2020 continues to suck.

Before I get into why 2020 is still the worst year ever, I want to say that I am actually fine. I would say that instead of being stuck in a pit of sadness, I am just in disbelief at how an already terrible year just defies all odds and continues to get worse and worse.

In my previous post, I mentioned my concern about a friend of mine who is an alcoholic. I also said that I hoped he would successfully detox at home and not repeat what happened in February of this year (a seizure).

Well, he had another seizure. He was taken to the hospital on Sunday and he is now (Tuesday) back at home continuing to self-detox. He isn’t out of the woods yet and there is still a chance that he will admit himself to a facility; however, I really don’t think he will. He is one of the most stubborn people I know. Anyway, that is one sucky thing.

The second sucky thing is that my fiancé’s grandmother just died. The grandmother lives in the Philippines, so she can’t be there for the funeral. This is the second family member she has lost this year. I lost a family member and a good friend this year as well, so this has been a record year.

One piece of good news is that my fiancé and I have decided that instead of renting and apartment next time we move, we will be renting a house. It’s a decision that is keeping me planning and excited, so I always think of that.

I think this is also a good time to mention that when I started to talk about “the woman I was seeing” back in August of last year, I named her Chelsea on this blog to protect her identity in case things didn’t work out; however, as you all know, we are now engaged and I think it is okay to tell you all her real name: Charlene. My fiancé’s name is Charlene. I had no idea that when I swiped right, I was swiping right on my future wife, but I’m so incredibly glad I did. I am also glad that she swiped back, haha. I look forward to documenting more of our adventures.

Surprise!

So, my girlfriend and I have been secretly engaged for over 6 months now. Surprise! For those of you who have read this blog from the beginning (about 1 year), you guys know how head over heels I was for her from the get-go. Well, that still hasn’t changed and after many many talks about us, our feelings, and our life together, we decided we might as well make it super official.

If you are anything like me, then your thoughts might look like this right now:

  • You are moving too fast.
  • Do you even know each other?
  • Don’t you think you should date a few years before committing to that?

Allow me to ease your minds a little. Again, if you have been reading this blog from the beginning, you would know that we moved in together after only knowing each other for about 3 months. Well, it is 1 year later and we are still quite content with each other and don’t plan on changing the living arrangement we have.

I can only speak for myself, but I will tell you what my lady has told me: She has been on dates before, yes, but they never progressed to anything. I am her first and her last relationship- by her own choice. She says that she never encouraged other people because they were not to her standard and she didn’t want to invest herself into something that didn’t feel totally right. Makes sense, in my opinion.

In the beginning I felt a bit of pressure because I wanted her first relationship to be AWESOME! I did not want to set a negative scene for her in regards to relationships in that case that we might not work out. I wanted to make sure that I always created a safe, open, and fun space to explore each other- emotionally and physically. Mostly, though, I just felt honored to be the person to see all of her reactions to these new experiences; I also felt incredibly special that she chose me to trust with her heart.

Now, on to me: I’ve dated 5 people before my fiance, and, clearly, all of those relationships failed. I can also pinpoint exactly what I didn’t like in each of them- the relationship itself or the person.

  • unresolved/untreated mental health issues
  • abusive family members –>abuse leaked into our relationship
  • poor finances
  • no goals/motivation in life
  • no desire to educate themselves about current events/important topics
  • my family and friends disliked some of them for various reasons
  • major political differences

Fast forward to now: With my fiance, there isn’t one thing that I would deem as reason enough to be dissatisfied in this relationship. Long story short: she’s got her shit together. We are both super organized people, we are open about our financials, and we communicate about everything- even if it is not a fun topic. It’s just not worth “sweeping under the rug” and “dealing with it later” because that’s how you build resentment.

I will write a separate post detailing my family and friends’ reactions; spoiler: they were not surprised.

I am super pumped to start this new chapter of engagement and even though it doesn’t really feel any different, every day is a great day when I’m with her, so here’s to many more of those!

My Sister

For those of you that don’t know, I have a younger sister. She will be 21 this July. We aren’t distant, but I wouldn’t say that we are super close either. We are definitely closer now than when we were young children, though. The fact that we can eat together or be in the same room is huge progress.

I’m not sure when our relationship improved, but it was definitely post high school (2015ish). I wasn’t an angry teenager anymore and she had matured enough for me to feel like she wasn’t a baby anymore.

My sister and I are very different. but I have noticed more similarities as we’ve gotten older. I have always been a super introvert, and while she has become one more as she’s gotten older, she used to be quite extroverted. I suspect that a depressed and emotionally exhausted extrovert might present as an introvert, though.

She’s currently living in Florida with another person she was recently in a long relationship with. I don’t think they’re good for each other. When I was in a questionable relationship I wished that my mom or my sister would have said something about what they saw and felt. I see my sister now in what I see as an unhealthy relationship and I try to tell her what I wish she would have told me: this isn’t good for you and you need to leave. Fortunately, she is temporarily moving back to GA in July. We’ll see what happens.

