Life, Therapy

My relationship with death

(In case it isn’t obvious already, this is about death, and it’s dark.)

We’re in a close relationship, death and I, but it’s a rocky one.

I saw you, death, for the first time when I was in 5th grade. I had heard about you before. I had heard what you had done to my grandpa, to my friend’s dog, to many others. But I hadn’t been present to see you in the same room.

In 5th grade, I saw you come and take my grandmother away. I saw her heart rate fall, fall, fall, until it got to levels at which she was surely unconscious, and we took the monitor off her finger.

I understood that it was her time. I loved her, but it was a peaceful way to go.

Then, the summer between 9th and 10th grade, you noticed me. Before, we were just strangers in the same room. Now you introduced yourself to me. You showed me my life. I saw it flash before my eyes. It was a good life, one I was proud of. You told me it was enough. You told me to come with you. You showed me peace and beauty, the calm in the eye of the storm. You took my breath away. I said okay. I didn’t have a choice, but I said okay anyway.

But you decided not to take me then. I don’t know why. Maybe it was fate. Maybe it was God, if he exists, thinking I deserved to live longer, that there was some plan for me. Maybe it was physics, just the way things moved in that moment, and my luck of being where I was. Maybe it was that I was wearing a seatbelt. Maybe it was that I wasn’t too tall. I’ll never know why.

You turned away from me and looked at my dad. He was too tall for the car. The physics did not work in his favor. I saw and heard horrible things. For maybe five minutes, I thought you had taken him. I imagined the rest of my life without him. I regretted not loving him more. I hated you, death. You caused pain, misery, and sadness.

And yet you didn’t take him away from me, either. It was an amazing gift, one that I struggle to be thankful for today, but it really was.

Time passed. You stayed in my mind. The image of peace stayed in my mind. The horrors stayed in my mind. For better or worse, you and I were linked together.

Later, when things were too much to bear, you knocked on my door. I invited you in. At some point, we must have started dating. I thought about you often. I fantasized about you, “Death + Me” written in a heart. I wanted to be with you, but at the same time you repulsed me. I hadn’t forgotten the accident. I hadn’t forgiven you for that. But the peace was so tempting.

I kept our relationship hidden. I didn’t tell friends, family, teachers, even my therapist, what you meant to me.

We’d break up. I’d swear we were never getting back together. I’d write lists of why I wanted to stay living. I’d plan things to look forward to. I’d make checklists to follow during the times when you tempted me, so that I wouldn’t give in.

I’d go without seeing you for a while. I would try to forget. But somehow you still called to me, especially in my dark moments, especially in flashbacks, especially when I was alone.

At some point I started becoming more open about our relationship. I wrote about it in my journal. I alluded to it with my friends. I confessed to my therapist when she asked me point blank. A few months later, my therapist and I told my parents about my relationship with you. They didn’t really understand. But they loved me and wanted to support me. They wanted to help me move beyond you. At the time, I wanted to be done with you, too.

You were my guilty pleasure, death, a secret kept hidden, but also a monster haunting me. You keep proposing. You keep wanting to run away together and get married. I keep saying no. But I’ve gotten so close to saying yes.

You always ask in my weakest moments. When I’m feeling better, I hate how close I came to giving in to you.

Death, I know you will take me eventually. Subconsciously, I expect that it will be soon, but I think that’s just because the horrors you left me with make me expect to die. You’ve never left me completely. You still feel close.

In the times I’m feeling well, I don’t want to be with you. You offer peace, but it’s mixed with pain for others. You offer peace, but it’s too soon. I have plans. I have dreams. I have relationships besides the one with you. I can find peace in ways other than what you offer.

I wish I could break up with you permanently. I wish that when you finally do come, it will be many, many years from now, after a full, satisfying, joyful, loving life. I hope when you do come, I’ll be sad to leave.

For now, I am working on healing from my relationship with you.

Advertisements
Therapy

Wanting to be my friends’ therapist

Recently I’ve been struggling with an urge to act like a therapist towards my friends who are emotionally unwell. I am not a therapist.

And I am certainly not their therapist. But, I can relate to many of the issues they struggle with. I know (some of) the issues well and know ways that I have overcome them or ways that other friends have overcome them. I am also a friend. I enjoy spending time with, appreciate, care about, and want the best for my friends. So I want to help them, and feel like I am able to help them, but…

A therapy relationship is different from a friendship. People aren’t always ready to be pushed or analyzed—they’re just saying random things, and even if the things they say are concerning, people just want to go about their day and not be bothered, corrected, or dragged into painful memories. I wouldn’t want to push that on someone, and I don’t want to act like I’m superior to anyone.

