Another Week’s End

Another week of no writing is behind me. I tried a couple times this week to complete a post in the middle of the week, but my mind just refused to cooperate. The page sat blank and I couldn’t summon words. It’s ridiculous how tired I am at the end of each day. Hopefully within a few months I can get back to posting at the amount I was, because honestly I feel like not having the outlet has not been helpful.

So here’s an update on my week. The good, the bad, and the frustrating.

I survived my first week of social skills groups and individual sessions. The kids really are great, even as difficult as they can be sometimes. It’s going to be a challenge to keep coming up with good activities that meet each of their needs, but I’m working on that one week at a time. I tried to make a list of each of their goals and operationally define each goal so I know how I’m going to measure progress. It remains to be seen how well that works out.

The rest of the week was pretty standard. We had back to school night and I introduced myself to some of the families. I spoke to a few parents by phone. Outside of school, I had a fun time with H & S making calm down glitter bottles. What kid doesn’t like glitter? It was interesting to see how their different personalities came alive in their choice of color for the water, glitter color, etc.

I really love those sweet girls, even though they test my patience. On Friday, I was carrying S back into the house from the car, because she’d decided she was going to come with me to drop H at soccer but didn’t want to wear shoes. She hugged me tightly, told me that she loved me, and that she didn’t want another babysitter besides me. Ugh, my heart.

Over the weekend, I did have a nice time. Friday night I went to my local high school’s football game with my old colleague, whose son plays on the team. It was such a great experience to catch up with her, to see a couple old friends from high school, and to watch the marching band play. I was in the band in high school and seeing them makes me very nostalgic.

Then last night I went to an event that I’d been looking forward to for weeks. I don’t want to share what it was more specifically, because I fear that might give away my location, but I will say it was a festival that involves a breathtaking view. My friend and I met some kind people who made the night even more memorable for us. I can’t wait to do it again.

Tuesday was a difficult day. That seems to be a holding pattern for Tuesdays. I was overwhelmed and feeling completely adequate in my position. I felt that way again on Friday, but it got even worse towards the end of the day. I was sitting in my office, trying to get an idea of how I was going to work with my one student in counseling. His file was literally spread out all over my table. I was already feeling anxious about that, about handling any situations that would come up with him. The principal came in to talk to me. He asked me a question I didn’t know how to answer and then somehow got me to commit to doing social skills groups with the students in the after school program.

You know, since I can’t seem to say no. Especially to my principal, who I really want to like me.

I really need a whole post on the issues I’m having with work boundaries. Of course I didn’t want to say yes to extra responsibilities. But I’m new and I want to be rehired. So I said yes. Yes, twice a month I’ll do a social skills group on my only day off of the week.

The inner voice was screaming at me that I’ll be killing myself for a job that would just so easily replace me if I dropped dead or burned out. But another voice was screaming louder that maybe they’ll replace me if I say no. Be a team player. Do what your supervisor asks. I feel like I need to do whatever I can to keep the odds stacked in my favor of being rehired, since I’m not sure I’ll earn that purely off of skill.

So when he left, I immediately started to lose it. The feelings that I’m going to fail, to not be good enough. The frustration of losing some of my precious free time to this district.  I’m trying not to do any work outside of work hours, but I know I’m only going to sustain that for so long before I won’t have a choice. And even though I’m not working at home, I’m beating myself up over it because I feel like I should be working harder to know more and build my skill. I’m criticizing myself for not fighting through my exhaustion.

This job wants to eat all of my time. I have so little of it as it is. The fear is resurfacing about being able to maintain the babysitting, but I so badly do not want to give it up. I don’t want to break the girls’ hearts, I don’t want to disappoint the parents, and I selfishly don’t want to be replaced and miss out on the laughs and love I get from them.

And already, three weeks in, I’m questioning how quickly my new job is going to burn me out. It feels like it’s a matter of time before I break down. I don’t know if I can handle it. I don’t know if I’ll feel the “love” I wish I felt when doing it.

It’s frustrating. If I’m not rehired, I don’t know what I’ll do because I can’t imagine I’d be able to get another job somewhere else. But then I’m not sure if I even want to keep doing this long-term, although I don’t know what I’d do that would be able to match my current salary and benefits. So it seems like I’m stuck here.

