Letter about failing to listen to the stop, worrying I am not enough and feeling depressed today

9th of July 2020

Dear whoever reads this

So weeks passed and I missed two letters. I have no excuse. I don’t even have a reason. I guess something had to give.

I’m back at work. One day a week. Starting this week. So I have been back one day and will keep that up until September, then I’ll make it two days. It was good to be back. I was supposed to just be there for 5 hours, but I stayed 6½. And in my way home on the train, I suddenly found myself thinking that I could do another day tomorrow. Before quickly pulling myself back and reminding myself why the deal is one day a week.
I have no internal stop button. I have nothing stopping me from doing more than I can. Mostly even common sense (like my mental health can’t take it) will hold me back. I would have stayed another hour at work the other day, if I hadn’t been told to home.
I do the same in so many other areas. My friends needing help and support, and I give that, even when I have nothing left to give. Even when I feel empty or when I am the one needing something.
I’ve known about my lack of ability to say stop when I need to, but the point hit me hard on the train the other day. The stop is important. It keeps us safe. It helps us not give more than we have. But I have no stop. I probably learned that from my mom. She doesn’t have one either. And she won’t listen to reason either when she goes beyond when she can to give and work. I think that is a dangerous thing to teach anyone. I value the stop and the taking good care of myself. And I work hard to develop it. I also value that ability in others. Both because I have felt on my own mind and body what happens when you don’t have it or don’t listen to it. But also because I have seen too many people I care about hurt themselves by not listening to the stop. It hurts to see the people I care about break.

What hurts the most is hearing them tell me they are spent, that they have reached the stop, that their minds and bodies are screaming stop, and then hear them say they are not going to listen to it, for reasons that are often too small to matter in the grand scheme of things.

I am getting better at hearing the stop and listening to it when it appears. But I am surprised by how often I don’t have the stop. I just keep going and going. And thought I am trying to build the skill to stop and listen and take it slow and give myself time, I too often find myself wanting to do so much more than I can and unwilling to slow down, because reason doesn’t sound like reason, when I do the things that matters to me.

I also worry I am not enough. Especially at work. I hope they’ll hire me for a part time job in the future. But I have a hard time understanding that no one expects me to do the work of a full time employee when I am only working one or two days a week. And right now the place doesn’t even pay me. And yet I keep feeling like I am failing by not doing more. When I first started out there I had more energy and was less affected by my depression, so I worked three (sometimes four) day a week. And I loved it. When I had to slow down (for several reasons, but mostly because of the school I had at the time) I was stressed out of my mind feeling like I no longer contributed with what was expected. Because I only worked one or maybe two days a week. But no one expected me to get the same work done. Only myself. I struggle with that still. And wanting to prove myself worth being hired isn’t helping me.
But I love being there because I know I am the only one expecting this. Everyone else is taking it slow and being kind and doing what they have time for. No one is stressing or asking me to do more. I am allowed to show up and get no work done if I am having a bad day. And the work I do is appreciated. I just have to learn to not ask myself to do the unreasonable. And asking myself to do three days worth work in one day was unreasonable. It was healthy for me to realise I was expecting this so I could check in with the people I work with and have adjust the expectations and realise that the expectations of everyone else were much more reasonable.

Being the friend who always speaks reason, the one who not only hears other people’s stop, but also tells them it’s okay to listen to it and how translate that into actions that will help relieve the pressure, can be hard. So can being the friend who gives great advice on every problem. Not because I don’t love being a source of advice and reason, or feeling like my experiences are useful to help others, but because I feel like I am giving a lot of time and energy to other people’s problems. I care a lot. And often that care means I can’t put the problem down when the conversations is over. I worry and try to think of ways I can help, when mostly I can’t help at all. I can just listen and give my thoughts. And the people I care about are still hurting and still not saying stop. And I take it all in, like there is no filter protecting me from all the feelings that other people are feeling when they come to me with problems.

Today is bad day. I feel so depressed nothing matters and I am a strange kind of tired that doesn’t seem to lift with rest of sleep. I feel empty and alone. I do not mean to complain. I have so many great friends and I consider it a privilege to have their confidence and being someone they trust with both their problems and to come up with helpful solutions. Today is just another day of feeling like I give more than I get, not because my friends doesn’t want to give, but because what I need isn’t something that have to offer. I feel empty, like I have given more of myself than I had to give. I am touch starved and feel a big need for care. I am good at offering and giving care. But not good at receiving it. And though my brain needs the chemicals it gets from a hug or cuddling, I can’t imagine being that close to anyone ever again. The mere idea of being that close to someone is a little repulsive to my mind. So the need goes unfulfilled. And I am sad and more than a little self-pitying today.

There are good things here. I am back at work. I have friends who trusts me and who think I am great source of support and advice. Those are big things. My depressed brain is just making this a bad day, not erasing the good things. And though I have no one who can give me the care I need there are plenty of people who care. I am allowed to feel sad and alone and empty. And I am allowed to have needs that are none standard and that cannot be fulfilled by the people who are currently in my life. But I also remind myself that I am not allowed to dismiss the genuine care of the people who would be there if they could. And I can feel both sad and lonely, and thankful because I know there are people who wants to be there.

Whoever you are, I hope you are having a better day than I am. Thank you for your time.

Jace.

Letter about writing and learning to put myself first

20th of June 2020

To whoever reads this.

I started my wring project. I have a friend help me. So I am not alone in it and I love that. I have to do my writing of cause. But she will help me set deadline and eventually contribute with her skills. My first deadline was Thursday, I had to start a brainstorm. And the first real writing deadline is three pages for tomorrow. I’ve known about this deadline for a week and didn’t start till late this evening. And then I wrote seven pages. I work so much better under pressure. So having a friend help me with deadlines is amazing.

What is also amazing is that she loves my ideas and always meets them with excitement and that she wants to join in. I am still so happy and surprised that someone thinks my ideas are cool and worth acting on. I always thought so, but always felt like other either shot me down or politely told me it was fine and that I should do that if I wanted to. No one ever grabbed my ideas and got excited with me before. And sometimes if I don’t talk to her for a while my insecurity comes back, but then I remember that she wouldn’t lie about being on board, and I get so happy again. I’ve needed a friend like this who jumps on my ideas and makes me feel like they could be brilliant.

I’ve been a little surprised at how hard it’s been sitting down and writing. Not the putting one word after another, that is the easy part. But starting the computer, opening word and sitting down and start the writing, is so hard. I love the writing. And right not the writing doesn’t have to be good or great. This writing project will actually be edited and corrected and taken really seriously. I just have to put the words down, one after another. And I wanted to and have been so excited about it. I just have zero self discipline at the moment.

While I was writing everything felt like it sucked. Nothing worked the way it did in my mind, the entire idea felt stupid and I suddenly didn’t know what to do with it. But I have a deadline. My friend is on board. And I can’t edit an empty page. A bad page can be edited and corrected and rewritten. But en empty page is worthless. So I wrote it anyway. And that is a big victory. And now I am writing this, hoping I’ll be done before midnight, but the clock is against me.

I didn’t read a book this week. I wasn’t sure what to start. But more than that I didn’t want to take my mind of the new project. I’ll have to start reading soon though. The project and my thoughts about it won’t go away. I know that. I think it just felt very fragile, in part because I hadn’t started. But I have now. maybe I can find a short children’s book I can read tomorrow. I have a few of those on my to read list.

A called the other day. She sounded like herself. I felt so reassured by that. And she was so nice about me having all kinds of feeling about her not being there for a long time. She knows I understand and told me it’s ok that I feel feelings about it anyway. That was nice. I hope this means she might have room for me again soon, but I am also ok with giving her more time and not expecting more than she can give.