My sister had difficulty with our parents. It wasn’t entirely her fault. Personalities were all over the place and everyone was always yelling and not actually listening to one another. I tried to stay out of it and only interfered when I was fed up.

She struggled with making trustworthy friends and I disliked most of them because they ended up treating her like trash. She made some unwise decisions over the years and her life in general seemed reckless. I didn’t know how to help, so I just always tried to be there when she felt like talking. I also made sure not to contribute to any internal issues I felt she had: comparing herself to me and putting me on what seemed like an unattainable pedestal.

School was easy for me. School was not easy for her. I had great luck with friends. She did not. I never had any body image issues and I rarely got shit from family (other than the “you need to eat a sandwich” comments). I would say that she was made fun of and ridiculed for the way she looked by people we cared about. Even when I was at my most frustrated and angry with her, I refused to stoop so low as to make fun of her for the things she was most insecure about.

Anyway, the point of this post was to share Noah Cyrus’ new song:

I think this song resonates with things my own sister may have been feeling when she was growing up. As soon as I heard this song I thought of her.

I know I didn’t encourage the comparisons between me and her, but I still feel guilty. I wish things had been easier for her and I wish we were closer and I could’ve been more of a friend, but it is what it is. I can’t change the past, but I will try my best to be there for her when she moves back home.

Sharing My Story

My therapist recently contacted me to ask me if I would participate in an interview about my experience in therapy. He would then want to use bits of that interview in a promotional video for his practice. I said sure. That interview was last Friday at 11 am. I wore jeans, converse, and my Ellen sweater that says “kindness” on it.

When I arrived at the little studio on the westside of Atlanta, my therapist was just finishing up a photo shoot with the two other therapists he works with.

Once they were done, the helpers moved the furniture and replaced the couch with a glass table with a chair on either side that were facing each other. I was also given a microphone to clip on my sweater and on the back of my pants.

Now, days before the interview . my therapist sent me an email with a list of possible questions. I, of course, typed out answers to all of them just in case I got tongue tied during the actual interview.

Here are those questions:

Thoughts leading up to therapy. 

“Man, I hope this works.”

Why did you choose therapy? 

I was unable to “deal with it” alone anymore and I wanted another opinion. It had also been 10 years without significant progress, so I figured therapy wouldn’t make it any worse.

What were you looking for?

Initially, a cure; however, I recognized that that was unrealistic and unlikely, so I adapted it to “new ways to get through anxiety without making me stop living my life.”

What did you think about the phrase “all of you is welcome”?

It gave my “undesirable” parts an invitation to participate and be heard. I never invited them.

Do you remember me saying let’s “unbraid your narrative” or paying close attention to how the “researcher” was managing anxiety? —what changed (realization that I was capable in chaos)

I heard, “start from the beginning”. The realization that I excelled in chaotic parts of my life was validation that I could get through anything and that I would continue to get through anything.

How did kindness help/facilitate this process?

The act of being kind to myself opened many emotional doors. It made me feel more vulnerable and exposed because I think I knew exactly what parts I had been suppressing and invalidating; I didn’t want those parts to make all the parts I was so proud of look bad.

Where you afraid to talk about the parts of you? Did you think this would mean you were crazy?

I don’t think I was afraid per se, but I did have to make a conscious decision to share very personal accounts and thoughts about my life and myself with a complete stranger. I was hoping that I would be pushed to think about things differently than I had been. In the end, I think the reason therapy worked so well with Jon is because we are fundamentally very different personalities; I can’t say that I would’ve been as successful as someone who was as logical as I was. Jon challenged me to welcome and embrace the “softer” sides of myself and this was very helpful in the healing process.

There was never any concern about me being “crazy”.

What did you think about the 3 steps: Tell the Truth, Set Intention, Tell a Different Story?

I am honestly drawing a complete blank.

Being kind to self? Was that something new for you? 

Are you still using kindness today? 

Being kind to myself in the way Jon wanted me to be kind to myself was new, yes. I thought that I was kind, but I quickly discovered that the standards I held myself to were significantly higher than what I held other people to. I was also more forgiving of other people’s emotions; for my own emotions, I limited myself to an allotted slot of time for me to be sad, cry, and wallow in grief or whatever other emotion/feeling I deemed to be negative [for me].

Today, I am kind to myself. I don’t really have to think about it anymore, my body and mind now know that they are free to feel whatever they want without punishment.

Thoughts leading up to therapy. 

Man, I hope this works.

Why did you choose therapy? 

I was unable to “deal with it” alone anymore and I wanted another opinion. It had also been 10 years without significant progress, so I figured therapy wouldn’t make it any worse.

What were you looking for?

Initially, a cure; however, I recognized that that was unrealistic and unlikely, so I adapted it to “new ways to get through anxiety without making me stop living my life.”

What did you think about the phrase “all of you is welcome”?

