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Welcome to the doll house

21 Oct

1:06 am

I like that title, never saw the movie, and it only pertains to this post in that, I’ve been going through my old collection of Barbie dolls and really getting into it again–remembering why I loved them so much as a kid.  I was going to put them all up on eBay, but um, most aren’t worth that much because they are super-used, and, I do NOT have the patience to spend HOURS picking through my dolls and clothes and trying to figure out if this was Dream Date or Loving You or Peaches N Cream Barbie and then, after posting to eBay, having to field collectors’ questions!  I thought I was pedantic (which is what makes me a good collector/historian…!).  Still, THAT was actually fun, going through my dolls; I think I’ll probably keep the special dolls and clothes (I had the dream house and car and camper van, too, back in the day; I kind of want to hold onto something of my collection!).

What wasn’t as much fun was going through the other stuff.  And, I have been avoiding writing about it and I guess I should write about it, is all I have to say.

About what? Well, everything! Haha. Life, getting older, my dog getting older, my mom getting older, um, discovering via all this sorting of old stuff–writings, mainly, and photos–that my life seems to have been not an adventurous, freewheeling trip of courage and coming of age; but more a meandering path of mental illness.  That, all my writings are not a gold mine of material but a testament to mental illness over the years–and how to live with it while also not even acknowledging that it is there.  What an iceberg I feel like this realization might be; no wonder I threw this shit into storage a decade ago, moved to the island to start over, and never, EVER thought about looking back literally, at this stuff.  I didn’t want to confront it, and I couldn’t.

One good thing about getting older is that, for me anyway, I can see my own life and choices and path and behaviors much more objectively (it also helps that I am not drinking and wine is no longer exacerbating my issues or masking them!).  What mental illness am I talking about?  I’m talking about depression and social anxiety, sure; but also, things like being on the autism spectrum, borderline personality disorder, maybe even some form of paranoid delusions of grandeur (schizoaffective disorder, something of that nature).  I am not saying I suffered from these things; but, that, there may have been some element of all of them in my past.

It’s not easy, and it’s a slow unraveling.  I’ve kind of wanted to drink past few weeks, but more out of boredom than avoidance or fear of confronting this stuff.  I mean, I’m OK, no one is going to die, but…it’s a bit scary and daunting to remember just how effed up I felt back then, as a teen and 20-something (and 30-something!).

So much has happened the past few weeks, too.  After my mom’s visit–and seeing in action what I would call pretty obvious mental illness; where do you think I get it from?–I am just a bit burnt on all the self-analysis.

My mom’s visit was hard, to say the least.  I don’t think we’ll be spending anymore time alone (without the buffer of other family members), I hate to say.  Before her visit, I spent what felt like an eternity sorting through photos from 20 years ago and beyond.  I hadn’t looked at the scrapbooks and piles of prints from grade school all the way through my early 30s (about the time digital cameras took over, thank god) for years; I mean, we’re talking, I hadn’t looked at some of these photos but ONCE since I printed them at a Walgreens in 1995!  At this rate, I won’t look at these again until I’m 70 (um, in 25 years–holy CRAP, that sounds terrifying); what’s the point in keeping them?

And, that is where my mom comes into the picture.  In looking through the old photos, I saw who she was then more clearly, and I saw who I was then more clearly.  She is different now, but not that different!  All this time, I’ve been thinking that somewhere along the way, she just BECAME super-irritating to me; but, she’s always been herself.  So, what’s changed?  It must be me!  I have changed, a LOT, and especially around how I view my upbringing and how I let it and my stressors affect my life now.

