Tag: social interaction

Only sometimes – on uncertainty and friendships

I don’t think I cope well with “sometimes”.

In general, I don’t cope well with lots of uncertainties, or at least, not the same as other people do. It can be to do with situations and actions, like places I don’t know, or not being sure when I can leave a situation if I need to, or competing demands that mean I can’t give everything or everyone 100%, that can be scary. It can be when I’m trying to plan or decide something. So many different possibilities crowd my head and swim round, pulling me down til I can’t breathe and have to just stop because it’s too much to cope with. People on the outside of this see it as me being lazy or lacking any drive when inside I’m fighting the drowning. Above all it can be interpersonal yet related to what I am (where ultimately I can never ever be certain so always fear) , if people misunderstand me, if people perceive me or my actions very differently from what is going on inside me; worst of all the times I start to doubt my motivations, or intentions, what is most deeply in me really after all – the times I can never be certain enough that I’m not evil if I don’t punish and hurt myself, because the voice of my abuser always seems stronger and truer…

Other uncertainties don’t seem to bother me as much as other people suggest they should. I don’t know, for instance, what my work situation will be in a year, or 5 years. I don’t have a career plan set out. I have quite a lot of instability in this area, largely because of my current physical health. People have told me that it is wrong for someone of my age not to have ambition; that I’m irresponsible and spoiled; or the phrase that irritates me so immensely at the moment, that I have to be “moving forwards”. These uncertainties actually don’t seem to bother me as much as they bother other people. I do not want to be a burden, or unable to take responsibility for myself. I strongly want to be able to give. Beyond that, I don’t seem to have the plan that seems to be expected. Perhaps it’s because I have to take things a day or an hour at a time. It’s the only way to deal with the experiences and emotions I have right now and I have seen by God’s grace it can actually be a fruitful way; maybe the only fruitful way just now in my circumstances. Perhaps it’s because for so long I was numbed to what I was experiencing and feeling, and/or in the isolated world of my abuser’s creation and under her control, that I need to take things this way now. Perhaps it’s because seeing beyond this day or this hour really can be too much and too scary on the worst days, even inconceivable when everything is that much too raw (though, mercifully, these times have not been so intense recently). Perhaps it’s because I am encouraged by Our Lord’s assurance that it is not the grandeur and status of what we do but the love with which we do each and every deed that matters.

Where it comes to friendships, I really struggle with uncertainties and “sometimes”. It’s really important to me to be there for the other person. If I don’t hear from them, I worry a lot. I don’t form relationships easily and don’t let many people in. The people I do, I become attached to deeply. Certain people, occasionally, I come to care for deeply very quickly and trust them deeply, maybe too much too fast. Once I care for someone, I really want to support them, and I also really need them. It’s not needing them to do things for me constantly. I do not want to make demands. That’s actually something I feel very guilty if I do. It’s just – needing them. I need them there. I need to be there for them. I need things to be shared between us.

Because of this, I particularly struggle in relationships where  we are only in touch sometimes, only see each other sometimes. I see this is much more of a problem for me than other people. It’s as if I can’t cope with a relationship with gaps and breaks in the sharing. At the moment, I’m very upset over a relationship with a close – well, we used to be close, anyway – friend. We live in the same town but now see each other a handful of times a year if that. I saw her at the funeral last week but the last time we’d actually met before that was Easter. We text sporadically and email even less. From her point of view according to what she’s told me, nothing has changed between us, she still cares about me and it’s just a normal part of life and getting older that you no longer see friends often, she is busy with her family, Church, groups, volunteer work and other commitments and she just doesn’t have time to meet especially as my health means I can’t easily get out, and when we do meet however rare it is our friendship is the same. For me, everything has changed and our loss of contact is a huge hurt. There is a void for me because we no longer communicate to share what is happening in our lives. For me you cannot share across texts or emails what you can face to face. It’s just impossible to say a lot of the most painful things. It’s upsetting when I do share something upsetting, important or personal and there is just no response.

