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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Reasons Why I Am a Cat

I used to be torn between being a dog person, a cat person, or a beaver person. But I’ve lately concluded that I am for cats. We understand each other, the cat and I. I can say this with certainty, because I have also discovered that there is a distinct possibility I am a cat. Here are some reasons why I think this…

I am evil, surly, and vindictive
Sometimes I get cranky

3ZsLGbLCat’s are known for their abrupt mood swings. One minute they want you here, the next they want you gone. One minute they want to be outside, the next they want in. And Saint Francis help you if you don’t open the door when asked, because you’ll find yourself  to be treated to a harrowing rendition of the native felis catus death chant. Sometimes, I too can find myself feeling… a little off. Thankfully, I stopped biting around the age of nine.

Napping is Essential

I need more sleep than most normal adult people I know. In fact, there are some days IMG_3818that if I neglect my nap, by the time I get to bed that night I’m so tired I cry like my five-year-old brother-in-law when he’s allowed to stay up past his bedtime. Some of this behavior may be due to my battle with insomnia, but whatever the reason, curling up in a ball under a fuzzy blanket is pretty much an essential part of my daily schedule.

I Like Being Cuddled

Cats like to be cuddled and have their heads scratched. They’ll sleep atop their favorite owner to share their warmth. I too like cuddles and having my hand squeezed or hair played with. However, should I suddenly decide, in the middle of the night, that I don’t want my husband’s arm around me, I will push it off me and drape it over his chest then curl up and purr contentedly into my pillow alone.

I Am an Introvert

Not too long ago, the tagline of my website here told you this fact, but since I’ve changed the setup hereabouts I’ll bring you newcomers up to date. Cats are introverted Why-Introverts-Are-Like-Catsanimals just as much as dogs are extroverted. In fact, if you’re not certain of the differences between an introvert and an extrovert, just look at a dog and a cat. Dogs freak when new people come around. They like pets and plays and activity and parties and sticking their tongues into stranger’s mouths. Cats, not so much. They pretty much operate alone. Sure, if they like you they’ll miss you, and probably even tear the house to shreds to show you just what they think of your going away for two days, but they’re not likely to spend the baby shower you host working the room like so many social butterflies. More than likely, they’re doing what I do, hiding in some corner hoping that the little children won’t pull my tail.

© Rachel Svendsen 2016