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Self-love, romantic relationships, boundaries, etc.

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This topic contains 25 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  anita 5 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #153572

    steph
    Participant

    Hi!

    Honestly not sure what to properly title this as it kind of fits all of the above categories, haha.  So bear with me.

    So, a few months ago I started talking to a guy online who I met through a Tumblr Pen Pal page.  We had a lot of shared interests (music especially: I’m a musician and he wrote for local musicians’ events) and this made me attracted to him.  I tend to get crushes on people very easily and I’m an empath, so romantic relationships can be very tricky.  Anyways, I developed feelings for him.  Unfortunately, it took a little longer than I would have preferred to realize that he didn’t actually care very much about me.  He even said once that he wasn’t sure that he “wanted to love so much as to be loved,” although he stated this after we stopped talking and I caught the same drift earlier from other signs.  Towards the end of this relationship, I began to feel severe anxiety: I started having thoughts of unreality, I had panic attacks sometimes up to a few times a day, and I felt like a complete stranger to myself.  It was very hard to be alone — so much so that I took time off of college to be home and just try to figure out what was going on.

    Flash forward a few weeks and I felt really quite well.  I wouldn’t say 100% myself, but definitely close to it.  It took some serious sitting with myself (despite my huge aversion to it at first!!), giving love to what felt like such scary thoughts, a complete reversal in my attitude and turning to God for light, love, peace and compassion.

    So I returned to school very hopeful, feeling nearly invincible because I feel like I really *got* this; however, I was still slightly anxious about returning as I came to know my school as “the place where I experienced all those panic attacks.”  People who suffered from panic attacks may know what I mean.  Thankfully, the first few days were really quite lovely, actually.  And since I started feeling so good again and aligned spiritually, I started thinking about all the things I was able to do now that my mind wasn’t focused on healing.  For some reason, my mind was very attached to the idea of getting in touch with an ex.  I had gotten very in-tune with my internal guide at this point, and I asked him/her/it if this would be safe.  The answer was clearly “better off without,” and at first I followed through.  But… a few days later, not so much.  I realized it when I reached out to the ex, too.  I noticed the anxiety.  But I thought it would be okay.  I would learn my lesson and it would be fine.

    Well, I definitely am learning my lesson – haha.  Similar symptoms of anxiety I had when I was talking to the first guy bubbled up, though not nearly as intense.  Still, unpleasant and just… missing feeling like myself!  Strange, too, because we didn’t exchange any words.  I just sent him a message (regretting my choice afterwards) and never heard back.  Still, I start getting hopeful that things will work out when I talk to people I was once interested in: that he still is interested in me, that I thought about him for a reason, etc when I’m left to my own devices.  It has been a lifelong struggle for me to stay away from relationships when I get a clear “better off without” from my guide.  I would greatly appreciate advice on how to do this.  Clearly, it does take experience – and I am definitely learning through it!  But the symptoms of severe anxiety are just not worth it!  Of course, I can’t say I’ve always experienced severe anxiety with every romantic involvement – but I usually experience some form of depression or anxiety, even on a small scale, when I’m not listening to my heart with various relationships (or in general).

    Additionally, I have a lot of time to myself at the moment.  In a few days I’ll be returning home and will be with my family, but for now I don’t have a lot of classes going on and I live in a very quiet, unpopulated area.  As I mentioned earlier, too, I am an empath and find it difficult to keep/maintain friendships (which is nothing to my fault, it is just the way I am) so I generally don’t hang out with people often, if it all, most days.  So things are quiet around here at the moment!  Which can be tough because I am more likely to get bored and act against my higher self.  Does anyone have advice for this?  Spending time by myself is no problem; it is something I have embraced and have enjoyed very much.  But I would love nothing more than to follow my internal guide faithfully and with trust.  Can be so difficult and trying, though I know he/she/it knows best.  Thank you <3

    #153620

    anita
    Participant

    Dear steph:

    The easy part (for me) first: you wrote, “I talk to people I was once interested in: that he still is interested in me, that I thought about him for a reason”- believing that there is an external guide of sorts that caused you to think of an ex so that you will contact you because it is …meant to be (meant by that external guide, the universe or such)- that is magical thinking, I believe. Thoughts just happen, they are not messages from above and beyond.

