Hiding and hoping

I’ve been hiding again. I seem to be having a hard time processing the general life stuff, which results in me introverting extra hard. My hiding has even extended to my writing, and I hesitate to even hit the publish button on this post, but I’m going to make myself do it.

At the end of January, I had to travel to Chicago for business. I extended my stay to wrap over two weekends so I could squeeze in visits to both of my parents and spend some time with my friend A and her cousins. (I collectively refer to them as “my adopted family” because I used to spend so much time at their house, including holidays, when I was in high school.)

I had a ton of anxiety leading up to that trip. I was concerned about leaving Hannah dog for so long. I worried about seeing my parents. My mother’s health is just getting worse and worse, and in the past year my father has had additional health challenges, too. With the extra weight I’m carrying, I also had to figure out how to cobble together a week’s worth of professional clothing and outerwear that was suitable for a Chicago winter. I had some dresses I had purchased for my last business trip in April 2017 to Dallas, but they weren’t going to be warm enough, even with extra layers. So, I had to order pants and spend money I preferred not to.

The trip went better than I had thought it would, but it still exhausted me. It was hard to see my mother’s poor physical condition, and she was just as unresponsive in person as she was on the phone. In the weeks immediately following my return, I was glad to just hang around at home as much as possible and enjoy time with my dog.

I kept thinking about how to handle the situation with my sister. I had been avoiding her as much as possible: declining her calls and letting them go to voicemail; responding with spare texts, if necessary; declining an invitation to have dinner before I left town. At her direct question “Are we OK?” I responded “No,” and she agreed to not contact me for anything other than issues about mom.

My therapist suggested that I write a letter to my sister, even if I never sent it. I spent most of a weekend morning writing and editing it to the essentials. I decided to send it after all. Here is what I sent:

I’ve been limiting my exposure with you because I felt depressed and sad after the conversation we had about Mom’s Life Alert service. I’ve been thinking through why I was so upset by the conversation and what my next steps should be. I needed time for that reflection and not talking with you or seeing you helped me with my process.

We have a difference in how we view the situation of Mom’s Life Alert service: you recall that I committed to splitting the payment, and I recall that I did not. I think that is as far as we’re going to get with the situation, however during the conversation, I felt like I was bullied. This is not the first time I’ve felt that way after interacting with you, and I don’t want to experience it again.

I want to be treated with respect and allowed to be myself. I deserve kindness and acceptance.

In order to have a good relationship we need to both show respect for each other’s differences. From comments you’ve made to me in the past, I understand that my way of processing information and making decisions is annoying to you. I think it is probably best that when there are circumstances that call for me to do so — such as when I’m asked to contribute to Mom’s care — that there not be an expectation for me to answer immediately and that I be allowed to spend time thinking. Since our recollections can also vary, it’s best that we also confirm understanding via email.

I’m not sure whether we can or should resume social relations yet. At this point, I find myself wondering why you would want to spend time with me when I seem to irritate you so much. Maybe we can talk about that some day.

Sending it caused another round of emotional exhaustion. Finally, after several more weeks I contacted sister and suggested we meet for coffee. A week ago, over tea at her house, we gingerly explored the situation. It went OK. Not great, but OK. She was civil. I wanted to get her thoughts on my email, but she deftly turned the conversation back to me saying she wanted to listen to me. I felt like a wreck. I pretty much repeated what I had already written, stumbling over my words and literally wringing my hands the entire time. She asked what I wanted from her, and I told her that I wanted to have a good relationship based on respect. When the conversation turned more informal and chatty I was more comfortable, and then I headed home about an hour after my arrival.

But honestly, I really want more from her than just respect. I really want to feel loved. I just don’t see that happening, and it makes me sad all over again. Sister says she loves me, but I don’t think she’s comfortable showing me love the way I want and need it. She’s more into giving me things and guiding my life, when I’d just rather have her show enjoyment in being with me and give me hugs.

I’m still struggling to stay positive most days. I keep reminding myself that there are people who love me and that I have made good friends here. I think this as I sit at home feeling lonely and it’s not helping enough. I feel like I’m an endless black hole of longing. It feels like a mistake that anyone would want to spend time with me unless it was out of pity.

Two weeks ago a friend traveled up from San Francisco to spend the day with me. The weather was lovely and had some lovely talks as we drove up the valley to have lunch and back. It was a wonderful day.

Yesterday I drove just south of San Francisco to meet another friend for a visit and lunch at her place. I was anxious about the visit because she is a new friend and I was afraid I’d make a bad impression and she’d never invite me to see her again. But it didn’t seem to go that way at all, and I think there could be more visits in the future.

These encounters should make me feel more at ease about my likeability, right? Why am I still doubting it?

Physically, my body is full of pain these days. I keep getting numbness, tingling, and pain in my hands and arms (especially the right one), and the plantar fasciitis in my right foot is hurting nearly all the time. Despite my nightly doses of Trazadone, I keep waking up at night around 3 or 4 AM, and having trouble getting back to sleep because my mind is racing and my arms are numb. I’m trying different things to help me sleep through the night: breathing strips on my nose, a different pillow, and last night I put the heating pad under my neck and shoulders. I still didn’t sleep through the night.

I’m sure my emotional and physical issues are all connected somehow, and all I can do is just keep hoping and trying to work my way past this.