Vocalizing an Unfamiliar Fear

My girlfriend vocalized a fear she had last night that I’ve been pondering myself for weeks now: The simple fear of losing your partner. I suppose it doesn’t really matter in what sense- loss is loss.

I’ve confessed to this blog, as well as to my girlfriend, that I’ve never feared losing a partner. I don’t believe it’s because I didn’t have feelings for them, but I do think it’s because I didn’t let my feelings get as deep as they undeniably are now.

When previous partners talked about not knowing what they’d do if we broke up or if something tragic happened to me, I really didn’t relate. Sure, I’d be sad and mourn them/the relationship; however, I had absolutely no doubt that I’d be back doing my same old thing in no time.

I’ve always had a way of treating unfortunate events in a very logical manner and that allows me to move on very quickly. I’m not so sure that I could deal with the loss of Chelsea so logically.

Lukas Graham has a lovely song out: Love Someone. I heard it for the first time months ago- before meeting Chelsea. It’s a beautiful tune, but there were lyrics that I heard that I absolutely couldn’t relate to. I will even go as far as to say that I thought they were stupid.

“If you love someone

And you’re not afraid to lose ’em

You probably never loved someone like I do”

Fast forward many feelings later, I, for the first time in my life, am scared to lose someone in the way that this song refers.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this just feels different. It feels complete. It feels right. It feels like home. She feels like home.

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.

Therapy is coming to an end.

My first therapy session was 166 days ago. I have had about 20 sessions. I started in sit-down therapy, a variation of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and I shifted to exposure/exercise therapy about 7 weeks ago.

While I came to therapy on my own accord, I was still hesitant to fully expose myself to a stranger. I knew that I needed and wanted help, but because so much of the process was unknown, I was nervous and withholding.

I remember how uncomfortable I was when talking about difficult times and then feeling my eyes water. I remember how I started to sweat when my voice started to shake. I remember adverting my eyes to the floor and pinching my thigh with my fingers to distract myself from the emotions that were bubbling up.

4 weeks ago, I cried my eyes out in front of a mirror in the downstairs gym during a session with my therapist. I didn’t love it, but I was more accepting of my tears and the [good] reasons behind them.

By the end of 2019, I will be done with therapy. It feels good. The progress that I’ve made was not recognizable overnight; my progress pops up randomly throughout my days in between all the little tasks I do. It’s a slow crawl towards mental liberation, but the [long] journey has been well worth it.

Dating with Intent

I did not come up with the title of the post. My friend told me about her recent dating experience and the topic of “taking dating more seriously” came up. We didn’t like that “title”, so she suggested “dating with intent”.

So, in regards to my friend, she explained that during her early college years she was partying, dating around, and not very focused on long term relationships/dating. Fast forward 5 years and she is now taking dating more seriously; she’s putting more thought into who she goes out with and she’s looking for someone to spend years with, not one or two nights.

I feel like I experienced a similar shift recently. I haven’t done a lot of short term dating. In fact, I’ve only dated one person for short term: 3 months. All other relationships have been 6 months- 2 years in length. However, I feel like my mindset through all of these was very scattered.

I’ve addressed my commitment issues before. In addition to those, I also had feelings of just not wanting to be in something long term. I just didn’t want it, so why did I keep falling into these things? I don’t have an answer for that.

My point is that even though I was in [mostly happy] long term relationships, I didn’t initially go into them wanting that. And, as the relationship progressed, I often found myself wanting to exit the situation for a variety of reasons. My body and mind is always go, go, go, and on to the next.

I’m not sure when the change in mindset or desires happens for people, but I think my own brain experienced a shift in the last 6 months. What I’m referring to is the “I wanna run around” mindset versus the “I want to settle down” mindset.

All of sudden, following the whirlwind that was my AmeriCorps NCCC experience, starting therapy, moving into a new house, starting a new job, and resuming my studies, I had the sudden and strong craving for stability and security.

I had moved countless times during 2018. After moving back home, I experienced daily anxiety and panic attacks caused by the simplest things. I entered a new work environment and stepped onto a changed university campus. And I kept up with it all, but I was tired. As the weeks went on, I accepted even more tasks and activities into my schedule, but it was exhausting.

Unexpectedly, I longed to slow down. I didn’t know how (that’s something I’m still working on), but I knew I needed to for my own mental and physical well-being. With this new feeling also came a daydream of coming home after work to a cozy house and to an unknown, blurry-faced, long-term partner.

