Someone very close to me made a series of decisions (and behaviors) that forced his life to implode. I know the word “force” is strong, but he put two or three people into situations where they had no choice except to react harshly. I’m going to call this person Y. Y is an adult – and not a young adult – Y is and adult-adult.
He was married to a great woman -- not a perfect woman but a woman who loved him and his children. He had a great job – a job where he’d advanced and won the support of upper management. And then …
I don’t know how to finish that thought. And then what?
Y came to us for counsel when the first detonation blew. We begged him to get professional help. But he’d labeled himself a ‘sociopath’ and said, “that can’t be fixed”. I’ll admit this label scared the shit out of me. Is he a sociopath? Is a sociopath always a sociopath?
I did some research and spoke to my own therapist. Y is not a sociopath. But Y may be a narcissist. He certainly lacks empathy. He absolutely has some buried trauma that needs to excavated. The adjective doesn’t matter. Y needs help – serious help, long-term help – counseling for sure, medication probably.
He went to one or two counseling sessions because his boss required it. We pleaded. We offered to pay. We found and presented several different options. Nope. Nada. No way.
At first, I was so angry I couldn’t be in the same room with Y. It wasn’t just him he was hurting – it was his kids and his parents and his friends. I had to go ostrich and stick my head in the sand.
And now …
I don’t know how to finish that thought. And now what do we do?
Y is a man’s man (I know that’s sexist, but you get what I’m saying). Is that part of his refusal?
Does he think he truly can’t be helped?
Or, as Dave believes, he thinks he deserves to be punished for these bad decisions –he deserves to wallow in the emotional pain.
We’ve beat our heads against the wall over this. He’s an adult so we can’t drag him kicking and screaming. We’ve talked until he no longer listens (if he ever was listening). We’ve talked so much that we rarely hear from him now – and when we do, it’s always light and fluffy…..avoiding any “serious talk”.
Dave used to talk to Y several times a week. Now, they communicate maybe every other week and Dave usually has to initiate. All communication is on text so you can guess how superficial it is. As for me, I get pictures and am looped in on some text conversations. If I reach out with something that even tiptoes into ‘how are you doing?’, I get no response at all.
Just as there are several reasons why he refuses to get help, I imagine there are several reasons why he avoids us:
I’m sure all of those are correct and that the list is even longer.
I am still angry – both because of his decisions and because of his refusal to get help. I have lost some respect and I would have to fight not to give another speech. The one time I tried to talk to him, he was so closed and so uncaring, I was shocked and appalled. And, I’m still dealing with that – even as I write this, tears are burning – tears of sadness and regret and hot anger.
I’m not sure I am in his corner anymore. So, to the sadness and regret and anger, I can add guilt. I want to be in his corner. I should be in his corner. But wanting and “shoulding” doen’t make it so.
I don’t know. I’m writing this blog six months after the implosion. It’s taken me this long because I couldn’t handle it – I couldn’t write about it, think about, analyze it. I’m still holding back because the emotions are so enormous it’s frightening.
He’s avoiding us so I can’t comment on Y’s situation or mental status. Outwardly he is doing all the ‘right things’ – going to work, being a dad, paying his bills, etc. Inwardly, I have no idea and we can’t ask.
We are powerless. We can keep reaching out with the superficial and hope the ice melts. But – and here is the truth that hurts – if he’s unwilling to get help and try to be a better person (for himself and others) – I don’t know that I want more than the superficial. If every time we are together, I know he doesn’t really care about me or mine, then it might be better if we keep distant. If every time we are together, we are all dancing through a minefield, then we’ll all be miserable. If every time we are together, I’m noticing all the continued bad decisions, should we be together?
I’ve spent several sessions with my therapist talking this through and I’ve not been able to thaw. This is MY internal problem to handle. But the difference between me and Y is that I am at least trying to work through my own shit.
Can I thaw if Y doesn’t try?
Click HERE to download the Journaling Activity that accompanies this blog. Who is like this in your life? Where are YOU like this in your life?
