Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Binge Watching and Emotional Abuse

I took a break from writing and was online far less than I usually I am because I spent the past 19 days binge watching a show that I ended up really enjoying. No, I won't say what show it is. I'm sorry. I was asked by several people during Twitter updates but beyond saying it's an Argentinian show and that I watched it in Spanish instead of the dubbed English version, I'm not saying much else.

I should start by saying that I'm not a binge watcher... or I wasn't. I'm not big on TV in general. I have the odd show that I love but none that I've loved enough to binge watch. I'm glad I did it because it did one major thing for me these past (almost 3 weeks): it saved me from plummeting into a full blown depression.

On the day I started watching this show was an emotionally traumatic day for me. After slowly realizing that I was being emotionally manipulated and abused by a close friend, it was decided that it was best for me to pull a "Lina" (readers of the first novel will know what I'm talking about) and cut toxic friendships out of my life. There were several. In the days prior to the start of the "Great Binge Watch of 2016" (as I'm calling it) I was not in a good place. At all.

If you're asking yourself how it's possible that I didn't realize I was being emotionally abused, that's just how I am. I'm utterly clueless sometimes, which apparently isn't uncommon. When it comes to friendships and relationships, I sometimes can't see what's right in front of me. Guys who have had crushes on me in the past? I've always interpreted it as friendship and nothing more. That's why I have wingmen now. lol. People who do me harm? Sad to say that I don't always see the red flags. I see people who keep messing up but was come back always penitent after they've hurt me. What I didn't see was that they were emotionally manipulating me because I tend to see the best in everyone. This isn't the first time it's happened (my spiritual director saved me from another long-term one last year) but this time I had friends who pointed out those things I failed to see.

My friends are amazing. Those who knew the situation made sure I was aware of what was going on. I'm (to quote a friend) "too nice" to see people being emotionally abusive towards me so my friends look out for me. When it got to the point where I had a couple of friends and my mother all point out the bad shape I was in -- both emotionally and mentally -- I knew what I needed to do. I was honestly a little fearful of how other people were going to react. In fact, I still am. I admitted that I needed help. My mother and my friends (two in particular) went above and beyond to make sure I was going to be okay and that I had the break necessary to begin the healing process.

I became determined to limit my time online. I stopped charging my laptop daily, sometimes spending up to two days in between charges despite the battery being completely drained those days. I limited my phone usage. It helps that my phone has been acting up for a while now; it gives me the perfect excuse to not use it much. I let those I was closest to know that I was taking a break from texting and social media for a couple of days. I would ignore my phone for long periods of time. I even let the service "run out" (I use a prepaid phone) until I needed it again. Some text messages and emails went unanswered for several days and explanations were given when I felt well enough to start answering them once again. In fact, I'm still not fully back to my usual habits but that's okay. I'll ease back into it as I get comfortable with them again.

Since I had gotten Netflix for a month (my own treat before classes begin), I looked for recommendations and found this show. It didn't sound like my cup of tea but I blindly gave it a chance... and it became one of the best decisions I could've made. The characters and plotlines sometimes frustrated me to the point where I would yell at the TV in frustration. At times I didn't want to continue but I did. I stuck it out. I became emotionally invested at a time where my emotional well being and my self-esteem were fragile. Still, going through the emotional roller coaster with the characters helped me greatly.

The main character's life (as well as that of her friends) revolves around music. I think that was the big selling point for me. Those who've known me long enough to remember my pre-reversion days know how much I love music and what a big part of me it's always been. Prior to changing my major to Religious Studies I was actually a Jazz Studies major at Santa Monica College. I took a couple of music courses as an undergrad and was deciding between studying history or performance before I reverted. I could be seen lugging around my acoustic guitar to classes and even playing in between classes.

Growing up I loved singing and dancing. I got into playing instruments (especially the guitar) as I got older but singing and dancing were always what I enjoyed the most. At some point prior to my reversion, I stepped back from it. After my father died, I stopped playing the guitar. It wasn't until this earlier summer that I really picked it up again. I've always sung along to the radio or danced whilst cleaning but it wasn't until the Great Binge Watch of 2016 that I realized how much I truly missed immersing myself in it.

I miss taking music courses. I miss taking dance classes. I miss expressing myself through music. Before finishing all 240 episodes of the show, I made the decision to return to the dance floor. After thinking it through, I've decided to start with ballet. Because of all the health issues and my doctors limiting my exercise (I was completely sedentary for months at one point), I need to start slow and work myself up to what is more physically demanding. I'm also going to return to taking music classes (singing and playing piano and guitar) at some point but dance will be a good place for me to start for health reasons (I need the exercise).

If you guys are wondering how all of this connected: I was emotionally fragile so I made the decision (with the support of my wonderful friends) to cut the things that were causing me harm. To keep my mind occupied (since I have the tendency to live in my head and overanalyze things), I started watching a show that was recommended but knew virtually nothing about. I became hooked, which helped me from internalizing a lot of things that would've undoubtedly triggered a deep depression in me. Instead of dwelling on negative emotions, I laughed, cried, and went through an array of emotions with the main character. As I continued to watch the show, I rediscovered what brought me joy in the past (the same that the characters loved) and it helped me make the decision to reintroduce these things into my life. As the show came to an end, so did a lot of the negativity in my life. I somehow gained the confidence and drive to take back what little control I have over my life.

I had cancelled Netflix prior to finishing the series because I didn't want the temptation of binge watching again but I think I'm going to keep it. I found out that the show isn't available in the U.S. except on Netflix (nope, no DVDs available for this region) and can't legally watch it anywhere else. It might be good for me to occasionally watch the show when I have some free time during the semester.

If you're wondering how I was able to pull off 240 episodes (which ranged between 42 and 65 minutes each) in 19 days: a lot of fast forwarding and free time. I would fast forward parts of characters I disliked and only watch the plotlines and characters I enjoyed. Sometimes it would take me only 20-25 minutes to finish a single episode. That and, like I said, I had a lot of free time this and last month -- probably the last time I'll ever have all this free time without responsibilities beyond cleaning the house, running errands, and taking care of myself. It felt so odd to be selfish and do this but I knew it was part of the self-care I needed so I did.

If you're wondering what my prayer life looked like during this time: praying a decade of the Rosary or praying up to two different prayers in between episodes was how I did it. I'll be the first to admit that there were a couple of times when I messed up because I got too into the show but I got my system down pat towards the end so I was able to get all my prayers in on time.

I'm grateful for having the time to do something (binge watching) which I wouldn't normally recommend or even do. I'm grateful that that decision helped keep my mental health in a good, healthy place (even my therapist was impressed at our last session last week). I'm grateful that my friends were honest with me and then did what they could to protect me from being harmed any more. I'm grateful to my mother for sitting down with me and watching many of the episodes with me and then saying that she was happy that the show served as a form of therapy -- it helped make me feel less guilty about all the time I spent watching it.

Now that I'm finished with the show, I'm happy to say that I have a new outlook on life and even new things to do. Beyond my courses this and next semester, I plan on taking dance classes for fun. I've already gotten reacquainted with an old part of my life (and old friends). I hope all of this will make things a little easier for me. I will be online less. I might blog less... though I'll touch on this topic next time because I have a major decision regarding blogging that I still need to make.

There you have it. That's the reason why I spent so much time binge watching and talking about binge watching. It might not seem like much but it did a lot for me. :) I told y'all on Twitter I had a good excuse.

Alright, I'm going to go check my email because I haven't spent much time on the laptop lately and I have messages to sort through and reply to. :)

I hope y'all are having a lovely week thus far. :)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

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