dating

Why not talk about the Instagram meme a 3rd time?

To recap:

  • Oct 11, while I am working late at the office I discover ICB, with his newly created IG profile, had liked a bunch of pictures of a pretty girl on Instagram while he had yet to like any of mine. Cue an epic internalized meltdown. I spend 2 days being upset, but say nothing to ICB.
  • Oct 13, I write part 1 of the Instagram saga. I send it to ICB, still miffed, and tell him he should read it. He does. I have a really odd reaction when I see him at a social gathering at night.
  • Oct 15, having spent the weekend still upset and disoriented by my odd reaction to ICB, I realize I am exhibiting most of the traits of BPD. I write part 2 of the Instagram saga.
  • Oct 16-17, ICB’s reaction (below) to part 2 of the Instagram saga.
  • Oct 19, I write this post. Part 3. I am as confused as y’all as to how this turned into a 3 chapter, 8 day long saga.

ICB dutifully read part 2 of the Instagram saga. I wanted him to understand what he is up against. “Yes, Vanilla, I read it. You find I’ve hurt you that badly. You find I do not treat you well. You believe you are not enough. You don’t find I take care of you. Tell me. Explain. What am I doing that tells you that you are not enough?” I doubled down, explaining that everything depended on one’s perspective. If my expectations were that of a friend, we’d have no problem, he’s a stellar guy. But my expectations of the guy I am dating are different. And if the guy I am dating treats me as a friend, yes, I will conclude that I am not enough to be dated. “So what do you suggest? What should I be doing so you feel better?”

Of course, we were having this convo by text, bc why not use the least suitable form of communication bar the Morse code for this kind of conversation. Of course, we were having this convo while I was at work. And of course, I got pulled into a meeting before I could answer him what he could be doing differently. Of course.

An hour later, back at my desk, check my phone and see 64 notifications of IG likes. SIXTY-FOUR. That is almost 8 screenshots worth of notifications – he’d gone all the way back to September 2017. I imagined ICB, the least phone savvy guy I know, holding his phone and punching away at my Instagram profile using both his thumbs “Oh she didn’t like that I liked that girl’s pics but none of her pics? Oh, she didn’t like that I liked pics all the way back to July 2018? Well, imma like a full YEAR worth of pics. Ha! Take that. Can’t complain now, can she??” I laughed till tears rolled down my cheeks – how dare ICB turn this situation into something so incredibly ridiculous? CSD walked by and asked me why I was laughing so hard. “And this is why I don’t have any social media. Who gives a fuck about Instagram likes?? If my wife pulled a stunt like that on me, I would be so pissed. Do you really feel better now that he has liked all your pics? No you don’t. Why? BECAUSE INSTAGRAM LIKES DON’T MATTER. Sooooo petty. But yeah, pretty fucking hilarious. He sure showed you.”

I woke up the next day, to a late night text from ICB.

I liked the 64 pics on your profile that remind me of the topics that we’ve spoken about. That pic of your mother. The pic of you in Boston all dolled up as a lady. That pic of you in that princess dress asking the mirror who is the fairest of them all. Just as examples. I didn’t do this to make you happy but because I wanted to take my time today to go through your pics and videos. I liked the pics that I sincerely enjoyed that remind me of the woman that you are. You are beautiful. You are smart. You are capable. Have a good day tomorrow.

And suddenly I was ashamed.

ICB might call me his Hulkette, but the thing about the Hulk is that when he Hulk Smashes, he leaves unquantifiable destruction behind him. Every one of my meltdowns and episodes has a cost. It consumes SO MUCH of my energy – I sometimes sleep for 10-12 hours and still wake up exhausted and feeling concussed. It pushes people away, because while they might, if I am lucky, understand that I am at the mercy of these waves of uncontrollable feelings in a reality that is so distorted as to be barely recognizable, the fact remains that I say and do shit that hurts them. They might be understanding but at some point, they too are exhausted and chose their peace over me. And like the Hulk, I find myself alone, and scared of what will happen at any moment. What damage I’ll inflict on myself and those around me at work, with friends, or in this case, on a good kind man.

I gotta disagree with CSD. Instagram likes do matter. They have allowed me to see myself as I appear to others. While the result is mortifying, with a strong dose of grief and sorrow, at least I am aware, and awareness is the first step of change.

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Revisiting the Instagram meme through the BPD filter

Writing the Instagram meme post was hard. Untangling the mess of knotted emotions, gaining an understanding of what I was feeling, and why, uncovering the deep well of shame and insecurity was unpleasant. I am happy I got to the crux of my truth, I am proud that I was courageous enough to tell my story, but oye, do I ever have a vulnerability hangover.

ICB was not delighted when he read it. Understandably. It leaves no room for intention. It is a single-view story, mine, in which he is portrayed one-dimensionally. Nor did he appreciate being mentioned in the same post as Beaut or Hickster: while I don’t make it a habit to discuss my previous dating experiences with him, he has read parts of my blog and is not fond of either dude for how they made me feel and the very real complicated baggage I retain from them. It is not flattering company to find himself in. I get that.

