Thursday, August 18, 2016

New York, New York, I don't want to be a part of it.

I just got home from a family vacation to New York City.  Most of us had never been before, including myself, and parts of it were quite interesting, but overall there's just a reason our family doesn't go on vacations all together any more and I'm returning home from vacation feeling more exhausted than rested.

I wish it wasn't true, but I hate traveling. I'm trying to figure out why. I think it partly has to do with my anxiety and my being a highly sensitive person (HSP). I feel like a snob talking about being sensitive, but I'm beginning to realize just how much it impacts my thoughts and experience. I think travel is so stressful for me because you're in a state of constant arousal, always on your toes, always anticipating what needs to be taken care of, instead of being in a safe, secure, known location. There's typically a lot going on around you, including lots of noise, you have to make split second decisions constantly, and you can't be sure what to do if you get hungry or thirsty or need to pee because you don't know the area. Not knowing what to do or what to expect factors into my general and social anxiety a lot, so vacations are awful in the sense that it's one giant unknown that my brain is constantly trying to plan for, but can't because it doesn't have the data.

All of this gets even more complicated when you throw in the equally erratic and anxious emotions of four other family members, so while the trip didn't go as awfully as I was afraid it might, I didn't exactly enjoy it either. I hated New York. It's smelly and dirty and loud and ugly and confusing and weird. But I felt guilty for not liking it because everybody's so freaking obsessed with it. I mean, how many songs have been written about the place, how many movies and books and TV shows set there? I feel the same way about traveling; everyone else is so passionate about how much they love it, I feel guilty for hating it. I wish I liked it more, and I actually don't totally hate it, but that's just who I am as a person and I guess there must be a reason for it. After all, if everyone traveled all the time, then booking a plane ticket would be even more terrible.

I guess I'm also having trouble because it's gotten to that point in the summer where I'm just tired of my family. It's not anything they do in particular, it's just everything they do. We've been together all summer so I'm just tired of their mannerisms and the things that used to annoy me a little bit have become almost unbearable. There were a couple time I wanted to jump out of the minivan on the car ride and just run home instead. I slept for most of the car ride in an effort to not hear conversation. I feel terrible that I'm so annoyed by these people who I love dearly and who have been very nice to me, whose lives I should cherish, but I also can understand why they are starting to get on my nerves. It's hard to be an adult living at home. It's hard to be a young adult trying to become independent but still being financially dependent on your parents and socially isolated from other people your age.

I met with a friend while in New York. We hadn't talked in a while because I felt like he wasn't very invested in the relationship so I stopped bothering to contact him, but I had told him I was coming to his area and, to my surprise, he asked enthusiastically if we could meet. I was touched because so many people have written me out of their lives, but anxious because, well, meeting someone again in a strange place + social anxiety doesn't mix well (not to mention the twinge of self-consciousness that comes from being forty pounds heavier than when you last saw a person). We ended up having a great conversation, and I even found out that he was seeing a counselor and trying to take care of his mental health and be more intentional about relationships because he realized that he didn't have much of a community, just a lot of acquaintances who didn't really care about him. This really resonated with me since I'm very passionate about forming relationships and being honest and open with people and investing into their lives. I was excited for him because I never expected him to have these kinds of realizations; he was always Mr. Business, rushing from one thing to the other and we didn't get to know each other as well as I would have liked when we were at school together because he was always so busy.

Leaving our meeting, I felt hopeful that maybe we could rekindle our friendship and have some genuine conversations since we had a lot of similar thoughts and I really appreciate people who are so honest and open. But as I've tried to text with him in the days since, I haven't gotten much of a sense of interest from him. His texts come off as distant and polite but disconnected, as if replying out of necessity rather than interest. I know part of this is just his tone, but I felt so discouraged and I really don't know how to handle the situation. Overall, I have just started to feel like there's no hope for finding a good friend. I feel like nobody really gets it and nobody really pulls their share of the weight in the vast majority of my friendships. And I'm finding that friendships conducted via written or texted word just aren't the same - it's all catching up with what you did last month and it can take weeks to get a reply and you can't tell whether the person is being cold and the conversations just aren't as good. I felt optimistic before about the new relationships I was building since I left my old school, ones that were more satisfying, but I just feel discouraged again.

That meeting with my friend left me with another set of discouraging feelings, namely, the longing for romance...Ugh. How I've come to hate that set of feelings. It has the power to destroy you by making you waste away, losing interest in current activities, pining after complete strangers in hopeless cases of unrequited love, and wasting precious time dreaming up alternate scenarios where whatever you're currently going as a single person, you're doing with a handsome Significant Other as a Happily Married Woman, a much more respected position, particularly in the world of Evangelical Christian culture. This used to consume my life until less than a year ago, and it made me miserable, though it's just pleasurable enough to keep you doing it. Ugh.

Anyways, I guess because I really don't hang out with men that much (read: not at all), being next to one for a couple hours was a bit intoxicating. In the past, I haven't necessarily had feelings for this guy, but when you're actually with a man, standing next to him, walking with him, sitting at a table for two semi-flirting, it just awakens something in you that you forgot about. It makes you realize what you're missing when you say you don't care if you ever get married. At one point, when we left the restaurant and stepped onto the street, I had to keep myself from grabbing his hand or blurting out, "It feels like we should be holding hands". That would have been mortifying...The point is though, that it made part of me really want a boyfriend - or just some real friends who actually care about me and make an effort. The only problem is, of course, that I don't really have a huge influx of new people coming into my life.

I guess now I feel stuck again. But nowhere near as stuck as I felt a year ago when I could barely even get out of bed. But life is confusing and discouraging, full of twists and turns that take you right back to where you were twenty minutes ago. I don't know how to handle these situations. I don't know what to say to friends to improve our relationships without hurting feelings or freaking them out. I don't know how to meet men and I'm afraid to meet the right person or fall in love. What if it ended badly or what if he cheats on me or what if I get tired of him or regret not remaining single and independent? Sometimes I wish we could all say what we mean and not hold back and tiptoe around subjects and give people the silent treatment. I'm terrible at the former and usually just go with the latter.

I wish I could get advice from my counselor, but I don't see her for another four days or so and we only have a couple more sessions together before she has to move on with her journey and I have to find a new therapist. Damn, I'm going to miss her. And, damn, am I afraid of opening up to a new counselor and having them lecture me or stare at me blankly or pressure me or misinterpret what I say. No matter how open the relationship, there are still some things you keep back, some things you're afraid of sharing. I fear marrying sometimes because it would mean I would have to share everything about myself, and I'm afraid they wouldn't accept some of the darker parts of my life.

I think this can be especially scary as someone who struggles with mental illness; not everyone understands that darkness, and some people fear it. Some people would run if they found out the thoughts you've grappled with, the temptations you've succumbed to, the moods you still have. But the reality is that we almost all have those fears; part of being human is that need to hide, that fear of exposure that keeps us all so isolated. But those moments when we break down the walls and let another person in and are freely accepted and embraced as we are - those are the moments of the divine.

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