On Mental Health

Tough Conversations

NOTE: This post was migrated on 10/4/21 from my substack after getting all of my blog moved to a secure host. If you are confused about why I wrote on substack for awhile, get your primer about my site being hacked and the ensuing chaos HERE.

P.S. If this showed up in your RSS feed reader can you email me (misszootATgmail.com) and let me know? I’m not sure how moving this stuff over and back-dating it effects things like my RSS feed.

For someone who can be really open and vulnerable through words on screens big and small, I am 100% terrible at the tough in-person conversations. I just avoid them with every ounce of my soul. I use the word “awkward” as the umbrella for all of the conversations I avoid, but I feel like that’s not powerful enough of a word. Because the awkwardness feels physically painful. It’s the same kind of physical response I have in a lot of social situations…it’s awkward…but it’s not cute and charming. It causes spikes in my blood pressure which causes headaches. My heart beats get faster which makes it hard to breathe. All of my fight/flight/freeze responses trigger at even considering these hard conversations, and so I just avoid them.

IN PERSON, anyway. If someone said, “Hey – can we hash this out over email?” I’d be so game. My anxiety dissipates significantly if I can really think about my words and my responses. I could probably have any conversation in the form of text that can be proofed 100 times before sending. Hell, sometimes I feel like people who read my blog or who are friends with me on Facebook know my day-to-day mental and emotional status better than my husband. I can unload tons of emotional peaks and valleys when I have time to type and proofread…and unloading them often helps clear my brain and so I do it often. But…I won’t discuss any of that in-person. I could have just posted a 3 paragraph confession about how my mental health is declining on Facebook, but if my husband says, “How are you doing?” I’ll say, “I don’t know. I don’t feel great but…whatever.”

My Dad spent 4 weeks in hospice, and most of it lucid but just tired and not wanting to talk, and so…I just didn’t. I didn’t broach any end-of-life conversations that might have given us more peace with his decision, I didn’t have any heart-to-hearts where I told him how wonderful he had been and how much I was going to miss him. I didn’t even try to get him to tell any childhood stories, or even rehash any experiences being my parent because I was afraid even those normally benign conversations would be too awkward considering…you know…he was dying.

I wasn’t any better with Mom. 10 years ago my Mom had an emotional confession after drinking a lot where she told us about a baby she was forced to give up for adoption when she was a teenager. Did I find any chances at all during our last 3 years we spent close to each other to ask for more details? No. When she decided to quit dialysis did I find the courage to get any information to help me find my half-brother? Nope.

Hell, during the last 3 years being in each other’s lives as close as we were and I never had any of the tough conversations around the things that I spent thousands of dollars talking about with my therapist. Even when she was unresponsive for four days, I didn’t take the time to simply tell her I enjoyed our time together in the end. I was afraid that even hearing that in her comatose state would be too awkward.

I’ve been thinking about tough conversations a lot this week as I know I need to cleanse my soul of the final days with Mom by talking about it…but it’s just like the awkwardness is physically painful and so I’m just avoiding it.

Maybe that’s why I do write so much about such personal things, because I am 100% incapable of talking about these things effectively. EVEN WHEN I AM PAYING FOR IT! As much as I swear by some of the positive effects therapy has had on my mental health, I still don’t seek it out as much as I could because I have yet to find the perfect day-to-day therapist and I find the “meet” sessions so very difficult. I would love to be brave enough at a “meet” session to say: This is what I’m looking for in a therapist: EFFICIENCY. If I’m going to spend $130+ of my own money I don’t want you to be constantly late (a serious problem I had with one therapist) and I don’t want you taking up that time sitting next to me showing me videos you think will help (another problem I had with another therapist) and I don’t want to ever talk about religion (yep…another problem with another therapist) and so if you don’t think you can work with me with those limitations, please tell me now before I waste any more money.

Alas, that would be too awkward and so I just suffer through a few sessions trying to see if I can make it work and then I just ghost them and suffer without therapy again until my next crisis. And I continue to be more open and honest on the internet than to anybody, anywhere in person.

How do you have those tough conversations? Any tips?

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