Content note: interpersonal difficulties
I told my (now former) therapist that I’d like to have close friends. I mentioned that I’d like it if we could share details with each other about our lives, and she said, “Why should they share details with you?” which made me angry cuz it seemed like she was accusing me of wanting to interrogate people, when I meant it in a spirit of curiosity, warmth and openness. If she wants to be a private person in her personal life, that’s fine, but it’s not fair that she shit on me for wanting to get to know some people well and let them know me. I wasn’t saying that every conversation had to be a deep heart to heart or that we’d need to talk every day like I would with a partner. I hate it when people twist my good intentions into something bad, something that they act like I’m appalling for.
Shaken, I told a forum about my experience with her and asked, “Is it okay to want close friendships?” Without knowing anything about my behavior, only the fact that I want close friendships, several people ganged up on me, all of them accusing me of similar things: being imposing, invasive, intruding into peoples’ personal space. I wouldn’t do something imposing or invasive or intruding like asking someone I didn’t know well a personal question or continuing to try to befriend someone who wasn’t interested. I hate it when people accuse me of acting in ways that I don’t act. It’s not fair. I don’t deserve to be labelled these things just for asking if it’s okay to want close friendships. I’m furious!
I’m no longer interested in becoming close with anybody. The therapist and the people on the forum got hostile in response to me expressing a desire for closeness with others. If people in environments that are designed to be especially supportive are getting hostile with me for this, people in everyday life would probably react with even more hostility. I thought that closeness was something good and special, but it seems that at least some people view overtures of friendship as a threat. I dunno how to tell who would be this way and who, if anyone, would be like me (which I doubt, I guess I’m just fucked up), so to be on the safe side, I’ll treat everyone as if they would consider any overture to mean that I’m a bad person, and not make any overtures at all. I need to protect myself from further hostility. My mental health can’t withstand it. I’ll just deal with being isolated for the rest of my life.
My (now former) therapist and I had an argument today, and the thought of facing her again stresses me out so much that I decided to switch agencies. She said that not every friendship will be a close friendship and people don’t have time to invest in friendships. I thought that friendships are supposed to be close, so I was upset to hear that, and I said, “That destroys me.” She accused me of having a mean tone. I got defensive and said, “I don’t appreciate the accusation.” She said, “You’re putting words in my mouth.” I said, “I’m not.” She said, “It seems like you’re trying to pick a fight.” I said, “I came here for therapy, to feel better and cuz Social Security forces me to. You’re just making me feel 10 times worse.” She made another accusation, I forget what, and I got so angry that I lost my temper, saying, “Shut up, asshole!” and I left.
I have a long history of difficulty getting along with therapists and people in general. I don’t want life to be like this. I constantly feel like a bomb could go off. People seem chaotic and threatening to me. That could be related to my schizophrenia. I wanna be able to be comfortable around people and have positive relationships. I wanna be a force of good in the world, someone who people can be comfortable around and who has a positive impact on peoples’ lives. I’m gonna go over my notes about the Nonviolent Communication book, by Marshall Rosenberg, again and start reading The Compassionate-Mind Guide to Anger, by Russell Kolts. I like that it has compassion in the title, since that’s something I value and a trait I wanna cultivate more of.
I hope to turn over a new leaf at the next agency. I’ll talk to the new therapist about the difficulties I’ve had getting along with other therapists. Maybe they’ll have ideas about how to make this relationship go better. One idea I have is to end the appointment early or leave the room for a little while and come back if I start getting upset.
I’ll continue updating the blog about my progress learning to manage conflicts.
My friend Clare has been saying things like “I guess,” or “I don’t know” in conversations, which makes me worried that she’s not engaged in the friendship. I also don’t feel like I’ve gotten to know her much from our conversations, even though she keeps agreeing to schedule instant messaging sessions with me every month (she lives in another city). I just messaged her to let her know what I observed and ask if she’s happy with our friendship/communication. I’m really nervous cuz I’m making myself vulnerable. Every time I’ve done that before with anyone besides my parents, the person hasn’t cared enough to talk things out with me. They always drop me when I do this. I’ve been criticized for using a direct and sincere style of communication. People have told me that our friendship isn’t a priority for them. Exes have brought up how mean they’ve been to me and told me that they’d rather break up than treat me better. I don’t understand why I get a cold reception from people when I’m warm and transparent with them. I feel alone and wonder if I’ll ever have good relationships in my life besides my parents, kitty, and therapist.