Lastly I was challenged on setting boundaries this week. So much in fact. A stranger put me on the spot about helping a friend whose mother just died. I wanted to help, but couldn’t. But when I am asked I never know how to say no. I felt like I had nothing to give, and thought the thing that was asked for wasn’t unreasonable, the way I was asked was. And even though what was asked for was reasonable and I wanted to help, I didn’t have that to give. It took everything to call my friend the next day and tell her I had changed my mind. But she was nice about it and I know I was more true to myself. I also felt like a terrible person for failing my friend in this time. But she has been nice about it and doesn’t seem hurt.
The thing that made me say no, was realising that by saying yes I was inviting to a closeness I didn’t actually want. This friend is the nicest person I know, but I don’t feel like being that close with her. I already feel like she wants more from me than I have to give and though I realise I am her closest friend, she isn’t someone I could ever be closer with. I just don’t feel whatever it is I need to feel in order to feel comfortable enough with someone.
I’ve struggled a lot with guild about that. Wondering if it was wrong of me to be friends with someone where we want different things. But I was reminded that every friendship is a negotiation of what closeness both parties are comfortable with. And I did the right thing by being honest about what I had to give and what I didn’t. It was still hard and I still felt like a bad person. It also felt good to allow myself to listen to what I need. Something I still struggle a lot with, when someone else is in need. This was a good first step.

That will be all for today. I just wrote seven pages for something else before I wrote this. I am empty of words to write right now. But I hope there are new words next week.

Thank you for your time.

Jace

Letter about unexpectedly caring about someone I no longer like and an update on my bullet journal

14th of June 2020

Dear no one in particular

I might take a break from writing these letters. There is a new writing project that I am hoping to start soon. For now I still find myself postponing it for no real reason. But if I start that project I might put this one on hold in the mean time. I’ve been thinking next week for a while, but now there are other things next week and I can see how that would be an excuse to postpone it again. I’m hoping to talk to a friend about making deadlines so I’ll have to get started. I suppose when the time comes I’ll be ready to share what this new project is about here, but I’m not sure it feels right to do the work of sharing when I am technically sharing it with no one. But for the first time in years I am excited about a piece of writing that I have a head of me. I’m looking forward to exploring what this could become.
I also feel a little weird spending energy trying to write something here when I don’t know what to say and when I want to write something completely different.

I’ve been doing really well with the bullet journal I started in March. I didn’t really thing it would work for me. But I decided I could try it for two months and if it wasn’t a disaster I would give it three. Not I just started the 4th month, and I am writing in it every day. I can’t remember the last thing I did this consistently. I’ve actually written in it every day for more than three month. I can’t remember my medication every day for a month. I keep forgetting my sleeping pills and suddenly it’s 2 am and I wonder why I’m having trouble sleeping until I remember that I forgot my medication. That actually happens all the time. I can’t get two meals a day consistently (and two meals a day is when things work well for me). I have no structure, no routines, nothing. I was expecting the whole bullet journal thing to fail. I didn’t set out to fail and I didn’t want it to fail, but I knew myself well enough to expect it to fail. So I am more than a little surprised realise I have used my bullet journal consistently every day since the 1st of March. And it was easy trying it out because I only committed myself to three months and I was so open to it failing. Maybe I should try that approach some more.

Mostly I just write down my tasks for the day, small things. Like empting the dishwasher or taking the trash down. I write down the phone calls of the day so I can remember that I actually talked to people and who I’ve been in contact with, and I actually think it has helped me stay sane these months of being home with nothing to do. I think I would have felt like nothing happened and like I was useless and did nothing all this time. But my bullet journal tells me I did things every day, big things and small things. It reminds me that though I couldn’t see my friends I talked to them and wrote with them, and I am less alone than I feel.

I’ve made spreads about things I could do during lock down and things my friends and I plan to do when it’s over. I track my migraines and tensions headaches and realise they coincide a lot with stress and overstimulation, which isn’t really a surprise but it’s nice to know for sure. And I’ve reminded myself of all the creative things I’ve been trying out and getting better at during this time.
I want to learn how to make a chainmaille dragon, and though I don’t have all the materials I spend the materials I do have practising the skills I need to make the dragon once I buy the materials.
I practiced some origami which I really wanted to learn more of. Though I am not yet good enough to try out the more complicated stuff.
I experimented with black out poetry, which was really hard and also really fun, and something totally new for me.
My mom just gave me some materials so I could try out paper marbling and I have done a little.
I managed to get excited about the idea of improving my handwriting (which is just aweful), but got a little stuck when I realised how much dedication and concentration it will take, but I haven’t given up, I’m looking for ways to stay motivated and get enough structure on my days to stick with it.
I also started writing all my recipes (from my grandmother and my mother and a few of my own) in this really beautiful notebook that I bought specifically for that purpose a long time ago. But with my poor handwriting it takes a long time and I can’t write more than one or two in a day before my concentration fails.
I’ve been baking a lot. It’s one of the ways I cope with things being difficult.
I bought myself a kintsugi set so I could try out this amazing art form that have fascinated me for years. It was a lot harder than I thought. But I am encouraged by the fact that I did it anyway. I wasn’t afraid to just try it out and try to learn the thing I wanted to learn.
And of course I have been reading and reading and reading.
Most of these things would just have disappeared from my mind when it was over. But with the bullet journal I can see which days I did what and suddenly these months of not working and not seeing friends seems less empty and not at all wasted. It’s been a long time since I could say that about any period of my life. And if I had known in advance about the lock down I probably wouldn’t have started the bullet journal and thought it was a waste of time. I never imagined it would be such a useful tool for me. The next goal is to keep it going for the rest of the year, and then for as long as I helps me.

I’ve also helped several people around me starting their own bullet journals. Most of them because they heard how excited I was about mine. But also because they like all the creative things people do with their bullet journals online and they wanted to try it out. I am not artistic or creative in that way. I cannot draw and I am so ok with that I have no desire to even try it out, and though I love all the beautiful bullet journals I see online and look forward to seeing what my friends come up with, I mostly just want mine to be a practical tool. Though part of what I love about bullet journaling is that it can be both at the same time. Because I can’t draw at all I have now fallen in love with sticker. It’s an amazing way to make my bullet journal fun and colourful and they work in both a regular bullet journal and in a black out bullet journal which I am also considering trying out at some point. Another good thing about this is that I’ll need several each year so I don’t have to commit to white or black pages for more than 3-4 months at a time, before I can just try something new. Though I very quickly realised I’ll end up spending money on quality notebooks, good pens and maybe some stickers so I will have some expensed from this. But I believe it’s worth it, and I did start out with a random notebook I had lying around and whatever pens I already had to make sure it would work for me before I started buying things for it.

I’m stuck between books right now. Unsure what to read next. On one hand there is so much I want to read. On the other I keep looking at my book shelves for something to catch my interest, but nothing does. I should start Sherlock Holmes soon. It’s on the list and on the shelves, and it’s a big hardback that won’t be easy to take with me if I get back to work in a month or two. So reading it while I am home would be good. The hitchhikers guide to the universe is also one of this year’s must reads. So I am not lacking ideas. There are too many great books I haven’t gotten around to reading yet, and it’s amazing to see them being marked as read on the list. The library also just opened up again, so I am no longer limited to my own shelves of books.

