Slow Motion Summer

I’m a person that’s used to spending a lot of my time on the go. During the school year, I would spend 8am-3pm at my internship, then go and be with the girls until six. I would have class once a week, therapy once a week, and try to spend at least 2 days with my grandfather. I was busy and though it is incredibly tiring, I do well with a consistent schedule.

It’s summer now. Class is over, thank you graduation. Internship is done and my new job hasn’t started yet. The girls are off at camp most days, so I’m only with them occasionally. I still go to therapy and see my grandfather, and I make plans with friends as I can, but that’s only a few hours out of my week.

Do you know what I’ve been doing? A lot of nothing! I sleep in until about 9:00, which is when my guilt alarm goes off, and then I roll out of bed, transferring myself over to my computer.

And then? Well, that’s anyone’s guess. I sit there, mostly, trying to will myself meet a basic need or to complete one of the few things on my to-do list.

Like today, I got up late into the morning. Of course, my first action was to lay in bed playing some phone games. After that, I ambled downstairs and got myself something to eat. I needed to shower, but I made sure to prioritize watching Youtube videos and perusing the internet. Then I made a phone call that I’d already put off all week. More phone games. Then I got in the shower, about two hours after initially planned.

I’ve been meaning to paint my nails for days and I just continue to put it off. Why? Eh, I don’t feel like it. I also have a prescription I told myself I’d pick up, but it’s still there waiting for me.

Those things will happen eventually. Pretty much, I’m just doing whatever I feel like doing at whatever momemt feels most appealing to do it.

I’m like a sloth. My responsibilities are getting done, and I’m taking care of myself, but it’s taking heaps of time longer than it usually would. My body and mind are tired, and so we are plodding along at our own pace.

This inaction is strange. When I’m depressed, I face a similar paralysis. I’ll stay in bed all day because I just see no point in getting up. Right now, I’m not depressed. I’m fine, actually. T here’s just nothing particular motivating me to be productive.

Perhaps the strangest part is that I’m not really judging myself for all the nothing that I’m doing. If it were October and I in this sloth-state, I’d definitely be feeling shame and projecting all sorts of criticisms at myself. There’s so much pressure to be on top of things during the school year.

But it’s not October. It’s July. The pressure on me to have it all together is non-existent. So maybe being a little lazy is…okay?

Maybe I’ve even earned it after three years in graduate school.

I’ve got another post I want to write today, but I will give myself permission to work at whatever speed feels comfortable. In the meantime, I will chill out on my deck in the sun while watching a favorite comedy special of mine and eating some watermelon.

It’s summer, my friends. I hope you are taking some time to enjoy it.

 

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Love Hurts

Tonight, I’m sad. Not depressed or miserable, just sad.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been babysitting for two school-aged little girls for about the last year now. I was recruited through an online caregiver website by people who were all but strangers at the time.

This was a way to supplement my income while I was working for free. I expected it to be one year and done. I told myself from the beginning that I would not get attached to them.

In the beginning, that was fine, because I didn’t know them. We were adjusting to each other, so it really wasn’t hard to keep a separation. In fact, I remember wondering at the beginning of the year if I’d even make it through.

Here’s the problem. I don’t do halfway. So of course I got attached. Very attached. There’s been times I’ve needed a break. Days that were frustrating and difficult as a mediated between another fight or tried to find a way to entertain them. But I love these girls. They are sweet, silly, sassy little girls with infectious laughter and a never-ending quest to have fun. They are generally the best part of my day, so much so that they were the subject of one of the days of my self-love challenge.

It’s a little bit ridiculous the amount that I love them. Children do that to you, I guess. That and the hours upon hours we’ve spent together.

Now, it’s looking like it will be the end of my time as their regular babysitter. With the demands of this new job, it’s unlikely I’m going to be able to continue working with their family after school each day. There is a very small possibility we may be able to work it out once I find out my contracted hours, but I’m just not sure. As of this time, they will be hiring a new person.

I’ve been trying to prepare the girls as much as I’m trying to prepare myself for it. To stay strong for them, because they’ve expressed a lot of sadness and apprehension about it. We talk about my promise to still be in their lives, to babysit weekends and nights when I can. We talk about what they’d like their next babysitter to be like.

