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Once more, I am participating in A Chronic Voice’s monthly linkup

December prompts: ending, bonding, coping, traveling, and warming

November and December tend to be emotionally challenging months for me. There’s a pressure and expectation for people to be cheerful this time of year, as often there are a lot of festivities about hope, giving, and light.

While my depression is well-managed, I’m often finding myself thinking about loss this time of year, due in part to losing my father just before Thanksgiving years ago.

Endings and suicide

I have had more exposure to suicide and thoughts of suicide than I would like.
My uncle died by suicide when I was in my teens.

He lived out in California, while we lived in New Jersey, so I didn’t see him a lot, but it was still painful to lose him.

We don’t know quite why it happened, or precisely what triggered him.
The suspicion is that he may have had bipolar disorder, but if he did, he was never officially diagnosed, and of course, was never treated for it.

When he died, he intentionally put certain things out in plain view(for example, he left out a will he’d written with one of his sister years ago as a joke, and put CD’s of requiems on top of his collection), but left no note.

Losing him was emotionally traumatic. It reignited my depression and anxiety.

I took antidepressants again, but it felt like nothing really helped. I started to practice minor self-harm, digging my fingernails into my hands, poking my wrists with pushpins, and other similar expressions.

I was so numb inside that I needed to feel something, and get the pain out somehow.

I didn’t reach the point of suicidality until after I lost my father, years later, but loss and loneliness bordering on a sense of abandonment are the underlying emotions I’m often dealing with this time of year.

Bonding over shared experiences

A good friend of mine has been struggling lately.

His physical and emotional health has been slipping, and he has been struggling with suicidal ideations and anxiety.

While I wish he didn’t have to deal with these stresses, it has given us another aspect of life to bond over.

I have dealt with anxiety and emotional obsession in the past – when I was trapped in an unhealthy relationship with a narcissistic partner who became very emotionally off-base.

This relationship is what triggered my Functional Neurological Disorder(FND) symptoms in college, and I remember the struggle I had, trying to figure out what to do, and being stuck emotionally.

I loved this man and cared about him deeply, and yet every time I saw him, or expected to see him, I ended up hurt. Sometimes his presence hurt, sometimes his absence hurt, but no matter what, it felt like I came out more hurt than I came in.

Shared pain and echoes of experience can help deepen friendships
(photo courtesy of Disabled And Here, )

My friend was coping with a situation that had some echoes to that experience, so we’ve been connecting over his situation and my deep understanding of most of the emotions involved.

His situation spiraled worse recently, and I have been continuing to support him with my echoed experiences.

We’ve talked a lot about my experiences with suicidal ideation, and how I got myself through those tough moments.

I deeply understand that urge to do something irrevocable, even though intellectually it isn’t what’s wanted.

I’ve been there and done that, and he’s appreciated my ability to both reassure him that it’s something he can get past, and my deeper understanding that it’s not about what he wants, but what some part of his mind is demanding.

Coping with it all

My life stresses and my friend’s situation and history are stressful things, so I have needed to be sure to guard my mental and emotional health.

The good news is that the particular stresses he needs support on are aspects of my life that I have pretty thoroughly gone over and recovered from.

Those wounds aren’t fresh, so I can dip into those memories without being trapped by them.

I made my peace with losing my uncle, and my responses to his death.

I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy exploring the unhealthy partnership that triggered my FND symptoms, so there’s little left there to harm me.

Most years, November and December have had a dark tinge to them, due to my father’s death.

This year, I have a focus and purpose behind that darkness – I can focus those energies on supporting my friend, instead of being stuck powerless over losing my father.

I’ve been making sure I get enough sleep, trying to meditate regularly, and generally do my best to keep doing ‘life as usual’ on the days and times I’m not with my friend.
So far, it’s worked.

The migraine finally seems to be fading a bit, though it’s not completely gone. I’m still drinking extra electrolytes daily and all that jazz, doing my best to minimize my stress.

