Just shove the cookies at me.

I don’t think anybody reads this blog who knew me 5 years ago. If you think I’m messed up now…

I was never supposed to go to college, never supposed to graduate high school, really. I wasn’t supposed to leave Los Angeles, or do things like present at conferences, give speeches at important-ish things, or be asked to be on boards or committees. I was stupid, I was shy, I had crippling social anxiety, and I had such a dysfunctional upbringing that I really had no concept of how the world was supposed to work.

In my first couple weeks of college an online-but-trusted friend sent me a care package. It had cookies in it. It was one of the few pieces of mail I received that year, and it may have been the first time somebody spontaneously did something nice for me. I freaked out for hours. No joke. Later that year another friend sent me a check for $100. I freaked out for considerably more than hours. I very, very seriously contemplated sending it back for days before agreeing to deposit it. Simple things like that just completely baffled me.

The thing is? I’m getting better. And I’m trying.

This morning I called that same friend who sent me those cookies over five years ago, just to cry. To paraphrase, I said to her, “What the hell did I do wrong? I have tried to do everything I was supposed to do.” She said “You DID do everything right.” But I guess I’m just not sure I believe her.

Because I graduated when I wasn’t supposed to, I left an abusive home, I put myself through college I found places to be during breaks so I didn’t have to go home, I secured a job before graduation, I got an apartment, I even ended up taking custody of my little sister in order to give her a chance at what I didn’t get in high school.

And here it is, mid January in Maine. I’m jobless, broke, out of heating fuel, my pipes burst on Sunday, and I am feeling out of options. I can’t be at my house – it’s not livable. It’s been in the single digits here the last couple nights. That’s just not a doable situation without heat of some kind.

So I’m trying to trust friends when they say that it’s OK to stay with them. Part of me so badly wants to believe that that is true. But a much bigger part just tells me that I’m a burden. I have no idea how to accept help still, not really. Some of my friends are good about knowing how I work and how to shove help at me – these are the friends who knew me at the end of high school, who did have to force the help on me because if they didn’t I’d sit in the freezing apartment before letting anybody know that something was wrong.

Now I tell people when the heat is out, when my car breaks down, when something goes wrong. The problem is that I go to somebody’s house, and then I just sit there, or lay there, or hide out. I try so hard to not be a burden and probably end up being more of one because I’m so awkward that I have to be there in the first place.

The thing is that my friends here, my friends from college and the community that never knew the old me, the me who couldn’t EVER say yes to help, don’t know how much I have changed. It’s hard for me to explain. To explain why I am crying over something stupid, why I am doing X, or Y, or Z. To put it bluntly, I do a good job of pretending to have my shit together, until I don’t.

So I hide out, I cry, I try to ask for help and then I cry some more, and I annoy people, and I KNOW that I annoy people, and I wish I knew how to not annoy people, but I don’t.

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7 Comments to “Just shove the cookies at me.”

  1. So why did you take on your sister?

    My guess is that your answer is somewhere in the neighborhood of “It was the right thing to do.”

    Your friends are helping you because it is the right thing to do. And yes, you probably are a burden at times. So what? We all have burdens, we all are burdens at times. As a veteran of letting friends in trouble live in my house, I suggest you make sure to clean up after yourself, hang out with yor hosts when they seem to want company, don’t adopt animals without asking if it’s ok, and offer to clean up around the house if you aren’t in a position to chip in financially for groceries.
    Be a good housemate and the burden is pretty minimal.

    CC

  2. I knew you 5 years ago and your self assessment is not correct. You were amazing as a teen (note, I did not use the word happy).

    There are so many people who love you now and want you to succeed. And we know you will do it. This is a blip.. seriously.

  3. Unfortunately never. Hopefully there are great laughs in between.

  4. Alright, so I stumbled upon your blog awhile ago. Doesn’t really matter, but I’ve read everything you’ve written here.

