What was said; What I heard

I read something that had a pretty big impact on me at a pretty important time which has led to the inspiration for this post. I have not spoken to my mother in a week. This would not generally be note worthy but this time it is. The last time we spoke ended badly and the space I thought I needed to take care for myself expanded from a half hour to multiple days to now a week.

During this week my Dad showed up in his normal role in our family: peace maker/mother fixer. My Dad picks up the messes of others so everything can stay neat and tidy and we can all pretend there is no mess. Dad also takes care of Mom, Mom comes first. Always.

The space has been painful. I feel like a terrible daughter, I feel like I am the problem, I feel like I am breaking my mother’s heart, I feel guilt, I feel shame, I feel like I will be a terrible mother. I feel self-doubt. I worry that my actions are manipulative, I am constantly second guessing myself. I feel unstable, out of control.

As the space has gotten bigger so has my truth; I feel rejected. I feel used. I feel blamed like a scapegoat. I feel resentment. I feel more stable. I am starting to gain clarity. I am starting to truly understand how much bigger than me this is. I am learning how to care for myself since the focus is not constantly on caring for her. My heart is aching. I feel let down.

Yesterday or the day before, I honestly cannot remember now, I was reading a blog that I have been following for a long time. It is a blog similar to my own; personal, searching, honest. I appreciate the honest part most. I admire and appreciate people who are willing to say out loud that life is hard, families are hard, relationships are hard. I see enough posed photos with perfect smiles, sometimes I need the honesty of how devastating losing a pet can be. This blogger shows up in her truth.

So I was reading this post that true to form was painfully honest and I definitely identified with parts of it. My truth is different from hers but I saw myself, my childhood self, in some of her writing.

I wasn’t sure I had the courage to be so honest but right now seems like the time. The only way for things to be different is to do things differently. That means honesty and stepping out from the shadow of denial. Last week my mother and I broke another vase, metaphorically speaking, and despite all his efforts my father was not able to sweep these pieces under the rug like so many broken pieces before it. So now I am going to stand here in the mess I helped make and accept Alma’s invitation to be seen in my truth.

What was said and What I heard:

Calm down: You are acting crazy. You are crazy.
This isn’t going to work: You can’t do this. You made a mistake. You did this wrong.
Your mother is really upset: Your mother is really upset and it is your fault. You need to apologize to your mother. Please fix this for me. I am scared.
Your brother _____________: I love him more. Your accomplishments, life, words, ideas, problems, are less important than his.
Mother-daughter relationships are hard: This is what it is, get used to it. Stop trying to change things. Stop upsetting the apple cart.
What is most important is that we love each other: Do you still love us? Are we good parents? Please don’t leave us. Family comes before everything, including your emotional well-being.
*Silence*: Fuck you. You are the worst. I will not bend. You will give me what I want. Who do you think you are? You owe me this. You are not stronger than me. Don’t make me angry. How dare you. I do not love you.

What I needed to hear:

This started long before you.
This is not your fault.
I own my part.
Take all the time you need, I will be here.
I am ready to really work on this.
The truth, the real honest truth.

 

There are a lot of ANDs that exist in this space of pain but this time I am going to keep my ANDs to myself. I know what they are and that is what matters. I do not feel compelled to make this mess pretty to make myself or anyone else more comfortable. Not this time.

mom

I Need Some Time to Take Care of Myself

I said this to my mother today after she said something to me that was an instant trigger. My mother knows how to push my buttons. Of course she does, she created them!

The moment I felt myself losing control I showed up for myself: I need to get off the phone. I am upset and I need some time to take care of myself. I love you, I am not mad at you but I am upset and I need to not be on the phone right now. We can talk later.

It was important to me that I spoke my truth and got off the phone as soon as possible. I did not want to be pulled back in, my mother often tries to pull me back in.

Mom: Well I don’t know how to respond to that.

Me: Yes, I understand this might be confusing for you and I am sorry about that but right now this is what I need. I have to get off the phone, we can talk later.

……Silence……

Me: Mom. I really need to do this for myself right now but it is important to me that I am not hanging up on you so can you please let me know that you are okay so I can go?

I look down at my phone. She had already hung up on me.

Jokes on you kiddo.

I stood there in my fury and rejection and cried. Here I was needing to take care of myself but still putting her first. I was afraid of how my just hanging up the phone would make her feel while the whole time she had already it done it me. I was trying to mother my mother who was not mothering me. The only person I needed to be mothering was myself. And that is just what I did.