Someone who I used to consider a friend completed his education this week. I know very little about it, I haven’t spoken to him in 5 years. I don’t really miss him. He and I were very close back then and losing my friendship to him was very painful. He meant a lot to me. I spend a lot of this time angry and hurt. The angry part took me by surprise. I am not very good with anger. I don’t feel angry enough. But I did when he hurt me. It was the first time I really set a boundary and stuck with it. He crossed a line. A lot of lines actually, but this was the one that made me say stop. I had thought he would listen and hear me. He asked me to set boundaries a lot. Be he couldn’t handle it when I finally did. And we lost each other.
I’m very good friends with his wife though. Which puts all three of us in an awkward position from time to time, mostly her I suppose. I was really open with her and told her I would completely understand if she didn’t want to spend time together because of my fall out with him. I was friends with him first. But she was so cool and sure that she wanted to keep me in her life and I am so grateful for that.
So I heard about him finishing his education. He struggled a lot during the 5 years I knew him. Dropped out of the school where we met each other. Lost jobs and almost gave up on the next education. It was a big part of the person I knew back then. I haven’t talked to him or wanted to talk to him in the years since I closed the door between us, so I was so surprised when I felt so moved by knowing he has accomplished this goal. His wife has told me of his growth, of how he has changed in these years. But nothing she said really made an impact for me. Maybe because she also tells me of the ways he hasn’t changed or tells me of things that remind me of the person who couldn’t respect me. I don’t know if I’ll ever truly believe he has changed, I don’t think I could ever like the person he is again, I don’t know how to forgive him for what happened between us. (Some days I am not sure how to forgive myself either). But knowing he is achieving this goal of finishing this education, I felt a wave of gratitude and happiness for him. For the first time in a long time I feel like I know he is ok and the part of me that loved him, the part of me that hurt so much letting him go, the part of me that wanted nothing more than to help him and save him, is so relived and happy. Because the person I knew him as could never have accomplished this. He can only do this because he is in a much better place. Because he has support and love and he is ok. There was a time (maybe there still is sometimes) when I was sad I couldn’t be there and help him and support him and love him and see who he grows into.

There are still days I am angry (though a lot fewer than there were), he hurt me a lot and some days I am still hurting (not all the hurting is his fault, but enough of it is, and I can also admit I am not blameless). Some days the painful history is the only history I remember, and none of the good memories are untainted by the bad ones. But I want him to be ok. I want him to be better. I want him to be loved and supported and in a good place. And I don’t think I really knew how much I wanted that for him till I heard about this. I hope he never hurt anyone like he hurt me, but I also believe he hurt me because he was hurting. And I am still sad I didn’t know how to help relieve him of that pain.
I believe he was in a lot of pain. But so was I and there was only so much I could do, and I decided not to break myself for him. The best decision I have ever made, because I learned to respect myself again. And the price I paid for that was so much higher than I had anticipated, if I had known that I might never have done it. He was the most important person in my life, I loved him so much. Saying stop took everything I had. And when I realised I was willing to lose him to not lose myself, to not break myself I gained so much strength and confidence and self respect. Things I’ll never sacrifice again for anyone. But what a price I paid. And maybe that is the part I have a hard time forgiving him for. Not what he did to push me there, but that he couldn’t see that what I was doing was growing and becoming the person he asked me to be, and that I had to lose him to gain that. I know I was the one who walked away in the end. But I felt like he walked away when I told him no and I felt like I would never be able to trust him if he didn’t acknowledge that no. and he couldn’t do that, so I couldn’t stay.
I feel like I got sidetracked. That was a long way of saying that despite my anger and hurt and hard feelings, I am so grateful he is ok. I want him to be ok. I am happy for him. Something I didn’t know if I would ever be able to feel around him ever again. I walked away so angry and so hurt. But I also felt like I let him down by not helping him. I felt so ashamed that I failed a being his friend when he was in pain. And I had to shut anything that wasn’t anger out. I didn’t know I still cared, didn’t know I still wanted good things for him, I didn’t know I was still worried about him. I was so worried about him. And I am grateful to know he is ok.

I think that was all for today. These letters never really take me where I expect. At the moment I am very happy that I kept writing and I think it’s good that I keep trying. And this too is one of those things I try and almost expect to fail at. That really seems to be the way to go at the moment. Trying things out without being too invested in the outcome.
When it comes to writing this I don’t know if anyone is out there. I don’t know if I am as alone in it as I feel. But if anyone is out there I am happy you are there. Thank you for giving me your time and attention, the most precious things you have to offer.

Jace

Letter about technology, loneliness and not being ready to share

5th of May 2020

Dear whoever reads this

I miss A. I miss my friend of cause and wonder if there will ever be a time in her life where there is room for me. And a part of me is insecure enough to wonder if she’ll want mere there when that time comes. These aren’t exactly fair thoughts and I do my best to keep them at bay. What ever happens to my friendship with A I hope she is OK, I hope she finds love for herself and realise she is as amazing as I know her to be. I wish her all the best, and hope I am allowed a sting of sadness if that doesn’t involve me. That sadness will not take any of my good wishes away.

When I write I miss her now I guess I selfishly miss her in this writing process. It feels so lonely. Like so many other things in my life. I feel more vulnerable than I would have felt if we were doing this together, if this were a way for us to share things. Instead I am fighting to keep myself writing and struggling to share my life and thoughts.

The internet scares me. I have seen glimpses of the hate and harassment that happens there. And I do not want to put myself at the mercy of that. Not ever. And that is why I chose not to have a comment section. Why the email connected to this account isn’t my regular one. Even when no one is reading along, even though I do nothing for this blog to find an audience, I am so aware of the public nature of this. Nothing here is private. Nothing online is really private.

These months of no work, of not seeing friends, of being isolated, has shown me just how much I do not want any part of my life to happen online. I do not want communities online or friendships that exist primarily online. I guess I knew this before the pandemic, but this has shown me how much I feel that. How much even now when I have been locked away from the few friends I have, I do not want or try to search for meaningful connections through the very amazing technological tools at my disposal. I am so fortunate that I live in a time when all this is available too me, and yet I so often shy away from it. Nothing about social media feels social to me. It just seems stressful and like a source of too much information I do not know what to do with. Like an ocean of small talk and surface level interactions that I try to avoid at all times. And the addictive nature of apps, the way they are designed to keep any attention they can get for as long as they can get, doesn’t work for me. I find myself scrolling through feeds but getting nothing out of it, yet unable to turn the thing off.

I am so amazed that I have so much knowledge at my fingertips at all times. I can learn almost anything I want from the smart phone in my pocket. That is a gift. It is wonderful. I can take pictures and send it to a friend far away in a heartbeat and share what happens in my life with them. But I have found I learn better with a teacher, when I can ask questions and be corrected. I feel more connected when I am in the same room with a friend and I can feel their energy and feel what happens when their energy meets my energy, and I can’t do that through a phone.
I find phone calls less stressful than video calls. And though I can see the other person with video it just feels like more is demanded of me, more attention, with nothing added for me to want to give that extra. I see something similar with my nephew. He is five. And when I call he loses interest in talking to me very quickly, whether I call in the phone or with video. I’m not there. In the room with him. So I am not really real to him. He forgets I am there and that he is talking to me, because it’s just a voice or an image on a screen. So he walks away or just does other things. His parents tell him to focus, but I feel like he is being so honest. And when I visit he is so present with me, so there, so Here. And that forces me to be Here as well. And I love that. The way he asks me to be in the moment with him, and the way there is nothing more precious I could give him than my time and attention. And that the time I have with him will always be limited and that makes it so easy to choose to be in present in that time. He grows so quickly, and so does his little sister. I feel like if I am not careful the time when they are kids and want me to play and want to share those moments with me will disappear in a flash and before I know it they’ll be grown and I could spend the rest of my life wondering why I missed these precious moments with them. I still wonder a little too much if they’ll like me later. But he likes me now, and my niece is still too little to have an opinion, but she will soon enough. My autism and my weird and my being me is things I am proud of and that I wouldn’t change for anything. But I do wonder what these kids will think of it when they begin to see it and maybe understand it. I keep thinking they’ll either love it or hate it, and whichever it is I’ll take it when it comes. But it’s on my mind.

