elizabeth: woman with a red umbrella walking into a storm (!me)
2016-10-10 03:23 pm

this is progress, right?

1. we all want what we didn't have as children: I spent some time thinking about this aphorism (did [personal profile] cesperanza invent it or was it a thing before her?), and what I didn't have, and what I want as an adult. The words that kept drifting up were unhappy and lonely; apparently I just — "just" — want to feel safe and loved. Which is uselessly vague, frankly. (Fine has variable definitions.) WHY ARE WORDS FOR EMOTIONS SO UNHELPFUL.

2. in probably-related news, I have realized I don't even know what I've stopped myself from doing or thinking or risking because I'm afraid of my mother being disappointed in me and/or criticizing me. It's a fear that's so engrained in me I don't know where the fear starts and the rest of me begins. I don't know which of the voice(s) in my head are echoes of the real her and which are the ones my fear has made me project and which are actually me.

So. I continue to have feelings! I continue to mostly-not-understand my feelings! I continue to not die from having feelings! I am calling this progress.

Edited like five minutes later to add, because I forgot to type this up before: among the things that sparked these thoughts is the realization that I have two directly opposed desires around my new apartment: I am hurt that my mother has shown no discernible interest in coming to see it and I want it to stay a safe comfortable space that I don't have to make perfect by her standards. See also: the tangle of yuck that is my mother's apparently-better relationship with my sister and my feelings about seeing that from a distance and oh look, that entry is super-relevant because it talks about feeling lonely and unloved, unlovable, and ALSO suddenly I am damp-eyed and I don't really know why because I am NOT GOOD AT FEELINGS. Sigh.
elizabeth: red umbrellas being blown through a grey sky (panic)
2016-07-15 03:33 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

I've talked about how my mental illness feels like a thing that is in my body but not me, like something imposed on me by an outside force that is nevertheless interior to my self. The word "seam" has been drifting into my mind the last few times I've been hit with a bad spell of minutes or hours or a day or two (and I am so grateful that my bad periods are so much lighter and so much briefer than they used to be). I don't mean a seam in a piece of clothing or on a baseball, I mean the fifth definition in the OED: "Geol. A thin layer or stratum separating two strata of greater magnitude." These unpleasant interludes in which my in-remission chronic illness feel like encountering something unexpected and weird in the landscape of myself.

And I have more coping skills than I used to have! This morning I was feeling rotten and useless and under-appreciated, so I went to youtube and watched some videos of babies giggling. I don't know that I would have thought to do that a year ago.

I'm learning distress tolerance and self-soothing and whatnot. I just wish I knew if "normal" people have this feeling of their unpleasant feelings being something they run into and have to get through.
elizabeth: someone holding a red umbrella, facing a waterfall (strength)
2016-06-02 01:58 pm

(no subject)

That was a year ago? I guess so.

So this year for her birthday, my mother went to visit my sister again, and I went too! It was a surprise for Mom, and I think she was pretty pleased by the effort, and I'm glad I did it, and yet the long weekend was kind of less than awesome.

We all seem to be agreed that we like spending time together individually but the behavior patterns we fall into in a group are not good ones, and maybe we should take a break from doing that. I did not really think through and prepare mentally for being in close quarters with my mother and sister for a few days, and it was exhausting and dispiriting and I am feeling a little thin-skinned and fragile at the moment.

Some of it was that the weather was bonkers and I slept poorly the first night I was there, and then it was fucking freezing the next day, and cold + tired = a very unhappy Elizabeth. But mostly it was just...emotions. History and boundaries and patterns and man, being a grownup is hard.

Also my sister's apartment is wonderfully sunny and now I am freshly bitter over how much I hate my apartment because it is a pitch-black emotional vampire. But the rent is great and I like my roommate and I like the neighborhood (mostly) and ...yeah.
elizabeth: woman with a red umbrella walking into a storm (Default)
2016-02-28 09:44 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

So the last few times that I spent time with my mother…

Wait, no. Let me back up.

