just “tweak” the relationship and be more selective about what I share with a particular person.) When it comes to friendships, I hate to toot my own horn but I feel as if I am the exception rather than the rule when it comes to being a good friend. I am honest (sometimes to a fault) and I always mean what I say and say what I mean. So, for example, if you tell me something in confidence and say, “Please don’t share this with anyone.” I won’t. And even if you don’t tell me to keep my mouth shut, I probably will keep my mouth shut anyway, guessing that what you say is not anything you want all over the 5 o’clock news whether you said so or not. (I like to think I’m rather good when it comes to using discretion.) What you say to me is between us, whether or not it’s a “secret”. I don’t need to go tell someone everything you tell me. I am not the National Enquirer. To further illustrate this concept (and further explain why my therapist’s timing is so eerily pertinent), I’m going to tell you a real story about something that just happened in my life. Well actually…I’m going to tell you two:
1: A few months ago, I had a friend that I’ve known forever but am not very close to message me one day and confide in me a secret. She told me to keep it quiet and just wanted someone to talk to…so I just listened and didn’t say a word to anyone, despite our many mutual friends. It was a pretty big secret but I felt no need to go and spill the beans. A month or so after that conversation, one of our mutual friends came to me and said, “I can’t keep this a secret; I have to tell someone! And if anyone asks, you know NOTHING!” And then she proceeded to divulge the very same secret that the first friend told me. I didn’t let this second friend know that I already knew what she was telling me, I just played along and acted surprised, interjecting “ooohs” and “awwws” and “OHMYGODs” where appropriate. I didn’t even go skipping back to the first friend that confided in me saying that second friend spilled the beans or anything like that. Consider me a vault…the Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts. I can take secrets to the grave. (Don’t take this to mean I wouldn’t “tattle” if I felt someone was in trouble or anything…just know that I can keep my mouth shut.) Unfortunately, just because I can do this doesn’t mean that everyone/all my friends can…which leads me to vulnerability story two…
2: I hit rock bottom again a little over a month ago. I don’t want to type out all the drama here because really, I still don’t even know all that happened and who said what to who…I don’t really even care. Ain’t nobody got time for that. One night, I was desperate…and I made the mistake of letting myself become completely vulnerable during a conversation with one person…a person, a “friend”, that I thought I could trust. I clearly stated that anything I said stayed there in our messages. She gave me her word. The next morning, it had made the morning news (not literally but a lot of people knew things I never told them and I knew it was the aforementioned friend I was vulnerable with the night before that broke my confidence because she is the only one I talked to about the things that everyone else was now talking about). So it was then that I made a mental note to myself to never confide in her again. I still have (and will keep) the friendship, but I will never again allow myself to be vulnerable in front of her.
When people engage in conversation with me and ask that certain things be kept between the two of us, I always do just that. I don’t go to the next friend down on my list and go, “OHMYGOD can you believe what Sally just said/did/told me?!” No no no no no NO. Again, I seem to be the exception rather than the rule. A close friend I’ve mentioned on here before, C, is an exception right along with me. She is one of the few people I am completely vulnerable with no matter the subject matter and she is the same with me in return. We often say that we know too much about each other to NOT be friends. There’s a lot of shit each of us will be taking to our graves and I am A-okay with that…even grateful. I’ve known her for a long time and I have yet to ever hear/see my confidence broken in regards to things I’ve shared with her…and it goes both ways. I just don’t understand why it’s so hard to keep your mouth shut. I find it relatively easy and I don’t understand why I can’t receive the same respect in return. But it is what it is (thank you radical acceptance) and that is why I am so guarded and not vulnerable with a majority of people. Being vulnerable runs the risk of being kicked when you’re down and for punches to the gut that just really really hurt when you’re already hurting. Don’t get me wrong, there is a good side to vulnerability too. If you decide to be vulnerable and tell your crush your real feelings, you may marry and live happily ever after…and if you decide to not be vulnerable and never tell that person how you feel, how will you know? Again, I can see both sides of the coin…both sides of the story. Just like when you gamble, you risk winning or losing…and it’s just that, a gamble…a risk…a chance you take. Are you prepared/can you handle the outcome, whatever it may be…even if it’s not what you want? I’m more apt to say no, I can’t handle it…which is why I don’t engage in vulnerability often. I seem to prefer this shitty safety net of emotions and stay stuck feeling this way rather than risk the chance of maybe getting better and maybe not, or even maybe feeling worse than I had before I opened myself up. It’s easier and I feel that it’s a lot less taxing on my mind and heart to stay in one place rather than bounce up and down all the time.