ICB did give me an explanation for his behavior that, true to form, exonerates him from any disrespect towards me. Not surprised. I expected the hurt to lessen, but instead, the whole weekend it has been my companion. I had hoped that by putting my hurt into words I would be liberated from its heavy burden. But all that has done is help me understand myself: I am hurt because I have gotten feedback, yet again, that I am not enough to be a person’s priority. I understand myself, yay! But my feelings are still overwhelming.

At a social gathering this weekend, I went out of my way to avoid any one on one contact with ICB. I couldn’t be close to him, I wanted to cry every time he got within a foot of me. Hickster used to trigger that kind of physical reaction. I’d always assumed that my physical manifestation of pain was caused by the epic, sometimes ruthless, asshole behaviour Hickster could casually dish out. He was a Grade A jackass. ICB is not. ICB liked some girl’s very pretty IG pics and has not liked mine. But never, not once, has he ever disrespected me. ICB’s “crime” is a lack of positive behaviour towards me, which is totally different from Hickster’s objectively very negative behaviour towards me. Two very VERY different sets of behaviour but a very comparable degree of hurt. That doesn’t make sense. The gap between my cerebral vs my emotional take on the situation is huge.

I think I’ve shifted into borderline territory.

Out of those 9 traits, 7 very clearly apply to the Instagram meme post.

  • Identity disturbance: unstable self-image or sense of self: If ICB liking another girl’s IG pics can produce an obliterated sense of self in the form of a never ending soundtrack of “I am not enough”, we can agree that my self-image is unstable. Just a tad.
  • Efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment: This weekend I spent a few hours helping ICB out on a project (via the safe distance of texting and emailing). Why? to show I was a team player, I was still there, I was a good girl, don’t be mad at me, I am still worthy. Heyo! The same dynamic as with Hickster. Hickster would do something to hurt me, I would overreact dramatically, we’d have a ginormous fight, and before we had even finished patching things up, I was back helping Hickster with stuff he hadn’t even asked me to do. I’m still here. Don’t hate me. I am a good girl, I am helpful. I am valuable. Forgive me. I’m sorry I overreacted. Don’t give up on me.
  • Unstable relationships, alternating between idealisation and devaluation: This one is hard for me to notice as it is happening, bc I always think I am fairly and even empathetically characterizing the person I am dealing with. But I notice my thought patterns about ICB are beginning to sound one dimensional. “HE never makes me feel special, HE isn’t making me a priority, HE isn’t finding ways to show me he cares”… aka he is not doing enough to make me feel cherished and valued. That strident blaming tone is the perfect breeding ground for an unstable relationship.
  • Stress, paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms: I was SO stressed this weekend, I had trouble breathing at the social gathering, while ICB was present. I ended up just ghosting, and taking an Uber home without saying goodbye. I felt my stress levels drop significantly as soon as I was in the car.
  • Inappropriate, intense anger: While I describe my feelings as being hurt, there is anger. Anger at having revealed myself, an exercise I find excruciatingly painful, only to be told, effectively, that I am not priority. I revealed myself, and have been treated carelessly, as having no worth. I described it as wanting to howl away my pain, but especially with Hickster, the impulse – never manifested – was to claw his face. To make him hurt physically as much I did emotionally. My therapist has often told me in the past that sadness and anger are two sides of the same coin, so I wonder if this completely disproportionate reaction to some Instagram likes is not an example of this BPD trait.
  • Emotional instability due to a marked reactivity of mood: I think this one is fairly self evident.

So here I am. With an even deeper awareness of what I am feeling and why. Go me.

But where do I go from here? I can’t help that ICB’s relatively minor action has produced this hurricane of hurt. Those are my feelings. My reaction is to feel he should be doing something differently. He should value me more. He should let me know he cares. He should apologize.

And maybe probably he should.

But this is my life. I refuse to let my happiness depend on some other person’s actions, especially when every person has their own shit going on, so it is very likely that they will not be able to meet my emotional requirements to my very needy satisfaction. That is an unfair burden to place on anyone, especially those I care about.

So I guess the real question is:

Accepting that ICB does not make me feel like I am enough;

Accepting that it isn’t ICB’s job to make me feel enough;

Accepting that until I feel enough, I will have this rage-pain-hurt that consumes me;

How the fuck can I get to a state where I feel and believe that I am enough?!

That time my dating life was an Instagram meme

3 weeks ago, I was chatting with ICB, asking him how his day had been. “Not bad, I went to see a friend. We had a bunch of shit we needed to talk through and clear up. I’m glad we did, we both feel better now”. Oh really? Now, in French, there are feminine and masculine declensions for nouns. Ami and amie are both friendly peeps, but one of them has a penis and the other boobs. Amie is the boob-variety type. So ICB went to see a female friend in order to have some sort of argument. Well then. To my brain, it was a slam dunk: he used to fuck this Amie and this argument was to clear up that they weren’t headed to a relationship. OB-VI. I mean. Come on. Don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure this one out. Athletico, Beaut and Hickster all shared the same fuckboy dictionary. Amie is synonymous with non-platonic fuck friend. (The “non-platonic fuck” is silent #properpronunciation.) 3 guys, 3 series of devastating surprises, 1 definition.