A half hour later my dad was calling. This is typical. This is one of our patterns. Mom and I fight, Mom tells Dad, Dad smooths it over. Nothing is resolved, just ignored. Dad is the reset button.

No thank you.

I turned off my phone and spent the rest of the hour taking care of me and mothering my inner child that felt completely rejected and destroyed by her mother.

I do not know how I have the clarity of mind to even write this right now. My mother is tornado, her path of destruction is wide and I am often left in utter shock and confusion in the emotional wake of it all.

I still do feel a bit shell shocked but I this time I showed up for me and that made a difference.

inner child

Looking Out for Each Other

looking out

Recently in talking with friends this topic has come up about getting needs met in relationships. Whether these are intimate relationships, social, familial.. We have different needs depending on the relationship.

I have said this before and I still hold it as one of my personal truths: I do not believe a person can be sustained by just one relationship. That is a lot of pressure to put on another person, to meet every single one of your needs. I say this because I think sometimes there is this (unrealistic in my opinion) idea that when we partner off with whomever our “forever” person ends up being, they are supposed to do this for us; meet every single need. Or “complete” us.

That is not my truth.

My husband absolutely meets a lot of my needs but this sweet man cannot do it all and I would never want him to.

The conversation came up again today at internship between myself, another intern, and one of the social workers who I think I will probably stay personally connected with once I leave. We were exchanging numbers and agreeing to stay in touch. We were talking about how important it is that we (social workers) look out for each other. What was meant by this is that we keep in touch and get together from time to time to hold space for each other.

I do not discuss work with my husband. I might tell him Hey I got a great review or today was hard or my supervisor said this weird thing to me that I don’t get, but I do not talk about the actual work. Most of my clients have survived severe trauma. There stories are sacred. And more over, if my husband was able to hold space for this kind of work he would have become a social worker himself. My husband is not a social worker and he cannot hold space for this kind of work and I have no right to burden him. I do not discuss work with my husband, or my family, or my friends. They might get a two second snippit of something surface level but that is it and that is rare.

This is one example of how I do not expect my husband to meet all of my needs for me. The truth is sometimes I need to discuss social work, in a confidential/ethical way, and I have my social work people for that. This is how we look out for each other. They will not become annoyed if I needed to vent about the red tape that I am encountering that is getting in the way of me getting my client the services they need. They will nod along as I complain about silly things that happen during a therapy session like me not being able to control my body while someone is disclosing part of their trauma and suddenly I sneeze in the middle of their tears. Sometimes I show up in human ways and I need someone else to be like Oh gosh, that is the worst, listen to what I did..

This is true for me in other ways as well. I have always been a girl that needs girlfriends. I need female companionship. My girlfriends show up for me in a way my husband would be clueless to, and that is okay, I would never have this expectation of him.

Then there is my therapist. I would never expect my husband to try to hold any of my stuff for me. It is my stuff to work through, asking him to hold it would only complicate our relationship and blur important boundaries. My therapist is there to hold that space so I can hold my stuff and work through it in healthy ways.

I could keep listing examples of how all of these different relationships are so important and need to be separate. At the end of the day the only person I should ever be looking to take care of all of my needs is me. I am responsible for that, just me. And part of how I take care of me is by enlisting all these awesome people to hold a little space now and then, and as a thank you I return the favor for them.

I am looking out for me and we are all looking out for each other and it works.

NF Types Managing Conflict: Part V

Everything went well at the Capitol. We got into a meeting, took our notes for our corresponding assignment, saw some friends and professors, and then headed back to the hotel to leave the city and head home.

When we got back to the hotel our friend was still not feeling well and blaming the new med. I had my own human reaction to that as well, why would you start a new antipsychotic med while you are our of town?? The truth is I was struggling with compassion because my frustration over violated boundaries was so intense. I am not proud of this but it is my truth and although I had trouble finding my compassion for the friend in that moment I can still try to show myself compassion when I have human reactions and struggle showing up as my best self.

So in order to make her comfortable for the car ride home we agreed to flip the third row of my SUV up so she could lounge back there alone and rest during the ling ride home. The agreement we all made when this decision was made is that everyone would have to take some of the luggage from the back up in their seat/row with them for the ride home because when the third row is up I lose almost all trunk space. We were able to fit one suitcase and a few small items in the trunk and the rest was displaced around the car.

I went to the lobby to check out while the girls solved the puzzle of where everything would now fit in the car and when I came back I was shocked to find that the second row had been filled to the brim with luggage and bags. The friend in the back took NO LUGGAGE. Um, excuse me princess, we had an agreement. Some of this shit is yours, you need to hold it back there with you.

