Do I force myself to feel the pain or do I let a callous grow?
July 29, 2011 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Do I force myself to feel the pain or do I let a callous grow?

I met my cousin a couple of weeks ago whilst I was in England. She is an amazing person and we became really close over the space of a week. I had to return to Aus and before I left she made me promise to never stop caring about myself and express myself more. My experiences in Aus since have highlighted how amazing she is and how shit my normal life is. Needless to say I miss her more than I can express.

It all came out yesterday how much pain I am in and I cried the hardest I have in years, to the point where the pain has become too much. So after much debate, I rang her and told her about this. I feel like I shouldn't have, she doesn't deserve to experience what I went through, I should be strong for her. Unfortunately she said all the right things and I feel better now but I know I shouldn't have done it and the pain itself is forcing me to slowly become more emotionally closed just to protect myself from further pain.

It doesn't help that I am slowly forgetting what it was like to be around her, the memories of the days are slipping away and I find it incredibly hard to return to the exact state we were in during that week. And she deserves to not have to worry about me, even if she does worry about me.

So I am at a state where it hurts to much to be as open with her as I would like, even if she does make me feel better every time I talk to her and I need to decide whether it's more selfish to let go and let the callous form or whether or not I should hold on and stick it out till we can see each other again.

I've not really properly cared about someone like this for maybe 10-15yrs and I'm only 23 so it's been tough. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank You.

posted by Submiqent to Human Relations (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Advice on what, exactly? Are you telling us that you're in love with your cousin? This is all very dramatic and grand, but clear it is not.
posted by cyndigo at 1:51 PM on July 29, 2011 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Submiqent: It all came out yesterday how much pain I am in and I cried the hardest I have in years, to the point where the pain has become too much.

This is the point at which you neither harden your feelings nor wallow in them, but make changes in your life to feel better. This is partly what therapy is for.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:54 PM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

So you're really sad because you miss your cousin. You'd like to call her and tell her how miserable you feel because she says just what you need to hear and makes you feel better. Now you're worried that calling her may upset her.

Is this right?

I think you should call her often but don't focus on how much you miss her. It's nice to hear from friends and relatives but if somebody is always focusing on negatives or bad things I can't help with the calls get tedious. Those kinds of people quickly get sent to voice mail when their number pops up on my phone.
posted by TooFewShoes at 1:55 PM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If your cousin doesn't mind being your shoulder to cry on.. Cry on her shoulder.

You don't have to be strong.. all you have to do is be her shoulder to cry on when she needs it.
posted by royalsong at 1:55 PM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: Are you depressed? Is that the pain you're talking about, just a general thing about life? Depression often makes people feel ashamed of the fact that they are in pain, and they want to hide it.
posted by J. Wilson at 2:05 PM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Regardless of there not being a question here, it sounds like you have really low self esteem. You also sound pretty young, 23, so that may be part of it as well. Coupled with an awesome trip to a far away destination to visit someone who has their shit together and is doing well is going to put you into this funk.

Go see a therapist and figure out how to be happy with what you have. Don't burden someone else that you just met with your problems just yet and grow stronger. Once you can fend for yourself, then you can let them in on what is going on with you, but don't expect them to be your therapist.
posted by TheBones at 2:08 PM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I like to let the callous grow and then when it's near steel level hardness play with so much vigor that I begin expierence pain as a blister forms underneath. I cut off the dead skin and then start the process over again.

This is both true physically and metaphorically for me in some regards.
posted by zephyr_words at 2:37 PM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: I'm in favor of acknowledging the pain. That's where the growth is. The callous inhibits personal growth.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:44 PM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for the understanding mefi <3
posted by Submiqent at 2:49 PM on July 29, 2011

Relationships are a two-way street, so I think you should continue to get advice and inspiration from your cousin, and prevent feelings of guilt about it by giving back to her as well.

Call sometimes to just say hello and wish her a lovely day - nothing more, send her a card in the mail saying how much you appreciate her, recommend a book she might like, or send her a link to a funny video she would love.

I have often felt reluctant in my life to ask for help, and to lean on people who care, but I'm learning that by letting them lean on me in turn, I feel better about opening up to them.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:10 PM on July 29, 2011

Best answer: It's always so hard to get a good read on a situation just based on what's in a post, but your description makes it seem like it's a little more complicated than just you occasionally needing to reach out to a friend/family member for support. The way I'm reading it ("She is an amazing person," "...she does make me feel better every time I talk to her," etc), it sounds like you might be obsessing a bit on this cousin you met a few weeks ago, or unwittingly convincing yourself that she is The Only One Who Understands/Can Help/Cares About You ... do you think there might be any truth to that?

I ask because I've allowed myself to play that "healer" role to people in the past, and it is so insidiously unhealthy for both parties. You both start buying into the roles that have been cast, and it feels good - you get the care and comfort of someone who does genuinely care about you, while she gets to be Needed and Helpful. Even if you start worrying that you shouldn't be laying your problems on her, she insists it's okay, that she's glad she can help - because she probably is glad to help even if it's becoming hard on her (again, Being Needed can be a powerful drug) ... you allow yourself to continue venting to her even though on some level it feels wrong, making you feel even worse about yourself after the quick fix of her attention wears off ... All the while you both get ever more entrenched in the way things are, with one person believing, "This is the one person who can help me, therapy won't make a difference because it's just talk and I can do that better with my cousin," while she is thinking "I am the only one who can help this person, I have to be There For Them at all times because they Need Me."

The problem is that someone can care about you from the bottom of their heart, but if they're not truly qualified to help you handle your problems then it's just not enough. A good cry and a shoulder to cry on can be part of a support network, but if that's all there is things will never get better. It's obvious that you care about your cousin and that she cares about you, so please do what would be the most loving thing for both of you, and take steps now to get into therapy for yourself.
posted by DingoMutt at 4:38 PM on July 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The years of young adulthood are hard for everyone, because there's so much uncertainty about what your path will be (where will you live? what kind of work will you find? who will your friends be? will you find love? etc), and even what kind of person you will choose to become. From your previous questions it sounds like you have an even tougher road than many people your age.

My advice is above all to be better to yourself, think better of yourself, than you think you deserve.

It sounds like you are prone to be very hard on yourself, and your cousin sees this. She can see that you are a worthwhile and valuable person and she wants you to see it too. Well, trust her judgment on this. She's pretty smart, right?

Another thing it sounds like is that you had fun with her and maybe you haven't felt like you've had real fun, in a comfortable and genuine way, with a trustworthy good friend, in a while. And having a good time with her has made that all the more obvious. This is a great eye-opener though - because you realize now that you CAN have fun in that way, and all it takes is to find friends that you feel comfortable with. That can take some time and effort, but it is doable.

Finally, it sounds like you are worried that you're slipping out of the intensity of contact that you had during your visit. That is normal -- most good friendships start off with a period of very intense contact and then change and deepen, allowing less frequent contact but still keeping up the wonderfully supportive and genuine caring relationship. So don't worry that she will suddenly stop caring about you just because this new stage of your friendship isn't exactly like that first week. It's a new stage built on the foundation of the closeness you built during your visit.

You deserve to feel okay, and you have the strength within you to cope with the difficulties in your life and make good choices and build a life (with friends, job, etc) that you like. So where to start? I think the advice to continue or re-start with a good therapist is excellent. Maybe you can talk to the therapist about some practical ways to work toward changing some of the things in your life that you feel like are crappy. And keep in touch with your cousin - she sounds like a terrific friend, and you deserve a terrific friend.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:04 PM on July 29, 2011

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