Today has been a very educational day.
I finished up my second job, for this part of the year, which means I will no longer be working two jobs simultaneously which is wonderful and I am incredibly grateful because it means I get to have my introverted one day off a week from dealing with people without which I want to curl up and cry several times a day back.
Since this was the last day I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and because I’ve been able to clear my mind over the last week (due to other situations I don’t need to get into here) I’ve also been able to genuinely consider things that some other people have told me over the past while. One person is quite sure that I am INFJ (I think I’m best described as a combination of INFJ and INTJ, not that this is overly important here), and as such I am very much affected by the emotional states of those around me. Towards the end of the day everyone was packing up, there was lots to do, everyone is tired and wants to go home, and what my Mom and I had to pack up tends to take a lot longer so we felt rushed, and my Mom kept mentioning that, and I was tired and when I’m tired I like focusing on one thing, not being interrupted and forced to listen or respond to things that are inconsequential (i.e. being told for the, I kid you not, fourth time in half an hour that my Mom is going to try to fit everything into her car – I love her, but this is a frustration for me), and I become noise-sensitive when I am over-stimulated like this so every time one of those hall tables was taken down and those legs slammed into place, I would flinch except I don’t like that being observed because people either feel bad or get defensive or ask me what’s wrong and I don’t want to talk about it, so I reign it in so I’m flinching internally and my mental and emotional state is speeding towards a not happy place…
I was in a real good mood when we finally finished.
Driving home, I did a lot of praying, found some good, loud music (ironically, I’m noise-sensitive when I’m over-stimulated, but if I can get one, single thing like loud music to focus on it settles me and it is emotionally cathartic for me), and was fairly calm by about halfway home. So then I started thinking about this person’s theory/observation that I’m deeply affected by the emotions of people around me. And I thought about how everyone else is trying to move as quickly as possible to avoid holding others up. And how everyone just wanted to get home. And how people were also perhaps disappointed about how the day went. And then when my Mom thinks I’m upset about something (which I can appear to be when I’m stressed, over-stimulated, and feeling rushed) she feels somewhat anxious which I think makes her talk more, which is of course the exact opposite of what I need in that situation, which makes for a vicious cycle unless I remind myself of that and make myself appear to be absolutely fine (and no, I cannot just tell her I need her to not talk to me right now, because her anxiety is due to past experiences which means telling her things like that even with a lot of gentleness tends to not only offend her deeply, which I don’t want to do, but makes her feel guilty and upset and discouraged and it’s just not at all a good situation – I do not advocate dishonesty, but at present me choosing a specific behaviour despite how I feel has been the best course of action).
I think I can agree with how I’m affected by all this. Plus, just being tired because I’ve been dealing with people every single day for over two weeks, have not had time to myself to recover and think properly, have had to do a lot of small talk which is in itself a form of torture on my psyche (not exaggerating, it’s brutal, and people who do not experience this do not understand what it’s like, and that’s okay, I’m glad you don’t grasp the feeling), and I came home and ate cupcakes and napped for four hours. Now I feel disoriented but at least capable of thinking.
Several times today I would suddenly lose the word I was thinking of while speaking, I stumbled over simple sentences, I kept confusing things while talking to my Mom. I must have said four or five times ‘Good grief, what is wrong with me?’ or that I needed a nap or I was out of it, until I realised wow, this is not hyperbole, my brain is fried. And I felt decent, could have done with more sleep, but I didn’t feel grumpy and miserable like I often do when I’m feeling drained. I think that was just a form of over-stimulation or the beginnings of what came to a head later in the day. So that was fun.
I’m not entirely sure what to do about this yet, although being aware of it is interesting in itself. I mean, I don’t know how to make it better in the moment, afterward I know that I need recovery time (which is why, apart from having to teach Sunday School tomorrow – which I enjoy doing – I’m going to be severely limiting my interaction with other people, to give my self a real break, a good recovery day, and let myself get back to normal). The nap helped too, and I don’t feel guilty about it like I often do, like I should have been doing chores instead or schoolwork. Instead, I recognise this is a real need and I will be better off if I take care of myself first. So I ate quickly, brushed my teeth, and went to sleep, sans alarm so I would sleep as long as I needed. And that was one of the best naps I’ve had in a long, long time.