Remember when I said earlier that I can be completely vulnerable with M? If you’re not a regular follower of mine, M is my primary therapist and K is her cohort and also facilitates a DBT therapy group with M that I “graduated” from in February. M didn’t always facilitate with K so in the beginning of my group journey, it was K facilitating with one of two other therapists (and K did not succeed in tearing down my wall until about 10 months later). So here I was, able to be completely me and completely vulnerable one-on-one with M in individual sessions but I could not (or rather, chose not to) do it in group…because I didn’t say a word (literally) for about 10 months. (If you are interested, please refer to my “I’ma let you finish, but…” post for more.) About…oh I don’t know…3-5 months into group therapy, M started facilitating with K. That meant the one person I felt safe around was now facilitating the group I was completely shut down in. You would think that having that “safety net” in the same room with me would give me the comfort, safety and confidence to open up in group. Nope. That didn’t happen for another 6 or 7 months…and it really had nothing at all to do with M being in the group with me. It just happened for reasons I still don’t know. It was what it was. It was a risk I unknowingly took and I was greatly rewarded for it in the end. I just find it…amusing, if you will…that you can bring someone I trust implicitly and someone I can be completely me around into a group setting where I’ve made myself invulnerable and I will still hardheadedly refuse to let myself be vulnerable (never mind the fact that it happened in the end anyway). And just so it’s noted, I never completely let my guard down in group, even after I started talking and participating. I got better at letting it down and I got better at letting my true colors show, but I never fully stepped out of my shell and that was done on purpose and that was a conscious choice I made once I realized what was happening…that I was opening up in group.
Now let’s go back to Brené Brown. I’m going to paraphrase her TED talk here and just take out some of the things that resonated with me. In beginning her research, Brené hit a roadblock when she started to dissect vulnerability. She made two groups…those who allowed themselves to be vulnerable (yes, it is a choice) and those who didn’t and what made them different. In the first group, she noticed that those who chose to be vulnerable had courage, compassion, connection…courage to be imperfect, compassion for themselves first which allowed them to in turn be compassionate towards others, and they had a connection with people based on authenticity…they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to just be who they are. This group of people also believed that what makes them vulnerable is also what makes them beautiful. I could probably save myself (and others) a lot of headaches if I could just embrace this concept because I feel that what makes me vulnerable is what makes me bait, leaves me open to being hurt, and makes me appear weak…and I try my hardest to deflect that on a daily basis. My Facebook page, while not fake, is full of “I got dis shit by the nuts!”…”I am woman, hear me roar!”…in essence, it projects a strong taking-the-world-by-the-horns facade. Again, it’s not fake…but I won’t let myself appear vulnerable, even on social media. So what you see is really me, but it’s all the funny, good and positive stuff…you’re not seeing all the behind-the-scenes things that I’m feeling and thinking because I vehemently refuse to post those things…so you’re only seeing one side of me…the side I want you to see and, oddly enough, the side I find hardest to let show when I’m one-on-one with you in real life and not online. (I’m often very shy at first, feeling you out, deciding if I can trust you or not…but once I get to know you, get ready for some craaaaazy shit.)
One key word I picked up on in watching this TED talk is “willingness”. I always pick up on this word because I tend to be more willFUL than willING. But I’ve gotten better (although I’d like to think I’ve surrendered more than I’ve chosen to be willing). Willingness is a big topic in DBT therapy and is one I am still working on and will probably be working on for the rest of my life because I am SO stubborn. I’ve had to be willing to let therapy (and M) work for me, I’ve had to be willing to give M the benefit of the doubt and let her test out any new “experiments” she comes up with in her laboratory (and she comes up with A LOT!)…I’ve had to be willing just to continue going to therapy at all. It’s not easy and it’s a battle I fight daily. (Small tangent: K hijacked a phone call M made to me a few weeks ago just because she wanted to say hi and during the conversation, she said the DBT group was covering the distress tolerance module and she asked me, in the opinion of a “graduate”, what skill I think they should spend some extra time on. Without hesitating, I said, “Willingness.” K said, “WHAT?! Can you repeat that?” I just laughed and said, “You heard me.” Insert some inside jokes and a mutual understanding of what I said, why I said it and what I meant…which is part of why I love M and K…I don’t have to explain myself 90% of the time. K also knows I’m stubborn as hell and so for the jackass to tell the therapist that the group should focus on the topic of willingness was rather amusing to the both of us. But it was an honest answer and I meant it, even if I said it through gritted teeth, knowing K was going to go, “Say whaaaat?”)
