Speaking

I’m still going to therapy every other week. This week was a no session week. I’m trying to remember a week back to our last session. What did we discuss?

I remember Ron did bring up this time that I’m cancelling a lot and wondered why. I just said I wanted some time where I wasn’t triggered, and that sometimes, therapy seems to trigger all kinds of emotions but doesn’t really resolve anything, so that I’m not sure how helpful it is.

Ron didn’t say much. I got the impression he doesn’t agree that we should have fewer sessions, but he didn’t say so.

I didn’t say this, but I also think I can commit to approaching difficult topics every second week, but not every week. I’m willing to sacrifice some days to therapy recovery if it’s not every single week.

I’ve been thinking about how alone I’ve been in my life, and how that’s especially evident now. I suspect one reason I can’t seem to recover from therapy is I have no one in my regular life to help me ‘regulate’. It sometimes is very helpful to have people around, not even to discuss issues with, but just people doing ordinary living. It helps me calm down.

I’ve noticed this at work. I now have the option of working with some other writers at a big table, instead of in my cubicle. I actually prefer the big table. I thought I would hate it and feel horribly exposed, but having little interactions with other writers makes my day feel so much better. Just being able to speak sometimes, or listen to someone else go on about something.

I spent one day in my cubicle at work, and was pretty much suicidal by the end of the day. No one spoke to me. It’s a bit of a bad atmosphere there at the moment as the contract is ending, although we haven’t been told that in any kind of an upfront way. As well, there’s renewed pressure to produce lots of work very quickly. And the PM is no longer friendly to me, maybe because I’m not that fast. I like to think about what I’m doing, and produce quality, and all he cares about is quantity, because that makes his project look good.

When I moved to the table the next day, I had a much much better day. Other people are in ordinary moods, and they are catching. If I want to grumble about something, I can, in a low voice. My mood was so much improved.

So generally I’ve concluded, although I do need some time to myself, in general I do better with people around.

Somehow I’ve ended up pretty much alone. My one friend and I seem to have had a bit of a falling out, unless I’m imagining it, so she hasn’t called in a few weeks. I know I could call her. I have my ex I suppose. He’s very misanthropic and unsociable however.

I feel that I am fairly well liked at work. Chance threw myself and my star co-worker, whom I disliked, together, and it turns out we do OK together. He’s pretty outgoing, and it’s helping me to practice being more outgoing also.

Having people around at work is cushioning some of the blows of work – the contract is not being extended as promised, the PM is asking for impossible quantities of work, and other things. I just think in the same way, if I had people in my life outside of work who were more reliably present, it would help me come out of the bad places therapy puts me into.

I’m not sure Ron can really conceive of my difficulties in sociability. His view is that we need to be authentic with people and have real relationships. But I think we first need to have any kind of relationships. If I have no ability to attract anyone, I need to work on that. I don’t mean attract as in sexually attract, but attract in terms of someone wants me around. And I will not be attractive to people if I’m completely depressed and unable to be social.

I just came back from a birthday tea for my sister at my parents’ house. I can see how my social anxiety developed by watching them. My mother basically doesn’t speak. My father has very set topics that he wants to talk about – his garden, his work when he worked. So everyone dances about him speaking in horrible detail about his garden, as if we were all fascinated by this, to appease him.

Some other guests came, and so the conversation veered to different topics. At that point both my parents stopped speaking at all.

I think the dynamic is that speaking puts you at risk. In my family it’s not safe to have your own life, your own experience and opinions. So no one risks speaking about anything. I do, and I get rejected quite a bit. For example, this afternoon my brother wasn’t veering far afield, but started to talk about how he wanted to plant a miniature rose for his front walk. I suggested a tea rose. Well. My father is obsessed with old fashioned once flowering varieties. My suggestion was completely unacceptable to my sister and my father. Because intelligent people only love the old style roses. It doesn’t seem to be OK to have your own opinion on what you like.

Anyway, I can see where I developed a fear of saying anything that dogged me for my first forty years. I experienced this as not being able to think of what to say, but it’s more that all topics were potentially humiliating, so I kept quiet. Even when keeping quiet was peculiar in the situation.

So now, I can speak, thank goodness. Just I haven’t peopled my life with people who want to hear me and speak back. Wanting people in my life doesn’t have much of anything to do with ‘authenticity’ though, as recommended in therapy. I don’t really want to pour my heart out at this point. I just want some people around who like me.