I ended up texting J on my way to babysitting and asking for a phone call, because I was pretty much spiraling out in the car. She did answer me about twenty minutes later, but I never saw her text until it was too late, so I didn’t call. Which was probably for the better, because I was feeling ashamed for acting like an attention-seeking child at that point, and plus I don’t know if she could have said anything that would have helped me. I texted her a couple hours later and said that I was fine, would take care of myself, and apologized for texting impulsively. She said something kind back, which I appreciated.

Speaking of J, remember how I said I was going to go see another therapist to discuss my J issues?

Well, my friends, seems that the universe is out working against me making that plan come to fruition.

Earlier this week, I was chatting with my colleague. She told me that she’d been talking to one of my student’s parents during back to school night and she mentioned her son was seeing a new therapist. So I called to discuss sending home a release of records in case we ever need to communicate about the kid. I asked her for the therapists name and wouldn’t you know it? It was the same one I was planning on seeing.

Of course.

This was concerning to me for a couple reasons. First, it seemed like a potential dual relationship. It didn’t seem ethical to have a personal relationship with her to discuss my problems and a professional one to talk about the kid. Second, I feared greatly the potential of running into my student and his family at her office. I’ve got enough working against me in the position, being both young and new, without worrying that my families are gossiping about me.

I did reach out to the therapist to discuss my concerns. Obviously, I couldn’t share the student’s name, although I’m willing to bet she will figure it out soon if she hasn’t already. She had to call someone else for supervision on the issue, and ultimately called me back to say that she was still willing to see me since there was no conflict of interest at this time.

Which was annoying to me because just because there’s no conflict now, doesn’t mean there won’t be. It seemed like a risk. She did say I likely had a different perspective, since I actually know who the kid was, but that I also needed to make myself a priority.

She also tried to tell me that if I ran into someone I knew, it could be used as an opportunity to promote to my student that it’s not a negative thing to see a therapist or ask for help. And while she’s not wrong, I resented the comment because she made it sound like it was such an easy thing.

I ended up taking time to think about the decision, but I think I’ve landed squarely in the position that I’m not comfortable seeing her. If I’ve already got all these negative feelings surrounding this therapist, I don’t think it will be particularly helpful to work with her.

So I’m looking into other therapists. I thought I’d found one, but after a little bit of internet stalking, I found a couple things on her Facebook which make me question her professionalism. That’s judgmental, maybe, but I take great care to protect my page, so she should too. I’m thinking instead about asking to be referred to someone else within the practice, because they are all trained in personality disorders and that’s what I want. Although that still leaves me in a precarious situation of running into a student.

I’m frustrated as hell. With work. With therapy. With myself. I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed with everything on my plate and defeated about my ability to meet expectations. It got to me today and I hurt myself for the first time in probably a month.

For the rest of my Sunday, I just plan to lay in bed. It’s all I can do, to rest and relax and hope I wake up feeling more prepared tomorrow morning.

Give me strength. I don’t feel like I have much of it.



Finally, A Post!

It’s been quite awhile now since I’ve posted anything on WordPress. Over two weeks in fact, which might be the longest break from writing I’ve taken since I began my account!

Understandably, the reason for my absence has been the start of my new job. September 4 was my first official in-service day, and the kids began school just a few days later. School has now been in session for just over a week. My day typically consists of waking up at 6, leaving at 6:50,  and working from 7:30 until about 3:00. I then leave the school and head over to babysit the girls, where I stay until 6 or 6:30. Sometimes I go to the gym after work, sometimes I have an errand to run, or sometimes I have a late night appointment. On Thursdays, I don’t work my second job, so I go to the gym right after work and then get a little time at home before therapy. Usually, I’m home and in bed before 10:00.

I haven’t been writing mostly because I have no energy left to expend after all that! I put all of my effort into making it through the day, so by the end I’m physically and emotionally spent. I have little ambition to exhaust myself more trying to get out all the thoughts and feelings swimming around within me, so instead I settle for lighting a candle, playing some phone games, and getting the sleep I crave all day long.

The transition back into these long days has been a shock to both my body and my mind, and I’m still trying to adjust.

In case you’re wondering, things at the job have been pretty okay so far. There are moments that I am so completely overwhelmed with everything I have on my plate and I can’t seem to accomplish anything. A lot of things are different here, because it’s a new district with different protocols, because it’s an elementary school instead of a middle school, and because I’m housed in the school instead of an outside location.