I didn’t lose my shit on ICB. It was tempting, but instead I did breathing exercises, cried a little bit, did some more breathing exercises, told myself I had no reason not to trust him. Just because he had been fucking her before didn’t mean he was fucking her now. It sounded in fact like this was a talk to really wrap things up, distill any situationship type uncertainties. That was a good thing, the kinda thing I’d come to expect from ICB who’s never disrespected me. I was ok with the Amie. I didn’t need to ask questions that were none of my business.

10 days later I asked ICB questions that were none of my business.

It turns out that their fight had nothing to do with them fucking, and everything to do with worrisome self-destructive behaviour she was engaging in. Oh. No fucking? No fucking, why? Lalalala I didn’t hear your question, let’s move on. No fucking. Why?!

So I explained that the word Amie is forever tainted. My brain is aware of the Merriam-Webster definition of friend, but my body and my heart know the fuckboy version of friend. It’s a physical reaction. It’s an unfair one, but it’s the result of 5 years of gaslighting. I can’t fight it. But Vanilla, I’m not them. I’m me. ICB. I’m not them, you can’t react to them, you have to react to meBruh, you’re right. I’m trying.


It was bound to happen, I suppose.

Yesterday I noticed a girl commenting on one of ICB’s posts, using a term of endearment that just happens to be the same one I call him. So I clicked on her profile, and down the rabbit hole I went. Pretty: check. A model: check. Good at selfies: check. Professional pics where she looks beautiful: check. Pics with no makeup where she looks even better: check. Tasteful sideboob: check. ICB like every single one of them. I stopped checking when I got as far back as July.

Do I think they are fucking? No, not really. She isn’t all over his page, yet. But… ICB hasn’t liked a single one of my instagram pics. The funny ones. The sexy ones. The photography ones. Nada. I am pretty sure the last time he liked one of my Facebook posts was in July. I don’t think he has ever liked one of my blog posts, even tho he dutifully reads wtv I send him. But he had time to like 3 month’s worth of pics of some girl’s IG profile.


The hurt was nauseating. All the symptoms that were common with Hickster resurfaced. The shaking hands, the uncontrollable crying, the urge to howl away my pain, the dread of a coworker walking by and seeing my miserable anguished meltdown.


After my last fight with Hickster, a 45 minute screaming match during which I lost my voice from yelling in a busy downtown metro station in the middle of rush hour, I’ve cut all ties with him, completely. Deleted and blocked him and most of his friends from my social media and every possible means of communication. They do not exist. I cannot find them via search, nor they me. Every reminder of Hickster has been flushed from my life. All the unfinished and unresolved business issues? Too bad. I’ve cut my losses. Could I have pursued and maybe eventually won? Maybe, but it was killing me. Not a hyperbole. Frankly, I’ve really really blossomed in the weeks since I’ve cut him out of my life. I might have known before that drama and happiness are mutually exclusive, but peace? My god, the bliss. Not having to ignore that feeling of dread every time I checked my phone – what would I find? Another mean, belittling text? Silence? An impersonal business question? 7 missed calls and an angry voicemail? I am free from all of that.

But I am not healed. My peace is not coming from a place of forgiveness or love. It is coming from the ability to ignore both Hickster’s existence and any reminder of my unresolved wounds. My impulse upon discovering ICB’s IG liking spree was to ghost him. To just walk away. I didn’t want to have to work through the disappointment, or talk about this with him. Just too hard. Much easier to bounce and add him to the list of things I won’t ever think about again because they hurt and make me sad.

It’s great discovering one is a coward. Annoying too, because now that I am aware of my cowardice, I gotta knuckle down and face this situation properly.


But Vanilla, I’m not them. I’m me. ICB. I’m not them, you can’t react to them, you have to react to me. 

That is true. As far as hurtful things go, ICB’s IG like-bonanza was a small relatively harmless moment in time. His motivation was probably nothing more than an appreciation for a friend’s newly discovered and very well curated IG profile. He’s not a thirsty dude. He is respectful. He would never, EVER voluntarily hurt me. ICB is no asshole. But the fact of the matter is, the list of things that matter more than I do is a long one. Top of mind, I am not. And from there, it is a very small step till I am back in the overwhelming ache of “I am not enough.”

Now that I’ve mostly sorted through what is the ICB-specific hurt and the unhealed tsunami of wounds-past… mostly I am just tired. And sad. I feel so much sorrow for the permanent deep scars the men in my life have inflicted upon me. Men I loved. Deeply. My bad for having given them so much of myself when they didn’t deserve it… but damn. I gave them love, time, money, energy, health. They gave me back brokenness. To this day, I’ll defend them as not being all bad. But it makes me sad, so very sad, to accept that this happened to me… because I let it.

