Posts Tagged ‘friends’

20 MAR 15

Cognitive Triangle

I had a dream last night. One that, at first, I labeled as “bad.” It, of course, had no beginning and a questionable end. At least that is what I had initially thought. I was in what seemed like a very cluttered room. Other times it was an apartment with an open floor plan. I may or may not have noticed him come in, but he was there now. The love of my life. The man of my literal dreams. I haven’t spoken to him in so long. It’s probably been about six months or more, but it feels like so much longer.

It did not seem as though we interacted with each other. He just rushed around the place unearthing items and collecting them together as though preparing for a deployment. I was used to this – we’ve been through at least two or three. Though I did not scream out to him, I was extremely upset. And much like a night of blackout drinking, my dreaming consciousness darts around the room to piles of stuff, to him walking out the door, to the clutterlessness that now surrounds me.

After I lose sight of him through the window just right of the door, I look around at the mess that was not left. I think, for just a moment, that my stuff is gone. When I go over to the bookshelf on the other side of the room, I see that my items upon it are neatly folded and tucked away, hidden from obvious view. The same was true for dresser drawers in other areas of the room. There was no mess where once there was more than I cared to deal with. From there, the scene degrades from my mind, but the unhappy and unsettled feeling takes longer to dissipate. In fact, with each breath, I can still feel a twinge of pain in my heart.

I woke with mixed feelings. It’s been years since I dreamt about him. It wasn’t long however, that I was onto thinking of other things. The melting images of the dream drifted in and out of my mind for hours. It wasn’t until later that evening, when I began to tell Jessica about the breakthrough I had in therapy the other day, as well as minor details from last night’s dream, that pieces started coming together in front of me.

***

This past Wednesday, as with most recent Wednesdays, I attended my CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) Self-Esteem Group through the VA Women’s Health Clinic. We discussed biased expectations and negative self-evaluations. We’ve been working with the Cognitive Triangle, whose corners represent thought, behavior and mood. Each of which can affect the other. When one of those three is negative you must catch, check and change it. Generally in my case, it is a thought that leads to the other two and therefore the “three c’s” are usually used for my negatives thoughts.

Before learning about the triangle, my negative thoughts would put me in a sour mood and lead to less than stellar behavior or vice versa. For example when my thoughts are consumed with insecurity and doubt, perhaps I may drink too much to try to forget these feelings and in doing so I wind up miserable and even more negative.

The three c’s come in when I realize I am having a negative thought and I catch it. Catching a negative thought is not always easy, but once I do, I try to check it, or as I believe that to mean, I identify it and evaluate why it is negative and what evidence I have that the thought I am having is true. With no evidence that my negative thoughts are valid, I can change it with a more positive outlook. In having more positive thoughts, I begin behaving in a more positive way and I will be left with a more positive mood.

The group went well that day. I feel like I am learning about myself and self-esteem in general more and more each appointment. Just after the group, I went to my appointment upstairs with my Social Worker who had referred me to the group in the first place. We talked about some of the positive moments of the group as well as changes in my behavior lately to help better myself. One of the things I mentioned was the way I have been dealing with my obsessive and inappropriate feelings towards potential mates. This behavior, of course, leads to a feeling of neediness, clinginess, self-consciousness, not being good enough, not being sexy enough and general inadequacy.

When she asked me how I was resolving those scenarios, I told her that I realized that the way I treat and feel about men that I am not interested in is very different from the way I treat men that I am sexually or mentally attracted to. That being said, I have no problem being friends with someone I am not attracted to and I analyzed the emotion with which I conduct those friendships. In using the same mindset that I do with those friends, when projected onto someone I may be attracted to, it brings a certain perspective that I would have otherwise missed. Instead of allowing my hormones and emotions to escalate out of control, I treat the person with the asexuality that the meeting warrants. I only just met someone, and even if that person is attracted to me, it matters not – we just met and I cannot build a relationship out of the fantasies in my head. With such an approach I am able to accurately and appropriately have a realistic frame of mind about the person and treat them just as I “normally” would treat anyone else in that scenario.