Brené Brown also says that vulnerability is the core of shame, fear and our struggle to feel worthy (of love, etc.)…but vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, longing and love. Being a DBT black-belt, I can see both sides of the coin here…my problem is finding the balance. I agree with all that she says and can find examples of all of the above in my own life…what I’ve missed out on by not being vulnerable and what I’ve gained by being vulnerable (sometimes it “pays off” but more often than not in my life, I’ve “gained” shame, fear and a deep-seeded belief that I’m not worthy). One of things Brené says that resonates with me more than anything is that we cannot selectively numb our emotions. Meaning that we can’t choose what emotions to numb and what emotions we don’t want to numb. When you numb the hard things, you, by default, also numb the great things. Once you start to numb yourself to pain, sadness, fear, etc., you also start to numb joy, peace and happiness…even if you don’t mean to. It’s a vicious circle and one I will admit that I am in the midst of. I’m trying so hard to numb all the bad/hard things that I’m not allowing myself the opportunity to experience the good things. Just because I feel like I’m in a bottomless pit doesn’t mean I don’t experience joy or happiness or that I never smile…it’s just that it’s so dark here, I don’t give myself a chance to experience those “good” emotions to the fullest extent when they do happen…almost as if the good is dampened due to the bad I feel…tainted is a better word, I think. I fully admit and own that I do that to myself. I’m working on it…but it’s still a struggle. It’s very hard to overcome 29 years worth of vulnerability backfire in just a few sessions with a skilled therapist. At this point, I’m just grateful that I can be me and be completely vulnerable with at least one person in my life, even if it’s only my therapist. The rest will come in time if it is meant to be.
One example of vulnerability that Brené has used in past lectures that I absolutely love is the example from the movie “Say Anything”. We love seeing vulnerability in other people and see it as courage and bravery, but when we ourselves engage in it, we see it as weakness. In the movie “Say Anything”, John Cusack goes completely vulnerable when he decides to express his true feelings to the girl he loves. No holds bar, all or nothing, this is how I feel, I am showing you and thus, am completely vulnerable as I hold up this boombox and play this song as loud as I can for you. He opened himself to rejection and any of the numerous “repercussions” that could have come from that simple act of vulnerability.
Vulnerability is so hard for me on so many different levels, especially because I see and engage in the two extremes in my own life…completely vulnerable with my therapist…completely shut down with most everyone else. Kudos to M because I never noticed/observed the two extremes before. I have watched many of my friends confide in me and others, only to watch what is said behind their back and watch as the people they have confided in break their confidence. That makes me hurt for my friends and inadvertently, makes me shut down more. If you are like this with that friend and that “simple” secret said to you in confidence, what will you do and say about me when I tell you things in confidence? Not everyone is like this and not all my friends gossip and break confidences, but enough of them do that I choose to stay closed down with everyone rather than taking that boombox-I-love-you risk with everyone or even a select handful of people. There are benefits to reap from taking that risk…but there is also the risk of feeling hurt and other things. Some people are okay with that gamble and I was too…once. But I’m not okay with it anymore and prefer to stay “safe” rather than take that risk. I realize that I lose out on a lot of things by doing that, but it is a choice I consciously make to guard my heart. I hope there comes a time where I feel safe being vulnerable, accepting whatever comes my way as a result, be it good or bad, and just not be scared to be who I am. Because really, that’s all it is…being scared. Being scared of being hurt, scared of broken trusts, etc. If I stay shut down and remain as invulnerable as possible, I am safe…you cannot touch me…you cannot kick me when I’m down. I may remain in this “place” but this “place” is so normal and comfortable to me now that it is better to stay here, a place I know well, than risk the chance of doing or saying something that may help me get out of it…because it’s a risk…which means it may or may not happen. It’s certainty versus uncertainty. I’d rather know than wonder…I would rather know than go, “What if…?” I, along with many others, could do that all day long…”What if…?” Kudos to those of you who can be vulnerable and take those risks and are able to embrace whatever comes your way as a result of taking that risk. Gold stars to those of you who are at least willing to be vulnerable in certain situations and with certain people. Cheerleader pom-poms and a swift kick in the ass to those of you who think you can’t do it and are unwilling to even try.