    You experience anxiety, even severe anxiety regarding relationships. It leads me to think that you were very hurt in the past, in the context of a relationship, maybe as a child in relationship with a family member?

    Regarding your “internal guide”- it is a very good thing to have an internal guide. You also used the term “higher self”- referring to the same internal guide, correct?

    To not act against your internal guide/ higher self, get to know better the part of you that acts impulsively, in times of stress or boredom. What is her motivation, what does she want? That impulsive part will continue to make herself known, will continue to overrule the internal guide until she is heard.

    As a matter of fact, your internal guide is not competent enough until that impulsive part is heard, understood and attended to.

    anita

    #153676

    Mark
    Participant

    Hey Steph,

    I was reading a book on anxiety called “Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks” and the author made a few good suggestions. First, the next time you feel anxiety, to just pause and ask, “So what?” Is the issue this big of a deal for how it is making you feel? Second, use the anxiety to excite you. You are living! Next, instead of running from the anxiety, sort of fall into it, allow yourself to feel it. And then go and do something that you love. If there isn’t something that you love to do, just the search for finding a passion can be a lot of fun. I think the combo of not letting it overwhelm you and then losing yourself helps yourself to move on from what is making you anxious.

    It’s good that you can be by yourself. You don’t need a guy to make you happy. A lot of time other people can sort of obscure ourselves from who we really are. Since you have some time on your own, perhaps make a list of things you want to change about yourself and goals that you have, and then choosing one and thinking of a first step you can take to begin moving toward that goal today. The feeling of progress and hope will help with the anxiety.

    Also, I find that helping other people helps me when I am feeling low. I can think about the good things that I am doing instead of the things about myself and my life that I wish was different. Even if your life sucks, you can still make other people’s lives better!

     

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 4 weeks ago by  Mark.
    #153736

    steph
    Participant

    Thank you both, Anita and Mark, for your thoughtful advice and for the time you took to read my own thoughts.

    Anita, yes–you are spot-on about the magical thinking.  That is something I have had difficulties with throughout my life, though I never knew the word for it: taking my thoughts as symbolic or meaningful.  In the end, thoughts are only thoughts, which has recently been my mantra most days!  And, in my experience, they oftentimes try to distract and control.  Furthermore, I can’t say I was deeply hurt as a child by my parents.  My father would scold me and spank me for doing something wrong, but those were actions he grew out of and now he is a very kind and compassionate person, one of the closest people I have in my life.  But I can say that I have had several break-ups, all that were very hard on me which may contribute to the relationship anxiety.  Thank you again for your advice.  I will definitely take time sitting with myself to really hear out the different parts of me that are asking for attention. xx

    Mark, those are great suggestions for anxiety.  I have heard of many of them before and have implemented them into my life when experiencing anxiety.  I am trying to stabilize my mood… mostly just sitting with myself and hearing myself out are the tricks that are working best at this point.  But falling into it and not ignoring the anxiety is definitely crucial.  Also, my aforementioned father has a lot of experience with panic attacks and has gotten to a point within the last few years where he has completely cured himself from them, so he has shared his tips with me and I am following them.

    On a similar subject, to either one of you, and neither of you may see this message (but I hope you do!  You both offered wonderful, heartfelt advice) but have you had any experiences with “spiritual awakenings”?  The last two months or so have been excruciatingly difficult both spiritually and mentally, though I can’t help but see the two as interconnected.  I was never sure if I believed in spiritual awakenings before, but with my experiences recently I may rethink that.  As I mentioned before, I have somewhat constant depersonalization and derealization which is very unsettling, which was likely to be spawned by the failed relationship I mentioned.  It is difficult to distance myself from the thoughts that ask (and I’m not sure if either one of you have experienced DP/DS before, but) “Is what I’m seeing with my eyes real?  Am I imagining everything?” etc.  They are overwhelming strong and persistent, not to mention unpleasant, and induce even more anxiety upon me.  However, I will make my mantra “thoughts are only thoughts” until I can make time to sit with myself and get to the bottom of what is causing the anxiety.  I feel quite distanced from reality.  I have sat with myself many times to feel like I acquired peace of mind, only to find myself needing to sit with myself another time, and another time.  I feel quite dissatisfied with life, too: my family, who I love and care about deeply, seem not to care as much as I care about them, which is something that particularly saddens me as they are my closest and dearest friends.  I know this is not true, though, as they do care about me immensely… I suppose what I’m trying to convey is I just don’t feel satisfied by them anymore, if that makes sense.  I am disappointed at times with my encounters with them.  Perhaps this is because they are a few states away from me at the moment, which is difficult when I hold them so dear to myself, and I’m not around them physically.  I just wonder sometimes why I am here when I am so sensitive.  I know there is a reason, but it is definitely difficult at times.  I once felt so much immense joy and pleasure with life–objects were glowing with liveliness, helping others was just a natural tendency, etc.  I have been very inward in these last few months and it has been quite trying, but I am sticking it out.  Recently, I was just lying on the floor, giving my spirit complete permission and granting it total freedom to do as it pleases.  I still feel kind of stuck though.  Do either of you have any experience with this?  Any suggestions?  Might the feelings of dissatisfaction with life be caused by letting go of anxiety/anxious thoughts?  Especially the highly anxious thoughts of DP/DS symptoms?  Maybe I’m partially answering my own question haha.   Anyways, would greatly appreciate your thoughts. xx

