On Toxic Relationships: how long do you hold on before giving up?

So… I grew up pretty desperate to have friends.  I didn’t realize this at the time, but wow.  Any friend who would take me, I was pretty happy and excited.  Being homeschooled sucked in that regard- nobody in school really bothered to invest in you as a friendship, so I was invisible.  Even when I was there, I was always so lethargic I don’t know how I made it through looking back now.  And I realized that some people who vaguely knew I had some sort of illness didn’t want any part of me there.  That feeling stayed with me for years, and entering college, I thought freshman year that I had gained some tremendous confidence… but it was fake confidence.

At my core, my confidence was riddled with holes of insecurity, so the foundation was crumbling still, but I didn’t know.  I thought with the fresh start at a new place, I could keep my illness as hidden and buried as deep as possible for as long as I could, and in situations where I had to end up bringing it up, I felt like a torn individual holding my breath, backed up against the wall by their pending judgment.  So… it wasn’t true self acceptance.  Yet.  People thought I was cool, really nice, and even attractive (LOL).  Some people even thought I had dated a lot because I seemed so confident?!  Haaaaaha.

And the time came when I met new friends who were nice to me.  Who seemed to accept me.  I gave all of me, and more into building those relationships… it was exhausting.  I was in a new place, I needed friends to eat meals with, to just hang out with, study with.  I was content to find just one or two solid friends, but hunting was hard when most people were hyped up to party and go nuts, especially the first year.  I wanted to fit in, so I tried.

But I felt burnt out a lot, giving a listening ear even when I was stressed out about my own issues.  I had a ton of music pieces to learn, yet I had this one friend, the first solid friend I found, who often needed my help.  When I first mentioned it to my mom, she warned me not to give away too much help so freely.  Especially my efforts and time.  I didn’t understand what she really meant at the time, and got annoyed.  I felt my mom was too jaded with the world and pessimistic. My friend needed me, so I wanted to prove that I was valuable and worth it.  I didn’t know how to say no, I need to focus on myself right now.  I never said no.

By the third year, I started to get fed up more and more as I noticed this consistent trend where the friendship was a one way street.  She found a boyfriend soon, I was always the leftover one.  She only made time for me if she needed something or if her boyfriend was busy doing something else.  She would out of the blue ask me to grab coffee, and I would excitedly say yes.  But then she would somehow whip out her chinese homework and sweetly ask me what the answers were one by one.  She would ask to study together, then ask me to see my Works Cited page.  She would barge into my room 10 minutes before class started to ask me to use my printer for our senior project class, making me late because I walk slower, multiple times.  The one time my printer actually was malfunctioning and I told her, she got mad at me.

She would say she’s hungry, if I could make ramen for us, and that she would do the dishes. This was the final straw, and the moment I truly burnt out.  Throughout many other examples such as this, I kept trying to convince myself that it was just a phase where she was going through something difficult and really needed me there for her.  I woke up the next day and realized she had not done the dishes, so I grudgingly rolled up my sleeves and did them.  It was this moment where she came out her room and needed to vent about something serious- it was in the morning, and I was not in the mindset to listen, I was tired of our entire friendship to be honest.  I tried to say something helpful, but knew it was useless.  She actually stared at me, then went back into her room and slammed it.  Yes.  Slammed it.

A few nights later, we ran into each other in the art building and decided to talk it out.  I wanted to explain to her for the second time ever that I felt this was a one way friendship a lot of the time.  She got angry with me that I was upset about the dishes not being washed when her problem was more important- I agreed.  But I realized that it was not about the  dishes.  It was the entire friendship that was wearing me down.  She said she felt it was pretty equal, but that she was sorry.  It was always so easy for her to apologize.  After a while, it felt a bit like it had lost its meaning.