Lastly, no post is ever complete without a song. Naturally, I stumbled upon this song only recently and I think it speaks volumes (no pun intended) about where and how I choose to be the most vulnerable…here in my blog.
Lyrics: “Brave” by Sara Bareilles
August 14, 2013 – 9:23 AM
PS: Six types of people you shouldn’t be vulnerable with… http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3392414
I am a quote whore-der. I love them…I can find one to give someone no matter the situation or topic…and sometimes, quotes articulate a thought, feeling or message better than I can with my own words. Words are powerful things…that sticks and stones ditty is a load of crap because words can hurt you. I was too lazy to go through my quote collection and put the following quotes in my post from the other day (God, love, honesty and cussing.) and I was going to go back and edit that post and add these as they are related to that post…but I decided to put them in their own post instead.
“Beam me up…make me lighter, I’m tired of being a fighter.” ~ P!nk, Beam Me Up
“Sometimes you put walls up not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down.” ~ Unknown
“You’ll never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
“Some nights I wish that this all would end ’cause I could use some friends for a change.” ~ fun., Some Nights
“It’s hard to wait around for something you know might never happen, but it’s even harder to give up when you know it’s everything you want.”
“The edge… There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.” ~ Hunter S. Thompson
“Don’t fuck with people’s feelings just because you can’t figure out what’s going on in your own messed up head.”
“The loneliest people are the kindest. The saddest people smile the brightest. The most damaged people are the wisest…all because they do not wish to see anyone else suffer the way they do.” ~ Unknown
“The people who laugh the most have experienced the most pain.”
“I’m so tired but I can’t sleep…standin’ on the edge of something much too deep. It’s funny how we feel so much but we cannot say a word.” ~ Sarah McLachlan, I Will Remember You
“It’s easier to say you’re mad than to admit you’re hurt.”
“No you don’t know what it’s like, when nothing feels alright…you don’t know what it’s like to be like me.” ~ Simple Plan, Welcome To My Life
“I’ve found that the saddest people in life are also the funniest…and only those who understand complexity can communicate simplicity.”
“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.” ~ Mark Twain
“All it takes is a beautiful fake smile to hide an injured soul and they will never notice how broken you really are.”
“Depression is like a bruise that never goes away. A bruise in your mind. You just got to be careful not to touch it where it hurts. It’s always there, though.” ~ Jeffrey Eugenides
“Sometimes tears are a sign of unspoken happiness and a smile is a sign of silent pain.”
“Don’t ever mistake my silence for ignorance, my calmness for acceptance and my kindness for weakness.”
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensiivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” ~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
“No matter how strong a person is, they have a weak point and sometimes all they need is a hug.”
“There’s always a little truth behind every ‘just kidding’…a little knowledge behind every ‘I don’t know’…a little emotion behind every ‘I don’t care’…and a little pain behind every ‘it’s okay’.”
“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.” ~ Paulo Coelho
“Sometimes we expect more from others because we would be willing to do that much for them.”
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring…all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo F. Buscaglia
“Do not ask me the price I paid. I must live with my quiet rage…tame the ghosts in my head that run wild and wish me dead.” ~ Mumford & Songs, Lover’s Eyes
“There’s a difference between giving up and knowing when you’ve had enough.”
“If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you, no humility, no compassion.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
“Don’t ignore someone you care about because lack of concern hurts more than angry words.” ~ Unknown
“What is depression like?” he whispered. “It’s like drowning. Except you can see everyone around you breathing.”
“The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of others but who win battles we know nothing about.”
“The person who cares a lot for others is the one who needs more care than others. The person who makes others laugh and smile often is the one who holds a lot of pain in their heart. The person who tries to be a good friend to everyone is the one who needs a best friend of their own. The person who always smiles and says, ‘I’m fine.’ is the one who is broken-hearted…but still strong enough to believe that in the end, everything will be okay.”
