Sorry if this post seems angry. I am actually not, maybe just feeling the effects of a pretty horrible weekend. ‘Mother’s Day’ weekend has pretty much been an excruciatingly tough weekend for me for a couple of years now (that story however probably will never make it here in its true form). I cry intensively both days of the weekend, walk out of it broken and head spun every time (the last two days have still been a mix of lows), so most of what is below is residual disappointing, maybe ridiculous thoughts about other things bothering me for the last while.
Maintaining and managing a relationship with a person who has a mood disorder can be complex. More specific to this post, maintaining and managing relationships with me over the past two years has been complex. I am not blind; I am fairly cognizant of the burdens I have put my friends and my family through, i.e.:
- I have been the recluse who has blocked phone calls from coming through and deleted any messaging apps off my phone.
- I have been the less severe recluse who just never wants to go out because I would rather sleep off the meds, so nobody bothers messaging me anymore. I know that some of my ‘groups’ have created sub-groups without me. It’s fair, life goes on whether I am a recluse or not.
- I have been the selfish person who never asks how the other person is (I am trying to do better with this – goals, goals, goals).
- I have picked fights with people aimlessly for no reason (this one less recent, more so last year).
- I have ended friendships with regret that perhaps should not have been ended (this one sometimes is a really hard one to contend with).
- I have pushed away concern and support because I do not feel enough ‘connection’ to want that particular support (this more so from a particular pocket of individuals; different story, probably will never get here).
Right now, I have entered some sort of reverent / apologetic state, where I want to make amends with the friends I pushed away, but at the same time figure out how to get to a place where I know they truly, authentically, honestly want to be there for me again, or figure out if they even want to. This does not mean hanging out over coffee/dinner, talking surface level about work, gossip and travel plans, and then parting after a few ‘laughs’ once a month – the once-in–awhile-fun-friend. This means the friend who is open to being there for both my ‘mental health’ side and my ‘regular side’. But, if the fate of most of my friendships is that they will only accept my ‘regular side’ – these days, the ‘put-a-facade-and-big-smile-on-side’ – I have to ask myself – am I okay with that? Truthfully, deep down – no – but I will accept it for what it is if I can continue being in these peoples’ lives because for whatever reason they mean something to me. If they don’t want to be there for my mental health side, I have to learn to let go of that. Everyone who can make sense of that – doctors, JH, others I have met with mental-health sicknesses have all said the same thing. They all tell me just to let it go. Honestly, just let it go.
But I am so incredibly stubborn. In so many ways, I cannot. People ignoring it, tip-toeing around it, elephant-in-the-rooming-it kind of kills me in every which way.
Truthfully, I want friends who want to be part of “it”, who get it a little, who want to learn about it, or at the very least who will acknowledge that it is there. They may not get it, the conversation may be one-time and short, but at least it isn’t forgotten. Human beings after all sustain and bring themselves up through others. I am not asking for a nurse or more doctors or constant dependency – I know I am my own support system, and for many days of my life, every day of my life, I will have to fight this on my own. I just desire sometimes more (even frequent and short spurts of) human empathy from everyone that I feel I could say that I love. I can’t explain it really well – but I do want to say that what I am trying to describe is that asking for human empathy and “look at me, look at me – for attention” are different things.
I feel my priorities are different now. I don’t just want the ‘fun’ friend anymore. I want friends who will ‘fight the fight’ with me once awhile, and actually give and remind me of a reason to live when I feel hopeless. As ‘strong’ as I think I am, I am the only person talking myself into downward spirals, thinking I am worthless, feeling empty and lonely when there may not necessarily be concrete reasons to feel empty and lonely. Doctors won’t know what’s going on until I go to them. And then they are not there for empathy. They are there to treat you. Friends and support systems are the people who revive you back to life. I want friends who will be there for JH too because this has been every single bit as hard for him as it has for me. I don’t ever want to be a burden, but sometimes, truthfully, I can’t get through all these complex emotions every single day by myself. Having someone ask me ‘how I am’ is a complex question with complex answers these days. Most often I will tell a white lie and say ‘I am okay’, but even asking me in the first place with the sincere desire for the real answer makes my day, my month, makes my year. If enough people do it, maybe the serial lows and numbness will one day finally go away. And well, the person who can call out the white lie and ask again wanting the truth, will probably just be that 1-2 (read more below).
