I wrote my last post about a year ago. I mentioned that I loved the work I was doing but I did not love being in the workplace. It was getting harder and harder for me to show up because of all the location-specific stresses and sensory assaults.
I had asked my manager if I could work from home, and at the time of my writing she was delaying giving me an answer. Well, here’s an update: She eventually did give me an answer, and that answer was no. She said the board wouldn’t allow it.
About two months after that, she quit, and a new manager was hired. Once the new manager had had a chance to settle in, I broached the subject with her. She approved of the idea, took it to the board, and my request was granted. That was the first the board had heard of it.
So, for many months now, I have been doing most of my work from home. I still go in about once a week to catch up on certain things that can only be done in person, but I can arrive and leave when I want to and that helps a lot. This arrangement is working very well for me. I am extremely grateful that things finally fell into place to allow me to do this.
I have now been working for this organization for one year and four months. This is the longest I have held any job, ever! This is a big deal for me.
The downside is that the job is still only twelve hours a week and is still only paying minimum wage. And almost as soon as I got this job, my husband started working fewer hours (not by choice). So even though I’m finally maintaining a job, we’re actually poorer than we were before. Somehow we just can’t get ahead. I’ve probably said this before, but I’d almost think we’re cursed, if I believed in such things, which I don’t.
But at least now I’m not living under the weight of other people’s disapproval like I was before. At least not in this category of adulting. I have something legit to tell people when they ask, “What do you do?” That is more important to me than money.
There’s been a big change in my life since I last updated my blog. I now have a job.
I created and am now managing a website for a local nonprofit, as well as handling all their social media and creating brochures and posters and forms for them. The tasks are all things I am comfortable with and come very naturally to me. This is the first time I’ve had a job that is a near-perfect match to my actual skills and aptitudes. I’ve turned out to be good at this job. I am getting a lot of positive feedback on my work from my boss and the public.
The job basically fell into my lap. My husband was already working part time for this organization, and the boss was saying to him that they really needed to hire someone who can do this kind of thing, and he said his wife can. He only said that because he thought that a work-from-home situation could probably be arranged, and when the boss asked to meet me that’s what I thought it was going to be. But that’s not what was offered, and I was so overwhelmed when talking to her that I agreed to everything she wanted. I left there with my head spinning, almost not even sure what had just happened.
It’s only part-time, three afternoons a week. I thought that would be manageable. Unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder for me to be there.
The environment is loud, noisy, smelly and generally chaotic. I get a headache or nausea almost every time I’m there. I gagged at work twice yesterday. Meanwhile, most of my coworkers are deeply unhappy because our boss treats them badly, and of course I pick up on that. The atmosphere is tense.
Strangely enough, my boss seems to treat me better than she treats many of my coworkers, which greatly surprises me! (I suspect it’s because she’s the one who hired me, whereas most of them were hired by the previous manager and are more set in their ways, which are the old manager’s ways.) But even so, I don’t like her. She’s not a nice person. It doesn’t matter if it’s me getting treated badly or other people; it affects me either way. I like and respect a lot of my coworkers and feel they deserve to be treated better.
I don’t want to be there. My whole body feels consumed by dread when I have to go there. I like the work itself, but I don’t know how much longer I can keep going there to that place.
The vast majority of what I do can easily be done from home, and I wrote my boss an email before Christmas saying that I want to work from home most of the time and explaining why that would be a good thing for all concerned. No, I didn’t mention that I don’t like her or that I think she treats people badly! I just explained that I have health issues that cause fatigue and I also have sensory processing disorder which causes me to have trouble concentrating at work due to the all the sensory stresses in the workplace environment. I didn’t mention autism, because I still have never sought a diagnosis and I think that’s a pretty big claim to make to your boss when you have nothing to back it up. So I put the focus on my sensory issues and told her that I believe I would be far more happy, healthy and productive working from home.
My boss told me that we could have a meeting to discuss what I’d written in my email, but one thing after another has come up to prevent that meeting from happening.
I had originally taken this job on a three-month trial basis but as of tomorrow I will have been working there for four months. I keep showing up, but I am getting more and more miserable every day. I had some time off over Christmas and New Years and it reminded me how much happier and at peace I am when I get to stay home.
Based on some things a certain female relative recently said to me, it sounds like I may have inadvertently messed up again.
Remember last year when I went to see my favourite band from my youth in concert? Well, my husband and I went to see them again this year. It was a different scene this year, being in a smaller city at a smaller venue. It was an outdoor concert in a beautiful location. Last year, I nervously talked to my favourite guitarist afterward, but I didn’t get any pictures or autographs. This year I was more prepared and I brought along a CD I could ask them to sign if I had the opportunity.