Of course my sweet ENFJ friend had ended up with all the luggage next to her while the other two (who were both nursing hangovers but trying their best to disguise it) took nothing. NOTHING! I was pissed. This was just one more inconsiderate move from these two and I was over it.

For the sake of time I let it go and we got on the road. I was driving for roughly 45 minutes when my navigator/hung over friend up front decided to inform me that I was on my own in terms of navigating the GPS because she needed to take a nap. NOPE.

I immediately pulled over and made her get in the second row crammed into next to all the luggage and brought my ENFJ friend up front to navigate for me. We were both well rested as we got a solid 9 hours of sleep the nigh before, I was not playing games with the other two. It is a good thing too because we encountered bad weather the entire ride home and my ENFJ friend was not only navigating for me she was keeping updated on the weather radar and accident reports so we knew what was happening ahead of us. At one point we drove through a weather system with tornado warnings, I was thankful to have an attentive friend up front helping me navigate us safely home.

The last bit of nonsense from this trip actually occurred when we arrived at my home. The trip was over, everyone unpacked and left except for my friend from the third row on the pysch meds. She is not allowed to drive right now because of all the meds she is taking but she did not bother to arrange a ride home for herself. Apparently she was planning to either squat at my house until someone could come for her after work sometime or she was planning to put me on the spot and ask for a ride home. If she had discussed any of this with me at any point over the three days we were away or even before the trip I would have been more understanding but she never said a word. We got home and suddenly she didn’t have a plan and I was stuck with her.

I was exhausted. I had been dealing with her nonsense for days, I had just had a packed day, and driven four hours! I wanted to let my dog out, take a hot shower, start making dinner, and flop on the couch for a much deserved nap. I told her I had things I had to do and that it would not be convenient for me if she stayed. I told her she was welcome to call a cab or an Uber.

I left her in my drive way for a moment to figure it out while I went inside to let Lu out of her crate and take her potty, when I came back she had a plan. She said her boyfriend works 5 minutes from my house and he was on his way to get her. Great. I told her she was welcome to wait in my garage until he arrived. I know that seems cold, I didn’t even invite her in but after all that had happened I was not willing to take chances. She had taken advantage and tried to take advantage in so many ways with her behavior. I was not going to let her in my home so she could squat. It was easier to not invite her in than to invite her in and have to ask her to leave after she over stayed her welcome. She had already overstayed her welcome as far as I was concerned.

25 minutes later her boyfriend was no where to be found. I asked her what happened and she acted shocked that he still wasn’t there. She started texting and then said how he had gotten caught up and it would still be a while. I offered again the idea of the Uber, I really have to get on to these things I have to do, this is a bit of an inconvenience, no offense.

A few minutes later her boyfriend arrived and she got in the van leaving me with all her luggage. She literally left her luggage in my car for me to load for her into the van. That is IT! I showed her boyfriend where her stuff was and he loaded it for her. That was that.

I need sometime to get over the downs of this trip. Feelings were hurt, I personally felt disrespected and I know I am not the only one. I do think a few relationships were damaged beyond repair in terms of maintaining a friendship but I know professionally it will be okay. I don’t feel good about how I showed up at times but that is my NF piece that hates dealing with conflict. All this boundary setting that had to happen and use of assertive communication, it was so uncomfortable. I am not usually very rigid but when I feel violated I absolutely go into self-preservation mode. I know my friends are dealing with a lot in terms of personal issues but I do wish they would have practiced better self-care for everyone’s sake.

Of course there is room for bright spots in this and a big one for me was the level of bonding that came between myself and my ENFJ friend. We were both so uncomfortable and I think we both did a good job of being kind but firm and supporting each other in this as it was hard for both of us. I also feel proud of how I stood up for myself. I was not a doormat but I was not overly harsh either. Although I did not like being put in a position where I had to set boundaries and use assertive communication I think I did well overall. I was drained emotionally when she finally left yesterday though and did end up going to bed early after plenty of family cuddles as a way to take care of myself.

NF Types Managing Conflict: Part IV

Parts four brings us into the beginning of the conclusion. There will be more posts about this trip and the highlights because there were many. I would be remiss not to spend the time I have on this aspect of the trip though because the truth is this was not just a trip filled with beautiful sunsets and wonderful memories. It was both good and bad, as things often are.

The final morning of our trip my ENFJ friend and I woke up gradually and without speaking to one another. It was great. She is the same way as me in the morning. We both wake up grumpy and do not want to talk to anyone for the first half hour. We had discussed this the night before and knew we would get along great because we understood this about each other and knew that no one would take the silence personal or try to break it before the other was ready to talk.