They’re kids, so I know they will adapt. Whoever ends up coming in, it will be fine for them. Right now it’s just scary for them because it’s all a giant question mark.

The truth is, I hate the thought of being replaced. It kills me to think of them loving another caregiver the way they do me. It makes me jealous that someone else will have the privilege of being with them and watching them grow. I know that I will miss our time together dearly.

But I also want them to be happy. I want them to find someone they love and have a great year.

I’ve had such fun with them this week especially. Today, I ended up staying with them past the time I was supposed to. We laughed for hours playing a card game that I’d taught them. It was hard for me to leave, because I was enjoying the time with them and I just wanted time to stand still for a few minutes.

Then I left and I felt my heart swelling with sadness. It feels like we’re living on borrowed time, because in just a short while now things will be changing. I hate the thought of it. They are a great part of my life and I want that part to stay as it is, a few hours of love and laughter each day.

Maybe it doesn’t make sense why I feel this way. They are not my kids. They are not my family. Maybe it’s just my BPD acting up again, the never-ending idealization and tendency to be ‘too much’.

It doesn’t matter because the feelings are still there.

So tonight I’m sad. I’m sad at the prospect of change, at the idea of losing these two little girls in any way. I’m sure I’ll feel better with time, but right now I’m sitting with the emotion. It hurts to love them this much.

From Up to Down

I don’t know where it came from, but depression is here tonight. It’s been here all day. With it came suicidal ideation. Lots of it.

I am so tired. My body hurts. I am also covered in bug bites and bruises from wiping out at the playground on Thursday when I was there with S. The only thing I’ve been marginally interested in is laying in my bed and playing games on my phone.

I am supposed to be reading from my DBT book and keeping track of my positive and negative judgements, so that I can discuss in therapy this week. I’ve noticed I have a lot of judgements, the same ones over and over. I am ugly. My thighs are fat. I am lazy and should be doing more. I am an ungrateful person. I am not smart enough or assertive enough to be successful at work. I am a loser. I am an idiot.

I have a distraction plan. A relaxation plan. Lists of things I am supposed to be doing instead of hurting myself. When I’m well, these all seem like feasible things to do. I’m motivated to try. Now? I’ve cut four times in the last two days, so it’s safe to say I suck.

J says I’m working hard, but this is the proof that I’m not. This is why I don’t deserve the support and kindness I receive in therapy.

I literally don’t want to do anything right now. I’ve guilted myself into writing this. The thought of waking up to a new day tomorrow hurts. The thought of continuing to do this back and forth, up and downs of my mood, is not appealing to me.

I hurt. Plain and simple, I’m in a dark place at the moment. That place of hopelessness and defeat. I’ve got so much anger and jealousy. I want J desperately and I hate myself for that, but I also know that talking to her would certainly be pointless because she can’t fix my flaws.

I think that I may be unfixable. A lost cause. These minions just keep coming back stronger each time. What am I even trying for?

Or is it just that the judgements in my head are true and I’m a lazy loser who isn’t working hard enough to be better?

Morning Musings

I’m sitting in a Panera Bread right now, because I left an hour and a half early for an interview. I did this because I anticipated hitting a lot of traffic. Well, I hit no traffic so now I’m an hour early for the interview. Oops. Talk about overprepared.

Well, anyway, I might as well use this time for some writing. I don’t really know exactly what it is I want to say but I have to keep my mind occupied, otherwise I’m just going to sit here fretting about these interviews.

I have two today. Why did I do that to myself?

Okay, wait, I didn’t do that to myself. I didn’t really have a choice, they just told me when I would be coming into interview. Kind of forced my hand there, really.

Maybe that could be a good thing, right? Like, I get to get them both out of the way right now instead of having to be worried about them for days. I’m trying really hard to look for a silver lining.

Last night, I felt so anxious that I was physically nauseous. It came on suddenly, this feeling of dread like someone was coming after me. I’m sitting there trying to dry my hair and it’s just that ball of electricity pulsing in my stomach. I have to imagine that was because of the interviews or because J is out of the office today (she’s really got impeccable timing for breaks). Not sure, but it was intense.

