Thursday, November 27, 2008

faux therapy

Well, last night was interesting. I went to the clinic hoping to feel better, and that’s actually what happened, but not the way I expected. I have met with a few therapists, but I don’t think I’ve ever met one like this one.

Her name was Jennifer, and when she came out to get me I thought maybe she was just an office person. She didn’t have the presence of a professional. Her appearance was…frumpy. That’s the best word I can think of to describe her. She spoke without really opening her mouth, and her expression was like she was half asleep. It was like talking to someone who was tired and wishing they were in bed. She was overweight, but just around the middle. Her appendages were normal size. And she did not really have any sense of style about the way she dressed. I tried not to be put off by her appearance, but it was hard not to be. She was just a strange-looking creature.

There was really no structure about the visit. I expected her to ask questions, but there was a lot of silence. She would ask very vague questions, like she was expecting I was a talker, but I am not, and I don’t just talk to listen to myself. I talk if someone is interested. And she did not seem genuinely interested. She probably would have rather been at home with the seven year-old boy she mentioned a couple of times.

I kept wondering why I was there. What had I paid for? Did this person actually possess the skills to help me, or was she the one who needed help? We got through a little of my background, but I also heard a lot about hers. She grew up with an alcoholic father. She had some knowledge about Borderline and other personality disorders, and she explained a lot about their behavior, which was not really enlightening for me. I’m the one who has lived with them all of my life. I know how they are. She told me about her day job, working with convicts in the justice system, trying to help those who do not want to be helped. I kept wondering when we were going to get to the purpose of my visit. After an hour, when my patience could stand no more, I had to say something. “So what are we going to do?” I said. “To raise my self-esteem?”

And then she gave me an assignment. But by then I had already decided I was not going to return and pay another $70 to feel like I had accomplished nothing. I accepted the assignment, but I wanted to just get up and leave. I did finally have to end things after 90 minutes. She would have let me sit folding paper airplanes for another half hour otherwise. I finally just stood up and thanked her for her time and let myself out.

It was so weird. It was the strangest counseling session I’ve ever experienced. Walking out to my car I was relieved and reassured that there is just not that much wrong with me that I can’t work on myself. I have prayer, I have scriptures, I have good friends who listen and care about what I have to say. There are people with more complex problems than I have. I’m in pretty good shape.

I still feel like there are some things I need to change and behaviors I need to work on, but after that session with that strange woman I feel much more capable of finding my own solutions.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I’ve always found it rather tedious that my body requires food every few hours. Without it, my blood sugar gets low and I either feel sick or irritable, so it’s worth it to me to have something on hand, to be prepared in case I start to get hungry. I’ve wished that I could be like an animal that hibernates, and fill my stomach once every few days, or even once a day, so that I don’t have to deal with the chore of finding something to eat. Really, a good feast like Thanksgiving should last three or four days. And yet, we have to get up the next morning and eat again.

It occurred to me today that maybe Heavenly Father designed our bodies that way—for many reasons, I imagine—but to also teach us symbolically about the importance of regular and consistent nourishment. And here I refer to spiritual nourishment. As members of the church we’re told repeatedly that we must nourish our spirits daily. I wonder if part of my problem—this general dissatisfaction I feel about myself—has anything to do with that, or if it’s just my feelings of inadequacy. Even if I did take the time to nourish my spirit every day, would I feel “full?” Or would I still feel like what ever effort I was making wasn’t good enough?

And if malnourishment is part of the problem, maybe I would benefit from learning to recognize my spirit’s hunger pangs as well as I know my body’s.

100 things

I saw this on Shark Bait and thought I would play along. Why not?

You are supposed to copy the list and bold the ones you have done (but instead I'll make my deeds a different color. It's more fun.):

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band orchestra
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted drawn
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book short story
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined Started a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Totally copied a post from someone else's blog to your own

my reality

MY reality: I miss my MJ. But maybe what I really miss is having someone to focus my attention on. Melody Beattie says, “What if you could be feeling anything you wanted right now, and feeling that way wouldn’t make you a bad person. What would you be feeling?” I like this game, and I want to play.

Something inside of me isn’t right, and I don’t know what it is. I don’t feel at peace with myself. I don’t feel like any of me is good enough. My job doesn’t provide me enough money. My friends are not as attentive as I would like them to be. My body doesn’t look like I want it to. My clothes don’t fit comfortably. My appetite is never satisfied. I feel frustrated. I feel like I need help, but I don’t know how to help myself.