It would be a bit different if we had moved a long way away from each other and we had therefore built our relationship on sharing things in writing. The way it is, it feels like a loss. I don’t like to admit to it but it does feel that I’ve been rejected. It feels as if I’m trying all I can to be there, but she does not want me or need me and I do not fit in her life. It hurts more because it’s a time I am already feeling isolated, raw and need not to be alone. But there’s more to it than that. I risk acting as though I think she has an obligation to me or think she has to be doing things to help me. She really doesn’t and that’s not what I want.

I can’t cope with contact and sharing being only sometimes. With such absence and silence between times, the relationship is by no means the same to me. It almost hurts all the more when the other person then acts as though nothing has happened and the absence was unimportant or non-existent. This comes up again and again in relationships. Then I get told I’m too much, or that I need too much or expect too much from friends, that they are not my family and that they just can’t make that kind of commitment. I end up hurting even more than if the relationship had gone completely and I’ve probably ruined a lot of relationships because of it. Either I can’t take the pain or they can’t stand me and contact ceases totally.

Does anyone else find these “sometimes” relationships difficult? Do you maintain friendships where the contact you have is few and far between? If so does that change the friendship for you? Do others need people as I do? Need things to be shared?

Ginny xxx

 

 

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For the first time in forever

“There’ll be actual real live people, it’ll be totally strange

But, boy am I so ready for this change!”

Anna_costumes_(Frozen_2013_film)

Yesterday was another little but notable step for me. It was my birthday recently and to celebrate, a small number of close friends came over for a bring-and-share lunch. This was the first time in a very long time I have done anything like this. The few close relationships I have are a very precious blessing to me. I never usually mark my birthday in any way and find it too embarrassing and uncomfortable. I am not used to having a home that I can invite other people to. Thankful as I am to be here, it has taken me a long time to get the courage to invite people over and this is the first time I have invited more than one person at a time. Actually, it is the first time for years I have been in a group of people in this kind of social situation, where I’m interacting with everyone for a substantial period of time. Also, it was my first attempt at a gathering where I’d be hosting and caring for everyone.

Building up to the day, I was excited and very touched that my friends cared enough to give the time to come and were spending such an effort to celebrate with me. In particular my dear friend L. was coming from over two hours away with her little girl to be here. I was also very anxious and feeling overwhelmed by worrying that I’d do everything okay, be able to make it nice for everyone, help everyone get along well (not everyone knew each other) and be able to do well enough with everything practically needed since I can’t stand or walk much right now. With everything that has happened in the last couple of weeks with work and my health, I was repeatedly tempted to cancel, but not wanting to let people down or hurt them, stopped me, and so the day came.

I was so grateful L. was there. Her presence gave me confidence and her beautiful little girl, overflowing with interest and happiness, made me feel better. L. helped me finish setting things out and without her being there I don’t think there’s any way I’d have had the confidence to go through with it.

It was a beautiful day of blessings. The food seemed to be well received and appreciated and everyone brought something to add to the meal (actually, leading to plenty more inspiration for my future Ten Dishes posts!). A lot of the simple practical things I had worried about, like whether everyone would be comfortable in my small flat where decoration and furnishing are still something of a work in progress, were actually okay. I’m very fortunate to have friends who are understanding of the time it takes to bring a home together. Everyone chatted easily together and it was possible to find common ground and interests surprisingly quickly given that not everyone had met each other before. The two beautiful children (one 9 months, the other nearly 3 years old) were adored and delighted in.

I was full to overflowing with thankfulness and the lovely illustration that people wanted to be there and cared enough to come and join in generously. The shame, worry and embarrassment I had felt beforehand was steadily taken away during the afternoon. I was struggling physically after a time and the pain was bad but I was helped and nobody was angry or expressed that they thought I should be doing more or was a bad hostess. I hope they really were happy not just saying nothing out of kindness. Mentally I felt drained and was aware that I could not concentrate as well as I wanted to, because I was “missing” things, not able to take in what people were saying or dissociating very briefly but repeatedly. However, nobody reacted as though they noticed or thought I was being weird. I wonder if they did notice or not. Were they actually being considerate and accepting of what was happening or could they not tell? I wish they could not tell but I don’t know… I’m sure they must have…perhaps I can check this with someone I trust most, like L. Nevertheless, things still seemed to be okay. I hope.

