I think the Super Bowl is coming up. Well, I know it is but only because I looked it up online right before I wrote this sentence. But I’m going to be honest: I know absolutely nothing about football and I don’t really care for it. I just tried reading the Wikipedia page entitled, “American football,” but I got bored in the middle of the introduction that comes before the table of contents. Additionally, I did not know that the term “Super Bowl” consisted of two separate words until my Microsoft Document corrected me. You really do learn something new every day.
With this knowledge, or rather lack of knowledge, in mind, I recently went through somewhat of an existential crisis while flipping through some college photos on Facebook (something one should never do as a disoriented post-grad). In many of them, I appeared to be having the time of my life at football games, cheering and even getting thrown up in the air to celebrate something that is called a “touchdown.” (Okay, I kind of know what touchdowns are.) So, did I spend four years pretending to be something I was not? That seems absurd. What is life?
Hiding my true feelings about football in order to spend a lovely Saturday with friends is in all seriousness no terrible sacrifice. However, there are other times in my life when the stakes are higher. Oftentimes, it is difficult to decide when it is appropriate to reveal my true opinions and feelings, and when it is okay or even necessary to distract others and myself from my personal reality.
Sometimes, the absolute truth gets in my way. If I’m at work and feeling down, crying at my desk might actually feel really good. But I’ve done it, and trust me; it doesn’t work out in practice. I’ve stayed close with many friends from treatment, and these are the people who have seen me go through some of my most difficult stretches. But we’ve found that when things are the hardest, forgetting about them and watching three episodes of 90 Day Fiancé (yes, it’s a show) is sometimes better than any heavy conversation.
While it is clearly delicate, and there are many scenarios in which I appropriately keep my emotions contained, I have decided lately to take a few more risks when it comes to being genuine. In some cases, this has provided a level of self-protection that I did not have before. In the past few years, friendships have come in and out of my life, some healthy and some not. As I’ve mentioned before, some of my worst relapses have come at times when these friendships have fallen apart for one reason or another.
I used to play a passive role in the deterioration of certain relationships, allowing them to fade out even though that was the last thing I wanted. But that doesn’t mean these people left my life. I still ran into them at parties and engaged in surface-level conversation, and whenever these encounters occurred, the run-ins were always teases of a sort. Memories of better times only brought back feelings of loss. In response, I would allow myself to become a victim to my grief and my illness, going back to old habits in order to numb the feelings. But thinking back, I had real and valid needs in those situations: I needed repair or closure, and allowing a friendship to fade away or become reduced to pleasantries doesn’t allow for either.
I was scared to voice what I wanted, because I didn’t feel I deserved to do so, and I’m still scared. But I owe it to my recovery and myself to act differently, and I have. I’ve been able to tell people when a relationship is hurting me more than helping me. When I do that, I run a large risk: losing the relationship altogether when that person doesn’t respond the way I hope they will. And in a few cases, that has happened. But it is more of a risk to have that person, who means so much to me, reduced to a simple minor character in my life, constantly reminding me of what used to be.
I think this honesty is a crucial part of my recovery that has been missing for a long time. Being passive and neglecting my opinions are concepts that really seeped into the rest of my life. I lacked the ability to be assertive in making daily decisions that kept me healthy when it came to things like what to eat or what to do on a Friday night. Disorders constantly tell a person to do the opposite of what they should, and without constant decisiveness and confidence in fighting against those temptations, hope is truly lost.
I am happy to finally be heading in a direction that seems authentic. I ask myself every day what my goals and ideas are, and lately they seem to change constantly. But, at least that development is genuine, and I am looking forward to seeing what comes of it.
So, now for the real question…who wants to invite me to their Super Bowl party?
Peace and Love,