I wanted to care about her and be there for her, but I was finding it extremely difficult to juggle on top of everything I was going through on my own.  There were a few moments where she listened to my problems or something, but each time, she would count it.  She would bring it up the next time I tried to explain how I felt and recount how she had done this one thing for me.  I never kept track. It rendered me speechless how she always remembered anything she had done for me and wanted public credit for it (she would ask me if my professor knew she had helped me with an assignment one time… I got a B- on it anyway).

After that talk, a part of me completely burnt out.  During this friendship, it made me paranoid about my other friendships- did I perhaps treat my best friend at home this way?  I tried to look back on our serious talks- all of them had been me ranting or being upset to her, almost never the other way around.  I called her up one night, crying because I was so upset.  I asked her if it felt very one way to her, that it was always me who needed her help.  Even at this, she excelled at comforting me.  She told me, if she ever brought up feeling that way to me, how would I respond?  I said, I would feel so awful.  And she said she knows that if the time ever came when she needed me, she knew she could rely on me to be there in return.  That was probably one of the most comforting responses I’d ever heard in my life.  She told me that while it was important to be there for that friend in school, I was going through a lot of bullshit in my own life.  Was that friend ever truly there for me back?  The answer was not really.

And this was the moment where I wondered… did I hold on enough?  Did I give up on her in a time where she needed someone to hold onto?  Was it selfish of me to let go?  I knew that if I was going through a rough time, I would be so sad if a friend faded away from me.  But what I didn’t realize was that was already kind of the case.

Self care.

Looking back at times, I wondered if perhaps I was too harsh regarding her.  If she wasn’t really that bad, but I was too sensitive and had made it up in my head.

Recently, I realized I went straight the opposite of who I was.  I became the jaded person who tried to care less about relationships with people, especially new ones.  To expect disappointment as an eventual outcome.

The truth is somewhere in between.  There will be disappointment for some of the people you meet in your life.  But not all of them.

You should still keep moving forward.  Still try your best in regards to how you treat people, but also understand reasonably that it’s not likely they will all have your best interests at heart or reciprocate.

My senior year, at our small college I felt that I had met everyone I was likely to become friends and was very close to accepting the fact that I’d be a loner and graduate with no friends.  My therapist at the time encouraged me to keep trying to get to know other people outside of my prior friend group, in which all ties to each other were burnt bridges.  Despite feeling close to certain that there was nobody left and that was probably something perpetually wrong with me that drove people away eventually, I found a really good group of friends that remain strong three years later.  We don’t see each other often, but I know none of them would backstab me or treat me like I was treated.

I should still treasure the friends I have now the way I did, but not to prove my worth as a friend.  Just because I genuinely care and I know both their worth and mine.  I do not deserve to just stick on to anyone who will take me, I deserve more than that.  I can bear to choose who to invest what energy I have in.  At least on my part, I’d like to continue being remembered as the dependable friend.

Advertisements

Wake Up Call: Steps to Motivation

  1.  What I realize is that it’s important to acknowledge what’s not okay, it is therapeutic to take a break and treat yoself, vent your frustrations (to the right people), and then-
  2. If possible, meditate and focus on what’s still solid and good in your life.  And finally-
  3. Also if possible, work on motivating yourself, and-*
  4. (If possible lol), work on improving yourself.

*The Step 3 is important because motivating yourself, whether that means forcing your ass out of bed, giving yourself a pep talk, finding someone else to encourage you, is definitely a step all on its own, but people tend to skip it.  Without Step 3, Step 4 is nearly twice as difficult.