Don’t ask me when, why, or how, but somewhere between May, June, and starting therapy, I was no longer interested running solo or running away.

Of course, those who read my blog know that I have since found a beautiful and amazing partner who is making all of my daydreaming come true. I feel differently within myself when I am with her and I think a large part of my current mindset is thanks to therapy. I also think there’s the natural maturity and growing older that makes people crave security. Whatever it was, I’m happy it happened.

Do you really know, though?

EDIT: I actually wrote this in a month ago and hit pause. I figured I should upload it.

I’ve been reading articles for weeks now about other people’s experiences with “finding their person” and the whole “when you know, you know” thing. I started researching this topic because I felt crazy and doubtful that this phenomena could ever happen to me, yet what I felt was what these people described: a silent knowing that this person just is the person you want to wake up next to every single day for the rest of your life.

My friends and family would not be quick to describe me as spontaneous or “quick-to-trust-others”. I pride myself at being the most logical, analytical, and critical person I know. I plan EVERYTHING. I have four planners and calendars, as well as the calendars on my phone and laptop. I structure my days and weeks very carefully and strategically. I rely on my gut feeling a lot, but I back it up with good ole fashioned logic.

I started therapy in May of this year, 2019. Since then, my therapist has opened me up to relying on my logic less and trusting my heart more. Together, we broke down a lot of walls I had built up for myself for my own comfort and . I think I’m very open with friends, but I am not as open or as accepting to myself. That has changed.

I believe it is only because of therapy and my cooperation with the process that I was able to experience the feelings I felt towards Chelsea in late July and be okay with them.

When I met Chelsea, I had been in therapy for about 3 months. I accomplished a lot in those three months. When I interacted with her for the first time, I was nervous, but also excited and sure of my[new]self. I found that I didn’t have to filter myself. I didn’t feel pressured to act a certain way. I only hoped she enjoyed talking to me as much as I enjoyed talking and listening to her.

I walked away from the first date wishing I had kissed her; however, I also didn’t want to scare her, so maybe that was a good call on my part. By the second date, however, I was as good as hooked. And I felt something I hadn’t before.

The feeling was a mix of relief, security, excitement, and a little bit of disbelief and suspicion.

So, I don’t know what this is. I don’t understand it. I don’t know why now, why me, why this. I know nothing and I will be of no help to any of you trying to figure this out. I do apologize for that inconvenience.

The only thing I can say is that maybe you have to be in the appropriate and healthy headspace in order to allow yourself to experience things you thought you were previously undeserving of.

I had accepted that the kind of love I wanted just wasn’t going to be in the cards for me; however, three months of therapy later and I found myself in what currently seems like the healthiest and most promising partnership I’ve ever experienced.

June 19, 2018

On this day, at about 4am, I began my 6.5 hour drive to Vicksburg, Mississippi to start my Field Team Leader training with AmeriCorps NCCC.

I stopped twice and I’m writing this article to talk about my final stop. I stopped in Cuba, Alabama with a population of 303.

The reason for my stopping was that my gas tank was on E and the next exit was 40 miles away, so it was this exit or the side of the road for me.

I pulled into a gas station- the only gas station at this exit. There was one other truck in the lot. It was about 10am, so it was light outside.

I tried to insert my credit card, but the machine kept saying see cashier, so I walked inside. I was wearing tennis shoes, basketball shorts, and a loose tank top with a sports bra underneath. My hair was in a ponytail.

I walked inside the gas station and noticed that it was quite dark and dirty. I looked for the cashier, but there was no one. Suddenly, a 30something year old man came out. He was short, skinny, and looked to be Asian- I couldn’t say exactly from where.

He said, “Hi! How are you?” I responded with, “Hi, I’m doing well, how are you? Can I get $20 on pump 1?” I held out a twenty dollar bill and waited.

Instead of walking past me and to the register, he walked directly towards me, stopped inches from my face, and said, “How about you give me a hug?” Shocked, I said, “No, I don’t think so.” He moved his hands to my waist and I jumped back. I threw the $20 and said, “Pump 1, now, thank you.”

I turned around, walked back to my car, and prayed to God that I would able to fill my fucking tank because I needed to leave. Finally, I did see that he inputted the amount and I started filling my tank. My eyes frantically darted around me, making sure that he or anyone else didn’t approach me. I let the meter hit about $15- I didn’t care about the money, I just needed to leave. So I left.

