lava finds its way to the surface and destroys the landscape

Sometimes, I’m an awful individual to the people closest or most impactful to me. Usually this is because I get so wrapped up in experiencing suffering that I feel it’s down to survival to strike preemptively even if there’s not an immediate threat.

The lessons of the destructiveness I can inflict while in this state are not new, are fairly embarrassing, and are costly. Over the years I have made course corrections; I barely ever drink at all now and try to make sure to do all the recommended things in terms of eating healthily and getting enough exercise, have found qualified people to talk to about any deep-seated issues. But still, sometimes eruptions happen in the bright, sober light of day and it seems impossible to get out of the grooves.

At times I think it’s because I’ve let my guard down in terms of not being in touch with my emotions, have let stress creep up on me, or I just have nothing left in the tank to buffer more difficult emotions.

As a kid I’d always been self-contained and stoic. Because I didn’t really cry often and wasn’t fussy when physically injured, my mom didn’t take me to the doctor for an ear infection until I had turned grey and was throwing up, or nobody would realize that I’d fallen and scraped my knee open until they saw the blood because I wouldn’t wail about it but would just get up and keep walking. Things that would make me cry and throw tantrums were having my hair combed (so when I reached second grade my mom finally just had it cut in a bowl cut), being forced to wear uncomfortable clothes like tights or scratchy material, the smell of chlorine, being frustrated about not being able to master something quickly, having someone accidentally sit on my imaginary friend, or being forced to do anything I didn’t want to do. When I was bullied in middle school, I had more meltdowns at home. During high school most of my angst and alienating behavior was related to coming to terms with my lesbianism and coming out of the closet, though before this became clear my mom often accused me of being interested in some boy who didn’t like me back and would try to supply beauty tips and otherwise support my ego about my appearance at the times I was receptive to talking.

During most of college I had typical ups and downs, but nothing too drastic. My first year, I had one woman I was totally crushed out on stop dating me after one big function and three dates, which was briefly devastating, but eventually I got over it. Mostly, college brought more ups than not. There were so many high points that at times that it actually became painfully uncomfortable to feel so high from all of the wonderful stimulation. I experienced an almost febrile state that was hard to feel grounded within. I was really lucky to go to college where I did.

The biggest challenges in terms of managing emotions that were too hard for me to cope with alone started in grad school or, if before that, then mainly in connection with my parent’s divorce, and since then have ebbed and flowed, the hardest pain points being around the ruptures in my relationship with my dad (we’ve been semi-estranged for awhile, and we both tend to bottle things up and then explode at each other in a terrible cycle), or with others I experienced injury from or around. I’m disappointed that this spills to affect even people I really care about and have no real wish to subject to my own bad weather, and yet I can’t seem to find a way to resolve it. It’s hard to feel so helpless when you’ve let someone become important to you and it can be frightening to feel at the mercy of their whims.

What I found really interesting was learning how the areas of the brain that respond to hormones are also affected by trauma, and that these two things can bounce off of each other to make everything worse:

Thank goodness that in this day and age, there are apps that can help one plan ahead for bad internal weather and to try to adjust activities accordingly. More recently, I made it ok through a really, really tough few days of pms, which was fairly depleting, only to then a couple days later be slammed by what I think was an anniversary reaction when I had nothing left in the tank after dealing with the pms, and kaboom, all my most fearsome emotions and worst qualities demanded – and got – a platform in my life in a fairly extensive fireworks display and subsequent collapse into a puddle. Over the years I had learned to anticipate and plan for both pms and remarkable calendar dates but this year it just seemed to slip past my radar and take me for a ride before I realized what was going on.

Physical arthritis is basically bone on bone with no cushion in between the moving pieces to smooth and allow for glide, and this is sort of what it feels like emotionally at these times: collapsed gears that can’t move well past one another; there’s just nothing supporting them, a feeling that the bottom is falling out of everything as my emotions plummet off of a cliff when my hormones shift, and outwardly radiating emotional pain.

I really hate the thought that I have to manage this stuff for the rest of my life, and it’s been really hard to accept that my brain has been altered in ways that mean, for example, that I have to be so mindful of stress or substances that may not affect others the way they affect me. Or that may mean I need to go in for regular coping or tune-up appointments. It also means I need to keep working on a toolkit. Nature, exercise, some mindfulness, and what has been harder has been building and maintaining deep relationships.

I have been thinking of trying a program called Conscious Girlfriend that helps people through the thicket. In the age of covid, attending the usual social events becomes weird. I’ve recently backed out of two large local events where I could meet people to date or be friends. I imagined myself showing up with my cane in a big loud room our outdoors area trying to talk as loudly as I could but still not loudly enough to be audible through my mask to some gal while few others were wearing masks, and not even be able to dance because of my ankle, and just decided not to get into my car to start with. Other people do things like Tindr (or maybe that’s just men, l don’t know) or OkCupid, but I just haven’t yet felt like jumping in. Or maybe I just need to be more imaginative or proactive and organize something around an activity I enjoy for one of the many lesbian meetup groups here. When I met the ex that I separated from last year, I was fairly new to the city and was just looking for friends and interesting people to talk to in a meetup group called Lesbians with Degrees. She was fairly new to the city also, so there was lots of city and surroundings to explore together.

The maker of RocketBook, a tool I’ve started using, said that one can really only focus well on two big goals at once. Now that my health and recovery goals are under better control, (and having learned how to cook better) perhaps I can start to shift focus to my social life while keeping my career as a constant with overtones of creative pursuits. Hmm.