It gave my “undesirable” parts an invitation to participate and be heard. I never invited them.

Do you remember me saying let’s “unbraid your narrative” or paying close attention to how the “researcher” was managing anxiety? —what changed (realization that I was capable in chaos)

I heard, “start from the beginning”. The realization that I excelled in chaotic parts of my life was validation that I could get through anything and that I would continue to get through anything.

How did kindness help/facilitate this process?

The act of being kind to myself opened many emotional doors. It made me feel more vulnerable and exposed because I think I knew exactly what parts I had been suppressing and invalidating; I didn’t want those parts to make all the parts I was so proud of look bad.

Where you afraid to talk about the parts of you? Did you think this would mean you were crazy?

I don’t think I was afraid per se, but I did have to make a conscious decision to share very personal accounts and thoughts about my life and myself with a complete stranger. I was hoping that I would be pushed to think about things differently than I had been. In the end, I think the reason therapy worked so well with Jon is because we are fundamentally very different personalities; I can’t say that I would’ve been as successful as someone who was as logical as I was. Jon challenged me to welcome and embrace the “softer” sides of myself and this was very helpful in the healing process.

There was never any concern about me being “crazy”.

What did you think about the 3 steps: Tell the Truth, Set Intention, Tell a Different Story?

I am honestly drawing a complete blank.

Being kind to self? Was that something new for you? Are you still using kindness today? 

Being kind to myself in the way Jon wanted me to be kind to myself was new, yes. I thought that I was kind, but I quickly discovered that the standards I held myself to were significantly higher than what I held other people to. I was also more forgiving of other people’s emotions; for my own emotions, I limited myself to an allotted slot of time for me to be sad, cry, and wallow in grief or whatever other emotion/feeling I deemed to be negative [for me].

Today, I am kind to myself. I don’t really have to think about it anymore, my body and mind now know that they are free to feel whatever they want without punishment.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about going therapy but is unsure?

It never hurts to get a second opinion. Maybe this isn’t as good as it gets- go find out. Except for the co-pay, you’ve got nothing to lose.

So, the actual interview went well; it was a lot shorter than I thought it would be. I don’t know when the final version will be completed, but I was told I’d be sent an email.

They gave me flowers, a candle, and a bottle of red wine for my time. There was also a thoughtful card from my therapist.

I guess I feel fine about the interview. I was nervous about too much personal information being released, but it was actually very surface level. Whenever it is released, I’ll put it on here or at least share my thoughts on it.

Date Night: The Science Museum

My girlfriend and I are going to the local science museum for a 21+ experience involving volcanos, so I am thoroughly pumped. I’m told there will be alcohol, music, movies, and “adult” experiments. I really don’t know what to expect.

I shaved my legs and armpit for the first time since October 2019 and I think I might have clogged the drain a little.

My mouth (FINALLY!!!) does not hurt anymore. I was taking 800 mg of ibuprofen every day for the past week as well as rubbing clove oil on my gums every morning and night. I didn’t attend classes on Monday and Tuesday and was unpleasantly surprised with a test when I returned to campus on Wednesday.

Today is Valentine’s Day, yes, but it is also my coworker’s birthday, so a few of us brought baked goods. I made vanilla macarons and vanilla cupcakes. My coworkers brought a chocolate cake with coconut frosting and raspberries on top. It was delish.

I had a meeting with my advisor and I will officially be graduation in May 2021. My body is ready. I will also be starting full-time at my current job this summer, so that will be nice to have a little more income.

For those of you in school and for those of you that haven’t done your taxes: make sure you or your parents claim the American Opportunity tax credit if you’re in your first 4 years of college. It could get you $1,000 and I know ya’ll need it.

I am currently baking sugar cookie bars. I’ve attempted to dual color the icing, so we’ll see if it turns out as I hope it will.

But What is a “Date”?

My girlfriend’s sister brought up an interesting question the other day: Why don’t Chelsea and I go out on dates? I suppose that’s what it seems like- that we don’t “date”. I would say the opposite, though.

After thinking about it and talking with Chelsea about it, I’ve concluded that we do date. We may not go out, but we make time for each other.

Both of our love languages are Quality Time, so it doesn’t require us leaving the house or spending money to have that fulfilled.

I do enjoy going out occasionally, but I don’t need to go out in order to feel like we’re being “productive” as a couple in the world of dating.

Here are some favorite ways that I like to spend time with my partner:

  • Watching movies and TV shows together
  • Cooking/baking together
  • Eating my cereal on the toilet while she brushes her teeth
  • Walking together to the mailbox [almost] every evening
  • Carpooling to the grocery store, events, my parent’s house, friend’s houses, etc.
  • Eating meals together

It doesn’t take much for me to feel happy in my relationship. Neither of us care for elaborate plans and as long as we’re together, anything can feel like quality time.

What’s your love language and how do you make sure your needs are met? How do you make sure your partner’s needs are met?

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!

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!

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.