worth as much as a cat

my recovery from people pleasing, co depency, and inabilitiy to set boundaries in a friendship that REALLY needed some boundaries

Sometimes I go through a roller coaster of feelings ...as I forget and then remember how my life has changed since I broke up with my best friends.

Yesterday I watched the opening of the new West Side Story, a musical that I always loved. However, I didn't it remember it being so blatently racist (or rather, I didn't remember the Jets being so racist. They hated the Skarks for being a rival gang. Not so much for being Puerto Rican. As I remember it).

And I thought, I'll ask my very best friends. But then I thought about how TheBadger would mock me for it. And I questioned whether I wanted to endure that mocking. But then I realized, yeah, I wanted to learn more than I didn't want to be mocked....

...and then I remembered it didn't matter anyway because TheBadger wasn't my friend anymore and as much as I miss them and the conversations we used to have, I am so much better off this way.

Change is strange. I miss them still. But I don't miss the constant hurting and constant anxiety. And you know what? I can go to Google and learn about the changes in the new version of West Side Story. And you know what else? I'm willing to bet Google will not mock me for asking.

I am .Worthy, Deserving, Enough I have .Value I deserve .Respect, Kindness I am .Worth as much as a cat I am .Amity

People complain

...that gaslighting is a term that gets overused, but the truth is that people complain about everything. And maybe the reason we're hearing the term 'gaslighting' used so much is that people are really starting to understand how often – and how effectively! — it is used as an abuse tactic.

I'm thinking about gaslighting at way too early on a Wednesday morning when I really should be getting ready for work because of something I read recently about setting boundaries. More specifically, about what people get wrong about setting boundaries.

But first, I must tell you a bit about TheBadger. There was a time I loved them so much. And they needed love, so much. Even though I knew they weren't capable of loving me back. I knew it, the whole time. I knew it. And still I loved, and I gave. and I gave. And I gave. And I let myself believe they loved me back. Even though I knew they couldn't. I knew the only thing they ever cared about was TheHedgehog.

But still, they looked at me with those big eyes, and they said the right things to manipulate me, and they gave such good hugs. And I believed they loved me because... I guess... I wanted to believe it. And while things were good, I was able to keep making myself believe that.

But....

Things started to go bad. And TheBadger started going after everything I believed was good about myself or was striving to be better at. I try to be an honest and straightforward person. No. I'm kind. No. I'm compassionate. No. I'm a good friend. Hell no.

And then came the absolute worst of the gaslighting.

I'm a pretty self-aware person. I know when my anxiety is changing the way I think. I can feel it. And maybe I can't make the anxiety stop giving me problems, but I can usually choose not to react to it. I can feel when my depression is changing the way I think, and I can usually choose not to react to it. And I'm always trying to understand more about the way my own brain works so that I can learn more things to... not react to.

However, I claimed a positive trait for myself. I'm self-aware. It had to be torn down and destroyed. I couldn't be allowed to believe something good about myself! The harder I clung to it, the more forcefully TheBadger attacked it. Until finally, TheBadger resorted to insisting I was “delusional.”

I need you to understand that this was a profoundly unethical thing for TheBadger to do. Speculating about my mental health was not an OK thing for them to be doing. Nonetheless, they did.

“Delusional” was great for them. It allowed them to counter any argument I made. I didn't know what I was saying. I'm delusional. Any time I tried to stand up for myself (which by that time, I rarely did, it wasn't really worth it), I was delusional to think that they would ever say or do something to harm me! They dismissed ... pretty much everything I said. It became their go to strategy for shutting me down. If I was mad or sad or hurt. Nothing I said mattered. Because I was 'delusional.'

After a nasty confrontation on Discord between TheBadger, TheHedgehog, and I, the two of them asked me to show the conversation to my therapist. They most likely believed she'd back them.

She did not.

