Lately, I’ve been exploring a concept that was pointed out to me several years ago, that I push people away, that I hold others at a distance, that my bubble is big and I take a lot of careful measures to keep others out of it, including the individuals closest to me. Vulnerability is particularly challenging and the more personal the share, the more anxious and uncomfortable I become. I have a number of friends that I’ve had for years, and I still feel like they barely know me because I can’t seem to share the things that really matter with them. I carefully keep conversations at the surface-level even though I hate surface-level conversations. And I often feel very much alone, starving for a meaningful interaction that doesn’t leave me feeling partially empty for what it could have been, even though I am often the one responsible for the conversations’ missing components.
Ultimately, I feel alone in my experiences most of the time with no one to say yes, me too, when I share my challenges. And that makes me close up a little more, shove people a little further outside of my space, and seek solace in insulating, because rejection, even in the form of indifference, is especially painful. When William tells me he loves me, I often ask him why, because I rarely feel lovable. I’m well aware I have selfish tendencies, and I often wallow in the mindset that being alone in my experience is my lot in life. A few weeks ago, during one of those interactions, William looked me directly in the eyes, and said, you are extremely loveable. but you are very hard to love. you won’t let people in. For the first time maybe, I saw the truth in his statement.
In one of my classes this term, I’ve learned about the illness narrative, how our reality is made up of the stories we tell of ourself, how we word our world. Dianne Connelly, the university’s cofounder, asks, Is your story big enough to live in? It is a question that has been on my mind these past weeks.
During the holiday season of 2006, my sophomore year in college, I came home for the break, deeply unhappy and isolating. My parents were worried about me and my mom would have done anything to bring a smile to my face. Though I knew this, it wasn’t enough to help. I went to the gym one day and after returning, she asked me, Did you have fun? I lifted my shoulders indifferently. Truthfully, physical activity was one of the only things that brought joy at the time, but it didn’t lift the looming shadow of what I was going through, of the consequences of pushing people away, of feeling alone. She exasperately asked, What will make you happy?
Years later, William shared a conversation he’d had about me with my dad. As it turns out, most of my immediate family are like me, afraid to show and discuss vulnerable things, and I learned long ago that doing so results in complete silence, that indifference which feels a lot like rejection. Because of this, I’ve slowly stopped sharing much at all with them over the years. In the interaction with Will, my dad told him, I don’t care what she does as long as she is happy.
There it was again, that feeling which has long seemed so elusive.
Even though much of what I write about sometimes feels a little too gray, a little too dark, I can say I’ve never been depressed in the clinical sense. I rarely feel low for more than a couple hours at a time. Realistically, I often experience happiness; when I spend time in my faith, when serving others, when teaching, when running, when deeply intrenched in good music, and when writing. Basically, I’m happy all the time when living in the present moment.
Yet I cling to another story, of being unhappy, of being alone, of being not good enough, of being unable to, of being unlovable, of being cold, of being destined for some ultimate tragic ending. And so I ask myself, Is that story big enough to live in?
I think it’s about time I rewrite the pages.
February 21st-27th is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (#NEDAwareness Week). It also happens to be lent, my favorite season in the Catholic liturgical year. I’m working on being less isolating this year, and reading The Sevel Levels of Intimacy by Matthew Kelly. I’ll likely be continuing to share more on the topic of my eating disorder and intimacy in the coming weeks. Much of it is challenging stuff. Other than practicing my faith and writing, I’ve done much of my really deep healing through music, and my current playlist is below. If you’ve read this far and continue reading, thank you. I truly appreciate it.