Psychoanalyzing my Dad

Recently, my dad has done a shitty thing. He’s always been selfish and unreliable, but this was a new low. While speaking with my counsellor about this recently, he asked if I knew why my dad might be like this. I know this wasn’t the intention, but his question prompted me to begin a process of internet searches and unprofessional diagnoses in an effort to understand my dad for the first time in my life.

I recently wrote a post about my childhood, and a lot of that content involved my dad, so there will be some overlap. Just a heads up.

My dad has been what he is for as long as I can remember. At a young age, I accepted that he would never change. I never had language that described my dad succinctly; when it came up, I could only say that my dad was my dad. He was different. And not in a good way. To explain the problem, I would have to explain everything. And I hardly have the language to do that. But language is the vehicle I am currently using to communicate this story, so I’m going to have to try.

The Story:

I don’t remember my dad being an especially unique parent until his divorce from my mom. He briefly lived in a townhouse where my sister and I stayed part-time, then we moved in with his girlfriend. I’m increasingly convinced that household was abusive, but I still can’t explain why. My sister has more specific memories, but I just remember how I felt. There were countless little things that all culminated in a shitty situation. When they broke up a couple years later, we quickly moved in with his next girlfriend. My dad asked if I thought it was too soon; I said it was; it happened anyway. After that relationship ended, my dad, my sister, and I lived in a townhouse. My dad promised me he wouldn’t move in with another girlfriend until I graduated high school. But six months later, we moved in with his next girlfriend. (Throughout this time, my sister and I lived part-time with our mom) Eventually they got married, but last year they divorced. My dad lives alone now (with my sister still visiting part-time) but he has a new girlfriend.

Then there were the broken promises. For years on end, my dad would claim we would take a family vacation in the Summer, and it never happened. At one point, we were going to get a dog. Nope. My dad would promise me a ride, or say my sister and I would get home at a certain time. No. These might sound petty, but the consistent inconsistency was frustrating.

But again, it was mostly the little things. Never being able to visit my friends. Being looked at like a brat when I asked to turn up the heat because I was cold. Having my dad scream at me if I got upset about any of this. When he got married without inviting my sister and I, I never expressed my sadness because I knew he would get mad. We always had to be happy for him. We always had to forgive him.

And I’ve always loved him. He’s my dad. I’ve been convinced that he loves me, because he makes a point of saying it every once in a while. That he loves me and I’m the reason he’s gotten through everything. And he gets incredibly clingy when I don’t live with him. But after some research and reflection, I’m not sure of these things anymore.

Current Thoughts:

I’ve become somewhat convinced that my dad has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or some undiagnosable level of narcissistic traits.

I have thought this in the past, but I forgot about it, since my dad is not the person I picture when I think “narcissist”. He doesn’t seem to have an inflated ego, and doesn’t go around bragging about how great he is. But he has so many other features, and exhibits these traits in subtler ways. Yesterday, my mom said something about my dad thinking he’s the centre of the universe and everyone else is just a satellite, and it made me think there’s something to this theory of mine.

My dad is selfish; this has always been obvious. His needs come first, and everyone else is an afterthought. But what’s always struck me as more pathological is the way my dad reacts to other peoples’ emotions. He seems GENUINELY confused. He doesn’t just seem angry when his actions impact other people; he seems surprised. Like it never occurred to him. That can’t just be regular selfishness. To this point, one symptom of NPD is “Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.”

Further, as I said, criticizing my dad in any way is futile. He gets extremely angry. Though not a diagnostic criterion, it is a feature of NPD to react with disproportionate anger and hostility to anything threatening one’s ego.

Many of the diagnostic criteria involve an inflated sense of self-worth, which I never saw in my dad. But on reflection, there is something there. He owns a soccer academy and thinks he’s going to fundamentally change Soccer in North America, maybe leading to international success for the men’s team. That’s a bit much. He also had trouble working with others before he was self-employed, as he doesn’t like taking orders. And he’s done well in the business world, which is apparently correlated with NPD diagnosis.