“It was hard to be honest, to open up and reveal something that sounded crazy. Because once you told someone the truth, that person had a piece of you – and they could belittle it, destroy it. They could turn your confession into a wound that never healed.” ~ Sarah Cross
“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.”
“She did not need much. Wanted very little. A kind word. Sincerity. Fresh air. Clean water. A garden. Kisses. Books to read. Sheltering arms. A cozy bed. And to love and be loved in return.” ~ Starra Neely Blade
“Behind my smile is everything you will never understand.”
“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
“The worst part about being strong is that no one ever asks if you’re okay.”
“I used to think the worst thing in life was being alone; it’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.” ~ Robin Williams
“People who are not depressed see the world as they want to see it. People who are depresseed see the world the way it actually is.”
“Mosters are real. Ghosts are real too. They live inside us…and sometimes they win.” ~ Stephen King
“It’s the loneliest feeling in the world – to find yourself standing up when everyone else is sitting down. To have everybody look at you and say, ‘What’s the matter with her?’ I know what it feels like. Walking down an empty street, listening to the sound of your footsteps. Shutters closed, blinds drawn, doors locked against you. And you aren’t sure whether you’re walking towards something or if you’re just walking away.”
“The biggest disease this day and age is that of people feeling unloved.” ~ Princess Diana
“Everyone says love hurts, but that is not true. Loneliness hurts. Rejection hurts. Losing someone hurts. Envy hurts. Everyone gets these things confused with love. But in reality, love is the only thing in this world that covers up all pain and makes someone feel wonderful again.”
“I just want to hold you, take you by the hand and tell you that you are enough.” ~ Kings of Leon, The End
“It’s easy to look at people and make quick judgements about them, their present and their past, but you’d be amazed at the pain and tears a single smile hides. What a person shows to the world is only one tiny facet of the iceberg hidden from sight. And more often than not, it’s lined with cracks and scars that go all the way to the foundation of their soul.” ~ Sherrilyn Kenyon
“Loneliness does not come from having no people around one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” ~ Carl Jung
God, love, honesty and cussing.
God, love, honesty and cussing…sort of a take off of “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves”…I thought it was catchy.
I don’t feel like I can pull an amazing post out of my butt right now but I’m gonna try because if I don’t at least try, I’m gonna explode.
There are times in my life where I’m just plain fucking tired. It doesn’t matter if things are going awesome for me and the puzzle pieces finally start to fit…it’s exhausting trying to find the pieces and then make those pieces fit and I just need to scream, “FUCK!!!”
I love Sandra Bullock and some time ago, she was in a movie called “28 Days”…and it’s about AA/rehab. One of THE BEST quotes from that movie is where Gwen (played by Bullock) is in a group therapy session and people are bitching at her for fucking up and saying how she shouldn’t be allowed to stay in rehab due to her shenanigans and how the whole group thought they were better than her because they didn’t break any rules. And Gwen hits her breaking point and says, “HEY! I’m having a bad day! I’m having the worst damn day of my whole damn life so if it is NOT too much to ask of you people…will you just BACK. THE. FUCK. OFF?!”
Ya know…as I re-watch that clip, I could probably just post that and be done here because that pretty much sums up how I feel right now, sans the clapping. We covered honesty and cussing…but where do God and love fit in?! Alas, I must continue…
God fits in because…well…just because. I’ve mentioned my “Jesus Years” a few times in this “public diary” and I think I’ve made it pretty clear that that is not a path I follow anymore. I don’t judge those who do and I don’t care what you believe in or who you pray to as long as you’re not an asshole. I’m pretty easy-going and I’d like to say I’m non-judgmental. Love fits in because, by some miracle, I have managed to hold on to a few people I met during my Jesus Years and one woman continues to bless me as much today as she did 8’ish years ago. She loves Jesus, don’t get me wrong, but she doesn’t ever shove Him down my throat, try to convince me to go back to church and she’s always honest with me. I damn near lost my marbles as we were talking tonight because I was trying to explain to her how I’m feeling right now and how I just want to scream something like that quote from “28 Days”…f-bomb included. And I damn near fell off the bed when she said that sometimes, she prays to God and says, “Fuck you! Are you there? I really need you right now.” In the 8’ish years I’ve known her, I have never seen her type or say that word and…I’ll be honest…I thought it was pretty fucking funny and I laughed audibly to myself. (It’s also pretty cool because we were talking about serious stuff and to just drop that bomb and LOL in the midst of it all was quite amusing…to both of us.) But bless that woman’s heart because that is exactly why I love her to pieces. SO. HONEST. And she turns right around and tells me that she loves me, I bless her and that I teach her so much and she values almost anything I have to say. And naturally, I’m really shitty at taking compliments so I over-analyze that and try to figure out how the hell can I, someone not quite half her age, teach and bless her? I’m done questioning it and have just accepted that compliment for what it is. After all, that’s what this blog is all about and ultimately, if I do nothing with my life except bless people and educate them on depression and suicide…my work here is done. Mission accomplished. I don’t ever consider myself an optimist but I do sometimes see the good amidst the bad.
