I’ve been awake since 3 am and it’s now 5:30. Sigh. I’ve been waking every two hours for a few weeks now, but I have been able to go back to sleep until tonight. During the day I’m tired and tearful. That black frustration with myself for being unable to sleep sets in.

I’m lonely. I’m worried about never working again. I met a former colleague for coffee last week, which was nice, but i did learn that a number of people were hired back to a project I was on over the summer, and I wasn’t called. Whatever. I didn’t enjoy the project. At the same time, I feel I’m not valued and I could have used the work.

Last night I attended my 12 step group. It did not go well and added to my sense of disconnection from everyone. I am not very able to tell a story. I do share, but what I share is these fragments, instead of a connected thing. I don’t know how to share in a way that will mean something to anyone else. I do feel I’m a failure at 12 steps. I don’t get how they work and how they would apply to me. The first one is I accept that I am powerless. OK, but for me, how does that help?

A lot of the people there keep saying how grateful they are to the program. I tend to feel that they think if I was serious about the steps, getting a sponsor, finding my higher power, then I would get better. The fact that I’m massively depressed shows that I suck at the program.

This is really negative. I haven’t plunged into step work etc partly because when I’m working I get too exhausted to go to things. In addition, I think a lot of it is not that applicable to my situation. I don’t really identify a lot with co-dependence – the idea that I don’t value myself but instead try to feel better by controlling/helping others. I don’t think that’s my main issue at all. And, to be honest, I’m afraid of being triggered into more issues that I won’t be able to handle.

Part of it is that I can’t figure out what my issue is. I don’t have a diagnosis. Is it the social anxiety? The dissociation? The depression? The anxiety? The work difficulties? The feelings of disconnection? The isolation?

Being unable to form any connections in this kind of a group seems especially telling. People here are kind. They are there to listen to each other. Truth telling is encouraged and feelings are accepted. I just have trouble expressing my feelings in a way that others can relate to.

I am actually quite competent compared to some who go to this group. I am able to work at fairly complex jobs. But others like me seem able to then also discuss themselves in a complex way that makes sense. You can see they are intelligent and have a grip on what’s going on. I lack that entirely. I probably sound kind of remote and disconnected in what I do say.

The thing I like about it is that I can go and feel really bad and not have to disconnect from how I feel necessarily. In any other social situation, you do need to have a social manner and can’t sit caught up in your own depression or whatever. So I did sit and feel bad, which was at least staying connected to my own truth in that moment. But then, not being able to communicate and connect with anyone ended up feeling really bad also.

Maybe the feelings I have towards this group echo the feelings I had in my family? My family feels very disconnected. When my father stopped speaking to me when I was a young teenager, I must have felt invisible, as if I was nothing and worthless. My mother entirely discouraged any expression of feeling whatsoever. The myth was that feelings were maybe unclean, unacceptable, and that intelligent worthwhile people didn’t have them. Of course, now I know that feelings made my mother uncomfortable, and that it was just nicer for her to pretend that feelings don’t exist.

And yes, that would feel disconnecting. Like I feel so painfully in this group – that feeling of being different, not being liked, being entirely alone.

That would be enough to keep me from sleeping. That frightening feeling of absolute aloneness. If I cry, nobody comes.

I remember one way of trying to feel part of the group is to go up to people after and say how I relate to what they shared. This time I didn’t greatly relate to anyone’s share though. Maybe next time I will try again.

  1. DV said:

    Some of what you’re describing I see as flaws in applying the 12 step model developed for alcoholic men to traumatised women. It’s something I’ve discussed quite a bit with my sister, who is in Overeaters Anonymous (her husband is a recovering alcoholic in AA). There is some stuff which just doesn’t apply, and trying to do so seems actively harmful.

    • Ellen said:

      Interesting. I do wonder if the structure and principles that may work for addictions are really that transferable to other life difficulties. People in the group do seem to think so. I’m mainly going in order to have a place to share a bit and meet others who are also trying to work through difficulties, but I’m struggling a lot with the philosophy. Thanks

  2. Ashana M said:

    I relate so deeply to what you are saying about disconnection and the sense of incoherence and not being able to tell a story. I think that is one of the core features of whatever my problem is: there is something disconnected and incoherent about my mind and it makes it hard to communicate or be understood.

    • Ellen said:

      God, exactly. It’s so difficult to even explain what the difficulty is, and incoherence seems a good word. I feel such envy of people simply because they can tell their story in a way others can relate to, while I can’t seem to. Thanks

  3. Ashana M said:

    I feel like this is what therapy is for in my case–just to learn how to explain things to people in a way they can understand.

  4. I find group work hard. Maybe part of it is you find being In a large group hard too? its hard to connect even though your all pretty much there for similar reasons. xx

    • Ellen said:

      I find it hard also Many. I also think that my issues are a bit different from the majority there. Thanks

  5. Grainne said:

    I’m not a group session person either. Either ON, like I am at work or OFF. I don’t have a linear sense of my issues either. Once, I wrote a post about how I couldn’t connect with the world and have issues relating to people. You commented that you never would have guessed I had any social issues and I absolutely understood that comment. I can seem to be connecting when I’m really feeling all those things you just described.

    More than anything, you not being called back for a contract you didn’t really like but still felt so devalued because they didn’t want you… that is clear as day and completely relatable to me (and many others I’m positive!).

    You tell your story just fine here Ellen. I follow you, understand and relate and there is a strong historical narrative that makes complete sense to me. I might not be the best example of how clearly your story inpacts, as my perspective is often skewed, but, if it helps any, know it’s always in your favour. Xx.

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks Grainne, so glad you can relate. I do write a lot better than I speak though. I was thinking if I wrote out what I shared, in the words I used, I’d bet you’d see what I mean. I leave an awful lot of background and connections out when I’m speaking. Some people go on for too long, but i’m the opposite, I blank out about what I’m trying to talk about, so it sounds disconnected and abrupt.

  6. I failed in a group I went to. Yes, the leader of the group blamed me and my counselor for me being there at all. She basically expressed that I didn’t belong in a group for women healing from abuse. It hurt. Some groups are exclusive, from the description of your family they were one of those groups. Hugs. I am sorry you are going through such a tough time. What you describe of feeling disconnected I am so familiar with that feeling. I believe you described your reaction very well. Hugs.

    • Ellen said:

      Very strange that the group leader thought you didn’t belong in such a group. And yes, my family is exclusive. Thanks Ruth

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