So it’s a lot to learn and it’s very challenging. My colleague knows so much more than I could have imagined about pharmacology, development, and intervening for many types of needs. Sometimes it’s a little dizzying and I worry I’ll never be as competent as her, but she reminds me that I’m not supposed to know everything yet and says I’m catching on quickly. I’m doing my best to write everything down and watch closely to learn from my environment.

It’s so strange being on my own without anyone watching over me. I have a director of course, but I’m used to having a supervisor to double check all my work. Now, I’m on my own. It’s scary and weird.

Despite how hard this job is, I’m doing everything I can to do a good job. I’m asking tons of questions, I’m trying to get to know the kids, and I’m getting right in there when they need me. I make lists and lists of every little task that has to get done because I don’t want to miss anything. So far, so good.

Plus, my old supervisor and I still talk all the time. I’m glad to have him in my corner.

While there’s still a lot for me to learn and I sense that I will need to continuously improve in how I manage my workload and how I handle differences in opinion with staff and parents, there are a few things I’ve done well so far that I’d like to document for my own benefit.

A couple times, I’ve been able to calm down a preschooler who was either upset or showing some difficult behaviors. The first time, I sat down with him and read him a book. The second, I went in with a calm-down glitter bottle that took the little boy right out of his place of opposition. I’ve successfully called and had conversations with at least 4 parents so far, which always gets my anxiety going. I managed to bribe the IT guys into letting me jump the line to fix two iPads for our multiple disabilities class, which is important because that’s what our kiddos use to communicate. I completed an adaptive assessment with a parent while the little boy was in the room. I also survived my first solo meeting!

These are little victories. To anyone else, they might seem small. And there’s tons more to come. But they are my victories all the same and none of that other stuff takes away from them.

This week is going to add a new challenge as my social skills groups start this week. I’ve been in to observe many of my students already, and I made sure that they all were familiar with my face. Most of them seemed pretty excited at the prospect of coming for lunch group, which in itself is different than I’m used to. I love the kids so far, so I’m excited to see how group goes but I’m also nervous about the timing.

That’s pretty much it with my job. As far as therapy goes, I continue to be in a place of very mixed feelings. It’s been just a few weeks since J’s off-beat reaction to a post I wrote sent me into a tailspin right after our resolution from a previous rupture had made things feel stronger than ever. Since the session where I brought up my concern about possibly switching therapists and then went to pieces, we’ve discussed it exactly the amount I suspected we would. Not at all.

Things have been a solid meh from my standpoint. I talk to her and generally feel comfortable. Mostly, our sessions consist of me venting about all the things I’m not sharing with everyone else. It’s helpful to get that out, I admit that. My biggest qualm though is that it doesn’t feel like therapy is offering any solutions. Venting is great and all, but I want a little more to help me deal with this.

Although, I wonder what else she can tell me that she hasn’t already.

I also continue to feel annoyed that there is no consistency. It feels to me like every session is it’s own individual island, with no link between them. Despite mentioning that she’d like to readdress my goals together, and then me bringing it up again, that was forgotten.

I know it’s on me to talk about what I need to talk about, and I have been really making greater strides to doing that, but sometimes it’s super frustrating that she never follows up about where we stand. It brings up all that BPD minion crap of she doesn’t even really care enough to remember. This is an age old issue of mine.  I don’t even feel like it’s worth bringing up again.

Initially, I planned to just keep going into each session with an open mind with the hope that things would just naturally return to a place of stability for me. I felt like I needed to quietly deal with my J issues outside the room since we don’t seem to be making any headway on that together.

Although things are fine while I’m there, there’s the feeling that we are out of sync, so that I can’t quite connect in the way I once did and I’m having trouble understanding what I even need. This isn’t all J’s fault, it’s a disruption in the process between the two of us, although I doubt she feels it or even recognizes it the way I do.

She doesn’t get it, that is very evident. She doesn’t understand how there could still be issues, or at the very least doesn’t know what to do about it. And she seems bewildered that it keeps coming back to our relationship. I really think that she doesn’t get that some of the work lies there, not just in the daily happenings of my life. So I don’t feel like I can bring it up right now, because I can tell I’m just asking to feel unheard.

For all of those reasons, I leave feeling dysregulated. My emotions are bubbling within me and I’m left to find a way to push through that. There’s no time to fall apart. I spent most of my drive home that night trying to come back from a place of desire to hurt myself.

I thought about just taking a break, but that won’t change anything and I don’t want to just run away from her. Instead, I decided yesterday that I need some help on this.