It was while I was explaining this to my Social Worker that I realized I was having a breakthrough. If I do not jump to conclusions with people, or I do not think instantly that they are a good mate for me, and if I stop trying to impress every single man I meet, I will not have feelings of inadequacy because my validation will no longer be a result of their reactions to me. I will have impressed myself with my control and I will feel better because I made me feel better; my heart-felt emotions will not be hinging on the words, thoughts, feelings and actions of another. If this theory is in fact true, then I can rest assured that in not seeking validation from others, that I will no longer experience the depression that comes from personal rejection as I will not be seeking any approval. Instead, I will feel better about myself, do activities that please me, and work toward getting my own approval. If I am not happy, I will make corrections to rectify the problem, but my happiness or lack thereof shall no longer rely upon outside forces.

When I shared with a close friend about this whole epiphany thing, I also brought up the dream I had about that certain someone (which occurred days after my therapy sessions). I told her of how he came into my cluttered living space, a space that I felt during the dream had been “ours,” and how he seemed to gather things and leave without a word. I told her that when I lost sight of him I looked around the room and there was no longer a cluttered mess or items and personal effects, rather a tidy room with neatly packed drawers and nicely stacked shelving units. I was about to tell her that somehow I knew that everything that had been left in the room was in fact mine and that nothing remained of his.

As those words came out, I felt yet another rush of inspiration, an epiphany if you will, that my dream had legitimate significance and was not random or upsetting as I had originally thought. For the first time, perhaps ever, my dream spoke to me. It represented the fact that he was no longer a part of my life and that without him, I was not only able to survive, but able to thrive as was evident by the immaculate condition of my living space after he left. It may have been inferring that while he was a part of my life, I allowed myself to be so caught up in his world that I disregarded the health and safety of my own. With the simple act of coming in, getting his stuff and leaving I was left with myself, and my belongings in a better condition than I have ever been in to my memory.

It is with these thoughts that I can feel what great strides I am making for myself. I feel like I am on the cusp of greatness for myself. I relish in the idea and the feelings that I am almost there.

UPDATE: Just A few nights ago I had another dream about him. I was having a gathering of some sort – not really sure what kind. And even though we don’t speak anymore, he was there. The only detail, was but a moment, that I remember was that of hugging him and knowing that I was hugging him goodbye.

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You're Almost There

You’re almost there…

“But it’s over now. It must have been good, but I lost it somehow. It must have been love, but it’s over now. From the moment we touched, ’til the time had run out…”

This past Monday night I severed a tie that was seemingly unconditional and as eternal as a sapphire would have you believe. Earlier, I had learned that my comic idol, Robin Williams, had reportedly killed himself that morning. Both of which happened while I was in San Diego saying goodbye to my second family who have welcomed me into their lives for the last six years, who were now moving to Washington on military orders. Any of those, individually, would make one hellacious day. All three together? I’m surprised I made it through the day without a psychotic break. And afterwards I still drove two hours home to Los Angeles and the Comedy Store to drink a shot to the dearly departed.

But it’s that first one that cuts me to the quick the deepest. Fifteen years. Fifteen years of hoping and truly believing that the fantasy in my head and in my heart was to come to pass – someday. More than half of my adult life I thought things would work out a certain way with a certain man, so I allowed myself to be misled, mostly by my own wishful thinking and delusions of grandeur. This relationship was my everything and I allowed it to consume me. Most of how I live my day-to-day is based on the huge influence he has been to my life. I like certain things because of him, I dislike certain things because of him, but mostly I hurt myself because of him. He was always more important to me than I ever was to myself. I enabled him in his own addictions and he enabled me in my addiction to him. What we thought was symbiotic and mutually beneficial was parasitic instead.

He’s known all along that I loved him and that I’ve been in love with him for more than half the time we’ve known each other. And I’ve always known that he loves me, but he’s not in love with me – never has been, in fact. And I never cared. I did know however, that it wasn’t anything against me (which kept hope alive)… it was that he wasn’t going to get involved with anyone seriously while he was still in the military. When he retired, he could give 100% to family. He had always encouraged me not to wait for him and not to pass up happiness with someone else, if I ever found it. The few times I thought I “met someone else” and was happy, he was genuinely happy for me but the relationship would fail at some point and my heart would fall back in love with him with the greatest of ease.

