The commitment to move forward & guilt vs shame

On accountability and the benefits of remorse, its surprising relationship (or lack thereof) to shame, and thoughts regarding working towards making a better future for ourselves by learning from our past.

Note: I use past tense for some people who are still currently in my life as I am going to eventually separate myself from them by legal means. This is a process so it takes time but want to clarify that emotionally, I am finally done letting my remaining toxic interpersonal relationships affect me. That being said, you can love someone still and know it is an unhealthy relationship and thus separate yourself from them. This will be another post at a later time but some notes on toxic interpersonal relationships here.

I have made many egregiously bad choices in my life. Among them are selfish and destructive choices I feel rightfully guilty over, such as the long-term and vile harassment of another person online, spurred by insecurity, both self-loathing and conceit, and self-righteousness. Another is blatantly dismissing the testimonial of an abuser’s little sister who had entrusted me with the secret that her older sister had broken her arm. This should not have remained a secret, and she and I both suffered for my denial of a very real problem. Out of more self-righteous thinking and behavior, I have meddled in situations that are not mine, further worsening some people’s circumstances in the process. While I would like to think they were purely well intentioned, I know my self-righteousness and own feelings of victimization have played a huge role in these particular actions, which is a major reason why my approaches to helping have sometimes caused further damage instead. Little works in crises when one is letting their inner (and still-hurting) child lead the way.

These wrongs that I committed hurt and even worse, potentially traumatized or helped traumatize others. My guilt here is justified and teaches me to not commit these sins again. Guilt is a positive emotion when it is about true heartfelt remorse. It is inspired by awareness, both of self and others, accountability, and is more central to ethical behavior than religion or law. The reason for this is that guilt is an internal measurement, and regardless of whether someone is more extroverted feeling, like me, and pays close attention to external rules and cues, or is more of an introverted feeler and pays close attention to internally formed rules and cues, guilt is what betters all of us socially when, like all discomfort and pain, we choose to grow from it.

For someone whose auxiliary function is extroverted feeling, (Fe), I learn too slowly. I effect change too slowly. And when I am unusually sick or stressed, I sometimes fall back on unhealthy and harmful behaviors, often again spurred by self-righteousness and unresolved feelings of victimization. I do recognize the urgent need to stop it, as those behaviors help no one and cause more hurt than resolution. I raise my voice, and when I say “raise my voice,” I mean I yell when I get angry.  And I become someone I myself can’t stand because I know I am causing hurt, and for reasons that at the end of the day, conflict with the behavior. I want people to listen and understand because when I yell, I feel hurt and ignored or misunderstood. But I know – when I am thinking rationally – all anyone does when they yell like that is hurt others and themselves. That’s why I have asked people to tell me when I am starting to raise my voice, so I can check myself and quiet myself down. It’s no one’s responsibility but mine, but I lose awareness, the sight of the goal (positive inter & intrapersonal development), and rationale in the heat of the moment and still need external reminders to calm the f*ck down. I have only gotten loud like this in the past three years. I’ve come to realize why but reasons for an unhealthy behavior do not and should not ever be confused with excuses. Still, unlearning this has been hard, and I have made only minimal progress since it was brought to my attention almost a year ago. Guilt, or perhaps the more specific term and meaning — remorse — is powerful and can greatly help to rectify bad behavior, but it is not the lone motivating force. I am making progress however and through identification and an implementation of coping skills, I hope to make this a past behavior more quickly.

Guilt vs shame

There is another feeling many people may relate closely to guilt – I used to too – but I caution strongly against making them so close. I can’t really remember where I first learned of the vital difference of meaning of these two words, but I know that actually proactively learning the difference took a long time even after. I do remember staring at the worksheet/handout in my early teens, trying to sift through events and circumstances in my head while utilizing the words’ very different meanings but having great difficulty in doing so. (Note: TRIGGER WARNING for disordered thoughts, including thoughts related to disordered eating and sexual trauma.) Continue reading “The commitment to move forward & guilt vs shame”