I remembered that a blogger friend of mine had reached out to another therapist when she’d been struggling with her own. It feels ironic, needing a second therapist to discuss your first one, but at the same time it makes sense to me. J’s natural bias (because the issues are with her) complicates my ability to discuss it with her. What I need are different insights and perhaps different strategies. What I need is to be able to say freely what I’m feeling right now without having to prepare for the defense that’s coming.

So yesterday I reached out to a new therapist that I had found online. Beginning the first week of October, we will be doing some short-term work (3-5 sessions ideally) so that I can perhaps finally get past all of my stuff with J. The ultimate goal is to make it work with her, because she’s given me so much and I’ve grown a lot in my time with her.

Alternatively, I am prepared that doing this might lead me to the ultimate realization that maybe I have outgrown her as a therapist. I am clinging to hope that this will not be the outcome.

The minions are going at it in my head, telling me that I’m making a big deal out of nothing and that I’m being an attention-seeker, who is ridiculous for seeking out a second therapist. I worry this new therapist will think so too.

All I know is that I can’t keep feeling this way. I miss when J was my safe person. I miss feeling like I could tell her absolutely anything. There’s been so much up and down between us in the last few months. The worst part is that she isn’t doing anything wrong, I just feel like she’s misattuned to me and I don’t know what to do to fix it.

I hope I’m making the right choice here.

Paying It Forward

There’s always so much to post about in the way of crappy, negative feelings. And lately, my posts about all the awful have been in excess. So today I want to briefly talk about something really nice that I’ve been engaged in during the last couple weeks: paying it forward.

Ever heard of this before? You do something nice for someone, often a stranger, with no expectation for reciprocity. Instead, that person responds by passing on a good deed to someone else, who will hopefully feel so happy that they pass it on to someone else, until hopefully a whole chain of kindness breaks out.

It’s a really nice idea. I’ve seen stories that started with one person buying coffee for the next customer in line, with the sentiment being paid forward for over 300 people. I like the message it sends: to do good, just because, and spread kindness as far and wide as you can.

A couple weeks ago, I was down at the beach with my friend and we spent some time in the arcade playing games. By the end of the hour, I’d racked up a moderate amount of points and wasn’t sure what to do with them. Nothing I could afford was appealing to a 25-year-old. So I decided to give them up to a kid who would clearly enjoy it more than me. I saw a little girl walk by and tapped her mom on the shoulder, offering it to her. Then I left.

Two days later, a friend and I went to a minor league baseball game. We got on line for tickets and were standing there talking when a man walked up to us, holding two tickets. He wanted to know if we wanted them. We took them, super grateful. It was such a kind thing of him to do and warmed my heart!

Now, granted, this doesn’t follow the standard chain of paying it forward. If that mother I gave the points to decided to pass on the kindness to someone else I won’t ever know. In the moment, it felt like good karma. But the guy I was with was inspired by the story, so the next day he went into a Starbucks and bought coffee for the next two people in line, and that is paying it forward.

I thought that was pretty cool. I shared it with anyone who would listen. I also thought it would be the end of the story.

But it wasn’t.

Before I continue my story, a little piece of background knowledge is required. Months ago now, I made a mistake when trying to park and swiped the front passenger side bumper of my car, pulling it away at the corner. The damage was noticeable, but minor, and I didn’t have the money to fix it. So it stayed like that for months, waiting until I could raise the funds needed to pay for the repair.

Yesterday morning, I went to pick up my jeep, which I had dropped off for an oil change. When I got there, the owner of the business led me over to my car, where he promptly showed me that he had fixed the damage for me! I didn’t ask him to do that, I never even mentioned it. He did it just to do a deed, asking for no money in return.

I was blown away by the kindness of this gesture, so much so that it started the pay it forward train rolling again. This morning, we went out for breakfast and I decided to leave what was probably a 60-70% tip on our meal.

I left the waitress a message: Pay it forward! I don’t know if she understood the meaning and I know even less of whether she will keep it going. But I know this, it had to have made her smile.

So now I’m on a mission, to find more ways to pass the kindness as far and fast as possible.

This world sucks sometimes. There’s a whole ton of terror and pain. But there are good people who do good things too. It’s a fun thing to witness, so look out for it!

Better yet, join in on it!

It’s Happening

We’re a mere number of days away now from me officially beginning at my job. Tomorrow, literally tomorrow, I have the first of two days of orientation. Next week, I officially start in my new position.

