As I write this, I feel crushed and drained.
For several months, I’ve wanted to start this blog. I’ve felt the need to have some outlet where I could express “stuff” that has been going on inside of me. Countless times, I’ve found myself staring at the WordPress editing box. Sometimes as many as a dozen sentences will actually get typed. Then I end up backing up when I realize that I’m simply not comfortable putting myself out there to the extent that I feel the need to. A few days ago, the reason why I was having this difficulty clicked. Ironically, it is the reason why I wanted to start this blog to begin with. I’ve lived most of my life putting up walls. No, this isn’t uncommon. I suspect to some extent everyone does it. But I’m not so certain if the way I handle things is normal.
I’ve lived most of my life on the surface. I had some really bad things happen when I was young. That combined with an incredibly difficult relationship with my mother resulted in two things: recurring issues with eating disorders and letting myself live a surface happiness to avoid dealing with massive pain inside.
Most people put up walls of varying kinds. There’s the public me – who is sociable, outgoing, fun-loving, confident and not afraid to express herself. That is who I want to be. But bubbling beneath the surface is a completely different person. Someone that never really dealt with issues that should have been dealt with..who goes through this continual cycle of feeling the need to deal with it then realizing the best way to deal is just to avoid. I rationalize it away by saying you can’t undo the past. I’m not into psychological mumbo-jumbo.
On September 11th, it will be 10 years since my mother died. More than an anniversary of a loss of a person, I identify with it as the anniversary of a loss of the ability to get closure on some very difficult things. After she died, I had to take care of my dad. He moved in with me not long after and had started to have health issues of his own.
I think it took probably a year for me to realize the pain associated with my mother’s death. I was too busy making sure my father was okay to deal with my own emotional issues. For the second time in my life, I wasn’t able to cope on an emotional level. I couldn’t block out what I was dealing with. I decided it was time to get professional help. (Note: the only time in my life I’d ever seen any kind of therapist was when I was very young because of my purported “genius” level IQ and concern by educators that I wasn’t maximizing my abilities.)
I went to see one psychologist. Since I was never one to talk about the things going on inside me, never mind doing so with a stranger, it was very difficult to get started. Once I did, everything just started coming out. He didn’t say very much during the session. At the end of it, he said to me he didn’t feel I needed therapy. He thought what I needed was to get pregnant and start my own family. In his words: to create my own happiness to replace the bad. Say what? Needless to say this left me more than slightly disenchanted with the idea of seeing a therapist.
One of my good friends is a counselor. Although she knows a lot of what I’ve dealt with, in spite of our friendship, I’ve never been able to let her in the full way. Around 6 months after the failed session with the psychologist, she encouraged me to see someone else. She suggested it was failure on the part of the psychologist and at the very least, I could benefit from talking with a professional.
I saw my GP and talked to him. I wanted a referral to a psychiatrist. I felt myself slowly becoming unhinged. My GP’s initial solution was to put me on anti-depressants. He said he didn’t feel I needed them. He said I seemed like an incredibly strong person. I had the prescription filled, but never took one.
I saw the psychiatrist. I went through a couple of questionnaires. Diagnosis: perfectly “normal.” After a brief discussion, he said most people would not have been able to cope with some of the things I have. Ergo, I am a strong person.
Just over a year ago, I decided to give a distance therapist a try. I spent a fair amount of time trying to find someone that I thought would be a good fit. The initial session went well. She had me do some follow-up work on my own. But instead of dealing with the emotional baggage inside of me, her focus in the next session was on helping me formulate a plan to change the exterior. I tried to explain to her – the reason everyone thinks I am strong is because the exterior seems to be mostly together. It’s the inside that is having issues. I was frustrated. I saw we weren’t going to get anywhere so that was my last session.
I’ve worked hard lately at trying to let people in. There are probably a few dozen people that know bits and pieces. There are fewer than 10 that know more. Taking the walls down that I’ve worked so hard at putting up hasn’t been easy. I’m used to being the person there for people. I’m not used to letting others even get a glimpse of what is inside. It’s difficult. I am someone that thrives on logic. The cut and dry answers to things. But the minute emotional stuff comes up or I let myself open up, it becomes very difficult. People feel selectively “safe” for me. This isn’t a reflection on them as individuals but more about me. When you open up to someone, when you let the walls come down, along with it come expectations. I’ve always had a difficult time asking for what I need from people. This is part of what I struggle with. When expectations aren’t met from someone you’ve taken the walls down for, how do you react?
Part of me desperately wants to go back to the old me – the person that was fully functional on the outside, where I just didn’t think so damn much and over-analyze every relationship with the people in my life. It was easier. You have no expectations of receiving or worry about how people will perceive your shared vulnerability, there is no disappointment. But the other side of me realizes that if I ever want to find true happiness, I need to get myself to the point where the exterior is a true reflection of what is inside of me. I used to think if I kept the walls up, eventually I’d get there. Now I realize that it can only happen by taking them down.