All we hurt when we hurt / The universal language

There is an importance to healing I cannot stress enough. Because I was so affected by traumatic abuse so early in childhood, my life, identity, and behavior have all largely been shaped by pain. Truthfully, I challenge the notion that even human beings from seemingly tamer backgrounds are not shaped largely in part by pain. When going over these sentences, I thought a more accurate description might be to add pronouns to these sentences — add perhaps “my” and “their” before “pain,” but that would only distance myself from the ultimate point. There are many layers to this post as there are many layers to every person. Layers vary and appear different. They can manifest differently, speak in different tongues, dress in different threads, dance with different motions, and while sentient beings all hurt in different ways to different severities and we express those agonies in different behaviors, perhaps the greatest irony of all is that the most universal element sentient beings share is what often isolates us most — pain.

Physical pain or severe physical discomfort, at their most banal, tell us something is “wrong.” A bone is broken, and it needs to heal, or a part of our body is exposed that should not be exposed — in the case of extreme cold or extreme heat or a wound — or that not enough blood is getting to our heart or that not enough oxygen is getting to our brain. Prolonged inactivity can also cause physical pain or severe physical discomfort because that in itself tells the body something is wrong and can make things go wrong further within the body. People struggling with their mental health often get caught in this cycle, because already we’re usually struggling with debilitating stressors (and chemistry).

It is important to note that there are medical conditions in which people have a total insensitivity to pain, however rare, but even in cases of extreme dissociation or Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopathy and psychopathy) where emotional range can become limited, there is a current that makes us universally one, even if separating us in terms of our behavior or reactions to it: pain felt by the soul even if not always the body.

Continue reading “All we hurt when we hurt / The universal language”

Even if inspired by pain, inspire love – but always be inspired

Human beings are appalling and cruel and selfish and beautiful and flawed and complex and immature and I both hate and love that I love and value human beings so much. I can neither vilify or idolize, but I think the intensity of both my pain and love confuses others. Let me clarify this for you: When you are stalked — hunted as a wounded hare — a rabid dog at your heels and you hear their breath down your neck, you learn what a hungry, sick animal is capable of.

We may have our technological advances and our philosophical ideas, but we are still animals. We can be frightened, traumatized, sick, and weaponized too – and, moreover, as the human animal specifically, when frightened, traumatized, and/or sick, we have the unsurpassed ability to both consciously and subconsciously weaponize ourselves.

 

Sometimes, people seem very surprised by how moved I am by small acts of kindness. When I am vulnerable especially, I can often burst into tears at how moved I am. Reading articles on GoodNewsNetwork regularly evokes floods of “happy tears,” but also even in public, I’ve caught people off guard with sometimes perhaps too effusive of reactions towards small acts of kindness, even when not directed towards me.
Because while I am excruciatingly painfully aware of what people are capable of I am perhaps even more agonizingly aware of how much better people are capable of and yet are often uninspired to do.
That being said, I would like to end this post with a quote by Anne Frank, “How wonderful it is that no one has to wait, but can start right now to gradually change the world.”

The flaw.

Fifteen years of therapy, eleven hospitalizations, in and out of partial programs, so many different services and different therapies (DBT, CBT, talk, etc.) Hell, I’ve even undergone ECT, (electroconvulsive therapy), and have had MRI, CT scans, EEGs, test after test, been on medication after medication, dose after dose, and I am sitting here on my couch, full of weeping lethargy but sleeplessness; a restless, nauseated anxiety and hunger for cessation and quiet. I feel so sad and so broken. Beyond tired, beyond depressed, beyond reparation. I know myself well. Years of [self-]interrogation, years of being poked and prodded by doctors, neurologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, counselors, and my own reflection have given me near crystalline photographs of my subconscious. I am betting I know myself more than most people know themselves. I am betting I understand myself more than most people understand themselves. And I am sure as hell that at this point, if I can be saved, only I can do it; and that, that is torture. 

Continue reading “The flaw.”

5 mental health myths frequently popularized by mental wellness culture

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in so many months. I need to come back to this blog, because it really helps me to write in it. I’ve been trying to figure out what to write for a few days now and thought this is a good a topic as any. I’ve been seeing some things related to these anyway that brought this to mind, so I thought I’d share. Feel free to leave your thoughts as well.

