Growing, Growing, Growing

Just a short stop in to say wow am I growing…when I am confronted with adversity, I used to get so tense and angry. It still happens. However, if it’s conflict with another individual, I am learning to avoid yelling, avoid jumping to conclusions and avoid accusations. I still mess up to a degree but I am able to handle myself with a calmness and sense about myself. I do not jump straight into crazy, rage mode and THAT is something to be proud of. I can think my therapist, Al-Anon and CoDa for all of this strength, hope and GROWING. 

Grading Pain

If there’s one thing that makes life slightly less tolerable, it is folks who have decided they have the ability to grade your pain. For some reason, people feel the need to evaluate your level of hurt in situations. You’ve heard it, “Well, it could be worse!” “You could be starving in Africa!” Yes, those are true things. Things could be worse and we should recognize that. However, does it improve your psychological wellness to be reminded?

If you’re in pain, you’re in pain. I am learning now to not invalidate my pain due to the pain of others. Whenever you have a story of pain, someone else always has a worse story (or perceived worse). If you look at it, though, then someone else has an even worse story than them! Who writes out the guidelines for pain level? Instead of invalidating one’s pain, individuals should work on identifying the root of the pain and attempt to resolve it as best as possible. Identifying it is the first step to healing, not invalidating it.

If you are in pain…do not let someone else, no matter how well-meaning, tempt you into invalidating that pain. Yes, we all agree, you should not dwell on it…but to deny it is just as dangerous. Work through your pain, do not ignore your pain.

Those are my thoughts…

Expectations of the Uncontrolled–The Downfall of Serenity

In Al-Anon, among other twelve step programs, the serenity prayer is used as a guideline to…well…reaching serenity. For those who may not know it,

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom the know the difference…”
Although the words seem pretty obvious…and common sense…the guidelines set forth by the prayer are the most difficult to follow, especially for those of us who lack boundaries and experience improper nurturing.

Expectations of what you cannot change can be detrimental to your overall serenity and sanity. When we create expectations, the inability to fulfill those expectations can led to disappointment. Meanwhile, the chance of such an expectation being fulfilled by circumstance can led to false hope.

When you live in a home with an active alcoholic, many individuals, in lieu of praying for themselves, pray that their alcoholic will stop drinking. They create an expectation. When the alcoholic stops drinking, our relationship will be perfect, all things will be perfect. From personal experience, I can assure you, that expectation was not met. That led to disappointment and then resentment.

I create expectations for people in all sorts of scenarios. Many times I create negative expectations. I create reasons in my head why someone must’ve done something or what someone will do when an opportunity does arise. In this case, if the expectation is not met it turns out to be a good thing…but by that time, so much time and energy has been drained on the anxiety and worry of that perception.

Do not get me wrong…it is okay to have expectations in life. Everything requires a fair balance. It’s best to set expectations within yourself…within what you can control…therefore, you have the ability to met that goal. Sure, in the work place, you will have to set forth expectations of employees whom you manage…but their failure to meet those expectations reflects on them and not on ultimately on you, although I know that may not be true in all cases (for example, if it tarnishes your image as a company). Even still…how you handle it shows your level of serenity. Separating it from personal to business is the first step in that case.

I want to work on my expectations…create reasonable expectations of myself…and avoid, whenever possible, expectations of others…

Creating a Balance

I always preach that I believe balance is the key to a successful life. Or really a successful anything. Think about it. All work and no play makes you dull. All play and no work makes you unproductive. A balance between the two seems to be well suited. Two hard-ass parents that are disciplinarians are likely to raise resentful children. Two relaxed and easy-going parents are likely to raise entitled children. A balance between the two sounds like it’d be a good solution. 

I could go on and on.

I struggle with balancing the extremes of my personality. I definitely do not want what makes me who I am to be gone in my treatment process. However, coming to a balance, I feel will solve most of my woes.

I am one of those people that gives unwarranted advice. CoDa indicates it might be a sign of codependency. I do it with the intention and desire to be helpful. I do not want to lose that desire. I want to create a balance. I want to be able to understand that a) not everyone is asking for advice some just wish to vent, b) not everything I say is going to be applicable in their eye view, c) I cannot take offense if they do not wish to follow my “profound” advice and d) I should abstain from coming across critical in my advice.

