one day at a time…still

Hi, everyone. This is my very first posting here. Thanks to Mikel & David for allowing me to enter the fold, so to speak. I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Alma. I’m a 36 year old, single woman living in Denver, Colorado (soon to be the Bay Area). I’m an INFP and HSP as well. I wanted to chat with you guys about my weekend. I had planned on writing about something else, but I guess this relates–so I’m going to start here and meander into my original idea next time. As an introvert, I relish being alone. I mean–to me–there are few better things. My mother used to brag about how I always kept myself entertained. I was always off in my inner world. But I am also a person of extremes. When I do something, I don’t do it halfway. I do it to excess. I’ve joked a lot about how I’m a hermit. If given an opportunity, I can go long stretches of time without speaking to a single soul–and be quite happy about it. Over the last month or so, I’ve had that opportunity. My roommate is living between here in Denver and in the Bay Area while he finds us an apartment out there. So, I’ve been here alone, mostly–herding cats. It’s actually been really good for me. It’s been years since I’ve been able to let it all hang out. Living with another person, I’ve had to modify my behavior a lot, and it’s been nice to just be by myself once I’m done with work. Around the same time all of this happened, I quit my job that I hated and took on a new job with a great company in my industry. It’s the same kind of work, but different in its expectations. My job is kind of an introvert’s nightmare. While I work from home (win!), I also have to talk on the phone ALL DAY LONG. I’m in an industry of extroverts, and I’m expected to perform all day long. Part of my job–a big part–is getting people to talk to me. I make a lot of outbound calls. And I have to bug people all day. To say it’s exhausting is putting it mildly. I enjoy it, but–when people are being…well…people, it can be the most thankless job in the world. In any case, this past week was rough. I had volunteered to help on a nightmare project. No one was calling me back. People were piling on the pressure, and I was just getting fed up. I like being left alone, but I hate being ignored. And it seemed like I was getting it from everywhere. Work, people helping me with personal things, and friends not responding to me. Now, I don’t really react well to such situations. It’s childish, really. My response is usually to get really angry and basically to mentally make a note to ignore the person ignoring me–ad infinitum. Of course, I can’t do that with work. But I can do it with everyone else. Ignore me–I’ll ignore you so much, you’ll be erased from my memory altogether! Or so, the self-talk goes. It doesn’t last long. But it does produce massive hurt feelings in me. People usually aren’t even ignoring me. In my crazy brain, I’ve somehow made myself the center of the Universe. And–surprise–I’m not! Ha. People are just living their lives. Or they can’t respond for whatever totally valid reason. Or there’s noise in the channel we’re swimming in. Or no one got the damn text. It all gets explained, and I forgive. Easily. The problem, of course, is that I jump to conclusions about people and their care for me. I make it about my worth to them. It fails my expectation for our relationship–and instead of them just being busy or held up–it’s about how much I mean to them. So, a lot of times, when my needs aren’t met–I find that I’m really angry. And it’s all based in my own lack of self-worth. I know–this is heavy for a Sunday. But it gets better, I promise. I learned this stuff in childhood. These toxic coping mechanisms that allow me to push people away while also wallowing in rage. These things that reinforce the idea I have–if only sub-consciously–that I am not good enough to deserve basic respect or love. That my needs don’t matter, fundamentally. It’s an insidious, sick dance I do. And I mostly don’t even know it’s there. Recently, I started to notice it. A lot. Mostly because I noticed I’ve been depressed for a little while now–since having emergency surgery. I’ve been hermitting ever since–tricking myself into the too busy for social stuff lie–while keeping most of my friends at a distance. Getting mad at people for pressuring me to hang out when they never said happy birthday. Finding ways to isolate and control relationships by withdrawing emotionally. I didn’t even know I was doing it. But this stuff also goes hand-in-hand with my perfectionism and anxiety. All of a sudden, I was having crises of confidence about things I am so secure with. It’s been going on for months. But this week, I suddenly became aware of all of it. And it was because I started telling myself, “I’m never speaking to him again.” I’ve been in therapy for about a year now–working on these things. I recognized this avoidant behavior. When everything in my body tells me to run away and not let people in, I know that’s the time when I most need the people who love me. And I realized that I missed people. Like soul-achingly missed them. And I was the reason we hadn’t talked. So, I started reaching out to the people who love me–to the ones who never write me off–to the people who see all the goodness in me, in spite of myself. And I told them I sucked, and I missed them. And we talked. I’ve done it all weekend, and it felt so good to not keep my distance. I talked so much that I almost legit lost my voice. I feel like–little by little–I’m finding my way to the life I need. It means reprogramming my brain, in many ways–doing the opposite of what my life has taught me to do. I have to remember to keep reaching out, no matter how hard it is. It matters.

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2 thoughts on “one day at a time…still

  1. Mike says:

    Hi Alma, welcome onboard. Thanks for jumping right in.
    I suspect some things are universal – such as our early childhood teaching us helpful and unhelpful internal patterns of belief, self talk, framing and how to relate to others. I suspect that as we all carry the dna that evolved the same way some of this stuff, maybe most of it, is hardwired.
    Now the interesting thing would be if we could have a talk about what different cultures do AFTER those patterns are established. You mentioned you have been in counselling – that is tool I have used regularly in my life, I find it a very useful way to speed up my processing and get over “insight humps” I might be having.
    I have talked about this with many people from various asian cultures and often the person I am talking to has only ever heard or seen of counselling/therapy on tv, never seen it in their own neighbourhood or city. Recently I have seen a few indicators that this may be slowly starting to change.

    Westerners have a psychological frame around self, we don’t notice it, we grew up with it.

    Other cultures have other frames – leading to different ways of responding to those unhelpful patterns learned in childhood. I’d love to hear about those differences…..if anyone cares to share……:)

    Like

  2. Alma says:

    It funny because counseling is pretty new to me. I knew I needed it for a long time, but it was after kind of hitting rock bottom that I dove in. Funnily enough, it was also after I decided to become a counselor. (Still working on that).

    I guess–growing up in a home with one alcoholic and a alcoholic in recovery, I learned fairly early not to share negative emotion. I was the adult. I also lived in a very Asian & Mexican neighborhood, so I had a lot of messages going on in my life. A lot related to sacrificing self. Counseling for me back then wasn’t so much a bad thing as it was a non-entity. We couldn’t afford it, but it was also just clear that you didn’t share these things.

    I think I’ve always struggled with my American heritage because I was so immersed in different cultures as a child. I feel much more connected to Asian cultures for that reason, and it also causes me all kinds of problems communicating with people. As for the self thing, it’s so weird to me. I don’t even think I knew what a self was until my 20s when I finally started talking about difficult things.

    Like

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