Turkey Day is Rapidly Approaching

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. This means that most of us will be returning home to see family that we only see specifically during this time of the year. For me, this year is different because I am bringing someone with me.

I actually introduced my girlfriend, Chelsea, to various family members over the past 2 months and it all went surprisingly well.

In my last session, I spoke with my therapist about the holiday season and my own expectations regarding family and my obviously gay relationship. He told me to have minimal to no expectations and to be open-minded. At first, I reacted with, “WhAt?! You want ME to be open-minded??”

Buuuuut, then I realized that he was right. I was already anticipating the homophobic comments, questions, and uncomfortable stares months before actually being around family. I was making assumptions. I was judging. If I were to enter their homes with this attitude, it was going to be obvious and rub off on them.

In order for this to be natural and comfortable, I needed to let go of anything I thought before. I needed to act natural and comfortable myself. There is nothing weird or abnormal about my relationship and the more normal I act, the more normal it will be to family.

I’ve worked so hard to be 100% myself. I feel like I’ve only fully achieved that in 2019. I am ready to just have fun and enjoy this holiday season.

Happy holidays, everyone!

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Putting My Dreams On Hold?

I was talking with a friend yesterday about the feeling of being caught between travel dreams and a good job (or meeting someone and settling down).

Long story short, my friend Blaire had plans to go on a month long trip to Europe with her sister this summer. Afterwards, she planned on joining another lengthy volunteer program or homesteading or just jumping in her car and driving across the US.

But she met someone in the first program she was in in 2018 and they now live together in Indiana. They both work and they’re both highly considering attending college after having not been in school for almost 2 years.

However, Blaire still has major travel dreams and doesn’t want to tuck everything under the rug just because she fell in love.

Additionally, she also fears finding an amazing job that won’t let her hit pause to travel every now and again. She hates feeling tied down and is concerned that a “normal” job will do that. In a sense, the relationship has tied her down as well, but she confessed that she is 100% okay with that at this point- she and her partner fit really well together and she loves coming home to her.

I told Blaire that my current job might be more of a long-term situation than I initially thought; however, I wasn’t concerned about not being able to travel because there are opportunities to travel through my company. They’re also just super flexible about all of their employees’ schedules and encourage travel and “you-time”.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have any concerns about not being able to travel as extensively as I’d planned prior to getting into my current relationship. There were moments of concern, yes, but after falling utterly and completely in love with Chelsea, I no longer wanted to travel with anyone but her.

One day, I hope we can take an extended trip (6 months-1 year), but, for now, I’m okay with mini trips scattered throughout the year. In fact, we’re taking our first trip together to North Georgia in about 3 weeks!

Are any of you experiencing worry about putting dreams on hold because of a really good job or because of a relationship? Share them with me!

A First Attempt

Today will mark the first day that I will exercise after having started exercise/exposure therapy. The plan is to stretch and use the treadmill for a total of 30 minutes all-together.

When I started exposure therapy a few months ago, my therapist began by having me only step on the treadmill. The purpose of this was to get used to just being on it and physically touching it. Previously, the mere thought of exercise sent me into a breathing panic because I anticipated the inevitable suffocation sensation before the real exercise even started. The brain is very powerful.

Sessions following only involved walking at a slight incline at a pretty slow pace- slower than my normal walking speed. Throughout my session, my therapist asked me to name 3 things I was thankful/grateful for. He asked me what my intention was. He asked me to verbally express mindfulness. When the session came to an end, he asked me to step in front of the mirror and talk to myself. He asked me how I felt, what I felt, and what did I have to say to the person starring back at me.

In the more recent sessions, we have picked up speed. My therapist still asks me to name the things that I am grateful for; however, he has also added in the following tasks:

  • ABCs
  • ABCs backwards
  • Count to 100
  • Count backwards from 100

The purpose of these tasks is distraction. The goal is to have my brain so focused on letters and numbers that it has no time to think or panic about the increased heart-rate. For the most part, this does work.

The last session I had, I went the fastest I had gone yet. There was also less distraction and more of me controlling what I was saying/doing/thinking. My therapist actually played marching band music in order to cause a disturbance, but hearing marching band music has never been a trigger, so I enjoyed it. We ended the session with 30 jumping jacks.

At the end of that last session, my therapist gave me permission to venture out on my own and give exercising on my own time a go. I’ve decided to make today my first day.

My intentions for today are to just do it and have no expectations. I forgive myself in advance if I have difficulty getting out of my head. I forgive myself in advance if I have a panic attack. I give myself a high-five for making it this far and not giving up.