I. Am. Terrified.

I had a similar post like this last year on the evening before I went to my first day of internship.

On one hand, the possibilities are endless. On the other hand, it feels very much like sink or swim. What if I’m not good at it? What if I fail? I just want to jump ahead to the point where I feel settled and comfortable. I’m never very good at sitting with the discomfort. 

There it is. The conflicting feelings of hope and dread, excitement and fear. The incessant doubts that I am not smart enough, not strong enough, not good enough. The desperate need to just reach the point in my career where I know what to expect each day and feel confident in myself. These words, pulled from that post, still ring very true to me.

As much as last year felt like a test, with pressure mounting each day, this year feels so much more like it fits the moniker of “sink or swim.” My externship was hard, but ultimately everything I did was overseen by my supervisor. I didn’t have to make any of the extremely difficult decisions. I didn’t have to have the confrontations with parents. I wasn’t the one responsible for student outcomes. If I made a mistake, my supervisor stepped in to fix it.

I remember sitting in a very tense meeting with two parents who wanted something very different for their son than we believed he needed. I didn’t say a word the entire meeting. I just watched my supervisor and the rest of the team handle it, grateful as well that there was no pressure on me.

Now? Now it’s just me. I am responsible for figuring out eligibility and placement, for handling parent relations and student outcomes. All of the decisions fall on me for the students I case manage. I can defer to my team for guidance, but ultimately I have to make the decision and stand by it.

J has promised me that I will make mistakes. Everyone does. But my fear isn’t the little mistakes, which will already feel stressful to a perfectionist like me. My fear is really screwing up in a way that impacts a child negatively. Putting them in the wrong program. Damaging a relationship with a parent.

I fear that I’m not smart enough to do this job. I fear that I don’t know enough. I fear that I don’t have the social skills.

And I know myself. I know that when I’m anxious, I freeze up and my words come out in a way different than I intended. So I am quite afraid I will say something to a parent, teacher, or even administrator that is perceived different from how I intended it and the consequences will be irreparable.

So much is riding on this job. My salary, which influences my ability to move out and start living independently. My health insurance, which by extension is my ability to continue seeing J. My reputation within my field if I ever decide to move elsewhere. My confidence in myself. My…happiness?

Everyone I’ve talked to, everyone, has told me I’m going to do a fabulous job. You’ll be great, they say, I have no doubt. They are lucky to have you. I’m glad they are confident in me. I’m glad they believe in me, and it really seems like they do, not that they are just saying things to be nice.

However, that just puts more pressure on me to live up to those expectations. If I fail, if my contract is not renewed at the end of the year, I don’t know if I could live with the shame. I don’t know how I’d come back with that. I doubt I could.

I may not fail. I hope I won’t. I know I have some skills and I will learn as I go. Regardless, it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be an adjustment. I am responsible for a lot: testing, reports, case management, and meetings upon meetings. I’m doing this all in a brand new district where I don’t know the people or the environment.

Plus, there’s babysitting, helping out grandpa, going to the gym. I did all of this last year, and it really wasn’t so terrible, but that was as an intern who didn’t have all the responsibility.

Now, I’m afraid the demands of the job are going to break me. That it will be too stressful and send me to a place of using destructive habits instead of skills as a means of pure survival, just to get through the damn day. I’m afraid it will push me over the edge to impulsive decisions. I had a friend with mental health issues similar to mine and she hasn’t been able to hold a full-time teaching job, it was just too much for her.

I know I could have to give up babysitting. It might end up being too taxing, or it might end up being necessary if I need to go back to twice a week sessions (J thinks I’ll be fine with just one, but she always thinks crap like that). We’ve forewarned the kids. But I’d really like to try to avoid having to bail on them. It would break their hearts and it would break mine.

I’ve mentioned in numerous posts that nights have been hard for me in the last month. That’s when all my doubts come vividly alive, stirring up my emotions to the max. I foresee every possible terrible outcome of my job and I panic. Sometimes I have to take medication, which doesn’t even really help, or something I just burrow into my bed and wait for it to pass.

It’s coming. It’s coming so soon. I wished for this for so long, to have a real job, to be finished with my time as a student. Now it’s here and I’m filled with that panic all the time.

There’s nothing I can do about it! That’s the worst part. It’s a waiting game. And I’m someone who likes to do, to plan, to prepare! So this is hell. I’ve prepared as much as I can in advance for this job, but there’s only so prepared I can be. Some of it will just have to wait until it is right in front of me.