 

 

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8 comments
  1. I understand how this feels. It’s one of the reasons I love working in the operating theatre or outpatient clinics with other staff constantly around instead of seeing patients one on one in a consulting room – there’s a sort of sustaining warmth just from being around other people who aren’t random strangers. And isolation becomes a self-perpetuating thing where the lack of that contact and warmth makes you feel even more depressed and less attractive to other people and it’s harder to connect and foster new relationships. I have no real answer to this, but you have my sympathy.

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks DV. It’s helpful to know that others have felt similar. That’s exactly how it is for me.

  2. I completely agree with you. I think some of it is about small doses, small doses of authenticity. So, not pouring your heart out, but people who can tolerate your liking for tea roses. That may not seem deep or important, but that’s authentic too.

    One thing I have been thinking about is that basically as human beings we are looking for points of connection. We may not be able to connect with everyone about every topic, but we can find something of mutual interest with a pretty wide range of people. An ability to go around your life finding points of connection with various people gives spark and joy to life.

    I think I mentioned I have been reading Brene Brown’s books and they have been very helpful. She writes at one point about “floodlighting” which is basically jumping in too fast to too deep of emotional material before the relationship is strong enough to handle it. It drives people away. She talks about being selective about who we share the most vulnerable parts of ourselves with, and that makes total sense to me. That was part of what I didn’t know how to do.

    I don’t think these kinds of relationships, where you don’t share the deep and painful stuff with just anyone, need be shallow or superficial. You can put your authentic self into a tea-rose conversation.

    One of the things I noticed as a teacher this semester were times when I didn’t make eye contact and I should have with students. I’m too busy a lot of the time, and connections get missed. So I try to make eye contact with the person ringing up my purchase or just smile at the person out walking their dog, and I think it makes a difference in my life It creates this little pieces of connection that are pretty low risk.

    There is this other type of person–maybe like your dad. Who has all of these kind so of little interactions very artificially and it doesn’t have to be like that.

    Sorry this is so long. It’s been on my mind recently.

    • Ellen said:

      I like what you’re saying about small doses of authenticity. That seems doable to me, in a way that going out and finding that big deep relationship doesn’t. I sometimes forget eye contact with clients too, and that’s a good thing to remember to do.

      Overall I’ve had to and still have to overcome my FOO’s strange communication style, which is off putting to most people, and learn more normal ways of being with others.

      BTW never apologize for long comments – I enjoy them.

      Thanks

  3. Grainne said:

    I always do better around people too. Not necessarily directly interacting with them (too much of that leaves me exhausted) but just not being stuck alone in an office. I don’t know if you recall my last job at the hospital where my office was stuck in a mostly abandoned building where I worked with 10 people I didn’t like on a dead quiet office? Nearly lost my mind there.

    Sorry the contract at work seems to be coming to an end, but you should be very proud of yourself that you are one of the few that made it all the way through!

    • Ellen said:

      I remember that job, but forgot that it was too quiet. That is so what I mean – that isolation does strange things to your mind.

      Thanks Grainne

  4. I am so on the fence about this in my own life. I know I need to be with other people, that I often feel better after some time with them. But not all people, and not great big groups, and not that much. These days I kind of hide from social interaction and seek time alone. And then I’ll suddenly feel overwhelmingly lonely and sorry for myself and think there’s something wrong with me that I’m not more connected to more people.

    I’m rambling a bit, sorry. I suppose I mean to say, I see your loneliness, and I know how hard that can be. I also recognize how difficult it can be to connect even when you kind of want to. E says that risking vulnerability is the way to greater intimacy, and intimacy with just a couple of people will feed our souls. I think she is right, which is not to say I manage to do this well in my life.

    • Ellen said:

      I’m sorry you suffer from this also Q. I do hear that social withdrawal is a symptom of depression.

      For me, I have no one really. I believe you are married, so you presumably have at least one person to exchange even a few words with, which from my perspective seems enviable really. If the person is nice. I’m not so much withdrawn because I’m depressed, I’m more isolated even if my mood is OK.

      Yes, the risking vulnerability thing – I hear you. But when you are as isolated as I am, the first step is having anyone around – superficial or not. That’s what i think therapists don’t really get, because they have never been in that situation presumably. They’re people people – you can’t be a therapist if you have low social skills i don’t think.

      Anyway. Hope you’re doing well. Thanks

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