Through the years, what little he could give me was always good enough for me. I took anything he would give me and somehow my hope would thrive off of it. That was until mid-October 2010 when I had to stop our physical relationship, because I was just not getting what I needed from him emotionally anymore due to other life events he experienced. I thought I needed time away from him and I thought I could do it because it killed me that I rarely saw him anymore due to work and living arrangements (“You know I love you, but I’m In Too Deep,” as Genesis put it so succinctly). Unbeknownst to me, this is when the relationship became an unseen cancer that would grow untreated for years. The stages of grief came and oscillated from anger and depression to bargaining and denial – never acceptance. That lasted only 3 months until in a drunken stupor I called him on Christmas Eve at midnight in tears because I missed him so much I could have died. We began a short lived Christmas morning tradition of having breakfast together. We were friends again – the best of friends, in fact, which we had been all along. Nothing more and certainly nothing less, except still being just friends without benefits. I still felt in my heart and soul that my someday would come. That one day he would wake up and realize that I was The One and that he couldn’t live without me. I relied on someday, as movies and love songs have raised me to think… I always felt it was just around the corner, like in the song Almost Paradisealmost being the operative word. I even have a saved fortune cookie that reads “You’re almost there.” It’s astonishing how much faith I have put into those three words over the years. I was always Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

I have always known that I need to work on myself; I’m not my own person, I tend to have low self-esteem and I live my life based on the opinions of others. I see a psychologist and a psychiatrist for my depression and anxiety and have been slowly but surely working on psycho-analysis trying to better my mental health, my self-image and my behavior. I thought I would have the time to do that, to catch up to his progress. There was a time when this man needed me, but that time passed long ago. He’s made so many positive changes in his life in the last four years that he is basically a new person. I’ve always seen him as My Hero and then also as a role model – the whole package. I assumed that when I changed for the better that someday we would come at the relationship again and finally have our time, being two grown-ups who were ready for that kind of relationship as we knew who we were and that we were no longer living co-dependent lives.

Four abstaining (from each other that is) years later, we were still best of friends, but I always wanted more and I always expected more to come. Until the day I had dreaded for fourteen and a half years came to pass; early spring 2014 he told me he’d started seeing someone and that it had just kind of happened. The parallels in their lives eerily just made sense. She too had planned to focus on career and to not get into a relationship if it was to disrupt that plan in any way. Now that they are both on the cusp of retirement, in the same age bracket, and work together – everything just started falling into place and they both couldn’t believe it, but they were beginning to have feelings for each other. It was a perfect storm of heart-wrenching devastation to me. It was then that I was certain that I was still in love with him and that I will always love him and that it was quite likely that I could no longer be friends with him. The cancer that was this relationship had hit stage 4 and it was terminal. But to hear him speak with such excitement and awe of something he had never really known before started to fill me with joy and I thought maybe, just maybe I can be happy for him and still be his friend.

Four months went by with less than a handful of texts, as he was away on trainings, and all the while my mind transitioned from almost accepting that “the love of my life had found the one, and that it wasn’t me” to realizing I could no longer put myself at his mercy, my delusions needed to stop, and that I needed to face reality. This relationship is and always has been toxic and I knew I could no longer use Band-Aids to cover the small hurts him or I caused my psyche over the years – it was time to amputate the cancer.

Monday night, as we sat on the patio of Panera Bread, I bided my time while we caught up with each other as we usually did, still unsure if I had the fortitude to do what I had to do. Finally, it was time to bring it up. And somehow I did. We’d had this talk before, about four years before, but I knew this would not be quite the same. That one ended with him thinking that, after I felt better, that we would always be the best of friends, playing with each other’s kids and always being there for each other. This one was not dissimilar, but I knew there was a permanence in the words I spoke to him. I told him that I did want him to be happy, but that I didn’t want to know about it – it would hurt me too much to know that someone else made him happier than I ever could. I do want him to be happy, but not to my detriment, and the only solution to that was to never know about it. And severing our friendship would ensure that. Or at least that’s what I am hoping. So through tears I realized the truth in the words I was saying to him: that I would not be at his pinning ceremony, I would not be at his retirement ceremony, and most assuredly I would not be at his wedding. All events at which I always thought I would stand next to him as I always have. The reality of that still brings tears to my eyes (and will continue to do so, no doubt, for some time) while I type this and listen to my Spotify playlist “Love Exsanguinated.”