There have been so many things lately I have been thinking of writing or sharing here. This week a big thing happened that I might have written about if A had been a part of this. I would have trusted her to read it and be here with me in it. I would have known she was there and that she was being her own kind of vulnerable with me too. And I wouldn’t have been alone. So sharing those things wouldn’t have been so hard. Because I would be sharing them with a friend. If I write or share it now I am just giving it away to the internet, to no one. And though I am so fine being vulnerable and sharing so much of myself, I have been working on understanding I am allowed to keep things private. They are not secret, but private. Something I felt like I never had a right to. Too much blame when the therapists couldn’t fix me, it was always my fault, because I hadn’t cooperated or been honest enough. So I learned to tell them everything from such a young age, and nothing was ever private or secret or mine. And now I am beginning to claim things as mine and be more careful what is shared. But I also know when I started this blog, these letters that was supposed to be for A, that if she had been here, if she was writing back, I would have wanted to share so much more. And a part of me is sad that I have these things I am not ready to share, when I also struggle so much to find anything to write every single week.
I’m not going to push myself to share. But a part of me hopes I can share it some day. I think it’ll have value. It does to me and I believe it’ll have value to others if I can give it away. For now it’s mine. And that feels kind of nice too.

Lastly an update on my reading. I just started book 28 today. I am completely off any kind of schedule. I’ve read a few short children’s books that I could read in a few hours or less. And maybe they shouldn’t could as haven read a book, but I have decided it my reading and my books and they are books and they count. Especially since I read them to keep up with reading and because I have been meaning to read them for ages but haven’t till now. And I am ahead of schedule which was one book a week. So even though my reading died completely for 2 weeks about a month ago the small children’s books got me back to reading. And in the past week I have read the new Hunger Games prequel and the first two Hunger Games book. I just started Mockingjay today. So I’ve been reading constantly. The trilogy is a reread and they are great to return to. I do worry a little that I will get stuck unsure what to read next, but reading a series really did make it easier for a while. I’ll try to decide on something before I finish reading Mockingjay.

I keep thinking I should start writing in advance and take time for editing and stuff like that. But it doesn’t feel realistic yet. I hope that’s ok with whoever is out there reading. For nor just writing this to no one and posting it to not let myself down is challenge enough,

If anyone is reading then thank you. Thank you for your time.

Jace

P.S. Got distracted before I posted, and almost decided against sharing just this. I am not ready to leave the text for a day and return to it to edit, if I hope to post anything. So I think for now unedited is the way to go. But I do hope to change that.

Letter about absorbing emotions, bad boundaries and having friends whose progress is at a different stage than mine

31st of May 2020

Dear reader

This week I have felt how difficult for me it is to be there for friends who are at a different stage in working with themselves. I hate that. I want to be good at it and I think I was good at it. And that has lead me to think that being good at it is somehow important to who I am and who I want to be. And that is something I’ll need to work on, because the way I used to define that isn’t working for me.
I’m beginning to feel resentful at the people who are not working on the things that are absolutely necessary for my own growing. Like stopping negative self-talk. I’m never going to get better at accepting myself and liking myself, if I allow myself to think and say bad things about myself. And like most people I know I can say things to myself that I would never allow anyone else to say or that I wouldn’t even think about others. So the last few years I have been making an effort to not allow that kind of thinking. And I feel better. It’s not over and done. But it’s an amazing work in progress that makes a real difference.
And then it gets tough to listen to my friends saying awful things to themselves. Like calling their feelings and reactions stupid. Instead of owning whatever it is they think is stupid. I still haven’t heard it them do, say or express something stupid, they are just being human and having feelings.
The problem for me is that when I hear it I have two reactions. Reaction one is to do the same I do with my own negative self-talk and that is banishing it. Calling out and making it clear that that kind of talk isn’t allowed. But that isn’t what my friends want to hear. They are not working on this the same way I am, and I do not feel like that response will be seen as helpful. And I have to remember that. I have to remember their mindset and how I used to have it too. And that is hard to do, because in a way it puts me right back where I started, I am so strongly reminded of all the things I am working hard to get away from. And in a way it hurts. It peels back all my progress and asks me to throw it a way just for a moment, so I won’t have an overreaction to my friend calling herself stupid.

Another friend once compared it to trying to quit an addiction but only having friends who are also addicts. I have no such experience and don’t know if it’s an acceptable comparison. But it feels so true. And it’s not just negative self-talk. It’s being in abusive relationships, having bad or no boundaries, problems with parents and so on.
I know we are all doing things on our own terms and that none of us can be expected to grow and make progress on someone else’s timetable. But I feel lonely and lost in my own experience. I feel like I cannot share the good experiences I have and I worry asking my friends to completely stop their negative self-talk in front of me is too much to ask. Even if my boundary really is there and I think it would help all of us.

It’s hard watching people care about not having good boundaries and getting hurt over and over again, it’s hard trying to give advice and be kind and patient with them (and I know they need kindness and patience, and a few pointers about where to start), when every time this comes up I get a huge emotional setback.

I know how much I cannot push them or force anything. This is growth. It happens when they are ready and when there is room in their life to work on this. I can point them in the right direction, but I cannot do any more. And trying to do anything else will very likely backfire and make things worse. I know this. I’ve been there. And it wasn’t even that long ago.
I just don’t know how to empathise and care and meet them where they are, without (temporarily) erasing all my own progress to stop myself from shouting at them. And me wanting to shout at them isn’t about them. It’s because I feel like I just did this, and just found the right path, and just got away from that mindset that was killing me. And here they are, bringing it all back, asking me to look back, and all I want to do is move forward.

I probably need a boundary about helping people in this situation. Because I might be a few steps ahead of my friends in this, but I have not reached any kind of destination. And I also feel too much when I talk to them about their problems. I get to invested. It’s like I have no off switch, no boundaries. I feel like a sponge, absorbing all the pain and worry. And I’ve always had a saviour complex, I want to save everyone, I want to heal all the hurting, I feel the need to fix everything, apparently especially the things that aren’t mine to fix. And it takes an active effort to disengage and not take on everything in the world as my problem. That’s the main reason I don’t watch the news. I can’t handle knowing how broken the world is and how little I can do to fix it.

When a friend calls and need help, advice, a listening ear, I want to be there. And I don’t want to do that by halves. So I do. I listen and I care and I am in this with them (as much as possible). But when I put down the phone, or send them home, those feelings are stuck in my body for days. Sometimes weeks or months. Worry and pain. And I walk around with the situation on my mind trying to problems solve it all. I have to remind myself this isn’t mine to carry. I am not helping anyone by not letting it go. And I can push the thought away. With force and by intentionally letting them go when they pop up. But the way my body holds on to the feelings is harder to work on. I just feel too much. Too much that isn’t mine to feel and that makes my life harder. I have to remind myself over and over that these feelings, this thing that happens in my body, it’s not about me, it’s not mine to carry. I’ve gotten better at doing other things right after such a call. So I release the things I feel as soon as possible. But I need better boundaries about that kind of calls. I need better boundaries in general.

I want to be there for my friends. I want to support them. I want to make sure they have what I didn’t have and don’t have, the things that would have helped me or the things I still feel I need. I try to be that for them. But for a few of them I feel like the on-call therapist, the only life line. And as much as I cannot stop myself from being the supportive advisor, I need a change. This isn’t working for me. Especially because the people who do this the most cannot offer me what I need in return. It feels one-sided and like I am giving more than I have. None of my needs are being met, except my need to be needed, and at this point in my life I would prefer to that to go both ways. And I would prefer to not drain myself and to not have to undo my own progress again and again to have that.

For some reason I feel like I am ungrateful and like I am being unfair and unkind to these people. They are caring and kind and it’s not their fault that what they have to give doesn’t fit with what I need. And I feel lonely and expendable. And here are people who I care about, who care about me, who want to spend time with me and who needs something I can provide and they ask me for it. So why do I still walk away feeling like none of my needs are being met? Why do I feel so fundamentally incompatible with people this warm and kind and who want to give? What is it I am looking for?

My first priority about this is figuring out how to not absorb all those feelings from others. Then I probably need some conversations about what I need and how to make room for that too. I know I have really bad boundaries, but I am working on it.

I am not entirely sure how to finish this letter. Except to say thank you for your time.

Jace.

Letter about limits and choices and about being depressed

24th of May 2020

To whoever reads this

I don’t think I have a point today. I’m just writing because it feels important to keep writing these letters. Or maybe important is the wrong word. I feel commited to writing them. And not writing them feels like defeat, like failure, like letting someone down (probably just myself).