I tried some meditation to lull me to sleep. It did calm me down, but I was awake sporadically throughout the night. This is always what happens when I know I have to wake up early or when I’ve got something nerve-wracking coming up. It’s like my brain wants to make sure it wakes up before my body, so it nudges me awake every few hours just to check and determine that it isn’t actually time to get up yet.

So I haven’t really slept, even though I went to bed early. Thanks, anxiety minions.

On the way here, I practiced my responses to all the potential questions I could think of. I’m so much more eloquent from the safety of my car, where my potential job is not riding on an answer. I really wonder how articulate I sounded the other day; were my answers the kind they were looking for or were they sitting there thinking that I sounded like a blubbering idiot? Perhaps somewhere in the middle?

I really want to put my best foot forward today. To sell myself. I wish my anxiety didn’t kick into high gear at even the thought of this. Ugh. Anxiety is paralyzing to me.

But alas, I push forward. I need to leave in a few to head back to the school, so I can be an appropriate amount of early.

I just looked at my Facebook. Three years ago today, I left my undergrad for the last time. I remember being a crying mess, thinking about how things would never be the same. And they weren’t, this was true. But look how far I’ve come! From a naive undergrad, unsure what her grad experience would look like, to a professional interviewing for jobs!

So weird.

Anyway, it’s time to sign off. Wish me luck, friends! Thanks for all your sweet post-grad messages. You had me smiling ear to ear!

Graduation and Beyond

Last night, it finally happened. I graduated with my Master’s degree.

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It’s kind of difficult to put the exact feelings I’ve got surrounding that into words, but I think the picture does a pretty good job.  Overwhelming feelings of success. Joy. Disbelief. I remember when I was in my first year of the program and I had to take a class with a professor who was just horrid. All of my friends and I considered dropping the class, but we didn’t, and I sat there in my head trying to fathom how I was going to make it not just through that semester, but the 600-something days until I would have my degree.

And here we are.

The ceremony last night was filled with all sorts of emotions for me. First, it seemed like everything that could go wrong did. My friend and I got stuck in the most ridiculous traffic and thought we would not have the opportunity to walk. Once that finally cleared and we did get there, I lost my tassel. Thankfully, she had an extra one. And then my phone was refusing to receive messages, which meant I couldn’t get in contact with my parents, who had also been stuck in traffic. We were all raging. Everyone was wound just a little too tight trying to figure out their own stuff.

When those frustrations settled, and we finally went upstairs to be with our school, suddenly none of what we’d been stressing about really mattered anymore. I have a core group of about 5-6 very close friends from school, so I imagined they’d be the ones I ended up sitting with. Well, we ended up with our entire cohort of about 22 people. Everyone piled into line together and we took some pictures. We laughed a lot. No one really seemed to care when the ceremony was delayed because of the rain. Later, we all cheered for each other, and everyone was just happy to be together.

During opening remarks by one of the PhDs, the man was referencing all different groups of graduate students: teachers, marine biologists, audiologists. Then he mentioned the “psychologists” and my crew of people cheered the loudest.

“Wow,” he said. “The psychologists are really happy to be psychologists.” He was right. We were proud to be there.

It hasn’t always been that way, of course. We didn’t all always get along. But like I said, in that moment we were a community. I think graduation goggles took effect, that feeling where your realize as miserable as school was, we survived it together. That was the last time we would all be together as a group. It was really nice to finish my degree with the same people I’ve gone through all my classes with. And it was really nice to have some of my professors there to see it, even the ones that I was complaining about just days ago.

Graduation, man. It makes you very nostalgic.

Last night, one of my professors asked me, “what’s next?” Well, I want to update you guys on what’s next. After I dragged and dragged and dragged my feet, what’s next is a handful of interviews for jobs!

I had my first one Monday, have two tomorrow, and one in a couple weeks. This is a huge step for me! I was terrified to apply and then terrified that there wouldn’t be any schools interested in me. Especially as a couple of my friends have started to get jobs, I worried. But there are schools interested and that’s awesome!

In fact, when I was in session yesterday I realized I’d missed a phone call for an interview. J actually made me call them back and schedule it right then and there. She was really excited for me, which made me feel so cared for and supported. I love that she’s 100% behind me in this job thing.