Shift – I had this outrageous friend in high school. We fought and bff’d passionately all the time against the emo angst of bands like Nine Inch Nails, Tool, A Perfect Circle, black nail polish, and long, dark trench coats (ah the posers). We pretty much talked on the phone every single day, and my parents mom angrily thought I was dating him (not the case – he was dating my friend). In the end, we left high school with severed ties (he wrote in his final letter to me that I ruined him (long story), I wasn’t in the end the friend he wanted / envisioned, etc. etc. (outlined below) – I have heard since that he went into psychology (…)). All that aside, I will always remember one thing he said to me with the utmost clarity – he wanted that die-hard friend who in every cliché way possible, “stands by you” without question, without reason. Without you even saying a word, this friend is in tune with your feelings. This friend catches the tear before it even comes down. Drifting apart is not even a possibility because you both want to be there for each other so badly, even when times are tough for the friendship, they don’t know what to do, you don’t know what to do, and they have their own life battles to fight and their own life to live. They forgive you for your mistakes because they know you fucked up, but know always that you love them unconditionally and vice versa. I have always wanted that someone (and I do have people pretty much like that in some form or another – maybe not that way fully exactly), but in many ways, I wish I had that with all my relationships. I guess, if ever someone did have that with all their relationships, they are pretty lucky. My psychiatrist tells me that I should be so lucky if I just have 1 or 2 people in my life who are like that. So I guess I am lucky because I do have the 1 and 2. But I am still bothered a bit by all those who are not the 1 or 2, and who I have always thought were my ‘people’, and should be part of the 4 or 5, or 9 or 10, or 19 or 20.
Ever since my most recent bout of suicidal feelings, I have been having a rage of internal battles over why a great majority of my relationships do not actually want to learn about what I am going through or at least want to know if I am okay once in awhile before me doing the ‘ping’ first (well, ignoring first the fact that for some of the relationships, I do have to put the effort in to save them because I really fucked up). I am actually 90 percent sure that if I was not so vocal about my mental health problems on social media and sat moderately quietly at the dinner table every time, there is a good chance about only 5 people in my life (not including JH) would ever ask – what’s actually going on? – after all the friendship catch-up, talk of day-to-day ‘regular’ lives – even now, when I have come out of reclusion, and have been obvious about coming out of reclusion. I could ‘disappear’ again, and I think truthfully, nobody (except the 5 – or 4…maybe just the 1 and 2) would actually really notice. I have to then force myself out of reclusion to save everything because reclusion is such a social crime. And blah blah blah amidst all my complaints, yes – it hurts me. And I can put on a face, but sometimes I walk away and it doesn’t feel right.
Shift again – I recently met up with a friend, someone I have known now for about 13 years. Our relationship is not super close, but not at all surface level either (i.e. I would not call this person an acquaintance). Our catch-up was short (sub-30 minutes) because it was during the work day, and we tried to tackle as much conversation as possible because this person had gone through a life obstacle recently (actually around the exact same time (day after in fact) I went back to St.Mike’s for being suicidal). I let this person talk through all of his/her issues because I could sense that he/she wanted to vent. But after the venting, when it came to the few minutes left for me, this person seem passively disinterested to know what was going on in my life outside of JH, work, and gossip about people in our past. This person did not want to ‘pry’ (a word/statement I associate with stigma; a word / statement that makes me prickle) when I said “I am not sure you really know the ‘whole story'”, bracing myself to fill in all the gaps and holes. I tried to force myself to talk about it a little to give myself the chance to open up, but it felt forced as I 1) watched the person’s uncomfortable (or maybe the accurate word is dismissive) facial expressions and body movements, 2) heard the person’s short and curt responses, and 3) sensed the person’s unwillingness to ask any questions, so I just moved on really quickly from it. I
think know this person will need to be my ‘regular’ side friend only and I have to accept that. I walked away, it didn’t feel right, I wanted to literally scream out in frustration but it is not like I’m not going to end the friendship. I need to stop doing that. We just can only be friends for the ‘regular side’ and I have to ‘just let go’.
Don’t get me wrong, I know it is scary to ask someone straight-on about the experience of a suicide attempt(s), or how she reacts to medicines, her constant fears, her constant worries, and her stalled almost non-existent outlook on life. It’s weird to talk to someone who pretty much at this point thinks life is pointless and empty (some days), but will ‘chug’ through it for whatever reason seems reasonable that day (because it’s day-to-day here). I am still glad that this friend reached out to me, because I think in that person’s own way, reaching out is how he/she wants to handle being my friend even if he/she never wants to really talk about ‘it’.
Some people that I thought were my friends from a decade (more than a decade) ago never approach me unless I plan some superficial dinner at Christmas or the summer. I am always planning the dinners just to see their faces. Even when I had major anxiety and breakdowns over seeing my mother again (different story, different day, maybe not ever) at Christmas, I started the conversation to plan the dinner. My head flips from one person to the next, and I become more and more negative. Once in a while, I get more surprises from acquaintances actually.