At the moment I am hoping any writing is better than no writing. I’m not sure that is true, but I think I need to keep going even though I m not sure I matters.

Mostly nothing matters at the moment. Depression is back in full (more or less). I manage to hold myself up when someone asks something of me. But collapse the second I return home and there is no one demanding anything.

I think slot about having choices. I believe I have more of them than I usually think and feel. I believe I am not as trapped as I feel. And I can try to focus on what I can choose and not hold that over the times in my life I didn’t have the options I have now. A lot of the things that felt and feels out of my control is because of trauma and fear. And those things are real. I just don’t want to be controlled my my trauma or my fear anymore. And I am not sure how to do that. But I am trying. And for me a big part of that is reminding myself of all the options that are there, behind the trauma or on the other side of fear.

I want a nuances take on this. On choices and options and what we can control. And that is difficult. I feel like always slip into either there is no limits only the ones we believe or I am powerless and limited because of reasons. And I don’t think any of these are really true. The things that holds us back are real and true. But so much of it can be overcome if we are able to see the way through fear, trauma, or if we are able to build new ways. So often I have been surprised to realise there was always options I didn’t know about, because I had been conditioned to see the world and myself a certain way. And now I am fighting to free myself from the restraints that in the grand scheme of things doesn’t seem that significant or real. So I can keep finding more options and be more free.

But it’s not just that easy. It’s not as simple as I would have liked. So many barriers are more real than most people would like to admit. And often it can be hard do look at other people’s lives and understand the way they a limited by things we cannot see. But the limits are still a reality in their lives.

I don’t under my depression’s power over me. The way I crumple and all the good seeps out of the world when I need it most. But it is so real. And I have to admit that willpower and stubbornness will not overpower it. Not even with a world of patience.

I used to think that I could do anything. In part because I am so stubborn. It always felt like such a beautiful gift I had been given. And on top of that I am also incredibly patient. And I used to believe that combination could do anything. The stubbornness to keep going and keep fighting and the patience to wait for a result. Now I am beginning to understand there are things no amount of stubbornness will ever let me achieve.

Depression is one of those things that I cannot fight with stubbornness and patience alone. And I am sort of out of patience with it anyway.

I’ve been allowed to se my family more. Which is good. My niece has grown so much. She is 7 months old and I haven’t seen her in almost 4 of them. I got to help my brother in his garden. He gave (and the kids) his wife a greenhouse for mother’s Day and he had tried to make the garden very nice. He also started construction on a treehouse for his kids. It’s not much more than a platform right now, but it’s still amazing.

Last time I was there I spend some time on that platform. Wishing I had brought a book. The weather was nice that day. And my nephew was playing with the kids next door, my parents were having s conversation with my brother and sister-in-law and I got tired of just sitting there waiting for nothing to happen. So I chose to spend some time in treehouse.

I lay down and look up. The sky was so blue. And somewhere high above me a bird of prey was circling, gliding. I tried to figure out what kind of bird it was but failed. It was to far away.

The sun was so warm on my black pants. Almost unbearable. The wind was so soft. A I could hear birds and quite conversation. And for a while everything was ok. Not great or wonderful. But a calm quiet ok. There is no joy there, just a kind lifting of the pain. It’s the kind of ok that would be easy to overlook. The kind that saves your life when you are depressed, because it reminds you what it’s like to look at the world without the lense of depression colouring everything.

I had time there. But I wasn’t done drinking all the calm in before my mom called and asked me if I wanted to go home. I needed the ride. And as I got in the car something felt not right. And on the short (10-15 minute) car ride home all the calm and peace I felt in the unfinished treehouse slipped away. It crumpled and collapsed. And I felt I happen in real time. Something that usually happens over weeks and months. The calm and quiet “I’m ok” giving way to unbearable pain.

And then I was back at the apartment. The apartment that still feels new and amazing. I still really like living in it and am still so happy about all the great solutions I found to make it feel more like home. And it does feel a little like home. And yet, in this time where staying home is so important I find myself hating being there. I cannot stand sitting there having nothing to do and being alone for this much time. And there is nowhere to go and even if there were I really shouldn’t go anywhere. I just sit there and wonder what to do to make my life in any way meaningful, and fail and fail and fail. There is no meaning. I find myself avoiding the balcony, it became hard to take good care of myself. I don’t want to eat and my sleep has been bad for a few weeks now too. The apartment doesn’t feel like a place I relax and feel calm and home and recharge. It feels like the place I am forced to be where there is nothing to do (except stare into a screen and that just makes my mental health worth at the moment). And still I remember how privileged I am in this time. To have this great a home, to be able to see my family a little, to go or walks and get out a little here and there. And in that perspective I’m doing ok. My depression just doesn’t care about the reasons, it just found a new hold on me and isn’t letting go.

I didn’t tell my parents how bad I felt on the car ride back. They would listen or understand. And no one talks in that car. My parents never really talk. They exchange information. But no one in my family has real deep meaningful conversations.

If I am in the car with my mom (even if it’s for hours) and try to have a conversation shell shut it down. Not directly. But by not engaging. Giving short one word answer and seeming indifferent. If I don’t drop it after an attempt or two she will actually reach out and turn the radio up. The ultimate sign that talking isn’t tolerated. I find the action hilarious. It would be sad or hurtful in any other context I think. But with her in this situation, I find it funny. She can’t bear to have a conversation, to sit with something, to risk an emotion. So she flees from it by creating noice between us so we can’t hear each other. I want so desperately to connect. She is so desperately afraid of that connection. And it’s all summed up and communicated clearly in that one small action, turning up the radio.

I wrote last that I might write something about emotions at some point. Thinking of my mom and her inability to accept emotions makes me think that it might be worth doing at some point.

I felt like I said good things today. Maybe not great. Maybe not what anyone needed. But I felt like writing it wasnt waisted or stupid.

I hope wherever you are that you are ok. I hope you find good ways to take care of yourself. Thank you for your time.

Jace

Letter about intelligence, emotions and not being where I thought I would be

18th of May 2020

Dear reader

I’m very intelligent. I do not say this as anything fact. I have been told this for as long as I can remember. I learned the word intelligent when I was very young. I remember asking my mom what it meant because people used it about me all the time. I suppose I wanted to know what they were saying about me, and it wasn’t fair they used words I hadn’t learned yet. My mom told me it means clever and I asked her why people didn’t just say clever then. But I never got an answer.

I’ve always asked too many questions. Always wondered too much about how the world and people work. My parents gave me this collection of kids encyclopaedias when I was little. Each one had a different subject. The first one I got was about the weather. I was in kinder garden and was unafraid of thunder. So after my parents had read that particular book to me, the adults at the kindergarden realised I could calm the scared kids. So when ever there was thunder they bought me around to the scared children and I explained calmly and scientifically that thunder is just hot air and cold air colliding up in the sky and that creates a lot of energy.
My favourite of those books were the one about the dinosaurs. It’s the most worn or whenever I open it I still find little paper pieces I put inside to show my parents what pages to read next ( it was all of them, I wanted to know everything). I knew all the names and when they lived and was so fascinated by these extinct creatures. The only thing that managed to push this interest aside was when my dad (who after his accident when back to school) came home and started telling me about the universe and the stars and planets. I was seven at the time and in absolute awe of the solar system, the Milky Way and galaxies.

In school I loved math. It was the only subject the just made sense to me. I understood it immediately and I still find it fun. I know a lot of people has a very different experience with math, but for me it was the best. I wasn’t challenged enough and that I find very sad. I have a feeling of lost potential, because all the teaching was standardised and my teacher had to teach 20 kids who needed different approaches and different challenges. And I often think this is how we lose some kids and waste others.