I also don’t want to constantly push advice on people, even if I think it could really help them and it comes from a place of good intent. I very rarely say, “you should…” because I know from personal experience and from hearing many people’s experiences that “should”s can be annoying and unhelpful and make people feel worse. But I do say things like, “When I’m feeling x, I find that y really helps me z” and “What if you did x?” I don’t think saying these things is harmful if I don’t say them that frequently (I think they’re probably helpful and appreciated), but if I’m saying them a lot, I wonder if it starts to get annoying.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I guess one of the main ways I interfere is to try to change my friends’ negative beliefs. I have one friend that consistently says things about how she’s lazy, she has no friends, she’s a bad influence on other people, people don’t want her around, she’s failing, etc. I feel really sad when I hear her say these things because I firmly believe they’re not true and that that’s just her depression talking. It makes me really sad that she truly sees herself this way.  I sometimes try to argue back and say that I disagree, and we can agree to disagree, or I try to remind her that I am her friend, x is her friend, and she was really worried about that last test but ended up doing well so maybe this one won’t be as bad as she expects, and Halloween is coming up so that’s something to look forward to, etc. I don’t know if I’m actually being helpful though. I suppose I could ask… asking would be a good thing to do but would require courage and finding the right time and wording it correctly.

I just want to fix all my friends’ problems.

Another part of my problem is that I’m not entirely sure how to have a close friendship without it being a therapeutic relationship. My relationship with my therapist that I’ve had for a few years was my first real place I shared a lot of things I had kept inside me for years. I feel like when I make close friendships now, they’re modeled on that relationship – I ask questions and listen similarly to how my therapist would. (Not the same way, though; I’m my own person) And the people I feel closest to are the people I talk about my mental health with.

Most of my closest friends also have mental health issues.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with writing this. I’m also not sure what to do about this in general. I’m not even sure if it’s a problem or not.

I guess the part that’s a problem for me is that I feel more distant from my friends when I’m acting more therapist-y because I feel like I’m less “on their level,” even though I am.

I also want to be friends in a way that doesn’t have to do with mental health. I guess I do this sometimes when we watch movies or go to events or cook together or talk about what makes soup soup (it was a hilarious discussion).

It’s also a problem for me because I stress about my friends not doing well, and I worry about whether I’m acting wrong and what I can do better.

And, this could also be a problem for my friends if I’m making them feel worse.

So… something to think more about later 🙂

Coping Skills

Staying Busy: The Coping Skill of the Week

This week has been better than the last week, and I think it’s because I was busier and did more things.

I went on a walk with a friend, had lunch and hung out with another friend, did some volunteering online and in person, went to my high school’s graduation, went to a reunion, repainted my door, cleaned my room a bit, helped out at the dress rehearsal for my sister’s dance recital, went to therapy, taped things up on my wall, started a new project for my family, and started learning new languages on duolingo.

I had some bad days this week, when I was feeling depressed, or anxious, or triggered/flashback-y. But I also had some great days: the day I hung out with my friends, the day I volunteered, the day I went to the reunion, the day I discovered duolingo.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I felt best when I was busy doing things. I think staying busy helped to keep my mind off other things. It was good to be around people, too. I felt valued and not alone, and being with my friends reminded me of good things I that used to like and had forgotten about.

It also felt good to be productive. My repainted door looks beautiful. I did that! It took a good amount of time and a lot of help from my brother, but it’s very satisfying to have it back in my room now in its beautiful, new, sky blue color.

Duolingo is another way that I can be productive. Instead of mindlessly turning to buzzfeed, I can open the duolingo app and actually learn a new language. I can see my progress very quickly, and it’s really cool to think of the new skills I’m learning.

Yay! Now I just have to make sure I have plans for next week, too. 🙂

Life

What does “I’m fine” mean?

I say, “I’m fine,” a lot. When people ask me how I’m doing, when people ask me if something’s wrong, when my mom ask me if I slept well or had nightmares, I say that I’m fine. But I don’t really mean that I’m fine.

The way I see it, the answers to “How are you doing?” go in this order, with the best at the top and the worst at the bottom:

  1. “awesome,” “fabulous,” “amazing”
  2. “great”
  3. “good”
  4. “okay”
  5. “not great,” “not good”
  6. “bad”
  7. “terrible,” “awful”

“Fine” isn’t on there. That’s because “fine”‘s meaning, at least for me, switches around a lot. Some of the time it means “okay-ish,” but it could be anywhere in the range between “good” and “terrible.”

