The Most Heartbreaking Thing About Being Disliked

(This post is a bit all over the place, sorry!)

Often when people write about others disliking us, the “others” are described more as a faceless mob, just “haters,” unimportant to our daily lives. It seems a bit easier, at least to me, to brush off the negative opinions of others who don’t really know us. But what about when the people who dislike you are also those you loved and trusted? How do you deal when you still care about them and love them, but they greet you with sneering hatred or disapproval?

I have spent a large part of my life dealing with various folks who ended up hating or disliking me, even though I treated them with as much love as I knew how. The heartbreak of each of those instances still resounds in me to this day. Some, I later learned, were jealous of my talents and accomplishments; others were justifiably afraid of me and the overwhelming emotions I suffer; still others just apparently didn’t like me being who I am, creative and weird. But I still find myself thinking about these people, these former loved ones, and feeling weird guilt/regret for how negatively things turned out.

I never want anyone to feel active dislike/hatred, anger, pain, or fear because of me, because I know how hard those negative emotions are. Yet I am human, and thus capable of causing this kind of suffering in others without meaning to. I know I can’t control others’ emotions and reactions, but I’m still left raw by how they feel, too. Days like this, I find myself revisiting these messy heartbreaks, some of them almost three decades old, and wondering how I can ward off a situation like them in the future. At 34, I still am not sure how to guard my heart and mind against others’ emotions and reactions to me, and I don’t know how to get rid of the resulting guilt and regret. (I can pretend it’s not there, but not forever.) I also don’t really want to turn off my compassion and caring, either.

Anybody else ever struggled with this? Kinda feel like I’m talking all around it, lol, but maybe this makes sense?

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My Surprisingly Fun Evening Routine

I never thought I’d be the kind of person who has a routine for nighttime–back in the day I just fell asleep whenever I managed to get my brain to hush, with no preamble. But a combination of factors has given rise to my slow accumulation of nighttime systems that make me feel better come morning.

Since I just finished my 30-minute evening routine for the night, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on all the practices I do at night to get better prepared for bed. There are some unexpected practices here–read on to find out some road tested ideas that help me have a much better night. Here’s what I do, in order:

Tooth Care

This was the first step I adopted, and for good reason–I was tired of getting cavities and having to have thousands of dollars in dental work done! Since adopting this routine, I now very rarely get cavities anymore, and I experience little to no gum pain and bleeding like I used to. Getting rid of all the food bits and bacteria before I do nothing for 6-8 hours is key!

To begin, I usually pull up either a playlist of music or an interesting YouTube video I can listen to. Then I begin brushing with my child-size toothbrush (great for folks like me who have small mouths!), moving always in small soft circles angled toward my gum line, beginning with the front teeth, top and bottom. Once done there, I will either go to the bottom left or bottom right section of teeth depending on my mood (LOL), brushing the outside surfaces, biting surfaces, and inside surfaces. Usually I’ll finish off the back sides of my bottom teeth on this run too. After that I’ll move to the top section above the ones I just brushed, then the back sides of my front teeth. Then I’ll do the opposite side of my mouth the same way, bottom section and then top.

After all that, I’ll brush my tongue, getting as far back in my mouth as I can without gagging. (This does double duty–gets rid of bad breath AND helps with the tongue tension and gag reflex I am battling as a developing singer!)

A rinse with warm water, and then I’m off to flossing using a long-handled flosser (which is a GAME CHANGER!! Seriously, could not floss without it). In between each tooth, I run the floss a few times, angling it back and forth to get out as much stuff as possible, and I rinse the floss in between sections of teeth. Another thorough rinse with warm water after flossing, and I’m done with tooth care! This usually takes about 5 minutes total.

Face Care

Since I’m in my mid thirties now, I always put at least some moisturizer on before bed to protect my skin from drying out overnight. I very rarely wear makeup, and I refrain from touching my face throughout the day, plus if I over-wash my face I can start breaking out very badly, so I don’t wash my face every night. This takes about 30 seconds to a minute.

When my face feels like it needs it, though, I wash with some cleanser and a small, surprisingly gentle and inexpensive facial scrubber (found them at Dollar Tree, 2 for a buck!!). The scrubber exfoliates and spreads product evenly so I feel like I get a good clean. (You can definitely over scrub though, so take it easy on your face if you try this!) Paired with some super soft baby washcloths for rinsing, this routine leaves my face very smooth and soft, and ready for moisturizer. This additional step adds about 4 minutes.

Hand and Lip Care

I sleep with a fan on in my room, both for noise and to dispel hot stuffy air (my room is consistently the hottest in the house, ugh). This means that my skin generally gets super dried out all over, especially in the winter, if I don’t do something about it before I go to sleep. So to avoid “alligator hands” and “snakeskin lips”, I smooth lotion on my hands and put on lip balm, usually with petroleum. This takes about 1-2 minutes.