They treated me as not enough, because I let them. I did not believe I am enough. I hoped with each one that if I just stuck it out, tried harder to show them just how worthy I was, maybe, maybe, they would find me enough.

They didn’t.

Here I am, left with brokenness, baggage and non-existent coping techniques. Self-inflicted, through my desperation to be seen, acknowledged and loved.


Part of me feels very silly. Here I am writing a long post about the hurt I feel bc of some IG stalking I did, and imma post it because I can’t not get this off my chest. I’ll eventually bring this to ICB’s attention. Or I won’t. Either way, it’s passive aggressive AF, but I can’t do better. This is gonna be a fight that is gonna be so silly. A fight about Instagram likes. How petty can I be?

Well…

Petty enough to say “I won’t accept this. This is not enough.”

Little adorable Hulk

I’ve been really struggling with this BPD diagnosis. But that’s a whole series of posts.

I was worried about sharing my diagnosis with ICB. In general, ICB rejects the idea that I have any “problems” be they ADD, depression or anything else. His theory? That I am just too fucking smart, and I concentrate on and care about that which I find interesting and everything else – including but not limited to: abiding to social norms and typical adulting concepts like cooking, driving, cleaning, and taking care of my appearance – just fall to the wayside. To him, that is just who I am and it is both a huge part of my charm as well as the source of my occasionally irritating traits. He doesn’t like these pejorative labels and thinks I refuse to see my potential or believe in myself. He might be right, at least partially.

All this to say, I wasn’t sure how he’d take this diagnosis, since it comes with a whole lot of stigma – its the catch-all diagnosis for “the crazy”. He took it pretty well, more concerned about how I was handling it. I had found some resources and was reading up on it? Good. It was giving me a frame of reference to understand myself and some of my very painful interactions? Excellent. I felt it explained a lot, and with time I could work to better coping mechanisms? Well then, get cracking!

I bring the guy evidence that I am crazy, and he doesn’t flinch, just wants me to find the tools to be happy.

Dont Get It Jonah Hill GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Last week, I was talking to ICB about work, and he asked me how the new guy on my team was finding it. I wanted to pick ICB’s brain about some weaknesses in my management style that I don’t yet know how to overcome, but I didn’t get further than, “Well, I know I am difficult but…” ICB cut me off, laughing. “Really?! I hadn’t noticed.” What do you mean, bro? I’ve been going out of my way to hide the crazy from you. “Vanilla, I can tell when you are pissed every single time you text me. You try SO HARD to hide it, but you really aren’t as subtle as you think you are.”

ICB began to imitate me, stomping around like the Hulk, exclaiming in a gruff falsetto voice:

Grrrrrr, Fine, ICB, I get you are busy, have a good day ICB.

Grrrrr, It’s ok ICB, you already made plans, it’s alright.

Grrrrr, No, I am not mad you took too long to answer me, no everything is fine. I mean, I prefer if you answer me quickly or call me, but I get it, you were busy. I’m fine.

I stood there, dismayed, because he was 100% right, but I really thought I’d been doing a good job at shielding him from my insecurities and unfair thoughts. ICB laughed, kissed me on the forehead, “Yeah, I am right. I know my Vanilla.”

Hulk GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Wednesday night, ICB responded to one of my snarkier texts ALL IN CAPS. Huh?! Fine, I hadn’t been messaging the sweetest of thoughts, but in no way did I think it warranted such a strong response. I tried calling him to see wassup, but he was driving, and told me he’d call me back. I fell asleep waiting. I woke up thursday morning, to no response. Remorseful, I texted him an apology, explaining that I did not mean to hurt his feelings, but could he please explain what part of my message had triggered such a strong response? An hour later, he laughingly responded – the caps meant nothing at all, he had a new cell phone and had been trying out the new features, like the verbal dictation. I’d tormented myself for nothing. As I tried to gather my thoughts to express my frustrated roller coaster of emotion, the multiple emoticons of ICB laughing came in, followed by “Have a good day my little adorable Hulk”.

Cue my brain:

He said “my”. I like that. I haven’t been a “my” to anyone in a while. And he finds me adorable?! I think he likes me. I mean, I hope he does. I like him so that works out nicely. I’m not little tho, didn’t he notice by now? But still. Awwwww. Now I feel all feminine and pretty. Can the Hulk be feminine and pretty?! I don’t think most people want to have sex with the Hulk. What an annoying nickname. How dare he be so on point?? Little fucker. I wish ICB could see me rolling my eyes right now. Screw him for being so perceptive. He did say “my”, tho. And “adorable”. Most of that sentence makes me happy. I can handle being an adorable Hulk. I think. But FFS, can the dude learn to communicate like a human??! ALL CAPS IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE THING EVER. Sheesh.

How did I handle feeling gratified and annoyed at the same time? By sitting with a goofy smile at my desk and drafting and erasing 17 different responses before giving up and getting back to work.

Just call me “Hulkette” from here on out.