I do, however, have an appointment with a counselor/therapist tonight. So I can allow myself to feel realistic hope.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

the grief process

I learned something from Codependent No More last night. Chapter 12: “Learn the Art of Acceptance.” There’s this process we go through, called the grief process, which happens whenever people experience any kind of loss. “When this process begins, we usually feel shock and panic. As we go through the stages, we often feel confused, vulnerable, lonely and isolated. A sense of loss of control is usually present, as is hope, which is sometimes unrealistic.” I have experienced loss lately—the loss of closeness with my good friend MJ. As I read through these steps, I could clearly see how I went through each one.

The first is denial. There were many times when I tried to tell myself it wasn’t really happening, that her detachment was a phase she was going through, and that she would either get discouraged or she would miss the way things were, and she would be back. “Denial is the shock absorber for the soul. It is an instinctive and natural reaction to pain, loss and change. It protects us. It wards off the blows of life until we can gather our other coping resources.” I did not want it to happen, and so it wasn’t happening.

The second is anger. There wasn’t a whole lot of this for me, but I do remember feeling tired and fed up with it all. The roller coaster ride was getting old, and I just wanted to forget about it, bag the whole deal and move on. I guess this was partly denial too.

The third is bargaining. “We are not attempting to postpone the inevitable; we are attempting to prevent it.” I thought if I was patient, and kind, and gave her her space, that she would realize that she was powerless to retreat, and she would be back, and things would resume as normal. Or, sometimes I’ve thought that if I went about my own business and she felt me detaching, she would panic and come running. The ol’ reverse psychology trick.

The fourth step is depression. No need to elaborate here. I’m very practiced at being depressed. “When we see our bargain has not worked, when we finally become exhausted in our struggle to ward off reality, and when we decide to acknowledge what life has socked to us we become sad….This is the time to cry, and it hurts.”

And finally, acceptance. “After we have closed our eyes, kicked, screamed, negotiated, and finally felt the pain, we arrive at a state of acceptance.” Here is the reality: MJ has moved on with her life. She has severed her attachment to me and is ready to look into preventing the same from happening again with someone else. She is growing up and making decisions at a turning point in her life. She is deciding where the rest of her life will go. “[I am] at peace with what is. [I am] free to stay; free to go on; free to make whatever decisions [I] need to make. [I] have accepted [my] loss, however minor or significant.” To me, it was significant.

Friday, November 21, 2008

still detaching...

Why does this hurt so badly? I never expected separation from MJ to be so difficult. There was a time, back when I tried to initiate it, that it would have been welcome for her to be busy doing other things. Why is it so different now? Did I lose myself somewhere, because I’m still doing the things I’ve always done, on my own. My own projects still call to me from my bedroom and I’m engaged and productive. But depressed.

I have been tired, so I decided to go to bed early last night. Fortunately the whole house had decided the same thing, because it was quiet by 9:00. I was in bed reading when MJ sent a text message that she wanted to watch the last episode in the season of Ghost Whisperer we’ve been trying to get through. I didn’t mind getting out of bed to do that, but my sister likes to watch it too and I wasn’t going to go drag her out of bed as well. Besides, I was reading Codependent No More, about taking care of myself. So I figured if I was tired and in bed already, was it taking care of myself to get out of bed and watch a show that would keep me awake until at least 10:30, when my goal was to be in bed earlier than usual? Not really. So I sent back a text that we could not watch it tonight. She complained and wanted an explanation and lamented that she would not be able to wait until next week, but she really could not win this one. If turning her away was supposed to make me feel any better, it didn’t.

I’m supposed to pay attention to my “inner child,” and listen to her and find out what she wants. What does she want right now if my stomach hurts and I want to cry? How do I console her?

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Facebook has introduced a new dilemma to my life. Well, maybe the dilemma isn’t exactly new, but it puts a new twist on an old dilemma.

If you're unfamiliar with how it works, each Facebook member has a profile, and one can invite any other Facebook member to be one’s friend, thereby giving each other access to each other’s profile page. This information can include status (married, single, etc), interests, religious affiliation, hobbies, pictures, and anything else the user wishes to make public. Once two users are “friends,” not only do they have access to each other’s information, but if they are active in the Facebook community they can see what their friends are doing day to day, or however often they update things. So it’s like getting an answer to “What are you doing?” everyday, from all of your friends. One can basically keep in touch without having to actually keep in touch.

