If you could write about a person wanting desperately to have close connections with people, to have a friend that could allow themselves to be truly vulnerable with…but is unable to
I had requested writing prompts, as I am apt to because I want to engage people in conversations that can build into meaningful dialogue. Also, it is sometimes really difficult to come up with something to write about, just to be honest. Normally, I would post these kinds of prompts on my creative writing blog, but this prompt feels more appropriate here. Not because the prompter asked me to write about a person going through a disconnection with themselves, but with others, and how that can relate to life and lifestyle…but because without realizing it, the prompter asked me to write about myself (even though I know what the original intent of the prompt means.)
I know it seems improbable that I am unable to be vulnerable with others, as I literally use social media to talk about my life and experiences, but there is a reason why I write in blogs instead of talking directly to the people in my life. It allows me to treat my past with a clinical eye. I created a safe fourth wall that allowed me to disconnect myself to the point where I treated the content as if someone else had written it. It’s a defense mechanism as a result of some pretty severe traumas in my life, and writing is a very old coping mechanism of mine. But this prompt hit me hard in the belt, and I want…..no, I need to do this. No matter how uncomfortable, or scared, I am to reveal parts of me I keep very close to the vest.
God, I feel sick…..okay….
I recently told a friend that I don’t remember any length of time in my history where I didn’t experience, or end up experiencing, some form of abuse; whether it be physical, emotional, mental or some weird, fucked up combination. A little over a year and a half ago I experienced a nervous breakdown as a result of a trauma caused by those I trusted and loved the most. It was the straw that broke my back so severely that, even though people have dismissed this thought over and over again when I have the courage to say it, I realized sitting in that hospital room, that although I was not physically dead, the person I was until that point was gone.
28 years of living, of building a life and fighting through everything thrown at me, was gone in a single night. I think what is scary for so many in my life, why I have found myself hesitating to talk about my mental health recovery, is that I was okay with it. I was okay with allowing myself die that night. I had to. Life cycles and all that dictate that what lives eventually dies…and I died.
My mother told a few people about my hospitalization until I very forcefully dictated that I did not want anyone to know aside from a select few (2). I did not want my family knowing, and the reason I told the few I did at the time was based out of a sense that I had to let those specific people know based out of an idea I actually no longer believe in. I was overwhelmed with shame, embarrassment, self-hatred, and vulnerability that I had never felt before. I didn’t understand why I was still alive. I didn’t understand what the nurses and doctors were saying to me about safety and growth. I just knew that I had this nagging feeling of desperately wanting to live, while still wanting to die, and I couldn’t handle it.
My trust in my life and those around me was gone, and while I played nicely in the hospital, I didn’t believe in the idea of recovery, or what recovery could mean for me. I actually thought it was right rubbish and sentimental. So, as I was preparing to leave the hospital, I put on the mask of my former self and vowed to never allow myself to be so broken again. It felt like the biggest lie I ever told myself, and the stress of it made me physically ill. But I didn’t trust anyone to know. I knew I looked like shit, but still, I smiled played the dutiful person earnest for recovery…Oscar-worthy really…I felt so deeply like a fraud but I didn’t know what else to do. I was expected to be better. I didn’t trust anyone with anything beyond the surface of what I was feeling or thinking. So I put on the mask of someone long gone and left the hospital.
The day after I was out of the hospital I was at my first paintball weekend with my friends and cousins. I was drained, overwhelmed, and a bit subdued, but I made it through the weekend and subsequent week without anyone knowing (except for my brother) that anything was wrong with me. My body felt as sick, if not sicker, than my mind, so I played off my actions on that.
I felt horrible.
Looking at this group of people I found myself surrounded by, I felt so disconnected, and alone, and lost. I felt myself so desperately wanting to connect with them. Wanting someone to know, who wasn’t my immediate family, that I was bleeding. I wanted to connect with a person, a real person, who wasn’t a therapist chosen for me or another inpatient, and feel like I could be vulnerable and trust that person with this reality that who they saw wasn’t the real me. The dueling, contradicting feelings were pulling me apart…and I could hear the nurse’s and doctor’s suggestions for opening up and letting people in. That I would feel better, grow from this experience…
But I couldn’t. I learned to love these new people in my life, but I kept them all at quite a distance. Even those I’ve known my entire life. I didn’t trust them. So much had happened to me, and a part of me was angry that no one noticed unless I actually said something. Yet, so many people relied on me to reach out, to support them, to be the caregiver for them. I experienced a lot of irrational rage, hatred, and continued self-hatred and shame. I pulled further away from people the more I experienced the desire to reach out. To open up and trust again. I was sent to a mental health recovery program with disdain, obstinance, and judgment blinding my eyes.
