Did you know that 6 of my friends put our contact on hold, one month minimum, some indefinitely until further notice?
If you’re one of those friends and are starting to feel guilty, or you worry you might be one of them, please stop reading, because I put a lot of emotional labour into trying to make sure noone around me ever regrets setting a boundary and has the lowest threshold possible for it, but I can’t vent and also do that at the same time. This here is stream of consciousness of emotions, it is just about how I feel, and noone is responsible for my feelings but me, so if you don’t know whether you’re gonna be able to not make them your responsibility, that would mean that there would come resentment from that impulse, so by distancing yourself, you’re doing me a favour. Does that kind of logic sound familiar? Then I’ve probably been doing an okey job at that kind of emotional labour, but that is specifically what I’ll try to not do any more of here, lest I defeat the purpose of venting.
Everyone in this world is overstrained, overstressed, overloaded right now. That’s not even me putting things in perspective, that’s just a fact. Everyone’s feeling the consequences of that, and I’m feeling a lot of those accumulating onto me in the way of people distancing themselves. For reasons probably adjacent to things I wrote about in earlier posts, plus the fact that I’m just generally high-maintenance, I tend to be one of the first friends people tune down or completely out if they’re running out of life energy. That combined with the fact that I can’t do capitalist labour means that other people’s stress results in increased social isolation for me. And the fact that people aren’t at fault for the stress in their lives means I can’t vent to the ones who need to distance themselves.
But what do I do if that’s everyone? This morning (which is 6pm, thanks sleeping disorder) that meant lying in fetal position hugging myself for 2 hours and then putting on a song that can make me cry in order to be able to vent a little bit. It worked, as evidenced by me being able to get up and write this (I’m getting better at that). I didn’t know at first that I’m in such a bad place, but I don’t often lie in that position, so that tipped me off.
It does make sense though, now that I’m going through everything. It’s actually literally 6 people who put our friendship on hiatus. I will not obfiscate circumstances here. Again, if you think you might not be able to stick to your boundaries and not make my feelings your responsibility, stop reading.
One friend I hadn’t heard from in a year finally responded to a message saying they haven’t found the time to build me into their life again yet, no perspective on a potential change.
One is settling into a new work environment and had to call off two meetups because of the stress involved in that and then said we should only talk again next month one that work’s high-pressure season is settling down. – Oh, that’s actually two friends who said almost this exact same thing. I’m sure I’ll find more more the more I keep writing…
One is someone I’ve gotten closer to very slowly, but steadily over the last month or two who is particularly affirming, but needs a full break from every contact in their life; they set up a date in 1.5 months in order to take the pressure away from them from wanting to be there.
One is a closer friend, even though we’ve never even met yet, who’s romantically particularly important to me and I have a lot of investment in whose life came crashing through the door and all the windows and who just doesn’t have anything left to get to know any new person. They had to call off two meetings and started to feel so bad about that that they put our dynamic on ice for 1.5 months to let off the pressure.
One is a person I’ve been chatting with for a few weeks who’s so overstrained from work that they asked if they can come back to me once that lets off.
I also have a good friend who had to call off 9 of the 10 last meetups because of different reasons; stress, health, heat. They didn’t put the dynamic in break – but I also don’t know when it will actually be able to happen again.
An ex partner and still very important friend of mine, who I haven’t seen in months and can only talk to once a month if at all because the world overwhelms them so much, said they need to settle into their new place of education first and then want to try to meet up again (the last 4 of 5 times of which they had to call off because of sudden overwhelm).
Someone else I’m romantically invested in needs to finish their thesis work after having been on holiday, so they’ll be gone for another few weeks to be able to focus on that.
Someone I had done a lot of emotional labour for who continued saying they’re very interested and want to meet told me they don’t have the energy to get to know me better and need to cut the contact instead because they would feel bad about letting me hang on. That was before any of this – back then, I was the one who said no, let’s just take a break, I’d prefer that! They agreed to come back to me once they have more energy after recovering from a horrible breakup and move from a cis guy. Half a year later, they replied to a message saying they’re together with a new cis guy who has already moved in.
This doesn’t mention all the contacts who just stopped responding, not all of which are new people. Someone I was super deeply romantically invested in just vanished early in the year and I never heard from them again. Recently their Telegram profile got deleted (fitting the 6 month period Telegram offers to delete your profile after in case of absence). Are they dead? I don’t know. I wouldn’t know.
Reading through this it may sound like many if not all of these friends are cutting off everyone around them. But that’s not the case in almost all cases, possibly not in any. Every time I talk to one of them, part of the reasoning I get for the cancellation is overstrain after having met a bunch of or at least a few other people that week, usually the same names. Other people that are more important, lower maintenance, more safe, more secure.
Am I implying people should find me more important? Ridiculous. I know how the safety of known connections work. I barely have any friends older than a year, so I have almost no examples to go to, but I do know how it psychologically works.