What I can do is sit with the discomfort, using coping thoughts and self-affirmations to fight the negative thinking and using my distraction or relaxation plan to try to move into a more manageable emotional state.

Of course I wonder, have I prepared enough? Should I devote more time? Is there more I can do? More I should read?

I want more than anything to be good at this job. I don’t mind doing the work, I just want to know that I can do it.I feel like an imposter, parading around in mom’s dress clothes and trying to project myself an adult. I think that they are all going to look at me and see a child who doesn’t belong.

But I have to believe in myself. Fake it until I make it. If I don’t, how will anyone else believe in me?

I got the job. My new director believes in me, that I’ll be a good addition to their team. My old supervisor believes that I’m ready. That’s evidence. There has to be truth to it.

I can do this…right?

Either way, it’s happening.

Making It Happen

Summer can be an extremely triggering time for me. If you know me, you’ll know that I struggle with some pretty persistent envy that arises whenever I see my friends flitting off to their travel destinations on social media. It always leads me to feeling pretty empty and lonely, like because I’m not within the right financial means and am without a solid group of friends to share the experience with, I’m missing out on what could be some amazing experiences. I want to travel desperately, I want to try new things, and I want to feel like I’m making the most of my time on this earth.

While this summer was filled with tons of stress, I can also admit that there were some high points that were pretty fun. Most notably, every one of those experiences was something that I took the time to plan and make happen for myself. A kindness for me that I want to take a moment to recognize.

Fireworks. I was absolutely devastated when I had exhausted the list of people I usually go see fireworks with on 4th of July and realized not one of them was available to join me. My mood plummeted as I thought about missing out on seeing the fireworks show put on by a nearby town, which is spectacular and usually worth all the chaos of parking and people.

Faced with going it alone, I ended up contacting one of the guys I had been on a date with previously. I asked him to come and he readily agreed. So I did get to see the fireworks. It actually ended up being a fun night, and we had an engaging and easy conversation that made the time before the show pass quickly. Even though the finale got slightly messed up, I was so happy to have been there and seen the majority of it. That’s such an important tradition within my summer that I always look forward to.

Balloon Festival. One of the many things I love about where I live is that there are all types of interesting events locally to explore. At one point in the summer, a town not too far away hosts a festival where hot air balloons are flown overheard in a dazzling show. My uncle works at the festival, so I’m usually able to get free tickets. I reached out to my group of friends to see if anyone was interested, but again it looked like no one was available. I was so frustrated.

At the last minute, one of my friends came through. We figured out the plans and got ourselves there. While there, I bought a glass figurine of a hot air balloon that I’d passed on buying the summer before but hadn’t forgotten about all year. It’s gorgeous and has become a fixture in my room. We set up camp among the crowd and waited for balloons to inflate. It did not disappoint. The wind carried a number of brightly colored and even some creatively shaped balloons right over our heads.  Watching the landscape fill with them brought me so much joy. Each time one launched, I got more and more excited. It radiated across everyone in the crowd. We even got lucky enough to catch a fireworks show later that night.

Going to the Beach. This is probably the experience I’m most proud of. I’ve talked about going to the beach tons of times with various different people, but rarely do words actually get transferred into action. I lamented this to J during session, who suggested I go to the beach by myself. It seemed like a pathetic idea, something only someone who was a loser with no friends would do. But I gave it a chance. My aunt lives nearby a beach and so I found a free day with good projected weather and I went on down.

Let me tell you something, I really had a great time. It wasn’t perfect, and I did yearn for someone to share the experience with, but I also tried really hard to soak up the good parts. I read a book, took a nap, listened to music, and even jumped waves in the water. By myself. These were things I didn’t think I had the courage to do, let alone enjoy, alone. Despite the ridiculous sunburn I suffered, I treated myself to a whole day in what is a very happy place for me, somewhere I have very fond memories of from my childhood.

Ropes Course. There’s a business nearby that offers customers the opportunity to complete a ropes course that has been set up in the trees a great distance from the ground. I’ve wanted to try it for years, because it seemed like a fun challenge, but never reached out to anyone to join me. Finally this summer, I asked a friend if she’d like to go, set up a time, and just did it! It was absolutely a challenge and a little scary at parts, but I loved it. I can’t wait to go again.