    #153770

    anita
    Participant

    Dear steph:

    You wrote: “My father would scold me and spank me for doing something wrong, but those were actions he grew out of”-  he grew out of scolding and spanking you. Maybe you didn’t grow out of the scolding and spanking. These are very common practices by parents. Unfortunately, they are not as harmless to a child as they are common. I am glad he is very kind and compassionate and that you are very close.

    You asked: “have you had any experiences with ‘spiritual awakenings’?… I have somewhat constant depersonalization and derealization which is very unsettling… induce even more anxiety upon me… I once felt so much immense joy and pleasure with life–objects were glowing with liveliness, helping others was just a natural tendency, etc.  …Do either of you have any experience with this? ”

    Yes, I do have plenty of experience with depersonalization and derealization. The two are the natural and automatic body/brain reactions to intense anxiety- the two help us survive perceived danger. Animals in the wild, caught by a predator, experience these. There are three responses to perceived danger: Flight, Fight and Freeze. The two discussed here are the experience of Freezing and are engaged in, by animals, when they can’t run away (Flight) or fight the danger.

    The symptoms of depersonalization and derealization are helpful in the short term. Someone called them “nature’s last mercy’, something like that, making it possible for animals to not hurt so much when they are about to be devoured/ die. These reactions to danger are not meant to be experienced long term, and so, when we humans, experience these symptoms long term, they add to our anxiety, making (me) feel weird, unacceptable, abnormal. (Once I understood the nature of it, my weirdness/ abnormal feelings weakened greatly).

    These are not “spiritual awakening” experiences any more than they are for animals caught between the teeth of a predator.

    The experiences of “glowing with liveliness” and being engaged in interactions with others do not happen when depersonalized or experiencing derealization (an animal glowing with liveliness will feel every bite when in the mouth of a predator…)

    Let me know of your thoughts/ feelings about my input so far (I have more…)?

    anita

     

     

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 3 weeks ago by  anita.
    #153810

    steph
    Participant

    anita,

    Thank you again for your thoughtful response.  I greatly appreciate your insights.  It is definitely possible that I have adopted that punishment-based philosophy as part of my own.  Also, I didn’t mention this before as we were discussing my relationships with my parents in the past, but I do feel that my relationship with my mother has always been draining on me.  I feel that she has quite a negative outlook on life, can be judgmental and doesn’t seem to care as much about me as I care about her.  However, I decided yesterday to refrain from contacting her to which I expect positive results.  Spending time with her and feeling that I was responsible to uphold the relationship just because she is my mother has been an area of difficulty in my life, but I am learning that I must set boundaries even when the choice is difficult.

    How you explained depersonalization and derealization as states of intense anxiety does resemble how I thought of them in my mind.  I know in my heart that it is just intense anxiety, yet they feel so convincingly real and it makes it difficult to distinguish what I know from what I feel, if that makes sense.  The way you explained DP/DR does ease my mind a lot, still.  I just wonder what may be causing me to hurt so much–if it really could have just been that almost-relationship I was in, as that is the only thing that has been very painful as of late.  Also, world events have taken a significant toll on me, but I stopped looking at/caring about the news a few weeks ago.

