Report Card

I had my last counselling session this week. I was anticipating that I would weep a lot more than I did, but I didn't even shed any tears. It was very bittersweet. I filled out my last scales (bunch of questions asking me to rate how I'm feeling in various areas), we caught up on what happened in my life over the last month, reviewed our time together and what we learned from each other, and reviewed my plans moving forward. We both felt a deep sense of accomplishment. I told her that she saved my life, and she responded that while she accepted my words, I was the one who saved my own life. It's very hard for me to give myself credit, so it was a nice reminder that I have what it takes to go back out in the world. She wrote me a letter outlining all the great work I've done. She's very proud of me, and she's confident that I'll be able to tackle any challenges that may come my way. That letter is hanging on the fridge now.

Report card. With Carrie obsessively checking her grades, I'm thinking about how I've changed over the course of my counselling experience. Clearly, I'm not perfect, but I'm on the right track. Here are some areas where I'm doing much better:

  • Self-regulation. This is kind of the aim of adulting. Responding adequately to changes in life. I'm better at emotional self-regulation, knowing how to manage my own emotions or getting help to do so. In turn, this skill helps me to manage the emotions of others as well. Physical as well. How to eat right and exercise. It's all interconnected.
  • Errands and chores. I used to be effectively useless to Carrie here. Now I take care of some without even being asked. I still leave my socks everywhere, but that's okay since I compensate by tidying regularly.
  • Workaholism. I used to take all my free time and use it for work or hobbies. The only way I knew to feel satisfied with myself was if I was completely exhausted from "doing" every day, including weekends. I used to ironically sneer at friends and coworkers who stayed late in the office to keep working, but I was doing the same thing but just at home instead. Ya, that didn't last long. Now I'm okay with sitting around and doing nothing.
  • Bottomless pits. I used to have these voids deep in my heart that took away all my joy. I now recognize that it was from my childhood sexual abuse and my toxic relationships. I've dealt with them over the past two years in counselling, and now I'm ready to rejoin the land of the living. Walking the tightrope of life is easier now that I've discarded those boulders from my shoulders.

There are some weaknesses that I'd like to work on still, but I'll get to them in time:

  • Addictive behaviours. I think a healthy person is able to draw strength and comfort from numerous areas, whereas I tend to lean pretty heavily on a few. Have you ever played video games so long that your forearms and eyes were sore for days afterwards? I once clocked an 11 hour session of Breath of the Wild, and a lot of days I averaged six. I'm still drinking tons of fizzy sugar water; basically on the highway to diabetes. I used to stare at the 3D printer until my neck hurt for a couple days following. I injured myself from pushing too hard at the gym. After my trip, I got the post-festival flu, and I even went out again to party in Edmonton the following weekend, which my immune system didn't really appreciate. Overall, I'm still not great at trying new things because I need the certainty that my time spent will pay off through existing activities. I rely on a few positive coping mechanisms until they turn negative.
  • Patience for people. The nice thing about the last few months is that I've been able to hide away from people I didn't feel like seeing, but life doesn't always work that way. While I got to avoid people's annoying mannerisms, it's also a lonely experience. I haven't had the patience to put up with people's quirks and competing interests while I was in recovery, but now that I'll be working again (at the mall, no less), it's an area where I need to devote a bit more energy.
  • Value based on output. I still struggle with having to be productive all the time. Still trying to figure out how to sit in my inherent worth. It takes a long time to change the foundations of your identity, so I'm taking deep breaths and being patient with this one.
  • Distrusting my feelings. Sometimes I'll feel strongly about something, eg. feeling unsafe leaving my possessions unsupervised for a short moment, and I'll try to reason with myself to reach a place of peace. After a certain point though, it's too tiring to run around these logical circles, so instead I just tell myself to shut up and relax. Not terribly self-compassionate, but in this area, sometimes it's warranted. I'll still feel anxious or panicky about it, but at least I can stop thinking about it and move forward. Being gaslighted for so long and having my perception of reality constantly questioned, I'm used to bringing with me a dozen reasons for why I think I'm right about a topic, but now I'm recognizing that it's too exhausting to live that way. Sometimes I just need to call myself out and drop the bullshit. "Jon, just shut up. No one is going to jump into the car to steal your McDonald's and sprint away through the middle of traffic. Relax." My mind never really stops talking to itself, which is fine when I'm not obsessing about something, but I need to practice checking myself and making it stop. I already have enough voices shouting in my head.