In application to today, my frustrations:

  1.  That hospitals are as susceptible to fuck ups as any other organization or business, except it’s people’s health and lives at stake.  Today, I was almost given an arterial blood gas test when it wasn’t ordered for today- some problems with printing or administration reasons.  Good thing I made them double check.  All the more vital to be aware of your own shit.  Treat yoself:  I spent quality time with my friend, took a moment to be proud that even on a comparably grumpy day, I was productive, and then of course, bubble tea.
  2. The positive:  I have a select few great friends who are willing to help support me and my burdens in this tough journey.  Today, I vented my frustrations, and my friend listened patiently, but also helped guide me gently with her advice, which is always so precious and useful and calming to me.  Secondly, I came home to my mom telling me she got into a car accident, and after initial shock, for a few seconds I tuned out her voice, just being fully aware that she is still in one piece, in front of me, and that I still have a mother.  No one was injured.  Thank God.  I am lucky and still have so much to be grateful for.
  3. Dragging my ass to to Upenn again made me want to complain incessantly, but writing on here is my way of motivation and clearing my head.  I want to keep working with the mindset that if I were to die tomorrow, what is the legacy I have left behind?  Have I made a positive difference in anyone’s life, and have I contributed usefully to this earth while I was on it?
  4. The rest is obvious, in that my friend was proud of me that I have been slowly, but surely so diligent in achieving my goals of studying and eventually obtaining my Google Analytics Certificate.  This is one goal that I will not let go as it is totally doable and there is no excuse for me not to have it.  The rest is being able to forgive my friend, even if it takes a lot of time, something I was and am having a hard time being able to do, because there was a loss of trust and loyalty, and that is everything to me.

#chroniclesofthechronic

 

Notes on “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” – Marie Kondo

  • Tidy/organize all at once, INTENSELY and COMPLETELY, not bit by bit
  • Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination (21)
  • Two-Part Question for Criteria:
    • Are you keeping the item?
    • If yes, where are you placing it?
  • Sort by category, not by location
    • Avoid duplicates, narrow down volume
      • “Can’t put it back” types + “Can’t discard” types
  • Make tidying into “special event” day

Obtaining HAPPINESS

  1.  Picture the lifestyle you want.  Ex:  “yoga?  why? for more relaxation? to lose weight? are you sure?”  <– repeat 3 x for each item
  2. Examining what you own
    • Selection Criterion:
      • Cease being functional
      • Out of date – fashion, past event
    • Choose what you want to keep, not what you want to get rid of.  Look more closely at what is there (41)
      • “Does this spark joy?”
      • Touch each item to see how your mind and body reacts
  3. One category at a time
    • Make subcategories of tops, bottoms, socks, etc.
    • Things can be stored out of sight
  4. Do not start with Mementos or anything of memory first
    • Clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany), mementos <– ORDER
      1. Functional value
      2. Informational value
      3. Emotional value
  5. Don’t let family see
    1. The urge to point out someone else’s failure to tidy is usually a sign that you are neglecting to take care of your own space
  6. What you don’t need, your family doesn’t need either
  7. Tidying is a dialogue with one’s self
    • Form of meditation
    • Quiet space to clean, background noise should be ambient or environmental music with no lyrics or well-defined melodies
    • Early morning is the best time- fresh air, sharp power of discernment
  8. What to do when you can’t throw something away
    1. Human judgment:
      1. Intuitive
      2. Rational “I might need it later” / “It’s a waste to get rid of it”
    2. To truly cherish things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose
      1. “Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you” / “Thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me” much like the people we meet in life, each has a different role to play.  Free them from the prison, let them go with gratitude

Tidying by Category Works Like Magic

  • Clothes
    • Tops, Bottoms, Clothes, Socks, Underwear, Bags, Accessories, Clothes for specific events, Shoes.
  • Downgrading to “Loungewear” is taboo
    • Usually it’s not appropriate loungewear
    • Positive self-image at home is important too
  • Arranging Clothes
    • Rise to the right (heavy items on left, dark in color:  coats–>dresses–>jackets–>pants–>skirts–>blouses
    • Never ball up socks /store in shoebox
    • Seasonal clothes:  Divide into “Cotton-like” and “Wool-like” materials
  • Papers
  • Credit card statements / Warranties / Greeting Cards / Used checkbooks (get rid of) / Pay Slips
  •  Komono (Miscellaneous)
  • Bath/Sink
    • Keep soap and shampoo products out of shower to avoid slime
    • Keep sponge completely dry and underneath sink or hang outside on veranda
  • “When we delve into the reasons why we can’t let something go, there are only two:  an attachment to the past or a fear for the future” (181).
    • 3 approaches:  face now, face sometime, avoid until we die.  Choice is ours.
      • FACE NOW!!
    • Not needing to search is a stress reliever
  • DETOX!!  Living space affects your body 😀
    • Feng Shui:
      • Yin + Yang
      • Five Elements:  metal, wood, water, fire, earth energy.