Over the past month, I have had more acquaintances or people I am less close to, reach out with long, sincere, heartfelt honest words, shared experiences (breaking their own stigma, which is so incredibly amazing), even small things like posts they have encountered about mental health on social media – than people who I thought were my ‘people’. I have had acquaintances want to meet up with me specifically so we can share our experiences, and because they sincerely, SINCERELY want to listen, and that’s pretty amazing. In fact, I had such a meaningful conversation with an acquaintance last week who shared her story with me, that for that entire day, I felt so hopeful and positive about everything again. She instilled a hope in me that just lifted me out of numbness. In some ways, I wish I have had people like her in my life all along. But I know to say that, is not fair, because of course my own ‘people’ (even 1 and 2) don’t get mental health issues like a person experiencing mental health issues would, so they don’t naturally have that same ability to bring me up the way another person feeling and living the same unhappy experiences that I am – would.
So, in some ways I know it’s my fault. I pushed my friends away in the first place, and I’m not going to beg people to talk about my mental health problems, but I wish out of human decency that some of the people I thought were closest to me could push walls down….and just care to even say ‘hi’, and not let this be a situation of “let’s see who contacts who first”. And with some people, it has always been me contacting first; and I am tired of it especially as I battle anxiety every single day, and battle using my voice at work. JH’s thought process is that people are just afraid to or think that I would be embarrassed to be social, be embarrassed to talk about it (i.e. the friend who does not want to ‘pry’), and well, that just goes back to stigma. Maybe the people don’t actually want to be my friend – a viable possibility. Maybe some people just think that it is ‘something you have to deal with on your own’ and they don’t think they have to be there for you. They just want to be your ‘regular’ friend. But this is, I am told, going to be life-long challenge, so I can’t just ‘deal with it’ and it’s all okay tomorrow and then we eat, everyone laughs, some get drunk, while I sit there quietly holding my breath.
If I actually had the courage to tell someone –
Quick shift – (In the beginning, I told only my undergrad and high school best friends, and it was excruciatingly difficult – especially remembering now one reaction I received from someone who I thought was my life-long friend – “you are depressed, you have mental health problems – well, everyone is depressed, everyone has mental health problems” right after I just wanted to tell this person I was in the hospital for attempting to commit suicide….and now that person and I don’t talk anymore except when I remember this person’s birthday annually and I give the plain wish (this person unfortunately needs Facebook to remember mine, and I deactivated Facebook 3 years ago))
– firsthand (never mind this blog – it just happened to evolve) that I was going through something that is a life challenge, that I actually wanted to (with a plan) off my life at multiple points in time, that they actually visited me in the hospital (the ones in town), that they shouldn’t make me beg for them to talk to me or reach out to me more than once a year (at my initiative and not theirs). And so unfortunately, this bothers me every day and adds to my lows. My lows after all are predicated by my negative thoughts.
I have reached out to the people who have always showed concern (bless their hearts) and vice versa. I have reached out to people who want to talk about it surface level once but want our relationship just to remain ‘fun and lighthearted’ (which is okay) and vice versa. Now it’s other peoples’ turns. Now it’s anyone’s turn. And well, it’s the divide again – learning to separate my mental health side from the ‘façade of the regular’. Maybe one day it will get easier. It may take years, so my psychologist says. But for now, I’ll just cry my ‘cry’ of the day and try to move on.
Let’s shift again. I baked. I had to because we are going to New York this weekend. Thank goodness we are though because I am sick of Toronto. I am always sick of Toronto, but I feel especially sick of Toronto these days. Toronto adds to the numbness. Pretty much every single day of my life I wish I could leave Toronto and start over somewhere new. New environment, new faces, new experiences. Get away from everything that makes me think of emptiness, loneliness, suicide, worthlessness, unhappiness. But, that’s obviously not going to happen (sacrifices).
Anyways, here’s a strawberry-mint curd tart. It’s not the prettiest thing (the colour is really too pale, and the meringue piping could use major improvement…I don’t know why the hell my hands were shaking so badly – actually wait, yes I do – stupid drugs), but it tasted really fresh. The mint added something really summery to it.
The Not-So-Secret Secrets:
Strawberry Mint Curd Tart
- Pâte Sucrée
- Blind bake the pastry.
- Strawberry Curd
- Replace 216 grams of lemon juice with 216 grams blended / strained fresh strawberry puree.
- When the entire curd mixture is being immersion blended, add 3-5 mint leaves.
- Torched Meringue
- Extra strawberries and mint leaves to decorate.
- Yes, I use the same ‘fundamentals’ and ‘bases’ quite a bit.