As a some one who has bipolar disorder, is a victim of abuse, and recovering bulimic, I have a therapist. People who are a lot more normal than me tend to go to therapy, too, so I guess I shouldn't be ashamed of having one.
Let's face it - folks like me have been through a lot more than most others should ever have to deal with. That doesn't always offer comfort, but for the baggage I carry, it feels like I'm not so bad off some days.
My therapist has said some things lately that have gotten me thinking. Seriously, really thinking. For the first time in a very long time I feel like I'm talking to the right person, and that the walls that I've spent my whole life building up (out of self defense) are finally wearing down. This vulnerability is terrifying...yet, there is catharsis in this newfound honesty.
There are things about me I've been blissfully ignorant of. For starters, it's very rare that I can do something nice for myself or be happy for myself without some sense of guilt. My therapist calls these my "but moments."
As in, I can talk about the successes I've seen, BUT they're never actually my doing. It's all either luck, some sort of blessing or good fortune. I can talk about a piece of art I've finished, BUT it's not as good as it could be. I can talk for hours about the things I love and am knowledgeable about, BUT someone is always more passionate or more of an expert.
I just don't allow myself to feel joy for myself very often. Occasionally, it's there...BUT, for every ounce of joy I feel after my accomplishment, there is some negative waiting to enter my life.
I also put the happiness and expectations of others ahead of my own.
I'm learning that this this behavior stems from my early childhood - wanting to please the same people who caused many of these issues. No matter how hard I tried, I could never do enough to make them happy.
The rational part of my mind tells me that it isn't my fault, BUT my programmed feelings of inadequacy may never fully go away. I would do anything for anyone if I could make someone else happy. I just want people to like me.
Yet, many of the people that I seek relationships with (both romantic and platonic), are people I can never fully please. Aside from my high school sweetheart, it seems the only men I have any interest in pursuing are the unattainable or impossible to please.
I've had opportunities for relationships with good men. Time and time again, I've had male friends profess feelings for me. I've left them disappointed or hurt because I could not reciprocate. I'm working on building a long-distance relationship with a friend I met on Twitter. He's amazing. We obviously have feelings for each other...BUT, it's only a matter of time before he makes a move to share his feelings, and I put up a wall to push him away.
I will hurt him, just like the others.
Confronting these issues was not my idea. I never would have told a soul about the abuse if it weren't for one night with too much vodka. I was 19, and my ex was putting me to bed after a party because - for the first time in my life - I'd gotten in a drunken brawl. He asked me why I was so angry, and I started pouring out confessions. Things that happened that I never, ever told a soul...things I'd purposely not thought of for a decade.
Then, the floodgates opened.
That night was the start of an ongoing identity crisis still going on - over two years later. There are days I wish I could go back and stop myself from opening that door. Would life be easier if I had never begun confronting these demons? I mean, I didn't develop bulimia until I tried to confront my demons. The bulimia was the straw that broke the camel's back for my ex and I. And while I know I'm better off without him, thinking of our relationship BEFORE that night reminds me of when life was simple and easy.
Two years, three therapists, two psychiatrists, and many thousands of miles of soul-searching later, and I'm here.
I'm still broken. I'm still dysfunctional. I'll never be normal. I still struggle with the skeletons in my closet every day. I still face fear and uncertainty. Sure, I may have a great start to what I hope is a long and successful career...but what else do I have? Sometimes I wonder. Will my life be fairly empty? Will I throw myself into work because I'm incapable of other relationships? I'm scared. I'm scared of the future, because I'm scared that things don't get better than this.
Am I always going to be this damaged?
My therapist says I've made progress. Her idea of progress seems to be that I'm actually allowing my emotions to flow, rather than keeping them sealed up tightly until the next massive meltdown. The fact that she keeps pointing out truths about me that I've never openly acknowledged is terrifying. Obviously she's made progress in understanding me. But I'm not always sure what I've accomplished in the last few months in "progress."
I still feel just as small, scared, uncertain, in the dark, and unsure as ever. The only difference is, now I can't hide from my emotions. Now, small things make me tear up.
My mother was nice enough to buy me a set of pots and pans as an early housewarming gift for when I moved away for work. She sent me a picture of them, since they arrived at her house two hours away from my college. I had near-panic attack when I saw this picture.
Pots and pans.
If it weren't for this "progress" I could have just smiled and said thanks. Instead, the thought of being adult enough to move away from here to start my own life, a live which includes pots and pans of my own, scared me enough to make me cry in a room full of people.
I'm embarrassed...bordering on ashamed.
Progress is relative. Right now, I don't think I've made much progress. I feel like my issues have just changed. Maybe a less turbulent day will bring a different outlook, but...right now, I'm just...here.
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