To The People Who Love Me,
This is a tough one to write. This one stirs up a lot for me as the writer and I’m sure for you as the reader. But that’s okay, I’m here to be honest, to speak my truth even when it’s hard to do so.
To the people who love me, I love you too. I’m grateful for you. Sometimes, I’m unable to love you like you need me to. Other times, you fall short, or at least I perceive you to be falling short. Sometimes I’m left feeling disappointed/confused/angry. I’m sure you’ve felt the same way. I hope we are able to find some peace, together.
So, who is to blame? That’s the question I’ve found myself circling for far too long. Who is at fault for how I feel? Am I at fault for how you feel? Are you enough for me? Am I enough for you? Am I doing enough? Are all of my bases covered? More importantly, have I covered all of your bases for you?
If I feel like I’m drowning with no relief in sight, should I tell you that I can’t be what you need me to be because I’m not even meeting my own expectations?
So much of my identity is wrapped up in being the “strong” one. The one who keeps her shit together in the face of adversity. It’s funny because I work in the mental health field and for so long my idea of strength meant just “pushing through”. I was rudely awakened a few years ago when “pushing through” wasn’t an option anymore. After dad passed away, I should have allowed myself to be HUMAN. I should have put myself and my needs first. Instead, I ran. I booked it. Then when I stopped running, I decided to take care of everyone else, which is still running, by the way.
Lots more happened after that, but ultimately, the loss of dad is what broke me into a million pieces. I’m not sure I’ve ever told any of you that so bluntly, but it destroyed me. My identity, my vision for the future, my goals- all of it came crashing down and I found myself in the midst of a storm that I couldn’t just “push through”.
A part of me felt like I had to take on the role that he left behind. The role of the lover, the caretaker, the friend, the one who does what is asked. I felt a huge void in my life and I didn’t want people to feel that same, unbearable loss. But again, we are HUMAN. We needed to feel that. I needed to acknowledge the pain. I wish I would have told you then what I’m telling you now.
I wish I would have told myself, and you, that it’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to feel broken, lost, scared, alone, hopeless, whatever. I wish I would have given myself, and you, some grace. Part of me thought that if I’m handling it all, why is everyone and everything falling apart around me?
This was a HUGE turning point for me. I’m not in control of anything or anyone but myself. Before this realization, I started to look at being there for people as a chore, which made me question who I was even more. I started to feel like I had some sort of duty to be everything to everyone and it became unbearable. I felt this way for a long time and it did nothing but deplete every last bit of “strength” that I had. This caused me to lash out and push people away. The words “I’m fine”, “It’s not that bad”, “I can do it, no problem” became part of my everyday vocabulary. Down and down I fell.
Fast forward, I’m finding my balance (if anyone figures out a perfect way to balance the everyday demands of life, hit me up). Taking time to work on what I can control helped me realize that I can still be present for others while keeping my sanity. I can still make my dad and myself proud even if I establish boundaries and acknowledge my limitations. I can tell people that I’m hurting, that I’m depressed, anxious, and wanting to crawl into a hole.
So, to the people who love me, I love being here for you. I admire your ability to reach out for guidance- I really wish I would have done that sooner. Maybe I wouldn’t have spiraled like I did, but that’s a conversation for another day. If I seem different or less interested, I’m not. I’m just putting myself first. I’m learning to love myself just as I am. I’m giving myself pep talks in the morning and reframing my thoughts as often as possible. I’m putting on my own oxygen mask first. I suggest you all do the same.
Lastly, THANK YOU. Thank you to the ones who have been my rock through the shit show that is my life. Thank you a million times over to those who have shown me what true patience and love is. I hope we can continue to share in this journey together. I hope we can continue to build each other up by nurturing healthy, balanced relationships. I deserve it and so do you.
All my love and appreciation,
To the People Who Love Me,
There’s no way to not make this sound totally “emo”, but, truth be told, I don’t quite know what you think of me or how many of you truly know me except for maybe five of you. And for the five of you, I am so incredibly grateful for you- there are no words that will ever be able to express how thankful I am for your existence, nor can I imagine what I would do without you. You SEE me, and, for that, I will be forever changed for the better.
To be fair to the rest of you, I haven’t exactly been completely honest or let you in. And to be fair to me, I’ve only just recently begun understanding the larger pieces of myself. It’s been quite a journey.
I either feel everything or nothing. I either fear you will betray/leave me or that we were meant for eachother. I either want nothing to do with you or everything to do with you. It’s not always like this, but sometimes it is. And I know it’s a lot to handle.
To my family, I think you see me as an artist, creative, kind, and (hopefully) dedicated to our family. I think you see me as both shy and daring at the same time. I think you see me as educated, even a little intimidating. I think sometimes you don’t quite know what to do with me. And who can blame you? I have a masters degree and an upper management position, yet also have half my head shaved, the other half dyed bright red, a tattoo, blue eye make-up, and punk-goth garb. I can’t blame you if you’re a little confused.