As it turned out, the opportunity arose after the show. After much of the crowd had dissipated, the band members came down from the stage and mingled with the people who remained. They were very kind and friendly to everyone. I got all of them to sign my CD, and I got selfies with two of them, including my favourite guitarist. The lead singer talked to me at length about the making of one of their albums, and it was fascinating stuff. My husband took a picture of us during that conversation. The lead singer also asked me to stick around and hang out with them for a while!! And my favourite guitarist even handed me a camera and asked me to take some pictures for them, really including me in what was going on. It was amazing, and the anti-anxiety medication I’m on made it relatively easy for me to navigate the whole thing. (Although it was still overwhelming to my senses and I was exhausted for days afterward.) It was a world of difference between my experience talking to the guitarist last year, and mingling with the whole band this year.
It was an amazing experience. I have rarely in my life had such positive social experiences. I went home elated. I was literally lying in bed with a smile on my face that night.
Perhaps needless to say in this day and age, I posted a few of the pictures on Facebook.
But then my bubble was burst. A certain female relative warned me that “some people” might be judging me for those pictures, thinking I was behaving inappropriately for a married woman.
So then I was wondering if I should clarify a few points on Facebook, such as:
My husband was with me the whole time.
My husband encouraged me to talk to them.
My husband was so delighted by the whole thing that he was taking pictures and video of me interacting with them the whole time.
I was not flirting. I don’t even know how to flirt.
I joke about how I had a crush on the guitarist when I was a teenager, but I’m not a teenager anymore and don’t feel that way now. I still find the guy exceptionally talented, but I’m in a different place now. I take my marriage vows very, very seriously and I am happy with my husband. I was very happy to be going home with my husband at the end of the night.
On the way home, my husband was talking about what a great time he’d had, and was saying he was sad the night was over. So obviously he wasn’t feeling slighted or like I’d been inappropriate with other men.
But then I was thinking, I don’t know if anyone was actually really judging me, or if it was just the one relative. So if I started clarifying these points on Facebook, I might be making a mountain out of a molehill and embarrassing myself further. So I haven’t posted anything of the sort, but I’m embarrassed and uncomfortable now, wondering what people might be thinking, and a little annoyed that I am always somehow misunderstood.
And why is it that I can’t have one good experience in my life without some kind of negative attached to it?
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I am now on the anti-anxiety medication Cipralex. It took a while to kick in but it’s now become a very positive thing for me. I’m not having any significant side effects, and my anxiety is greatly minimized. I haven’t had any more anxiety attacks, and I’m falling asleep more easily at night because my mind isn’t racing with anxious thoughts. There were times in the past when I felt absolutely tormented by worries about the future and shame over the past, and all that has been pretty much eliminated now. It’s a great relief.
I had briefly wondered if I would be able to go back into the workforce once my anxiety was lessened, but I was overlooking how many other things are standing in the way of that, such as my various health issues, sensory issues, social difficulties, and fatigue. Even just running errands for a couple of hours leaves me exhausted and sends me to bed upon my return home.
Besides, I like being at home. I really do. (I would like it even more if my husband and I had our own home rather than living in my parents’ basement, of course.) I read and write and learn Norwegian and make jewelry and take online courses and exercise and cook things from scratch. These days it’s seen as shameful for a woman to want to stay at home, like it’s anti-feminist or something, but this is how I feel. Think less of me for it if you must.
I apologize for not writing for a while. I kind of feel like I’ve already told my story here. My intention in starting this blog was to make sense of my life within the context of my newfound realization that I likely have autism. I think I’ve done that now. Unless there are new developments in my life, I don’t feel like I have much to say anymore.
There has actually been a new development since I last wrote. I’m now, for the first time in my life, on anti-anxiety medication. I was taken to the hospital a few weeks ago with what turned out to be an anxiety attack. I’ve always been an anxious person but this was the first time my anxiety caused something that looked like a medical issue serious enough to be of concern to other people. (While I have always been prone to meltdowns when overwhelmed by sensory input and stress, they typically involve crying and therefore appear emotional in nature and not like I’m having a heart attack like this anxiety attack did.)