Later in school I loved physics and chemistry. But I never got biology. It didn’t really make sense. I had a hard time with the starting premise for everything in biology, which seems to be that everything wants to be alive. And no one could tell me why. Physics and chemistry made so much more sense. They were more logical and simple and a lot more like math. I know that physics gets a lot less logical and simple if you learn more than I did at the levels I learned it on, and I wonder how I would have coped with that. And I wonder if I would have liked biology if someone had tried to teach me about it from a starting point of dinosaurs, evolution and skeletons, and not all the other stuff that never made any real sense to me and never caught my interest.

I promise I have a point to all this. I just have a few more things before I get to it.

At 14 a friend and I look the mensa IQ test online and had fun with analysing and talking about the questions. I wanted the real test someday so bad. But you couldn’t get it till you were 18 unless a special psychologist did it, and there wasn’t really a reason for that. I just wanted to know what my IQ was. So back then I wrote it on my 18th birthday wishlist for my parents. Who ignored it. My dad later told me he thought I would be sad if my IQ wasn’t high enough, but he never asked me how I felt or why. If he had I would have told him I just wanted to know. In part because being call intelligent and clever all the time got a little tiring. Especially when it was used by everyone around me to tell me I could do anything they wanted me to and that I was never allowed to have subjects that were difficult or didn’t make sense to my very logical mind. So I kind of just wanted to know if I was as clever as people told me and if I wasn’t I had the papers to prove it when I was tired of hearing it.

I realise now what a privileged it is to grow up being told you are intelligent till you get tired of hearing it. Just like I now understand that I was very very privileged to be told I was beautiful so much. Back then I just felt it was a useless thing to be told over and over again. What was I supposed to do with beautiful? How was beautiful going to help me accomplish anything? Intelligent was something I could use and do something with, and I think I feel this great big feeling of loss and wasted potential because it was such a big part of how I defined myself.
I was called nice a lot too. A lot. A little, pretty, blond girl who always did what she was told, always acted nicely and talked politely. I was a teachers dream. And the even the other kids at school (who I wasn’t friends with because I was too weird and didn’t understand the social rules) called me nice very often. It never felt like a compliment. It felt like another useless label I didn’t know what to do with. Treating other people with dignity and respect, listening to teachers who were just trying to do their job of helping us learn, those things seemed to me to be ordinary things we should all do. And here is was getting the word nice thrown at me like a gold star for good behaviour all the time. It didn’t make sense and somehow that word felt very limiting. I’m not sure why, but it did. Maybe again because it was a word that didn’t leave room for mistakes, being human or having feelings of my own.
But mostly people thought I was intelligent. And then I started to think so too.

I finally got the mensa test in my 20’s. It was a gift from a friend. We took the official test together. And I was sick and on antibiotics, so I was told I could reschedule if I wanted. But I felt well enough to take the test (I decided I could always redo it if it went bad). It was so fun. It was an amazing challenge and whatever the result would be I walked away having had a good experience. When the letter finally arrived I really didn’t care about the result. And yet there was a thrill of happiness to discover my IQ is high enough to join mensa (I haven’t had the money for it yet, but it’s something I hope to prioritise when I get a job).
I was so happy with the result. I was happy to have taken the test. I felt once again like I finally had words that described a part of me I had always had and always known, but didn’t understand or know how to get to know better till that moment. I wanted to talk about it and share my happiness and tell the world I finally understood myself better, but I didn’t. Because I kept worrying it would be wrong and that I was somehow being unkind or rude by saying that. I didn’t want to be those things so I didn’t.

I don’t walk around thinking other people are stupid. I know that IQ measures one kind of intelligence and that there are many other kinds as well (if the model I learned about is still relevant). I recognise that everyone has skills, perspectives and experiences that are very worthwhile and that differs greatly from my own. And that is amazing. I am often in awe of the skills I see people have that I know I don’t and that I would never be great at even if I put lots of effort into learning it. And maybe that appreciation of other abilities comes from being in a family I don’t have a lot in common with. My brother and I are as different as we can be. He would never pick up a book, but he is very good at talking to people. He is great at using his body, he likes exercise. I am the reader who doesn’t know how to talk to people and feel like a foreigner in my own body. My mom is the most practical human being I have ever met. The way she approaches the world and tasks is so strange to me, and I try to learn everything I can from her. She folds fitted sheets and can always pack all the groceries perfectly in one shopping bag no matter how much we have bought, seemingly making it bigger on the inside, like some kind of weird time lord technology, I can never replicate, simply by the way she organises it. These are the incredible abilities. Things I value and appreciate and don’t take for granted. I’ve always believed the world had need of different things and that is why we as people are so different and have s different abilities and outlooks on the world. These perspectives are needed.

And I promised there was a point and I’m getting to it now. I know it took a while.

I’ve always been this intelligent, logical, not very good at emotions person. I was always interested in science and math and things that made logical sense and had a right answer. And this week I have been thinking about how my life has taken me down a very different path. A path of emotional intelligence, of making sense of my own and other peoples feelings. A path of kindness and caring (in my friendships). In my work I am doing something linked to science, but it’s biology. How did I end up working with biology? And what happened to my beloved math and chemistry and physics? I’m doing no math at all. I’m actually hoping my future job will contain some communicating. I am talking to friends about their big emotions like depression and trauma and helping them figure out how to cope. And I’m getting good at the emotional intelligence needed to do that kind of thing. And I always work from a place of both kindness and logic. But I am still at a loss. When did this become the thing I used my logic to figure out? How did I end up here? Too many years in therapy? Not enough challenges in math? Too much trauma of my own?

I miss the more pure logic and science and math parts of me. I am confused about when my life became this labyrinth of emotions and making sense of them. Which I am doing very well. But I can’t remember choosing this path. I don’t even think I would have chosen it.

I’m on a good path. And I know there is no turning back. I’m not even sure turning back is what I want to do. I’m not really sure what I want to do. But I’m allowing myself room and time to be confused and a little sad that I am a very different person than I thought I wanted to be.

In case anyone is reading and wondering, I found a way for emotions to make sense. For real. I found a way to understand them and I realised they are not irrational, they are not crazy. They are in fact very logical and very useful. Sometimes they overreact and sometimes they misunderstand things and situations and sometimes they get the time, date, occasion wrong. But I think we all do that sometimes. And honestly emotions are really caring and kind and well-intentioned.´

Maybe I should write something about the function of emotions, but if any reader is curious I’m sure there are plenty of resources online to look up. Or just watch Disney’s Inside Out. It’s a great place to start and a very good movie.
The last thing for today. The thing that really made the emotion thing click for me is this: Emotions are a data set. They tell you something. Being in touch with your feelings gives you access to a lot more date. And making good decisions require a lot of information. And people who shut themselves off from their emotions shuts themselves off from a lot of important information. You don’t need to react to everything the emotions tell you. You don’t need to let them control everything. But having them as a dataset, ready and at hand, is so useful. And that to me is very different from burying them or denying them or being detach from them. I feel like I am more in contact with them than ever before. Because I have finally learned how to listen to what they tell me and let me tell you they are very smart. They can only react to the information they have, and sometimes they get stuff wrong. But that’s why listing to them is so important. You lose nothing by listening. And they usually aren’t mad at you for not doing what they want if they know you listened.
I don’t know if that approach will work for anyone but me. But for me it was a revelation to realise that this is a possibility. And my world feels so much bigger and better and more whole when I don’t shut myself off from my emotions (which never actually worked, they just got louder and more difficult and then they seemed scary instead of helpful).

I hope whoever you are out there that you are safe and healthy and taking good care of yourself and your emotions.  I hope you feel you are in a good path even if it’s not the one you thought you’d be on. Thank you for reading and thank you for your time.

Jace

Letter about depression slowly getting worse again

9th of May 2020

To whoever reads this

My depression is gaining a strong hold on me again. It was never anywhere near gone, but the last week it has been sneaking its way back. It was a slow thing. Almost unnoticeable. I do the work and fight to keep it a bay and yet here I am again. Not knowing why I should get out of bed, why I should cook dinner, why I should do anything. Which is the kind of thoughts that leads me down a path to thoughts like why should I be alive. And suddenly living looks like the worst idea ever. And taking care of myself feels like the opposite of what I should be doing.