These are just a few areas, but I know that I have the skills to work on them as I go along. I don't need to take such a deep dive into counselling anymore like before. I'm ready to take the training wheels off and work on myself bit by bit.

My besties are considering whether to go to Pemberton Music Festival this July, which is making me reflect on my LA trip. If I reduced it to just a Coachella trip, it was terrible value for the money considering that, at the time, I didn't have any money to spare. When I step back and see that there were many other aspects to the trip, it makes a bit more sense, even while still being a smaller splurge. If I really wanted to hang out with those friends or see my family, I could have done that for much, much cheaper. If I wanted to see Kendrick and some other acts, there are cheaper festivals and concerts. Being there on that Sunday evening, waiting for Kdot to come out, I was already feeling a sinking sense of regret. I had broken away from the group quite a few times to see my own shows, and it was a hassle to keep walking across the venue to find them, especially when text messages weren't getting through. My feet hurt really bad from walking so much, which I always forget about. Many years ago, a salesperson was fitting me for hockey skates, and looking at my feet, he declared (quite loudly, in my opinion) that my arches were the most pathetic he had ever seen. My flat feet work against me at music festivals, and I have yet to find a way to combat the pain effectively, even with my orthotics. I was feeling under the weather already with having to adjust to not only traveling but also the different, dustier climate of the desert. I was not a happy camper, and my buddy and I were staying at a nice hotel for the weekend. Alas, waiting for Kung Fu Kenny felt like an eternity, especially as a few other acts disappointed and for some reason I skipped Hans Zimmer for DJ Khaled. I know. The wrong key.

Lorde was performing, and I don't really listen to her except for a phase when I listened to "Team" on repeat one. I don't even really know what the song is about, but as she sang the chorus "we're on each other's team, we're on each other's team," I couldn't help but feel very lonely, and I broke down crying. There was a combination of factors that led to it. I was separated from my group. I wasn't with my normal festival crew. #FestiesWithBesties. But predominantly, (and you've read this a LOT on this blog, and I promise this is the last time), I missed Carrie. Not just from the trip but also from the months prior. She was telling our friends over dinner a couple nights ago how she had pulled away so much during her practicum, and I told them it was so relieving to hear her say it for once because I feel like broken record constantly writing about it. Alas, in that moment, I buried my loneliness in the desert. Emotions don't go away until you feel them, and as much as I was happy to be with some good friends, to get away, for Carrie to be finished school, for my suffering to end and for my luck to turn around, there was this pervasive feeling of loneliness that had been patiently waiting for me for months. I know for some readers, especially my closer friends, the instinct will be to rush to reassure me that I'm not alone, that I have people close to me that care about me, that I have family near and far that will help me at the drop of a hat. But in that moment, I didn't forget about them or about the abundance of love that I have in my personal relationships. It was just a painful feeling that I needed to get off my chest. It had been haunting me for a long time, and I had only visited those feelings here and there. But for whatever reason, the swirl of events and feelings, the music, the darkness, the booze, they all collided and allowed me to accept the way I felt.

Now those feelings are gone. When I look back on that trip, I think less about the monetary value of just the festival, but I also think about everything that happened in those five days, including burying my loneliness in the desert. I used to be even more codependent on Carrie, but now I'm more independent as a person. When we're stronger individually, we're better together as a couple.

My doctor got the note to the EI adjudicator, and he asked me about some details about the timeline surrounding my short term disability and quitting my job. Once he confirmed certain key elements, we filled out my report for the previous three months. He said I would get 12 weeks of back pay within two business days, and I almost dropped the phone.

On top of that, my background check was good, so I start at the Apple Store on Friday for training. Hurray! Since it's not a full-time, permanent position, EI will supplement my income until I find a full-time, permanent position or until the end of September, which will mark one year from when my claim was opened. This is terrific news. I have been able to relax this week, accelerating my body's ability to get rid of the sniffles. Overall, I'm feeling a lot better already, so this will be my last week of doing pretty much nothing. Coincidentally, I started my previous job three years ago on May 5.

Lots of changes in the last month. It's been hard adjusting to all the shifting sands, but I'm reaching a new stability. My report card looks pretty good. I've made some huge improvements with the help of counselling, and I'm aware of the different areas where I still need work. I buried my loneliness out in the desert in Palm Springs, so now it's time to adjust to this new life with Carrie moving forward.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le