Saying goodbye to the man I love, is one of the hardest and shittiest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. Time After Time I composed myself, but when he realized it was not just the loss of him, but also how it tied into my loss of my job in the Navy and the loss of my dreams and fantasies that had grown over the years, he began to understand. It is all just too much for me, I’ve got to be true to myself. I was crushed by the tears I wiped from his face as I hugged him for the last time. It was so hard to let him go from my arms, but when I watched him head around the corner to his car, I got into mine. I sat there crying for ten minutes before the tears eased to the point that I could see to drive. And I left, sobbing on and off, on cruise-control, up 5 North to Los Angeles.

In time, I know that I will slowly feel less and less of a connection with him and perhaps even be able to smile when thinking back to all the good times that fifteen years of best-friendship brings without crying and without resentment in my heart. I dread the day he becomes just “Somebody That I Used To Know.” Fifteen years of laughs and references and inside jokes… It’s hard to foresee a friendship like that being formed again. The pain that comes with that thought is Sobering. But for now, I feel the Schism that has probably always been between us.

The stages of grief begin all over again without the pressure of some unforeseen future where I will be able to be friends with him afterwards. Granted, it’s happened with other exes that one day it’s no big deal and we can be friends again, but I cannot guarantee that will happen, nor can I hope for it. In fact I need to stop hoping for anything. Hope has never helped me produce results, it has only ever set me up for failure. If I want something, nothing short of actually doing something will change a thing. “I need to know how to live my life as it’s meant to be.” Wishing and hoping and fantasizing and dreaming have gotten me nowhere. Just like I’ve heard from him for years – the fantasy is always better than the reality. So Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road. It’s time I work on those dreams and goals that only pertain to me and not others, whom I have no control over, born out of fiction and fairytales.

“And so, Castles Made of Sand melt into the sea, eventually.”

I NEED A BREAK

Who’da thunk 21 accumulative days of 2 trips in one month would be such an exhausting vacation? I always feel like a need a vacation from my vacation. Is that everyone? Or do I just overdo everything I set before myself.

Texas was fun but short and also hectic. It’s so strange to have the perfect storm of anxiety, overwhelming socialization, not enough time and too many activities to cram into 5 days. Great seeing my friend and her husband that I haven’t seen since their wedding 2 years ago. And being introduced to the music of the live band they had, The Zydeco Dots, was awesome. I felt Creole down to my soul. [Note to self: Must go back to NOLA someday] I even got to play the accordion, which I didn’t know I could figure out so quickly.

One of the greatest things that happened though? I slept. I slept for hours on a floaty in my friends’ gorgeous pool, in the middle of the night with the stars overhead and nature all around me. I was the only one outside and it was glorious. Seems such a simple thing, that I’m surprised at how calming and unique the experience was.

I was back one day for two doctors’ appointments before it was off to LAX once again…

I knew there was a reason why I only planned to be home in New York for 6 days. It was my 20th high School Reunion – the only reason I went back in the first place and it turned into a two week whirlwind adventure. Sadly, not nearly enough time was spent with old friends. Considering how much time I spent in New York and travelling, it almost seems all for naught over a four hour party where half the people I couldn’t place to save me life. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning and work our way winding to and fro.