    Your explanation on DP/DR does provide comfort.  As I mentioned earlier, too, it helps me so much to remind myself that “thoughts are merely thoughts and nothing more.”  I have been resting a lot, too, and trying to take it easy.  I find that I have to talk myself through situations where anxiety/nervous thoughts begin to bubble up: “I am safe; nothing is going to hurt me; this is just anxiety talking, I can choose to ignore it,” etc.  And simply confronting the thoughts that frighten me has helped, too: “So what if I have thoughts questioning reality?  I’m not going to let those thoughts stop me from living life and enjoying it.  I am here, I have a life–I have a right to enjoy it.”  Doing these things has helped me a lot.  And remembering that it wasn’t always like this.  Still, I do miss that feeling of being absolutely present, that feeling of freshness and vibrancy.

    I would greatly appreciate hearing any more thoughts you might have.

    ~steph

    #153812

    steph
    Participant

    Also, if you have any suggestions as to what has helped you in your experiences with DP/DR.

    #153816

    anita
    Participant

    Dear steph:

    I will need to re-read your post tomorrow morning, too tired this late evening to pay adequate attention. Will be back in ten hours or so. Take good care of yourself.

    anita

    #153828

    anita
    Participant

    Dear steph:

    I re-read all your posts here. You wrote: “I do miss that feeling of being absolutely present, that feeling of freshness and vibrancy”- this is the original state of a child. If a child is unharmed, this is how a child experiences life.

    You termed your anxiety “severe anxiety”, severe in italics. And I agree, as your statement “I have somewhat constant depersonalization and derealization which is very unsettling” does indicate, to me, severe anxiety).

    I don’t believe that the origination of your severe anxiety is in the breakups of your several romantic relationships. Such anxiety, way more likely, took hold in your Formative Years, aka as childhood. It is the time where most neuropathways in the brain are created, from scratch, so to speak. And so, I believe, the origin of your anxiety is in your childhood relationship/s.

    You mentioned your father and mother as the present adults in your childhood. You indicated that you presently have a close and loving relationship with your father, so I was puzzled when you later wrote: “my family, who I love and care about deeply, seem not to care as much as I care about them.” Later, in your sharing, you mentioned your mother for the first time: “my mother has always been draining on me… can be judgmental and doesn’t seem to care as much about me as I care about her.”

    So I figure that in the statement that puzzled me, you were referring to your mother, not to your father. You are so troubled about your relationship with your mother, presently, that you decided to refrain from contact with her. You wrote: “Spending time with her and feeling that I was responsible to uphold the relationship just because she is my mother has been an area of difficulty in my life” – this means to me that you wanted no contact with her for a long time, but felt you had to be in contact with her because of her role in your life, being your mother.

    You wrote earlier: “(I) find it difficult to keep/maintain friendships…so I generally don’t hang out with people often, if it all, most days” and you started the thread telling of your severe anxiety in the context of romantic relationships.

    I am thinking that your relationship with your mother is not only difficult in the present time but has been what harmed you during those formative years. Your child’s brain perceived danger in that relationship and you reacted with fear. Like you, I too expect positive results from you not having contact with your mother. I also believe competent, quality psychotherapy during this time of no contact will be very helpful to gain insight into the origin of your severe anxiety, which is, your relationship with your mother, primarily. The scolding and spanking by your father must have contributed to your formed anxiety, in childhood.

    If you would like, you can share more about your childhood relationship with your mother. A child is heavily invested in forgetting-the-bad/ dangerous and remembering the good/safe, so keep this in mind, and if you choose, share what happened even if there is a voice in you questioning your share, as if it didn’t really happen or didn’t really matter.

    Anxiety is very difficult to deal with. Insight by itself is not enough. Practicing skills (which you have been doing) is necessary. Insight, skills, and practice over time will help greatly and your life can be way better, your experience more lively and love more present.

    anita

     

    #153836

    steph
    Participant

    anita,

    Thank you again for your contributions.  I took a lot of time expressing myself through typing as, once I started, more and more bubbled up.  Some of it is personal and I am not quite comfortable sharing it publicly on these forums.  If you are comfortable, you can e-mail me at godspdst @ gmail . com (without the spaces) and we can continue our discussion.  If you are not, I’ll write a shorter, less personal reply here.  Either way is fine.

    steph

    #153850

    anita
    Participant

    Dear steph:

    The second option is okay with me: to continue to communicate here.