I’ve now been taking Cipralex for about three weeks. The doctor said to give it a month before deciding if I want to continue taking it. I was very wary at first, and reading online reviews scared me, as they mentioned things like “dulled emotions.” (I don’t mind a bit if my negative emotions are dulled, but I still want to feel the positive ones.) But I haven’t noticed any big differences, either good or bad, other than some headaches when I first started taking it that have since gone away, and I do seem to be sleeping a bit better. But I cried my eyes out over a video about a homeless cat who found a good home the other day, so my emotions are intact, which is good. Unfortunately though, I am still anxious when something stressful happens. I had a very, very stressful encounter with a relative last week and I was a wreck. But then, it hasn’t been a month so maybe the medication just isn’t fully kicking in yet.
In other news, I had mentioned in a previous blog post that I had started going to church again. I have since quit again. People were asking me too many personal questions and I was dreading going every week. I hate being asked personal questions because I don’t have good answers for most of them. I’m not normal, my life isn’t normal, I don’t have the kind of answers people expect, and I feel judged as a result. So I stopped going.
I am still getting together with my local friend about once every two weeks, and I enjoy visiting with her because we understand each other, but other than that I am avoiding being social at all, because it’s just not worth it.
The biggest source of stress right now is my family. Some of my relatives are judgmental and downright mean. I wish I could live somewhere else.
I don’t love living in my parents’ basement. It’s humiliating, for one thing. And it’s stressful, because my mom and I are on such different wavelengths that it’s hard to get along with her. It would be easier if I could stay downstairs more, but I still have to use my parents’ kitchen upstairs, and since I try to have dinner ready shortly after my husband gets home from work, I have to be up there right when they have the TV news on.
I don’t want this blog to be about politics, but let’s just say that my political views are very left, and my mom’s are very right. Meanwhile, my dad is economically left but socially right. And there’s been a lot in the news lately to divide the left and the right. And when the news is on, and we’re all together, it gets very stressful. This is not a peaceful place to live.
But while I’m not particularly happy in my current circumstances, most of the time I am resigned to them.
I’ve blogged about this before, but just to reiterate: I get that it takes hard work to create a peaceful, comfortable, prosperous life for yourself, and that with my health, social and sensory issues having made it impossible thus far to maintain long-term employment, I haven’t earned that. It makes sense that someone like me is in this situation. I do not have any sense of entitlement. I am realistic about what I am, and what that means.
But over a decade ago when I married a man with a PhD in physics and big career ambitions, I allowed myself to dream. I thought maybe I could have a comfortable life after all. I was completely delusional about what having a PhD meant, and assumed he would have the world on a string and could do anything he wanted and have any job he wanted. I now know that’s not the case, and again, for the most part, I have become resigned to it.
But then last weekend my husband met a guy through a recreational sports team he’s been playing on. They started talking about career issues, and when this guy found out my husband’s qualifications he started telling him about all the connections he has in this town in the tech industry and saying he was sure they’d love to meet him and he should have no problem landing a decent job. He said there was a tech industry event (a career fair of sorts) that coming Tuesday that my husband should attend, and he would introduce him around to all of these contacts.
When my husband came home and told me all this, I couldn’t help thinking that it all seemed so serendipitous. This event just happened to be on Tuesday, my husband’s day off (from his menial, very low-paid job). And he just happened to talk to this particular guy on the Saturday before this tech event. And the conversation just happened to turn to my husband’s educational and work background. As if it were all meant to be. As if, in response to my prayers, God were orchestrating something. (I get that not everyone shares my faith — no need to tell me how silly I was being!) As they say, there’s no such thing as coincidence, right? So I started to allow myself to hope. And it felt good to hope. I felt happy for a few days. I thought, okay, I still hate this town, but maybe if my husband can get a decent-paying job we can at least get our own place here and have some independence and a peaceful home and life. I started to really picture it, and it was beautiful.
My husband got up early Tuesday morning and got himself ready in his professional attire. He looked damn good. I had spent all day Monday updating and revising his resume (my own training and work experience is in office admin so preparing professional-looking documents is kind of my thing — not that I enjoy it, but it is something I can do well) and I provided him with several printed copies and a digital copy he could keep on his phone if anyone asked for it by e-mail. He had researched some of the companies online in the meantime and was fully prepared. I was proud of him and really thought something was going to come of it.
It was a complete bust. Everyone was nice to him, but made it clear that they have nothing for him. These companies are only looking for engineers. He has good skills that could in theory have applications in tech R&D, but they’re not interested. Only one of them was even willing to take his resume, and said they didn’t have anything for his skills at the moment, but maybe they would in the future. My husband has heard that line so many times only to never hear back and be given the cold shoulder when he follows up, so I’m well aware that there’s no point basing any hope in that.