My Story Now in Insomnia: 19%

So I said this blog was going to be a space of good health and all that… but the past couple days have been really hard so I’m just going to be blunt and lay it all out there.

I don’t ever want to return to that feeling of hopelessness the way I felt for months two years ago, but it’s pretty damn difficult.  It really feels like the whole world is working against you in more ways than one.

I’ve been riddled with multiple ailments since I was a kid, and the one that’s affected me the most is my chronic lung disease.  Sometimes you dig yourself into a hole thinking about what could’ve been, and how much easier your life would be if all you had to worry about was hustling and getting a job and all the common problems.

I am only left with a lung function of 19%, and am literally living life on the edge.  Even on a day of not sleeping or overexerting myself or stressing out, I feel it immediately and need to take time off to just recuperate and rest.

When I was three, my mom and brother got really sick with pneumonia and I caught it as well.  After what appeared to be a normal check up, I was suddenly hospitalized and sent to the emergency room, where I was in severe care for a few days.  I remember looking over and seeing a black girl a bit older than me in a bed next to mine, and she smiled at me. I remember a few of these rooms, and even now when I smell alcohol and this weird hospital soap smell, it sends shivers down my spine.  I remember days of just being surrounded by dark curtains, where all I had was a sad TV to look at with cartoons and other things I wasn’t really interested in, but being unable to ask anyone because it was late and all the nurses were tired and tending to other things… in addition to my having a tube put down my throat so I couldn’t speak.  I remember someone occasionally coming over and asking me if I’d rather have a blue or pink pad to rest my IV on, and nurses cheering for me because I’d finally pooped after being bed-ridden for endless time.  I remember some nurses crowded in my room watching TV, someone coughing, and one nurse offering me ice cream even though my parents freaked out later as some other doctors deeply believed it would adversely affect my breathing condition.

Even now, I find it ridiculous that the hospital was so unsanitary that they would allow nurses to cough in the rooms of at-risk children like myself who were easily exposed and heavily affected by any form of contagion nearby.  I wondered if this was how I caught a virus that nearly killed me, weakening me so much that I could not leave the hospital for the next six weeks.  It nearly completely ruined my lungs.

When I was finally able to leave the hospital, there were many sleepless nights where the silhouettes of my parents hovered over me, measuring my oxygen levels, feeding me some sort of Iron drink, and giving me breathing treatments.  The first night back at home, I was so weak that when I wanted to seek my parents out, I dropped out of my bed and dragged myself to the edge of the stairs to call them out… I can’t believe I still remember this, and every time I feel the vulnerability of that helpless moment, I feel paralyzed all over again.   I was chained to an oxygen tank for many years, and this eventually changed to a portable one that was difficult and heavy for me to lug around in my still limited capacity.  I think I was finally able to get rid of it when I was about ten years old, but I was homeschooled completely until 4th grade.

My parents were Buddhist, but converted to Christianity when they prayed to God and I was able to leave Robert Wood Johnson.  After 4th grade, I was still easy susceptible to the flu and cold weather, so I was homeschooled usually from November to beginning of April, and this pattern remained until college.  This trend made it really hard for me to establish relationships with other peers, and I had more experience conversing one-on-one with teachers than anything.  At an early age, self-doubt and loss of confidence started becoming apparent when I felt like my health and inconvenient conditions wasn’t understood by many people, and I felt often like I was very vulnerable and at the mercy of my teachers or other administrators.  I experienced a lot of injustice where kids would walk behind me, laughing and taunting me to walk faster when I couldn’t and was so out of breath I couldn’t even defend myself.  I often walked alone because I was slow and couldn’t keep up with other kids, and I felt awkward asking my friends to wait for me, especially with my backpack.

