R is for Relationships

r recycledSince this is the week dedicated to all things heart shaped (aka Valentine’s Day week), I thought I’d write a bit about my issues with relationships.

I am horrible at all kinds of relationships other than your superficial kinds. If you want to talk about stuff while at work, I’m your gal (or I would be if I was employed). I’ll talk about anything other than politics (and/or religion if you’re not able to be open-minded/respectful of others’ opinions). If you want to tell me all about your life, spill your secrets, discuss your sex life, whatever, I’m good to go. I’ve got a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and may actually be able to give you some insight or help with whatever you’re going through. No problem. Just don’t expect me to tell you more than the superficial stuff about my own life.

Sure I’ll tell you a bit about my parents, brother, grandmother, and so on. I might tell you stories about growing up heart conversationpoor in a mostly affluent suburb or about taking care of my dying grandmother. I’ll tell you about the safe stuff in my life: career dreams, places I want to travel to or live. But I’ll never get to the meat of anything unless you divulge it first. And even then I’ll stay at the surface. For example: I’ll tell you that I suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a relative, but I won’t tell you who, what happened, or how it was resolved. I might tell you that I suffered guilt and shame over it, that I never told certain people about it, that I’m still somewhat angry about it, or that it took about thirty years for it to become a “minor” part of my life. But I’ll never tell you the details. You’ll never know that my shame isn’t that it happened, but that it hurt those who never knew about it.

In the past, when I’ve told people about some of this superficial stuff, they’ve told me that I’m “open” and that they feel close to me. I nod and thank them for their thoughts but inside I know that it’s just a sham. I know that I’m incapable of real relationships.

How do I know this? Because, to me, when it comes right down to it, real relationships are those that survive outside of the boundaries of the structures of modern life.

Two years ago I worked at a job with a woman who was having trouble in her marriage. She told me about some of her struggles with a previous marriage where her husband was abusive, verbally and sexually. She said that her past made her hesitant to trust her current husband. I divulged to her the superficial details of my own sexual abuse, correlated it to some stuff I learned in school, and gave her advice about talking to her current husband. She took my advice and said it helped. Later she told me that my openness helped her to realize certain things about her relationships. After I quit that job, I never saw or heard from that person again. To me, that was not a real relationship. Was it a worthwhile relationship? Sure, she got something out of it and I enjoyed helping her. But it was superficial. It was the only kind of relationship I am capable of. Other modern life structures that my relationships don’t survive past are school, apartment buildings, even online support groups. After I’m done with a class, graduated from college, moved from a building, left a group, those relationships don’t last. They’re gone. Like they never even happened.

I’m aware that some of those types of relationships are meant to fade away. My counselor tells me this and I read about them in school. But if those are the only kind of relationships I’m capable of, what does that say about me?

The other day I sat down and tried to think of who I’m always honest with (outside of psychiatrists, counselors, heart metaltherapists, etc). I counted seven people: my high school best friend, that friend’s parents, my brother and sister-in-law, a cousin, and a neighbor. Only one of those people is within walking distance of me. Two are in another state all together. And I only speak to one, my neighbor, on a regular basis.

Yes, all of them (and more) are Facebook friends and yes, I can text, email and/or speak to them by phone pretty much anytime. But I don’t. Even when I know I should. I’ll reach for the phone or keyboard and something will stop me. Something dark and ugly will rise inside me and I’ll put the phone or keyboard down.

Sometimes I think that dark and ugly thing is my mental illnesses (depression, anxiety, and/or the eating disorder). And sometimes I might be right because those things seem to clog up my brain and throat until I can’t communicate with anyone other than God.

But other times I think that dark and ugly thing is just me. My innards are so disgusting that I don’t want to expose them to the light, to my friends and family, to anyone with even a little bit of goodness in them. So I shove that ickyness deep down with food. I keep relationships superficial. I keep everyone away from my ugliness.

It’s safer.

Maybe for them.

But mostly for me.

I’ve accepted my inability to have real relationships with anyone other than those seven people. Mostly. Sometimes I surprise myself and make new friends. Like my neighbor, I’ve told her details about my sexual abuse, about my mental health issues, about my previous struggles with cleaning, and so forth. For some reason, I haven’t scared her away.

I think she may be Superwoman.

I know she’s extraordinary.