And I keep doing the work. I get out of bed and cook dinner, I take a shower, I reach out to the people I can reach out to, I get out of the door and go for walks, I read, I read at the ruin. And none of I brings me any joy or meaning. I am a passenger in my own life, waiting for it to be over. Distracting myself, because being Here feels to painful and impossible.
And that is the problem. I do not want to be distracted. I refuse to be a passenger in my own life. I want to live this life I have been given, and be present in it. I want to do the things I can to make it worth living. But somehow I can’t seem to do that. I feel like getting Here is such a fight, and the moment I relax too much, the moment I lose concentration I snap right back to my baseline which happens to be depressed and in pain. And this is no way to live. At least for me. I would rather not live than live like this.
I feel like I am doing the work. I am doing the good things for myself, I am trying to take care of myself. But I keep failing to actually get better. Like real better.

Last year I read “Lost Connections” by Johann Hari. It confirmed everything I had been thinking about depression and helped me find words for the things I instinctively knew but had no words for. Johann Hari describes depression as being disconnected. And that is truly how I feel. Disconnected. He describes 7 different ways to be disconnected and I was surprised that almost all of them described some aspect of what I have been trying to tell the doctors for the last 1.5 decade.
I feel so disconnected. But there is only so much I can do to reconnect. I am doing the things I can, and maybe it just needs more time and more consistency. But I also feel like I need a helping hand. Feeling disconnected from other people means I need to find more people and communities. But I cannot do that on my own. I need other people to like me and want to invite me to be part of their lives, I need communities that have room for me and that is a good fit. Both of these things are partly out of my hands.
I feel disconnected from trauma, and I am doing what I can to face my traumas and relieve shame. But no one can do that entirely on their own,
I am disconnected for nature and luckily that is one I can do something about on my own. It takes work since I live in the middle of this town and have to walk or take the bus to places where I can be in nature, but I am planning to find ways to make it happen more and I have made it a bigger priority.
I am disconnected from meaningful work and a hopeful meaningful future. But for now those thing are out of my hands. In part because of the pandemic, but more because of my mental health situation (my doctor calls it a chronic illness and tried hard to help me cope with the fact that I’ll never be able to have a full time job or get the education I dreamed of). I’ll need a part time job and because of the autism I’ll need a few accommodations and some support. And I can’t just take any job, again because of the autism. And the hardest part of this one, is that when I tell people that not having a hopeful future with meaningful work is affecting my depression and making it worse I am told that is irrelevant and just to take medication.
But we can’t medicate hopelessness away. We can’t medicate me into being not autistic and being able to handle any job. And even if we could I wouldn’t agree to it.

I know my current situation is being made worse because of the pandemic. I can’t go to work and I can’t see my friends. And that has a big impact on my mental health. Like it has for so many (I’m not special or an exception in this). I think the thing that is hitting me extra hard is how much of this isn’t the pandemic but just my regular baseline. That I now can’t distract myself from with work.  And knowing there is no help. I won’t get better. Not because better isn’t a realistic thing that I could achieve. But because I don’t have the money to pay for treatment and support, and because the health care system here, doesn’t have any idea how to help autistic people. It’s not a physical illness and it’s not a mental illness so no one know what to do with me. And the support system that should kick in to help me instead is impossible to figure out and keeps referring me back to the health care system that keeps telling me they are not responsible for me.
Society and systems I live within are telling me there is no one to help me, that help is impossible, and somewhere under all that is a message about not being worth helping. And that hurts. Because I truly believe that I could get better if I could just get the right help. Not as in I would no longer be autistic. Not as in I would suddenly be able to take any job at full time. But as in I would no longer be in this pain and I would be able to live and take care of a job part time and build a life that has meaning and is full of both challenges and good time. Not just full of pain, depression and suicide thoughts.

I am trying really hard to be Here. On the balcony, at the ruin. But every time I try I find myself wanting to escape. But I still try again. I am not sure I am being kind to myself these days, but I am trying. My thoughts spiral into dark, angry, hurt places I don’t want to go. So I pull myself back and call someone and talk and distract my thoughts. And then I am disappointed in myself for letting those thoughts take over, and even more disappointed that I needed to talk to someone to get away from them, because I expect that I should be more independent and self reliant than that.

I wrote last week that I was doing better. I am not sure that was the truth. It doesn’t feel like a lie. And I don’t like that I can’t place it neatly in one of those two categories. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe things can be more complicated than that. Maybe it so subjective that truth or lie are the wrong categories. Maybe I don’t need to worry that someone calls me out on saying one thing last week and another this week. Maybe having weeks I am able to focus more on the good days and less on the bad, doesn’t erase that the bad is still there underneath. Maybe I am allowed to be thankful and focus in the good days when I can, without putting the disclaimer that I am still autistic, depressed and full of unresolved trauma that cause me pain. Maybe there are good reasons I feel the need to clarify and maybe those reasons are more important than whether saying last week was better, is a lie or not.

I am sad that this post got so depressing. But it fit’s how I feel these days. I just have to keep doing the work of keeping myself going. I am determined not to apologise for being depressed. Apologising is one of the things I am actively doing a lot less of. If I keep apologising for existing I am going to keep feeling like I am not allowed to exist. And that’s not helpful. So I am expressing that I am sad about the depression expressed in this letter. But I am not apologising for it.

Whoever is out there I hope you are doing well. I hope you are having better days and thoughts than me. If not know you are not alone. Thank you for sitting with me through this. I don’t even know if anyone is out there reading. But that’s ok. I imagine someone is keeping me company as I type and I wish whoever that might be well. Thank you for your time.

Jace

Letter about doing a little better and how much I love my balcony

1st of May 2020

To whoever reads this

I’m not sure saying that I am doing better is the truth. But I do have the feeling that my body and my mind has settled into this current, hopefully temporary normal. I am calmer about being alone. Going to the ruin last week reminded me that I am not as trapped as I feel. And I focus a lot on what I can control and the choices left to me in this time when I am stuck, unable to go to work and unable to see friends.
I feel as though the worst of my reaction to the new circumstances has left. I am so fortunate that my life is changed this little. But it still feels huge. And change is one of the things autistic people aren’t good at. I am not really an exception to this. I handle it well, but it still feels very overwhelming and sets off a lot of reactions that I have no control over. But I know them well enough now and can act accordingly.
I’ve been doing the work. Reaching out to people I can reach out to. Remind myself of the importance of staying home and not exposing myself to more risk than necessary. I try to keep busy. Fight the depression that still threatens to get worse all the time. It’s not gone. It’s there. Poisoning everything. But I fight it. And that is all I can do at this point.

I’m trying hard to sound hopeful. I am not. But I guess that is how I fight the depression at this time. I feel untruthful when I sound this hopeful. I don’t mean to lie. But I guess I am not sure how to name the things that would give a clear picture of how I am really doing.

About a month ago I think, I don’t really know the date, I had a lot of trouble sleeping. And I was doing a lot worse than I am not dealing with the loneliness and the isolation. And this night I gave up sleeping for a while and went to sit outside on my amazing balcony (that I still love so much). It was past midnight and there was so many stars above me. I love the night and the dark. And the night was cold, but not too cold. I sat out there for a long time and noticed lights in the windows across the courtyard. The building across from the one I live in is made of red bricks and has red balconies.