And it’s already been really helpful because I’ve had a chance to think about a lot of other things. For instance, I read an article on MBTI personalities and what things bother each type the most, and for INFJ it mentioned that while they like being needed and love helping people and being supportive, when they are constantly prevailed upon by people to meet needs like a therapist, or a personal problem-solver, or a parent, and particularly when this goes one-way, then it becomes incredibly draining and stressful because of the pressure placed on them. I wasn’t entirely sure if this applied to me, but then I reconsidered it after my nap, and I realised that this might be what happened between myself and my former best friend years ago. We used to spend tons of time together, grew up together, had sleepovers, had lots of common interests, talked tons; she was my closest friend. Then in high school, I began helping her with schoolwork, which I didn’t mind. We’d study together, work on projects together, I’d explain things she didn’t understand right away (I tended to do well in school, it suited how my mind works). Then she would read during the ‘teaching’ part of science class, and then ask me to help her during the homework half. Then in university we went to the same school, and she wouldn’t buy the textbook for the class we shared, but would come and ask to borrow mine. She would come and ask for help with papers, but wouldn’t edit when I gave her a list of things to edit for, she just wanted me to read it and make changes I thought were needed. She would come and talk to me when she wanted to rant about something or talk about what was making her stressed or anxious (this started years before, but intensified in undergrad), but if I made suggestions she always had a reason it wouldn’t work (without trying it) or would just ignore me, and be back to say the same thing the next day. If I tried to share what I was going through, she would seem very distracted and I don’t remember there being a lot of sympathy or response in general, so I tended to just not share much. I realised at one point that when I’d call home to talk to my parents, I spent like half the time talking about my friend and the latest issues, which wasn’t good. Then one night at a church prayer meeting, my pastor was talking about dealing with the things that disturb our peace with God, and I realised my friend was what was disturbing my peace. Now, at the time this was misconstruing what my pastor meant, he was talking about if we felt convicted about something we needed to deal with it rather than let it separate us from God. But this issue with my friend really was the main source of unrest and frustration and stress in my life at the time.
So I drove to her house afterward, and I told her that I felt we had not been friends for a long time because things were not working both ways, I did not like how she was treating people (other issues I don’t need to get into here), and as gently as I could (although I now really dislike my choice of words) I needed her to leave me alone (oh this makes me cringe so much now) until she dealt with that. I need to say here that I genuinely regret how I handled this part because I don’t think I should have ended the friendship, I should have told her how I felt and if she had, as I feared she would because of past experiences and hence my rather abrupt conversation, responded defensively and turned it around on me and just not listened, then I should have stuck to my guns and made myself heard and asked for space, not for her to ‘leave me alone’ because that was just…bad, bad, bad wording.
But at the time I was not good at sticking to my guns. Avoidance was my best strategy, my only strategy, or I’d just bend to whatever the other person wanted. I was horrible at sticking up for myself, I swallowed even more than I do now, and while I never want to stop being gracious I also am really glad I’m not such a pushover anymore. But that’s another journey we don’t need to get into here. So this was the best I knew how to do at the time, and given what I know about my personality and how my mind works now I do think that what I needed was at least a break from that relationship. Because it had become very one-sided. I was feeling pulled, constantly, to the point that just seeing her, before a word was spoken, I felt stressed and pressured, like I was psyching myself up to deal with whatever would need to be dealt with in her life today. And I loved her so much, I still do. I miss her, we had some wonderful time together, she was a fantastic friend. I don’t really know when exactly things swung into this dynamic, but I know it wasn’t good for me, and probably not for her either overall. I still wish I had handled things differently, but I also know that you don’t know better until you do. I sincerely hope I handle future situations like this better.