We’ll see if my relationship with her will last after one of us moves away. I don’t have much faith that it will last, but then again I also didn’t have much faith that I’d live past thirty either so it might. I hope it does. Because if it does, that means maybe I’m capable of a real relationship. One that lasts beyond the boundary of our building.

And then maybe, just maybe, I’ll be capable of having more of those relationships.

And then maybe, just maybe, I could date, have a romantic relationship, marry. I haven’t dated since high school (I’ll be 41 this year.)

Would you date, or marry, the circus-lady fat gal?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

I’m not holding my breath. I’ll be satisfied with becoming capable of having real relationships. Down deep, I know I’m not meant for a romantic relationship. All that disgusting ugliness may be tolerable in friendships (superficial or not) but it would be impossible in a day-to-day-till-death-do-you-part relationship. After all, you can get away from a friend and wash off that gross scum. A romantic partner (in my case, a man) is required to live with it, carry a bit of it in their heart, meld it to their soul.

I couldn’t ask any man to do that.

Does that mean I don’t miss those types of intimate relationships? Not on your life. At one point, when my biological clock was ticking with the power of Big Ben, I thought the yearning, the loneliness, would kill me. I cried at the sight of a baby, leaned toward the TV when watching romantic comedies, sobbed myself into migraines.

Even now, years after my biological clock short-circuited, I still yearn for closeness. There are days, weeks even, when I just want someone to hold me. Someone to tell me it’s gonna be okay. Someone who would worry with me about bills, broken down cars, unemployment. Someone to hold my hand under the dining room table when my social anxiety kicks in. Someone to bring me an apple when I’m binging on chocolate. Someone to look me in the eye and tell me I’m important, worthy, loved.

I want that someone. But I don’t think he exists. At least not for me. I only know one man out there who is that kind of gentleman, who would have that kind of patience, that kind of acceptance, that kind of pure-heartedness. He’s my high school best friend’s father and currently married to her mother. They have a son, but unfortunately he doesn’t take after his father. I doubt very much there’s another guy out there like him.

So I’m assuming I’m gonna live out the rest of my life alone. Slowly working on having real relationships but never having that ultimate relationship that makes life worth living.

It’ll be lonely.

It’ll suck.

But I’m used to that.

I’ll just have to content myself with a cat.

cat sofa

Happy Valentine’s Day to all who celebrate!

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.

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G is for Guilt (and B is for Blame)

abcalphabet-letter-gI’ve started and restarted this posting about ten times now. The fact is I’m not so sure that I can do what I’ve challenged myself to do. You see, my counselor told me that one of the ways I can get beyond some of my issues is to talk about the situations that caused those issues in the first place. So I was going to use this forum to start to tell some of those stories.

The problem is I’m scared to tell some of them. Crazy as that sounds, considering what I’ve already disclosed on this blog. Maybe it’s because the stories I have to tell are not only about me. They’re about my parents and my brother. Relatives and friends. Persons both innocent and guilty.

How do I tell stories of what happened to me without making people I love sound like monsters? By the time I explained why they did such things my blog posts would be millions of words long. And the purpose of telling my stories is not to explain them, it’s to explain me. Me. The person I hate the most. And the person I can’t get away from.

Ultimately I suppose what I’m dealing with here is guilt and blame. I’ve always resisted the impulse to blame people for what they do. In an attempt to make sense of the world I’ve often tried to figure out why people do things (this person stayed with their abuser because they were afraid of being alone. That person abused their partner because that was the behavior modeled to them as a child. And so on). In my head I thought that if I could figure out why a person did something than that meant they weren’t a bad person. If it wasn’t their fault, then they weren’t evil, and ultimately I wasn’t evil.

But the older I get the more I realize that why a person does something doesn’t remove the fact that they have chosen to do it. And just because they chose to do something bad doesn’t mean that I have to find a way to excuse it if it hurt me.

The guilt, however, of it all still gets to me. I feel guilty for making something a person’s fault. If, for example, I say that it’s my mother’s fault for withdrawing her affection at a time that I really needed it, then, in my head anyway, it’s like I’m saying that my mother is a bad person. Then I feel guilty for thinking of her as bad. Because she wasn’t bad, she was just a human being.

What I don’t know how to do is rearrange the thoughts in my head so that I don’t have to place blame. So I don’t have to make everything so black and white, good and bad, blame and guilt.

Can I do it? We’ll find out.

Coming up next post, my first memory.