My Flaw

Despite my best efforts, I have a flaw that lies inside me liking a gaping, open wound. My parents don’t love me, and it’s likely they have never really loved me. The undeniable evidence is that they disowned me because I’m gay.

I have felt this lack of love my entire life. I have sought out ways to fill that lack. I filled it with being busy when I was still in high school and college by being in lots of clubs. I filled it with being busy as a working adult by choosing jobs where I had to clean up messes other people made. I had one job with a large Japanese corporation where I basically went around the world closing ill-conceived subsidiaries. That really wasn’t good for my sense of self-worth.

I fill the lack of love from my parents through an anxious attachment style. To explain it simply, I attach to possible partners quickly and overwhelm them with my good intentions. I’m doing it now even after having talked about it in therapy.

The only good thing is that I’m doing it in the privacy of my home without telling the other man that I’m wanting to overwhelm him.

I had a coffee date with a man recently that went very well. We talked about what to do for a second date, and that’s always a good sign. I went home and began to obsess about being with this new man. To my credit, I must say that I effectively resisted texting him a lot and bombarding him with my well wishes. However, in my own little home, I invented scenarios of us together in the future.

I wasn’t able to get together with this new man this past weekend, and by the end of the day Sunday, I was morose. I was sure that he’d forgotten all about me and was moving on to other possible dates.

This depression came after one date! Sigh.

I stayed in that sadness all evening, but then I got an idea. I decided to call an elder in AA I’ve met at several meetings I have been to recently. I picked up the phone and called her. I didn’t tell her I was sad. We talked about the weekend and meetings and a mutual friend. It was a completely delightful call, and by the end, I felt a million times better. I hung up the phone feeling so much better. I was so surprised. All I needed was a little human connection.

I reached out, and it worked. I will do it again.

And then at bedtime, I looked at my phone, and there waiting for me was a text from the man I was languishing over. He’d taken a long nap. There was a perfectly reasonable explanation. I went to sleep feeling fine and had a good night’s sleep.

The Plan

I had a session with my psychologist after work yesterday, and it was obviously timely. I needed it badly. Anyone who read yesterday’s post will understand I was not in a good mood.

He helped me formulate a simple plan to silence The Voice that I wrote about yesterday. It is very loud, and it lies to me telling me many evil things about me and my self-worth. The grand plan is to stop The Voice and tell it to “Shut the f*ck up!” in no uncertain terms.

The Voice was put inside my head by parents who don’t love me and by a society that really doesn’t give a rat’s ass about how I’m faring in life. It only rears its ugly head when I’m stressed or feeling low due to other matters. January was not a good month for me: my parents disowned me and a reorganization at work is causing me great pain. Those were tremendous stressors, and my grief in the face of the tumult was completely understandable. Yesterday, I experienced a renewed wave of the grief.

That wave has passed. I am confident The Plan will work.

I will continue to use my tools. I slept well last night, one of my tools. My meditation this morning was a good one. I had lots of interfering wandering thoughts, but I was able to get some good breathing in. My psychologist liked hearing that I’m using the medicine I get from my psychiatrist. He said to keep it up. My diet is the same healthy food that I’ve been eating for years.

And to top it off, I went for a brisk walk this morning before work. There it was. I had an extra thirty minutes this morning with nothing really that needed to be done, so I tied on my walking shoes and went out the door. I probably walked a mile and a half, and I went at a much slower pace than I’ve done in the past, but who gives a rip? I have my fingers crossed that I’ll keep up the exercise.

Tools: medication, meditation, therapy, diet, sleep, and exercise. These things keep me on an even keel. I’ve done them today. We’ll let tomorrow take care of itself.

Now, where is that elusive boyfriend?

The Voice

How do I write when the inside of my head is so dark? How do I tell readers that my head is screaming at me using awful words?

I have a lifetime of hearing disparaging things about homosexuals. I’ve heard it from family. I’ve heard it from people around me. I’ve heard it from people claiming to be my friends. I’ve heard it from authority figures, especially the ones claiming to talk for god. I have been demeaned and bullied as a child, an adolescent, and an adult.