Closure and forgiveness

A few weeks after Phase 6 feels like mourning and confusion, things with Hickster reached an all-time low. I’ve cut off +/- all contact with him, keeping just enough to monitor the situation from afar, because I sometimes wonder if it will one day go legal. Paranoid? Probably. But I am first and foremost an accountant aka #riskaverse and a business woman aka #riskmanagement. (Yes, I am those things EVEN in my personal relationships.) So imma consider the worst case scenario, and be prepared for it #justincase.

I’ve been working hard to not let this drama poison my ongoing recovery. As Dynamo once told me, about an entirely different guy,

So this is what you are gonna do. You are going to unfriend him from social media, block him, and never talk to him again. He lied to you. He has lied to others. He has repeatedly shown that he will hurt you as a side-effect to him getting something he wants. He can have all the good quantities you describe, all that is true. You have forgiven him, bc you should not hold hatred in your heart. But he is not a good friend. And so he deserves nothing from you. No time, no energy, no space in your life. That isn’t being a drama queen, that is choosing to control the levels of drama and happiness in your life. To chose happiness you MUST not choose drama.

And just like that, after 15 months, Beaut was back top of mind. I cannot work through Hickster’s gaping wounds unless I acknowledge the many parallels between the two relationships and the common denominator: me. I must learn all the lessons from these two experiences to make sure I never find myself in another harmful relationship. Which of my deep insecurities did these guys successfully use to their advantage? By being aware of them and working to address them, I can avoid repeating the same patterns in the future.

I’ve always found the action of blocking someone on social media and ignoring them in real life incredibly savage. Sure, when the hurt is just too much, it is better to deny a person’s existence than to obsess over them unhealthily, going mad with unhelpful comparisons, low-key stalking, self-inflicting worry and anxiety. Blocking Beaut was necessary for me to have the space get over him, but I found it incompatible with forgiveness. Continuously denying the existence of a person, even on social media, is a deliberate action. It is a choice to erase any memory of them in your life. It implies unresolved pain and an inability to handle the complexities of human interaction. About 6 months after blocking Beaut, I cautiously unblocked him. Seeing his posts flit through my newsfeed gave me satisfaction: he was still trucking along, trying his bumbling best. He might be repeating some of the same mistakes, but nevertheless, he was fighting the good fight. I’d forgiven him.

When I felt myself forced to cut off contact with Hickster, I had an overwhelming impulse to reach out to Beaut. Through his social media, I was aware that his relationship with Main Girl Girlfriend had fallen apart. I wondered. Was this some repressed need to self-sabotage and create drama? I sounded all areas of my heart, but found nothing twisted or painful. I invited him to join me at a dance event, at the same school where we used to take salsa classes together. When he showed up, I was so happy to see him. He was happy to see me. He looked good. We talked a bit, catching up on 15 months of life events, we danced a fair bit, and he eventually left after exchanging the customary and meaningless mutual noises of goodwill and keeping in touch. A weight I didn’t even know I’d been carrying for the past 2.5 years has been lifted. I’ve forgiven myself.


Petty post notwithstanding, I’ve been following Main Girl Girlfriend Ex-Girlfriend’s blog on and off since I first found out about it.

It started from a place of insecurity: what did she have that I didn’t? What made her sweeter, kinder, more appealing, better able to withstand the pain that came from dealing with Beaut? Was she a manipulator playing Beaut better than he was playing her?

Then, as my hurt began to fade, it continued from curiosity and a sense of being bonded to her. We’d shared the same guy for so long, had too many Facebook conversations on his wall (I cringe at how obvious I was in competing for his attention to anyone viewing his profile #nodignity), even meeting each other once, that our #funnynotfunny nickname for each other was SisterWives. I’d always liked her, despite myself – she was an AMAZING mother, full of love and compassion, funny, sassy, open-minded and kind. So I continued to read, wondering if maybe this time Beaut would get his head out of his ass and recognize the love of a good woman before he torpedoed the relationship the way he had with so many others. I hoped so, for his sake.

As I got embroiled with Hickster and began cycling through the rollercoaster of passion and emotional abuse, I continued to read. I recognized so much of myself in her: the doubts, confusion, fear, justifications and love. I hoped that her’s would be a much happier ending than my own. I saw the tell-tale signs of mental anguish and I felt our bond grow stronger. I continued to read, as I navigated my depression. One day this spring, she wrote about her love for her son and the letters she wrote to him on an almost daily basis. It squeezed my heart – I still cherish the handwritten notes my mother wrote to me growing up (here and here). So I left her a comment, to tell her as much. Some things are more important than petty appearances of indifference.

As Main Girl Girlfriend Ex-Girlfriend Bright Light began to write of her attempts to piece back her life after the breakup, it became harder to not comment. So many of her struggles and reflections were identical to the ones that I’d been working through because of Hickster. Eventually, I couldn’t stop myself. Her posts were a mix of confusion and shame. And if there is one thing I am familiar with, it is shame.

Empathy’s the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.