5 mental health myths frequently popularized by mental wellness culture

1. Nobody will love you until you love yourself.

This is a common phrase we hear in hospitals, self-esteem workshops, therapy, etc. It is both demeaning and inaccurate, perpetuating a cycle of self-hatred and loneliness that stems from feeling unloved and unwanted. While confidence does win relationship successes, romantic, platonic, and otherwise, never let anyone make you feel you are unlovable just because you feel unloveable. At my lowest dips in my self-esteem, I’ve had the best relationships I’ve ever had with people who have helped me pull through those tough times, and I have met them during periods of low confidence as well. While confidence certainly does make a person more attractive, more magnetic, that is not a lone trait that people look for. People also look for many other qualities, and it varies by person to person. I have not had a lot of successful relationships, but the strong bridges I have built are made of iron.

2. You can’t love anybody until you love yourself.

This is another, albeit less common, phrase that circulates around mental wellness culture. While I do think it is unwise and ultimately impossible to try to take care of other people when you cannot take care of yourself, I firmly believe you can love other people and still have poor self-esteem. Our self-worth affects our view of the world, sure, and it does color our relationships and our opinions of others’ motives, etc. But I know people — myself included — who feel great love for others while not feeling great love for themselves.

3. You’ll feel better if you talk about it.

This one I have to be careful with, because yes, it works for a lot of people. It’s why talk therapy is a thing. It’s why many people journal, why support groups exist, etc. But like all coping skills, every one of them works differently for everybody, and not all of them actually work effectively for anybody. There are endless ways to cope with something, both positively or negatively. Taking long showers, painting, exercising, making lists and plans are some of the ways I cope with my stress. I also talk about it. I talk about it a lot. Talking about it, however, does not help me, and that is why I have had therapy for 15 years and it has, thus far, been fairly useless to me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve learned a lot. As you can see from this blog, I use a lot of knowledge gained “in the system” and make references and terms often used “in the system.” But much of what I’ve gained has been gained on my own, in practice, or through hospitalizations. But in therapy, I talk. I “open up.” I open up to my therapist, to my friends, to my family. And I only feel better once we get sidetracked in the conversation. Talking about my problems is not helpful to me. If there are solutions, talking about those can be, but let’s face it, life doesn’t always have solutions for the kinds of problems we face. Everyday life is hard. Stressors come up that aren’t always “fixable” and are ongoing; permanent. You can’t really talk about those things without going half-mad and just falling down the rabbit hole with your own negativity. Sometimes, it’s better to focus on other things. Sometimes, it’s better to focus on better conversations.

4. The Law of Attraction

Some people might really want to fight me on this one, because self-help books like The Secret et cetera have really “changed” people’s lives, I guess. Many people claim the Law of Attraction is nothing short of “miraculous,” and once they began to “adhere” to it, their lives just “fell into place.” I see the value in it; I do. And I think that, largely, it does make a lot of sense. Like #1, in which confidence or a healthy attitude would attract healthy relationships, the Law of Attraction states that positive energy attracts positive things or more positive energy and conversely, negative energy attracts negative things or more negative energy. Yes, it makes sense. Many people who are pessimistic and expect the worst of people will get the worst in people. This is for a few reasons. The first is that they already see the worst in people, and the second reason, one could argue, is something like the Law of Attraction. But the Law of Attraction isn’t a law. It is a guideline. It is a loose philosophy, an idea which improves your life but does not necessarily rule your life.

Like I explained with #1, I’ve been in bad situations and have been met with overwhelming positive energy and people before. The world doesn’t work on rules and statutes. It really doesn’t. It’s a bit of a free-for-all; kind of chaotic. A lot of it is about luck. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. A lot of it, too, is what you have in you, but a lot of it is about luck. I’ve encountered some very beautiful people and some very ugly people at different stages of my life. It hasn’t really mattered. You want to be positive; you should be positive, of course. But just because you aren’t doesn’t mean you earn negative things. Just because you feel overwhelmingly depressed doesn’t mean you deserve to be mistreated or that you will be. You are likelier to be in an unstable relationship than someone who is healthy and confident, because someone who is healthy and confident is less likely to take someone else’s crap, but that’s because they’re healthy and confident, not because their energy is repelling the wrong person. Please remember that.