I’m pretty tired right now. And I don’t mean tired as in I just need a really good night’s sleep (though that would probably help immensely). I’m tired because I’ve been strong for so long and I’m at my breaking point. I can’t tell you how many times people ask how I’m doing, if they ask at all, and I say, “Fine.” or “I’m okay.” FOR ONCE, I want someone to look me in the eyes, hug me tight, and say, “I know you’re not.” I absolutely REFUSE to appear vulnerable on Facebook or in my daily life. I save my vulnerability for when I’m alone and no one can watch me crumble and fall…for when I don’t have to slap a fake smile on my face and I can be me without worrying what other people are thinking or get upset that I’m being invalidated or ignored. I am almost always honest and if I trust you and you ask me, in a sincere way, how I’m doing, I WILL tell you…but chances are, I won’t ever volunteer the information. I don’t force/want people to drag it out of me either. Facebook can be such an amusing and crazy place and I have such a love/hate relationship with it. You (or at least I) scroll through the News Feed every day going “LOL”…”don’t care”…”needs therapy”…”song lyrics”…”DRAMA WHORE!”…”srsly?”…”go fuck yourself”…”SO TRUE!”…”wants attention”…”HOW CUTE!”…”sucks to be her”… I do have people in my life that throw up the occasional attention-seeking Facebook status update, the one that FORCES people to ask them what’s wrong and/or the one that forces you to read in between the lines…you know…the status update that isn’t directed at you but is TOTALLY directed at you. Recently, a friend from high school has posted nothing but comments about how fed up she is with being sick…between her husband, herself and her kids, someone has been sick since January. Legitimate complaint and I don’t mind that she vents because that truly does suck. The day after a particularly “active” day on FB for her, she “checked-in” at her local police station. DID NOT SAY A WORD. Just a check-in. I watched, throughout the day, as many of her friends commented, “WTF?!” “Whaaaattt?” “Are you okay?” “What’s going on?” Thinking back now, I should have responded with, “Do you need bail money?” because I’m snarky like that but I didn’t comment because I don’t play that game…but curiosity killed the cat, so I kept that post in my mind all day and even texted another friend asking if I was justified in being slightly irritated by this check-in and asking her if I’m the only one who thinks this person often posts attention-seeking/pity party updates and I said to my friend, “Watch…it’ll just be a field trip for the kids or something.” I SHIT YOU NOT PEOPLE…at the end of the day, this “friend” responded to her police check-in with, “LOL! Sorry guys…it was just a field trip for the kids hahahaha!” I coulda slapped the bitch. F’reals. You took enough time to check-in…you could have slapped a quick annotation of “field trip” on there. Common sense and common courtesy, surprisingly, are not common. If you see someone “check-in” at a police station, your immediate thought is not going to be that it’s just a field trip…especially if you see ME check-in at a police station. If you ever do, expect a phone call soon asking for bail money and an alibi. Anyway, back on track…I post a lot of smack and LOLs on my personal Facebook page and unless you’re pretty close to me, you will have no fucking clue how I’m really feeling or what’s going on in my life, my head or my heart. And that’s okay because I don’t need nor do I want everyone to know…I don’t like appearing vulnerable and weak even if I really am. I’d rather you scroll past me going, “That’s funny! LOL!” than go, “Ohmygod…EMO!” and ignore me as you keep scrolling. Call me old-fashioned but I don’t like telling the world everything that’s going on in my life and how I’m really feeling. I don’t want to be that one friend everyone hates and ignores because I’m “emo” all the time.
But every now and then…I get tired of doing that…of always “faking it” and being funny when all I really want to do is cry. That’s when I go silent.