Muscle and Joint Care

Finally, I get in bed, turn on my TV, flip to YouTube, and pull up a video of my very newest nighttime routine: bedtime yoga! (That link is the video I use every night, and it’s great even for non-flexible beginners like me!)

Before starting this super gentle yoga flow, I generally woke up feeling like absolute dog poop–horribly sore and stiff all over? like I’d been run over by two buses and a steamroller during the night. I was also very skeptical that a bedtime yoga routine could change that. I thought I’d be bored or in pain doing these poses.

But instead, I’m actually enjoying doing yoga this time–I’m in bed, so I’m not experiencing the pressure and pain I usually feel trying to do stuff on the floor. I also get to enjoy how the fan blows over me like I’m at the spa, and the coolness comforts me as I stretch away some of the daily aches and pains. I do what I can, listen to my muscles when they holler for me to stop, and don’t pressure myself to be some kind of yoga hero.

I do still wake up feeling like maybe one bus hit me during the night, but even after just 10 days of practice, I’m already getting a bit more flexible. Hoping I can keep this up and see even more improvements over time!

Summary

I find that this evening routine helps me relax and have some fun in the evenings, even as I’m taking care of my body in specific ways. Is there anything you’d adopt from this routine? Let me know in the comments!

Whew.

Been away caring for my dad after he had a second stroke on January 19th. He’s up and around on a walker again, back in physical therapy, and improving a bit every day, but it was pretty rough for a while there.

Tonight I just had a little bit to share: I am so grateful for those in my life who help me out and give me breaks, especially during this season of caregiving. I’m pretty terrible at taking care of someone–I constantly feel like I’m not doing enough, not attentive enough, too worn out to do the job right. But when others give me a chance to rest or help me do a difficult task, it becomes easier. It helps so much to know I’m not having to do this all alone.

If you know someone who is caregiving, check and see what minor tasks you can help with. Even just running a load of laundry, bringing a takeout meal, or sitting with their loved one while they run errands will help.

No, I Can’t Actually “Decide to Be Happy”

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Anybody else tired of seeing this utter tripe go around on social media?

This might pass for pithy wisdom about life and the mind, but to me, it teaches at least 3 very wrong and dangerous ideas about happiness and emotion in general. Here are my arguments against each one:

1: Happiness is temporary, like every emotion.  It is not meant to be a permanent condition, only a fleeting feeling, so one cannot maintain it.  This image shames people for being unable to remain in a state of happiness/positivity, but that just isn’t psychologically feasible or even possible.  Nor is it healthy to keep chasing happiness at the expense of all else.  Sometimes you will be sad, angry, afraid, etc., and the sooner you can accept those emotions as part of the human experience, the sooner you can let them pass.  Trying to be happy/positive all the time is like trying to control the weather to have only sunny days –it’s not gonna happen AND it’s not good for us in the long term.

2: Emotion is not something we can actually control with our thoughts.  You can have all the good intent in the world when you wake up, and you still won’t be able to control your emotions like this image states you should.  The truth is, emotions are affected by illness, injury, allergies, stressors from family and/or work, sleep quality, the dreams you had last night, and a lot of other factors which you can’t truly control.  This fallacy is dangerous because it suggests that feeling negative emotions is a character flaw and a choice, when it is most certainly not.

3: Shame, guilt, fear, and blame are not healthy motivators for change.  The arrogant, judgmental tone in this image is what really gets my goat–it uses these four negative emotions to get across a point about waking up positive!  How much sense does that make?  We are highly motivated by these things, which is why so many teachers and writers use them, but this mentality of “you choose to be wrong, so you should be ashamed” ultimately blights our mindsets and stunts our emotional growth.  A much healthier motivator set is acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, and respect–all of which this image is sorely lacking.

Let’s not poison our 2019 with teachings that dump emotional garbage on us like this.  Let’s instead think critically about what we see and share, really dig into what others say we should believe.  Who knows, it could change our lives and our minds for the better.

P.S. For more on happiness and emotions in general, check out The Happiness Trap–I’m enjoying my read-through thus far, and it’s helped me a lot!

Out of Church at Christmas

This is something I wrote on an online forum about Christianity and church attendance, and I thought it would be appropriate to share here. Christmas Eve sure looks different to me this year!

Church is just plain difficult for me. I really tried for 22 of my 34 years to make myself like church because it’s what “good people” do; I threw myself into every ministry I could, taught Sunday school for 7 years, sat through hundreds of repetitive, interminably LONG sermons, served in witnessing and missionary work that felt more like a multi level marketing scheme selling Jesus, and yet I’m empty. Everything I did was a performance, a show I thought was for God but ended up being absolutely meaningless.