Afterwards, in the evening after everyone had gone, the pain and exhaustion were severe but I my heart was still brimming with the surprised joy of the gathering and the kindness everyone had shown. The gifts of God in friendship mean so much to me right now and help me believe things will be okay.

For now, I have several thank-you cards to write, as well as this very happy memory to think on!

“Because for the first time in forever

There’ll be music, there’ll be light…”

Frozen_Anna_Wallpaper_2

Ginny xxx

Lyrics from “For the first time in forever”  from Disney’s “Frozen” as sung by Kristen Bell. (How much my little goddaughters would approve!) Images with thanks to wikipedia.org and disney.wikia.com respectively.

 

Broadband is on the way

Today my support worker helped me arrange getting the internet set up at home. Since I moved in I’ve been relying on the internet in the staffroom at work, on my mobile and in cafes with free WiFi.

It’ll be a huge bonus to have this sorted. I won’t be so slow on replying to your lovely comments! I’ll be much more able to take time to read your blogs. At the moment I feel bad that whilst I write and I really am thankful for the time you all take visiting here, I am not able to reciprocate properly because of my limited internet access. You are so supportive and I feel that you are becoming my friends and I’ll be very happy to be able to be more in touch and read your news.

I’ve shied away from getting the internet at home because of adding the cost of another direct debit to my already dreadful finances. However, my electricity and gas supplier offered me a good deal for supplying broadband and a phone line for the next 18 months. My support worker H has helped me compare some different price options and we figured out that this would actually be cheaper than what I’m spending to get online currently. I’m currently paying extra on my mobile phone bill every month as I have to “bolt on” more data when I go over my allowance. Also wifi may be free in cafes but sitting in the cafe is not as you have to buy something.

Again it was invaluable to have H’s help as making the call to get everything set up and choosing between the different packages on offer was overwhelming. I don’t trust my ability to choose and I panic and find it very hard to hold on to all the facts and numbers in my head. My brain just seems to freeze when the provider speaks so quickly on the phone about unfamiliar terms and charges. I either blank totally or my thoughts and emotions spiral out of control. It really helped having my support worker there to do some of the conversation and to check things with and to help me work out the figures.

So in all, I’m looking forward to being online some time in the next two weeks. I have to wait for the engineer to call to arrange installation.

Ginny xxx

Perhaps I should just stop thinking so much… oh, wait…

I’m feeling completely thrown. I know this is yet another thing I should just be able to move on from. Everyone else has. By not letting it go I’m childish and self centred and maybe acting like I have far more influence than I really do and hanging on to things other people just don’t find important. Perhaps part of the problem is how much more things said and time spent together and exchanges make me feel than most people do.

So, after I posted last night I decided to phone my friend N. It was almost 2 weeks since i wrote to her apologising and I hadn’t heard from her.  I was pretty sure she was hurt and angry and that it was likely she was upset and frustrated and didn’t want to meet or keep contact. I did want to just try again to tell her I’m sorry. I didn’t want to ask her to forgive me but I hoped she could know I was sorry and there might be something I could do to make the apology real and somehow make better the harm I’d caused.

I was also increasingly really scared about her. I was really scared I’d made her very ill because of what I’d done and said. I was dreaming about it and suddenly having images of horrible things happening and how much I’d hurt her. I almost always get these panics and fears after I’ve been angry with someone or hurt them emotionally. This had all intensified.

So I resolved to phone her. I was aware some of the need to call her was self centred because I needed to know what the silence of not hearing from her meant and answer my fears about whether she was ill.

When I called, her phone went straight to voicemail – it was switched off. This wasn’t usual. Very often she doesn’t answer, if she’s at work for example, but rarely is the phone switched off. I panicked. I felt complete dread.

I tried to be normal. I texted N. I told her I’m so sorry and some of the things I wanted to say. I said I knew she can’t forgive me and wasn’t asking to meet but I did want her to know I’m sorry. Could I call her?

The voices in my head started telling me she was dead because of me. I was losing it. I was so scared I was shaking and crying and thought I was going to faint. I “knew” she was dead and it was all because of what I did; it was my fault. I actually called the hospital to all if she was admitted. They told me nobody of her name / DoB was admitted or had been admitted. At some point amongst this I rang and texted N’s husband as well. I admitted I was really scared something had happened to N because of me. I said I’m sorry for saying that because it was kind of selfish to have to check and could pressure him into contacting me.