It’s the kind of building where every part of it is the same and when you look at if you know every apartment has the same floor plan. I don’t think I would like to live in a building like that. Whenever I visit that kind of apartment they always feel unkind, cold and like they are the opposite of a home. Not because of the people living their lives there, or the way they decorate. It’s the way these places are build to store people instead of build to give them warm cosy homes.
But there is something comforting about that building across the courtyard. I’m not sure what it is. I don’t want to live in it. I’ve never been inside it and I have no desire to go there. But there is something about it that feels nice. And not even because it reminds me how different my own home is. Maybe it just feels different and unique because the other buildings around the courtyard are different and unique, with different architecture and different feelings and uses. I’m sure I wouldn’t feel this way about it if had been surrounded by similar buildings.
Last summer I saw how every evening kids came out and played in the carpark that belongs to that building. And I could see people coming home from work and shopping trips or going to their cars to drive to somewhere else. That too made the place feel so alive.

But this night, I noticed all the lights. And it was so amazing to see how many other people were awake at night. I am night time person through and through. But most people around me aren’t. There was something nice in knowing that so many people chose to be up this night. I counted at least seven different apartments with lights on. At 2 am.

I’ve also noticed the light in those windows. None of it is cold white. It’s almost always yellow or orange. Sometimes there is some changing blue or purple lights, from a TV or a computer screen. But mostly it’s just this beautiful golden light. Reminding me that there is life all around me. That although so much is shut down, though I feel so alone and know no one in any of these buildings around me, there is still people, living ordinary lives doing ordinary things. Just there. Across the courtyard. In that golden light they cook dinner and eat and work from home, they watch TV and make phone calls, they are happy and sad and their lives go on.

I don’t know why but that night I felt so moved by that light. By sitting there alone with golden light telling me other people were also awake and alive and right here. I felt connected and so much less lonely, when I have in a long time. And one goal for this month is sitting out there every day for at least 30 minutes. That balcony is the best part of this apartment. And deciding to live here, where I can sit outside at night and still be home is one of the best things I have given to myself. When I sit there (and especially if I leave me phone inside) I feel so Here.
I don’t know why I am grateful for the golden light or for the red brick building that looks like the kind of building that has no personality and no room for humans being humans. Maybe it’s that contrast. Maybe it’s because it feels like it has personality and room for humans, in this setting in a way it could never have if there were only buildings like that around. Maybe it’s just nice to feel small and insignificant and knowing there is life right there, when I can no longer stand to only be able to reach other humans through a screen. All I know is that I am so grateful for those things. And my balcony is one of those places for me, that helps me be Here. And that is after all what I am trying to find.

I hope, whoever you are and wherever you are, dear reader, that you are safe and healthy. I hope you find ways to be Here. Thank you for being here, in these words with me. Thank you for your time.

Jace

Letter about the fragility of good things and how I’m being Here

26th of April 2020

To whoever is reading this

I’m not sure why I didn’t write last week. I wanted to. But the only thing I wanted to write was not for the internet. It was just for me, and maybe a close friend who would understand or just sit with me in this thing. It wasn’t a bad thing. Maybe that’s why I found it so hard to share. Sometimes it’s easier to write the painful stuff and not care who reads it. The good things feels so much more fragile. Like they could crumble away and disappear if the wrong person touched them by accident. Or like I could undo them just by mentioning them. Sometimes I think if don’t hold my breath and stay perfectly still till they have settled and learned to trust me, they might run away again. So when they show up I decide to be careful and slow and not just jump into sharing anything. I recently ret “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint Epuréxy and the chapter about the Prince needing to tame the Fox comes to mind now. Last weekend I had this thing that I was finally ready to write down and believe in, but I wasn’t ready to share it with something as big and scary as the internet. And I kept believing I would find something else to write about, but I just didn’t.

There is an old ruin on the edge of the town I live in. It’s small, there isn’t much left of it. A few walls. A few room with no roofs. A few stairs and doorways. It’s right next to the highway. And there is a constant noise from the traffic. But it still feels like magic and history and the kind of place that isn’t really real, but something out of a book. There are lots of trees around and you can hear the birds singing, and though they never truly drown out the sound of traffic, they do make you forget about it. On summer evenings the bats fly around, if you have sharp eyes or sharp ears you might catch a glimpse of them or hear them. A few years ago I went there all the time. I spent the summer reading Harry Potter there. I found a nice spot, where I could bring my bag and my book, and sat there reading. I brought snacks and sodas and once after my last final that summer I even brought sushi and ate dinner there.
You couldn’t ask for better atmosphere for reading good books, than an old ruin and I love that place. So this week, feeling like I had gotten stuck doing nothing again, I packed some lunch and a book and walked the half hour it takes to go there. I sat in the doorway on the first floor, where I almost always sit to read. It’s not the most comfortable ground to sit on, the stones aren’t very comfortable, but it’s the best place to sit and be alone even when there are people visiting the place. There is another doorway on the other side that is much more comfortable, and I move there, in the late afternoon when the sun no longer shines on my favourite spot and I get a little cold. I am much more out in the open in this other doorway, but the people visiting the place are always nice about the reading stranger. Sometimes they ignore me, other times they say quick hi and move on with their exploring.  This time there was some boys from the school across the road. They look very curiously at me for a while and then went back to playing. One of them said hi and asked for my name so I told him my name and asked for him. Another boy found the place I was sitting and came by to give me a dandelion he had plucked. I doesn’t take much for them to realise I am not scary or intruding. And my weird purple hair usually makes kids think I cool.

I read “Momo” by Michael Ende. A book everyone should read. Especially the people with no time for reading. It’s about this girl, Momo, living in an old abandoned amphitheatre (I almost changed location to the local amphitheatre and read it there, but the ruin felt better and just as appropriate), who is very very good at listening. When the locals stop visiting her and acts strange, she discovers these men in grey who are steeling peoples time. Not because they have the power to take it from people, but by convincing people they are wasting their time and that they need to save it. So the people hurry and hurry and stresses along with no time for any of the things that matter, because they think they need to save time in order to have time later. So Momo who isn’t fooled by the men in grey has to find a way to stop them and give the people their time back.
It’s a very beautiful story about time and how we spend it. We have 86400 second every day and we control how we spend it. We don’t gain another second by being in a hurry. And this book shows this better than anything else I have ever read. It feels more relevant than ever as our society is so much in a hurry to earn money and asking us to waste out attention.

Reading this book now was so important to me. And reading it at the ruin was a very good choice. I needed to get out of my apartment and I needed to get out in nature. I have been to stuck in my own head and in this one place for too long. That makes it hard to remember how important it is to stay in the present and do what I can do while I have the time for it. I get so focused on the future or the past. Mostly the future. I want to know what happens when the world isn’t shut down because of the pandemic. I want to know if I can come back to work. I want to go back to work. I want to travel and see my friends and do so much. And I feel so trapped. But I am not. The ruin is still there. My books are still on the shelves waiting for me to give them attention. I have internet access and therefore access to learn almost anything I want to. My balcony is a great place to sit when I want to go outside but doesn’t have the energy to go anywhere. And all the thing I want to do that is impossible right now, will still be there when the world open up again. And in the mean time I know I am learning a lot about the possibilities I had before and about the things I just took for granted. And I feel grateful that it seems most of the world is having similar experiences.

All this is to say that reading this book was such a good reminder of what I wanted to do with this blog. Be Here. Be present. And walking out to the ruin to read was being Here. Not just attempting to find Here, but actually being Here. For a long time now I have felt uncomfortable in front of the screen. No matter what screen and what I am doing with it. No game or movie or YouTube video, no social media or even writing takes me to the place I want to go. I personally find myself using it to escape and to distract myself. Something that brings me so far away from Here. I am thankful to live in a time when I have all this information at my fingertips. I am thankful that technology allows me to stay in contact with my friends and family during this time. But mostly I just want to turn it all off and find a way to live without it. Return to myself and my present and the world around me.

It’ll never be that easy. And maybe it doesn’t have to be. But listening to that call inside me and trying to do something about it feels like the right choice for me. And I can do that for myself and still be happy that all these options exists and know that they help people in a way they don’t help me. I’m just concluding that it doesn’t work for me. I hope it works for others.

Whoever is out there reading, take good care of yourself and the people around you. Thank you for your time.

Jace