I might be grasping at straws, but in some areas, this assessment makes so much sense. My dad has always lived in his own world, disconnected from the thoughts and feelings of others. He has made countless decisions with little or no regard to anyone but himself.

When I began reading about narcissistic parents, what I found disturbed me. It is claimed that narcissists have children, not to care for the child, but to have someone they can control and someone who will love them. Essentially, they don’t love the child; they want to fill their own emotional needs. And when I look at my childhood, this kind of makes sense. Whenever my dad has told me how much he loves me and that I’ve gotten him through so much, it’s possible that he’s trying to make me feel guilty enough to stick around. Maybe he ignores me when I live with him but gets clingy when I move out because he wants to control me. Looking back, I think he’s only really expressed affection when he’s in danger of losing me. So there’s that.

I’ve also read that children of narcissistic parents often learn to view their own needs as selfishness, and thus have trouble expressing them. This has been a huge issue for me. It feels nearly impossible for me to ask for anything, because it feels so selfish and inappropriate. I shouldn’t need anything from other people. I can’t inconvenience them.

Maybe I’m reading too much into things that aren’t there. But a lot of what I am reading makes sense, and whether this diagnosis is true or not, framing my dad’s personality in terms of narcissism makes a lot of things make sense. He’s always been an unpredictable enigma, but this helps me understand him a little better. Of course, what I’m reading suggests that my dad doesn’t love me, but there’s not a whole lot of evidence to dispute that either. So I don’t know. That’s all I have for right now.

I’ll also quickly mention that my dad grew up during the violence and terrorism going on in Northern Ireland, so that’s another possible cause to look into. I know internet-diagnosing people with mental disorders is one of the most unbearable things a person can do, but it’s helping me understand myself, so I think it’s okay?

Sarah

Quick Gay Vent

This post won’t be eloquently written. Okay, none of my posts are eloquently written. But this is material I was going to share in text-venting-to-friend format and subsequently decided I would spare said friend and vent this to the world. Well, my tens of followers.

My point is, my thoughts are not organized in any way, and the purpose of this post is for me to describe my current feelings in order to make sense of them. Basically, it’s all about me. I’m sorry.

Let’s jump in. As I’ve alluded to in earlier posts, I identify as gay/lesbian, but am not entirely sure I’m not bisexual. I’ve felt this way for about two years, so it might be a while before I finally figure it out. But it leads to a lot of inner turmoil.

Firstly, I feel like a liar. All the time. When I tell people I’m gay, there’s a nagging voice in my head telling me I haven’t told the whole truth. But the whole truth isn’t concise enough for daily conversation. If there were one word to describe how I feel, I would gladly use it. But there isn’t. Maybe reverse bi-curious? Although I think “bi-curious” implies you are in the process of exploring your possible bisexuality, which I am definitely not. I just live my life and hope that I figure this out at some point.

I should mention that I don’t want to be bisexual.

That sounds terrible, and it is terrible, but it’s true. Bisexual people deal with way more shit than gay and lesbian people at this point (at least in this society). I love fitting the lesbian stereotype of cat-loving, introverted homo who wears converse and men’s shirts on the daily. But the stereotypes for bisexuals are all negative. They’re seen as greedy, slutty, and unsure of their sexuality. Some people see them as half-gays who aren’t really part of the LGBTQ+ community. I love the way my gayness is becoming a larger part of m identity, but because of the stereotypes, people won’t perceive me the way I want to be perceived if it turns out I am bisexual. So anyways, all this is going on in my head.

But I hate feeling like a liar. I would rather know I’m bisexual and unlearn my internalized biphobia (which I need to do regardless), than never know. I’m often terrified that, after screaming from the rooftops about how gay I am, I will fall in love with a man. By the way, I know it might seem like I’m attaching too much of my identity to my queerness, but I am coming to love it and I feel like I have found my people.