My dashed hopes have me reeling in pain and disappointment. I feel like a fool and like I hate my life more than words can express, in comparison to the life I was picturing. I wish none of it had happened. I wish there hadn’t been a reason to hope. It felt good for a few days, but having a few good days was not worth how I feel now. I need to accept my fate, once and for all, and somehow make the best of it, or I will make myself insane.
I also feel so bad for my husband. He has worked so hard to get good qualifications and it’s not like he’s ever failed professionally. He’s had nothing but good performance reviews from his past employers and he even won a prestigious award for his research a few years ago. He’s done everything he’s supposed to do but it’s gotten him nowhere as far as actual long-term paid employment goes. Landing permanent, full time employment in his field or any field that would allow us a decent quality of life has remained a pipe dream. It’s hurting him more than it’s hurting me of course, because for him it’s not just about independence and quality of life, it’s about his professional dreams being dashed and feeling like all his hard work has been for nothing. He talks about how when he was in school, other kids would be going out partying and he would turn down their invitations so he could study, believing that if he studied hard and did well he could get a good job and have a good life one day, and my heart breaks for him that that has not turned out to be the case.
I admire him so much for being willing to do what he has to do to get by now, even though it’s not what he wanted, and I admire him for still being willing to put himself out there like he did on Tuesday, even though his hopes get dashed again and again. I want to see him succeed, not just for me, but because while I may not deserve much in life, he absolutely does.
I’ve been going through my books selecting which to keep and which to donate to charity. We don’t have the space for them all. But it’s really hard. I love each and every one of them. I have gotten better at this kind of thing though. When I was younger I wouldn’t have gotten rid of anything. Now I can do it, prioritizing saving space over keeping things, even if it hurts.
It helps that the internet is a thing now. I really started hoarding books when I was in my early twenties and lived in the middle of nowhere without a car, cable TV, or internet. I only went into town once a week and would check out several library books, but inevitably I would finish them all before I could get more and I became desperate for reading material. I read everything in the house, even my mom’s Reader’s Digest condensed books (which I thought were pretty lame) and it wasn’t enough. So I started collecting books cheaply however I could, usually at used book sales. Sometimes friends would give me books they’d bought and read and didn’t want anymore. I felt like I couldn’t have too many books. The more I had, the less likely that I would ever feel that desperation for reading material ever again. I hated that feeling.
Now with the internet, that problem is obsolete. I can find lots to read online. And I can download borrowed library e-books to my tablet whenever I want. Unlike some people, I don’t mind reading books on an e-reader or tablet. It’s preferable, in fact, because I can change the font according to my preference and I can read in bed when I can’t sleep without needing to turn on a lamp. Plus, holding an e-reader or tablet doesn’t hurt my hypermobile fingers the way holding a book sometimes does.
But still, as I do my book purge, I wonder, what if there’s an apocalypse? What if society breaks down to the point where there is no internet anymore? I will regret giving up my books. I know it sounds preposterous, but it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility. I am trying not to think like that though. If I don’t want to be crushed to death one day by a falling pile of books, I have to do this.
Some books are relatively easy to part with now. For example, the ones on personality type. I used to be very interested in that subject because I knew I was different and was trying to find an explanation for it. Now I’ve figured out why I’m different. Mystery solved. I don’t need those books anymore.
As a side note, I do still find it interesting that when it comes to Myers-Briggs typology, both I and the friend who inspired me to start this blog, who was diagnosed with autism in adulthood, are INFJ. My husband is INTJ. And all the women I’ve had serious interpersonal conflict with in my adult life, including my mother, are ESFJ. ESFJs tend to judge and disapprove of me and, even worse, try to fix me. It does not go well.
So there are definite patterns there, and recognizing them has given me some insight into my relationships. But if I ever find myself wanting to read up on all that again, there’s a lot of information online. The books can go.
I’m glad I have reached a stage of growth in my life where I can let go of things. It took a long time to get here.
I was in a situation two days ago where I apparently reacted wrongly to something. I didn’t even know until today when it was brought to my attention. I feel extremely stressed out now, reminded of how easy it is for me to get things wrong and not even realize it.
Two days ago, I heard a person who shall remain nameless yelling. I went to see what was wrong. It turned out she had gotten a minor physical injury. I was concerned, so I asked her if she was okay. I offered to get her some hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound and some antibiotic ointment, but she said there was no need, she already had some. I then set about working to remove the problem that had resulted in the injury. Not that it had been my fault at all, but at least I could be part of the solution. That accomplished, I went back to what I was doing. Oops.
