I am alone. I don’t enjoy being alone. I don’t mind a certain amount of alone time, but being on my own all the time, without connections, without any significant relationships, takes a toll. I am weary of my own company. I have a brother who lives about 200 miles away. I see him at most, 3 – 4 times a year. We text occasionally; talk on the phone even less frequently. I get a handful of e-mails from him during any given year. I love my brother and he matters to me. I am pretty sure I matter to him. But I am still alone. Because he is busy. He has a wife, friends, lots of activities and he belongs to some organizations that keep him plugged in. He’s connected. He is a vital part of the life of a group of others. He is not a vital part of my life…nor am I a vital part of his. Though I love him, we are disconnected. My “friends” are likewise otherwise occupied, connected and obligated. They have kids, grandkids, extended family, close, significant friends. They’re involved in church, the community, or volunteering with groups that are important to them. They have full lives. They belong. They don’t have much spare time for people who are not part of their core group of friends and family. I get the leftovers and there isn’t much left over. Not that this is bad. It’s normal. They are normal. I’m the one who is not normal. Though I have tried mightily, I never have been and likely never will be “normal.” It’s part of the reason I’m alone. As I’ve shared here before, I struggle with major depression. Depression creates a huge barrier between me and others. It creates this barrier in many ways and on many levels. For example, I have never been a good housekeeper. Cleaning the house was something I was required to do from the time I was a small child. I despised it. It was the cause of many major battles and conflict. I also never learned the proper ways of doing things. My mother didn’t do housework. So she didn’t show me how – to clean, to do laundry, to iron. I had to figure it out on my own by doing it. As best I could. Now, housecleaning is the last thing I want to do. It’s distasteful. It’s hard. It has a lot of awful memories attached. And to further complicate the matter, some rooms or items in a house cause a negative violent reaction in me. This reaction is pretty much a direct result of having been sexually abused by my father. Bathrooms are especially difficult. Bath tubs are not something I can stomach. Showers are tolerated only because I have to maintain some level of personal hygiene. The memories attached to these items are so repulsive, I can barely tolerate touching the enameled surface of a bath tub, nor can I, without expending much mental energy, place my feet in a wet tub or shower. I can’t make myself place my hand on a shower wall. I spend the least amount of time possible in these areas because the forge a direct connection in my memory to my father’s abuse. The result of all this is that my house is an awful mess. Depression saps the mental and physical energy I need to fight the battle to do what I need to do. To be normal. I have to work very hard to muster my limited resources and make myself tackle the housework. In small doses. And it doesn’t happen nearly often enough. I’m ashamed of my messy, dirty house. And I feel tremendous shame over my failure as a housekeeper. So I don’t invite anyone over. And in this way, my uncleaned house, which is a fairly direct result of depression, has become a barrier to connection. It is also my near silent prison. I’m not especially emotionally or mentally healthy…another major source of shame and a barrier to connection. This is illustrated clearly in many ways, but certainly through my eating disorder. I can’t eat. Or, if I do, I have to throw up. Get rid of it. In case you’ve never noticed, practically every social event anywhere revolves around (drum roll) food. I don’t DO food. Food is a mine field. A barrier. The enemy. And it is another source of shame. I’m ashamed of my struggle with food…a struggle that doesn’t even make sense to me. So how can anyone else accept this about me and somehow understand? Or care?
One thing I’ve learned the hard way, when you have a lot of areas you are ashamed of and that you need to hide since these things make you unacceptable, it’s impossible to connect with others in any kind of meaningful way. When you are hiding major portions of your existence, being, heart, mind and soul, you can’t be vulnerable or genuine. You can’t know and be known. You can’t share and exchange on a meaningful level. So you become isolated.
I am ashamed of being significantly in debt. It makes me feel like a complete failure. I know, had I done a few things differently, I would be in a very different place financially. But bouts of extended unemployment, surgeries, a run of small and large emergencies, combined with some bad decisions on my part that were influenced by depression, have landed me in a very precarious place. My fault. My failure. I’m so limited now in how I can live. I’m so close to extinction, it terrifies me. I’m utterly ashamed of myself. For failing. Yet again.
I’m also ashamed of my employment history. I know that, were I a more “normal” person, I would have been better liked and perhaps even mentored or favored. But I am not a warm / fuzzy person. I am reserved. Distant. Analytical (at work, anyway). I am socially awkward. People are not drawn to me. So I don’t receive favor and people don’t take me under their wing. They tend to judge me pretty harshly. Believe me, if you want to pick me apart by focusing on my faults, I have plenty of faults to pick apart.
I lost one job because the owner was doing illegal things and I was getting too close to finding out. But I felt completely rejected because I came back from lunch and found myself locked out of my office like a criminal. Five years of giving my all, for nothing.
I lost the next job because I wasn’t good enough at understanding accounting (never mind that it wasn’t an accounting position and I never represented myself as an accountant…I SHOULD have been able to do it!). I made a couple of stupid mistakes. They didn’t cost the company any money, but they were dumb. And that was that. I was fired. Disgraced. Once again, deemed worthless.
The next job, I left by choice, but they didn’t want me. Headquarters was being relocated to Dallas. They were moving all the people who fit their model (young, partying types, single, socially outgoing, pretty), but I hadn’t yet gotten an offer. I was not cool enough. Not normal enough. Odd. Not one of them.
The next job was lost because I refused to do something illegal. I don’t feel as bad about this one because I know I was right to respectfully refuse, but they called it insubordination and my employment was terminated. Had I not been barely a year away from divorce and emotionally devastated by this, I would have probably sued and won. But I was far too depleted to contemplate such a battle. As a result, they gave me a bad reference when prospective employers called and it took me 2 years to get another job. A job that I lost after 5 years because, again, I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t cool enough, wasn’t normal enough, didn’t belong with the inner circle. I felt my boss’s rejection for 3 – 4 years. It crushed me. I didn’t perform as well as I should have as a result, though I did at least get the things done I needed to do. But I was also on intermittent FMLA (hello eating disorder and major depression) and that was NOT acceptable for a management employee. When the company sold, the president used that as an excuse to get rid of me (everyone else was retained). That period of unemployment lasted for just over 6 months.
I feel like I am barely half a person, if that. And as though I deserved all this rejection…because of my deficiencies.
In stark contrast, my brother has been employed by the same organization for 33 years.
Being rejected by and divorced from the person you are married to is another major source of shame, by the way. Having the person you love not want to know you because you are too messed up and dark inside is painful. Having them leave you because you are so defective they can’t help but fall in love with another woman hurts. Deeply. At the same time, I felt I deserved the rejection. Because of my lousy housekeeping. My lack of social extroversion. My ugly past. My issues related to depression. And because I couldn’t stomach sex after about 12 years of marriage…because I felt like a prostitute…because he didn’t love me and just wanted sex from me. But I should have been able to do it and smile! Regardless. It was my duty and I failed. I worked hard to justify breathing air and continuing to be with him. But I could never do enough or be enough. Because I am such a major disappointment. So undeserving. Not worth the effort.
I have never been favored or accepted. I continue to hide as best I can. To try to put up enough of a smokescreen that I appear to be reasonably normal. I stand alone behind the smoke, wishing I could stop building and maintaining this massive camouflage and come out of hiding. Show my face, though it’s ugly. Wishing I could be wanted and accepted in spite of those unsightly flaws. That I could connect. In a real and significant way. Wishing I could be a vital part of someone’s life. Dreaming about being judged and found at least a little worthy of love. Hoping to be enough. Praying to be normal. To be whole. To be real. To be free.