For most people, when a lot of bad things happen in rapid succession and we don’t get time to process each event, it builds up and we end up breaking…some of us shatter but that’s besides the point. It occurred to me yesterday that this also, at least for me, happens when a lot of good things happen in rapid succession. I have such low lows that when good and positive things happen, they take a lot of emotion and energy out of me, however great and awesome those things are. Going from rock bottom to over-the-moon elated in a literal nanosecond is exhausting (and no, I’m not bipolar). It’s like being sick with the flu for a while and the first day you get out of bed and go somewhere or go to work, you’re freakin’ exhausted because you’ve been down for so long and you don’t have the energy to keep up with what used to be your normal daily life/activity level…you need time to recuperate and time to adjust…time to heal. Baby steps is better/easier than giant leaps…for a good reason. Going from one extreme to the other in such a short period of time is like a slap upside the head…it comes from nowhere and you’re all, “WTF?!”…and I just got slapped…and I’m about to break. A lot of great and awesome things have happened over the past week or two, but I’m telling (or trying to anyways) my therapist and a few select people that I still have daily suicidal ideations. My problem lies in the fact that I don’t think people are taking me seriously anymore. I have marked high numbers on the questionnaires my therapist makes me fill out and those numbers haven’t fluctuated much over the past two years so part of me wonders if she even believes me/takes me seriously anymore. And not only do I need her to know that those thoughts are still very much present, I need the other important people in my life to know too. Don’t pamper me, baby me or pity me, just know that those thoughts are not far from my mind…that’s all. A hug and/or an “I love you” wouldn’t hurt, either. But I don’t feel like I should have to beg for those things…so to tell you that I’m feeling this way JUST to get a hug is not how I roll…I don’t think it’s how you should roll either.
I think it’s hard for people to wrap their head around the fact that a person can still want to die even when things are going well. I’m here to tell you that it is possible and it does happen. I would still, right now, despite all the good, not give a flying fuck if I didn’t wake up tomorrow. I don’t mean to imply that I’m threatening to do something, but if fate stepped in and just helped me out, I wouldn’t complain…and I’m just being totally 100% honest. As far as what stops ME from doing anything myself right now?…probably just laziness. I don’t have the mental capacity to make a plan and act on it right now. A quote that I’ve referred to often in trying to explain this concept to people is from the book “Girl, Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen: “Suicide is a form of murder – premeditated murder. It isn’t something you do the first time you think of doing it. It takes getting used to. And you need the means, the opportunity, the motive. A successful suicide demands good organization and a cool head, both of which are usually incompatible with the suicidal state of mind.” *heavy sigh* So very true. I would never make a suicidal gesture just to get attention and get people to notice me…but I wonder if that’s truly what it will take for people to realize, “Bitch is f’reals.” I’m not crying wolf here…but what the fuck is it going to take to make you people understand and let you know that I’m feeling this way? I’ve told you, quite bluntly…I’m doing all I can to make sure the right people know (e.g. my therapist) but I still seem to be failing somewhere in the communication department. What more can I do or say? I’m just fucking tired and I’m tired of putting on the fake smile and just barely making it through each day. Don’t ask me what I need right now because I don’t know. Don’t ask me what I want right now because I don’t know. I don’t really even know what I’m feeling…I can’t find the words for all of the emotions nor can I pinpoint them all. I DO know that I just…want…you…to know. Please notice me and don’t dismiss my feelings or assume that I’m okay just because of all the awesome things that are happening to and around me. You being, of course, the people that aren’t reading this but maybe by Monday, I’ll have enough of my shit together to be able to express these feelings to the people that should hear/know about them. And/or people will stop talking about baby poop, their husbands and how the IRS fucked them over long enough to notice me and say, “Hey J…are you okay? I know you’re not…”
Telepathy between hearts.