My first interview went fairly well. I was a nervous wreck, but I think I managed to keep it together and be at least somewhat articulate in answering questions. I give myself credit for that. I need to spend today preparing for my interviews tomorrow!

It’s been a crazy journey with this job process. I’m so used to getting whatever it is I’m going for on the first shot. I got into my top choice for both undergrad and grad school, and every job I’ve applied for, summer camps, restaurants, babysitting gigs, I’ve pretty much gotten without a lot of difficulty. Trying to recognize and accept that this may require multiple interviews and rejections (and that a rejection may just reflect that I’m not suited to the district, not that I am a failure!) has not been easy, but I’m working on it. And still preserving.

J and I decided yesterday that my newest motto is this: For everything that has seemed hard or impossible, I’ve always gotten through. 

No matter how difficult or scary, I always stick to it and push myself to reach my goals. That’s not always an easy thing for me to appreciate about myself, but today I see it.

I pushed and pushed myself to a Master’s and I will continue the drive towards finding a district that wants to hire me. I’ve got a wonderful team at my internship that is behind me, who says things like it would be a loss for a district to pass me up. I’ve got friends who will be there in this journey, even though we are competing for the same jobs. I’ve got pretty much the best therapist ever, who told me I could text her tomorrow to tell her how my interviews go, even though she is out of the office.

Best of all, I’ve got myself. Officially a Master of Arts. And ever determined to achieve that school psychologist job I’ve been dreaming of for three years.

The adventure continues.

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Cutting the Cord on Friendships

Over the weekend, I went out to celebrate the birthday of a friend I went to college with. For the purpose of this post, let’s call her Kayla. It was the first time I’d seen Kayla in about six months. Two of my other friends were there too, who I hadn’t seen in longer than that. Their names aren’t really important.

What is important to know is that, in college, they were three people I spent the most time with. Two of them lived on my freshman floor, and Kayla transferred sophomore year. We all lived together junior year. Kayla and I were definitely the closest, but I was friends with the other two as well.

The problem is, during college I had numerous issues with these girls. I’ve written about them before. These are the girls who threatened that I either go to therapy or they wouldn’t be my friends anymore after I posted something about my depression that upset them. They are the ones who I discovered saying some pretty mean thing about my eating habits via text. They are also the ones who talked about me behind my back when I was in a relationship with a woman senior year, not because they were against it but because they were angry about how much time we spent together.

So yeah, when I look back there were a lot of bumps in the road.

I’m not innocent here. I let immaturity rule because I didn’t know how to handle my issues with them properly. So I said things that weren’t nice because I was confused and angry and often venting to someone in the hopes that they’d understand. Not that it ever fixed anything of course. Still, I think it is fair to admit they were not the best friends to me.

I used to have a lot anger directed my friends. I was mad that they didn’t display their care in the overt, obvious way I felt I needed. I was mad that they couldn’t seem to relate to me on a personal level; it was never easy to talk to them about real feelings. I was mad that I could never trust them to keep my secrets a secret. I was mad that they made my stuff, my emotional problems and my relationship, all about themselves. In short, I felt like I wasn’t a part of the type of friendships I deserved and I was mad at them for falling short. And once we had that first blowout, it always felt like no matter what I did, I couldn’t make things right, couldn’t get close to them. It felt like there was some invisible barrier between us. I was so frustrated, with myself and with them.

The summer after my first year of grad school ended, I was visiting Kayla at her beach house.  One night, the two of us went down to sit on the beach. Somehow, we delved into deep conversation, rehashing so much of our history. After that night, I let a lot of that anger go. I finally came to a place of acceptance about all things I was holding onto.  Kayla said something that helped me: maybe me and those other two girls were just not the best match as friends. Maybe it was no one’s fault.

I realized she was right. I’d picked these people out of convenience, not similarity. I hung around with them out of convenience, because I liked them enough and didn’t feel the need to rock the boat. And yeah, they did some crappy things. They were not the best friends they could have been. I don’t think any of us had the emotional capacity to discuss our issues with each other in a functional, problem-solving manner. Everything just festered.