I will never forget that feeling. I’ll never forget the disbelief I felt. I’ll never forget the fear I felt when he came so close to my face. I’ll never forget the feeling of disgust I felt when his hands touched me. I’ll never forget thinking, “What if he had been taller, stronger, bigger?” I remember thinking, “Oh my god, what do I do? Do I run? But I need gas. Fuck.”

As I drove the remaining miles to the Southern Region AmeriCorps NCCC campus, I cried. I called my mom. I cried some more.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to say that that is the most physical a man has ever gotten with me. I can’t imagine what other women feel who have gone through worse. My day to day with men has always been limited to cat-calling and inappropriate comments (mostly when I used to work at an auto parts shop). I wrote about this experience in my journal. I will try to find that entry and share what I wrote that day.

You have to trust your partner’s words and feelings.

When I was 16, I wrote a letter to my future self. The letter was about believing my own children (if I decided to have them) when they say that they’re in love at 16. I wrote the letter at a time where I was madly in love with my first girlfriend.

Today, as adults, we have a tendency to look at young[er] love and laugh. “They’re not going to last.” “Little do they know they won’t end up together.” “How cute, they think this is forever.” Whatever your phrase is that you use when looking at teenagers in love, you can’t deny their attraction to each other. You can’t deny their hormones and their impulsive tendencies. It’s new, it’s exciting, and it may or may not last, but what they feel is real. I was there, I was 16, and I know that what I felt wasn’t made up.

16 year old Megan

When your own feelings and words are questioned or doubted, you are quick to get defensive about them- I am, anyway. “What? What do you mean you don’t believe me when I say [insert your words here]?” “Why would you doubt my feelings for you?”

However, on the flip side, I do completely understand the other point of view. The internal dialogue might go something like this: “There is no way that [insert name here] feels what I feel. There is NO way that they like me as much as I like them. They would probably think I’m crazy if they actually knew how often they were in my thoughts. I can’t believe how into them I am, but I’m not convinced that the feeling is completely mutual.”

I think that the above dialogue stems from simple insecurity of self. We are our own biggest critic. We set our hopes and dreams above what we think we will actually ever achieve. We belittle ourselves. We are hard on ourselves. We have a difficult time accepting ourselves as who we are as humans, so the idea that someone else has accepted us- an anxiously uncertain jittering human mass of unshaven limbs and hair that we think looks like it was ordered by the electric socket in our bathroom- can seem very unreal at first.

I’m being dramatic. Personally, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had minimal insecurities about my physical appearance; however, my general “it is what it is” attitude, my frequent use of sarcasm, and my very forward and blunt responses have gotten me into some trouble in the past. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to terms with my personality and I think I’m hilarious. Finding a partner who feels the same way about the things that come out of my mouth has proven to be challenging.

So, when mutual romantic feelings were confessed between me and my now girlfriend, I did have a momentary lapse of thought that went a little like this: “Does she really think that’s funny, though? Is she really okay with what’s happening? I hope I didn’t just insult her. I also hope that she doesn’t think that I sound like a prick. I hope she can tell that I’m not as arrogant as my words make it out to be sometimes.”

In conclusion, humans are all insecure in some way, shape, or form at some point in their lives. We all have issues. We all doubt both ourselves and those around us. For the sake of your relationships, though, do your best to take what your partner says at face value; don’t look too deep into it. Believe them, trust them, and enjoy the ride. If they weren’t into you, they probably wouldn’t be dating you.

In a bathroom in a 2 star hotel in Roanoke, Virginia.

I was just listening to Lady Antebellum’s new song, Ocean. It’s beautiful. It’s melody triggered a memory from earlier this year, maybe April. My team and I were driving from Vicksburg, Mississippi to Trenton, New Jersey and we were spending the first night in Roanoke, Virginia.

The hotel was by far the worst accommodations we had stayed at thus far. The first rooms we were given were smoking rooms and the bed sheets were wrinkled and had burn marks and holes in them. We got moved to non-smoking rooms, but the sheets didn’t look much better.

Anyway, I remember feeling so exhausted when we finally got to our rooms. We drove over 10 hours that day and I was behind the wheel for most of it. Being on campus the day and whole week prior was also a draining ordeal. My team wanted to go out for dinner soon, so we took turns showering beforehand.