We were kindred.

So I woke up and started my routine silently so as to disturb my roomie. About 45 minutes later we were both fully awake and functional and began to slowly start getting ready while discussing the plan for the day again.

As a precaution the night before we had both set our phones to silent just in case our friends did not respect our request around the fact that we would be going to bed early and did not want to be disturbed.

This ended up serving us well because they did not respect our wishes. We woke up and saw that late in the night they had both texted us. One texted this:

trump

The other texted this: “Thou art blessed”.

Umm..??? WTF guys? I would have been so pissed if our ringers had been turned on and I woke up for that. Pissed to the point of probably going over to their room and telling them off. By the time those moronic text messages came through we had been asleep for HOURS. Seriously. Grow up.

So I started having a very human reaction to their behavior. They were not being considerate and I was about done. (There were other smaller incidents that led to this over all frustration that I did not even mention because a five part post is long enough, with everything included it would be a nine part post).

My friend and I sent the others a text one hour before we had all agreed to leave the hotel and heard nothing, so we stopped by their room on our way to the lobby when it was time to go and only one of them was there. She answered the door looking wrecked and in her pajamas saying that she was having a negative reaction to the new antipsychotic med she started the day before. I am sure drinking an entire bottle did not help. Needless to say she was not ready to go and was complaining about being nauseous and the room spinning. She said she would start getting ready and that we could leave in a half hour. We then informed her we were leaving and should could meet us at the Capitol once she was ready. We all agreed to this schedule and we also agreed that we were all going to be responsible for ourselves, that means not asking anyone else to make exceptions for you. Our hotel was two blocks from the Capitol so we all planned to walk, she could walk over when she was ready.

Then we called the other one to see where she was. At this point we were in the lobby getting ready to walk out and she was back in the room “finishing her bagel”. We told her to meet us at the Capitol and she said she would be down in a few minutes to go with us and for us to wait. We told her we were going and that our colleagues were at the Capitol waiting for us and that she could just walk over with the other friend when they are both ready.

This led to a long weird story about how she planned to walk over with us and come back to get the other friend. Um, that does not make sense. Just walk over with her when she is ready. We are leaving, this is the time we said we all agreed to leave, we will see you there. Then the truth came out. Well, _________ isn’t going to come because she is sick. That is unfortunate (there is an assignment attached to the work we were doing at the Capitol, this means she will not be able to do the corresponding assignment). Either way, we had to leave or we wouldn’t be able to get into a meeting. We are leaving.

Our friend rushed down and we left.

NF Types Managing Conflict: Part III

While on this trip one of the topics that came up was MBTI. My one friend, the one who had never been in crisis, just recently took the test for the first time and discovered she was an ENFJ. We all talked about our different types together. I am INFP, another is INFJ, this friend is ENFJ, and the last friend said she has never taken the test but I am pegging her as an INTJ.

My ENFJ talked about our similarities at length regarding our two types since we are both NFs. One similarity is that we both abhor conflict and avoid it all costs. We are both peace keepers. One of the things she was processing with me over breakfast when it was just the two of us one morning was how she has trouble boundary sometimes because she is very self-sacrificing and does not want to hurt others. I get that. I have struggled with that as well and I have other ENFJ friends who I know have sacrificed their own emotional well being at times for others. Some of my best friends over the years have been ENFJs, including a few of my current soul friends. I think NFs are naturally drawn to each other because we process the world similarly.

These talks we had helped both of us support each other over the trip as we did have to start setting some pretty rigid boundaries with our friends on the trip.

The first boundary came when they were buying alcohol. My ENFJ friend and I knew we would not be drinking. We had to be up early, look professional, we would be in front of our professors and colleagues from the program not to mention elected officials, and then we would be in the car for four hours. It was going to be a long day. My ENFJ was not willing to risk the hang over. For me this was a no brainer because I stopped drinking all together last year.

We made it clear to our friends that they could do what they want but the plans were what they were for the next day and we would not be changing plans if someone was not feeling good.

We then decided to move my ENFJ friend into my room for the night so she would be able to rest and not get caught up in any possible alcohol induced shenanigans. We did not mean to assume the worst about our friends but they way they were talking at the store was not encouraging.

That night after I had called hubs and checked in for a while I invited my ENFJ friend into my room. We took turns in the shower, talked for a while, watched the amazing light show put on by a lightning storm out our window, and then read our books in bed together until bed time. We were asleep by 9:30.

