(*I’m editing this in October 2022. I am in a different place now. Different conclusions. I am tempted to delete what I no longer fully feel. But I believe it is important to document my journey step by step. There are no right and wrong parts, only parts, to whatever journey this is I am on. *)
(Written: July 2022)
Still talk therapy. But progress. The final strings are being cut. Another counsellor is telling me my Dad has narcissistic traits. I resist, but it’s sinking in. It’s all sinking in. But as it does, I see a rising of another sun. I am forming my own family now. I am blessed, and hopeful my family can be full of love.
The Car Battery Challenge
Our car battery died in our garage this month. It is our only car. At first I felt panic – if we don’t rely on my parents anymore we have to start from scratch socially. My husband’s family is hours away, and are rarely in touch with us. Many members of my extended family live close by, but I’ve never formed close relationships with any of them.
After going through all our options, we decided to make an online post to our neighbors to see if anyone could jump us. It felt like a last resort. Immediately we had a response from one couple. By the time I got outside, to help my husband roll the car out of the garage, another 2 neighbors were heading over with battery chargers and jumpers in hand! They all seemed so eager to help, even people we’d never met. It was so joyfully done. I was overwhelmed. This was not the WORLD I was raised in, or taught to believe in. It felt like a message from God – kindness is all around me. He is all around me.
A Neighbor Struggles
This summer I have grown close to one of the other moms on my street. She stays home with her young children as I do, so we have hung out a lot this summer. We always have our children with us when we spend time together, so that limits our conversations, but still; I have developed a real fondness for her as a person. She has a very sweet heart.
While our kids were at sports practice together, in a private moment, she shared struggling as a stay at home mom. She was feeling overwhelmed. She said her husband didn’t understand her feelings of overwhelm, and moreover was frustrated by them. She sounded like she needed help with the kids and around the house, and her husband was saying he wasn’t able to. It was her job. She also shared that she has struggled with anxiety, especially social anxiety, her whole life. And that the recent move (she just moved in a few months before) has brought up a lot of anxiety in her.
I felt so much for her! I barely have it together most days with my 2 children, and my husband helps me constantly. My husband also is fully in touch with how much work being a stay at home mom is, and he has a listening ear and supportive words for me when I am struggling. I can’t imagine doing this alone, and feeling judged for struggling!
I tried to support her with my words. I let her know, that I heard her overwhelm and that I was not judging at all. I shared how I too found being a stay at home mom a near impossible job, and that my husband was helping a lot when he wasn’t working. I supported her feelings that she needed more help around the house. I told her that if she ever needed a few hours off to swing her kids by my house and she can leave. Our kids play together almost everyday anyway. I wanted to help. As I left practice that evening, I felt a heaviness from our conversation. I definitely felt she was in a dark spot. I shared the conversation with my husband that evening.
The next afternoon the situation escalated, and it was obvious her family was having major struggles.
I felt guilty, I knew she had been upset but did not know how serious it had been. Another of her close friends was angry with her and her husband. They didn’t like the stress and drama they had brought to our street and they told them. That family pulled back from my friend and her family. They didn’t feel comfortable with them anymore.
I was shocked, all I felt was concern for her obviously, and her whole family. I reached out through text the day of and over the week. I shared with her my own struggles with depression and moving. I shared that my family was here for her and hers. I asked her if she wanted to talk. She said she would really like that, and would call me the next day. No call. When I checked in a few days later, we again arranged to go for a walk to talk later that week. She text me day of and cancelled.
At that point, I gave her space. And I sunk into a state of doubt. I started feeling like my love and support of others is simply a burden. (Old issues deep within me were being triggered by this event).
Then the day of the sport’s practice rolled around. Our daughters are on the same team, so I knew I would see her there. That day she came and sat next to me like normal. But she seemed distant. After a few minutes she got up to take a phone call, and then came back over and said it was crowded where we were sitting so she was going to sit farther down.
At this point, I was hurt. It had seemed clear to me before that she didn’t want to speak to me about what had happened, which I totally understood even if it hurt my feelings. But now it felt like she didn’t even want to be around me anymore. And when people hurt me, I run from the relationship. I could feel that slide into running.
I sat there for about 10 minutes. My mind was ricocheting with the thoughts and feelings of so many sides of me. Finally one side started to build momentum within me “approach with love.”
I got up and went and sat next to her in the less crowded area. When I sat down she immeditaely put her hand on my knee and said “Oh, bless you for coming over here. This crowded room is giving me such anxiety.” We had a good conversation, and I expressed my complete love for her and her family no matter what “others” were saying. When the time came to leave I reached over and gave her a hug. This seems natural I imagine, but that is the first time in my life I have done so in such a moment. The whole conversation and hug felt so awkward to me, I felt stupid and bumbling. But I knew what I was trying to express, and I knew that was more important than anything else. Love and support for someone who was going through a challenging time in life. A time when some were turning away.
In some ways, it feels like another sign from God. Him showing me – I can be there for others. That (unlike what my inner critic says) others actions are rarely about me – they are about the other person’s own fears. In this case, she wasn’t avoiding me. She was going through a lot in her life. She was afraid to have the conversation. She was afraid of being judged. She was experiencing intense anxiety.
Still I resist
Still I resist it, I fear my love, fear it’s a burden. I get in the way, best to seclude myself in the comfort of isolation (my norm). But no my heart so longs for human connection, for a human difference. It knows the feel of years and years of loneliness, the suffering that lies in that.
I falter in this all because I fear. And so quick those fears old fears all come back up. Social rejection cuts me deep. I see that now. It shifts me on to whole different tracks. That tracks of no one loves me, and my love means nothing to anyone. Everyone is just “putting up with me, pitying me”.
When I feel so unloved, and old more narcissistic coping side of me comes out. And I judge others, as I push them away. But those old narcissistic coping styles aren’t able to last as long now, as I feel I am growing beyond them. I see them as harmful and damaging more quickly now. It’s a good thing those old defenses are falling away. But still I struggle and new coping mechanisms come up to try to help calm me – but often the new coping mechanisms aren’t healthy or helpful either.
But I am having moments where I see progress in my learning the art of loving. Something as simple as a hug to my friend as I said goodbye to her – I feel so silly to feel so proud of it. But it is the first time in my life I have ever let that urge express itself. I have felt the urge to hug a friend going through a struggle or even simply saying goodbye before, but my feelings of uncomfortableness or fear have always won out. I see, I am bumbling, but I am trying to express my love of others.