I only trusted my doctors because they couldn’t violate my privacy. They couldn’t talk to anyone, except each other, about me. I allowed myself to be vulnerable with them, but I fought hard against true connections with other people. I couldn’t.
The last person I truly trusted violated me in such a way that I broke. How the hell, no matter how much I wanted to, needed to, could I ever let anyone hold that position in my life again? Fuck that….I’ll do what I need to do to be healthy, and strong and fuck this world….and I held so strongly onto that thought…
Then I broke down in the middle of a support group a few months into being there. I was so mad for crying. So mad because it felt like all I could do was cry anymore. People asked permission to hug me, but I couldn’t handle it. My sensory issues were out of control. My depression was so deep that it made the Mariana Trench look like a creek, and god I just didn’t want it. I didn’t want to be vulnerable. I didn’t want to admit that the armor I had placed so tightly around myself was suffocating me. I wanted to kick and scream and fit. Scream about the 3-year-old me, the 8-year-old, the 12-year-old; me at 15, 18, 21, 24, 28….scream at the loss of who I was. Scream at the world for treating me like it’s punching bag. For not being fought for. For being told I should be grateful for my life. Scream at being made to promise to live because other’s felt like if I really wanted to die, then I would be dead. Scream because I felt like I was just a ghost; only seen when convenient for others.
I cried harder because what I wanted most was to be held, and I didn’t know how to do that. Ask to be held. Because it was too intimate, too overwhelmingly scary. So I just wrapped my arms around myself, forced myself to stop crying, and finished the day. I didn’t go to the program for the rest of the week. I just couldn’t….
I won’t lie that I still struggle with vulnerability. I tell myself, daily, that vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. I allow myself to touch and be touched, even when I want to claw apart my own skin. I talk. I talk in groups about my darkest thoughts, my deepest fears. It’s a step. These people are still bound by confidentiality, but I’ve built friendships with a few others who are in recovery with me. I trust them when I can. When I’m able to trust. I started to talk in snippets with a few others, testing the waters if you will in trust with those who can hurt me. I’ve found a lot of people are just as uncomfortable hearing about my experiences, as much as I am uncomfortable sharing. I have a few I just blurted a lot out too because I was desperate. Desperate for someone to see who I truly was, and not what others expected me to be.
I struggle every day. To smile. To laugh. To love. To be loved. To be kind to myself. I struggle with the concept of being selfish outside of society’s perception of what selfishness is. Some days, I just struggle to open my eyes.
I didn’t understand that, when I died, I didn’t have to start living again until I was ready. Sure I was told, and expected, to be a part of this society…but I didn’t realize that I could dictate what that looked like. I didn’t understand that there wasn’t a timeframe for recovery. I didn’t understand that the pressure to be okay, to not be a burden on others, was more than just a result of years of conditioning. That, as terrified I was to trust others, I was terrified to trust myself with me. I yearn for someone to just be with. I’m terrified of never having it. I’m even more terrified of having that relationship and losing it. I’m terrified of just having that kind of relationship with anyone. So, I’m just going to start here. With being honest. With being vulnerable. But it’s so much…too much. But somehow, along the way I realized, I didn’t trust myself with my own safety. And, until I can trust myself, I will never be ready to trust someone else.
So, after writing this, does this mean I trust myself? Not every day, no. I still go to groups because I make the choice even on days when I don’t want to…especially on those days. I see multiple therapists. I’ve just started to open up about my mental health experiences because I do truly want those connections with other people. To have friends who know me, love me. To not be afraid to get hurt. To not be afraid of my own dark.
Some days I’d take the sticks and stones over words…but vulnerability is a strength, not weakness, and feeling weak is not being weak……this is okay. I am okay.
I’m learning who I am, and while it’s an uncomfortable journey at times, I am okay with who the person I’m discovering I am. I’m just giving them time, the patience, and healing they deserve when they are ready to take another step. It’s about giving permission to heal and move in my recovery, at my pace. To not let anything push me until I’m ready to move forward. To allow myself that self-care. It’s not easy. If I’m not okay tomorrow? If I can’t bring myself to trust anyone or anything? It’s okay.
It’s okay…this is my journey…my story.
And it’s so okay.