Then I cried and waited and the voices in my head got really loud.

Thankfully N’s husband texted me back within a few minutes promising me she is fine and they were busy but he’d talk to her about getting in touch. I was stunned and so so relieved, above all; also exhausted from having been so scared.

This morning I got a text from N. She said sorry for not replying as she and her husband were very busy, and she did already forgive me – she said she’d already said that she forgives me (at the time we were arguing). She said she hopes I’m a bit better.

I suddenly felt stunned again and really confused. Even more confused than when I didn’t hear from her. I wanted to be massively relieved on the one hand and of course I really was relieved that she’s okay. However questions were firing off in my head.

I hadn’t actually processed at the time we were arguing that she said she forgives me. How did she forgive me when I was still angry and upset and had really hurt her? I hadn’t apologised. I guess if i try to see the situation the other way round,  I hope that I’d forgive her that way too. But I feel she shouldn’t forgive me and I didn’t deserve it when I hadn’t accepted yet the wrong I’d done.

Second, she forgives me and I believe her even though I can’t accept it for myself. What is she feeling? Is she still hurt? Does forgiving mean not feeling hurt? Often when I forgive someone, trying not to hold anger against them, I think I still feel hurt at what happened. I don’t know how to get over that. Actually I worry that means I don’t forgive as I should and hang on to hurts childishly. What is N feeling? Is she still hurt? Have I still hurt her?

What does N want to do now? Does she want to be in touch? Does she want to be in touch on the phone,  email,  meet? What does she actually prefer? As opposed to what she might feel obliged to do…

Finally yet again I see how differently I read the situation from what it meant for her. For example when I didn’t hear from her after I wrote, it meant to me she was definitely still angry, hurting, didn’t want contact etc at best. At worst in confirmed my terrors about what I’d done to her. To her it was just that she was busy. To me, if someone had written to me like that I can’t imagine not contacting the person in at least some way no matter how busy I was, unless I was too hurt / upset / similar to do so. To me my thoughts and feelings about the letter and about the other person and about the other person’s feelings about the letter (aargh! Thought spirals!) would have been so strong I couldn’t possibly understand just not replying at all.

This tells me my thoughts and feelings about N and our friendship are much…. stronger?…than N’s are about me and our friendship. In some way that hurts and in some way it throws me and in some way tells me I’m very very wrong. Am I obsessional? Childish? Needing reassurance? Assuming I have far more effect on others than I do? Even assuming I matter to others, dare I even say wanting to matter to others, far more than I should.

It sounds degrading to the other person to say my feelings are stronger. I don’t mean it like that. It can seem as if I feel a lot more or want to be there a lot more for other people than they do for me. Apart from times I massively hurt them and the dangerous anger in me takes over. I’m really ashamed to admit to the feeling I sometimes have that I care about other people more than they do about me. To even entertain that thought is shameful – it shows a childish, selfish need to be helped and loved and cared for and a longing for someone else to be there for me. It makes no sense to have this feeling, given the guilt I also feel because I know I’m such a burden to people. 

I guess I have plenty of levels of thought and feeling that I shouldn’t and that other people don’t. Being convinced someone is dead or seriously sick because we had an argument is probably pretty weird. Well, it clearly is, when I write it like that. Perhaps I have far too deep levels of thoughts and feelings about people that mean I read the implications of situations totally wrong – lack of contact meaning people are angry or don’t care, when actually they are busy;  the very fact that “busy” is the reason people don’t respond in particular circumstances being something that makes me feel frozen out and unwanted and that it’s impossible people do want me (if I were them, I would act so differently), when actually it should be normal?

Again it comes back to I feel too much and need too much. I probably make relationships draining for the other person because actions mean so different to me than they do to other people. The consequence or meaning of an action is always far greater for me and usually far more to do with wrong I’ve done (like the above example of N’s silence in response to my letter; or when someone canceling meeting up or not wanting to come over when I’m really upset and need help meaning it’s proof they can’t stand me really, when actually it means they’re just too busy).

