Manic in the Mirror

As you all know, I’ve been putting in some real work therapizing the shit out of myself for the last year. At least my friends are saying I’ve been working pretty hard and making excellent progress. They’re unbiased and neutral as hell; I’m taking their word for it.

So I haven’t read a recreational book for the duration of this year. My most recent reads are The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Present Over Perfect, The Intimacy Factor and You Are A Badass. These books are helping me learn more about myself and how to embrace some of my shortfalls. Including but not limited to, unrealistic expectations of myself and my relationships and we might as well face it, a slight addiction to love.

About 2 years back, in hopes of getting over a small mental break-through, (not down, see what I did there) I decided to make myself really uncomfortable and attend a DBT group. Now if you look this up, you will find that Dialectical Behavioral Therapy was originally developed to assist individuals who suffered with Borderline Personality Disorder. Research now demonstrates that DBT is effective for developing strategies and coping skills for a variety of conditions: depression, PTSD, anxiety, etc. A contemporary perspective would assert that DBT empowers people to pursue experiences in life that are rich with meaning.

In my sitch, I was at a spot (and probably always will be) where I could definitely benefit from working some of the key therapeutic skills of DBT. I wanted to focus on improving my distress tolerance, practicing mindfulness and regulating my emotions. Interpersonal effectiveness could have been helpful too, but I am not actually anxious when I tell people to go fuck themselves. Usually I’m pretty committed and resolved at that point. No need to fret when you’re set, you know what I’m saying?

My thoughts, anxiety and associated OCD-light behaviors were overwhelming at that time in my life. I was a few weeks post-break up from a 2 year, on/(blow my foot) off again relationship with a cheating dude I drained myself trying to fix. Discussing the thoughts that I played over in my mind could take days and if you have no flavor of OCD yourself, (combined with my relationship history) it would be very difficult to understand.

I’m just going to sum shit up by saying, in and out of relationships, my anxiety tempts me to believe I can control shit. Shit I have no business acting like I’m in fucking charge of. Then I try to manage some of my out-of-control thoughts and emotions with fruitless behaviors. For a rudimentary real-life example, if I call this asshole of a guy I’m dating and offer to help him re-sheetrock his whole 80’s wood paneled basement, this will make him love and appreciate me for like a year. Yep talkin’ about Sheetrock again because it’s heavy and pisses me off.

Well Andrea, that actually isn’t grounded in reality. As my nephew used to say at any exciting reveal, “Kaaa-prise!” We cannot control if, when and how long someone will love us.

Good segue back into group therapy. I was placed in a group that met weekly and had about 5-6 (heavily rotating) members. The flavor of the week part pissed me off because we had to go over the foundation and rules for the group weekly, for like 25 fucking minutes. As an anxious broken-hearted, (financially aware) mofo, I did not have time for that shit. I needed the goods, the therapy, right quick and I was not forking over a copay to fucking take turns writing a weekly code of conduct on a whiteboard. The best part was when the leader herself left and handed our group of amazing misfits over to a newly graduated counselor.

I conscientiously objected the radical group turnover twice before I resigned my efforts and decided the group was not therapeutic in the way I had hoped it would be. Of course, the counselor said this was the exact reason I needed the group. I told her that I actually didn’t need the group anymore, that was the glory of it. They weren’t helping me work out my shit behavior anymore than when I had been mismanaging it on my own.

One pretty great tip I picked up from a fellow member who later moved to Canada for her husband’s job (to avoid being submissive to her husband) told me to freeze a clementine Mandarin orange to help manage my thoughts. The idea was if I felt the need to text the asshole mother fucker that I was trying to move on from, I should go to the freezer and grab the orange. This stimulation of my senses would disengage or reroute my brain from whatever thoughts I was obsessing over. Of course, in my rapidly healed state, I held the orange in my left hand and with my other hand, I talk-tested my ex. Like I said, definitely didn’t need that group anymore.

Now all this time later in my recovery from love and fairytales, I tell my delusional ass to go to hell. Reminding myself of the wankers I’ve been in serious relationships with and their extreme off-mark attempts at meeting my expectations is a pretty helpful tool.

Basically in most of my major relationships, the affection, attention and validation I’ve sought has never been realized. Really at the rate I was going, the things I expected were impossible for the dickheads, addicts and fools I was in long term relationships to provide me.

Unconditional positive regard, constant reassurance that I was loved, anticipating my needs and knowing if and when they weren’t met, the list could go on. Maybe some of you have these amazing elements in your relationship, but to me, finding a relationship like this would be similar to finding a sequined rainbow unicorn. A conjured-up figment of my imagination, blinding if spotted and sharp AF.

I have been working on meeting some of these expectations on my own. Then if I ever find a charming (loaded) prince and he leaves, I’ll still have all the love, reassurance and validation I had before I met him.

I believe it’s common in our existence for people to struggle with expectations and looking outside of themselves to fill up their cup of life. My cup used to be more like a plastic camouflage bubba mug that overflowed and leaked shit relationships all over hell. Now I’m sporting a leak-proof double-walled travel mug that reads:There may or may not be wine in here.” I have gotten a lot of compliments on this mug in the elevator at work, on the way up to my office.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m working on filling my life glass with fun. I’m looking for other people, experiences and things besides an intimate relationship that can meet my expectations and leave me feeling gratified. The affection, attention and validation that I have been looking for in a relationship and outside of myself, is starting to come from within. And from dill pickle chips and my F$&@ the Bahtendah vodka drinks. See my last post for deets.

Andrea morale has been improving because I’m investigating what I hope to gain from myself and others. All my shelf help books are finally making a dent in my brain. Adjusting the expectations I am looking for in a dude is more about meeting my own first.

Since finding a relationship doesn’t define fulfillment in life, I asked my counselor what does. He said, “Now we’re getting fucking existential Andrea.” I do therapy in bare feet with a guy who says fuck. Basically we were meant to be patient and therapist. My sensei tells me that I will have a hard time finding contentment in my life outside of myself.

First and foremost, I think fulfillment for me will be to continue slinging up all my less than honorable dudes (cr. my cougar boss for cleaning up my expletive description) on this blog. Keep your head on a swivel haters.

But really, I am filling up my glass by seeking God and gratitude daily, traveling, enjoying my family, laughing with my amazing friends, sharing my talents at work and showing kindness to people I encounter.

That will almost be better than wine.

• My cup runneth over • Psalm 23:5

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