Before I begin this, though I know this disclaimer probably won’t do much good: it really isn’t about any specific person. This is a prevailing issue when you’re in this line of work, but it’s one that people really don’t seem to consider. While I may be very understanding of the reasons people tend to reach out, and I do understand how scary it can be when you feel lost with nowhere to turn: sometimes, there are things at play in people’s lives that you just don’t know about- even when you think you know them very, very well.
I originally started this blog post out by doing what I have always done. Well, you know what they say about that.
What is my way? It is candor, it is sincerity. It is brutal honesty. I chose that path a while back to counter some bad decisions I had made and I do not regret it. I do, however, think that I wasn’t considering what that meant in the long run.
Yesterday, long running issues with my partner came to a head. Issues that, at heart, really were about two people dealing with major life changes: whatever else the side issues were, however bad they were, they all stemmed right back to that. It has been a very, very long time coming and most who knew me very closely knew that it was. Or had listened to me cry about the same problems over and over again, but never really doing very much about it. Last night, well, the bags were not packed, but the ride was waiting. Many also know I have been dealing with a rather brutal and protracted custody battle. Most do not know the complications that were, ultimately, my poor decisions factoring in.
And they didn’t care.*
I could go further into all of that, but, the point is: late last night, I threw up a rather large ball of blood. I knew very well what it was, it didn’t scare me: because I have dealt with issues like this before. I don’t think it’s at all shocking that my ulcer got as bad as it is. Let me clarify “They didn’t care” for a moment. There are a number of reasons why people “don’t care” and a number of manifestations. Some are very well meaning, others, not so much.
Anyone who does this kind of work is used to it. We get a lot of requests for free readings. I have gone back and forth on my opinion of this: because I strive to be understanding. Understanding or no, however: I really doubt rather highly it is ever considered just how overwhelming this work can be by both client and practitioner.
Sure, we all talk about valuing ourselves, we all talk about boundaries and grounding: but I don’t know a single spiritual practioner- or, even a single psychiatric practioner that hasn’t been burned out to the point of feeling there’s nothing left in the cup. We grow, and we learn from it, we learn to better shield, better ground, better cope.
I always kinda figured that being as open as I am would head some of that off. The biggest reason that I am as open about my life as I am, is relateability. It’s so that others know they’re not somehow freakish for their struggle, so that others know that no matter where you’re at: you can in fact, begin again. Sometimes it’s huge steps, sometimes, little ones: but, I truly believe that. The biggest and most over-riding reason of all is that I never want anyone to feel as lonely as I often have and do.
Except: I am not sure that I have ever felt more lonely than I have the past 3 years.
It’s kinda funny, too, because there isn’t a day goes by that my notifications aren’t in the double or triple digits. Not a day goes by my inboxes aren’t full.
I have never, ever been one of those people that kind of blithely talks about distancing myself from negativity as a sort of aversion to actually helping people. You know what I am talking about: it’s not boundaries, it’s straight up ditching those who are hurting. Everyone goes through phases where the way they express themselves may not be pleasant: and, as people who are supposedly gifted with discernment, we must be able to figure out which we’re helping and which we are merely enabling.
It isn’t always easy.
When I say that I am conditionally accepting appointments for readings, I have found that my clients seem to understand very well. Potential clients do, also.
Last year, I came to a point where I was actively seeking help for suicidal urges again. I didn’t spend a lot of time focused on discussing it: I just knew I needed to do something, needed to reach out, needed to get help.
I set very clear boundaries about all of that. I repeatedly said that I just had to focus on getting well again. Two people I thought were closer to me than anyone else repeatedly ignored those boundaries. I had come to this point of recognition, I had hit a wall I couldn’t ignore anymore. These were not people who had never helped, never listened. Yet, somehow, I couldn’t talk about what I was going through without the conversation shifting, without it becoming about them.
Last night, I saw this happening again to my partner. My partner, if you don’t know, is pretty much the exact opposite of me, with a twist: instead of coming across as deeply passionate, he comes across as very aloof, very zen. Because of this, people often dump on him and, well, he cares a great deal, so he tries. There’s something about his energy that just soothes people. I think a lot of people who are very level and calm deal with that.
I’ve got a very motivational thing in mine. I have known these things for a long time, have seen them in others and this isn’t me talking about being Special Snowflakes: often, those of us who do this work are just like that. In addition to helping walk people through emotional turbulence, they tend to walk away feeling better, somehow. Unburdened, or just hopeful. It’s beautiful and I am constantly humbled by it.
I am also constantly drained for it: as he is. As many I know. It’s not just practioners: he’s not. He’s just that guy you can talk to, or he used to be, until depression hit him and he didn’t know what to do.