I don't remember exactly when this was, I want to say December, but I finally dredged up the nerve to tell my mother that I don't always enjoy spending time with her, that she makes me feel small and criticized and unhappy, and she was great, she said she didn't want me to feel that way and asked what she could do and she's been trying and that means so much. And this time, when she came to visit my stepdad, she told me she's made a resolution not to interrupt me when I'm talking, which is something I've complained about for years and it's a really good idea considering that I was saying I feel like she takes up all the room in the conversation. And brunch yesterday was pleasant and spontaneous dinner tonight was pleasant, and both times when I was on the subway platform after, I — you know how some kinds of jellyfish don't locomote independently, they just go where the water currents take them? I felt sad, surrounded by sad, but like the sadness wasn't mine, I'd just ended up in a sad current, and I'd be in the current until I wasn't, and there wasn't anything to be done about it and nothing had caused it. Which ... is probably not true. But lookit me feeling feelings! (Ugh.)
elizabeth: woman with a red umbrella walking into a storm (Default)
2015-12-25 12:12 pm


My therapist and I agreed yesterday that if I get through a stressful period at work that I have coming up without melting down, I can stop regular sessions.



Like, I have a history of depression and will probably be on the lexapro indefinitely, and obviously if I need to I can go back anytime, but I have a support system and healthy coping mechanisms and I'm gonna be okay.

elizabeth: woman with a red umbrella walking into a storm (Default)
2015-12-09 01:59 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

Today's hard, for no real reason: I am plagued by imposter syndrome and tiredness and a general feeling of malaise. I've had a run of disappointing books recently and while I may have broken it with a collection of short stories by an author I like and another of Rebecca Solnit essays, Solnit is hard to read because she's so clear about the moral costs of living in the world as it is. Current American politics are frightening me to the extent of starting to work on grad school abroad plans again. A dress I bought on impulse has been delayed on its way to me and I'm feeling buyer's remorse even before I have the damn thing (I've been eying it for literally months, it was on sale, and I have an upcoming holiday party to go to that I'd like to feel confident at). My insurance reimbursement for the last few months of therapy is taking forever. I should get a checkup and a dental cleaning before the end of the year, but that feels like so much goddamn effort.

My brain is lying to me. I know this. But it's hard not to listen to the lies when they feel true.
elizabeth: woman with a red umbrella walking into a storm (Default)
2015-11-15 11:22 pm

(no subject)

Have started calling my mother on alternate weekends. It's ...going okay? I am still having a hard time relaxing and actually saying things instead of small talk, and I realize this is a great problem to have, but my therapist is right: I would like to have a close relationship with my mother, and I don't know how.

Well, the only way out is through, I suppose. It'll take time. We'll see how Thanksgiving goes. I'll keep trying.
elizabeth: laptop with notebook & pens (laptop)
2015-09-27 07:38 am


Years ago, my mother mentioned (in some relevant context, I'm sure; that's not sarcastic) that she'd been vaguely surprised when I told her I'm bisexual, on the grounds that when I was a kid, I was always very aware of/paid attention to (I don't remember how she phrased it) the boys in my class.

I always knew that even assuming this premise were true/valid, the relationship between it and her conclusion was tenuous. But. I had never really paid attention to the premise itself.

There's something baked in there that I never quite figured out, and then last night I did. She was assuming I was paying attention to the boys around me because I found them interesting. Nope. I was paying attention to them because they were dangerous. They were basically all bigger and stronger than I was, and a substantial minority had already demonstrated they were 100% willing to use that as part of a campaign (organized? IDK) to harass and intimidate me. (This was the '90s, the best advice I got about dealing with these asshats was "ignore them and they'll go away." This....did not work.)

So last night, this finally clicked, and then I spent basically the entire night mired in nightmares, set in my hated home town, about being street harassed and scared at work and then followed home by these dudes. I managed to drag myself out of the dreams a few minutes before my alarm went off, and instead of hitting snooze and luxuriating in a Sunday lie-in, I dumped myself into a scalding hot shower and dressed in cuddly soft warm clothes and now I have a giant mug of tea and a bowl of yogurt with marmalade.
elizabeth: woman with a red umbrella walking into a storm (Default)
2015-06-08 09:36 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

It doesn't feel like it's been two weeks since my last entry.

Therapy tomorrow. I plan to go in and say, "Clearly we need to talk more about my relationship with my mother, because that is consistently the topic that kicks me in the teeth when it comes up and I'm always surprised and mute. But today I have to meet some friends immediately after this session, so I need you to keep an eye on the time and give me some warning and wind-down before the end of the session, because I can't deal with a social obligation while I'm fighting off tears."

