vulnerability is hard

I’ve had kind of a crappy morning.  Woke up feeling really ill.  UPS didn’t deliver a package, again, despite me being home.  I had a lot of work to do.  One of my great candidates had a cancer diagnosis in his immediate family–so he withdrew.  I spent 20 minutes on the phone with him just listening.  Delays, delays, delays.  Clean up.  Apologies.  And the day after holidays is always just the worst in terms of volume of stuff.

Bizarre calls from a friend’s mom asking if my friend was on drugs.  (I don’t think so, but I do think he’s flailing).  Calming her down because he never calls her.  Feeling angry at friend for putting me (and her) in this position.  Trying to be kind and compassionate when I just want to  blow my nose and go back to bed.  And feeling anxious about tomorrow’s jury duty.  And trying to catch up so the rest of the week isn’t a nightmare because of tomorrow.

Let’s just say, by the time I could even think about lunch, I was physically and emotionally wiped.  It’s like my long, restful, happy weekend never happened.

Around that time, as I was contemplating getting up to microwave a bag of beef stew, my ex started texting me in rapid order–and he sounded super upset.  Now, this is my stoic ex who never seems upset about anything.  The rare times he is upset, he’s a bit like Henny Penny.  He tends to overreact, probably because he under-reacts most of the time.  When he finally lets even a little out, it’s like Mount St. Helens blowing.

I understand this kind of thing.  I did it most of my life.  Held crap in and then it would blindside me–spinning me out of control in a confused, angry, emotional heap.  And I’d have no idea where it came from.  It took me years and years of working on myself to get to a place where I could actually feel things as they happened.  But crap still happens where I’ll get triggered.  I work really hard to figure it out.  There’s always something pushing it.  And if I think and get still, I’ll know.

The thing about my ex that I find infuriating is that he is very stubborn about these things.  He insists on claiming there’s nothing motivating his overreaction.  If you try talking to him, he shuts down and just yells a bunch of nonsense.  He is so uncomfortable with his emotions that he runs from them and won’t let anyone help him.

I have a hard time with this.

I’ve always been the person who has encouraged him to go deeper–to be vulnerable.  To use his words.  I like him when he’s emotional.  But it’s very rare when he can  be emotional and not completely paralyzed by it.  When he’s in that paralysis, it’s so frustrating for me.  He comes across as incredibly emo and full of excuses.  I just lack the patience.  I try to talk to him, but I find myself getting grumpy at him–mocking him in my head.  Or just judging him.

Like today.  His initial text said he felt awful and had to go home.  I wasn’t sure if he felt physically awful or something else.  I assumed physical since he never talks about actual emotions.  I asked him what was wrong.  He said he was really tired and felt like crying.  I asked him what happened.  He said he didn’t know.  I asked him what he was doing when it happened.  He said he was working.  Did something happen at work?  No.  It went on like this for a while.  This back and forth volley of I don’t know or no.  And me just being like, “COME ON.”

He still hasn’t mentioned the stuff with his aunt or grandfather.  To me, it would be obvious that maybe that was upsetting him.  He doesn’t seem to like his job much either.  He keeps busy all the time and avoids anything requiring depth.  Now that I think about it, I wonder if something I texted earlier did it.  We were talking about age differences in dating.  He’s less than a year younger than me.  I had said that younger people are great in many ways, but that they tend to be less interesting because they just haven’t really lived enough–for the most part.  He mentioned he was younger than me, and I said–rather carelessly  (and completely honestly) that  he actually was a good example of someone who hadn’t really experienced life that much.  He said he had experienced life, just differently.  And I said, “Well, you’ve done some things, but you kind of lack depth.”  I meant that he’s never really had a long-term relationship.  He’s never gotten close to marriage or living with someone.  He’s never had anyone close to him actually die.  He has both of his parents.  He’s not poor.  He has a privileged life.

And it’s all true.  He’s never really had to confront anything about himself.  His worst day is basically the easiest day I could imagine in terms of worst days.  Which isn’t to say it’s not horrible to him.  I’m not saying he’s a bad person or whatever.  He’s just been lucky.  And being lucky means you don’t really develop certain ways of being.

Honestly, I’d love to trade lives sometimes.

He basically said, “I see” and didn’t really respond until the panicked “I need to go home” declaration.  So I think I unintentionally hit a nerve–that feeling that he hasn’t done much–which he’s shared before–and now I feel really bad.

But–when I kept pressing him–he finally decided that he had that feeling because he couldn’t go rock climbing.  It felt like a cop-out–classic him–and I was just kind of annoyed that he squandered that opportunity to open up and be vulnerable.  So, I told him to go rock climbing.  He said he couldn’t because he felt foggy headed because of this emotional outburst.  And I told him to just go–if he got hurt, he got hurt.

And he’s been silent since then.

I was kind of an asshole, right?

I think, sometimes, I forget that this stuff is hard.  I’ve worked so hard at this that it’s pretty much second nature most of the time now.  And I’ll admit, I’ve judged him A LOT.  He just frustrates me.  I want to have so much compassion and hold his hand.  But, when I’m emotionally depleted, I tend to get frustrated and then mean.  I can’t support anyone in that state.  My mistake was trying.  I should have heated up my food, ate, and then made him call me after my workday ended–so I wasn’t hangry, tired, and watching the clock.

When I finally figured out my crappiness, I wondered: How the Hell am I going to be a therapist?!  I’ve questioned it before.  There’s a reason most therapy schools make you go to therapy.  I’m learning that, to truly be there for others, I can’t abandon myself.  As an empath, and HSP, I tend try to be there for everyone–no matter what.  And I really need to limit how much I take on and make sure I’m in a good place beforehand.   So, self-care–I’m learning–is actually a professional skill in my case.

Of course, I won’t be personally connected to my patients.  I think part of my grumpiness was just that he hasn’t shared obviously upsetting things with me, so it’s hard to really support him.  And I always feel so conflicted when it comes to anything him.

Maybe, I should be vulnerable about that next time.


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