Trust as a Radical Act of Self-Love

I have trust issues.

I don’t know anyone without trust issues.

I know very few people who are the kind to trust first.

Personally, I don’t remember the last time I fully trusted anyone.

This is the story I’m working with around trust.

On the last day of rehab at Summit Eating Disorders and Outreach Program (shout out to those saintly people–I’m better and I’m a cook!) everyone is given a journal with a note written inside from their primary therapist and a bracelet with a word on it.

“Trust” is written on the little silver bracelet I receive and at the top of the page of this new journal, followed by this excerpt:


“When you first began treatment, you were very protective of yourself and struggled believing others were there to help and guide you. I sat with you in many sessions observing your inner struggle with making decisions for yourself. Slowly, as you began to take ownership of your life and use your voice I watched you begin to ‘trust’ and follow your own intuition! It was so cool!”

-year 2011

It seems strange to me that I remember this moment today. I once had the first page taped shut, hoping no one would see it but knowing one day I’d want to reference it. Now it’s up for the world to see.

So I guess I’ve come a long way in learning how to trust, but I don’t trust YOU (no offense, it’s just…we’ve barely met). Really though, I believe I am able to trust because I believe I’m strong enough to deal with whatever comes of putting this out there.

Trust in relationships is similar I think. We are capable of trusting others only insofar as we become capable of trusting ourselves, our desires, our instincts, our minds.

We leap into a relationship or drag our feet into one perhaps expecting this one is going to be just like the last one and why even bother?

We see the signs and the red flags.

He hasn’t texted back in 24 hours.

She’s doing her makeup differently. Has she met someone else?

Is he interested? Is she cheating? Do they care about me? Am I being stupid for caring about them?

Firstly, these kinds of thoughts are exhausting. It’s one thing to be caught up in your own version of these thoughts. Have you ever listened to someone else’s version? A woman at work recently opened up to me about liking someone for the first time since her last breakup and all day, despite working a double, going out to drink the night before, and holding down two jobs and a school-full-time schedule, she could only talk to me about how he hadn’t gotten back to her over text since that morning.
I happen to know that the dude she is speaking of doesn’t even look at his phone until after six pm as a personal preference, and upon telling her this she said, “Yes but he went 24 hours without responding once.”

At this point, what can I say? It seems to me her brain is caught in a program of “Can I trust this guy or not? Should I trust this guy?” and while she was talking to me to get it off her chest and get a second opinion, it was clear nothing I could say was going to change her mind. She was in a conversation with her selves: The one that wanted to trust bickering with the one that did not.

Similarly, same day, another friend hasn’t heard back from a newish fling in almost 24 hours and is convinced this is the end because this is a red flag.

Red flags, for one, do not mean BAIL, although if the discomfort is too much, there is no reason to indulge. At the same time, red flags also do not mean that her suspicions are well-founded. Well he hasn’t texted back and the last time a guy did this and before that and this time it’s like and…

Those of us with trust issues will often jump on the first train out of any budding relationship that promises to make us face what it means to trust until we are ready to trust. If you are the kind of person who finds it very difficult to trust because of past experiences with trauma no matter how big or small that trauma is, I hate to break it to you but learning to trust is a giant terrifying leap into a pit that could be filled with pillows or pins or fucking clock swallowing crocodiles for all I know.

But damn is it worth it.

A month before we move DJ and I are fighting quite a lot. We’ve been together eight months. He’s working a lot at R***where we met and started dating. I’d quit two weeks prior after discovering I was getting paid less than most cooks there while working on the most labor intensive station 6 days a week. I asked for a raise or a couple prep shifts and was told I’d work saute when chef said I’d work saute so I walked out. Chef is now opening a bagel shop and seems much happier and the people at R****are still working hard and playing hard I’m sure.

So DJ is working there and there are a lot of fine ladies who work at R***whom he knew long before he knew me and I’m packing our stuff, looking for housing, bartending at a little place by our house, thinking all this time about the what ifs.

For the first time since we started dating, DJ is out all night. He’s at a friend’s, saying goodbye. There’s a girl a woman at work who pitches in to buy him knives with the chefs, hugs him, hands on his chest, staring straight at me and I want to jab my fingers into her big blue eyes and drag her around by the sockets. There’s another who sells him weed, has a boyfriend, and is rumored to fuck other people anyways. She called me Britney once, asked me what I thought of her spandex another time, and is rumored to have slept with one of the managers to pin down the bartending gig that at least three other people with seniority over her were in line for. Rumors.

So I’m thinking about these things while he’s out all night and freaking the fuck out and let’s just say there’s a hole in the wall of my old apartment I didn’t know I was capable of making with an open palm. Imagine what I can do with a fist?