Visiting the Lighthouse: There is a lighthouse in my state that is (semi) within driving distance. I can’t say which one without giving away my location, but it was a place that I had been vying to see for quite some time. Again, I reached out to a friend who showed interest, and didn’t let up until we’d solidified plans. Even though they forecasted rain that day, we made the decision to make the trip anyway.

Well, we anxiously drove until the lighthouse came into sight. Then there it was! We paid to climb to the top and I can’t describe the beauty awaiting us. I stood up there for awhile, watching boats speed by in the turquoise water, which crashed up into the piles of rocks at the shore. I was using all my senses to appreciate the feel of the wind, the smell of saltwater, the sounds of people milling about. By some miracle the sun shone the entire time we were there. I’m so glad we risked it and went.

Many, many movies.  This was like the summer of movies for me. I’ve been to see four different recent releases, which is about four more movies than I saw during pretty much the entire school year. Whatever the movie, I found someone who would be interested in accompanying me, whether it be a date, my two good friends, and even my parents. My favorite was probably Mamma Mia 2. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on repeat since seeing the movie.

Looking back, I guess it wasn’t such a terrible summer. While I never left the state, didn’t go to some grand topical destination, I did have a lot of fun. Plus, there are other blessings to count. My grandfather stayed healthy. I spent many days in the pool with the little girls I babysit. I went boating with friends and family.

Maybe next summer, I can finally plan a trip. Until then, I will hold onto these solid, memorable moments. They can be enough for me.

Intimacy Fears

I don’t talk about romantic relationships very often on my blog. To be fair, I don’t talk about them much in therapy either. It’s on the list of topics that feel shameful and difficult to address.

In my whole life, I’ve only been in one relationship. It was during college, and I dated a woman who was my best friend for almost a year. For awhile I thought I was bisexual, but I ended things with her when I realized that there was little physical attraction. That relationship was confusing as hell because I spent half the time hiding it from my friends and the other half feeling judged for it.

I’ve never been in a long-term relationship with a guy.

For a long time, I assumed that if someone (the “right” someone) showed interest in me, then I would be all gun ho about moving forward with them. I thought it was simple; if they liked me, I’d like them back. Things would feel natural and easy.

Until I really started aiming for a relationship, I didn’t realize how much effort this process would require. And how much it would really feel like work.

Because grad school really consumed the bulk of my time, I have used the summer months for the last three years to try to meet someone. I’d use the common dating apps to connect with guys and dive in. The first year, there were one or two people I talked to and pursued. The second, a handful with whom I dated between 1-4 times. All of those fizzled out, whether I stopped pursuing it or they did.

This year, there have been four that I’ve actually made it to a date with. One I nixed immediately. Another fizzled out after a few weeks. A third I went on six dates with. Another, perhaps the most promising, I just came back from my fourth date with.

I always start out excited. Motivated. Ready to go. I tell myself this time around things could really happen. I would say I’m actually pretty good at the first dates now, where the pressure is low. We’re still learning about each other, maybe we’ve exchanged some texts, but there’s no expectation for things to get intimate yet, emotionally or physically. So that’s all fine and dandy.

Starting with the second date, nerves kick in. I’ll start to wonder: are they going to kiss me (if they haven’t already)? Will there be pressure to do more? Do I want any of that yet or am I just going to let myself be pressured? So many questions.

If we make it beyond date number two, and there’s any sort of notion I have in my head that maybe I could like them or even enter a relationship with them, you better know that I’m itching to run far and fast from that relationship.

Which is about where we are at with the one I’m seeing now. Fighting every impulse I have to flee from a kind guy who has treated me well so far and seems to actually take an interest in the things I say. It was where I was at with the one before him too, with whom I finally terminated things after we went on six dates and I still had little interest in him romantically.

I can never tell if I’m putting a stop to things because I really don’t like them, if we really aren’t compatible or if I’m just scared.

I can come up with reasons why we don’t work: I want someone who is more outgoing, we don’t have enough in common, he talks about himself too much. However, I  question whether or not those reasons are good enough. Am I actually trying to even develop a connection or am I looking for the first excuse to cut and run?

Like I said, I always expected dating to feel invigorating and be something I looked forward to. This fear, this dread of the situation, came as a shock. I hate the associated anxiety I feel.

Relationships are work for anyone, but for me they are a whole other kind of work.It takes me longer to feel comfortable making physical contact. I’ll push myself to do it, but to me it feels awkward. Today, as I went on a walk with that guy I’m seeing, I felt myself naturally move away every time he moved close. I don’t know why. Later, I did let him put his arm around with me, but I couldn’t seem to let him hold my hand.