I talked about this with my brother, and he said that “fine” means “good.” He pointed out that if you say, “It’s a fine day,” or that you went to “a fine restaurant” or you saw “the fine arts,” you’re talking about something good. “An okay day” sounds worse than “a fine day.”

But somehow, when it comes to talking about how people are doing, “I’m fine” doesn’t sound as good. (Is this just me? Do other people really mean that they’re great when they say they’re “fine”? I’m tempted to think not, but maybe I’m wrong?)

When I say, “I’m fine,” I mean that I am not doing super well, but that I also don’t want to talk about it.

It might be upsetting to talk about, and I don’t want to get all worked up right now. Or this might be an inappropriate situation, where we don’t have time for a long one-on-one talk. Maybe I’ve just run into an old friend and want to catch up, but we’re around other friends, and we’re both in the middle of doing other things. Or maybe I’m just not close enough with the person to tell them the truth and invite them into my life.

Most of the time, though, I say “I’m fine” when I want someone to know that there’s something wrong, but I don’t want to say more about it.

If it’s someone I’m close to, maybe I’ll tell them later. I might want them to know, just not now. It’s sometimes a little cry for help, in this case. I might even want them to ask me about it later, in a safer place. Maybe.

If it’s someone I don’t know that well, I probably don’t want to tell them anything else, but I say I’m “fine” because I’m sick of lying and saying I’m “good.” I want them to know I’m not “good.” I know that if I’m doing horribly, then “fine” is a stretch or a bit of a lie sometimes, too, but it’s not as much of a lie as “good.”

That’s what I mean when I say I’m fine. What do you mean when you say “fine”? And how are you doing? 😉 Personally, I’m having a good day but a bad month or two.

Coping Skills, Positives

Something over Nothing

(Please be aware that the first part of this post has to do with life/death and wanting to die.)

It’s the name of my blog, so I might as well say why…

I believe something is better than nothing. That’s why I’m alive. If you’re dead, you have no opportunities, no chances, no smiles, no sunny days, no cute babies, no flowers. None of that. If you’re alive, you might have a lot of pain. It might take up almost the entirety of the day. Or the week. Or longer. But it is not like that all the time. There are still some good things. There are some good moments.

Once, when I was having a bad day, had been in the throes of a flashback all morning and part of afternoon, was overwhelmed by school and life, and wanted to die, I had a meal with my friend, and she asked me what good thing had happened that day.

I nearly started crying at the question. I thought there was nothing good. Everything was horrible. But I thought about it. It took some time, but I came up with an answer. I had had peanut butter on my bagel that day, and it tasted good. I told my friend this. She smiled, and we talked about how good and versatile peanut butter was. It was a lighthearted conversation. It lightened my mood and made me realize what other good things there had been that day. I had had other good foods to eat. I was currently talking with my best friend, an amazing person.

There were a lot of things going wrong, but it wasn’t all bad. There were still things I could enjoy in life. As long as there is still something in this life for me (and I think there always will be, since even if nothing else good happens in a year, spring will always come), I. am. staying. here.

agriculture cloudiness clouds cloudy
Photo by Ghost Presenter on Pexels.com

I also remind myself that something is better than nothing when I start to worry about making things perfect. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good enough.

In school, it’s better to submit an incomplete or imperfect assignment than to submit nothing at all. It’s much better to fail an assignment than to get a zero. I’ve been there and done that! Zeroes affect the final grade so much more than even a 50%. I once spent a whole year trying to bring up my history grade from one zero on a summer homework assignment at the very beginning of the year. If I’ve been in class a little and done some work on the assignment, I can make something. It’s much better to submit what I have than to not submit anything. Even if it’s below the minimum page length. Even if my code doesn’t execute. Even if I know it’s the wrong answer. I tried. Most teachers give partial credit. Some are even understanding when I explain that I couldn’t do it or haven’t been in class all the time because of mental health issues. Some will give me an extension so I can bring up my grade from at 50% to a 70, 80, or even 90%. Partial credit exists and is beautiful, and teachers are humans and understand struggles. 

I often worry about sending the perfect text or email, too. I delay replying until I know what perfect thing to say. But at some point, a quick, short, not-the-best-but-okay reply becomes more valuable than the perfect reply a week later… if I even send it a week later. Sometimes it’s just better to send something and let the other person know I’ve read their message. I can give a quick answer, or maybe say that I’ll get back to them later. But I’ve said something, and that counts for a lot. It’s better communication.

Even with this blog, I could have waited a few more months, or years, before starting it. But who knows what will happen in a few years?! I can do what I can and learn more as I go along. But I’m starting something now.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

Let it be good enough.

Something is better than nothing. 

bridge daylight guidance high
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com