Look at me, setting boundaries and asking for help!

....seriously, though, last session knocked me out, emotionally, for days. If that happens again, I am not sure how much my life can go on autopilot while I Deal.
elizabeth: woman sitting next to a window in jeans and bare feet (quiet)
2015-05-26 08:22 pm

I don't think this is triggery, there' s just a lot of feelings, but let me know if I should cut-tag

It was my mother's birthday this past weekend. I had idly said something about perhaps visiting, but we hadn't made actual plans — and then she emailed to say "your proposal to [visit] for my birthday was a splendid idea -- but let's do it another weekend. I made a last-minute decision to veg chez [sister]."

And I'm really surprised by how hurt I was. Am. Like, I was upset when I got her email, upset enough to email my best friend to ask for reassurance that I am not a difficult person to love or spend time around, and I was teary in therapy this afternoon, and I'm teary again writing this entry. I don't know exactly why this is hitting me so hard; I'm not distressed at the prospect of not spending time in my hometown (I would happily never go there again), I don't want my mother to decide spur-of-the-moment to visit me (this sounds like hell on earth, something I would establish so many boundaries around, even disregarding the differing practical aspects of visiting me versus my sister), there's nothing there that should be pushing buttons.

And yet. Tears. I feel rejected, and I didn't even know there was something to be rejected from. Something childlike and lonely in my brain is hearing all these messages about being hard to love, about being put up with, about being excluded.

So we poked at that a while in therapy, and talked about how my sister's relationship with my mother differs from mine (obviously, we are different people), and how over the past few years I have been feeling unappreciated and odd-man-out in my family, the latter because of my career choice, and my therapist said something about how I don't feel "cherished" by my mother, and — I don't know. This is apparently a big tangle of yuck and I don't want it. I thought I was starting to be able to relax around my mother after spending a few years constantly defensive about spending my early twenties as a depressive fuckup (and all things considered, she was really good to me during that period) and that we had started to be able to relate to each other as adults. But I am not willing to talk to my mother about this tangle of yuck until I understand it a little better because I can't fucking talk about it if I'm going to cry in the middle, I refuse, you can't make me.

But I don't know what it is.
elizabeth: woman with a red umbrella walking into a storm (Default)
2015-03-24 05:08 pm

(no subject)

Last week, in therapy, I mentioned that — no, wait, let me rewind. Last week, in therapy, my therapist asked how I was feeling about being in a transition period in my life, which has been pretty stable fr a while now, and which is the way I like it. "Overwhelmed," I said.

"Hmmm," she said. "I'm not getting that from you."

And we talked a little more, and I said something about how I had been so anxious over formally resigning and announcing my resignation and so on and so forth that I had taken a wee dose of ativan, a few days before, and for the first time it had had a real effect; the few times I've used it before it's kept whatever panic attack I've been having from increasing, but hasn't actually stopped it. This time, holy crap, it actually got my brain to stop chewing on itself completely. I was sort of astonished. I didn't know that was possible. I didn't know I was capable of — for example — going down to the laundry room in my apartment building early and instead of pacing and twitching and counting the seconds until the goddamn dryer stopped spinning, just hanging out.

"Hmmm," she said. "I'm wondering if we don't talk enough about your anxiety. Because I don't think of it as a major problem for you, and you don't mention it much."

"I don't? Uh, I bring it up when it's a problem, but I guess I'm just used to having a background level of high-pitched yelping in my brain — I mean, people don't go through life with their minds empty except for what they're specifically, consciously thinking about, right?"

Apparently the answer to that is both yes and no. Apparently we're going to be talking about this more. I suspect there are more mindfulness exercises in my future. And probably yoga. Which I don't actually mind.

The other thing I am spending a lot of time thinking about these days is finances; I'm at that spot where I have enough money to do retirement planning and have some fun (although not unlimited fun; my monthly do-whatever-with budget is $200, so traveling is sadly limited), but not quite where I can make real investments; I keep playing with the calculators at Bankrate, and I have mostly talked myself into trying out a laddered CD investment, which should make me around $150 over five years. Which, you know. Is better than my savings account.
elizabeth: someone holding a red umbrella, facing a waterfall (strength)
2015-03-23 05:32 pm

working girl wibbles, news at eleven

A while ago I got a new boss. I was delighted because I don't like being my own project manager. Unfortunately, over the next year or so, I grew to despise my new boss, on the grounds that he is not a very good manager. So I got a new job! With a boss who seems to be less of an asshat! It's going to be great.