Searching for Chaos

I’ll get right to the point: My romantic relationship that I am currently in is going very well. Chelsea and I just moved in together and I’ve even told conservative family members about us. She makes me feel like I’ve got nothing to lose by being 100% myself.

We’ve been seeing each other for about 3.5 months and this is right about the point where things start to look questionable (I’m speaking about my past dating experiences). Three months always seems like the perfect time for people to give up the “I’ve got my shit together” act and then things go south from there.

I have not had this suspicion in this relationship. Like I said before, things have been going great.

This scares me.

My body and brain are just used to chaos. I’m used to chaos at work (this has changed since my new job), at school (mainly concerning class-load (my fault)), with family (it’s complicated), with friends (I am not involved in it, I just am surrounded by it), and, unfortunately, my romantic relationships have not been absent from chaos either.

Over the years, I’ve developed mad planning strategies to help me navigate my own busy life. In the cracks of free time, I was doing household things, school things, or helping friends or current romantic partner through their issues- all the while, of course, I was ignoring my own need for peace, quiet, and some time to deal with anxiety and past events.

Right here, right now, I am in the best mental health I’ve ever been. I can say that without doubt. But old habits die hard and my body is in defense mode in this current relationship because it just can’t be real. Or can it?

My fear is that being in a healthy and “normal” relationship will start to seem so foreign to me that I will unconsciously search for reasons to doubt it and an out in order to avoid repeating past experiences.

I don’t see red flags. Things are great. I am happy. I am so happy. I don’t want this to end. I don’t want my brain to get weird. In order to combat this particular fear, I’ve already discussed it with Chelsea, my therapist, and I will continue to check in with myself and make sure that I am not just creating chaos to have chaos.

Thanks for stopping by! Happy almost Halloween!

Exercise/Exposure Therapy Day 1

Yesterday was my first time participating in exercise and exposure therapy. We worked on desensitization, mindfulness, and focusing on my breathing at a slow walk up a small incline.

A little background: I do not have asthma. I am as healthy as I currently can be. When I’m having a panic attack, my heart rate, breathing, and adrenaline are of the same levels as if I was running from a burning building. It’s a false alarm in my head. So, when I try to actually run for fun or for exercise, my brain thinks it’s in panic mode because my heart rate, breathing, and adrenaline automatically shoot up the same way they do when my anxiety is at its peak. It’s not fun.

So, the past 10 years I have avoided long distance running and physical activities that might send me into an attack and then into an unconscious state (fainting). It’s frustrating because I love hiking, team sports, marching band, running with my dogs, and so much more; I haven’t felt like I can 100% participate in a long time and that’s what I’m trying to get over through this new type of therapy.

My therapist did say that while exercise therapy is not new to him, he has never treated someone like me with it. Normally, he uses it for people with anger management issues, couples that come to therapy to yell at each other, or people who have body image issues.

I came to therapy yesterday ready to run, but we didn’t get over 2 mph. He said the first session is only about the initial exposure. Next session we might kick it up, but the goal is not to go as fast as we can. The focus of this therapy is getting my heart rate up and then back down without jacking up my breathing. It’s about [not purposely] sending me into panic mode, handling it, and then returning to “normal”. It’s scary, but also exciting.

So She’s Meeting My Mom

Trust me, we didn’t plan for her to meet my mother this soon; however, there is an event we are attending in the town my mother lives in, so it only makes sense to crash at her house and not drive the hour back home at 11pm.

I am not nervous. I can’t say the same for Chelsea, though. I understand her nerves; my mother and I are close and my mother’s opinion of my partners is very important to me and Chelsea has come to know that.

I think my mother is mostly excited and curious. I don’t think she has any expectations.

I don’t have any expectations. I think it will be fine, truly. I will, of course, keep you all updated.

Currently, I am at Chelsea’s house. I have work tomorrow, but it’s just as far away as my house is at 6am in the morning. As you can probably tell, I have fully given in to my feelings and emotions and I am not holding anything back with her.

She has also been very open with me, thankfully, and it seems that we are on the same page. We both recognize that things are moving quite quickly (emotionally) and it terrifies us, but we also don’t want to slow down. She makes me happy. It is what it is.

I have never been this forward with my feelings.

I decided to take a leap yesterday and tell Chelsea that I felt myself falling for her much quicker than I thought I would. I told her that I normally keep those more intense feelings to myself for at least 2-3 months, but that I couldn’t and just didn’t want to do that with her.

Luckily, her response was not a terrified one.

I met her friends on Saturday. They were great to be around. We went to one of their apartment complexes which had a pool. We floated, we ate, we mingled, and we left. Apparently, one friend referred to me as Chelsea’s girlfriend (a conversation we have not had) and I totally missed it, but Chelsea definitely heard it and internally freaked a little bit because of the fact that it hadn’t been discussed yet.

