Within the last couple of years, I’ve become unable to work due to a diagnosis of PTSD. A large part of my self esteem has always come from my identification with my profession. Losing my profession has meant that I’ve had to struggle to find my worth in the absence of my work. I’ve made strides in doing that, although there remain times of relapse, when I feel lost and adrift without my job to hang my identity on.
With the treatment for PTSD has come an increased psychological and physical separation from my family of origin, which in my childhood was rife with unacknowledged abuse of me in particular as the target, Treating the dissociation I experience today means reconnecting with my body and my emotions, and this means reconnecting with old experiences that were swept under the carpet before by family members and by me as a child as a way to cope. I can no longer relate to my family members the way I used to. The grief I’ve been experiencing due to my separation from them, even though my connection to them before was detrimental to my health, has been enormous. The process has been exhausting.
Dealing with the reality that I am largely estranged from my family and they are not a source of any support to me has also been extremely draining. It’s an isolating experience; I don’t know anyone else who is in the same position. It is at times a source of shame: I ask myself, what will people think of me if they know?
Also, within the past few months, I’ve had to declare bankruptcy, something I never thought I would do. It took me a long time to take the necessary steps to do this because of my fears of losing the safety net of my credit, and because of my pride. In addition to identifying my worth with my career, I’ve also always associated my value as a human being with how I’ve gauged that I looked on the outside. And “looking successful” for me has meant putting on my happy face, and projecting my estimation of the attitude of someone who “has it all together.” With my reduced means financially, not only can I not buy things the way I used to, but It’s been humbling to say the least to have to admit publicly that I don’t have a credit card.
It’s been challenging, but I managed the rocky terrain of these losses okay. I dealt with losing face — or at least I thought I had — due to the alteration in my self-image from the changes in my life. This has been in no small part because I’ve had stable and supportive housing with people I respect who became my friends and who, while not knowing or understanding everything I’m experiencing, have understood enough and have shown acceptance of me and not a shred of judgement of me. It’s so much easier for me to accept myself non-judgementally when I am not experiencing judgement from those around me.
The people I’ve been living with have been very important also because in addition to not having supportive family, I have very few close friends. I moved to this part of the country just a short time before I became unable to work and haven’t been able to socialize very much. (However, making new friends has never been my strong suit and this I hope will be the subject of a later blog post.)
On the downward slope of my present journey of coming undone, there’s been a bomb blast recently. A few months ago my housemates announced with much sensitivity and regret that the home would be sold because they were downsizing. I would have to find a new home.
This meant dealing with more losses. I would have to let go of my supportive relationship with my housemates — and their dog — as I’ve known it to be; like family I lived with, a good kind of family. Also, in my search for housing, I came to the realization that there was nothing comparable for me, in terms of price and amenities, in the same community or surrounding area. This required another level of loss to be processed; had to let go now not only of my friends but also of my community.
I did that, painstakingly.
Additionally, I had to face looking for housing while I wasn’t working and while I was bankrupt, a reality that has never been mine before. Another humbling experience. Although I wasn’t up front with any of the potential landlords about my bankruptcy, there was an anticipatory fear of “being found out” later and judged. A fear of losing face so strong that it has at times left me paralysed and nauseated.
Finally, after much searching for something appropriate and rejecting a few possibilities, I settled on a living arrangement I found 40 minutes away, in a suburban area close to public transit. I would be farther away from my friends but closer to my psychologist, which at least was a good thing.
But…. on the eve of the day I handed over money (cash, at the landlord’s request) representing my first and last month’s rent at the new place, the landlord telephoned me late at night, exceptionally drunk. This was to be a shared housing situation with the landlord who also lived in the home. With a sick feeling in my stomach, I rolled over in my bed at my old place where I was staying for just a few more days, with the knowledge that I couldn’t move into the new place as planned. I didn’t feel safe.
Any doubts I may have had about my gut feeling that I couldn’t move into the new place were put to rest soon after. After I terminated my tenancy arrangement with him, the landlord sent me several disturbing text messages. I decided to show the messages to the police and they were quick to conclude that they warranted a visit by them to this person’s home.
This setback cost me money — money my bankrupt, unsupported self didn’t have to spend. The landlord agreed to return my last month’s rent but wouldn’t budge about return of the first month’s rent I had provided to him. Also, with less than 10 days remaining until I had to be moved, I had no place to go. I had to come up with a plan. I arranged for storage of my belongings in a storage unit rental nearby. More money spent.
A very kind friend — the only close friend really who I have other than my former housemates — encouraged me to stay with her for a while, to find some peace, while I was sorting out my new living arrangements. And then, another bomb, and this time one I detonated all by myself. I blew it. I totally blew it with one of my only friends. While I was at her house, I totally overwhelmed her with my manner. I was overpowering and I was arrogant. She barely tolerated me at times; at times she withdrew from me completely. And with that, I became more overpowering. Finally, when it was too late, when I was so uncomfortable there that I knew I had to leave, I figured out what was happening, I figured out that I was behaving like an ass.
I’m ashamed and embarrassed. I’ve written to her and apologized and explained that when I am stressed and panicked I can become overpowering and not even realize that I’m doing it and that this is something I’m working on. I don’t know if that friendship will be able to be repaired.
I feel so alone. And I feel so much shame in my aloneness. It’s another layer of losing face.
I’ve found a new place to live and I’ve been there for a week. It’s a good place, a special place, in many ways. A good find and a rare find in the part of the country I live in. I’m back to being on the outskirts of the community I was living in before, which is comforting. My place is a rustic, run-down little log apartment on a hill in the middle of the woods. There are no neighbours.
The landlord is a very interesting older man and has been helpful. I respect him. I think he respects me.
And I’m panicking. I’m feeling sick. I’m feeling frozen. I’m without family and without much in the way of supportive friends. And I’m bankrupt.
What if he finds out?
I’m not sure that there is anything that gets in my way more than the possibility or reality of losing face. And I know that when I conquer this demon, climb this hill, then I will have earned no small measure of freedom. I think that if I can figure out how to manage losing face then I will be able to manage losing anything.