....Except that I have to move offices. I love my office. It's on the top floor and it's sunny all the time and there's a view of the river. My new office is literally underground and it's filthy and it smells funny. I am probably projecting all my anxiety about changing jobs and what if they don't like me and what if I'm not good enough and and and onto this, but there is a real element of I have depression, I am solar-powered, this is not an environment that's set up to optimize my success.

I'll bring in my wee natural-spectrum light and my tiny aromatherapy thing and maybe a plant and decorate my cube with colorful postcards, but I'm not sure what else I can do. Anyone have thoughts?
elizabeth: woman with a red umbrella walking into a storm (Default)
2015-02-26 09:26 am

(no subject)

Sometimes I think the mind sheds memories like the body sheds skin, little flakes of dead memory sloughing away invisibly.
elizabeth: red umbrellas being blown through a grey sky (panic)
2014-11-26 12:10 pm
Entry tags:

two by two

Good: My therapist and I had a productive conversation about the last session I posted about. I'm still not entirely thrilled, but I did get through to her that this is not a topic I am willing to be flexible about.

Good: I have dropped down to biweekly sessions! Yay 450 extra dollars a month and agreement that I am doing super well mental-health-wise!

Bad: There was a mouse in the apartment this morning and I am almost certain my roommate blames me and apartment stuff in this apartment pretty much makes me fall apart with social anxiety.

Bad: I think my stepfather is mad at me, and while I can't entirely blame him, I am absolutely shit about communicating with him in the way he wants me to (i.e., phone), his technique of using every contact method he has for me (work and personal emails, work and personal phones, text and SMS) makes me feel trapped and panicked and overwhelmed and approximately 399% less likely to be able to call him back.

ETA: that may have been a panicked overreaction. A little.

There's a pattern playing out with both these bad things that has to do with perfectionism, that has to do with being good, and I have no idea of how to start isolating the thought patterns and excavating them and replacing them with something healthier.
elizabeth: woman with a red umbrella walking into a storm (Default)
2014-11-05 04:07 pm

goddamn it THIS again


My abusive biodad sent me his annual contact last week (according to this journal, it's been more like semi-annual for the past couple of years: March '13, October '13, February '14, and now October '14), and I talked about it in therapy this week. It went badly.

My usually-great therapist has apparently forgotten all about all the times I have articulated why I don't want to be in contact with him. It's been years(a year and a half, actually, March '13) since she pushed me hard on the "what would be so bad about softening your stance of no contact ever under any circumstances" thing, and this time she actually used the words "devil's advocate", which is making my shoulders come up around my ears because the devil doesn't need advocates and that is the phrase that various abusive misogynists use online and I don't want my therapist to make my abusive biodad's case for him, I want my therapist to support me in making the best decisions I can make for my own safety and sanity.

So yes: I am mad that he keeps goddamn contacting me, I am mad that I keep having to defend this decision about not having a relationship with him, I am mad that it seems impossible to get past this place of "this is what I want and I get to decide that and maybe I'm wrong but I get to be wrong because I am an autonomous adult."

I can live with the thought of being wrong about him. I don't want to live constantly on the defensive — and right now I feel like every time he comes up, I have to armadillo up and be impervious because everyone else is just going to poke at my boundaries, and I am absolutely certain that if I gave in and let him talk to me, I would never ever stop being on guard and tense and wary.

And now I'm tired.
elizabeth: figure with a red umbrella beside a stormy sea (small)
2014-07-08 08:40 pm

So that was a therapy session.

There may have been, but I can neither confirm nor deny, a tear or two.

I'm honestly not sure what exactly was so hard about the discussion we had today — about how I feel totally helpless to say no to my mother and her expectations of how I function in our family, and how the single thing that sends me out of my mind most reliably is feeling incompetent, and how that's connected to my mother's disappointment and judgement, and how I have learned to not want things from my family so that I can't be rejected. But it was really hard.