Earlier, I wrote about how someone recently accused me of being too formal and cancelled our date cuz I asked him what his expectations were for communication after he suddenly went from messaging me all day, every day to barely messaging me. I asked me therapist if I did something wrong, and she said no – that he and I just aren’t the right match.
I have anxiety, and interactions with people are one of my biggest anxiety buttons. I’ve decided that, since I bring my anxiety up respectfully, take responsibility for it, and don’t talk about it too frequently, it’s okay for me to bring up my anxiety, and right person for me, as well as the right friends, will be people who can be patient with me and can appreciate direct, vulnerable communication. Everyone has flaws, and it’s okay for me to have this flaw as long as I do my best to manage it. My flaw can also be a strength, since it enables me to catch relationship issues early on before they get bigger.
Earlier this week, I wrote about how I got rejected on a first date and how I dealt with it. Another tip that I have for coping with rejection is to keep looking for other opportunities. I got back on OkCupid and messaged someone else. Now I have a date with him on Monday. If I had given up, I wouldn’t have a date to look forward to now.
Another example of being persistent after rejection is J.K Rowling. She said that she received “loads of rejections” before Harry Potter was published.
If you keep trying, the odds are good that someone will eventually respond favorably.
I mentioned earlier that I was worried that my friendship with Kellie wouldn’t last, and I turned out to be right. We’re both going through stressful times in our lives. I became more anxious, and she became inconsistent, cancelling plans at the last minute or even not showing up without telling me she couldn’t make it, which spiked my anxiety even more.
I couldn’t handle it anymore and ended the friendship. I take responsibility for my role in our problems. We were in a cycle of neediness on my part and inconsistency on her part. I could’ve been more understanding. I’m not sure yet if I’ll need to limit myself to being friends with people who are able to be reliable to protect myself from anxiety, or if I’ll get to a point that I can handle my anxiety well enough to be more understanding of people who act like this.
I’m sad about the end of our friendship. I remember when she told me that I have a kind heart and that she looked forward to learning about my and my outlook on life. I felt the same way about her. What she said was a big boost to my self esteem, since people had complained before about how boring I am. I’m self conscious now about if people are having enough fun when we’re hanging out. Now the healing effect has been undone. My anxiety contaminated our friendship, and I find myself wondering if she’s glad that it’s over.
I keep ruminating about how things could’ve gone differently.
I’m trying to keep in mind that I don’t have much social experience. It was only a few months ago that I finally started to understand, thanks the my therapist, how making conversation works. Since I was mostly nonverbal for most of my life, I didn’t have much experience socializing. During what little socializing I did, I mostly just sat quietly with the other person till they got bored and moved on. Due to my lack of experience, I shouldn’t expect myself to be perfectly smooth at relationships right now. With this insight, I’m able to forgive myself for this failure and begin moving on.
Using empathy when someone says no to us can help us can ease the pain of feeling rejected (Rosenberg 121).
My friend Kellie recently moved to another state. We were planning to meet for dinner before she moved as a farewell. On the same day we were gonna meet, she cancelled without offering to reschedule, and at first, I assumed that meant that she didn’t wanna be friends anymore. My first instinct was to disengage, but then I remembered what I read about empathy. I said that I hoped she was okay, and I asked her if she was feeling pressured by all of the things she needed to get done before she moved. I said that I was afraid she didn’t wanna be friends anymore. She said that she was dealing with family issues and wanted to video chat after she moved. I’m glad that, instead of just not reaching out to her anymore, I expressed concern for her wellbeing, opened up about my anxiety, and tried to understand how she was feeling. If I had stuck to my initial instinct and assumption, I could’ve lost a friendship.
I asked my mommy if I could stay with her while I look for a place cuz my current living environment is difficult. She turned down my request, and I was really hurt. I thought that she must not care that I’m having a hard time. I felt like disengaging from that relationship, too. Again, I remembered what I read about empathy, and tried to find out more about what was going through her mind. She told me that she has become very introverted and needs alone time in order to process the information in her mind. She also worries about doing something wrong when she’s around people, which contributes to social situations draining a lot of her energy. I was better able to understand that turning down my request wasn’t about not caring about me, but about her needs. I think that empathy saved my relationship with her, too.
I’m sharing my stories to illustrate Rosenberg’s principle, and in case they help someone else who could be having difficulties with their relationships. My experience has taught me that empathy has a healing effect on relationships.
Rosenberg, Marshall B. Nonviolent Communication. PuddleDancer Press, 2015. Print.