Chelsea and I spent over 30 hours together this weekend. That’s insane. I haven’t done that with someone since being in AmeriCorps and having to spend every waking hour with 7 other people.

We also had another important conversation. I told her that I was doing my best to see her for who she was presenting herself to be towards me instead of me seeing her through “rose colored lenses”. I have fallen so quickly and I want to be certain that the person I am falling for actually exists and is not this person I’ve created in my mind by ignoring certain parts of her.

I don’t think I’ve failed to see her as she is, but your brain can do some crazy things- especially in the first few months. So, I told her I really like her, but I am also keeping in mind the “honeymoon” phase of new relationships.

That is all.

An Important Conversation

Chelsea (the woman I have been dating for a month) came over after work yesterday. The traffic-filled drive from her place of work to my house is absolutely godawful, so I really appreciate her making the trek.

We had a very healthy and vulnerable conversation yesterday. It concerned something along the lines of investing everything into something that might blow up in our faces. In other words, she (and I) are taking personal risks by emotionally investing in each other and the relationship we are building as humans; there is a fear there of it not working out, obviously. Then, all the risk and vulnerability would be “for nothing”.

I don’t think it would be for nothing. I don’t know how she would feel about that. I think that all of my experiences, good and bad, resulted in me becoming somehow wiser, more informed, and a little richer in life experiences. So, at the end of the day (or at the end of a relationship), I don’t think anything was “for nothing”.

Anyway, I could see how difficult some of that conversation was for her, so I’m really grateful that we were able to have it.

After I confessed that I was surprised by how quickly I started to feel attracted towards her, she confessed a similar statement. We talked about how easy it felt to talk to one another.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation with her, my own insecurities and fears occasionally crept through my mind: what if I feel like this is it for me, but this is just the beginning of her experiences? I think it’s too soon to think that way, but that’s my brain. You’re welcome.

I’m really happy with her.

Tomorrow I will have known her for 1 month. I’ve learned a lot since our first meeting. I can honestly and genuinely say that I enjoy her company and conversation. I really appreciate her efforts and I can tell that she is also serious about getting to know each other.

I made a previous post about how I felt overwhelmed with the strong emotions I’m having despite only having known her for a short time. I am still adjusting, but I’ve come to a conclusion:

I don’t want to date anymore. I don’t want to search anymore. i don’t want to “prove myself” via texts and dating apps anymore. I don’t want to be another person’s coming out story. I don’t want to help anyone deal with middle school issues. I don’t want to play therapist. I want a partner in life that I can trust and rely on. I want equality. I want open communication. I want compromise. I want unconditional love. I want healthy pushes to think about things differently. I want to feel supported. I want someone who’s got my back.

I feel like that’s asking a lot.

It doesn’t really matter, though. I have been through some very questionable things and I’m just so tired and exhausted. I let many past relationships preside over my own physical and mental wellbeing. While trying to be everything for my partners I was doing some serious damage to myself. Well, I’m taking care of myself now and it’s going really great.

Since meeting this woman (I know I created a name for her, but it escapes me), I want this to be it so badly. I don’t care that I’m young- I’m not even pushing for marriage or an immediate future together. I just want to be done with the bullshit. And she feels like the complete opposite of bullshit.

Edit: I have discovered that the name I gave her is Chelsea. Woohoo!

Miss Me More

If you don’t know this song, you should:

When this song came out, I was no longer in a toxic relationship, but the after effects were still very much with me. I was learning how to navigate making my own decisions again without having to consider how my partner would react or belittle me later because of them.

It took me 6-8 months longer than I would have liked to get out of that relationship. The ultimate reason I decided to leave was because I didn’t like who I had become.

I have always been confident and sure of myself when it comes to my academic ability and even my physical appearance. This partner made me feel stupid and like I couldn’t do anything right. There was so much manipulation and guilt-tripping and a loss of identity within myself.

I think to my friends and family I probably acted “normal”, but so did my partner. They never acted questionably around anyone but me. That’s why it was so hard to tell people how they had been treating me. My family genuinely liked them. They didn’t see what I saw. Even afterwards. It took a few years for them to stop referring to them. I made it clear that I didn’t want to hear their name or know about any run ins they had with them in town.

Kelsea Ballerini came out with this song and took the words right out of my heart. I missed myself and who I was before shit hit the fan. I forgot that I was capable of going places alone, making decisions alone, going to see MY friends, etc.

The song does trigger those memories, but it also makes me feel empowered.