I texted N back and thanked her and directly asked her first was she still hurt (I didn’t know how she could forgive me at the point I was still angry and hurting her) and second what did she really want to do – did she want to be in touch, did she want to meet? She didn’t say whether she wanted to or not and I felt needed to know what she wanted. I’m waiting to see what she’ll say, if she replies.

Ginny xxx

Mixed up

It’s a night of confusing feelings. It felt like a strange day from the start as group therapy was cancelled. Tonight I keep nearly crying for no reason. My chest hurts. Feels like there’s a weight under my ribs. Anxiety? I don’t know. I just want a hug.

It wasn’t all bad today. Actually there was a lot of good. I met my friend for coffee. She has a beautiful baby girl, six months old. Baby was in the mood for cuddles, despite not having seen me for a couple of months, and giggled away in my arms. Being loved and trusted by her just made me really happy. With a little baby there’s no room for the second guessing and doubting that comes into all my other relationships (like the voices telling me they can’t stand me really even if they pretend to like me and finding proof all too easily of how bad I’m sure they think I am). With a baby it’s open emotion that I don’t doubt.

It was good to talk to my friend and I realised how much I miss her. She’s special, very astute and empathic and reflective. She is really supportive to me and still so through the fulness of her own life as a mum when she has do many demands and many people might understandably lose touch or be less “present” for friends.

We talked some about how I feel really unhappy with the hospital at the moment. On the way to meet her I’d had another upsetting phonecall with the hospital which I won’t bore you with detailing right now. Talking helped at the time for a little while and stopped me losing it but soon after the crashing guilt hit me, that I shouldn’t have said anything and shouldn’t moan and it’s my fault anyway and that I took up her time and took over the conversation; although I really tried not to and tried to turn the conversation back to her quickly, I worry what if it did. I’m trying to trust she meant it when she said she enjoyed meeting.

Through the afternoon spikes of anger kept hitting me about the phonecall. I kept actively choosing to do things other than self-harm, which did have the one positive effect that I cleaned my flat as distraction!

This evening I made a card for my colleague B’s golden wedding anniversary. Tomorrow evening B and her husband are having a party and she’s kindly invited us from work. I’m very happy for her and it’s very generous of her indeed to include us. At the same time I’m anxious already. I’m getting a lift with another colleague as it’s not really on a bus route, which means I don’t have control over when I can leave if I don’t feel good. I worry about spoiling things for other people. There’ll be lots of people, it’ll be busy, it’s in the evening, I don’t know the venue and it’s the first socialising I’ve done with colleagues outside work (apart from one coffee with someone). All challenges for me right now. I’m trying to just focus on being happy for B. and being warm towards new people I meet. I don’t want to waste all the good of the lovely celebration with my anxieties.

I’m missing N. and feeling very upset with how I left things with her. I’m determined to do something, go to see her, to tell her meaningfully I’m sorry and try to sort it all out but I’m not sure how she’ll feel about me approaching her or if it’s better for her that I leave things be now and don’t try to get in touch if I’d only cause more hurt.

Anyhow. It’s a lot of feelings to sit with tonight. I’m tired and I need to try to be still. Thanks be for tea and hot water bottles!

Goodnight. I’m praying for you.

Ginny xxx

Sitting with uncertainty

“Sitting with uncertainty” is a phrase I first heard one of the psychologists for whom I used to work use.  The department that we worked in was going through a lot of change at the time and I think we were all anxious about what was to come – changes to our jobs, changes to service users’ treatment plans, worries over how we would continue to give good care and whether or not the changes would bring good.

As we talked, it struck me it is a challenge and a skill valuable to acquire across so many fields of life, particularly therapy and social interaction. It is a theme coming out prominently in my therapy at the moment.

I like the phrase “sitting with”, in particular, as it describes living in/with and encountering uncertainty without judging or supposing a particular response.  We might more commonly think of “resolving” uncertainty, “dealing with” uncertainty and so on.  However, sometimes it simply is not possible to do this. We cannot find a definitive answer, we may not be in a position to change (at least certain aspects of) our situation, or we may not yet, or even never, be able to be “sure”. Especially in interpersonal sharing of values and thoughts and emotions. Then, we might also commonly talk about having to “accept” uncertainty and say we have to learn to do this as part of growing up.  However, can we always do this? Perhaps often we feel that we cannot truly accept it, for instance, because it may be intensely uncomfortable, or something we really wish was not there, or something we feel frantically, painfully driven to eliminate. Hence, I like the words “sitting with”, because it describes the situation and at the same time acknowledges there may not be a resolution and attaches no judgement or obligation to either resolution/removal or acceptance.