Lastly, I’ve been thinking about this concept of being aware of emotions, taking a step back and acknowledging them, examining them, practicing mindfulness. I’ve been told about this in the context of meditation, but also regarding mental/emotional health, MBTI analysis, etc. It’s something I’ve sort of tried to do, but it’s been hard in the moment. Tonight, though, I responded to a message with an answer I knew wasn’t the one the person was hoping for, but it was the right thing to do given my mental and emotional state. And I didn’t get a response right away (not that they had to respond right away), and at first that was fine, I was secure in what I knew was best given where my head is at and what I’m capable of until I can fully rest up. And then more time passed, and I started to feel the beginnings of anxiety. I have this deep-set concern about disappointing people, especially those I love most. I hate it telling people things they don’t want to hear (unless they’re people I’m not close to and who are being assholes, then I have no issue telling them some truths), and in the past with this person in particular I have gone along with what they wanted or thought was the best choice despite how I felt and what I believed was the best choice, and I’ve since learned that’s not been a good idea (so many of you are thinking “Obviously…” right now :oD), but I did it because I didn’t want to make them feel bad, I didn’t want them to think that I wasn’t committed, I didn’t want to be accused of being faithless or acting out of fear or whatever, I didn’t want them to feel unloved, I didn’t want to lose them. And then…I sort of lost them anyways.
So I wasn’t getting a response, and I feel the first stirrings of anxiety, and at first I was telling myself “No, don’t think that, it’s fine, you know you need a day off, that’s okay,” and then I was getting annoyed because I was thinking “Well, I should be able to feel how I feel, and I should get to say I need a day off still, and I should get to prioritise myself…” and getting all worked up over imagined attitudes because my mind doesn’t know when to shut up. And when it kept resurfacing, particularly this anxious feeling, where I was repeatedly bracing myself to have to defend what I needed, or explain myself, or just gearing up to deal with me feeling guilty and sad because I made the other person feel sad and disappointed (what a mess, hey? please don’t think this person is awful, they are wonderful, there’s just been a massive range of experiences in the past we are re-navigating and I’m dealing with a lot of things, as you all can see, with my own emotional and mental health and learning to make good choices – a lot of this could have been avoided if I’d learned to prioritise loving myself and not choosing things against what I felt was wise and felt comfortable with, but that’s a whole other post) I finally remembered ‘mindfulness’.
I stopped browsing Tumblr posts on Pinterest (because what else do you do after a nap?), and said quite calmly and objectively to myself, “Okay, so let’s examine this. How come I am feeling so anxious?” And I realised it’s because I am afraid that if I am honest about myself that the worst case scenarios that have happened in the past will happen; but the aforementioned person is not in the same place at all that they were before, and I know better too, so while I do need to be aware and thoughtful and not repeat the same things that got me into trouble the first time around, that doesn’t mean me being honest about my emotional and mental state is going to lead to bad things. And even if it did, that would simply be an indication that our current friendship needs to be backed up and worked on until we can both be honest about such things without negative responses from either person – and of course, this is what I was anxious about, until I thought it through and realised…that’s okay? It’s okay to back things up and try again when you realise things are going wonky? And it’s not the end of the world? And I don’t need to cling to this image that I want so tightly that it makes me this anxious and we need to just deal with things and work through things and if both people in a friendship won’t work through them then that means they aren’t friends and there’s nothing there that hasn’t already been lost anyways?
I don’t mean that cynically, it’s just a logical kind of honesty I needed to tell myself. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not. The end. Of the world. Breathe. If they felt disappointed, it’s not the end of the world. They’ll live. I am not entirely responsible for their feelings, nor should I be, nor can I be. It’s not the end of the world. Even if in the highly unlikely scenario they responded in a remarkably negative way, I could even ignore them until I knew I was ready and able to reply well, I could prioritise myself, get myself in the right mindset, and then respond and work it out. It’s not the end of the world. They might not like what they hear. It’s not the end of the world. If I went with the other option in this situation instead of what I know I need, then things would not go well, that’s a very clear pattern given repeated past attempts, and while it still wouldn’t be the end of the world it would mean an entire week of me being miserable and exhausted because I didn’t take care of myself. Indulgence vs. self love. Self love won. I’m going to go have a brownie.
And then I got a reply a while later, and it was all fine anyways. Silly brain, calm down.
Oh, and I got a new teddy bear today! I haven’t named him yet, but he’s gorgeous, and handmade, and it was love at first sight.
It’s been a really long week where I’ve been too busy to really think, so now that I napped and thought, this is like all my journalling that’s built up and built up until it just exploded in one massive post…
If you made it this far, kudos. Give yourself a treat, you’ve earned it.