She stated that I was well grounded in reality. And that they were not being kind. That they were backing me into a corner. That they were trying to force me to say what they wanted to hear. After that, I set what I thought was a boundary:

“Never again. You don't get to say that to me ever again.”

And TheBadger threw a tantrum, yelled, screamed, made dire predictions, but eventually complied. Except, of course, after that, instead of “delusional” TheBadger would use phrases like “self-lies.” But still, I was mostly willing to count it as complying with the boundary (I shouldn't have let it slide, but I did).

The violation of that “boundary” ended being the cause of the last words we said as technically-still-friends to each other.

In our last conversation — in our final sort-of attempt to save the friendship — TheBadger called me 'delusional,” and I said “Hey, TheBadger? You just violated my boundary. I'm going to give you a chance to fix it, and if you don't, I'm going to leave.”

TheBadger responded by doubling down on calling me delusional and berating, belitting, and mocking me for it. And so, I said goodbye, left the chat, and thus severed the last remnants of that friendship.

Which brings me back around to what I learned about boundaries. “You don't get to call me 'delusional' anymore,” is not a good boundary because it attempts to control someone else’s behavior. And I cannot control other people's behavior. I can only control my own. So, it turns out, the last thing I said to TheBadger while we could still technically call each other friends was also the first time I properly expressed a boundary with them.

“I will not tolerate you gaslighting me with words like 'delusional.' You are not the person I have trusted with my mental health care, and I no longer trust you to comment on my mental health because I no longer believe you are acting with my best interests in mind. If you persist in doing so, I will leave and if the behavior continues, you will lose access to me,” is what I should have said from the beginning.

People complain about a lot of things. And I have a lot of complaints about the way TheBadger treated me. In their own words, they were unnecessarily cruel to me.

But I've learned so much from that. Not the least of which is how to phrase an effective boundary.

I am .Worthy, Deserving, Enough I have .Value I deserve .Respect, Kindness I am .Worth as much as a cat I am .Amity

I’m crying in a coffee shop.

Upbeat happy music is playing, and I’ve got nothing to cry about. Except I miss a friend I had to leave behind for my own mental health.

I said they reminded me of a hedgehog. They were cute and funny and loveable. Special and unique and if they let you get close, you learn the coolest and funnest things. And if you frighten then or anger them, they can leave you bloody. So, my friend. TheHedgehog.

Very rarely, I meet someone and want to be best friends with instantly. TheCat was one of those people. And so was TheHedgehog. I wanted to be friends with them almost as soon as I met them. I was fascinated and drawn to their obvious smarts and talent. Their clever and nimble brain. Their carefully presented kindness and our agreement on so many political issues. I liked them instantly. I grew to love them.

Over time, they let see behind the spikes. I grew comfortable there. I got to see the cute and funny more and more. And I started to believe that’s all there was.

But then, the spikes started going up again. And again. And again, until all I really saw anymore were the spikes. Everytime I reached out I hurt myself on the spikes. And more often than not, I drew blood. And then that’s all there was. Blood and pain. And tears and stress.

In four days, it will have been four months. I really thought we’d be friends forever. I really believed that.

I don’t doubt I did the right thing. I tried to set boundaries, and those boundaries were rejected. It was obvious by then I wasn’t valued. And just the weight of anxiety and stress that dropped off me almost instantly should have been enough to tell me that closing that door was the right choice.

If you are in a friendship or other relationship that’s hurting you, you should get out. You won’t be sorry. It’s the right thing to do.

But like any grieving process, it takes time.

That hole hasn’t healed yet. And I’m still sitting here in a coffee shop crying.

I am .Worthy, Deserving, Enough I have .Value I deserve .Respect, Kindness I am .Worth as much as a cat I am .Amity

I panicked yesterday

....while talking to a friend.

(Did you think I'd forgotten about my baby blog? No. Things got a bit wild, and I stepped away. But I didn't forget.)

Anyway, I panicked yesterday.