Overall, I’m doing well emotionally, and just hanging in there during this challenging time of year for me.

Traveling to the city

So, I have been doing a lot of traveling between my home in the outer suburbs of New Jersey and New York City.

Besides an extra trip or two specifically to help my friend, I’ve also had additional trips due to BiRequest and my commitment to that group.

When I first joined, BiRequest met twice a month, the first and third Thursdays.
Now, regular BiRequest meetings occur three times a month, plus there are two drink nights a month, and a monthly movie night.

Also, those of us who are and have been facilitators have a (currently monthly) meeting to plan for BiRequest and develop our leadership skills.

I actually haven’t been going to the drink nights or movie nights, mainly for energy and financial reasons, though I am tempted.

However, I do attend every possible discussion meeting and have defaulted as the primary leadership for the Brooklyn meetings.

So I’m in the city at least four nights a month for those meetings.

Each trip to the city is about a four hour round trip commitment, so I do my best to make the most of my time.

The nice thing about riding on a train instead of driving is that once I’m on board, I am free to do whatever I want.

On the train, I’m often coloring or reading, if I’m not texting to make plans and checking out information on my phone.

I’ll often come up early to hang out with friends, or plan to go to museums or botanical gardens(on free/pay what your wish days), or otherwise entertain myself with semi-tourist activities.

The past several months I’ve made sure to reach out to my friend dealing with mental health issues first, and other friends of mine who are unemployed, work odd hours or are living on disability.

Sometimes I’ll meet up with somebody for lunch, or make plans for the afternoon.

Most of the time, these are friends from BiRequest, so we just go to the meeting after our afternoon adventure.

I’ve also had a few friends who are good with me crashing at their place after a meeting so that I can spend the next day in the city(especially important when the Manhattan and Brooklyn meetings are back-to-back, which they often are).

I’ve gotten to know a few different neighborhoods this way and feel like I’m slowly getting to know the city, which is a pretty awesome feeling.

Growing up, NYC was an exotic locale, only visited on very special occasions, and for very expensive treats.

Now, I better understand day-to-day life in the city, the casual mingling of cultures, and the amazing little treasures that can be found inexpensively, if you know where to look!

Warming to the new realities of BiRequest

I am warming to the idea that BiRequest is going to grow and become even better after all the mess and stress I’ve been dealing with for the last six months.

The leadership committee(made up of all the active facilitators from the group) has now met twice, and we have another meeting planned for January.

For the time being, we’re meeting monthly, but the goal is to meet quarterly, once we have the rules and a structure laid out.

There is something deeply comforting in having others sharing your goals and willing to work towards them too

After having these meetings, I feel much more hopeful about the future of BiRequest.
While I am one of the larger voices in the group, I am far from the only one who wants to keep it going.

With managing the group being a team effort, I feel much safer and more supported, knowing that I am not the only one who values the group and wants it to keep going.

We’re going to be bringing in additional people who want to facilitate in the future shortly, and I’m excited to see what improvements that will help bring about.

While I’m still hurt by the stresses and have a member or two who I remain extremely reactive to, overall, I feel like BiRequest really is going to come out of this stronger in the end, and I am proud to be helping to make that happen.

The stress and fear around losing such an important piece of my life are dissipating, and I am healing into a place of hope.

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4 Comments

  1. I hate that you have gone through so much loss and pain, but love that you are using it to help others. I hope you don’t mind, I said a prayer for you and your friend. 🙂

  2. Sheryl – no worries, I have enjoyed the actual holiday – just being sick combined with everything else took a lot out of me! I’m finally feeling better, and while still concerned for my friend, I know I have done what I realistically can, and will continue to offer that support as I’m able to. But at the end of the day, only he can get himself out, and I have offered him most of the necessary guidance and options that I can help him with, and when I’m up to physically going up, I will.
    Hope you had a wonderful holiday!
    Alison

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