Brené Brown, Listening to Shame, Ted 2012

Me too, Bright Light. Me too. You got this. You will find peace, and you will forgive yourself.

She wrote recently about the similar feeling of solidarity she shares with me, and how my comments have helped her on her journey to healing. In that post, she renamed me Rainbows, fully conscious of my struggle to see the colors.

It feels like absolution.

On days where I am too confused, hurt and tired to continue fighting against my brain, I tell myself I owe it to all the ppl who have invested themselves in my recovery: the public healthcare system, my coworkers, my friends, my family, ICB and now Bright Light.

I got this. I will find peace, and I will forgive myself.

3 words that produced an emotional hangover

Rainy night. I picked up a bottle of wine. ICB cooked supper. In all these years since that ancient breakup in 2010, I’ve only had supper made for me twice. The first time was part of Beaut’s grand seduction. The second time, I figured out much later, was because Beaut felt guilty for neglecting me for Main Girl. All these years. All those dating stories. Not one guy felt like sharing a slice of his life with me, without an ulterior goal. Until now.

As usual, the conversation was all over the place: Cardi B, the Pope, feminism, boundaries/invasion of privacy, and then,

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

What is this, an interview? I dunno, I don’t really have goals. I have a dream so big I’ve stopped believing it will happen: moving to Paris. It keeps getting delayed because of my fear and because every time I start to get my shit together, another depression comes along and robs me of 1-2 years of my life.

Ok, fair enough, but if you aren’t sure that it will happen, why don’t you buy yourself a condo? That way you are investing in yourself, and if you leave, rent it out, and if you don’t leave, nothing lost.

I hate these questions. Because. I can’t adult.

What do you mean, you can’t adult?

I don’t have it together to take care of something of value. There is a reason why I don’t have plants or pets: I kill them through neglect and then feel awful. I know myself, I will NEVER take care of any form of real estate, big or small, enough to prevent a loss of value. It took me SEVEN YEARS to go to a dentist. Extrapolate that degree of neglect over the surface area of a small condo vs a few teeth, and you can see why I don’t wanna spend any money on what is gonna turn out to be a self-made bad investment. I live like a college student with a roommate, not because I can’t afford to live alone, but because if I don’t share my space with someone, I will live in a pigsty. Living with someone forces me to do the dishes, to occasionally remember that brooms exist, and most importantly, limit my un-tidyness, out of respect for the other person. But there is no interior decoration, you’d think I moved in 2 weeks ago instead of 3 years ago.

It’s just a matter of discipline. You can do this. Start small, it’s no big deal.

It is tho. I am 34, and this is the best I can do. It isn’t sexy. It isn’t admirable. That is what my shadow does, even when I am doing ok. It takes all my energy. All I have left is funneled into my job which I love, it gives me purpose and identity.The bit of energy I do have left, I use to try show up to my friends and family. I can’t do better.

Can we change topics now? I don’t like showing you the underbelly of my despair, boy. I am ashamed of it, and it is not attractive. I like you enough to want you to think well of me. Please. Let’s talk about the weather.


Helping ICB on a project of his, because I can, and because I love discovering the odd quirks and personality traits that come from watching him do something.

He disappears into his bedroom and reappears with a laptop bag. He takes out the few items stored in it. Checks that it is in pristine condition. Fidgets, nervously.

Vanilla, I’d like for you to have this. You lug around that big bag, it’s falling apart. See how light and lean this bag is? Look at the reinforced shoulder strap for when you walk home after one of your long days at the office, it won’t cut into your skin the way your bag does. All these compartments that don’t make it bulky, you’ll be able to store your books and notes neatly. I know you are very worried about an eventual theft of the confidential info on your laptop, so see how you can add one of those mini locks to the zipper? Your bag’s zipper is broken, you are walking around with a ginormous open purse. It’s not suitable for someone in your role. This bag is lighter and slicker. Yes? It will be good for you.

He waits. I look at my old computer bag, discarded in the entry. I bought it in 2012, a couple of months after my mother’s death, in anticipation of my first professional trip to Paris, the first of many trips to that city that always helps me see the colors. It is a tired bag, misshapen, with peeling pleather. I should have retired it 2-3 years ago, but I never noticed. It was still doing its job. I look at ICB. In that moment he reminds me of my Baba, who never let anyone she cared about leave her house without giving them something she thought could be useful to them, be it new or used. She was always on the lookout for ways to practically increase their well-being, in small ways. Humbly.

8 years. Not one gift from a boy. Flowers on a first date, once. No Christmas presents, no birthday presents, and never, not ever, an unbirthday present.

Sometimes “Thank you” is inadequate.


Time for me to leave. Kiss goodbye. ICB references the earlier convo.

Vanilla, if you think of your home as am extension of yourself, it becomes easier to care for it. Just like you enjoy taking of yourself, nice clothes, good style, jewelry, and making yourself pretty every morning, you’ll feel better if your home is beautiful.