There have been people in my life that I have not wanted to keep in touch with. I’m sure there are some who would rather not keep in touch with me, for whatever reason. For the former, I just ignore their friend requests, and they can deal with that however they choose. But for the latter--and I can’t be certain about who these people are-- I never know how often to try and contact someone who does not respond. My college roommate FD is a good example. She obviously cannot manage to communicate clearly about whether or not to maintain a relationship with me, and since I got tired of trying without getting any encouragement, I have given up on her. And yet there are others…

There are people that I would love to maintain contact with, but since I don’t feel the same desire from them, I get stuck knowing how to proceed. Do I continue to try, hoping they’re just too busy with life right now but later on they might have time to catch up with me? Do I assume that the desire is there? Or does a lack of response simply mean the desire is not there, and I should not waste my time?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

shifting focus

Last night may have been the first night in perhaps years that MJ left my house without giving me a hug. And it’s usually she that says she needs it. We watched a TV show and when it was over she got up and wandered over to the kitchen closet where she hangs her car keys, ready to take off. Usually she follows me down to my room to get her hug, then lingers in my doorway while I make my bedtime preparations. I think it’s official. She is ready and trying to detach. There will be no going back to how it used to be.

Of course today I am obsessing (not as much as I normally would—it hasn’t upset me) about the lack of hug. It was always very important to her. Now I’m naturally wondering why. Is this a conscious decision and part of her plan to detach? Did she not smell very good and didn’t want me to get too close? Is this how it’s going to be now? She did say something about how JP hugs everyone and often. She doesn’t like that—says it makes them common and less important. But in the past she rarely missed a day without a hug from me.

She’s trying to figure herself out now—trying to determine why she attaches herself to older women. And how to break the habit. I’ve been trying to figure her out for years. But maybe it’s time to leave the investigation in her own hands.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Viva Las Vegas!

Well, the weekend was good overall. Since I like to make lists…

What I liked:
*the seats we had at the concert
*seeing Alanis again
*the hotel room
*the hotel location in proximity to the Hard Rock Hotel
*the weather!
*listening to Alanis’ CDs from the first to the last, in the car on the way down – a whole different experience from listening to just one at a time.
*time away from home/a break in the routine
*visiting with my family in St George
*the price of gas – lowest = $1.85
*driving through “The Strip”
*counting wedding chapels on Las Vegas Boulevard
*that I own a reliable vehicle

What I did not like:
*10 hours of driving
*MJ’s attitude = the phrase “spoiled brat” comes to mind
*Las Vegas
*cigarette smoke
*having to hear (and see) Marilyn Manson in the restaurant at what seemed like 500 decibels

So since the positive outweighed the negative, one might conclude that the trip was not a disaster, and I would concur.

Friday, November 14, 2008


A very interesting thing happened yesterday. The interesting part has to do with me and my reaction to what happened. In an email around noon, MJ wrote, regarding JP: “…as for that boy, I think we will just be friends. I'm not feeling much of anything with him anyway. :)” I had been feeling okay about everything, but with that announcement, a very tangible burden lifted itself off of me. Suddenly I felt happier. Because JP was no longer a threat? Because subconsciously that meant to me that she would no longer be preoccupied with him? I don’t know exactly why I felt better, but I did. And then, when she came to our house, she was calmer, more at ease, more relaxed. And since I was feeling better too, we got along just like we had before all of this transition stuff even took place. I mentioned it to her too, that she seemed more relaxed, less stressed, and she agreed. So now I wonder, is she back? Is she “mine” again? All of these positive changes that were going to happen--is my love affair with codependency going to just shrug them all off and I’ll just find myself back in my comfort zone? Heaven forbid! As painful and as frustrating as it has been lately, it was the beginning of a change that both of us needed. How can I abandon that path now?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I keep a journal pretty regularly. I say that I do it because I can't remember things, but it's really because I like to write, and because I like to read what I have written. Sometimes, just for fun, I like to turn back the pages of time and read about what was on my mind a year ago, or two years ago, etc. It's a way to remember how I felt about a period of time when I can't presently remember. Take three years ago, for example: November, 2005. I was just getting to know MJ.

"I’m guessing the devil has found a loophole. In MJ he’s found a new way to get to me. I find myself thinking about her...wondering when I’ll see her again and when I will receive another of her letters. He’s twisting something friendly and fun into something sick, which is his way...

"I often experience adversity like this and I feel an uncommon sense of gratitude. Somehow these experiences will make me stronger, if I continue to make the right choices. Struggle is invigorating to me. In other words, because I feel things in the midst of struggle that I don’t normally feel, I revel in the unfamiliar but welcome sensations. I’m grateful to feel them, whether they’re difficult or not.