It’s been a long learning experience trying to understand how I came to be me through you. On one side, silence and stuffing things down and punishing by talking behind each other’s backs is all you know. Maybe even a perceived sign of strength, especially through the hard winters and wilderness. And yet, this strength resulted in so many undiagnosed family members whose lack of knowledge trickled down and down until it found me. On the other side, the immigrant-mentality of hard-work and self-sacrifice is all you know. It’s a cherished value and how you show love for our family. And yet, this also breeds with it repressed trauma and deeply-seated anxiety that went against our cultural values.
I’ve been understanding more and more about us lately and seeing how your behaviors and your beliefs were molded into you and trickled down over the generations. It’s the double-edged sword of being a social worker- we can’t unknow what we know, even when we just want to be ignorant humans who know nothing about generational trauma and familial mental health trends.
To my friends, you see a whole other side of me. You see both grit and gore. Grit in what I do and maybe some of the risks I’ve taken, gore in my constant cursing and chaotic, clumsy boats of “insanity”. I think you see a world of insecurity and neediness. I think you sometimes see selfishness or flakiness. I think you also see beauty that I often don’t.
I know I’ve gone from one extreme to another with you. You see my whiplash shifts, just usually in text form. I’ve gone through many friends in my life, usually freezing out people who bring up even the smallest degree of conflict. I don’t know how to deal with it. I don’t want to deal with it- I get so anxious that panic attacks often ensue.
So I let go.
And I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you. I’m learning how to-- NOPE, that’s a lie-- I want to learn how to better tolerate disagreement or conflict. And that it does NOT always mean that someone will leave me. There, I said it.
I don’t have the same neurological chemical ratio that some of you do. I can’t go into my head with happy thoughts and make them all go away. I’ve learned that mixing alcohol messes with my meds and makes me go into a psychotic delirium, and that’s why I’ve blacked out in the past. I know I’ve concerned, if not scared- or even frustrated- you for it. I scare and frustrate myself too sometimes. Know that I don’t choose to put myself in danger or choose to get hurt. It’s called mania, and what you’re seeing is a manic episode.
Look it up. Really. It’s real. It’s not made-up.
I encourage you to also look up the reactions of trauma. Look up why survivors remain silent. And why they might act in ways that appear risky or “promiscuous”. While you’re at it, look up the impact of witnessing violence among children and the long-term effects, specifically in relationships. Please think about what you say before you say it.
It doesn’t matter that I’m a “professional”. I am human first. And I never claimed to be perfect, nor excused myself from having problems like everyone else.
I am a social worker, yes. But more often than not, I use my fallibilities as a way to connect with my clients on a different level. Not by using self-disclosure, but by being empathetic and internally connecting to my own pain. I honestly couldn’t do the work I do without that source of pain. If I didn’t have that, I would have no depth.
To my loved ones, I love you. And I’m working on loving me. I want to be honest with you, like right now, but I don’t want to scare or offend you. And that says it all- that I believe my mental state contains scary things that are scary and offensive. But most of all, even more than being scared of your fear, I’m absolutely terrified of the thing that petrifies me the most:
Not knowing what to say or what to do. Not knowing what “it” is or only knowing the false myths about it. Because at the end of the day, I can be an experienced mental health professional with years of psychotherapy experience under my belt, but still be entirely oh-so-human when my social worker hat is off.
To the people who love me who DO understand, I hope you know how much I love you back. That I couldn’t have made it this far without you. That I will occasionally cry after a session with a client because they didn’t have any versions of you in their life and what that has done to them. You are a blessing, and we are forever. I love you all, more than words, printed or spoken, could ever fully express.
To those who love me, forgive me for my fallibilities. For my silence. And, all too often, for my words. I want you to understand who I am, and I want to understand you better too. And when you think you’re seeing a side of me that isn’t “who you thought I was”, please please please know this:
I am me. It’s just that sometimes I can’t get to you from behind the war in my head. But I swear I’m there. And I need you. Even though I don’t want to need anyone.
Can I be a hypocrite? Yes.
Can I be needy? Yes.
Can I be too risky sometimes? Yes.
Because besides the fact that this makes me (and you) so human, that’s also my brain operating from the levels it has. And it’s doing the best it can to function. And sometimes it’s not pretty, but it’s not on purpose. I will ALWAYS feel worse than you when I do something that puts you off. And I hope you can come from a place of loving, nonjudgmental concern and curiosity, rather than a place of judgment. I know I’m asking a lot of you. Know that I hold myself to the same standard.
One last thing. Know that I’m coming to understand that my war is also a gift. Know that I also see beauty and inspiration in most everything. Know that I am a deeply spiritual, passionate, introspective, and protective person. I see my mood swings as what fuel my artistic visions, my obsessive nature as what enables me to do impeccable work, my dissociative qualities as what keep my imagination alive when the world becomes too dark, my anxiety as my protector when things are actually unsafe, and, finally, my traumas as what nurture my ongoing empathy and ability to truly connect with the survivors whom I serve.
I am in recovery, and I am doing my best to deserve the life I have been given. I am a warrior. A goofball. A lover. And a dreamer. Of these identities, I am sure.
So to those who love me, thank you for being my solid ground.
I love you back,
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