Open and Honest

One area in my life that I’ve been pushing myself to improve is my total lack of social skills. I am an introvert almost to the extreme, and often find myself content with no other company than my few closest friends. Building new relationships is excessively difficult for me.

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I think one of the reasons I find it so hard is that I kind of hate myself. I see myself as a whiney and annoying person with nothing intelligent to add to a conversation and a waste of space in the room. I labor under the assumption that pretty much everyone else secretly agrees with my self assessment, but are too kind to tell me they’d rather I left. So I leave without being asked. I slip away to be by myself where I’ll read or write or knit or whatever.

Most of this self abasement was encouraged in my upbringing by the way the household was run, and during the darkest periods of my struggle with Depression have led me to some very ugly thoughts. Today, the people closest to me often tell me that I hate myself more than anyone else in the room. I question the complete validity of this statement, but I see what they mean anyway. It would seriously be hard for anyone to dislike me more than I do.

Building relationships with the mental handicaps of Anxiety and Depression, along with my severe introversion, is a steep upward climb, but I recently had a breakthrough that I hope will become a new pattern.

My husband and I have changed churches. Again. These past two years have been the most up, down and unsettled period of my life. Though Timothy keeps telling me that now it’s safe to settle for at least the next three years, I haven’t seen enough in writing to convince me to unpack my emotional suitcase. So when kind and friendly faces in our new church body opened their arms to welcome me, I wanted to walk into them, but also wondered what was going to happen to their presence in my life come September. How much do I open up to these people? How much do I fight against my fears of rejection, only to meet with loss on the other end? Because one thing I’ve noticed in the last few churches we’ve gone to, is that once you’re no longer a member, the people who seemed to care don’t care anymore. It’s like you’ve switched from the goth click to the cheerleaders and you’re dead to all that’s past. All the trying, all the fighting against myself to get close to strangers becomes another example of people not actually caring about me, another example of my not being worth anyone’s time.

But what I’m now realizing is that I’m half the problem, maybe even more than half. My fear of rejection keeps my relationships shallow. Why should anyone miss me when I leave the room? They don’t know me, because I fear being known.

And here I am, standing in front of a woman who wants to get to know me, and I’m stuck. Yes, I’d love to go for coffee with you. It would be good for me in so many ways, and you’re being so loving and kind, but how do I tell you that, despite my being an adult, I don’t often drive places on my own? How do I tell you that I have such crippling anxiety disorder, that I’m afraid to schedule coffee with you on a day when I can’t rely on my husband to be around to prevent me coming home to an empty house?

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My new solution. I just do. I just say it, and hope that, if you really want to get to know me, you’ll help me think of another way. So instead of just telling her the easy bit about not having access to a car, I hear myself admit to her, “I have anxiety disorder, and driving is one of my triggers. I don’t really drive more than 20 minutes by myself right now.” And she says, “I’ll pick you up.” And she says, “I can drive you to the church where your husband is.”

Another falsehood I was taught as a child was that I was never supposed to talk about my mental health issues. It’s a secret that I’m ill, meant for just me and my doctors. So the worse my condition got, the more my relationships withered, the less I wanted to try. People don’t understand, I thought. I’m in the way. They must hate me. I’m such a nuisance. I wish I wasn’t me.

The thing I’m learning, a lesson I can take with me even if we do switch to another church in six months, is that a lot people are willing to help and want to understand, but they can’t do either if I’m not willing to be honest.

Honesty. It makes sense, really. Isn’t honesty a foundational pillar of any lasting relationship?

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The Creature Living in My Heart

Sometimes he’s lonely, the creature living in my heart, and takes me to the side.
He insists that I say with him, send everyone away, and then he tells me dark stories about a useless, bent, and broken girl who keeps company with the creature living in her heart.

Sometimes he’s hungry, the creature living in my heart, and builds a fire of rage.
The smoke and heat burn my insides until hate pours from my eyes and mouth, splashing the innocents near me. I loathe myself these days, but he says he must eat and I cannot make him leave, this creature living in my heart.

Sometimes he’s thirsty, this creature living in my heart, and milks my soul for tears.
He compresses my chest until I break down and drip salt and water and blood. He says he must drink and I cannot make him leave, this creature living in my heart.

He wants to own my body, the creature living in my heart, and tells me to vacate it.
I want to say I disagree, that I’ll stay on and he must leave, but the days are growing longer, harder now, since he began to drink and eat and be my only company. I am forgetting who I was. He bids me sleep so he’ll be free, the creature living in my heart.

But somedays he’s quiet, the creature living in my heart, and I forget he’s there.
My hands and mind work best these days. I build cities, unite lovers, and bring justice to evil with my pen and smiles to those who still choose to love me, despite the creature living in my heart.

So I’ll continue fighting the creature living in my heart.
For hope is not beyond me yet, and he is a trespasser in the life that God gave to me. And I believe he will soon grow lonely then hungry then thirsty then wither and fade, so the me that I once knew, that now I only see in snapshots, will live without a creature in her heart.

© Rachel Svendsen 2015