I’m starting to experience feelings that I haven’t felt since grade 7, when I began (and then officially decided to end) questioning my sexuality. I felt dirty and unlovable. I remember once telling two close friends that I wasn’t sure if I was straight. I thought they wouldn’t want to be friends with me after I told them that. I couldn’t love myself or expect other people to love me if I wasn’t straight.

These feelings are resurfacing as I battle with not knowing, feeling like a liar, fearing biphobia, and wondering if I’m denying my existent bisexuality due to internalized biphobia. I feel dirty. I feel unloveable.

I didn’t even feel this way when I found out I liked women. And I thought that made me bi at the time. Maybe spending more time among the LGBTQ+ community has made me fear the ostracizing that exists within the community.

Anyways, this all came to mind because I was talking to a man on a dating app. Sometimes I change my settings on dating apps so I see both men and women, sort of to test whether I’m attracted to men. Usually, doing this reaffirms my lesbianism because you find some interesting characters on Tinder. Today, I wondered for the first time whether I’m trying to make myself straighter by talking to men and trying to feel attracted to them. I never considered that homophobia could play a role in all these thoughts. I just don’t know what to think. Here are some contradicting pieces of evidence:

The only relationship I have ever cared about/ sex I have ever enjoyed was with a woman.

I only dated three men, and they were all kind of meh, so maybe that’s why.

I used to be super convinced I was ultra-straight. I would have conversations about how straight I was.

But that’s the most homosexual thing I have ever heard of, minus Mike Piazza’s press conference to tell everyone he was straight.

I currently want to date a woman, and do not want to date a man.

I am still having trouble letting anyone in after my breakup, so maybe I want to date a woman and a man equally but because I think I’m gay I’m looking for a girlfriend but I would be equally into a boyfriend?

I’m definitely more attracted to women than to men. And I don’t mean that I find women attractive more often than I find men attractive; I mean I would feel like I’m settling if I was with a man.

I was attracted to Bennett in season one of Orange is the New Black. Like 10/10 would sleep with. But wouldn’t date. Even if he wasn’t a shitty person, I wouldn’t want to go around living life with him. (I know this is a fictional character, by the way.)

I don’t know. There’s probably a million other things and they swirl around my brain all day and I don’t know. I have “tried on” the label of bisexuality in the past, and it just didn’t feel right, but maybe that’s the internalized biphobia? I feel like a dirty, tainted gay just talking to men on dating sites. I should stress that I don’t feel any of these things towards other bisexuals; I just… I don’t know)

There are a million other things I could say about this, but I need to get ready for queer pub night. This post did not end up being quick at all whoops.

Sarah

My Childhood

I really don’t want to read about inner product spaces, so I have returned to write another post.

I am aware that writing about my childhood as it relates to my mental health is very cliche, but it’s been on my mind recently and I am hoping that writing this post will help me to better understand it.

The thing that confuses me most about my early years is that nothing horrible happened. No traumatic, catastrophic event ever occurred. And yet, I am still profoundly impacted by the things that did happen.

Firstly, I have memories of being anxious as far back as I have memories at all. At 3, I was pulled out of ballet because as soon as my parents left the room, I would sit in the corner by myself ignore everyone. At 4, if someone brushed up against me on my left side, I would purposely brush up against someone on my right side to “even it out”. I got so terrified of the dark that I had extra appreciation for the morning, because it’s the part of the day furthest from the next night. My point is, I’ve always had some issues, whether they resulted from genes or poor parenting before I can remember, or both, or something else entirely. So I am not “blaming” all my problems on things that happened in childhood.  I just believe that these things were one of many factors.

Again, nothing horrible happened to me. I wasn’t abused. I wasn’t kicked out. I wasn’t neglected. I keep stressing these points in my endless preamble because I feel so guilty. I’m sitting here, painting my parents as abusers when they love me and they tried their best, and I’m trivializing the experiences of those who survived much worse circumstances.

Now that we are all on the same page, my childhood:

Things were relatively uneventful for the first few years I can remember. I had minor issues that can be tied to mental illness in retrospect, but nothing that set me apart from my peers. Things were fine.