I refuse to grow a “thick skin.” Being open and vulnerable requires more strength of character than having a thick skin ever will.

I have tried dating. He was abusive. And I want to text him right now.

Today, the voice is very loud. It’s unkind. It’s abusive language.

I have no defense.

I have therapy this afternoon. It couldn’t come at a better time.

Shallow Heaviness

I wrote about feeling heavy a few weeks ago. It’s never really lifted, and I feel just a kind of lassitude. I don’t know how to describe it otherwise. I’m just not cheerful. At the same time, it doesn’t feel tremendously awful. This feeling has a bottom.

I know what it feels like at the bottom of the pit of despair. I was there many, many years ago. I haven’t been there in a very long time, over a decade, and I hope to never return. Still, I feel low.

I have good reason to feel low. There’s the parental thing. There are enormous changes at my job directly causing me pain. I’m single, and I don’t want to be.

Here’s the thing I’ve never written about. My finances are a mess. I’m so ashamed of it. I’m going to talk about it in therapy tomorrow. I’ve talked about it there before. It’s not credit card debt thankfully.

I had a plan – an actual budgeted, written plan – to get myself out of this mess, and then the changes at work happened putting everything in turmoil. My salary is going to be decreased, and I honestly don’t know how I’m going to make it.

[I am editing this post after having written it. I want to add that difficulty with finances and overspending is an honest symptom of bipolar disorder. It’s written in the DSM-V. It’s right there in black and white. This is a real diagnosable thing. Did I mention that in this post when I originally wrote it? No. That’s how deep my shame is about my finances. I have a real illness that causes me difficulty, but because it’s a mental illness and there is stigma attached to it, I feel shame. I still think this is completely my fault. Did I spend the money? Yes. Do I have to pay my bills? Yes. Do I need to feel shame about it? No.]

I’ve written all this to say that I have good reason to feel low. This is not unreasonable.

I also know this low is shallow, because I’m at work, and I’m functioning. I’m getting stuff done. My mood is down, but it’s not desperately low. If this were despair like I’ve experienced in the distant past, I would not get out of bed.

Writing about all this helps. I know this for a fact: speaking my pain out loud makes it lose some of its power. That’s one of the reasons therapy is so powerful. It’s a time to go and talk about all the crap in my life to a person who is not personally involved in all the mess. It’s validating to hear him simply tell me that yes, indeed, I have a lot going on.

I know I’m going to make it through all this mire. I know this will end, and I will feel better. I just wish it would hurry up.

Panic upon Waking

I realized yesterday as I was carefully going through my day that I’ve been waking in a panic often the past six or seven weeks. It’s just a sign of the trauma my parents caused by disowning me. I know I have much to be thankful for even in that awful experience. I know that I am better off without their judgmental attitudes in my life, but I cannot escape the ideals that I hold inside.

I have ideals that American culture gave me about how parents and children are supposed to relate to each other. They’re part of my core. I can’t get rid of them, but I can hope to soften them with time and education.

Last evening, I meditated before bed, and I did not wake up panicking this morning. I have no idea if there’s causation there, but I’m going to keep doing it.

Today, I’m back at work, and I’m being very careful what I allow into my scope of consciousness. As my best friend put it, “curate” your experiences. I’m choosing what I’m giving my attention to. I’m open to surprises – I have to be – but there’s a lot I can control about what I give my time to. This is more of being gentle with myself.

My meditation this morning was medium length, and it was good. I used the guided visualization again like I’ve been doing, but it led me to a quiet place where I could sit and just breathe. It’s so healing.

If you think you want to try meditating, it’s not as difficult as most of us imagine. You don’t have to be a guru. Here’s how:

Sit in a chair with a good back. Close your eyes, and relax as best you can. Breathe in deeply, exhale forcefully three times. Then just breathe normally. Count your breaths. An inhale and its exhale are one breath the way I count.