I didn’t feel that way about Kayla though. I had always felt closer to her than the others. I’d really tried my best to be there for her, even despite all our crap. We shared a lot of the same thoughts. We confided in each other. Especially after that night, I hoped we would continue to be in each other’s lives.

Unfortunately, we’ve drifted apart a lot in the last few years. I talk to Kayla very rarely, and the other two even less than that. We still have a common group of about 7-8 people, so I see them when someone suggests we get together maybe once or twice a year.

What’s hard about that is that the three of them still seem close. I’ve seen snapchats of them hanging out. Going on a trip. Celebrating New Year’s together. These are not things I was invited to. Each time I see this, I feel a twinge of regret that things have come to this. I feel sadness that I am not still a part of the group.

If I’m being honest though, I think that more of it is despondency that I’m no longer connected to the people I spent most of college with, when I feel it should be that way. I always hear stories of how you meet your best friends in college, and that isn’t my experience. Really, I’m grieving the friendships I wish I’d had in college. With the insight that I have now, it makes me sad that I can’t go back and make different decisions.

Despite all that, I just can’t seem to let them go. I thought that I had. After seeing various social media posts over the last few months, I thought that I’d come to a solemn kind of content that these friendships were past me. I thought I’d just quietly cut the cord and we’d part ways without ever acknowledging it.

But then Kayla asked me if I’d come to her birthday plans.

I wasn’t sure at first, but I ended up going, deciding I wouldn’t have any expectations. It’s a good thing I did, because it was kind of weird. At first, it was nice to see the three of them. However, after catching up, briefing each other on the newest developments, all I’ve really got with them is nostalgia. The silly memories we have from living in each other’s pockets those years.

They clearly knew about each other’s lives, potential love interests and the latest about their respective jobs. There was an ease about them, they seemed like people who were friends. Me? I had no idea what to talk about. I stared at them and hoped someone would bring up a topic I could follow along with.

Worse, because of some of our past experiences, I still have this conscious fear that they are judging whatever I say. I worry when I’m eating that they’ll talk about my choice of food. I worry if I send a text to someone they’ll be annoyed that I wasn’t present enough. I worry that I can’t talk about a current friendship without someone getting mad.

None of these are things they’d ever say to me aloud. It would be behind closed doors gossip. But I know from experience that it happens among them. I was once part of it.

I left feeling even more confused about where I stand with them. Like…I had fun, I think? But at the same time, that invisible barrier remained. In a different way, this time. Not anger, just a missed connection. That makes me sad. You shouldn’t have to force a friendship like that.

Maybe it is time to cut the cord on these friendships. Can I even categorize them as friendships anymore? They no longer fulfill me in any type of positive way. They’re just there, pieces of my past that I’m having trouble letting go of. It’s completely unlike my friendships with my friends from grad school, people who I laugh with and am not afraid to be honest with. People who I never worry about judgement for.

That’s what it is supposed to be. I know that. So why can’t I let the others go? Why am I holding so strongly to what little bit remains?

If you’re still reading this, maybe you can give me some advice on when you’ve known it was time to move on from a friendship and how you learned to be okay with that.

A Dance with Nostalgia

nostalgia: A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

A few months ago, my professor from my undergrad reached out to me and asked me if I’d like to return to campus to participate in a talk about my experiences following graduation from the program. I jumped on this opportunity and as such, I spent last Friday back at the campus where I spent four years of my academic life.

Following the rough night I’d had, it was a welcome distraction to be able to return to my undergrad. I had not been back in over a year and I always find that there is a sense of connection ignited in me when I am surrounded by an environment that is so familiar to me.

So many things are different than they were when I was a student there. New buildings have sprung up. They re-named (or just named for the first time?) the library. One of my favorite professors moved on to another institution.  Our student center was renovated to the point that, while beautiful, it is completely unrecognizable as the place I spent many nights studying or hanging out with my friends (and in some way, I resent it’s pristine aesthetic – I want the comfort of the well-worn and dingy student center I know and love!).

Anyway, this is the nature of life. Change is the only constant. The residence and academic halls, ever evolving with the constant construction of a college campus, are similar but not the same. The people I knew and co-existed with, having graduated too over the last few years, are not the same either.

It is no longer my school and being there no longer feels like coming home. But the connection remains. I was truly happy to be there.