At 17, I was told in a partial hospitalization program, after watching The Secret for something like fourteen days in a row that every trauma beyond my prepubescence was my fault because I was so depressed. I believed it for a long time, because I had been indoctrinated with this inane idea that because I had bad thoughts and bad feelings, was bad, and I deserved bad things. Don’t do that to yourself, and don’t let anybody do that to you.

5. The only love you should need is your own.

Again, this is one I want to be careful on, because there’s a good reason this one is circulated. Ideally, this is true. It’s important to love yourself, regardless of whether or not you are loved by anyone else. You want to get there someday.  But I believe some people are just not this independent, or that they are more people-oriented than others. Some people need extra support, whether they love themselves or not. Another person’s love cannot fix you. But I’ve learned over the years that sometimes external love is necessary to help heal someone, because sometimes you just don’t have enough on your own. I’m not talking about romantic love necessarily. Support from a friend or a family member can be counted, too. I’ve been helped a lot from friends and family in the past. But I know I would have never made it this far on my own. I need love from other people. Ultimately, I know I need love from myself. That is what will make me happy. But love from other people is what has kept me alive. I don’t think everybody needs it. I think many people are strong enough on their own. But some people aren’t. I’m not. And that is okay. I think it’s okay to forgive oneself for that. It’s important to forgive oneself for that. And I think it’s important to forgive someone else for that, and that is something the mental wellness culture does not really do. It is so concerned with self-reliance that it makes needing support and needing love seem too much like dependence when there is definitely a line between them.

So what are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? What are some things you’ve faced that you feel are myths? Please share in the comments below.

It’s been a while.

We are halfway through 2017, and I haven’t written in months. I have been hit by a strong wave of depression, and while trying to commit to usual self-care routines, I have not yet brought myself out of the void. I am tired and sad and weak. The only thing keeping me going right now is the love that I am surrounding myself with, which brings me to a point I haven’t really covered yet.

Many people recycle the line that you have to love yourself before you are loved, but please don’t listen to them. I think there’s credence to that in a sense that when you harp about people leaving, people will tend to leave, but it goes no further than that. I have coped for years in my past with self hatred and have been loved tremendously and wholly regardless, and for someone to further shame you for hating yourself is ludacris; don’t listen to it.

While we can’t control other people and we don’t have full control on who comes into our life, we do have more control over who stays in our life than we realize. Family is of course more difficult, especially when we are under 18, but for a great portion of our life, we can control the kind of love we accept and the kind of love we refuse. This is crucial to quality of life. Even as an introvert, I can safely say positive social interaction is as vital as food and water to human life.

Surround yourself with people who enrich you; who allow you to grow; who are honest with you and respectful; who are communicative and expressive, especially during times of conflict. Be a person who enriches others; who allows others to grow; who is honest and respectful; who is communicative and expressive, especially during times of conflict. This nurtures your spirit. This nurtures the world.

I strongly believe in self-sufficiency and self-reliance; I can even say I admire it above almost all else. But I am far away from it on my journey still, and I would be not be alive without the people who have supported me and who support me now. I will expand more on the concept of recovery from abuse soon, as suffering from abuse related PTSD, trauma from abuse is a huge and serious issue to me that I know all too intimately. But for now, I’m exhausted. For now, this is all I can do. I hope everyone is well today.

Sending all my love.

 

V.

On bridges

Let me begin with this:

I am pretty good at reading people. Unless I’m unusually invested at the time in building a bridge, I can usually and clearly see who is on the other end. The cruel irony of that is not lost to me. I see red flags, and I see them early, but I’ve been known to ignore them, especially during my lowest and most lonely points in which building bridges seems direly important. Once I consciously chose to ignore red flags, there were none that would keep me away. It didn’t matter if the flags were red with fresh blood, because I would make up reasons to build that bridge. Connection is important to me. Humans are important to me. Bridges are how I explore and travel the world. It’s a dangerous system, and I know it, but this is what brings me the most wisdom.

The importance of heeding your gut

Continue reading “On bridges”