My parents got divorced when I was 8 years old. I wasn’t too upset, because they had been fighting for a while, and I thought having two houses would be cool. The divorce was fine; the main problem is what came afterwards. But from the beginning of the divorce, I felt the need to protect my sister who was only 2 at the time. I was now the only one living with her every night, so I wanted to provide some stability and protection.

Anyways, when my dad moved out, he immediately started dating a woman named Michelle. I didn’t mind this relationship, as I enjoyed spending time with Michelle’s two daughters, who were 13 and 14 at the time. Within a couple years, my dad and Michelle were living together, along with Michelle’s daughters, and my sister and I. I think this is when they started treating us poorly. My sister and I would be yelled at for making a mistake while doing chores we had never done before, not greeting people properly when we entered the house, and other things with that level of importance. Beyond this, it’s hard to even remember individual events; I just remember how I felt. I remember that I wanted to talk to someone, anyone, about what I was experiencing. But I couldn’t begin to explain it. Again, nothing terrible was happening. At one point, I remember wishing they were beating me, so I could describe what was happening. So I could explain the source of my pain in terms that people would understand. I wasn’t being beaten, but I would dread the days I spent I spent at my dad’s, and felt extremely relieved when they were over.

At one point, I hated being at my dad’s house so much that I told my mom I didn’t want to go back. But still, I couldn’t explain what was happening and why it was affecting me so much. And my mom knew my dad would be furious if she essentially got full custody. I’m tearing up as I write this because I remember the horrible, horrible feelings I had at the time. My sister and I were being treated poorly, and neither of our parents were doing anything to stop it.

I had a dream once that I was in a bookstore with my dad, and a man was attempting to kidnap me in order to rape me. I screamed for help, in full view of everyone including my dad, and nobody noticed. The way I felt in that dream is how I felt at this time in my life.

I know I must sound dramatic, especially since I can’t recall many actual events that took place. But I can remember the feelings like they occurred yesterday.

When my dad said he and Michelle were breaking up, I cried tears of joy. So much dread and anxiety was lifted off my shoulders. But five seconds later, my dad met Sue.

Sue was fine. She didn’t really interact with my sister and I, which was a huge improvement but was also awkward. Before my dad even found somewhere to live that wasn’t my grandparents’ house, he decided to move in with Sue. He asked me if I thought it was too early, I said yes, and he proceeded to tell me why I was wrong. My dad, sister and I moved in with Sue and two of her daughters, and we all managed to live together for 2 years and yet remain strangers to one another. My life was much better during this period, and Sue caused no problems, but my dad’s unreliability started to become a big issue. He had already broken many promises at this point, but now I was hanging out with friends and sometimes needed to rely on him for a ride. Many times, he would agree to give me a ride and then live his life as if he’d never said anything. He would have to work, and would get angry with me when I pushed the issue. I know this sounds particularly frivolous, but when you have very limited ability to take public transit, transportation is very important. Anyways, at some point my dad and Sue broke up as well.

After two failed common-law relationships, my dad promised me he wouldn’t move in with another woman until I graduated high school. I was in grade 10 or 11 at the time. After I turned 16, I told my dad that I wanted to live with my mom full-time (at 16, I gained the legal right to decide this), and he got very angry. We agreed to have coffee to discuss it further, and he was even raised his voice in that public setting. He wasn’t listening to me; he was just explaining why I was wrong.

My dad actually bought a house for just him, my sister, and I. When I first saw the house, I vividly remember thinking, “We’re not going to be here long.” And then we lived there for 6 months. I think my dad started dating Shalaina around the time we moved out of Sue’s house. Apparently Sue and my dad had been secretly broken up for a few months but remained amicably cohabiting while they figured out new living arrangements. So my dad insisted he had really been taking things slow when he began to date immediately upon moving.