Two things happened recently that bothered me until I gave it all more thought and listened to wise counsel:
First, I’m in a writer’s critique group and while I often get praise for the chapters, I never get praise for the story. I get this – “well, it’s not the type of story I’d want to read…”. My stories are dark. Not mystery, murder and mayhem but my characters are struggling with trauma and/or suicidal ideation and/or mental health problems. I do write happy endings but it’s a rough road and never do I pretend my characters have “gotten through and are all fixed”.
Are my stories too ‘tough to read’? Does my author voice appeal on any level? Is my voice ‘bad’?
Second, I attended a great manuscript critique workshop (virtual). During the workshop, the bestselling author reviewed a chapter from two different drafts. The first was a memoir about a visit to the Middle East. The second was a mystery with a fun-loving, eccentric main character. I loved the mystery writer’s style. Her character was witty, her setting charming and eclectic. You could tell it was going to be a fun ride.
My first thought – I’d like to write something fun with a tiptoe through tulips feel.
But I wracked my brain to create a fun story – or at the very least a fun character. I let my mind wander and roam down different paths.
My mind never once landed on anything that would be labeled ‘light and fun’. Characters did begin to form but they were all hurting and asking me to tell their stories so they could work through the pain.
It’s hard to write and re-write and re-write again and think no one will want to read what I’ve worked so hard to create. And yet …
I spoke to my writing coach about this – I wasn’t complaining or even asking for how to change. I was more thinking out loud. She responded with:
"You have a voice for the people who struggle with mental illness. That’s important." ~ TL
I’m embracing that truth. Maybe one day, a light fluffy character will begin to talk to me. In the meantime, I’ll stick to the characters in my mind who are asking for their stories to be told.
We all know that most fictional characters carry some portion of the author within them – hopes, dreams, worries, fears, talents, family dynamics, friendships, loves, hates. So, if I can’t write “light and happy” did that mean I’m not light and happy?
I began to condemn myself for what I write, for my characters, for my plots. Is that ridiculous or insightful? Is it me that’s ‘too tough to’ be around? Or me that’s ‘too dark’? Am I ever fun and light or does a darkness within me color my stories and everything else?
Do you see how one tiny comment that wasn’t even about me can be a swirl of doubt, confusion and fear?
Well, f*ck that. I am not Pollyanna. But I’m happy and I’m honest and I have some great friends. I lift my middle finger to my self-critical monster.
I don’t strive to be a bestselling author. That has never been the goal. I write because a fictional character takes up residence in my heart and soul and won’t leave me alone until I put pen to paper.
If I let my characters live an authentic life, then I need to do the same! I’m not F*ing Pollyanna. I’m also not Negative-Nelly. I’m a happy mix of both.
*By the way, Dave says I am light and happy!
Click HERE to get my Journaling Activity on finding YOUR voice.
“The words fell out of my mouth without my brain straining a muscle.”
I wrote the above sentence when one my characters said something mean and nasty and f*cking hilarious.
My writing friend, that wonderful technicality wizard, struck the line from the manuscript. She said, “Words cannot form without the brain first engaging.”
Technically, I suppose she’s right. Our minds do fire synapses telling our bodies what to do before the body can do anything. The pounding heartrate that happens because a squirrel ran in front you requires a nano-second for our brain to say, ‘slam on the brakes, you idiot’.
But seriously, can words fall without the brain consciously working? Do we say things we wish we hadn’t because we couldn’t stop ourselves? OR …
Do you see the subtle, but quite important, differences? Are all true on occasion?
It sure seems like words fall out of my mouth without my making the decision to engage my vocal cords.
I’m listening to a book right now, The Sinner by JR Ward. I’ve counted at least 4 times when a character has spoken without thinking.*
One of the best things about reading is that I can see myself in a character and not feel like I’m a bit crazy. After all, characters are realistic if not real.
But maybe, after fifty-five years, I should at least try to let my brain “think before I speak”? A goal for 2021.
*This is not a negative critique of JR Ward’s writing. She is the master of creative ways to say common things. She can turn a metaphor on its head and have me LMAO.
Click HERE to download the journaling activity that accompanies this blog!
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