On my Own

I have this tendency to do things on my own. I go to dinner by myself. I go grocery shopping on my own. I walk here or there by myself. I don’t only do activities by myself. I also handle life on my own. I retreat into my own head. Its safe. I’m in control. There are no expectations to deal with other than my own. I don’t have to explain myself to anyone. I don’t have to explain the way I feel: angry, sad, or disappointed.

There are good things about it – I’m more aware of myself; what I need and what I don’t want. There are bad things about it—doing life on my own or by myself is not normal. Mind you, I didn’t come to that realization on my own.

In one of my therapy sessions I was prodded about my childhood, “Who would you talk to if you had a bad day?” I sat there for a few seconds before slowly answering dreading her follow up question. “No one.” She followed up, “Essentially as an eight year old child you learned to soothe yourself?” My response took a little longer than a few seconds this time as I realized the effect of her statement; it really wasn’t a question.

I didn’t answer the question as an eight-year-old; I answered as an almost thirty-year-old adult. Slowly I answered, “Yes, I guess so,” as years of my life replayed. I sat there quietly trying to remember what bad days felt like as a child or a teen. Sadly, I didn’t have bad days because I didn’t realize one could have bad days. I guess those were the days I didn’t feel as happy as the previous day. I guess those were also the days when I felt like crying but didn’t know why or even better when I did know why. The why could range from someone hurt my feelings or I didn’t have the best test score or we lost the game even though I tried so hard.

Yes. I soothed myself, in other words, I did life on my own, by myself. Obviously, I didn’t do it very well. Currently as I sit here at my desk, I think about the times I broke down crying. I couldn’t tell you what straw broke the camel’s back, I could tell you I was due for a good cry. I had to let it out of my system because I was overwhelmed, overburdened, and overexposed to things I couldn’t handle on my own.

Yesterday I had a good bad day. It was one of those days where I wanted to run into my therapist’s office and dump it all on the floor. I needed her to sit with me as I sifted through these puzzle pieces of feelings, unrealistic expectations, and heartbreaking disappointments.  I needed her to remind me that what happened was life and although some of those emotions triggered horrible memories, I wasn’t an eight-year-old child or a fifteen-year-old teenager. I was an adult in the world not back in my childhood room unable to wake up from a painful memory. I say I had a good bad day because I fought it: the pull of wanting to recluse into my head, to be alone, to go home and climb into bed and forget there was a world existing outside of my studio apartment in downtown Los Angeles.

You know what I did? I sent a text message. I actually sent a few text messages. The gist of the message was: Pray for me, I’m having a really bad day. I was able to sift through it slowly. My bad day hinged from a bad night in which was supposed to be a constructive conversation turned out to be the gateway of my current feelings. Nothing unkind was said but it didn’t have to be because I heard what wasn’t. I sifted through those feelings and emotions like an adult. Instead of participating in destructive numbing tendencies, I reached out. I calmed down as I sifted through feelings while kind words were messaged to me.

It was a trigger. It was a trigger reverting me back to the painful past. It catapulted me into a wave of painful emotions where I couldn’t find my strength. I couldn’t move my arms and legs into a rhythm out of the riptide.  Eventually I stopped. I stopped the deprecating thoughts. I stopped the wanting to run into my therapist office. I stopped just enough to grasp at a moment of clarity.

Purposeful clarity: I’m at the office. I’m nowhere near my childhood home. I’m talking with co-workers. I’m sitting at lunch. I have a car. I have my own apartment. I’m going to therapy. I’m going to therapy on Thursday. For now, you can do this. You can weather this wave until help arrives on Thursday.

The funny thing is helped arrived sooner than Thursday. It arrived in the form of encouraging text messages and a dinner with a kind friend. Because this one time and hopefully not the last time, I decided not to do life on my own.

9 thoughts on “On my Own”

  1. I seriously hope you don’t do life on your own anymore. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy encouraging you and praying for you. I love you Friend!

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  2. I don’t get it. You do everything on your own without feeling any distinct anxiety or remorse, claiming you are able and in control. Yet, you needed a therapist to make you realize–or decide–living your own life on your own is not normal? Why isn’t that normal?

    Any wild animal that cannot or doesn’t find a mate still has to survive and function on its own. I am sure some species might feel like killing themselves if they don’t find mates; there definitely is some drive or demand to achieve that much. And, woe are the ugly ducklings that don’t make the cut just because Mom A had five boys and Moms B and C only had two girls each.