I’ve been out of regular church attendance 7 months, but the Christmas season feels strangely freeing. For the first time in years I don’t have to be part of a Christmas cantata or do anything else that makes somebody else’s season bright but makes me harried and stressed. My Sunday mornings are now my own to play my piano and talk to God as I need to. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to that trapped, passive existence in a pew, scared to make noise unless somebody asks for it.

Encouragement vs. Correction

My make-up voice lesson this morning went really well–and it went beyond just working on my voice. Today, I learned that much of what I have been interpreting as correction/criticism is actually encouragement.

Here’s an example: a teacher says “this is good, but give me even more.”

What they apparently mean: “You can do it! I can see this skill developing and you’re really growing!”

How I have interpreted it all my life: “You did this wrong, stupid. Do it right next time.”

Part of it is how I was brought up–my mom and dad both interpreted encouragement as correction and criticism, too, likely because of childhood emotional abuse. It’s not easy to break through a mindset you’ve never questioned because others around you believed it. And it’s sickening to think that something I believed was logical and correct just…wasn’t, at all.

This makes me feel crappy and stupid for misinterpreting things in school and social situations all these years, and yet I honestly didn’t know any better. I had no idea that any of the education and encouragement I received was given with anything but a spirit of correction and criticism. I just thought that’s what being “educated” felt like–being shamed and guilt-tripped for your stupid mistakes till you did everything exactly like somebody else wanted you to do it. (I’ve had a rare few awesome teachers who apparently spoke enough of my “emotional language” that their teaching translated as encouragement, but most did not have the time or inclination.)

Going forward, now that I have at least part of a translation guide for other people’s encouragement, I can maybe handle some social interactions better and re-process incidents that happened before. Maybe my story can help those who speak different emotional languages finally get on the same wavelength!

When it gets bad

Ever felt like eating is a chore? That’s where I am these days. I quite literally got bored of eating in the middle of dinner a couple nights ago.

The craziest thing was that I was still hungry–I just was tired of the maddening, nauseating sounds of chewing and slurpy drinking, tired of feeling my permanently clenched jaw muscles aching as they worked, and tired of dealing with the sharp edges of overly crunchy food poking at my gums and lips. (We’re talking crunchy like chips/crisps.). It all suddenly felt like it required an enormous effort to continue feeding myself when all it was doing was making me irrationally angry and somehow empty.

So I just quit. I wrapped up my food with the one remaining sh*t I had left to give, and lay in bed vaguely hungry and headachy for four more hours…until my blood sugar level sharply reminded me if I didn’t eat more soon, I was going to pass out.

I wish I could say this has been an isolated incident, but it’s been this way more of my life than not. This latest bout is probably spurred on by dad’s illness, which I feel powerless to help with much and which reminds me too much of what mom went through before she died…but it’s not all external, not all explainable. And how am I supposed to tell anybody else what this is like if I don’t understand it well myself?

It’s odd, I can stand outside myself in certain moments and recognize “this is depression again.” But when I’m having to live through it, slog through each day minute by stupid maddening minute, it’s like living my life in a trash compactor, the walls coming ever closer each day like that scene in Star Wars: A New Hope. My life is getting away from me so fast, and yet I can’t even enjoy anything anymore. Even existing with meals that are more like light, preprocessed snacks, existing without expending nonexistent energy on cooking or bathing or fresh clothes, feels like fighting an interminably long siege. I’m all out of ammo and the enemy has stormed the gate.

I don’t really want to die yet though, which is good–I’ve been suicidal before and I know not to let it get that bad again. This time, it’s just like “I don’t want any of this life anymore. I don’t want to have to fight like this just to appear normal. No one normal has to claw up the side of a mountain every day just to be passable. I am sick of it and I want to be myself again.” I’m tired of the ache all over, the ache inside.

I hope to get help soon, but I’m still snowed in from all this garbage weather we’ve had and can’t get out to go to any appointments. (Side note: I HATE snow and ice!). Hopefully soon we’ll have enough melt off out here in the woods that I can go outside without falling and hurting myself again. Then I can think about calling for an appointment, maybe finding a primary care physician who won’t treat me poorly because I’m fat. Maybe it’s time to try meds since behavioral therapy hasn’t really headed this off.

I want to get better. I really do. I just wish it didn’t take a monumental effort on my part to just look like I’m barely trying. I wish my greatest efforts weren’t judged by those who are trying to help me as “not enough.” That’s been the most discouraging thing of all.

What Caregivers Need

Dad is home, praise the Lord, and he is more functional than I could have imagined after seeing him fall so horribly. He’s still shaky when getting around, but he can talk and think pretty clearly. Still some follow ups to do, but overall things are better than they could have been.