You can set tons and tons of office hours and boundaries: but, when you’re someone like this, it’s very rarely ever the clients that do this. It’s those you are closest to.
For the past six months, I can’t get on social media without people asking for details about my life I have repeatedly begged them not to- because, I do talk about them. I just keep it structured because it’s all so overwhelming and I need to be able to do it on my time, not on time I’m responsible for others’ and for work things. I can’t get on social media without being overwhelmed with just…social media. You know what I mean. And, pretty much daily I have an inbox full of my friends- people I love dearly- who are hurting, lost and confused.
Except: a lot of the time, so am I.
People will try very hard to make that about them. They don’t mean to. They also have a tendency to think they are somehow the exception- when, if they truly were: they would already know not to do what they’re doing. I get caught up in that, too. For my partner, manifestations of his depression got blamed on me. You know, the whole “He got a girlfriend and suddenly, nobody else mattered” and, well, I choked it down. I knew what I was seeing, because I saw it first hand. I saw people getting offended that he didn’t reach out to them for help. That this thing he was ashamed of and couldn’t admit- and the things associated with that thing were somehow some slight on them, and not a struggle he still yet doesn’t know how to cope with. The same thing happened from my end: well meaning people wanted it to be his fault. Because it can be remarkably difficult to just face the fact that we all make decisions: and often, those decisions have absolutely nothing to do with you.
I always kind of figured somehow, that being transparent would stave that off. It doesn’t. He always figured being aloof would do the same. It doesn’t.
It just makes you seem that much more accessible to people who then assume that it’s them, and you know, not these overwhelming life changes on top of you glancing at your inbox, seeing 15, 20 people all dealing with horrible and overwhelming life changes, too: and going, “My god, how do I help everyone?”
Which is also pretty self centered of me, don’t get it twisted. I get it. For him, the answer is in withdrawing and for me, the answer is in distracting- but the end result is always the same: people think you’re a huge giant asshole because you just can’t.
Worse, you think you’re a huge giant asshole, because you just can’t. There are some days when I try, and some days when I say I can try, but then I can’t. Because right now, my first priority is in stabilizing things for my family and it has to be. This means not dropping the ball on things that, well, when in a state of overwhelm: the ball gets dropped, shattered, and cuts up my feet. My partner never realized how presenting yourself as calm and aloof- and generally untouchable made it so people assume he always is. That nothing gets to him, so, they think nothing of adding more to that. When he withdraws, they just think “Oh, he’s being an asshole.” or “Oh, that Victoria must be controlling him.” or “Oh, he doesn’t care about me.” when in fact: he cares so much he just had to shut down or he can’t function at all. With me, people just assume I’m made outta fifty feet of granite and can handle a heck of a lot more than I can. They think that it’s my self-doubt talking when I beg them to stop or to understand. It isn’t, on either front. It’s about survival.
For a long time now, we have both found ways to avoid the key issues in our lives by way of exhausting ourselves on others. That, right there, is the bottom line. We made the decisions we did, which lead to the impressions people had of us. Accepting responsibility for that, however, has never, nor should it ever mean we aren’t entitled to boundaries.
I am very lucky- I have Jen and I have Court, who completely understand that it is not about them. They completely understand how difficult it has been for me to learn to ask for help, and the sometimes disastrous results of my doing so. I hope that they understand I feel the same way of them, as they also have been dealing with some considerably confusing, painful life changes: but, they’re not as transparent as I am. Same end result. Rather than blaming each-other for it all: we have managed to find ways of coming together in support, without taking it as some personal slight, without expecting anyone to overwhelm themselves at our expense. We do this, because we talk, every day. Whether it’s something big or small, whether it’s business or personal: and that right there, is how the understanding has occurred. There’s the thing: social media gives you this illusion that you know people very well and that you are communicating every day, when really, all you’re doing is exhibition and that’s all anyone’s doing. There are very real connections made this way: but as with anything else, they have to be actively tended to, not slapped up on a wall like some sort of Billboard Friendship. Communication and connection looks like it’s happening, but it’s truly just not that way.
One thing you tend to notice when you start to notice the overwhelm is how few people engage with you: until everything’s falling apart for them. I am just as guilty of that, as anyone, though I try to be mindful of it: because I know how shallow that makes declarations seem. I know how lonely it is.
I am in the process of trying to figure out how I can run the pages I do, without having to deal with a personal Facebook page: because rather frankly, last night was my eye opener. In my case, that false intimacy has always been an issue because I’m so open, people imagine they know me down to my toes, know what I can really handle: even when I expressly state something to the contrary.
And honestly, a line has to be drawn somewhere. I have gone through cycle after cycle of this, and the end result is always the same: and what should be a wonderful tool for connectivity just makes me feel like a very lonely, miserable jerk who cannot help everyone.