Bro, you have it all wrong. I don’t enjoy making myself pretty every day, haven’t for over a year bc of the Great Depression of 2017-2018. I shower because I workout and sweat too much. All my clothes date from 2-10 years ago, bc shopping gives me panic attacks and anxiety. Yes, it’s true, I usually look well put together, but that is because I only buy very easy to maintain, well cut, flattering clothes – it’s worth spending a bit more effort/money when I do shop to make sure the clothes are solid, so that I don’t have to think in the mornings when getting dressed. I also can get away with minimal effort because I have a good silhouette – I’m in pretty good shape because I try (but have been failing lately) to workout 2-4 times a week for my mental health. So clothes look good on me. I’ve let my hair grow out, because it is much easier to do simple updos that look classy and neat but don’t require me to dry my hair or style it. Most days I remember to put on mascara, at the office, after 1-2 morning coffees. That isn’t me taking pleasure in my appearance – that is me doing the bare minimum to avoid looking too unprofessional or sloppy, and taking advantage of the fluke of my genetics to look better than I deserve. I’m way too tired to invest in my appearance, and it shows, and I know how it impacts people’s impression of me, but I just can’t find the energy to try harder.

Seriously, Vanilla, you are so hard on yourself. Believe in yourself a bit more. You know, from time to time, it helps to say “I am beautiful, I am smart, I am capable.”

His tone was light, slightly teasing. I stayed silent. How to explain that I get that it looks easy, but honestly, I am trying as hard as I can, and I. just. can’t.

Go on. Say it. “Je suis belle. Je suis intelligente. Je suis capable.”

Hoping ICB would let it drop, I laughed and said, “Bro, I am fucking smart”.

No, Vanilla. 3 words. Say it. “Je suis belle. Je suis intelligente. Je suis capable.” Say it. I want to hear you say it.

I couldn’t. I lost my words. I couldn’t say anything. And as I watched the smile in his eyes fade to concern, I started to cry.

No, Vanilla. Please don’t cry. Please believe it. “Je suis belle. Je suis intelligente. Je suis capable.” Go on. Say it. Please say it. Come with me – look at yourself in this mirror, don’t you see what I see? You are so beautiful, your smile is contagious. You are smart, your company invests in you despite your legendary lack of punctuality, your team loves you and looks up to you. You are competent, people are always coming to you for help. Look at yourself. Can’t you see it? Say it. “Je suis belle. Je suis intelligente. Je suis capable.” Say it with me. Please, say it with me.

My tears turned into sobs. ICB stood beside me, holding my hands, waiting patiently, comfortingly, repeating the mantra every few minutes. I don’t know how much time passed until, embarrassed that ICB witnessed my ugly cry, and really needing to blow my nose, I whispered “I am beautiful, I am smart, I am capable.”

Good girl. Say it again. Loudly. I want to hear it.

FFS. This is cheesy and awful, and dammit, as far as vulnerability goes, this SUCKS. I never reveal my bottomless pit of pain and shame to anyone, much less myself. I wasn’t even aware that it had such a grip over me. Fine. FINE. “I am beautiful, I am smart, I am capable.”

Like it was no big deal, ICB smiled as he watched me blow my nose thoroughly, gave me a hug, a kiss on the cheek, a slap on the ass and accompanied me out the door.


I feel hungover. Mildly concussed.

But as I enjoy some emergency recovery cuddles with Mimi, we both agree: ICB is good people.

Empathy’s the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.

Brené Brown, Listening to Shame, Ted 2012

I am still ashamed. But somehow, my shame feels less crippling than before.

All of the colors in Paris

Sunday. Landed in Paris, took a quick nap, then off I went for a little bit of solo-sightseeing. Y’all. There are SO many tourists in Paris during the summer months. No, I do not think of myself as a tourist. I am an invited guest. A wannabe Frenchie. Obvi.

ANYHOW.

I stopped by la Sainte Chapelle for the first time since 2012 to stare at the beautiful stained glass windows. Then I skipped over a few blocks to attend Mass at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. An organ. A skilled choir. Pomp and circumstance. Mozart! A very French archbishop cracking very French jokes that only a small percentage of attendees understood, because Mass at Notre-Dame is packed with hundreds of Christian tourists from every corner of the earth. During Mass, Notre-Dame is no longer a historical monument, but a living breathing space where people find solace from their grief and pray for salvation. There is something very humbling about uttering the same prayers that have been said by thousands of people for the past 7 centuries. The current emotions mingle with those that fill the walls of that sacred place.

Sunday night, as is my habit, I went to the Louvre. The contrast of the modern art (pyramids) and the old grandeur is magical, preventing the Louvre from merely being a fancy building that hosts a vast quantity of antiques. It is anchored in our current day world.

That statue reminds me that this used to be a real palace with carriages and horses stomping their hooves impatiently amongst the bustling activity.

In case you are wondering, all the pics in this post were taken with my iPhone 8. And other than this pic and the next pic below, all pics in this post were taken solely by me. ICB helped me get the right composition for this one. Filters applied by me.