Without really going in too deep around her and me and our issues, one of my big takeaways from our weekend is that, she does not want to hear the “objective” truth; she’s not ready to truly look at her own role in her unhappiness.  The ONLY reason I can say this is that I’ve lived it; as an alcoholic, as we all know, a HUGE part of our recovery is coming to terms with the following life FACTS:

it’s not all about me

stop taking things personally

it’s none of my business what others think of me

let it go

These basic “tenets” of sobriety seem to be what normies just know, or what other people learn as they mature without having to go through recovery first!  Why, at 73 years old, is my mother still seeming to refuse these universal mantras?  Like, I know that it’s really hard to choose to not take things personally, but I also know that continuing to do so causes me pain and that pain is greater than the effort of practicing new behavior.  I don’t know, it was like talking to a wall.  She knows all this stuff, too, but for some reason, she seems to be clinging more and more to choosing patterns of behavior that are negative and take up all her time.  Who knows?  I sure don’t know it all, and I can’t spend much more time trying to figure another person out (I am enough work!).

After talking a bit more with a few people close to me, I realized, if she’s not ready to try to see her role in relationships that are not working for her, and if she’s not ready to do a little self-analysis, then…I can’t take on the sadness and guilt that I do feel because she seems terribly unhappy (unless she isn’t really all that unhappy and is just being dramatic or passive aggressive–another story for another blog post).  I just have to let it go, and allow myself to do what I can for her but to then be happy, unapologetically and fully.  And I do, and she wholeheartedly wants me to (consciously, at least).

At this point, I’m like, who knows?  I have to let it go, and I will…

On that note, my brain is a bit fried, I am burning up tonight (again, who KNOWS what’s going on with my hormones, why one week or day I’m fine, the next my torso is on fire, and the next, it’s only my legs!  WHO KNOWS?), and I really just need to close up shop and turn the light out (in my brain).  I had a great day taking my dog to the beach–she’s “elderly” now, sweet girl, and that is painful; but, the twinges are counteracted by the fact that she’s still out there, frolicking in the water, and truly loving life.  What more could a girl want for her “daughter?”

We are moving in less than FIVE short weeks, and of course, my pedantic self has sold off quite a bit of our furniture.  I have this strange desire to get rid of EVERYTHING, to have no bleepity bleeping stuff anymore–maybe I’m just tired of carrying the weight of the past, feeling like I owe it something that I don’t; maybe I’m just tired of caring about keeping stuff.  I’ve never been one to be truly obsessive about not having clutter, but lately, I’ve been dreaming of a truly clutter-free existence where no stuff is going to trigger me, where the only thing that surrounds my field of view is white light, an open space of present-future, silence to meditate and dream…

On boundaries and saying ‘no’

7 Apr

12:40 pm

So, this morning, as I was scrolling Facebook, I became frustrated:

Why do I have to care about you?  Ugh, I should have gone to that thing last night–why am I so lazy, why am I so antisocial? 

And, on and on and on.  I saw in the early years of my sobriety just how much I could overthink and overanalyze, and how this contributed to my unhappiness and dependence on wine to escape my thinking.

It got me thinking about something else, too:  here I was, on a beautiful Sunday morning, and what was I doing but berating myself because I had let my Facebook feed intimidate me!

In getting sober and staying sober, I have come to realize that creating boundaries and saying ‘no’ are essential to my peace of mind.  There are a LOT of things that caused me to binge drink and drink alcoholically, and I never made the connection between that reactive behavior and the bullying forces in my life until I got sober.

In fact, there are a lot of bullies in everyone’s life–whether your friends, parents, or coworkers are consciously aware that they are being bullies is up for debate, though.  And, until I started to understand the concepts of boundaries and saying no–that there could be emotional bullying, and that this is far more prevalent than actual, literal bullying–I didn’t get that I could both say, No, I will not do that, and say no to taking on other people’s stress or expectations of me (or themselves).

It still makes me feel angry when I delve into this aspect of long-term sobriety, and I feel like this is something that will never go away completely because almost everyone out there (including myself) is engaging in some form of bullying–whether it’s dumping their emotional baggage on you, manipulating your weaknesses, or just using your reactions to make themselves feel better.  I have to remind myself, almost daily, that it’s ME who is in control of how I perceive and receive people, and how I react and interact with them–that ultimately, bullying is a two-way street.