 

Admittedly, when I offer advice, in my head, I feel I’m doing a good thing. But at times, I get so passionate about it that I wind up becoming controlling or obsessive in how it’s offered and offended if it’s not welcomed. I must learn I cannot carry the weight of the world nor can I hold myself responsible for anyone else…nor has anyone asked me to.

Passion is another trait I don’t want to lose. But I need to balance it. It needs to be re-focused. Not to the extreme of pure selfishness but I do desire to create a passion about things that bring me pleasure and not just a passion for pleasing (or attempting to) please others. 

I hope I work can work on balancing myself out…I do believe balance is the key to serenity!

Relationships….

Since as long as I can remember, I’ve had some struggles in some form with relationships with others. I developed deep attachments to friends and sought out for their approval. I obsessed over boys that I would get crushes on and would cyberstalk (not in an aggressive way) them and attempt to swoon my way into their life. Perhaps that’s considerably normal for  young boys growing up, I’m not sure. It dates as far back as elementary school. I always sought validation through others. Strangely enough, I never changed my hairstyle or listened to music I didn’t like just to fit in. I always managed to still be original and true to myself…but the inner desire to have friends that cared about me was very strong. I also wanted to be the only friend…or the main friend…I wanted people to care about me just as much as I did them and I tried, Lord did I try, to force it. As you can imagine, I pushed away plenty of people in my days with that type of behavior.

Today, I have healthy friendships…I do not generally seek approval from my peers, although the old feelings occasionally creep up. I believe it has to do with my best friend, Rocio, who I have known since 2002 and have lived with since last year. Rocio understands me. She really gets me. We are very similar, actually. We communicate so well and I always feel appreciated by her…I am never intimidated that I will not get her approval nor do I feel I need to prove my worth to her. It just comes naturally somehow. I feel that we are spiritually connected.

The other factor is what I call my Bone family…we’re not biologically related but we are a family. We’re all young, gay men who enjoy each other’s friendships. Joey, who is definitely the leader of the pack, shares so many stories, many dramatic and painful, but many also that I can relate to, in some degree. In general, though, Joey is very kind-hearted and cares so much…too much…about others. He does for his own…loyalty to the max. Just like I do. Anthony will always have a piece of my heart…I love that guy with my all my heart, many aspects of him are aspects I desire for myself. His strength, courage and humor for sure. Those are the two Bone’s I relate most to and have known the longest. The Bone family is a large and diverse group and all are equally important…but I won’t go on and on about that, not today.

My relationship with Marcus is where I struggle. Marcus and I have been together a year and some change and we now live together. Our struggles are not because he is a bad guy because he is wonderful. Yes, there are things I wish he would work on and maybe he is slowly but surely…but they are relatively minor. The largest scope of problems is my self-esteem and low self-worth.

See, I never felt approved or validated in my childhood. I never felt nurtured. My mother, who I love and respect despite it all, was an addict. Her relationship was with her addiction, as Dr. Fern often references. I saw her in one chaotic relationship to the next. At one point, I saw her in a relationship polluted with physical violence, verbal abuse and emotional manipulation. That relationship came to an end over gun point. No exaggeration.

I was not taught how to love nor do I feel loved. My father is a great man who supported my interests, like when I played the cello. Yes, he had struggles of his own…we saw him only on the weekends. The majority of my time growing up I spent entertaining my siblings, each of an opposite extreme, and trying to cope with the chaos.

So, now I can say with honesty, I do love Marcus. I know he loves me. I struggle with that. Why do you love me? Since when did I become lovable? I’ve had a great support system of friends…but what I did not get in childhood my friends nor Marcus have the ability to give me…I have to find it within myself. Healthy people are taught it young. I wasn’t.

I know I stress Marcus out, my moods are up and down. I get angry, I get irritable. I get hurt easily and I’m quick to jump to conclusions. I am critical and overbearing at times. I know that’s not the real me, it’s the clouded me. I am improving through my routine…but it’s not near where I know I should be yet. I can say I am thankful he’s stuck by my side, his support is very warm and loving, as is Rocio’s and as in the Bone’s.

I, one day, desire healthy relationships…starting with the relationship I have with myself. It’s time to achieve that one day at a time…I must remember one day at a time…getting better is a process and it isn’t a quick process.