As the door was closing on my plane from Los Angeles, before we’ve even gotten the announcement to turn off all electronic devices, I received a text from Southwest Airlines informing me that the next leg of my flight from Atlanta to LaGuardia has been cancelled. I asked the flight attendant what that meant since I have never had that happen before and she asked me if I wanted to get off the plane. I declined as she had no helpful information other than going to the kiosk at C16 when we arrived in Atlanta and ask what was up with the cancellation. I slept for shit on the plane and having stayed up all night out of trip anxiety which is all too common for me I was miserable and in pain from my Fibromyalgia and god only knows what other maladies lurking around the dark corners of my mind. When I got to Atlanta, “C16” informed me of a huge storm in NYC and that not just mine, but ALL flights into LaGuardia had been cancelled and everyone and their brother was getting replacement flights. There was no way for me to get even close to the city within the next 24 hours and I stumbled around for a couple hours trying to figure out what to do and where I could go and how I would get to NY once I got there. I thought about Boston where another classmate going to the Reunion lived but unfortunately she had already gotten to New York to be with her family. I then thought about going to Louisville, KY to visit an old Navy friend of mine, but she had to work and was unable to get out of it with such short notice. My last thought was Baltimore. I knew another high school buddy who either lived in Baltimore of Washington DC (couldn’t remember at the time) might be able to pick me up and drop me back off at the airport the next day. I had already talked to her a few weeks prior about going to the Reunion and she said she probably wouldn’t go, as her family had planned a trip to Myrtle Beach at the same time frame.

When I reached her she said that she would of course pick me up but why not just head up with her two mornings later as she was driving up for the Reunion. I was thrilled that she was going to be able to make it and thought what a perfect opportunity to see her family I hadn’t seen in years. She had to work the next day so I would have the whole day to myself and I had an “A-ha” moment. What if I drove her to work and then borrowed her car to drive to Richmond, VA (which wasn’t all that far away) to see family that I hadn’t seen since late fall of 2000 when I got out of the Navy. As luck would have it that idea had even better merit when she told me she was working in Fredericksburg, VA almost half way to Richmond and of course I could borrow her car. I was elated.

I got to see my cousins and their children, my aunt and uncle, and my grandfather on my father’s side. It was wonderful! I even sat down and went over some Ancestry.com entries with them, as that is a huge hobby of mine.

The next day my friend and I drove up to Upstate New York just in time for the reunion and my nerves were shot. I was so scared/nervous/paranoid about my swiss-cheesery brain not remembering people I knew I should. Within a couple hours my anxiety was ebbing and I felt like I was finally getting into the groove of the evening just as it was winding down. But of course. I know that the feelings I felt that night will have to be dissected with my therapist later this week. Insecurities and all… Maybe I need to up my meds. Just sayin’. At least it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was fearing; Grosse Point Blank and Romy & Michelle weren’t the best study guides. Facebook on the other hand, helped greatly. Interacting with old friends and looking at their photos, getting to re-know them and learn of their families is one of the only reasons that I felt comfortable around them at all.

Two days later I was at a huge family Pig Roast and saw nearly my entire living family plus some on my step-father’s side. Some of them I had not seen in 15-20 years. It reminded me of younger days when we would gather at one of their houses for Thanksgiving or when we would sit around a large room and do our white elephant present game at Christmas. It’s nostalgic memories such as this that I need help controlling. I feel as though I live in the past. Not only that I live there, but that I dwell on the feelings I had there and then and I create this sense of longing and yearning for days that will never be again.

I got to see more friends and family over the next few days and it was overwhelmingly wonderful and oh so close to being too much of a good thing. As I write this in the quiet of my apartment, I realize other than going out for small necessities, I have basically hermited myself away and truly enjoy being a home-body and continuing my watching schedule of The Twilight Zone and House, M.D.

I have started drawing again, which is great. And writing – evidently. I need to also work on some stand-up and get back into doing mics. Much like not working out I notice the longer I go without doing it, the less likely I am to keep doing it.

Some of this might seem a bit rambling, not to mention a bit long, but nobody said a blog about Depression, Anxiety, Fibromyalgia, Tension headaches and the like would always be full of unicorns and glitter. Although I do like Unicorns. And glitter.

…oh look! A butterfly!

600_southern_california_beaches_map
As anyone with Anxiety, Depression, or frankly, active brain waves knows, it’s good to have someone you can trust that you can talk to about anything. Among those I consider in my life – my psychiatrist, a man I trust beyond words who, other than diagnostically speaking, doesn’t judge me. I can be completely honest without fear of being alienated due to my unfiltered verbal regurgitation.