I was chatting over discord to a friend. I'll call this friend “TheCat.” TheCat and I were both having a lot of feelings over the situation in the Ukraine. I couldn't stop worrying about my young students. Some of them are still in high school. And I keep seeing their faces and imaging what a few years of war will do to their innocence. And it makes me want to cry. I mentioned, along the way, that I was looking for something to distract me from these feelings. I needed something to distract me before I ended up in bed sobbing into a pillow.

So, we talked. We talked about Ukraine and the news coming from there. We talked about other things. We told stories. We told jokes. We had a nice conversation as one does with a friend.

He mentioned his wife worked with a young woman who had recently become pregnant by her fiancé, a young marine. And they hadn't had any worries...

Then I mentioned that I was watching the new Allie Wong special. And how she's very very not suitable for work “or, in fact, a lot of normal people, but... she just made a very funny joke about how she's met the entire cast of the Avengers and what she would like them to do. So... distraction achieved.”

And then I thought. “Oh, shit. Oh crap. Oh no.” and I scrambled to recover.

“How old is this marine soon-to-be-baby-daddy?” I asked, to demonstrate that I had, in fact, been listening to him.

No answer.

Panic set in. OMG OMG OMG. I SAID I WAS DISTRACTED!!! NOW HE'S GONNA THINK I WASN'T PAYING ATTENTION TO ANYTHING HE SAID OH SHIT I NEED TO START DRAFTING MY MOST EXCELLENT APOLOGY NAOW!!! I was FOR SURE going to have to listen to AT LEAST a four-hour lecture about what a disappointment I was as a friend. And then I would need to craft ANOTHER apology. With promises to do better. And admissions of how much I suck as a friend. But now that I know how much I suck, I will at least try to do better. And I need to try to do all this without an emotional reaction, because if I do have an emotional reaction, then I'm stealing the focus and making it about me. OH GOD. OH NO.

But then... I had an amazing realization.

My friend... TheCat, was not like that. TheCat did not treat me like that. TheCat had never once made me cry myself to sleep. Or given me the silent treatment. Or told me I was a terrible friend.

And I settled the hell down. And I told him I started to panic and then remembered he wasn't like that.

An hour or so later TheCat came back and told me “You're golden.” Because he's not toxic.

So, I had a couple thoughts. The first was: Why in the world did I stay in a relationship so long when panics like that were commonplace? WHY?

And second: If you are in a relationship where panics like that are common for you, make plans to get out. It's not healthy. It's not good. And if I can help in any way at all, reach out. I will help you.

I am .Worthy, Deserving, Enough I have .Value I deserve .Respect, Kindness I am .Worth as much as a cat I am .Amity

I will never be in your league.

I will never be able to stand up to you in arguments or fights. I will never be able to match you in pure meanness or cold-heartedness or hardness. I will never be on your level for word games and tricks and emotional manipulation.

And I've spent so long patting myself on the back for my ability to... well... take your verbal jabs and punches. Because I was just so understanding about how you didn't know any better way to express yourself. Who you are meant you couldn't do better, and I was just being understanding and a good, compassionate friend by letting you treat me that way. Well... here I sit with all these bruises and scars from all those verbal punches I just. Kept. On. Taking.

And whether that makes me too weak and too stupid and too slow or whether I'm too kind and soft and warm to hang with you, I'm good with it either way. Because I'm not going to be your punching bag any more. I've given up any lingering hope of a resolution.

I may never stop caring about you. But that doesn't mean I have to let you keep hurting me.

Goodbye to you.

I am .Worthy, Deserving, Enough I have .Value I deserve .Respect, Kindness I am .Worth as much as a cat I am .Amity

If I ran over your foot with my car...

does the reason why make any difference to how badly your foot is broken?

This is a question my once-upon-a-time best friends used to lob at me because of my tendency to be concerned about the “why” of someone’s actions. And of course, no. If you ran over my foot with your car – and broke it – the reason that happened would not change how badly my food was broken. This is true.