When it was my turn, I entered the bathroom and took off my clothes. I stepped into the bathtub and turned the water on, it was already hot. I don’t remember much, but I remember just standing under the water and not having a thought in my head- I was too tired. And then I choked and had to slam my hand over my mouth to muffle my crying. It hit me out of nowhere and it hit me hard.

Like I said, I don’t remember much, but I do remember not being able to stop crying. My body had hit its limit. My chest and stomach hurt from all the heavy breathing and contracting. I know I was trying to be as quiet as possible and I worried about my eyes being bright red when stepping out.

Finally, once my body calmed down, I continued to stand under the hot water and think about what just happened.

I still don’t know. My best guess is that improper management of emotions leads to bottling up, and, of course, every bottle has a limit.

I worry sometimes that I still don’t know how to process grief and sadness, and sometimes anger. I don’t get angry often, the list of triggers is very short. But when I do, I don’t even know how to release those kinds of emotions. So I don’t. It doesn’t affect my daily life, but I worry that the type of breakdown I recalled above will be the result of me not handling my emotions as I should.

Therapy has helped and I know that I have to give myself permission to feel these things, and I am working on it, I promise. That’s a promise to myself.

What do you do when there’s nothing left to do?

I am a busy human, mostly by choice. There isn’t much I absolutely have to do. We could probably categorize my M-F job as a “have to” seeing as that’s how I afford my shelter, food, and water. Most everything else is a “I should do this” or “I just feel like I should”. A tiny percentage of the things I do are “I want to do this”.

I think I care less about physically doing x, y, and z and more about just having it done. I want the end result, whether that’s cleanliness, a meal-prepped fridge for the coming week, or happy family members who don’t complain about not having seen me for weeks. I like feeling productive and I like knowing that other people are happy. I like going to bed at night knowing I didn’t waste the hours I had that day.

After having several conversations with several friends and family members, it seems that I need to rethink what “wasting my time” means. Is it wasteful to decline a social invitation to watch a movie by myself? Is it wasteful to spend the day in bed with my partner instead of doing laundry, cleaning, or any other household chore? Is it wasteful to take an entire day out of my week from working or school and NOT use it for errands?

I’m learning that down-time is healthy. It’s necessary. I’m comfortable with silence, but am I comfortable with stillness? Maybe not as comfortable as I thought I was. Things to work on, I suppose.

I was riding shotgun yesterday and I swear I didn’t know completely what to do with myself. In my mind, even driving my car is “something to do”. When my hands aren’t on the wheel and my mind isn’t focused on the road in front of me, my brain is confused; “So, what do we do now? What do we do when there is nothing to do?”

I don’t have an answer. I need to learn to not just slow down, but to stop and pay attention to where I am. I need to take it in, this life- slowly and deeply.

When I am 90 years old, I won’t remember doing laundry or meal prepping, but I will remember that beautiful mural on the side of the building I stopped by to admire on the way to work. I won’t remember the drive to the grocery store, but I will remember the intimate conversation I had with the person I took time to share dinner with.

I also don’t want to run myself down all through the day only to collapse in utter fatigue when I come home to my partner each night. I want to give her 100%. I also should give myself 100%.

I’m a work in progress, what can I say?

Having a Life Outside of Your Romantic Relationship

The moment you go from single to taken, you tend to spend ALL of your free time with the new human in your life. This is normal. I think the first 2-3 months are very “honeymoonish” and you forget that you have hobbies, friends, and family. You might also forget that laundry, grocery shopping, and meal prepping were ever a thing you had time for.

Once you get settled in a relationship, both partners might resume their independent interests as well as start to combine them. I think this is SO important.

The topic of pursuing activities and events independently from your romantic partner is an interesting and tricky one for me. I am in full support of having your own friends. I also fully support merging friend groups. I support whatever works for whoever.

The issue that I have run across has been partners who are shocked to learn that I want to do things alone or only with my friends. In the past, its been taken VERY personally and it made me significantly decrease the amount of time I spent with anyone else who was not my partner. I learned later that that was very manipulative of them and that I should feel free to hang out with my friends whenever I please.

Currently, I am dating a lovely human. She and I both have our own friends. We have met most of each other’s friends and have spent time together with them, but we also regularly plan things independently of each other. It’s such a simple thing, but for me to spend time with my friends and not feel guilty about it is a new feeling for me.

So, my message to everyone is to keep living your own life even if you begin sharing it with someone else. If your partner doesn’t support your individual endeavors, then they are not the partner for you.