I left a voicemail for K after my appointment with you was canceled. She called me back around 3:30. She talked to me…listened to me talk and cry…and in trying to calm me down by reminding me of my DBT skills, she told me to do what I always do. I didn’t know what she was talking about…what she meant. She told me to write. She must have called me willful and/or stubborn about 50 times during that 20 minute phone call. She was trying to suggest some opposite-action…something that brings me joy and/or makes me laugh. She reminded me that the goal was to cope effectively…not change or dismiss what I was feeling. I started to protest because I felt I needed to hurt and cry and grieve and to laugh and be “happy” seemed so wrong and disrespectful…like laughing at a funeral…it doesn’t fit the situation. But…I’m going to do what K told me to do…this time. I don’t know what will come of this…if it will get edited to go on the blog or get printed out and given to you…or if it will stay here…in my “collection.” Right now, my thought is to not give it to you because I don’t want to make you upset all over again…but I’m going to do what K told me to do…write…and I’m going to write as if I were talking to you and hopefully, our telepathy connection is working and you “get it.” I reacted to you/this event much more strongly than I thought I would…and I don’t know why. I “planned” for it, I thought about it and since I had been in a similar situation before, I figured I’d be okay/stronger when the time came…still grieving and sad for you, yes…but not as hard and intense as I am. I can’t tell you why I reacted more strongly than I thought I would…I don’t know if this was the “icing on the cake” for me…another upsetting thing to add to this month’s growing list of crappy things. I don’t know if I made a bigger deal out of it for myself because when it happened, I was already in such an emotionally vulnerable spot. I don’t know if it brought out some of my own unspoken feelings regarding my loss…the ones I never expressed. I don’t want you to feel bad for making me upset. I told you, when we last talked about the inevitable, that I was going to be upset/hurt and grieve right along with you whether you liked it or not…because that’s how I roll. I love hard and with all that I have…and I know you know that. And our hearts and minds seem to be so inexplicably connected that it’s gone beyond coincidence and voodoo…it’s fate…it’s love…and it’s real. I’ve never had this connection with anyone else and I don’t know what accounts for it. Because I’ve had to be so completely vulnerable with you? Because we get along so well? Because we think alike and have a lot in common? I’ve given up trying to find the answer because I’ve accepted that it’s awesome no matter the reason…I treasure it and I love it. It’s a special connection and one I wouldn’t trade for the world.
I don’t want you to get upset that I got/am upset. Consider it me trying to help you/care for you/love you/take some of the weight off of you. I’m hoping that, perhaps, my grief will make you not hurt so bad. Because I don’t want you to hurt. It kills me to know…to even imagine…what is happening. But I know you will hurt and you will for a while. If anyone knows what this is like, it’s me; you couldn’t be in better company. People say, “I understand. I know what you’re going through.” all the time. The reality is that most of the time, they have no idea. And I won’t even pretend to know exactly how you feel because even though I’ve been through what you’re going through, your experience is going to be different than mine. But I know what that loss and that hole feels like. I know the pain. And it will smack you upside the head often. I’m not going to offer you clichés because I hated it when people did that to me. When people ask me what they should do or say when something like this happens, I always tell them that the best thing you can do, in my opinion, is to say nothing…other than maybe an “I’m sorry for your loss.”…and give the person room, let them know that they’re loved and that you will be there when they are ready. Maybe it’s different for everyone…maybe some people want the words. I didn’t and still don’t…because there are no words…there is nothing anyone can say that will take the pain away. Even when I share my story now, my last two years especially, some people will say, “I don’t know what to say/how to respond.” And I say, “It’s okay. You don’t have to.” I feel better when someone is just in the same room with me…not saying a word…just letting me cry and letting that silence be the comfort. I know people’s condolences are said with the best of intentions…but I think I may have coped better with my own loss had people just backed the fuck up. Not only did everyone want to say something, they insisted on telling me that he was in a “better place”…and all I wanted to say was “fuck you and fuck you and you and you, too.” Because it was bullshit and it was only making me mad. Not that I thought he was in hell, but just the fact that no one knows what’s real and what isn’t. And having had my own near-death experiences, I still don’t think I believe in heaven or hell. I think I believe in a “presence”…an imprint on what once was…because there are times where I think he surprises the fuck out of me by leading me to something comforting about him or just something that only he would know…the right message at the right time. So I think there’s something…I just don’t know what it is…and surprisingly enough, I’m okay with not knowing. I’m okay not having an answer to this question. I am content knowing that there is at least SOMETHING, even if I can’t explain it or prove it or have it on demand…just knowing…hoping he’s here…somehow…someway.
So I’m not going to say anything more…other than that I love you…I heart your face…and I’m doing my best to send you hugs and love and comfort in the only way I can and in the only way our relationship will allow.