But here’s the thing….

If my best friend just ran over my foot with their car, my broken foot would not be my top concern. “WHY?” would be my top concern. WHY did my best friend just cause me such pain? What was going on that the person I would least expect to hurt me just did, in fact cause me great pain.

Why would matter. Yeah, the broken bones? They matter. They for sure need to be fixed. I in no way mean to suggest the very real and very practical problem of the broken foot isn’t a problem. By all means, let’s get right on that.

But my best friend just used a potentially deadly weapon on me. I’d kinda like to get to the bottom of that.

And, yes, that’s also a priority, and no, I don’t think that’s an unreasonable thing to care about.

Let’s take one extreme: My best friend was actually trying to kill me and missed. They hit my foot instead.

On the other extreme, at the last moment, my best friend was distracted or otherwise impacted by the small child, dog, cat, or other creature in their car, and it was a total accident, and they absolutely did not intend me any harm.

Those reasons…. They matter, yeah?

It would be good to know which it was before the next time I was alone with my best friend; don’t you think?

Maybe I came running out after they started the car, and they didn’t even know I was there.

Maybe they were watching a video on their phone and were being criminally careless.

Maybe there was a wasp in the car, and they freaked out.

Maybe they were mad at me and meant to scare me but not actually hurt me.

These all make a huge difference. You didn’t even realize I was there? That’s a whole other thing from you were trying to scare me. What the actual FUCK?

So. I hurt you. Or you hurt me.

Maybe I forgot something important. Maybe you said something in anger. Does the intent change the hurt? Does my “just forgetting” make your hurt any less? No, of course not, and might make it worse because it makes you feel like you’re not a priority to me. Does your loss of control make me hurt any less? No. And it might make me hurt worse, because sometimes I think the loss of control makes the truth come out.

But I’m not asking – or trying to explain – “why” because of any misguided belief that it will make the hurt better. “I didn’t mean to hurt you” doesn’t make the pain go away, and I don’t have any illusion it does.

But let’s be very honest here. “I DID mean to hurt you,” does, in fact, make the pain worse. Intent matters.

You ran over my foot with your car. You better damn well believe I want to know why.

I am .Worthy, Deserving, Enough I have .Value I deserve .Respect, Kindness I am .Worth as much as a cat I am .Amity

November 5th, 2021, at approximately 2:30pm...

I took an action that effectively ended a friendship that had become harmful to me.

It wasn't what I wanted – ending that friendship. I wanted that friendship to stop hurting me.

But it seems that was not a thing I could have. I could have that friendship and constant emotional pain. Or I could not have that friendship.

And so now I exist in this world without the people I considered my best friends. There's a hole where my other parts used to be. I miss them terribly.

But I don't miss the crying myself to sleep.

I don't miss the constant knot of anxiety.

I don't miss the non-stop fear that I will say the wrong word, and everything will fall apart (we once had a four-hour argument because I called one of them “good.” Yes. Really. REALLY.).

I still care deeply for them. I don't think I'll ever be able to stop caring for them. Probably things would be easier for me if I could.

But on that day, Nov 5, 2021, at about 2:30 pm, the pain and hurt and abuse reached my breaking point. My limit.

And for only the second time with these friends, I set a boundary.

Which, it turns out, was unacceptable to them.

I have so many feelings about what happened. Some are tremendously empowering. Some are full of pain and regrets.

But I'm a person who needs to express their feelings. So, I've chosen this platform to do it.

I don't want to hurt them. So, I'm going to go out of my way to keep their identities concealed. People who know me IRL will know who I'm talking about, sure. But I'm not looking to trash my ex-bests. I'm just wanting to work through my own feelings.

And if that helps anyone else along the way, cool.

I am .Worthy, Deserving, Enough I have .Value I deserve .Respect, Kindness I am .Worth as much as a cat I am .Amity

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