Tag Archives: parents

still here ..

Hey! I hope everyone’s holidays are going well. As you know, I’m in Kansas City with my family. It’s been pretty tough so far. I feel a lot of pressure to continue moving forward with my family. That is, to continue talking about my issues and try to develop a deeper connection with them. But I haven’t been able to do that so far. My parents aren’t initiating the conversation–and neither am I. It’s almost like I didn’t even send the letter at all, which is really awkward. So, I’m feeling pretty depressed about that.

I’ve also decided to take a step back from blogging for the next week or so. Sorry, I haven’t been responding as much to comments or reading other blogs. I’m trying to get caught up on emails right now.

I just wanted you all to know that I am still here and I appreciate all the support. Happy New Year! See you in 2011!

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going home

Before I start, I just want to preface this post by saying that I am experimenting with a higher dose of Ativan at the moment, and I am feeling quite stoned. So, just keep that in mind. 🙂

***

I’m going home on Friday. Actually, I shouldn’t call it home. San Francisco is my home; Kansas City is where I grew up. Anyway, on Friday I’m going back to my hometown to see my family for the holidays. I’ll be there a total of ten days, which is probably seven days too long!

I have plans to see a few friends, but other than that, I’ll just be hanging around my family–which actually could be difficult because of the letter I sent them a few months back (part 1, part 2). I don’t know what to expect; or, what I want to talk about. I have no agenda, in other words. I guess that’s good. I’m not expecting to make deep connections with my family, but I would like to talk about the things in the letter a little more in-depth. I do want to have closer relationships with my mom, dad, and brother, but I also want to relax and have fun at home, as well. I don’t want it to be a constant therapy session. On the other hand, if nothing is talked about, I will be greatly disappointed in myself. I just need balance. Regardless of what is said–if anything is said–we are already closer because of that letter. I have already accomplished the things I wanted to accomplish (I just feel pressure to keep moving forward), and my trip is a victory in and of itself.

One thing I am starting to stress about is seeing my relatives (on my mom’s side) for Christmas. I haven’t seen them in years, and I know they all really want to see me. My cousins are all around my age, and they have husbands and wives, and each of them have two kids. I’m a little behind. My aunt and uncle are really religious, so I know they disprove of me and my lifestyle–and so I know they’ll be judging me negatively.

Actually, let me step back: They may not be judging me at all. Maybe they’re proud of the things I’m doing. They know how passionate I am about helping people and how much I want a career where I can make a difference in this world. But then again, they know I am somewhat of a nihilist, as well. I do believe there is meaning in the world, but it’s subjective. That is, beyond science and reason, everybody has their own beliefs. Those beliefs are not right or wrong. I think in my aunt and uncle’s situation, though, they are so attached to their beliefs, they have become truths.

Anyway, my point is is that I have no idea how they view me or what’s going through their head–I am not a mind reader.

So, in the past, I usually got flooded with anxiety around my aunt and uncle and my cousins and their families. I’ve never really interacted with their children (because I didn’t know how and was afraid of being judged by the adults); and so, I just ignored them. I feel pressure to make more of an effort to engage with them.

Plus, I know the attention is going to be on me most of the time, as they haven’t seen me in years, which I do not like. But, it will be okay. I will slow down and use some of the cognitive techniques I’m learning to ease my anxiety. I’ll also be able to fall back on my meds if things get a little too rough.

I’m trying to remind myself that the present is not the same as the past. In the past, I may have been flooded with anxiety around them, but that’s the past. I will probably handle it better. It will be all-right, regardless.

making contact

I sent my parents a letter about three weeks ago, detailing some of my issues and frustrations, and I finally talked to them (separately) about it last night. They were difficult conversations, to say the least–but good. My dad gave me practical advice and validated my issues, while my mom got very emotional and questioned my issues. I welcomed both. It felt good to actually be talking about me–the real me. I felt transparent. I felt naked. I felt vulnerable. I haven’t felt like that around my parents in a long time; again, it was good.