That said, for me life is now a little more challenging. I have in many ways always been an emotional caregiver for my parents, even from childhood–it’s not healthy, but it was what happened–but now I am additionally taking on some physical care responsibilities. Dad thankfully doesn’t need as much as Mom did in her last year of life, but I greatly fear the day he loses all function, because I know I will be overwhelmed just like I was with Mom. (The grief of watching a loved one suffer completely overrode my ability to function as a competent adult, and I spent most of the last months of 2016 and the early months of 2017 shut up in my bedroom trying to escape from that ten-ton weight on my heart.)

During this time, I’ve received a lot of on-the-ground support and a lot of sweet counsel and prayers; as Dad and Mom’s only child, I’ve relied on others greatly and been grateful that they are there. However, I’ve also received “advice” (using the word loosely) that has done nothing but make me feel guilty. Some have insinuated that if I was a decent daughter and human being, I could care for Dad myself without needing to pay a home health worker. Some have subtly suggested I’ve been asking for prayer/help too much and I should just get on with my business like a “real adult,” whatever that is. Still others have interrogated me about the fall itself, and why I wasn’t standing there ready to escort Dad from the stage so that he would not have fallen in the first place. And some, well meaning though they are, have critiqued my inability to have Dad a bedroom prepared on the main floor so far, due to a massive clutter situation left over from when we were caregiving for Mom.

All of these questions and comments come at a time when I am emotionally and mentally exhausted from the shock and trauma of seeing my daddy fall, his mortality and fragility on display for everyone to see–I’m still processing the fright that I would lose half my world in a moment. All these questions and comments do is impart negativity into a brain and heart that is already aching with guilt and shame.

This is not what caregivers need. What caregivers need is compassionate help that does not come bundled with judgmental, disdainful comments. What caregivers need is understanding that we are human and need escapes and help as well, since our previously restful homes usually become the battlefield of our loved one’s health crisis. What caregivers need is someone to listen, to work alongside us and to help us shoulder the weight of this frightening event. Now more than ever, we need others to understand that asking for help is not a sin, and complete self-sufficiency is a myth. ❤️

Person in Progress

I am the first to admit that I am a person in progress, still developing, learning, and healing. So it irritates me when others come along and judge my progress to be “not enough,” when I know they have no clue what they’re even talking about.

This week I have shared with multiple people at various times about the positive strides I’m making spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. I’m excited about my progress, I wanna talk about it, y’know? But the only response I got back from any of them was “Well, what about losing weight? What kind of exercise are you doing? Walking isn’t enough,” etc. As if I don’t know I’m fat, as if I don’t know I’m “unhealthy,” as if I don’t know my weight is a problem. Insert eye rolling here.

I know they meant well, I really do. But I felt like screaming at them, “Look, [expletive-laden epithet], I know EXACTLY how much this body weighs and how much it sucks to be this big, okay? But I can’t fight a war on multiple fronts!” Right now, I am doing a TON of mental and spiritual work to feel like living again instead of merely existing, and that “head work” has to be completed before I even think about taking on any kind of physical fitness journey. (I should know, I’ve tried doing it the other way around and it didn’t work.). I’m doing things the right way for me this time. I’m not interested in hearing a pep talk, I’m not interested in any diet shakes or classes right now–that’s just not where I’m at and I’m not gonna be there for a good while yet. Just because somebody else thinks I’m not as far along as I “ought to be” doesn’t mean they’re right.

It was impossible to say these things directly to them, though; I was too busy thinking things like “don’t strangle them, they’re not worth the jail time, ‘thou shalt not kill’, remember?” LOL! But now that I’m calm and can think more clearly about it, I have realized a couple of things:

  1. I can learn from each of these people, but I don’t have to follow the timetable they’re pushing. God is leading, I am following, and my path doesn’t have to make sense to them for it to be right.
  2. I am perfectly placed to learn what I need to learn with the right people at the right time. I’m making progress, even if they don’t see it. Every little itty bitty step is a victory. ❤️

Real Talk: Holidays

Mostly, I try to post helpful stuff here, stuff I’d want to read, but today, all I’ve got churning in the ol’ gray matter is a sense of emptiness. The holidays are hard more often than not for me.

I won’t bore you or weight you down with descriptions of what I’m going through, though. What I will do is offer you comfort and compassion if you’re entering this holiday season with significantly less than exuberant joy. Whether you’re grieving a missing loved one, feeling disconnected and isolated from your living loved ones, wondering what’s the point of the holidays (or living) anyway, randomly feeling sort of lost and broken, etc., just know that there are lots of us out there who understand. The holidays are not merry and bright for everyone–maybe not even the ones who put on a good show of it.

So I invite you to be real with yourself and with those you trust this holiday season. You are worth loving, you’re not a burden, and you don’t deserve to suffer. If it’s time to make that hard but necessary call to a mental health care center, please take this as your sign to do it. You deserve to feel better, and your struggles are not strange. I say this as someone who has not won the proverbial war at all, someone who is still in the trenches with you. We will make it through this season together, and perhaps even reclaim some of its light for ourselves. ❤️