The image of Cordelia from Shards of Honor, the fountain that pours out honor and keeps nothing for itself, has come up a few times, and it continues to feel relevant, somehow. If I could muster anything beyond helplessness and grief, I would probably be desperately jealous of my sister for how she does not seem to be vulnerable to the demands that I feel so crushed by — some of it is that she isn't physically here, and it's one of the few things that was better about not living in the Ancestral Homeland, and some of it is how she has built a life that my mother respects, she has a partner, for example, and I don't, and don't want one, and so obviously my first obligation is to my family of birth (except for the side which I have publicly rejected), but I honestly don't think I am jealous, I don't want her life and I don't want her relationship with my mother, I just want some boundaries in mine, but I have no fucking tools to build them.

Well, fuck, if just writing this entry brought me to tears again (yes, okay, there was a bit of m. in the e. during the session), clearly there's more here to deal with. Ice cream and an early bedtime for me, I think.
elizabeth: woman with a red umbrella walking into a storm (Default)
2014-03-05 10:32 am
Entry tags:

(no subject)

That was weird. I actually dreamed about my biological father and didn't wake up soaked in sweat and trembling.

I don't remember the dream in detail, just the final image: a plate of buttery mashed potatoes and green peas. I don't know why. I think there were four people at the table, two besides he and me, possibly my sister, possibly S whom I met through him lo these many years ago; I think everyone else had plates full of food other than potatoes and peas (which doesn't make *sense*, my sister's a vegetarian and I'm not, my diet is much less restricted than hers is).

I really don't know why my brain presented me with that image, but there it is.
elizabeth: someone holding a red umbrella, facing a waterfall (strength)
2014-02-24 09:01 pm

why I don't want to be in contact with my biological father by [personal profile] elizabeth, age 27 & 1/3

Because I don't trust him. Because no is a complete sentence. Because I tried for ten years, from ages six to sixteen, to get my father to pay attention to me, and it never worked. Because I get to take care of myself first. Because I don't owe him a chance to prove he isn't going to hurt me again. Because I'm happier living with his absence than I ever was with his presence. Because I don't believe he's capable of having a relationship with me where I feel respected. Because I am tired of this being my important story. Because no other relationship in my life has left me damaged in so many ways as this one. Because if he didn't want to lose me as an adult, he should have treated me better as a child. Because I am not his weapon against my mother. Because I don't have to help him sustain his narrative any more. Because someone who speaks ill of people I love to me is not someone I trust to love me.

Because I have survived him. I am done.
elizabeth: someone holding a red umbrella, facing a waterfall (strength)
2014-02-01 10:29 pm

(no subject)

Oh, for fuck's sake.
cut for references to parental abuse )

The things about anger that I ACTUALLY WANTED to talk about are (a) what is sending me into jaw-clenching, precisely-clipped-diction fury at work, what buttons are being pushed (some of them I know about, like the helplessness and the sense of being watched and hunted and found inadequate, but I don't think I have all of them) and (b) why anger is one of the emotions that goes straight to my body. I don't like my body being the locus for that. I want to like living in my body, to feel good in it. And anger is something that is too present in my body.

I've talked about this before, a little, sort of, how anger is an emotion I have no tools for. And I want to work on that. I can't go through life with no escalation process between "mildly irritated" and "blinding rage". I don't want to be afraid of my own anger.

The part where I have no model for how to feel and express anger appropriately is tied into the work thing, because my mother's way of dealing with tasks she doesn't like — for example, housecleaning — is to get angry at it, and use that as fuel to push through. Which is ....not great as a model, full stop, and is especially not great for this project, because I already have a profound personality clash with my client and my immediate supervisor (and also this is a long-term project, and housecleaning is over in a day or so). Different personality clashes. (The former is a matter of "totally incapable of making a decision or sticking to decisions once made, does not respect my expertise, is a TERRIBLE WRITER whose clarifications make already-confusing requests completely incomprehensible." The latter is a matter of "I do not want to be your friend, I want you to be my boss. And stop interrupting me verbally, I have told you that breaks my concentration in a way that written communication does not, and I want a paper trail for requests.")

Being angry at my immediate supervisor? NOT A GOOD PLAN. Especially when I can't control it.

(I mean, I don't get violent or anything. I just grit my teeth and sound condescending and like an asshole. It's not subtle.)

And I have no idea of where to go with this.

I guess the plan from here is: mindfulness track, email this entry & the email to Dr. L before Tuesday's before-work session, go into therapy on Tuesday prepared to work hard.