I was incredibly skeptical to meet Shalaina, but it happened eventually. And she took the opportunity to buy my affection with designer purses and trips to the nail salon. It worked. When my dad wanted to move in with Shalaina, I was happy, despite the addition to the broken promises pile. Apparently, my grandmother tried convincing them to wait to move in together, and my dad didn’t speak to her for two weeks. So anyways, we were soon living with Shalaina and her two children. They were/are actually pretty cool people, and my sister was close in age to Shalaina’s daughter, so we were all pretty happy.

At some point, Shalaina no longer felt the need to buy or otherwise obtain my affection, and she started being mean. Not Michelle’s brand of mean; there no yelling or confrontation of any sort. She was much more passive-aggressive. Often, she and my dad would agree they were mad at me, but she would send my dad out to play bad cop while she remained innocent.

In 2011, they went on vacation together. They came back and told us they had gotten married and the trip was their honeymoon. My grandma and uncle were invited; none of the kids were. I didn’t express my feelings about this to my dad, because I knew he couldn’t undo anything.

Long after the marriage, Shalaina would also frequently take her kids out and leave my sister home alone. She claimed to want quality time with her children, but a) I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to treat step-children as your children; and b) It’s not like my dad ever had the time or desire to take my sister anywhere. My dad and Shalaina were just generally selfish during this time.

One day, I got in a fight with my dad, so I packed a suitcase and went to my mom’s house. I finally made the decision to live with my mom full-time. To catch you up to what my mom had been up to during this time, she had a couple short relationships, then met my stepdad, and he moved in with us after they had dated for a couple years. My mom hasn’t been a perfect parent, but she has been a parent. This is why she isn’t heavily featured in this post.

At this point in the story, I’m about 18, so we’ve reached the end of my childhood. I did live with my dad full-time a bit later after thinking he had changed, but I won’t get into details about this time. I will, however, list a few shitty things my dad and Shalaina have done, because I’m still angry about a lot of them.

-They prevented my sister from getting diagnosed with ADHD for years, claiming they didn’t want her to be labelled or to be on medication, then randomly decided one day they were fine with it (During this time, my sister had essentially been diagnosed after an extensive process, and she wanted to access resources for ADHD as she was struggling in school)

-They would make up rules and change them frequently; one day, they decided there can’t be any shampoo bottles or loofahs around the bathtub/shower, so we had to take them out every time; Shalaina would get angry when I left my loofah hanging to dry before putting it with my toiletries

-When I was anorexic and frequently cold, I would close some of the windows that were often open during weather cold enough that the heat was on; I asked my dad once if we could keep the windows closed because I was cold and he looked at me like I was the biggest brat on earth; my stepmom began passive-aggressively keeping all the windows open, even though the heat was on, because that’s who she is; I got to sit under a blanket in my room all day

 

This post started out quite serious and has grown increasingly whiny; for that I apologize. The main thing I wanted to talk about was the time when my dad was dating Michelle, as I think that has really impacted me. I also wanted to describe all the moving and instability, but cared less about the details during the Sue and Shalaina eras, respectively. Apparently at some point, I decided to use this post as a place to vent anger I was never allowed to express about things that have happened more recently. So, it hasn’t really turned out the way I planned, whatever that was. And I really wanted to communicate how much these events hurt me, despite the individual events being so insignificant, but I don’t know if I did that. But anyways, here it is.

Sarah

 

 

Working on Fear of Death

I just wrote an update post and thought I had nothing of note to say, but I just realized I was wrong.

A couple years ago, I wrote about my crippling fear of death. The other day, I talked to a counselor about this for the first time, and it actually really helped. But before explaining my counselling session, I should try explaining this bizarre fear again.

Since about 2015, I have had a near-constant fear of death. I can’t explain away the irony that I have been suicidal at times since this began; mental illness is weird. But I am always afraid that I could die any second, and that my life would mean nothing because I haven’t done anything important yet. It ties into an existential anxiety about the reality that everybody dies and the desperation to attach meaning to my temporary existence.