Afterward, I cried a bit, but I didn’t feel very emotional. I don’t understand why, beecause the conversations were so emotionally-charged. I thought I’d want/need to binge, but I didn’t. I ate a salad and went to bed. I’m proud of myself for actually having an “adult” conversation with my parents. They now know what I’ve been going through, and my hope is that I can now lean on them for support.

My dad’s highlights–

“I used to be very shy and had trouble communicating with people too, but my job demanded it. I found that I could use running as a form of mediation to help me relax and deal with my issues.”

“Keep your head up; you’ll get through this.”

My mom’s highlight’s–

“I don’t know what to say to you. I’m scared to say anything because it won’t be the right thing to say.”

“I thought we had a close relationship”

“You dwell too much on the past; you just have to let things go and live in the present.”

“I don’t know why you just can’t live your life like everyone else.”

“I’m sorry for getting angry. I’m hurt and frustrated and don’t know what to say. I feel like I failed you.”

life means suffering

Suffering is equally divided among all men; each has the same amount to undergo…. (Paul Bowles, The Sheltering sky)

***

Depression hit me on Wednesday–killing my positive, albeit hyper, mood–when I started analyzing the interview in my mind, over and over and over again, finding all the negatives .. I found a bunch, of course. I also had a difficult tutoring session (see previous post). This depression stuck with me until Thursday evening when anxiety took over while I was in the car with my girlfriend and her father, on our way to my girlfriend’s hometown to visit her family. I actually started panicking a little.

I know I need to connect more with people, especially with my girlfriend’s family, but it’s too hard. I can’t do it, and I really don’t want to, either.

On Thursday night I went with my girlfriend and her sister-in-law to a bar to watch a baseball game. I had two beers which really calmed me down. I felt calm the rest of the night, but I woke up depressed again on Friday and felt down throughout the day until my girlfriend’s brother arrived.

Her brother’s a lot like me–he suffers from anxiety and depression, he doesn’t really like people etc–but I actually think we’re too similar: neither one of us knows how to talk to the other, and a third-party needs to be present in order to facilitate conversation. Actually, I pretty much always need a third party. One-on-one conversation is the hardest for me, and, consequently, that’s when anxiety hits me the most.

Surprisingly, the anxiety wore off quickly, and I was able to relax for a bit after her brother arrived. We all talked for a while, and then I went to bed. My girlfriend joined me after some time.

Like clockwork, I felt depressed again in the morning. I went for a run, reflecting on my week, focusing on a letter I sent to my parents on Thursday. In it, I briefly described what I’ve been going through as of late, as well as my frustration with my family’s lack of emotional connection.

Some highlights–

I haven’t connected with either of you in a long time; and I’m angry and frustrated because of this. There’s so much distance between us—not just geographic distance but emotional distance. Our family has always been a very private family. We just don’t talk about things. I think that worked for us when we were all together, when we were seeing one another every day. But now that Jeff and I are both gone, that lack of emotional connection is catching up to us.

..

I have Social Anxiety Disorder. I’ve suffered with it for over ten years. I know that everybody experiences anxiety in social situations to some extent, but it’s much more intense for me, even debilitating. Often times the anticipatory anxiety is much worse than the actual anxiety I get in the event. Just last week, my anticipatory anxiety kept me from going to a job interview, for example. Also, after social situations, I continually brood on the negatives from the social event. This is self-defeating—it reinforces the anxiety, in other words. Recently, I’ve also been diagnosed with Cyclothymia. It’s a form of Bipolar Disorder—albeit a very mild form. I’m also a Perfectionist, an Introvert, extremely Shy, Highly Sensitive, and so forth …

..

You weren’t/aren’t perfect parents—and that’s okay. I’m getting to the point where I can accept that you weren’t the type of parents I wanted you to be. I’m not there yet, but I think I’m close.

As of writing, I still haven’t heard from my parents. I’m a little worried.

Anyway, I began to feel anxious on my run. I kept going over and over what my parents would say to me. Would they be mad? Or sad? Or concerned? Happy? Confused? .. These thoughts took me from the present moment. I really wanted to get away from my thoughts. I wanted to enjoy my run and connect with nature, but instead I got lost, and eventually trapped, in my own thoughts.