I value his sessions so much that even though I’ve moved to Los Angeles, I still go down to the San Diego VA (Veterans’ Affairs) just to see him. I had an appointment just the other day. I had almost not gone due to how piss-poor I’ve been feeling these last few weeks and seriously considered a phone call to him instead. Thankfully as the appointment drew near I’d been feeling better and made the trek. I spent two hours and forty minutes driving and I just made it on time. We had one of the most productive sessions to date and I even told my doctor about starting a blog. He is very supportive of my efforts.

My last trip to San Diego I mentioned to people too late and no one could hang out; this trip I thought ahead and had plans to see one of my friends and his family and then dinner with a few old teammate’s of mine (I used to play Women’s Pro Football – but that’s a different story). I wound up not having much time before getting to dinner and my friend had to get his exercise in before the evening was out so we went for a walk with one of his sons and caught up on the last few months. Low and behold, forty-five minutes and 1.8 miles later it was time to go. My ankles had been hurting since about half way, my legs were relatively on fire with the onset of circulation in them for once and I hadn’t eaten anything all day. Not the best way to take care of a chronic pain/headache/mental condition such as I have, but I like to live dangerously.

Off to the sports bar to see two of my dear friends and finally get something in my tummy; I ordered a huge greasy bacon burger (no tomatoes, no onions, medium rare as usual) with a side of tater-tots. Tater-tots always remind me of high school lunch, cracked plastic green trays, sporks and pints of chocolate milk (sometimes 2%, depends). Maybe it’s just me.

It was a great time and it’s moments like these that remind me that even in my darkest times, solitary confinement is not the best idea. It’s always hard when you’re in the thick of it to remember the good things and hold onto them.

By the time we wrapped up it was about 9pm and I was dreading the two hour plus ride home to Los Angeles. I decided since I was in the area and it was only about ten minutes out of the way, I’d hit up my old stomping grounds at The La Jolla Comedy Store. I got to see most of my friends there and had some great laughs. While I was there I realized I was starting to have a Fibromyalgia flare-up. This is when, instead of this or that hurting and the pain going from here to there throughout the day, it’s in multiple areas at once and it just won’t go away. The longer the pain goes on the more distracted and irritable I become. My arms were aching something terrible and the pain started to make my whole torso feel like I’d been hit by a train. I tried to stave off the pain with light-hearted conversation with my friends and continued to fidget over the next hour or so. As they were closing I decided to hit the road.

Since it was only about 10:30 I figured that by the time I made it up to L.A. that The World Famous Comedy Store on Sunset would still be open. It would be fun to hit up my new favorite spot as well as the old in the same night despite how I was feeling; it was relatively on the way back home, so why not? The drive back was shorter, just over two hours and I pulled up to the Store at around 12:30am. My hips were killing me from all the time in the car but I was happy to be there and enjoying more laughs. A few hours there and I was home by 3am.

Boy, did I pay for the prior day’s shenanigans. I couldn’t get out of bed until at least 1:30 in the afternoon and even then, I was a zombie. If it wasn’t for my too-smart-for-her-own-good dog, who has the wherewithal to let me know when she has to go out, I may not have gotten out of bed that day at all. I’m quite sure I only had some instant oatmeal and stared at the TV for an hour before deciding to go back to bed. I slept on and off for several more hours and finally had some strength by 6:30-7:00pm that night.

This is part of my many ongoing problems. I throw my circadian cycle off by having fun into the wee hours, or by being in pain or having racing thoughts and being unable to sleep so I toss and turn for hours. I’d rather do it by having fun, but the results are generally the same. Bedtime gets later and later. Wake time gets later and later. Afternoon naps come into play and nutrition, amongst other things, goes to the wayside.

Although easier said than done, I need to take better care of myself, that’s really all there is to it. I need to force myself into a routine and even if I maintain late nights I have to get up by a certain time and work – work hard – at taking care of myself. It’s not that I can’t try to live a full and fun-filled life, it’s that I have to work on making it healthier and more manageable. I need consistency in my life. Moreover, it’s a matter of having indifference for myself and daily – struggling against it.