For the last two days, the situation has been playing on my mind (not my reaction, which I didn’t even realize was a problem, but just the fact that it had happened in the first place), so I sent her an e-mail today asking if the wound was healing or if there were signs of infection, and I told her I’d been brainstorming of ways to prevent the same thing from happening again.
She replied that she was glad I’d e-mailed her, because she’s been upset at me for the last two days because I didn’t seem to care that she was injured. She said I seemed to have no reaction; I had appeared completely unconcerned and had just “walked away.” She said I should have paid more attention to her, and she’s been feeling hurt ever since.
I assured her I did care, and reminded her that when I walked away it was to try to solve the problem so it wouldn’t happen again. I only did that because I cared, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered. I also told her not to ever look at me for “reactions” because I will always get those wrong. I just don’t have that — whatever it is — in me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel anything on the inside. It’s just that something is broken between the feeling inside and the outward manifestation of it.
I don’t think she really understood what I was saying.
I’m now feeling all this shame because I got that situation wrong. And I’m feeling anxiety knowing that I might get something like that wrong again. It’s so hard to know in the moment what is required of me, and to act out the correct response. And it would be an act, because even though the feelings are there, the correct actions are apparently not natural for me like they are for other people.
I understand now that I was supposed to show warmth and compassion, but even if I had tried I’m sure I would have gotten it wrong and it would have come across as fake, which probably would have done more harm than good. Again, I did care, and I did feel compassion, but I still don’t know how I could have authentically demonstrated that.
I wish I could just stay away from people so I don’t hurt their feelings all the time, but life circumstances don’t seem to allow me to do that.
While I am not very imaginative in my waking hours, when I sleep I have extremely vivid dreams. Often they seem so real that I’m certain they’re really happening and then I feel relieved when I wake up from the bad ones, and disappointed when I wake up from the good ones. Some of them have very complex plots and play out like movies inside my head. Recalling them in the light of day can be very amusing.
One recent dream involved a group of people who woke up in a room together with amnesia. Not one of them could remember anything about who they were or what they were doing there. Each one of them left the room on their own and went out in search of clues to their own identity, based on the way they were dressed. For example, one man who was dressed as a fireman went to the local fire station to see if anyone there knew him and could tell him who he was. After my dream followed several members of the group and their unfortunately fruitless search for their own identity, they all came back together and it was revealed that they were all actors in a play and were wearing their costumes. The moral of the story was uttered by one of them: You cannot find your identity in external things.
Unfortunately, most of my dreams are actually bad ones. Nightmares, in fact. I have a few recurring ones. There are a couple that I’ve just started having recently. One involves being lost in a shopping mall. There are endless corridors and passageways that lead nowhere. The mall is closing and I can’t get out. Another one involves finding myself on the wrong bus, knowing there are no more buses that day going back in the direction I came from.
Then there are a couple that I’ve been having for decades. There’s one where I’m in the passenger seat of a car going down a huge hill toward the river in my hometown. The car is picking up speed, and I turn to look at the driver, only to see that there is no driver.
Then there’s my most frequent, longest-running nightmare. In it, I’m in some kind of dangerous or scary situation (the exact circumstances vary) and I’m trying to call someone for help, usually either the police or my mother. But either the telephone doesn’t work, or I can’t make my fingers work to dial it, or I dial it and get a wrong number repeatedly. I am consumed with a feeling of horror and helplessness.
This dream bothered me so much when I was in my twenties that when I came across a TV talk show that had a dream interpreter on it and they were inviting viewers to call in, I did so. The dream interpreter told me that telephones in dreams often represent a connection to God, and she suggested that I was seeking a connection to Him but did not feel that I was finding it. I didn’t want to make her feel bad so I agreed that her interpretation made sense, but I didn’t really feel that it rang true. I do have a strong faith in God and although I sometimes doubt that He loves me as much as He loves most other people, I don’t necessarily feel disconnected from Him. In fact, I’m pretty sure that even if churches didn’t exist and no one had ever told me about God, I would still believe in Him, because I’ve always been able to feel Him. People and religion have never drawn me to Him; more often they do nothing but frustrate me and distract me from Him. It’s in my quiet, alone times that I sense Him.