After my run my anxiety intensified, as everybody, aside for me, wanted to go visit my girlfriend’s sister (Ms. D) in Oakland and her baby and fiance–and we ended up going. I get really anxious around them because her fiance is really cocky and outgoing. I never know what to say around him. Whenever he even looks at me I just freeze. I can’t think, I can’t talk, I can’t do anything. I’m overcome with anxiety.

I also don’t really do well around children. I never know how to act or what to say. I feel like everyone is judging me: He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He probably has no experience with children. He’s an idiot.

I guess it didn’t go too bad. I felt stupid when Ms. D asked me how I was doing because I always say the same things: “I’m good. I’m just trying to get through school and find a job.” She gave me an awkward smile and nod, and thankfully the conversation moved on, the attention put on someone else.

A few minutes later everybody was lively and talking about babies and weddings while I just sat in the corner, keeping silent, trying to pretend I was playing with the baby (and enjoying it). Finally, when the conversation was over, I shouted out, “I don’t think I’ve ever been licked so much in my life,” referring to their dog. Everyone turned toward me, looking at me as if they were surprised I was still in the room. I’m not sure why I said it, I really don’t. Well, actually I do: I wanted to be included so bad, I just said the only thing I could think of. No one really knew what to say. Finally, Ms. D broke the silence–

“Mike, no one really likes it.”

“I’m not complaining,” I said.

A few people laughed, awkwardly, and then the conversation moved on. I probably appeared like I was complaining, because when I said what I said I know my face was stoic. When I’m anxious it’s very difficult for me to smile, and as a result I look serious or angry or mean. Ironically, inside I’m terrified. I just want people to like me. The response I got from Ms. D reinforced my anxiety, and it was appropriate given my comment and how I looked. I really shouldn’t take it personally, because she’s responding to my social anxiety not my true personality, but I still do. She gave me the reaction I’ve gotten most of my life–the same reaction that fuels my anxiety. If she could only understand that I’m feeling something entirely different altogether on the inside she would probably respond differently. I came across as unfriendly and uncaring and yet on the inside I just wanted to connect and be heard. I wish she could have seen this. I wish everybody could see this. Social anxiety changes my personality so much–making it impossible for me to be myself.

I didn’t say much the rest of the trip. Depression followed me home. I carried it with me on Sunday and on in to today. Right now I’m analyzing and interpreting every single word spoken, every gesture, every facial expression from the weekend. I’m also beginning to feel anxious again because I have another social event tonight: dinner with my girlfriend’s former roommate.

***

I suffered constantly in one form or another this past week. When I wasn’t anxious I felt depressed, and when I wasn’t depressed I felt anxious, and when I wasn’t anxious or depressed I felt hyper.

I’ve been thinking more about suffering recently. I’m starting to believe that everyone suffers in their own way. If you alleviate one form, like starvation, another appears, like anxiety–so what’s the point of even trying? I think the answer can be found in the Buddha’s four noble truths. Suffering is all around us, it’s part of life, but it only affects us if we attach ourselves to them.

To me, that means suffering is a choice. I suffer because I choose to believe my thoughts. I choose to let them control me. That said, I’m not sure how to go about releasing, or detaching, my self from my thoughts, but I do believe I’m on the right path. I need to keep doing what I’m doing.

P.S. I got a haircut and nobody noticed. My hair used to be long, and I cut it really short. I thought for sure someone would say something which would open up a conversation, but no one did. I’m invisible.

letter to my father

My father is a very proud man. I’ve never understood him, but for the first twenty years of my life I lived in his shadow. He influenced my way of thinking, what I studied in college and how I viewed the world. I had a role-model, somebody I could admire and look up to. In my early-twenties though things began to change, or, more precisely, I began to change.

I moved away, first to Poland and then New York and finally San Francisco. I saw new things and was exposed to new ideas, new ways of thinking. I finally got to see the opposites–the things my father rejects, and never converses about. The things that make humans unique.