Painful experiences included one time, when I had a long-term pass that allowed me to arrive late to class past the six-minute mark since my pace was much slower.  My sickness caused me to be absent for a couple days, and when I returned, during lunch period I walked the exhausting uphill path from building 100 to 800 to find my science teacher to make up a test.  One of the hall monitor teachers who had a reputation for being an asshole gave me the most difficult time when I showed up and lacking a specific pass from my teacher allowing me to find him for the test.  He drilled me on why I was in that building during lunchtime, and why I had arrived there about five minutes after the last bell rang.  I explained to him that it’s difficult for me as I walk slower, and he relentlessly questioned me, asking me why and almost mocking me as if I were lying.  I told him my teacher was expecting me for a test, and he allowed me to pass, saying I had better have that pass with me when I returned by him.

So there I was, so burnt out and oxygen-deprived, feeling like I had hiked up Mt. Everest, trudging on to my science room to make up the test.  Alas, the teacher looks at me, surprised, and says he wasn’t expecting me to come immediately the day after my absence to make up the test, hence he didn’t have one prepared for me.  I asked him for a return pass to lunch and told him about the man giving me a hard time.  He gave me a sympathetic look and told me the teacher is well known for being a jerk, handed me a return pass, and sent me on my way.  I was so disgruntled as I flashed the pass to the old jerk, and he had to squeeze in one last dig, asking me if I got my test done when there was no way I could’ve finished it in five minutes.  I told him no, and he said “I told you so” as I began my trudge back to the lunch room.

Other times, there were students I became friendly with and considered friend-quaintances, only to have them turn around in their seats to stare at me in April to ask if I was a new student:  in my absence, I had been easily forgotten as if I had never existed in their lives, and it hurt.

There were also gaps in my education where the time lapse in between transitioning from school to homeschooled caused some teachers to quickly skip over chapters in a hurry, whether they were lazy or whether it was to help me catch up as quickly as possible with my class, I will never know.  Some asshole teachers were not nice at all, and when I first returned to my high school math class, I asked Mr. Lynch if I could take the quiz Monday instead of Friday since I had not had a chance to go over a chapter with anyone, and he said “We can discuss it Monday.”  Monday, I came in, and he handed out the quiz.  I went up to him to talk about it, and he said “You’re taking it today.  We discussed it Friday already, what’s the problem?  If you did the chapter’s homework then you should be able to take the quiz just like everyone else.”  Needless to say, I didn’t understand a damn thing about sines and cosines, receiving a fat “U” for Failed, and unable to persuade him otherwise.

In the span of a few years, my old doctor had retired and I did not consistently visit a hospital in that time.  In high school, my parents took me to see a Morristown Hospital doctor, then back to RWJ for Dr. Hussein, and finally now, to where I am a patient at UPenn.

To make matters worse, my parents fought often, and I still remember the many nights when I felt really alone, sick and depressed- I would huddle in my bed, thinking I was going to hear my parents fighting in the next room over, or my mom bursting into my room to dish out some of her anger.  Other nights dragged on for probably months at a time where nobody spoke or communicated in the house, and I was forced to act as Owl Messenger to where my mom was holed up with her door closed, back to my dad where he was playing Freecell quietly.

My mom and I have a very complicated relationship.  I understand all that she has sacrificed for me over the years, but she was also riddled with her own depression and issues, using me as her therapist and complaining about her past, my father, and her unsatisfactory life, often of which I internalized into blaming myself for existing and for burdening everyone.  I felt so guilty and so silenced, and always worried that something was going to happen, and the whole house was always on eggshells or stepping on glass.