These days, I am extremely skeptical about dream interpretation. I’m not really buying all that. And I certainly wouldn’t call into any TV shows, about anything! In fact, I got laughed at by certain individuals for it at the time, the insinuation being that only crazy people call in to TV talk shows. That was one of those confusing situations where I got a glimpse of how other people perceive things and I realized I’d gotten something wrong yet again. At the time it hadn’t seemed like a crazy thing to do. They were asking people who had recurring dreams to call in. Why was it weird to then do so? I didn’t get it. Maybe I do now though.
I think at the time, I was just really desperate for the dream to stop, and I thought if my conscious mind knew the meaning behind it, it would go away. But it didn’t go away. Two decades later, I am still having it. I have gone through periods of time where it was less frequent. I think I may have gone a whole year or two without having it at one point. But it is back with a vengeance.
One thing I think is funny about it is that decades ago, it was always either a landline or a payphone I was trying to use, and now it’s always a cell phone. Funny how my subconscious has kept up with the times.
My husband found a local job! We owe a debt of gratitude to my friend’s husband, without whom it would not have happened. There was nothing on my husband’s resume that should have made him look like a good fit for this particular job, but the employer told him, “A recommendation from [friend’s husband’s name] goes a long way!” We’ve often complained that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and that is certainly true. This time it actually worked in our favour.
The job is very different from anything my husband has done before. It’s mostly physical and involves a lot of lifting. But he likes it, and is grateful to have something to pay the bills while he figures out his next move. It’s full time, but minimum wage. That’s fine though, since living with my parents we don’t have housing costs except for contributing $100 a month for electricity and gas because apparently we use a lot. And I don’t hate living here as much as I thought I would. It’s going okay (other than some small issues, which I might write about in future posts). It makes a big difference that we can buy our own food and everything. My parents are providing a roof over our heads, but we are not completely dependent on them, which makes it more bearable.
In the meantime, my husband is planning to enroll in an online course (from a reputable university, of course) that will fill in one of his skill gaps. Often employers looking for someone with his particular background also want this one particular skill that he doesn’t have, so he is going to rectify that. With his current job being so physical, he misses the intellectual stimulation of his former work and will be happy to have that with this course in his evenings and days off. I think the course lasts about nine months. So maybe next year he can get his career back on track again. Paying for this course would not be possible if we weren’t living with my parents (it’s going to stretch us financially as it is) so we are definitely staying put for a while.
I stopped going to those awful employment workshops. I had to go to the doctor for a routine appointment and he took my blood pressure while I was there, and it was scarily high, despite the fact that I’ve never had high blood pressure before. Since I was so stressed out when I was at those workshops I did not think continuing to go was in my best interests. I e-mailed my counselor and told her, “For personal/health reasons I need to cancel all my upcoming appointments and workshops.”
I’m supposed to go back to the doctor to get my blood pressure checked again but I’ve been putting it off. I want a chance to try to bring it back down naturally. With moving and all the related upheaval and stress in my life, I was not being as diligent about my healthy eating and exercise habits. I am now back on the wagon, so to speak. I hope it will make a difference.
We have started attending the church I used to go to in this town when I was single. I stopped going there about fifteen years ago after a major humiliation and was determined to never set foot in the building again. Once I realized circumstances were bringing me back to this town, I became certain that God wanted me to go back there and face it. My first Sunday back, it just so happened that two of my closest friends were also attending. One of them still lives here and attends with her husband, but the church has three services and things worked out so that we happened to attend the same one that Sunday. The other friend no longer lives here, but had made the trip to visit her family with her boyfriend that weekend, so she and her boyfriend were there too, along with other members of her family, who, back in the day, were almost like a second family to me for a while. We all sat in the same section. I had been nervous about my first time back, but it turned out that I was almost literally surrounded by people I felt safe with. I was emotionally moved to tears when I realized it.
My husband and I have continued to go, and it’s been good. The church is like a completely different place. The whole atmosphere is completely different, in a good way. The people who were instrumental in my past humiliation are no longer there. In fact, there are very few familiar faces. I encountered one woman I used to know and she didn’t remember me at all. “I have a memory like a sieve,” she said, when I was trying to explain who I was and how we knew each other. I am not offended by that. I am relieved. If people don’t remember me, they won’t be thinking bad things about me based on things that happened in the past.
I don’t intend to get heavily involved there. The last thing I’m looking for is a bunch of activities to get involved with and events to attend. Sunday is enough for me. And if I’m not heavily involved, I won’t be getting overwhelmed, and if I’m not getting overwhelmed, I hopefully won’t make a lot of social mistakes that will lead to people hating me like I did before. I didn’t know my limits then, but I certainly do now.