Now, your mind is going to start wandering and maybe even bombarding you with thoughts. Don’t get upset. That’s the mind’s job. Recognize the thought. Actually give it thanks for the reminder. Then return to counting breaths starting at one again.

A new thought will interrupt your counting. This is not a failure. Recognize the thought, thank it, and return to counting breaths. Do this over and over. You may want to set a timer. Start with five minutes. Over the course of weeks or months, you can increase the time. Do what feels right for you. This is not a race. You are not in competition with anyone.

Eventually over the course of months, you can stop counting and just breathe. I’ve been meditating for years. I still get thoughts in the middle of breathing. I recognize them, thank them, and quietly return my attention to my breath.

That’s it. That’s all meditation is. It is incredibly helpful.

To keep it honest, I have to tell you that I’ve returned to using a guided visualization technique in my morning meditation because of the traumas I suffered in January. I need the structure to help me keep my mind focused and still.

A long time ago for meditation, I created My Happy Place. I wrote about it on this blog ten years ago. You can read about it here. Basically, it’s a place I can go in my mind that is required to always be pleasant. There are elements in it that allow me to refresh myself, and there are other elements where I can pass through gates, over bridges, or through doors that allow me to gradually become even more relaxed and gain more focus.

You can create your happy place and furnish it just exactly as you want. Give it a try. It’s incredibly refreshing. I always feel better after imagining a visit there.

Being Gentle

I woke up after sleeping seven and a half hours in a panic. I was suddenly awake and afraid. I wanted to stay in bed, but it was useless. I was unavoidably awake.

I struggled through my morning routine. I didn’t just sit and breathe for my morning meditation, but I reverted to guided visualization. I needed the steps of walking through the door into My Happy Place and the continued steps to the place of just breathing.

I reached out to the love that I feel when I get to the place of just breathing and felt it soothe me, but I was just not able to stay in that feeling.

There is so much tumult in my life right now.

I ended up having to stay home from work today. I took medicine for anxiety and went back to bed for another two hours.

I called my therapist and was able to see him this morning. That was helpful. I’m using the tools I have that I know have worked in the past: medication, meditation, therapy, etc, and I’m being gentle with myself.

One of the things I’ve learned about myself through 33 years of therapy is that I am not good at handling uncertainty. I have a lot of that in my life right now, so I’m going to be gentle with myself today.

I really wish I could cry. I can’t. Years of forced repression of my emotions and my homosexuality inhibits my ability to show distress.

At least for today, I don’t feel good. I know this will pass, but I’m feeling it today. I’m using the tools that I know work. I will be OK, but for today, I’m going to be gentle with myself and stay home and read.

Ten Years Blogging

I started blogging ten years ago today. Wow! Where has the time gone?

When I look at old entries, I’m amazed at the change. Ten years ago, I was beset by despair. Today, I live in hope of things getting better.

As regular readers know, January was hellish for me. On January 4, my dad called me telling me – much to my surprise – that he’d recently discovered I was gay and therefore he and my mother were disowning me. I say I was surprised, because I’d come out to my mother more than twenty years before. I always assumed she’d told my dad, but obviously she didn’t.

Then in late January, I found out that in the reorganization at my work, I was being demoted and would have my salary slashed. January was plain hell for me.

Ten years ago, I would have had dire reactions to these events. This year, I had some strong emotions, I took some days off work, but I never thought of giving up. I have tools today to help me in times of trouble: medication, meditation, therapy, exercise, diet, and sleep. I used all but exercise to get myself through the pain of those events, and I’m not beating myself up about not exercising.

Ten years ago, I wrote about living in the hell that was my head. Today, my head is pretty calm. It’s not great, but it’s not scary. In all honesty, I have to admit that the thought of being unlovable since my parents disowned me did occur to me just this past weekend. I talked about it in therapy yesterday. It’s a false notion. My parents are warped. Hopefully, I won’t date warped men.

I have one thing to say about this anniversary: recovery is real. People who live with serious mental illness can and do recover and lead meaningful lives. If I recovered, other people can, too.