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Survivor's Corner: Love, Courage & Connection

by Cassendre Xavier

"I think the struggle for connection is a beautiful thing, especially between people who have particular challenges to intimacy and who are perhaps overly stimulated by the world around us."

A former and very brief friend just reached out to me and I was thinking about how I had never wanted our friendship to end, but it did anyway, and how when we became friends I was afraid or rather I knew it would end soon because we both had such harrowing and abusive childhoods.

Plus we have difficulty finding and maintaining healthy romantic relationships with peers. Or platonic ones with other survivors, it seemed.

Or was it just me? Am I too difficult for other survivors, because I also have bipolar, PTSD, and an eating disorder (the latter of which also affects emotional intimacy and bonding with others).

I was excited to hear from this person and was preparing to make contact when I realized it would have to be detailed.

I am in therapy twice a week now and am both building a foundation upon which to live the rest of my life well, in addition to breaking down and neutralizing patterns that have negatively impacted my past.

I recall SARK's (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy's) statement that she would (never again have an unsupervised relationship), meaning she and her romantic partners now always go to counseling (whether together or not is unclear).

My last partner didn't want to go to counseling with me, and I didn't think at the time to ask if they would have gone alone.

My current companion enjoys hearing about my sessions and I believe my going benefits our relationship.

So this morning I was thinking about how I would like to approach reconnecting with this person. Perhaps being postal paper pen pals might be all I can do right now, and ask all of my questions there.

I need a very slow paced social lifestyle, and I have my Facebook Messenger notifications muted, I hate disruptive texts and phone calls, and do 90% of my business correspondence via email.

I think the struggle for connection is a beautiful thing, especially between people who have particular challenges to intimacy and who are perhaps overly stimulated by the world around us.

I am often reminded that "we are meant to need each other." If that weren't the case I would not have felt sad when my friendship ended, nor made an effort to connect again, nor would I now be spending so much time and care designing the best approach.

If we were not meant to need each other I wouldn't have spent the 30 minutes to write and share this, and readers would not identify and appreciate seeing themselves and their experience reflected and affirmed.

If you struggle with some significant challenges in your life, and they affect your ability to connect with, love, trust, and feel safe with others, here are some things that may help you:

1) Be patient, willing, and persistent in your efforts at connecting. You will make progress, experience ups and downs, and reap great rewards for your efforts.

2) Consider psychotherapy. Meeting regularly with a mental health professional may provide insights and support your long-term efforts. You could go alone or do couples counseling or go with a friend to work on your combined relationship concerns.

3) Write it out. Writing can be a great help in figuring out how to be with people. It can help you clarify your thoughts and intentions, manage your emotions, and communicate with others.
You can write personally, privately, and/or publicly about your experience.

4) Be true to who you are and how you prefer to communicate, correspond, and socialize. Just because it appears that the whole world and everyone in it uses social media and texts, doesn't mean that is the case. And even if it were, it doesn't mean you must as well. Decide how you want to communicate, correspond, and socialize, and you will find that your system will work for compatible and willing friends. Make your own rules!

5) Be sure to have fun! Too often the recovery life is hard and we are serious. Even our enjoyable relationships are hard in that we must do work to attract and maintain them given our make-up, challenges, and preferences. But we deserve to have fun, too! So remember to incorporate fun into your self-help/personal growth and recovery work. Life isn't all symptom and illness management. It's also hugs and smiles, laughs and kisses, baseball games, movies and theater! Build fun into your life!

You deserve good things. You
*can* be happy. The world is safe and loving. People are good. And you are worthy!

Cassendre Xavier shares her popular "Survivor's Corner" and "PTSD Chronicles" on Facebook and Twitter, and has been writing the "Living with Bipolar Disorder" series at Wisdom Magazine's online edition since 2011. Cassendre was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at age 23. From 1996-1999 she facilitated Sisters Healing Together, a peer support group for women survivors of incest with a special focus on compulsive overeating, which she also founded, at the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia. Under her self-assigned spiritual name Amethyste Rah, Cassendre released the popular Affirmations for Survivors guided meditation audio series ("Self-Love" and "Spirituality" in 2007, and "Sexuality" and "Life Skills" are forthcoming). For more information, please visit http://cassEndrExavier.wordpress.com

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