My Struggle As It Stands Today

Dwelling on the life of the past is ineffective to spiritual and emotional health. However, avoiding the past completely is just as ineffective. In this blog, as I go through my journey, I will attempt to avoid long-term focus on the past and instead work on dealing with the future. Time to time, in order to properly reflect, I will discuss the past as it’s relevant.

For those who aren’t aware, I am an active member of Al-Anon, which is the family group of Alcoholics Anonymous. It does not mean I am an alcoholic. Instead it means I am the loved one of an alcoholic (or more than one). In my case, I was raised by an alcoholic mother. I also, although briefly, dated an alcoholic. I lived eighteen years in a chaotic home with an alcoholic mother before I moved out and ignored the pain for quite some time. It was when I dated an alcoholic, a young alcoholic, only a few years older than myself, that I had to face the music. He was in a massive amount of pain and it showed. We only lasted four months but they were pure Hell. He wasn’t a bad man, he was a severely broken man. However, the focus of my journey is not on him nor is it on my mother. After I ended the relationship with him, I entered Al-Anon is desperation and instantly knew I belonged there.

Al-Anon, however, was not my first avenue of therapy. In 2010, I had a brief routine with a psychiatrist, who even had me on an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication. The problem was I was uninsured at that time and ran out of funds. I withdrew from the medication and it was a very painful experience emotionally and physically. While I found the experience to be helpful, due to my inability to continue on with it, I fell into a trap of mental distress not long after.

Where it stands today, I currently meet with Dr. Fern, who I will reference frequently. Fern is a God-send. She is the right therapist for me. She gets me. When I leave her office, I feel clear and motivated.

I meet with an Al-Anon group once a week, every Monday. Occasionally I even chair these meetings. I also attend CoDa, which stands for Codependents Anonymous, in which I meet every Wednesday.

Starting next month, I will be re-visiting the same psychiatrist from 2010, only this time, with insurance.

These regimes are my routine for therapy. I have decided, and without error, that I cannot work on this alone. While I am the main source of my success (or failure), I cannot do so without aid and there’s no shame in that. The stigma associated with mental health needs to be a thing of the past and I am open about my therapy. It is helping me…remember, it is helping me…it will not solve my problems, it will give me the tools and help give me the strength to solve them. It doesn’t work me, I must work the program. My therapists only give me guidance and my support groups only give me support. The rest is on me–and no one else, not even my closest friends or my boyfriend.

This is where I am today. I am codependent, I have massive depression, mood swings and severe anxiety. I am self-defeating. I am filled with anger, which I usually contain. I am doubtful and have low self-esteem.

Will you join me on my journey…not to give advice or insight…but to offer support?

Hello, I’m Angel

This blog is, in part, a portion of my own therapy as I go through my adult life dealing with a troubled past of sorts. Sure, you hear it, everyone has things to be grateful for, it could’ve been much worse, etc. but those cliche’s seldom do anyone who is hurting any good. I have gratitude for the many great things I’ve experienced in my life and personally know people who’ve had it worse. In my adult life, I explicitly decided that just because someone’s had it worse, it does not invalidate my existing pain. I only am able to see life through my lens and what is written here is just my experience.

In this blog, I will reference literature and teachings from two support groups in which I actively participate in: Al-Anon Family Groups and Codependent Anonymous. I do not represent Al-Anon nor CoDa and all writings in this blog are reflective only of myself and not the program nor it’s members. I will reference information from my therapists and from my life experience. I will generally abstain from political issues. I claim no religion but hold a high level of spirituality and speak only from my inner beliefs and do not represent a religion or class of individuals. I am Angel and I speak only from the perspective of Angel.

For some background, I am 24 years old and I was born and raised in Tampa, where I reside today. I live with my gorgeous best friend and my wonderful boyfriend, Marcus. Yes, I am male also. I am a mega Gaga fan (stereotypical, huh?), a college student, an administrative assistant for a staffing company and a classic sitcom junkie. I am very social and love to spend time around other people, love to talk serious, deep, politics or witty humor. My favorite movie is Mean Girls and my favorite food is spaghetti with meat sauce.

I believe in respect, dignity, honesty, integrity and effort. In this blog, I am writing as a method of my own healing…if someone else finds use of my content that is a bonus…I do not speak for anyone nor will I attempt to. If you feel so compelled, you may share this blog, comment or reach out to me. However, at the same token, if no one reads this ever, this blog is for my benefit. I will also happily follow your blog.

Thank you,

~Angel~