"...I hoped that she would still be [at my sister's] when I returned. I hadn’t seen her in a week. And she was. She was there on the couch, in her usual silence, holding [one of my nieces] who was sick. I started to play with [another niece] over on the other couch, stealing glances at her. She didn’t seem very happy. I just kept feeling this desire, this urgency, to be in contact with her. I just wanted physical contact. It was a strange and fascinating feeling, and I actually had to fight it."

It's almost like the situation was brand it had never happened before.

the frustration continues

I seem to do better when MJ doesn’t come around. Then I am not reminded of how different she is. Then I don’t subconsciously analyze her behavior. I don’t wonder what she’s thinking about. I don’t wonder who is sending her text messages. There was a time when she left her phone in the car, or at home. I liked that better. It’s very teenager-like to read and send text messages while you’re talking to someone else. Perhaps I have been guilty of that too.

I can’t help wondering what this weekend is going to be like. For her birthday (in August), I bought tickets to see Alanis Morissette in Las Vegas. We’re driving down on Saturday morning—just the two of us—to see the concert that evening. Then, because it will be late at night, I’ve reserved a room at a hotel. Then we’ll drive back on Sunday morning, probably stopping in St George to visit some family. Is all of that time alone with her going to make me crazy? I don’t want to be frustrated. I want to enjoy the time, and the concert, and the fun of going somewhere different, and visiting my sister. I don’t want to expect anything from MJ. Maybe if I prepare for her to be emotionally distant, preoccupied, busy texting on her phone…then I won’t be disappointed?

It’s hard because I want her to need me again. I want her to enjoy the time alone with me. I don’t want her wishing she was somewhere else, with someone else…

"Frustrated Ferdinand" courtesy of Shag.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Let's add another ingredient to this picture of myself I am painting for you - this stew of characteristics that makes up the Alex you've come to know and love.

My mother was diagnosed a while back with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It's kind of like bipolar disorder in that their moods go up and down and they struggle with their sense of self. I've been reading this book that has contributed a lot to my understanding of the illness, which I find is essential to surviving in my family, because it's not just my mother who struggles with this. All of us are affected one way or another. The book is called Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship by Christine Ann Lawson. After reading this book, I see that my grandmother probably has BPD, my niece does, and my sisters and brother all have symptoms of it. It's in the brain. It gets passed down through the genes. Aren't we lucky?

I am reminded of the existence of this illness every time I have to talk to her. Interactions with her can be frustrating and depressing. But I have found that understanding the illness better has helped me have some patience with her, and has helped me understand who she is and why she does the things she does.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Turns out codependency makes you pretty selfish, because all you tend to think about is how much you hurt and how much change hurts. You just feel like a martyr.

I was reading some of MJ’s journal entries last night, from last year. She was so frustrated, so conflicted, and so lonely in her distress. I imagine she shared them with me so that I could see how she was feeling. It makes me feel bad now, because she’s happier these days, with her changes. She’s found some direction and some peace, and I should feel so happy for her. Except that she has me to deal with. And she’s been so patient and kind and considerate. I should feel nothing toward her except gratitude. She’s being the mature one now.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

the source

The source of the pain is the emotional distancing she’s doing. I'm not mourning that I won’t see her or spend time with her or that we won’t be friends anymore. All that is still intact. But she’s not in the same frame of mind. She doesn’t crave me or my attention, my touch, my glance, anymore. But will it return? Because sometimes I was like this with her (and I can feel regret for the way I made her feel, but I don’t think I could control it, and neither can she), but it always came back around again. Maybe she is stronger, and maybe she’s made her mind up about what she wants, and so it has no chance of returning. And one part of me hopes that it does not return, so that I can be free of the lure of her, so that I can move on too. Of course the codependent part hopes for it to come back—just once more. Because I miss reaching for her hand and feeling her response. I miss knowing that I’ll get the response I expect. Now, not only do I wonder if it would be there at all, but I refuse to try, because I suspect she doesn’t want it and I can’t handle feeling that rejection.

So it makes me wonder, would it better to cut myself off from her completely? Instead of carrying on, pretending we’re still friends the way we used to be? Would it hurt less if I didn’t see her, didn’t spend time with her, didn’t look at her and wish she would still look at me that way? Or would it hurt more? Because I’ve done all of this before but I can’t remember.

At the same time, I find myself prowling for someone else. Watching people, listening to their voices, imagining interactions with them. The euphoria is gone and it feels so empty without it, so I’m seeking for it again. Will the cycle just keep repeating itself? Will I ever learn how to redirect it so that my life and my relationships can be different? That was a question directed at me from a friend. I didn’t think to ask it. All I could comprehend was that I was looking again.