This is insanely unhealthy. There are so many, many things about this narrative that are unhealthy it’s difficult to share here because to me, being in this space of lacking trust in myself, in him, and in other women is the sickest place I’ve been in a long time. My dad punched a hole in the wall when I was younger and I remember every time we’d go to his house thinking that it was stupid of him to punch a hole in the wall, and here I am some two decades later finding I’m perfectly capable of being just as stupid.

I boldly asked DJ if he had cheated on me then or since we started dating and he said “No.” What else? Whether he cheated or not, most people are going to say “no” if asked that question, so where is the logic in even asking?

Further, where is the logic in choosing to spend your life with someone you don’t trust?

So I reflect on this word, Trust, the encounters I’ve had with it, what has happened in life recently. At that point I’d started bartending instead of cooking, I’d quit teaching some few months before, we are barely managing to save, our credit is awful, we’re both exhausted and snappy and are drinking a lot. My confidence is way lower than it was eight months before. Everything I’ve used to identify myself–my career, daily routine, home town, direction in life–have all changed or are about to change and I’m putting quite a lot of faith in someone else, or at least trying.

What if he doesn’t? What if, in the midst of all these changes, he changes his mind?

And it occurs to me that it doesn’t matter. I’ve chosen this. I want what is on the other side of this hardship and this weird ship we’re steering elsewhere.

When we started dating, we’d fuck and go a week without talking to each other. There was no discussion about where this thing was headed. We started from a mutual understanding of “I don’t date and am not interested in dating,” but found ourselves drifting together anyways. It didn’t matter to me what he was doing or up to. He is himself. He has his own life and yearnings and dreams to fulfill. Who am I to walk into someone’s life and ask that they allow me to depend on them emotionally, financially, sexually, or otherwise?

The traditional relationship model baffles me, and yet today that is what we are in after deciding we liked it. I’m finding it works best for me to remember that a relationship can only be as strong as the people in it and I am only responsible for my part. Every time I wonder if I can trust him, I remind myself that this is what I have chosen, that trust is an act of bravery, and that he’d be crazy to put up with my shit if he didn’t like me.

Did you ever have a friend you could be in the same room with doing completely different things, hours of not talking to one another, without it ever getting weird or awkward? You can always be yourself around this person? They are your best friend? Aside from my siblings and my cousins I’ve had maybe a handful of friends like that in my lifetime. Two are gone, victims of diseases Americans are perfectly capable of treating and yet still die from, one who has been my friend for almost a decade and whom I speak to at least once a week, and DJ. All became my friends quite by accident and unexpectedly and all have brought magic to my life. Looking back, memories of friendship are like little warm candles on an otherwise pretty dark road. I have a terrible memory, but the best ones involve friends.

The Cyclothymic Part: One thing that really sucks about having cyclothymia is that when things get tough, it’s difficult to remember better times. It’s like blinders go up, I can only see the possibilities ahead and the consequences of not measuring up to possibilities in the the past. It’s like my mind switches into fight or flight mode for 2 straight months. I get shit done, but I forget how to feel, how to slow down, how to stop and see others, be seen. It’s tunnel vision like boarding a train through life and watching it blur by outside the window. During these times, I want to drink and smoke a lot because my mind is running a million miles a minute, but this is the worst time to be intoxicated. Rational thought, fresh, 1 ingredient foods (Beets, Kale, Apple, Beef, Farro, basically food that hasn’t been processed) meditation, yoga, and music are the best antidote to this state of mind that I have discovered. Also, if you’re a coffee drinker, switching from coffee to tea is a good option during these times.

That being said, sometimes I manage to jump into these healing practices…sometimes I don’t. On the days I did yoga, we didn’t fight. On the days I didn’t, or got drunk, or too high, we fought. It sucked. I am still working on figuring out a method that can snap one out of the depressive state and kickstart motivation for engaging in healing practices. Routines are a good start, as well as getting up early and writing before doing anything else. Something about awakening that narrative voice helps me stay present during the day.

When I come out of this adrenaline state, as I did this morning, a kind of switch like the one that first flicked me into an episode on my mom’s kitchen floor when I was 14, turns on or off, whichever, and the blur clears. Things slow down. The train pulls into the station. My mind becomes more rational and my moods more even. I feel again in a way that is not this overwhelming tidal wave but subtler, happier. This brings back nice memories that I forgot existed and really could have used as a reminder in the darker times but hell that’s my brain.

For a while, it was a struggle every day to make sure that I was not listening to the part of my brain that wanted to sabotage me. The part of my brain that had hope and felt strong was the faintest little voice, barely loud enough to hear, but that’s the voice we have to listen to. The story in my head might be so loud sometimes that I cannot see the silver lining anymore. This is when I have to create the silver lining. This is the power of storytelling, something I’m coming to discover all over again after losing sight of it in the process of getting a degree in English. Ironic.

I don’t have an ending for this post. Just Trust. Take the leap. Be the hero of your own story. Be kind to yourself and others always.

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