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The talk went well enough. I had talked a friend of mine into doing it with me, so after we were done we got lunch on camping and then went about going for a walk around campus to reminisce.

I literally do this nostalgia walk every time I come back to campus, no matter who I am with. I went to a pretty small school and so I could walk the whole thing in about 15 minutes, which is part of why I loved it so much. We go by our old dorms, past the dining hall, over by the lake, and always, always by the pieces of architecture that our school is most known for. I would say more specifically what those two things are, but I am not looking to give away where I went to school. Suffice it to say, there are memories attached to everything. 

As we walked, I made reference to each memory. Remember the nights I used to stay in this building doing work under it closed? Remember how the alarm used to go off sophomore year every time someone burnt popcorn? (Which, it turns out, was a lot for people who are supposed to be adults) Remember how people used to steal your food if you turned your back at the this one food station for even 10 seconds? Remember when we put on garbage bags and went body sliding down the grass hill when it poured rain during the hurricane? I took a photo of the townhouse where we lived and sent it to my friend, jokingly asking her if she was home to let me in because I was home and locked out.

My friend and I laughed a lot. It was a lot of fun and there was no pressure to act a certain way.

The truth is, while there were plenty of really lovely things about my undergraduate experience, that walk obscured all of the times that were not so lovely.  I didn’t mention the huge fight I had with my friends while we were living in that townhouse. I didn’t mention the overwhelming anguish I felt when my roommate nearly abandoned me the day we were picking sophomore housing. I didn’t mention the time I spent thinking about transferring as a freshman, because I felt so out of place. Those memories have no place on a nostalgia walk, and if I’m honest, I have allowed them no room to exist in my mind.

When I am there, on campus, it is harder to feel the pain of each moment as intensely, since I am three and four and five years removed from it. Once I am more separated, in moments where the minions take control, I feel the combination of all those moments like a power surge.

It’s easier to just focus on the silly pranks and parties and Saturday nights in the quad. It’s easier to remember the good and shy away from the bad.
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Here’s the problem with nostalgia. Putting on my rose colored glasses and laughing about the funny moments and positive experiences doesn’t mean none of that bad stuff happened. It just means those pieces of my history are not ones that are shared collectively, they are the ones that lay dormant in the back of my mind.

Ignored, suppressed, but never forgotten. Taking up permanent residence, in fact.

I’ve been trying not to time travel in a negative way, but there’s dangers of using nostalgia to get stuck in the past of positive memories too. It ignores everything I went through, it makes it seem like then is so much better than now, which causes it’s own kind of pain since I obviously cannot go back to that time.

I think that I’ve used nostalgia to cling to the familiar and the expected. As I’m going through a period of transition right now, it is especially tempting to get lost in all of my memories from then. It is easy to pretend that those good memories were the whole of my experience instead of a small portion. However, I believe that just makes everything harder. I think that stalls my progress.

By ignoring those bad times, I am also ignoring what I survived. I’m ignoring the growth that I’ve made since that time in college and the insight I’ve gained. And if I keep ignoring all those mistakes and losses, I cannot learn to accept them.

I made mistakes in college. Set inappropriate boundaries. Let my emotions lead the charge. Made decisions based on some pretty irrational thoughts. Picked friendships that were ultimately not the best match for me. Said and did things that probably hurt other people. This came with loss. Loss that still weighs heavily on my mind.

I must accept that I acted in an ineffective manner. I must accept that I made decisions I do not condone. I must accept that these memories are as much a part of my experience as the good ones. I cannot go back and undo it, cannot get back the time and connections lost so I must focus on now.

Radical acceptance.

I can no longer default to nostalgia when I think about my undergraduate experience. Nostalgia is just a mask. The good memories are great, and I will continue to recognize them, but I have to allow the negative memories from the past to show their face sometimes. It’s going to be a murky and painful experience. It’s going to test my limits. I hate knowing that I have to do it.

But if I don’t, the memories will never stop haunting me. They will continue to my dirty little secrets, instead of the bumps in the road I overcame. No amount of nostalgia can change that.

And if I can do it with this, maybe then I can tackle forgiving myself for my high school choices next. One step at a time. Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 9.29.23 PM.png