Love and Family

I spent this past Mothers Day with my family. It was an extra special occasion, because my brother was in town from LA. It was the first time we had been together as a family since Christmas break- when I had broken up with my boyfriend. The topic came up in our discussion- about how my ex had ruined our Christmas and about how I was doing much better. My brother teased me about the fact that now he could say my ex’s name without setting me off into sobbing.

I realized again that my family is amazingly supportive and I wouldn’t be the person who I am today without them.

5 months out of my breakup, I am finally more accepting and understanding that my relationship was unhealthy, I’m better off without my ex, and I’m glad that I ended it when I did. But during Christmas break, I was a mess. The day I broke up with him, I spent literally the entire day crying. I didn’t know it was possible for the human body to produce that much saltwater in such a short time. For the whole Christmas break, little things would change me from a mostly functioning person to a blubbering mess. When I saw the jeans my mom had bought him from the store on the floor for example. They were surreptitiously moved out of sight after this had happened twice.

I live 35 minutes drive from my parents’ house. I didn’t need to stay there through the several weeks of break- I could have spent time at my house. It certainly would have improved everyone else’s mood! But they never asked it of me. They supported me and they never gave up on me.

Usually, Christmas break at our house is an incredibly festive occasion. We have a fully decorated 13-foot tree, bake Christmas cookies, play Christmas music, watch Christmas movies… you get the idea! This Christmas morning, I told my family that I wanted to be at my house when my ex picked up his stuff so we could have a talk. I told them I thought we could work things out. They sat me down and we spent an hour or two talking. There were many voices raised and tears shed (not only by me!) as they convinced me I should finally cease all contact with him. That conversation was one of the things that gave me the strength to actually cease all contact. That conversation made me stop believing that we could make things work and that he could change.

As many do after a breakup, I spent a lot of time wishing I could change what happened. I felt lonely. I felt like one huge, important thing was missing from my life: a relationship partner. I spent so long feeling frustrated and lonely and hopeless about that, I didn’t realize what I already had (and still have.)

I have an incredible family who always supports me and never gives up on me. A family who believes in supporting, loving, and helping each other always and no matter what. A family who has made sacrifices to make my life better. I wish I had spent more time after my breakup thinking about what I had instead of what I had lost. But it’s not too late for me- and it’s not too late for you. Be grateful for the people who are in your life. Focus on what you have and who you love. Love the people who love and support you and don’t waste your time chasing after the ones who don’t.

On Friendship and Being Yourself

I have always struggled with being open about my nerdy hobbies and interests, especially in my professional life. I felt like people wouldn’t take me seriously if they knew what I really liked to do. I would make small talk with my colleagues, but I never discussed what I really cared about or was really interested in.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I haven’t been close to my coworkers really until this year. If you don’t talk about what you love, the conversation gets boring pretty fast. You also don’t find people who share your interests. This year, I finally opened up to my colleagues and it’s really paid off. I’ve talked about the friendly and accepting teasing from the colleagues in my department, but I’ve also made friends with other faculty in my cohort.

Tonight, we had a gathering of the new faculty at my friend Kate’s house. I remember her telling me a few months back that she was really interested in board games, so I threw a couple of my favorite social deduction games into the car with me. I debated about leaving them in the car and just mentioning them later if the time was right (the coward’s way out) or actually bringing them in. I chose to bring them in and was really glad I did.

Kate, the hostess, greeted me with excitement- both because I was there and because I brought the games. After dinner, Kate turned the engaging conversation into an invitation to play some of the games. I was pleasantly surprised, because it’s usually my role at a party to try and corral people into playing and it can be pretty awkward when everyone politely ignores you.

I brought out my games and taught everyone to play. We played a few rounds of Avalon and of Codenames and they were a big hit! On the way out, everyone thanked me for bringing them and teaching them to play. I drove home with a big smile on my face. I felt so grateful for the friends I had made at work. Friends with whom I didn’t need to hide my interests. Friends who were just as excited as me to play board games.