It was a nice evening. I felt as comfortable with her as I do with any of my people that I am close with (family, soul friends, my husband). I know it is because of our similar personalities. Even our E and I are similar. While yes, she is an extrovert, she is an extrovert that needs quiet alone time because she gives so much of herself when she is out in the world. And while yes, I am an introvert, I am a social introvert because I spend so much time lost in deep thought that it is necessary for me to come to the surface and be social in my own way in order to maintain balance.

The one area we realized we differ is when it comes to our J and P parts. She talked at length about her need for control. Not in an overbearing, manipulative way. It is more of just needing to have a plan and be prepared for possible outcomes. She is very on top of things (hence her arriving 15 minutes early to my home on the day of departure). Where she struggles is when things do not go as planned or she does not have options in situations meaning that control is lost.

I related to her when she was talking to me about this. I think everyone has this piece. My control piece may function differently than hers and may not be as prominent but it is there.

The next day our concerns were confirmed and I have to say I think the two of us did well in supporting one another while we both tried to maintain control over the situation, be flexible when needed, and deal with conflict through boundary setting.

 

NF Types Managing Conflict: Part II

So continuing with this story..

The morning of arrived. I booked my own room at the hotel and then went about my morning preparing for my friends to arrive. I started packing the SUV and got all my essentials together for a road trip: first aid kit, lots of bottled water, health snacks, my tea and tea cup..

At 11 my friends started showing up. First came my friend who was not experiencing any kind of crisis. She was 15 minutes early. We sat in my living room and caught up while waiting for the other two. Next came my friend that had been in crisis the night of the concert. She seemed good. Bright eyed, bushy tailed, excited for the trip. That was a sigh of relief. It’s not like expected her to show up and be a mess but I had not seen her in a while and that was a scary last interaction we had so I was just glad to put eyes on her and know she is okay.

While we waited for our last friend we all talked excitedly about graduation and our internships. I was starting to feel hopeful about the trip, maybe I was worrying for nothing.

Our third friend showed up and the energy shifted. The moment she showed up we wanted to get on the road. It was a long drive and we wanted to get there in enough time to get dinner and catch sunset by the pool.

She came into my house and sat down and held everyone hostage for 15-20 minutes talking about her mental health status. I was pacing around asking everyone if needed to use the bathroom, sending all the nonverbal cues that Okay, let’s go..

Finally I interrupted her and asked her if she was going to need to use the restroom because we needed to go. While she went to the bathroom the other two piled into the car.

The next four hours consisted of this friend giving everyone her entire families mental health history. I understand this is a big thing that is happening in her life right now and she needs to process it, it was the way she went about it that was brutal. It was a verbal explosion that just kept coming. She threw so much at us that my brain started to go numb. She was not breaking to take a breath. It was nonstop for four hours. Plus, it was TMI. We are all surface level friends. We know each other from school. The stuff she was sharing was way too personal and it was uncomfortable.

By the time we arrived I was so glad to be in my room. The room had already paid for itself in terms of saving my sanity.

I got into my room opened the curtains to look out on a beautiful view of the city and then flopped on the bed and called my husband.

After a little while we all left for dinner, had a nice meal, and returned to the hotel for sunset at the pool. It was a nice evening. We had an early night and I spent the rest of the evening skyping with my husband, reading my book, taking a nice long hot shower, and watching the goings on of the city at night from my window.

The next day had more ups and downs starting in the evening. The trip was planned as a relaxing end to our 3 year journey through the social work programs. It was also a trip related to school though. We were in the Capitol for advocacy day. One of the days we were in the Capitol we would be going to the Capitol building to sit in on committee meetings and meet with our elected officials to advocate for bills and policies relevant to the populations we serve. We went up early to make a vacation out of it but there still was some responsibilities we had to attend to as well on this trip.

The night before our big day at the Capitol we were at a store picking up a few snacks and a game to play at the hotel that night. We knew bad weather was heading our way and that we would be stuck at the hotel so we got what we needed to have a nice night in. For two of the girls this included booze. Myself and my friend who had never been in any kind of crisis before were not drinking and tried to gently remind our friends about how early we had to be up the next day for our day at the Capitol and that we had a long car ride home after. They were resolute in their decision saying things like “I can hold my alcohol” etc. I am sure you can, do you need a whole bottle to yourself though? I ended up telling them that they are adults and I am not their mother, they are responsible for themselves.

That was me setting my first boundary in regards to this particular situation. More boundaries had to be set from there.