The Healing Chronicles Vol. 2: “Being Vulnerable”

Posted: October 5, 2018 in Feature Blogs

Vol 2

The title is self-explanatory.

The decision to post journals to my blog as I attended counseling sessions, as opposed to releasing them all at once at the end, was twofold:

  1. to force me to actually go to the sessions, because I did not want to break my promise to you as I surely would have done, and
  2. I wanted the ebbs and flows of the process to be apparent. If I released everything at once, I would have edited it all to make me look more consistent.

For instance, in Volume 1, I not only balked at the idea of informing the people I have emotionally estranged myself from but I mocked anyone who thought it would be a good idea.

“She’s three now, so I’m sure sitting her down and explaining that will be productive.”

And now, I have to admit that I was wr…wr…not entirely correct with my logic.

I sat down with my counselor for Session Two and it began with a simple “So what’s on your mind, William?” There were no reviews of notes, no lectures, no chants, none of the shit society says is the therapy process.

Session Two ended as it began: with me being open.

Or vulnerable, rather.

I walked into this session much differently than the one previous, when I was defensive and standoffish for the first 30 minutes or so. This time, I came in humbled because I had bought in to the healing process. By the end of Session One, I had told him things that I had never said to anyone before and I had pretty much ate, breathed and slept the process in the time before session two, which is to say that I dwelled on what my life was lacking and all the possible reasons why.

And these journals have been integral with organizing and expressing my thoughts.

My good friend Tooty reached out to me after I published Volume 1 and we launched into one of our typical esoteric discussions that only we would find any real value in. Then out of the blue, she hits me with:

“Sidebar – you don’t need counseling. It’s for people who are not self-aware…and you are self-aware.”

For the most part, she is correct. In light of my manic depressive/bipolar diagnosis as a teen, while I was reluctant to accept it, I was still fascinated by it. I’ve always taken an interest in the dynamics of mental health ever since and I’m pretty well-read on causes, symptoms and treatments. There have been several times when I’ve finished a thought during my counseling sessions and he looks at me blankly and says:

“…I’ve got nothin’, man…you answered any followup I would have had…”

I was on the phone with a friend immediately after Session Two, telling them that it went well but they detected frustration in my voice. I didn’t realize it in the moment but I thought about it and they were 100% correct, I was definitely frustrated.

I’ve avoided help for decades, knowing that I could have used it; knowing that I SHOULD HAVE used it. Counseling was a last resort for me, I went because I was desperate. And the lack of answers or solutions through two sessions left me in a little bit of a panic. Here I was, doing everything I was supposed to do for two weeks between sessions and I wasn’t noticeably better.

I got caught up in the narrative that counselors “fix” people and I was really beginning to feel like isolation was my fate, that I would never be able to connect or love again; that this train of interpersonal dysfunction wasn’t slowing down.

But the one positive that kept me motivated to continue was my comfort with my counselor. So if nothing else, I saw these sessions as practice in being vulnerable.

Me, vulnerable.

Oxford Dictionaries defines vulnerable as “susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm”.

Since we all have different interpretations of what constitutes an emotional attack or harm, being vulnerable becomes highly subjective and conditional. For instance, I no longer fear vulnerability or harm from my counselor…yet I still did with the people closest to me.

You read for yourself in Volume 1 how much of a prick I was walking into that first session, why am I all of a sudden so comfortable with him after less than two hours of dialog? Magic?

I foolishly believed that if I just gave it time and worked the therapy that I would get better, I’d be able to repair the bonds with the people closest to me and nothing would ever have to be said.

But then it hit me that the connection I established with him, the same connection that I was trying to reestablish with the others, only came when I stopped holding back from him.

The harm (judgment, loss, guilt) I feared from those people are as follows:

1) I’m whiny and choosing to focus on the bad

2) my distance has already become too toxic and welcoming me back would set everyone up for more disappointment

3) since they were ultimately affected by my shit, they would blame themselves

4) what I was feeling was just entirely too much

So in the wake of Session Two, I approached all necessary parties and cleared the air. I stopped holding back from them.

Things didn’t go as well as I had hoped in all cases, but that’s the process. And that’s why it’s important to be proactive about our emotions.

You can’t emotionally vomit on people and expect them to be so eager to hold your hair back.

What I’m learning is that while fear and emotion might not be choices, vulnerability certainly is. We might not be able to control fear, per se, but we certainly can choose to face it.

I’m by no means saying that I’m “cured” and that I no longer fear being vulnerable. Not even close. But I have learned that I’m not exactly powerless.

The lesson for me moving forward is figuring out how to be vulnerable in small increments. How do I navigate the fine line between being vulnerable and not bringing unnecessary attention to meaningless shit?

I guess that largely depends on my connection with the person and its relative health.

Being emotionally vulnerable I’m also learning is the true superpower, not numbness, isolation and withdrawal like I used to believe. What is so strong about not taking risks? What is so strong about holding back when it’s the easiest thing to do?

Vulnerability doesn’t even guarantee harm, it merely increases the exposure. We hold back from the FEAR of harm more so than the harm itself. Vulnerability for me was the purgatory, the anticipation of things destined to go awry, so I always avoided it.

But by finding comfort in emotional vulnerability, I’m slowly emerging from society’s large, looming shadow and worrying less about what my life is supposed to look like.

But like any other power, with it comes great responsibility.

It’s a beautiful thing to be able to take whatever is weighing on you emotionally and communicate it to whomever but it’s CRITICAL to know your audience. Sometimes people receive vulnerability as well as a squeamish person in a car accident.

The point being: you can’t paint people as unsupportive just because they don’t receive you as you had hoped.

But such is the fallout when you’ve lived an entire life withholding everything.

Sometimes, the fear that kept us from being vulnerable becomes a reality. It’s risky…but it’s honest.

So my takeaways leading into Session Three:

I feel MUCH better now. It’s truly amazing the toll withholding emotion had put on my PHYSICAL health. For the last 6-8 weeks, I had no appetite, extreme nausea and insomnia. I had chalked it up to some kind of strange clinical anxiety issue. But by simply taking the plunge and being open with the people that matter, I’m back to sleeping and eating like normal.

Literally, night and day difference.

But this is a testament to the work that has to be done AWAY from the sessions. I love my counselor, I’ve enjoyed my sessions but ALL of the progress came in between them. I’ve spent all of my free time journaling and processing everything that is on my mind.

If you are someone not ready to seek professional help yet but you feel burdened, I strongly recommend journaling to organize your thoughts. It really is as simple as taking whatever is the most prominent thought on your mind and writing out why it upsets you and all the possible reasons as to why it’s there. I PROMISE you that you will feel immediate clarity. Even if only temporary, it will still provide a relief that you haven’t gotten anywhere else.

And then just keep doing that with anything that occupies your mind. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I want to thank you for making it this far with me AGAIN and I hope you can continue to find value in my journey. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about anything or if you just need someone to vent to…listening is my superpower.

Twitter: @BBQx_

Instagram: @bbqx

Email: bbqx@live.com

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