I started joining radical political groups and got rid of my car and stopped eating meat, anything to piss my dad off. For once, I wanted him to recognize me for me. I didn’t care anymore if he couldn’t see himself in me.

Because of all these changes, I’ve become angry at my father, and my father has become angry at me. We rarely talk. When we do it’s awkward and forced. I say hello, he says hello, I ask how he’s doing, he says fine, and then I ask to talk to my mom. At the time of writing I haven’t talked to him in at least three months. I’m waiting for him to call–it’s his job, right?

I’ll get to the point: I no longer want to be angry with my father, and I do not like this distance between us. There may always be geographic distance, but I’d like to be closer in a spiritual sense, or at least in a father-son sense. At this point, he’s less of a father to me and more of a long, lost friend. It’s sad.

What’s more, I don’t really know how to repair the damage between us, if that’s even possible. But I think a good starting point is for me to start being honest with him.

I think the most logical part to start with is his alcoholism. He’s been a functional alcoholic most of his adult life. It’s not easy to address because he’s not the quintessential alcoholic you see on TV or in the movies. He’s never hurt anybody in the family, and we rarely see him drunk. But he still has a dependence–and it has greatly affected our relationship.

I’m also afraid of my father. He has such a big ego. Nobody can tell him anything that goes against his way of thinking, and so I think the only way to get through to him would be through writing–

Dear Dad:

I hope this letter finds you well. I know we don’t talk much, and so you must be surprised that you’re reading this right now, but I think this is something we can address later. For now, I want to jump to the point.

For the past year or so I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing my past in order to understand how those experiences create meaning for me in the present. You, being my father, are a big part of that, obviously. You’ve had your say in who I am today, and I thank you for that. I have inherited a lot of great qualities from you. I deeply care about the world and the people in it, especially those I associate with–which is why I’m writing this right now.

As you can tell, I’ve changed a lot since I moved away. I’ve taken the theories I learned from my childhood and adolescence–the things you taught me–and tested them in the real world. Some work, some don’t, and that’s okay. At this point in my life I think my most endearing quality is how open I am–I’ll listen to anything, I’ll give anybody a chance. Everybody has something to say, and everybody needs someone to listen to them. Right now I need you to be open, and I need you to listen.

I strongly believe that you are an alcoholic. You are not a fall down drunk and you’ve never laid a finger on anyone in the family, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have an unhealthy dependence on alcohol. And it’s certainly impacted our relationship. Whenever I’m home, you’re always in the basement drinking, and when you’re not, more often than not, you’ve had too much to drink. Frankly, you’re less of a father and more like comic relief for me, as sad as that sounds.

You can do whatever you want now. Your actions are your choice. But I am no longer going to be an enabler. If you want to continue drinking, I believe the distance will only increase between us, and our relationship will continue to falter. What you do now is your decision. I’ve made my choice. It’s time for you to make yours.

I may never give this to him, but it still feels good to get it out in the open.

Poland, part 1

n 2005 I met a girl, fell into a relationship, and abandoned all my friends. I couldn’t handle maintaining the friendships because of my anxiety (and my issues with constancy), and besides, I had a girlfriend who took care of all my needs. Why would I need anybody else? My friends thought otherwise, and they kept calling me–wanting me to hang out, wondering where I’d disappeared to. I never answered their calls, but they just kept on calling. I felt guilt and shame and regret and remorse. I just wanted them all to go away. I needed a clean break–and one finally came. Poland.

After living together for only three months, my girlfriend and I decided to study abroad together. She’d lived in Hungary for a year with her family and really enjoyed many parts of Eastern Europe. I didn’t care where we went–I just wanted to get away. We … err she chose Poland, and we left in January of 2006. I told almost no one. Finally. I got the break I needed. I left everything behind, hoping I could start over.