    If you share generalities, and then, only whatever details you feel comfortable with, but let me know as clearly as you can, what you felt about those details/ what those details (some of which you will share, others you will not share) mean to you, I can proceed with my understanding just as well, I think.

    anita

    #153862

    steph
    Participant

    anita,

    Sure, that definitely works for me.  I will just share some general information and what I feel comfortable sharing.  So:

    The first thing that comes to mind: With my relationship with my mother… I didn’t quite have a healthy one.  My parents got divorced when I was eight or nine, and I mostly lived with my mother from that age until I was about 14.  She wasn’t around very much and extra difficulty was introduced when I was expected to take care of one of my younger brothers who had/s cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair.  I took responsibility often among my other siblings because my brother’s twin was usually with his friends as was my older sister.  The only times I really saw my mother were in the morning very briefly, but usually she was gone and I had to make my own breakfast; and after school (this was in middle school) when we would see each other briefly yet again and she’d go somewhere or go do something.  We would go out sometimes, but we never really did things kids would want to do.  Usually, it was just running errands for her or going to a class for singing or gymnastics or something.  She still isn’t very involved in my life despite my efforts to explain how I would like her to be more involved, and she has never understood that she abandoned us kids in a lot of ways.  She explains that she was just looking out for herself so she could pay the bills.

    That is the main thing that comes to mind.  Fortunately, I’ve been able to have healthy conversations expressing the hurt I felt as a child with my father.  He understands the times he especially hurt me and has taken to hearing me out to express my feelings.  He has apologized for these times and, as I said, is kind and caring now, allowing me freedom to be myself and discover things on my own.

    steph

    #153864

    steph
    Participant

    Also, because my mother wasn’t home very often, I usually would just resort to spending time on the computer.  This wasn’t good during summer, as you can imagine, because most hours of my day were just in front of a computer screen, trying to make friends or talk to someone.  My brother with cerebral palsy was also just simply left alone to watch television all day, which isn’t healthy for any person.

    #153900

    anita
    Participant

    Dear steph:

    A child naturally reaches out to her mother. You probably reached out to her many times, tried to make her see you, notice you and love you back. When she didn’t respond and kept her absence and distance, she practically rejected your love for her.

    I am thinking that the boyfriend you shared about, rejected your love for him as well, and in so doing triggered the experience of you being rejected, as a child (and still), by your mother.

    I use the verb rejected, again, because a child reaches out to the distant, unloving parent. But she stayed away, day after day, month… year after year. To this very day: “She still isn’t very involved in my life despite my efforts to explain how I would like her to be more involved” You reached out to her recently, to get her to be involved in your life. This is a long time of reaching out to your mother again and again… and yet again and being rejected as many times.

    You wrote about the guy: “He even said once that he wasn’t sure that he ‘wanted to love so much as to be loved,'”- similar to your mother: she was loved by you, but she didn’t so much love you.

    “Towards the end of this relationship, I began to feel severe anxiety: I started having thoughts of unreality”- being rejected, abandoned by him, that triggered her rejecting you, abandoning you (“she abandoned us kids in a lot of ways”), and it triggered the anxiety involved in a child being rejected, abandoned.

    Your thought/ feelings?

    anita

    #154020

    steph
    Participant

    anita,

    Yes, your thoughts are quite clear.  I could see it being the case that what happened recently with the romantic relationship triggered those feelings of rejection from my childhood.  I have known for a while that it is important to set boundaries, to know when someone isn’t reciprocating your feelings, but it hasn’t always been easy for me to refrain from reaching out and seeing if they might realize that I care about them and change their mind… but that usually is never the case, as I have learned.

    So, I’m glad that I’ve realized just how important it is to really take care of myself.  Self-care is not just taking a bubble bath or giving your feet a massage–it can be hard work!  The things we don’t particularly like to hear, perhaps.  It is really sticking up for oneself and knowing one’s limits and what one stands for, not letting people take advantage.  But I am glad I am here now and can be at peace.  I know that the feelings of anxiety will pass–it was only the situations I was in that triggered them.  After being gentle on myself and allowing myself to rest when I feel the need, I know I will be back to feeling myself.  Thank you tremendously for your help.

    steph

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