I am aware that statistics suggest I will live for several more decades. I have spent time looking through Stats Canada data to make sure of this. But I just have this overwhelming feeling that I will die young. I find it difficult to plan for my future, because I don’t feel like I will have one. Making plans for later in life feels like deciding what I’ll spend the money on if I win the lottery. Because of this constant fear of death, I never feel safe. I imagine the bus I’m on crashing, or nuclear war breaking out today, or a plane crash-landing onto my house. It’s obviously very distressing.

After speaking with my counselor, I have learned a bit about why I feel this way. For one, I realized that this started around the time I found out that a girl who had gone to my babysitter’s died in a car crash. She was 19. I also spend a lot of time watching the news, where freak accidents are reported on regularly.

These things might play a role in creating my fear of death, but what sustains it? I realized that the thought of letting go of this fear ironically terrifies me. I feel like constantly expecting my death protects me somehow. I can’t handle disappointment and changes of plans, so thinking about a future that nobody is guaranteed is really hard for me. I guess I’m trying to prepare myself in case I do die young. I want to avoid a situation where I’m slowly dying on the ground, thinking about all the things I’ll never be able to do. Like “Joke’s on you death; I knew this was going to happen the whole time.” I also feel like having this fear pushes me to create a legacy NOW. In reality, this is hardly true. Sometimes, I will desperately write in an attempt to get all my thoughts out into the world while I still can. So cool, I have a journal and a blog. But a real legacy is built over decades, and I can’t plan that far in advance.

So I’m going to stop ruminating on these fears, as difficult as it is. And yes, there is a small probability that death sneaks up on me while I’m not expecting me. But there is a much larger probability that I stop living in constant fear long enough to make something of myself. So I guess that’s something?

Sarah

July 9th, 2017

Once again, it has been a while. I haven’t had anything incredibly meaningful to write about; I’ve just been living life. Getting up in the morning, eating, doing chores, and going to bed. Lots of times. But I’ve stumbled across some extra time, so I figured I would provide an update on what’s going on in my life.

Things are generally going well; I’m still the happiest I’ve been in quite a while. I’m taking one Summer course and managed to land a super easy, fun job. I have stumbled upon a group of queer friends to hang out with, so I’m feeling a lot less lonely. But I do still miss being in a relationship. That being said, I am completely over my previous relationship with Jenn. With every passing day, I realize how much I was settling to avoid being alone.

I am (ideally) going into my final year of undergrad this Fall. I need to take a full course load both to pull it off, but I think I can do it. This also means applying for grad school in a few months, which makes me want to crap my pants. I’m looking to study in Germany, which is really excited as a faraway dream and really terrifying as an approaching reality. And after that, I will need to get a real job. And what if I change my mind about my career path? What then? I want to work as a public policy analyst, but I’m having doubts about working for the Canadian government. The more I learn about colonialism, the more the Canadian government seems like an illegitimate, unethical institution. But the point of my chosen career is that I think I can enact more change from the inside, so maybe it’s better to work on Indigenous issues from within the government. I don’t know.

I’ve still been having a lot of anxiety about the prospect of being bisexual instead of a lesbian. But I’ve been working on breaking down my internalized biphobia, so I feel a lot better about it. I still don’t know whether I am attracted to men, but I’m okay with not knowing. Whatever man-made label most accurately describes my complex human reality, I am part of the queer community and I love it. And I love myself.

That’s really it for now. I’m starting to feel a little depressed and out of it for no good reason, so I’m going to try being productive as that often makes me feel better.

Hope everybody is doing well,

Sarah

A Positive Update

Hello, the internet.

I’ve definitely been neglecting this blog lately. Whoops. Cue the usual “I’ve been busy/ I’m low-key a piece of shit/etc” thing. Formalities, formalities, blah, formalities.

I was eager to get right into this post, but now I don’t know where to start. To be honest, I’m not writing this because anything especially update-worthy has happened recently. Although, now that I think about it, that’s true. But I am writing this evening because I finished my evening routines a little earlier than usual and I still have some time before the Seroquel knocks me out.