It can be scary to put yourself out there sometimes, but so far I’ve found it’s more than worth it!

Accept All of Yourself, Including Your Flaws

I’ve been debating for about 36 hours if I wanted to post this entry, because it’s something I’m nervous to admit publicly. But in the spirit of self-acceptance, honesty, and authenticity, I decided it would be worth it. Here goes.

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I’ve been taking medication for it for almost a year now. One of the precipitating events that led me to seek help for this was my complete inability to fall asleep next to my ex. It would take me 1-5 hours to fall asleep when we were in the same bed- a problem that I usually did not face. I also am a person who tends to worry a lot, but that was a secondary concern at the time.

After the breakup, one of the things that really bothered me was this diagnosis. It felt good to blame my ex for a lot of the bad things in my life, including this. I told myself that the only reason I couldn’t sleep was because of him. It was because my unconscious mind was trying to communicate that the relationship wasn’t healthy and happy like I thought. I talked with my psychiatrist after giving myself a few months to heal from the breakup and said I wanted to stop taking medication. I was so sure that these problems stemmed from my ex. That I didn’t need medication. That I didn’t have any problems.

I started tapering off the medication, and found to my dismay that I still had problems sleeping on my own. Not as bad as with my ex, but it took me 30-90 minutes each night to go to sleep. It’s the worry. I can’t shut my brain off. I can’t stop thinking about things, even when they are unimportant or it isn’t the right time (for example, one time after laying in bed for 45 minutes, I just had to look up the price of a Magic card on my cell phone). I hoped my body would just get used to it after awhile or that I would get tired enough to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep longer. Instead, I just got more and more tired and overwhelmed.

It’s really easy to blame others in our lives for our flaws or problems. It’s hard to take ownership of the things about ourselves that we don’t like. But I don’t think we can truly grow until we do.

I’m struggling now to accept the fact that I am a person with Anxiety. That I am a person who takes medication for it. It’s hard for me to make this a part of my identity. I’m hoping that I will be able to make healthier changes like regular meditation and exercise that will help me go off of the medication in a few months or a year when my life settles down a bit more. It might be though, that it is something I have to take forever. I’m still learning about myself, but you can’t learn about yourself until you accept yourself for who you are.

You Are More Than What Others Think of You

A few months ago I broke up with my alcoholic (now) ex-boyfriend. One of the really challenging things about loving an alcoholic is feeling like you can stop them from drinking. It feels like they have a choice: you or alcohol. To me, the breakup was my ex picking alcohol over me.  If only I had been better somehow, maybe he would have picked me instead.

I’ve taken a break from dating for awhile and have been feeling a bit lonely recently. I was analyzing some data for work and had this thought that there must be something wrong with me for being single. If I was really that great, someone would have figured it out and asked me out by now. I’ve been working on recognizing these negative patterns of self-talk. So this time, instead of feeling bad, I took a critical look at it.

As much as these thoughts about alcoholism and being single seem logical, they’re not. Both of them are based on this assumption that your only worth as a person is based on what others think of you. Which is completely, and utterly false.

Sometimes, it feels like it. Especially if you really want a romantic partner (or more friends). It feels like there is something wrong with you, and that’s ridiculous.

You are more than what others think of you.

It can be really hard to remember that sometimes. But that’s why I chose to take a break from dating. Because as much as I want a significant other and eventually a spouse, I want to have a loving, healthy relationship. And in order to do that, I need to value myself. I need to be okay with being myself and to remember that it doesn’t matter what other people think of the things I like to do or the people I want to associate with. At the end of the day, if you are unhappy with yourself, no amount of love from others is going to make you happy. Even worse, a lack of self-love can often lead you to unhealthy relationships and make you feel even worse about yourself.

So what can you do about it? Appreciate yourself. Take time for yourself. If you are in a relationship, make sure that you are giving yourself some alone time and standing up for yourself. It’s good to have friends and romantic partners, but you are more than that. You are more than what others think of you.