In the weeks before moving, I pictured my girlfriend and I only spending time with each other when we were there. I knew there would be other Americans there, but I didn’t want to get to know them. My girlfriend had other ideas, though. She wanted to connect with others and make the most of her experience abroad. So in those first few days in Poland, my girlfriend hung out with others and made friends while I stayed hidden in my dorm room. I cried a lot. I wanted to be like her. I wanted to feel comfortable talking to others. I wanted so badly to be anybody but myself. My depression coupled with the terrible weather meant I barely left the dorms. I don’t remember much from those first few weeks, but I do remember taking a lovely stroll downtown braving the cold and the fog and the snow and the slush–

This hiding continued for about two weeks, ending when I decided to escape again by running home. At the time my mom was going through chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer, and so I told everybody I was extremely upset about her cancer–which was partially true–and I fled back home. Finally. I could relax again. But right when I got home, the depression hit again. I felt like a failure. I just wanted to go back. Things will be different, I told myself. I’ll be different. I booked my plane ticket back to Poland the very same day I landed home in Kansas City.

My time at home was hard. I slept late. I sat around watching TV and playing video games. I cried. My parents didn’t know how to help because they didn’t know what was wrong with me. My dad ignored me altogether, but my mom confronted me one day, asking me why I came home. I said I didn’t know. I wanted so badly to open up to her and tell her all the things bothering me. But I didn’t. I passed up another opportunity to connect with a family member.

On the plane ride back to Poland I promised myself I would be someone different. I would make connections. I would be popular. This of course didn’t happen. I spent the rest of my time in Poland miserable, hiding in my room, planning out how things would be different when I got back to America. Now I honestly don’t remember much from the remainder of my time there. I can tell you that it was hard. I can tell you I felt depressed. I can tell you I felt like dying. Beyond that, though, there’s only some flashes here and there. I’m not going to detail them … yet. I may come back to this someday and fill in what I remember or start a new post or something. But right now, I’m exhausted. I can’t think about this anymore.

I added another part–Poland, part 2; or: the socially anxious traveler

Poland, part 2; or: the socially anxious traveler

therapy, 9/21/10

Therapy on Tuesday brought up a lot of anger. The session began with me explaining some negative feelings I have toward my mom. We hashed that out for a while, and then my therapist, Mr. J, changed the subject to my blog. (If you don’t already know, I printed out my first post of this blog and gave it to him. On the bottom of the post there’s information about the blog, and I forgot to remove it when I printed it.) Anyway, he went on and on about how it’s important not to disclose stuff that happens between us to anyone, as it diminishes the experience. I agree with that. I think that if I posted something specific and asked you to analyze it, I would hurt my therapy experience. On the other hand, I think it’s good for me to share what’s happening because it helps me integrate my experience. He concluded by saying “I just want you to be mindful. That’s all.” Very cryptic.

Afterward, and after a long silence, I told him I felt angry because he changed the subject.: “Whenever I’m in the middle of my feelings and change the subject to something intellectual, you point it out, remind me that therapy is hard, and then kindly ask me to return to my feelings. However, when you change the subject, it’s okay. You have all the control and all the power in this relationship.”

He then tried to cleverly point out that my anger is just a defense mechanism. In other words, I use anger to avoid dealing with my feelings. This made me even angrier. I understand his point, but does that apply to every situation–to every time I’m angry? Is anger ever just what it is–anger? I think he made a mistake (by changing the subject) and then he tried to cover up for it by hiding behind my anger. Now I feel like I can’t bring anger into the room because now whenever I do, he’ll just say it’s a defense mechanism.

It’s not okay anymore for me to just feel angry.

Sometimes he spins me around so much in one direction, while my anxiety spins me around in an entirely different direction … by the time the sessions ends, I don’t know what to believe.

Also, not all behavior needs to be analyzed, even in therapy. I think sometimes things are what they are; there’s nothing underneath. I feel like half the session was a waste because we tried to go deeper when there wasn’t anything deeper. I guess I understand that it’s good that what happened happened, so we could uncover something about our relationship. But I don’t know where to go with it? I feel like if I bring this up in therapy, he’ll just use the same argument: that it’s a defense mechanism. Or he’ll just try to appease me by saying stuff like “I appreciate that” or “I understand that therapy is hard sometimes.”