Typically, I am motivated to blog by misery. So I guess it’s a good thing that tonight I’m writing because of happenstance instead. Because I actually have some really great things to share.

Good Thing #1: I am a happy person.

Okay, I don’t know for sure what it means to be a happy person, because I’ve never been one, but I’m certainly not a sad person anymore. And it’s a really weird feeling, but it’s a good weird feeling. I’ve been fighting mental illness for so long that it has become my identity. I was the sad, cynical, sarcastic, beautifully-broken asshole. I’m still a sarcastic asshole, and I am acutely aware of the problems in the world, but I also have a sense of purpose to solve those problems and the hope that it can be done. I don’t know if it’s the daily meditating (yes, I’m that person), challenging my social anxiety, or making Dominique a smaller part of my life. But whatever the reason, I’m pretty pleased.

Good Thing #2: I am dating.

For a while, I got stuck in a pattern of ending my contact with someone as soon as there was any potential for anything. My therapist said I was scared of getting hurt again, which sounds better than me lacking any social capabilities, so I’ll take it. Eventually, I gave up on dating altogether. At one point, I was going to casually sleep with one of my guy friends just to feel some shitty, bootlegged version of love for ten minutes. But recently, I’ve really been trying to put myself out there and meet people. I went on a date recently, and the plan is for us to go out again. I don’t know for sure what I want at this point, but I’m having fun. So, there’s that.

Good Thing #3: I got a job today.

This is actually amazing, but I don’t think my excitement level accurately reflects it yet. Just getting a job is a miracle and a huge financial relief. But it involves limited contact with other people, and actually sounds really fun. I’ve had jobs that I have “liked” in the sense that I was able to experience moments of happiness while working at them. But I think I will ACTUALLY like this job. Like the people in TV shows that I never relate to. You like the thing you’re forced to do at a desk for half your waking hours? Okay…

But yeah, finding a job means my Summer is figured out, and now I just have to do the things for a few months.
__________________________________________________________________________________________

I actually feel so grateful for where my life is right now. For the first time in a long time, things are going well. Eight months ago, I was constantly suicidal, and now I’m here. I can function in school and can find employment. I go to social things and enjoy them. I spend my time talking to people who want happiness as much as I do. I’m doing all the things. I’m really doing them.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that I have cured myself of all mental illness with the power of positive thinking. More accurately, I have greatly reduced my symptoms of mental illness to a level where I can function, by working very hard for a very long time. I’ve been eating well (and enough). I’ve been going to the gym. I’ve been meditating, despite not really loving it. I made the terrifying decision to move out of my old place. I am pushing myself to endure anxiety-provoking situations many times per week. And at some point, all these actions got me somewhere pretty cool.

It has taken me quite a while to write this, and by now the Seroquel HAS kicked in, so that’s all for tonight. Hopefully I’ll have more good updates soon.

Sarah

The things I learned in Undergrad

My undergraduate experience hasn’t been very conventional. And I’ve hated myself for that since I returned to school in Fall 2015.

But I just finished a 10-minute guided meditation on self-forgiveness (because apparently I’m a person who meditates now), and as cringey and fluffy as it sounds, I realized something important. Namely, that I have learned so much more since I started university in 2012 than I ever could have if things had gone differently.

I wouldn’t be who I am today if I had graduated in 2016 with my friends from high school. If I hadn’t switched programs. If I didn’t take time off for eating disorder treatment. Maybe things would have been easier, but they wouldn’t have been better. Because I went to university to learn, and that’s what I did.

2012-2013

I began first-year as an anxious but generally happy super-Christian. I went to church twice a week, I volunteered with a youth group, and I planned to declare Religious Studies as my major in second year. I hardly know that 17-year-old version of me now. I feel compassion for her, because I remember that Christianity gave her a purpose and a community, before it gave her crippling self-hatred for being a sinner and stifled her dreams. I feel compassion for her, but I barely know her. These days, she rarely crosses my mind. Anyways, at some point, this girl decided God was telling her to become a nurse. When I didn’t get into the Nursing program for the following year, I decided to major in Psychology for my second year then transfer into Accelerated Nursing.