This isn’t about me complaining about people not being interested enough in me. In fact, I know they are. The fact that they’re putting contacts on break instead of cutting them off means they want the contact to continue. (I couldn’t not do that small moment of emotional labour of affirmation, sorry, me.) This is me about being – feeling – too much.
Why is this escalating now? Well, it’s escalating these days because of the state of the world. Cost of living crisis, war, pandemic, general capitalism and crackdowns on marginalised groups – even if less so in this country, it still affects other members of the same group everywhere – are all coming together with global warming showing its nicest face through weeks and months of constant heat and dryness. Heat alone can overstrain people enough to not be able to go out. But that’s a weeks and months timeframe status. Why today?
Honestly, it was just tipping right here. Another small bunch of reasons. I had already gotten short-notice cancellations of almost if not all meetups for the entire week more times than not the last 2 months. The same happened this week. And then more today.
A group of people that are particularly important to me who usually meet once a week, which gives me life like nothing else right now, didn’t come together, and for the first time it would have happened at my place. The reasons are a bunch of Covid-cases, work and the heat, but it’s very hard to not relate it to my person that today is the first time that so many people cancel that the group can’t come together.
A friend I’ve gotten romantically a little closer to the last few weeks has had a hard emotional time these days and a bad time particularly today; they asked me how I feel, I mentioned I’m not that great for all these reasons, they replied with a bare recognition through 2 words and continued to tell me about their bad time. I tried to do some emotional labour, apparently it wasn’t helpful because I got a rejective comment back and a denial on the question if I can do anything else (maybe I did it badly? I’m not great at that kind of stuff).
And then, tip of the iceberg, a friend – who I haven’t been able to see in a year because of how overstrained they are – and I had a nice conversation for the first time in a while, they sent a long text of something that happened today after I invited them to, the text had no line breaks which made it very hard for me to visually process, I asked them to please insert some visual breaks, and they said to forget it and wished me a good day.
Asking for some ease of visual processing is too much. My basic sensoric requirements even to do emotional labour for another person are too much to be allowed, for the universe. This one thing itself is nothing, and the way I know the friend, they’ll apologize later. But it was the perfect continuation of the big pattern and the ultimate endpoint of “not even that is okey”.
I can regulate myself to say well, it’s not your fault that someone else is too stressed to meet all the time, that’s not you being too much. I can regulate myself to say the same about regularity of contact. It gets harder when it comes to having any contact at all. Is every word with me really that much that the only conceivable option is to not have any at all anymore, at least for a while?
I also regulate someone else getting themselves emotional labour from me and doing none for me. But there already lies the trap, because should I even? But also – should I not? It’s not their fault they don’t have the spoons and they didn’t specifically ask me to do emotional labour, that’s my free impulse, I can’t blame that on them. I’m not, and that I’m making clear by the emotional labour I’m doing towards them. The resulting feeling is what I’m talking about here.
Regulating to not feel like I’m asking for too much when I ask for sensorial accommodation in order to even be allowed to do emotional labour is where I break. I can go very far in advancement of labour and courtesy – I go too far regularly, and that’s my fault. But if even I can’t do that anymore… that’s just too much.
And the problem is, the brain is very good at applying the emotional lesson from such a moment to all the others. The problem with the friend not doing emotional labour for me isn’t that they couldn’t, it’s because me needing some is too much. The problem with that one friend not being able to talk regularly isn’t their stress, it’s me wanting to talk to them. The problem with this romantical interest not being able to put more time into our connection isn’t their work load, it’s that I want to spend time with them. The problem with the group coming together isn’t that a bunch of random coincidences happen at once, it’s that they all only tolerate me and once it would be centered more around me in any way, everyone feels too uncomfortable to even attent.
The people I care most about feeling like they can’t even talk to me at all anymore isn’t that the world is rough on everyone in all the ways right now.
It’s that what’s required to talk to me is more than they can give.
It’s that it’s hard to have me in your life.
My existence is too much.
I don’t deserve to be happy.
Everyone deserves to be happy? I don’t deserve to exist, then.
What other emotional conclusion am I supposed to take from this? What else can I take from that? I don’t think this kind of conclusion, that retraumatizing epiphany, is unrealistic given the circumstances. But where are these circumstances coming from? Certainly I can’t be such an astronomical outlier of statistics. So what’s the common thread? Am I actually that hard to be around? Are the things I try to be a good person actually that low in worth that they don’t weigh out the strain I bring? Does karma exist, do I actually not deserve any happiness? Do I actually not deserve any safety? I try to bring as much to people as I can. Why does it not work the other way around?
And, to point this out, it’s really not like I’m ignoring myself completely in this. I cared for myself by getting myself to cry. I exercise hard when people cancel in order to give my brain other things to worry about and to improve how I feel inside my body. I even set up other meetups with people I know less, but that does mean they don’t bring any safety. Anyone who could bring some feels overstrained by the mere idea of talking to me. Am I asking for that much? Is me wanting to feel safety, reliability, too much? Am I allowed to ask to feel safe? Am I allowed to want to feel safe? Am I allowed to want to be happy?