Sharing more personal aspects of myself is on another thing I struggle to do, to be honest and open and risk rejection. Or worse, risk sharing all of that and still not feeling an emotional connection to them.

The spark, that real feeling of attraction, isn’t created over two or four dates. I need time.

A couple years ago, I even let myself get sucked into a situation with a guy that I probably wasn’t ready for after only two dates, because I felt such an internal pressure to prove to myself I could be physical with another person. Then I propelled myself into something even more physical the following year, again just to get it “over with” instead of due to any real emotional attraction.

So those memories get all tied up in any relationship I try to pursue now.

I was not the kind of high school or even college kid who had boyfriends. I assumed that I wasn’t likable, and while I was no “popular” kid, that’s not true. There were one or two who expressed interest, where things could have blossomed.  But I always panicked and made sure to keep a fair distance. Friends. I was running, even then, but I assumed the situations were beyond my control.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be able to be a part of a true romantic relationship where I feel comfortable and at ease. Obviously, it is easy for me to catastrophize and see a negative future, but the fact that I’ve never had a long-term relationship with a guy before makes me wary. I was never that boy-obsessed teenager. I had a few crushes, but school and friends were always prioritized. So now, I feel somewhat out of my element trying to make up for lost time. I’m never sure of what to do.

I wonder if I should be continuing to trudge head-on into the dating world, trying to commit to opposite action and engage instead of withdraw. Or should I be holding off until I’ve learned a little more about myself and made more progress?

Relationships are hard.

One Year on Wordpress

On this day a year ago, I was fresh off of a conversation with J about borderline personality disorder.

I had gone into my session feeling anxious and conflicted. The previous time we’d met, things between us had been tense and fueled by anger (on my part), to the point that I’d walked out of her office and slammed the door to the waiting room. I’d felt misunderstood, as per usual.

I’ve spoken about this next part before. Following that session, I was feeling so alone with my feelings towards my therapist. It’s not like I had any friends that could commiserate with therapist issues. So I went online and tried to find some website that could give me some insight on my situation. I found just that from some blogs dedicated to discussing experiences with BPD.

At first, I thought that it had to be a coincidence that these bloggers who were describing their experiences in therapy by using the thoughts and feelings from my own mind had BPD, because there was no way in hell I did. Or so I thought, until I read more about it. Then I realized it was exactly what I had. It explained so much, even beyond the intense anger that I’d felt towards J in our last session.

When J and I spoke next, I shared this her, wondering what she’d think. To my surprise, she agreed, but had been trying to decide whether or not bringing the BPD term to my attention was a good idea. In the end, I beat her to it.

That diagnosis has changed the whole course of my work with her. It opened me up to a whole slew of people feeling the same feelings and thinking the same thoughts. Before that, I thought that I was an anomaly, completely alone. Now, I felt like there was real hope. Other people were living with this disorder, so could I.

All of that, because of the blogs.

So when I left my session that day, I went home and make a WordPress account. The next day, I wrote my first ever post.  I don’t really know what possessed me to do it, considering I hadn’t been doing much writing for months in the journal I had in my room. But as I sat down, the words just flowed out. It felt natural.

I’m not sure if I thought writing about my experiences would somehow help others or if I was just looking for someone who could tell me I wasn’t alone. Maybe a little bit of both. I think I just wanted to be part of the community too.

I wondered if anyone would ever read what I’d written.  And I didn’t even know if I’d stick with writing, since I’d never stuck with it before. Maybe it would be just a phase.

It wasn’t a phase. Here we are, one year later. 195 posts. 209 followers. I never could have imagined that so many people would find my story worth their time. I could never have predicted that people would care about my journey enough to like my posts, comment or follow.

Writing can be challenging for me sometimes. Yet what I have found is that doing so is always worth it.  I’ve shared things with all of you that I’d never dream of saying to friends or family. I’ve had eye-opening conversations with so many of you that gave me insight, help, and comfort.

In a way, I’ve developed a different type of family from the WP community, one I’m so grateful for.

So to every one of you who I’ve corresponded with, to each of you who has taken even a moment out of your day to send me a word of support when I needed it, thank you. There are too many to list, but you know who you are. You have been part of my healing process. You’ve contributed to my growth.

Without you, there’s no way I’d still be so invested in this blog after so much time. I look forward to seeing where the next year takes me.