Usually, the passage way to the courtyard is deserted. On Sunday, there was a very talented cellist playing Bach’s cello suites. I stopped to listen for 15 minutes. The cello was my mother’s favorite instrument: my father’s wedding present to her was a cello + music lessons, which she never got to take advantage of because of her health that began to fail almost immediately after their marriage. It took her years to sell the cello. She liked looking at it, she said. What a mama. A mama that never got to see the Louvre. Who never got to see much, yet who gave me everything so that I could live my best life. Since her death, I’ve been sent to Paris 9 times for work. I felt so much joy and sorrow, standing in that courtyard, listening to that music, my heart tried to break through my body. Instead, I cried.

That is me, on the left, hiding behind the column. I didn’t want to distract the cellist with my tears. I was unaware that I was in ICB’s line of vision.

I’ve been listening to Elgar’s Enigma Variations on repeat this trip since Sunday night. #perfect #mood.


Monday, I stopped by the Jardins des Tuileries before (8:30pm) and after supper (10:00pm).

Unfortunately this pic doesn’t capture the brilliant blue skies, which I could barely see because of the bright sun.

Jardins des Tuileries is an oasis in the middle of Paris. Joggers at all hours, families with preschoolers, tourists, people taking naps in the lawn chairs around the fountain, business people taking a break for icecream, students reading books in the shade. These gardens are where Parisians find shelter from the hustle of the city. I’ve never seen it so quiet and peaceful as it was on Monday at 10:00pm.

That sky tho. NO FILTER. Let me write that one more time. NO. FILTER.

No filter AND so peaceful a pelican came and hung out with me.

Laters, dude. Also, would y’all LOOK at that sky.

As the pelican took flight to new discoveries, I decided it was time to lead ICB through Paris, to discover the Eiffel Tower. With the beautiful weather, and vivid skies, there would be many opportunities for spectacular pictures.


Spectacular doesn’t begin to cover it. It is a 40 minute walk from the Jardins des Tuileries to the Place Trocadero, according to Google. It took us over 2 hours because we kept stopping to take pictures. The number of times I heard ICB triumphantly exclaim, “That’s it! I am never taking a picture ever again in my life. Would you look at this shot? It is PERFECTION.”

That is Paris for ya. Perfection in beauty.

Oh hey, guess what. Yup. NO FILTER. Can you imagine walking by views like this daily?

As we walked, I talked. I told ICB of how Paris saved me following my mother’s death, when I was badly stuck in my grief. Of how I feel like I am coming home, every time I come to Paris. How I feel like I belong here, like a missing part of my identity is found as I walk through its streets.  How in Paris, I feel fully alive, being surrounded by such beauty encourages me to strive to find my own – because there is nothing more beautiful than being fully myself.

Paris is a CROWDED city. And yet, the power of it’s beauty is so strong that you just have to look around to see moments of peace and serenity.

We finally made it to Place Trocadero. We spent almost an hour there, in silence, soaking up the atmosphere. Sitting on the steps of the Place, listening to the talented street musicians sing pop songs in French accents, children laughing, adolescents flirting in the background. We ate box of macarons. ICB took 200 pictures of the Eiffel Tower, from every possible angle. As I sat back and watched him work, I felt deep contentment. Here I was, 24 hours from my birthday, seeing and feeling colors. All of the colors. What’s more, I’ve been feeling colors, intermittently but with increasing frequency, since beginning May. I am getting better. One year, day for day from the start of this vicious episode of depression, I am on my way to remission. I survived. Normally I feel depression strips me of so much of my life, time just slips through my helpless fingers, month after month, year after year. But as I watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle on Tuesday night, I felt gratitude. As Rainbow once told me, surviving deep pain and suffering opens us up to the capacity to see “all of the colors, so very brightly. It can be overwhelming sometimes, and tiring. But I wouldn’t trade the beauty that I can now see for anything.”

My depressions might steal from me the ability to see colors for long stretches of time… But my depressions make me kinder, more compassionate, and much more willing to take risks and live during those brief moments when my shadow is sleeping. Here I was in Paris, working at my dream job, accompanied by a guy I barely knew. Despite a bumpy start, we were having a total blast. I was enjoying every single moment without trying to determine anything about the future or what this means for “us” – who cares, really? This trip was a trip of memories and happiness, time well spent. I was taking the lessons I’d learned in Toulouse last year, and applying them in the best possible way.

I sat on those steps, under a sparkling Eiffel Tower, and cried tears of happiness and gratitude.


Yesterday was my birthday.

ICB surprised me with this present.

Vanilla, I know you slide into a world of no color, of black and white and grey. I know you find it hard, that it makes you suffer. Paris is your happy place, where you feel alive and see clearly. I want you to have this, so when things are not going well, you can look at it and remember those colors that you can and sometimes do see. I want you to remember the colors. I want you to see them.

Kindness, y’all. Wrecks me everytime.

There have been a lot of tears on this trip. For the first time in a long long time, these were the best kind of tears.

All of the colors.

All of them.


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