Over the years, our family has improved in many ways, and I went to see a therapist after my complete mental shutdown two years ago, and only then did things seem to start to get better bit by bit.  During that time period, my ex broke up with me and I found out I may need a lung transplant.  My parents were so worried about my getting too serious with a boyfriend, and freaked out, preventing me from living as normal of a life as I could for myself.  All the anger burst out of me, and I had no room to tolerate anymore.  For about two months, I was riddled with thoughts of suicide and sleeplessness.  Every second in existence was agony, and I would cry and squeak out jokes at my best friend that I would be tempted to cut myself if I only knew where the veins were, or I would like to drown myself in the bathroom if only there was a bathtub and not just a shower head.

She came to stay with me a few nights to make sure I was okay at school, and probably saved my life, sleeping on the floor in my room and listening to me as I cried over and over again.

My mom has hovered over me like a helicopter parent, trying to shield me from all the bad while simultaneously making me paranoid and aware of a lot of negative things.  I think depression runs in our family, and battling to gain happiness has always been a huge challenge.  I have no doubt in my mind that a lot of the anxiety and depression I feel is related to her own draining energy, but I still love my mom and appreciate all that she has done for me- I just need space and my independence, and yet it seems impossible since I will forever need to rely on my parents for many things.  Will I ever find a significant other to care for me unconditionally?  My parents will not be around forever, what will I do then?

And honestly, as much as I want to wholeheartedly have faith that everything will work out, nobody knows for sure.  There is so much in Christianity that both troubles me and gives me hope.  But in all seriousness, why is there so much suffering, cruelty, negativity, and injustice in the world if there is a God?  I need some sort of justification for this, and yet every time I’m in a really dark place, I pray.  I can’t help it.  Help me figure it out.  Please.

So even now, it feels like I’ve accomplished nothing, and I’m just stuck here in a sad, sad limbo.  But that’s not true, I’ve managed to gain some good friends in college, I graduated, and I need to believe that there is more to my life than what it seems like now.

Depression, anxiety, chronic lung illness (bronchiolitis obliterans), ear surgery, insomnia… what else?  Occasionally, I will open up to a friend who asks about my story, and explain to them what I have.  You will have people who respond in a really unhelpful, ignorant way, saying useless, vapid stuff like

“But you’re such an inspiration!”

Or am I just a fucking reminder that your life doesn’t suck compared to mine?  or

“At least you’re not like, really poor and stuck in a Third World country where you cant afford medication,” or “Maybe it’s all in your head?”  “C’mon, it’s not really THAT bad.”

No, and no.  You don’t fucking know, so shut the fuck up, please.  How do you talk about yourself honestly without sounding like you were seeking pity or victimizing yourself, or downplaying your challenges?

I so envied the college peers I was surrounded by, who only cared about partying harder and ending senior year with a bang, where their greatest conversations consisted of how embarrassingly drunk they got and how they were going to make it through exam week.  I related more to other people of a different, more isolated temperament… and yet, I felt like I was constantly used by others because they knew I relied on and valued their friendship so much.  Even now, I only have a handful of people who really understand me, or recognize enough not to belittle me, hover over me, or differentiate me.

I am hypersensitive to noise and get easily irritated… when I read Chopin’s biography, I really related to his character.  Maybe it’s a symptom of people with lung/breathing issues, you’re always on edge, grumpy, and oxygen deprived, so it makes you whiny and irascible.

There are a million things I’m trying to accomplish, even though on the outside it appears like I’m doing nothing.  Part of me feels a deep, deep despair as if there’s no point in grudgingly trying to figure out my future or my next step, and the other half is freaking out at my freak outs.  So if you have any advice for me, I’d love to hear it.  But only if it’s of substance.  Please.

And Dear God, please help me figure out what my purpose in life is.