2013-2014

At the end of Summer 2013, after university education and life experience left me doubting Christianity for months, I made the decision that I was no longer a Christian. When I went back to school in September, all my friends thought I was going to hell, I had no hobbies or interests outside the church, and I had no direction or purpose for my life. I tried turning to science to give me some sense of meaning. I thought if I learned HOW our species and our planet ended up where they are now, I would also know WHY. I wanted to switch into Biology. Then Biochem. Then general Life Sciences. Then physics. Eventually, I decided to stay in psychology after all and do something to help those with mental illness. I developed Bulimia in the Fall, and barely attended any classes in the Winter. I went to the Psych ER three times with suicidal thoughts. At some point, I thought a change of scenery might help, so I applied to double major in Math and Writing at a different university in January 2015. Over the Summer, I experienced a trauma and my eating disorder became restrictive and took over everything. (When I talk about this, I like to clarify that my eating disorder COINCIDENTALLY became worse and more restrictive at the same time, but restrictive eating disorders are not generally more or less severe than other eating disorders)

2014-2015

Just typing in those years brings me immense sadness. This year must have been the most miserable in my life to date. In the Fall, I couldn’t work, and I was waiting until January to return to school. I watched documentaries under a blanket in my room all day, and had energy/motivation for little else. All I cared about was food and calories and weight. And to be honest, I probably needed it at that time, because everything else had gone to shit. I accepted a referral to a Day Hospital program, because I thought I would be magically better in 8 weeks and go back to school like nothing happened. I started attending classes in February, and relapsed immediately. I still only cared about food and calories and weight. I dropped all my classes in late March or early April because I didn’t have the mental capacity to learn anything. I returned to the Day Hospital program in April. While there, I decided to return to my original university, as it was closer to my home so my parents would be nearby and the trigger of commuting would be gone. This school doesn’t have a writing program, so I intended to double-major in Math and English.

2015-2016

I managed to mostly maintain my recovery through the Summer. I met Jenn in the Fall. She made me happy and was a great motivation for recovery. I’m still getting over our breakup, so I’ll just say the recovery stuck and Jenn did not. I also decided to only major in Math, as that meant graduating with a BSc instead of a BA, and the English courses at this school are not remotely writing-related.

2016-2017

Jenn broke up with me a few days before classes started in September, so I started the term suicidal. I was in the hospital a few times for overdosing, and was very nearly admitted as a psychiatric inpatient. I managed to get my shit together just in time, and got through the term. In the Winter, my roommate was admitted inpatient, and everything was about her for months. I sound unsupportive and I honestly am, but I had zero support and she was incredibly selfish during this time. I don’t want to get into the details, but our friendship became very toxic, and it was all very difficult for me. I made no changes to my program this year, believe it or not.

After 6 years of undergrad, I will (if all goes to plan) finally receive my degree in 2018. That degree will tell the world that I came to university and I learned about math. And I used to take comfort in knowing it wouldn’t say anything else. Like the fact that it took me 6 years to achieve, or the fact that I changed my mind on my program 20394 times, or the fact that I entered school wanting to be a missionary, or the fact that I lost a year of school to complete eating disorder treatment. But today, I kind of wish my degree wouldn’t just say I learned math. I wish it would say that I learned where I stand on religion, how to survive when I don’t want to, how to cope in unhealthy ways, how to cope in healthy ways, how to break and then put myself back together, how to love, the fact that I love women, what heartbreak feels like, how to put my life back together a second time, what I really want to do with my life, and how to work towards the life I really want. Because I learned all those things, and looking back, I wouldn’t change my path one bit, because those struggles and setbacks and detours made me grow into the person I am today. And I learned things about myself and the world that I will use for the rest of my life. So my undergrad hasn’t been conventional, but thank god it hasn’t been.

Sarah