    It’s OKAY to ask help, and I’m very glad that you’re starting to do it! And it’s OKAY to feel like someone who’s just… there… That’s what friends do. They do it because they’re trying to help you, otherwise they’d just say no and you wouldn’t be friends with them. Right?

    Anyway. I just wanted to say life sucks. It always has and always will. What TRULY matters is those in between moments. You know the ones, the times where you’re laughing so hard you pee your pants a bit. Or when you’re alone and all of a sudden you just get this feeling of pure utter contentment that only lasts until you remember you’re really dreading X and you have to leave in less than two minutes.

    Why are those important?

    If things were good all the time, you wouldn’t look so forward to the next one. Happiness is a mindset. I’ve been there, absolutely purely miserable.

    Now? Things are fine. I still break down and cry and say ‘how can you stand to be around me?’ but after those moments are over. I know.

    You seem like a great person. *hugs* I just hope you realize it sooner rather than later. ❤

  5. I know these “blips” are miserable, but Huushi made a really good point about the happy moments being even better when they’re in between the stressful and depressing moments.
    As someone who has been there for multiple friends in times of crisis, I can honestly say that my friends never feel like burdens, and when they do, I do not hold it personally against them because I understand it is SO not their fault. I love being there for my friends because it gives me hope that maybe someday when I go through one of those “blips” – they’ll be there for me just like I was there for them.
    So hang in there! You’ve gotten through so much – what’s one more set of hurdles if you’ve already proved you can win the marathon?
    Your friends are there for you, and I’m sure that someday when you’ve reached a wonderful happy place, you’ll be able to pay them back – either when they go through their own hard times, or simply in the happy times you’ll share together.

  6. Oh my dear, if I had a nickle for every time…..
    Getting out of hell is only the first step. That second step takes years and years and…well, as long as you’ve got really to learn to do better.
    I recall a moment when I was in high school stage managing the musical and I didn’t want to “burden” anyone so I tried to do as much myself as I could. At some point my dear friend and assistant stage manager whispered in my ear “you see those people who are standing over there bored? They’re waiting for you to direct them.”
    This was the first glimpse of a long line of realizations about my own projections and self-worth.

    I know it’s hard to believe that you’re not an unbearable burden, but it really is true. It helped me a lot to think of how i would think of others in that situation, if I invited someone to stay with me a while, would i think they were a burden. Of course, I would say no, i was delighted to have them over and honored they’d call on me for help. I would give everything i had to give with both hands open (note, this is not the same as “everything I had, with both hands open” you’ve got to keep something for yourself). It’s hard, it takes a hell of a lot of “fake it ’til you make it” but I promise it does get better, and the day will come when all the “fake positive lies” you tell yourself, like “you’re worth it” and “people like being around you” and “you are valuable to your friends as a person” and “you are worthy of love” being ot feel natural and true, as they are.

    It took me reading etiquette manuals to work out whether I was supposed to open presents in front of people or alone, when to return favors, how to small talk, how to not feel the crushing sense of awkwardness that I’d said the wrong things and people were just humoring me, etc. It took reading books on dysfunctional families, Emotional and Social Intelligence (if you’ve not read those, you really should. They explain all the crazy monkey brain stuff in sciency terms that make sense) and neurobiology and psychology (Mindsight is a good one to start with) to even get close to sorting my shit out. And after a decade of working in earnest at this, I’m just *now* getting to the roots of some of this and seeing how truly and fundamentally my worldview is based on the fucked, and what i need to do to change it.

    yes, it’s weird asking people for help. You don’t think anyone would want to bother with you. That’s an old tape. And what I have eventually come to realize is that it’s kind of arrogant really, deciding what other people think and who they can and can’t really value, and assuming their judgment is poor when they pick me.

    Be gentle with yourself, it’s ok to feel awkward. it’s also ok to tell people you’re feeling really awkward and aren’t sure how to act in their house and you don’t want to be a burden but you have a hard time believing you’re not and for the love of god can we play scrabble or something before I implode on myself and have to hide in a corner tripping over my own tongue?

    Or, you could bake cookies back at the people who are nice to you 😉

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