    Can you and I form our own therapy group?

    I had to soothe myself often enough, too. At least, I don’t remember having any heart-to-heart talks with anyone other than my brother and sister, whenever they were around, which wasn’t as often as I would have liked. I healed myself with artwork, activity books, video games and lots and lots of TV time. My mom would spend most of her time in the kitchen or cleaning the house; my dad went to work early and came home grouchy/tired. If I spent any time with them, it was at mealtime, on weekends and for school projects. I couldn’t go to them with concerns about friends, bullies or homework. They never had “the talk” with me, which only made “the talk” so much more distressing when teachers gave it.

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    1. Thanks for commenting and sharing! Honestly, I didn’t have any outlet. You had your siblings that you confided in sometimes. I couldn’t share with my siblings what I was going through – they were younger than me. There was 3 and 6 year age gap.

      I couldn’t journal because if I did I would have to write in a way that I’d be ok with my mom reading it. I have these hurts and disappointments that have burrowed into my heart. I didn’t realize the way I was living life was indicative of a hurt that was done years ago. So I go through therapy grieving those memories and letting them go. Instead of having a space where I’m scared to share – I’m safe within the four walls of therapy.

      I hope that all makes sense!

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      1. You have (and, I’m sure, have had) friends, though, right? Like this Renae person commenting above who you seem to know.

        Hey, I have the same sibling age gaps; so…quite the same. And, what I could and did share with my siblings rarely achieved anything. I’ve too often found my siblings to be as bad as peers at school/work. They might as well be the people I fear meeting. When they actually do something nice, it’s unexpected (as if I could say they do nothing and then have one do something to counter my thought/comment).

        You mean you’ve had no privacy in the past, a nosy mother? Been there, have that.
        Yep, lots of burrowed pain…almost unforgiveable.

        I don’t know how great or safe those therapist walls are. I went through therapy in my teens, and that kinda turned me off the idea. Though, to be fair, I was a “minor” going with my parents nearby. But, it was as if the therapist only wanted to hear my parents and give me pills as the solution to my problems…which caused other problems and made me angry at everyone, including God.

        Again, you, me, therapy group. Let’s work on that.

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      2. Yes, I do have friends but up until recently were they superficial friendships. I never shared with them what growing up was like. I never went into emotions or struggles. Those were put in a box and hidden away. I fully realize my mom will never change but I don’t want that affect me. I don’t want that failed relationship to pave the way for other relationships.

        Yes, therapy as a minor is tricky. I’m not against medication but I believe it should be the absolute last resort when nothing else has not worked.

        Therapy group, huh? Way above my pay grade.

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      3. I know about superficial friendships, too. I haven’t had anyone to really hang out with since my early teens. And, the majority of the friends I had were short-lived and more about what we had to play with together than a bond of like minds. Most of the time was spent on a computer or video game system. There was little we did as actual pals. I had one female friend I grew up with and grew very attached to that disappeared on me in a sad way. Since then, I’ve really struggled connecting with people.

        I cannot put much in such a box. It’s just too suffocating to my spirit. If I box anything, it’s defensive and temporary.

        Seriously? Who said a therapy group has to cost anything more than what we’re doing right now? I didn’t say we need a posh therapist’s office or town hall room, a catering service and furniture. No fees. Just as free of shared communication as possible. And, if we can add others to our group, the more the merrier. Back in the day, a chat room would suffice.

        Did you say you were seeing a therapist? If so, how is a therapy group too costly? 😛

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      4. I had a difficult time connecting with people on a deeper level since that wasn’t modeled for me growing up. Then as a young girl I came across mean girls who I thought were my friends which made me subconsciously write girls off as friends.

        I am seeing a therapist, yes. Lol. Sure, support system / therapy group idea. One can never be in too many support groups, life is hard!

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      5. I had a similar experience with boys, though, I had a mix of bullies, “cool (rich) kids” and “rejects” who even made me feel out of place with them. I realized I didn’t fit any category before me, or chose not to fit because I found something off with all of them. I only faulted the cool, rich types for having more than maybe was necessary, so much that they bewildered me. The others were more annoying or threatening than tolerable. I had better luck with girls by 8th grade but gave that all up to focus on my education…what was I thinking?

        I saw a number of therapists in my teens; didn’t like a single one of them long enough. So, I am open to alternative thinking, like a group forming organically here. I think we should really take this convo elsewhere; in part because I think you and I are either really alike or meant to meet.

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