In the language of the MBT therapy I am participating in at the moment, perhaps we would say it describes the situation and allows us to explore or be curious about the existence of the uncertainty.

I’m starting to be more alert at identifying uncertainty, and it’s effects on me.  It’s clear there is uncertainty about events that have not yet happened (I can’t be certain what will happen tomorrow), or that we do not know about (I can’t be certain if my friend would prefer me to buy the pink or the red mug for her birthday because I don’t know which is her favourite colour), or that are for now out of our control (if I have just had an interview and I know I did my best, but it’s now with the interviewer to make their decision, I can’t be sure if I will get the job or not).  And so on.  These are just some categories that sprung quickly to my mind which I think we might recognise are particularly difficult for someone who suffers a lot of eg anxiety or depression. For example, if we have a sense of dread something awful is going to happen, we might be terrified about what will happen the next day.  If we are socially anxious we might worry a lot about doing or saying the wrong thing or upsetting someone or being thought stupid because we do the wrong thing. If we are desperately seeking a job and have had lots of rejections we might feel very low waiting for the outcome of an interview and frightened about what will happen if the interviewer thinks we are rubbish and we don’t get the job.

It took me longer to consciously recognise how much uncertainty is going on all the time, particularly interpersonally, and how much – even though I did not recognise it – this affects me.  This kind of uncertainty seems to me to be a difficulty often encountered by people with personality disorders like me, and no doubt, many sufferers of anxiety or other conditions as well.

There is just so much that it is not possible to be certain of. This can be a frightening thing to me.

If we are speaking to someone, can we really be sure that the meaning they have understood is exactly the same as the one we intended? Probably not – every person expresses him/herself differently, and words hold different connotations for all of us in different situations. Could there be implications in what we have said that we did not intend, but that the other person infers? Probably. Could this hurt or offend the other person? Possibly. (For example, if I come home after work and my sister is sitting in the living room reading a book. I say, “Oh dear, this room is a bit of a mess.” I could be thinking that I really left it in a tip that morning because I rushed out to work late, and I shouldn’t have done that. If my sister were already feeling guilty that she had intended to tidy up that afternoon but had not been able to because she hadn’t felt well, she might make the interpretation that I had been intending to imply, “Why haven’t you tidied up, you’ve been at home all day whilst I was out at work?” It would not have been my intention, but she might have taken that understanding, and so without intending it I could have upset her. And if I then realised that, I would feel bad that I should have chosen my words more carefully or not said anything at all.

If we have an emotional reaction to a comment, an event, a situation and so on, can we be sure whether we should communicate it? What effect communicating it , or not, may have on another person? Can we be sure what their emotional reaction really is, and whether they are being open about how they feel? What if we feel something very different from what they do? Does that make us wrong? Or stupid, or bad, or… the list goes on. How do we respond, what do we do, when our emotional reaction or our thoughts are very different from everyone else’s? Does that mean there is something wrong with us?

And the ever, unanswerable, uncheckable, frightening question – have I done something to hurt someone? Am I really evil inside? Have I done any good, even though I think I want to, have I done good or have I done bad? Have I done something awful without knowing? Does everyone know I’m bad really and I just fool myself if I ever think I do good? Is there a terrible evil thing in me that I can’t control? We don’t always know even what we ourselves think or feel or intend – do we? Can we ever be sure enough that we are good not bad?

It is much, much harder to ever definitively answer these questions than it is to answer some of the other kinds of obsessional thoughts or anxieties which have a more “external” or “practical” element.

In part 2 of this post, coming soon (tomorrow, I hope!) I will continue with this thought to describe some of the thought processes and actions that this then triggers off in my personality disorder, and to think about how to learn to sit with these kinds of uncertainties.

…..More soon!….

Ginny xx