Some real-world examples:

Facebook/social media–Before I got sober, I would scroll relentlessly, and I would allow everyone’s story to affect me.  I would internalize my feelings of “not good enough” and “guilty” and “should have, could have, would have” without realizing that one, I didn’t need to feel any of that, and two, I had control over who and what I let into my worldview.  These days, when I feel that coming on, I try to remember that social media is not real life; people posting to social media are not trying to offend me, personally; and if I want to not care, I can choose to not care and close the app.  I don’t have to feel guilty about not really interacting with my so-called friends; I have friends in the here and now, and I can interact with them–and this is healthy, and it is good enough.  These days, I would much rather engage people offline, in the real world, and not on social, email, or text.  And, some days, it’s as simple as closing the app and moving on with my day–and not judging myself to be a bad friend, somehow, because I have chosen to be a spectator on social media and not a player.

Parents–You know, before I got sober, I didn’t have as much frustration toward my parents for their mental health issues as I do now.  I knew that my mom’s difficulty setting emotional boundaries and my dad’s bullying behavior definitely contributed to my drinking, but I didn’t know exactly how.  In any case, I internalized my mom’s pain, and I always tried to please my dad–two things that I have to work very hard at today, every time I talk to them, to NOT do!

These days, I don’t know if I’ve figured out exactly how these family relationships have made me who I am, but in getting sober, I have learned that calling my parents less is OK, that not allowing them to control how I feel is OK, that putting up boundaries and saying no to their projections and expectations is OK–I wish it was different because they are in their 70s and “should know better,” but…

My mom has a lot of health problems these days, and so, our calls are always quite long and tedious. I feel like she feels slighted that I don’t call often, and I feel almost unconsciously judged for having become an alcoholic drinker and for not having had kids; but none of this matters when it comes to me needing to say no to taking on her bad mood or her feelings of helplessness.  In part, I think she wants me to share my own health problems, but I refuse to go down that road because it’s almost as if she relishes that; simply put, I DO NOT relish it.

My dad is an entirely different beast in that the family believes he has multiple actual mental health disorders, and his entire way in the world with everyone has always been about manipulating other people to do what he wants them to do for him, and expectation (I am hard on myself and need to prove my worth, so you should be, too).  I have simply come to the frustrating conclusion recently that nothing will ever change in our relationship except the way that I deal with it.  I have decided that while our conversations won’t change, and while I’ll never likely be able to directly say no to him, I can say no to his expectations–I love our life, and I don’t have to let him lead the conversation toward accomplishment as a measure of success.

Job and school stress–It took me getting sober to see that I was putting a TON of unnecessary expectations and pressure on myself for many, many years.  And, that I don’t have to respond to stress the way people around me are either responding to it or worse, telling me how I “should” respond to it.  It’s like, I don’t have to keep up with the Joneses by wanting that house, or that car, or that “bigger” job–likewise, at work, I don’t have to stress out just because my boss or coworkers are stressing out, necessarily or unnecessarily so.  You don’t have to stress out to care, or to prepare; stress will not help you have fun.  You can (and should!) take long showers, eat nice dinners, go to your yoga class, or hey, even hit the beach (man, I miss it!)–AND get your work done, and be a careful, caring employee who is worthy of her paycheck.  This mentality is really hard to push back against, but I have to push back–if not just in defense of my health, but in defense of my sobriety.

Exhale.  We all have to set boundaries and guard them fiercely, no matter if we’re getting or staying sober.  Likewise, we all get to say ‘no’–and that is a beautiful thing.  I think that is the most empowering aspect to my sobriety, and to my evolving life and lifestyle these days.  As recovering binge drinkers or alcoholics, saying no is essential to our happiness, to our joy, to our continued sobriety.

So…just say no (sometimes)!

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