Gradual vs. ‘Forced’ Growth

Hi lovely readers,

Happy Friday! I know many of you are likely back at work these days, so I hope you’re looking forward to your weekend and that it is restful, or full of all the exciting newfound freedoms we have as quarantine begins to lift. My last post was quite heavy, and when I wrote it I was really struggling. I have struggled since, as well, however after a conversation last night with a friend that, in the moment, I kind of tuned out, this morning I was able to do some things I haven’t tackled in a long time, as well as make some changes that were really needed, and I actually have a positive feeling in my heart and even a smile on my face as I write this.

I won’t share much of the backstory, but I essentially, that day, had realized someone who was previously interested in me had lost interest. I liked this person a lot in terms of how kind they are, and funny and smart, but I wasn’t necessarily really attracted to them or at all emotionally invested. Still, I found myself questioning my own worth and my physical and social attractiveness and actually cried – which is an odd thing to do unless you’d been dating someone and unless you’d been really invested in them. But I did that because I base my self-worth so much on the opinions of others that it doesn’t even matter who someone is to me in terms of whether they can shatter my opinion of self. Literally, someone I’ve never spoken to in my life and who hadn’t even seen so much as a picture of me could talk about me in a negative manner and I would pretty immediately feel a drop in my stomach and wonder which of the million things that are wrong about me was the catalyst in that situation. But, fortunately, I have a friend who is very… rational, and very kind. He has an unusual understanding of me and way of simplifying the overly complex way I process life and my experiences, and he doesn’t really mince words for the sake of being nice either, haha. He’s very honest, to say the least, but also compassionate and a wonderful listener. I was sort of miserably ranting to him about how I am such a messed up person, in terms of my past with drugs and suicidality and self-harm and erratic behaviour as a result of my Bipolar and PTSD, and with regards to the issue with moods I have now and likely will have to some degree for the rest of my life. He said two things, one of which was that if someone didn’t want to hear about who I really was, both my present self, who he said knows to be very accomplished, sober, and kind and smart and funny, and my past self, who had a lot of challenges to overcome but who eventually did manage to climb those metaphorical mountains, then he obviously wasn’t the one for me. I lamented further and put myself down, and he said, “I think you should be doing what I’m doing Liz. Just pick some things that are really important to you, and just to you not anyone else, that you want from life, and work on that. If talking to people right now is affecting you in this way then you probably should just work on yourself and work on your goals, until you get to where you want to be with respect to those things, and then you either will or won’t meet someone who would be great to be with for the rest of your life, but regardless you’ll be pretty happy.”

That was actually the attitude I went into being single with. But because I’d been so ridiculously codependent for almost 12 years, I had no experience with being alone, I had no sense of self, and I had no internally driven motivation. I always have done things to people-please. So it was really, really scary to be in my own skin, wholly, and to be left to find determination and will-power just because I wanted to get somewhere in life. I found is so intolerable that I downloaded dating apps just for the sake of communicating with others in the context of finding a relationship, when I knew that shouldn’t and wouldn’t happen, because I needed both the validation and the human interaction. I was so out of practice with being a present friend and family member it felt like pulling teeth to get myself to reach out to people I actually love and feel at ease being around, so I was super lonely without a romantic partner.

Sometimes, it’s good to make change in baby steps. I was so unhappy when I first became single that I got closer to making an attempt on my life than I had in about a year, and that, obviously, wasn’t really feasible to maintain. And, being single came with so many new things I needed to work on and so many aspects of personal growth that had slid to get together again, such as exercising, overcoming my anxiety related agoraphobia but without the help of a partner who lived with me, I had stopped journalling, I had stopped working on school with as much consistency, I had stopped cooking for myself, I hadn’t ever cleaned a relatively spacious one bedroom apartment all by myself. So I was brutally overwhelmed. So I let myself have little allowances, like a dating app account, and I didn’t jump back into working out like crazy, I just went for walks or did a short pilates YouTube video whenever it felt right, which at the beginning was somewhat often, and I made it a goal to facetime a friend just once a week, and to do a big clean (because I find that satisfying and almost fun) once a week, as opposed to doing what should technically be done and cleaning as you go every day. I journaled, but only in the form of making lists, like a gratitude one, a list of goals, and a list of affirmations, and I didn’t beat myself up when I skipped a day.

However, the point, really, of this post, is that there is a time for taking baby steps, and there is a time for taking a leap of faith and courage and getting some shit done, once you’ve had some practice. Of course, and this is something I talk about a lot on my blog, there are fluctuations in ones mental health that are uncontrollable and that could really change the outcome of your efforts in a day, or whether you can make much of what you’d normally as an effort at all. But, when you do have the slightest bit of energy, and motivation isn’t necessary – just a countdown from 10 and a deal you’ve arranged with yourself that’s absolutely binding that says you have no other option but to do what you know you need to do – do it. Because, if you never use that opportunity, things get out of hand with the allowances you’ve been making. I, for example, got both addicted to dating apps and yet also horrific PTSD-related anxiety from them because frankly, they do NOT attract the people who I typically would want to get to know, for the most part, and who in fact have incredibly scary and aggressive misogynistic attitudes, and ways of speaking to and about women. I was appalled and terrified, but I couldn’t give up my search, and it turned into a bizarre total emotional detachment from people but also, at the same time although it’s contradictory, a burning desire to find the exact right person to be with for the rest of my life. It made me very tense and eventually really depressed, which trickled down into my ability to do any form of self-care, both gentle and productive, and spiralling into having cravings to use drugs for the first time in a long time, as well as what honestly was a nervous breakdown for a little bit. I had to call it. I had to say, “Okay, so we’ve had our time making this period of growth less shattering and exhausting, but now that we’ve done that we need to experience some discomfort for the sake of taking steps forward, as opposed to steps back.

Today, I am able to do that. Do I wish I had realized this a bit sooner? Absolutely. But, I’m here and that’s what matters. Is it going to be super hard the next time I have to make another change or surpass another comfort level? Yep. And I will give myself some ease when it is absolutely necessary in the beginning, but I will listen to any thoughts I might have about it beginning to send me backwards to be so “self-compassionate” and that it isn’t really self-compassion anymore at all.

Thank you so much for stopping by to read, lovely reader, and again, have a great weekend! Your support is so appreciated.

Lots and lots of love,

Liz

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