I think putzing around on FB triggered a depression spiral today. I was reminded of how I feel, I’m not sure, unwanted? Not just in the romantic sense, although that process started in my mind in regards to my wife, but socially. The whole K thing is a reminder that I’m just not liked. I know it is her problem, her bullshit. But I’m having a hard time not internalizing that. On days like this I miss having a therapist to talk with. I can’t really talk with my wife about it, nor do I have any trusted friends I can talk with about this. I’m not sure what to do outside of weather this storm.
I’m feeling better today. There’s still some residual angst. I let my wife know I had been feeling irritable all morning in the 5 minute overlap to see each other we actually had. It was intended as a heads up. I hadn’t woken her up that morning so she slept in till about 11:25, just in time for another meeting I had to be in. I just seem to be getting into more and more meetings, and that isn’t doing me any good mentally. Turned out she had been to about other stuff. Then towards the end of my meeting (which ran for an extra 45 minutes…) she texted me a photo of our friend (well, lately it seems just her’s) of her fever and how she’s concerned she may have been exposed to Covid. This made me worried about A, who I recently spent time with. Once I got more details, I had a slight relief that the exposure windows didn’t over lap. Test results won’t be available until Monday. So far my wife and I’s health seem just fine (exposure time for K was the day before she hanged out with my wife, so if my wife did catch something from that then we’re past the timeline when something may have happened).
Anyway, that led to a discussion about what happened with A, and how my wife actually wasn’t comfortable with it despite giving consent. That’s kind of shitty on her part, as now someone else’s feelings are engaged. Then we talked about the health of our relationship, and it isn’t great. I guess my anxiety is good for something. She doesn’t want me engaging in anything else really, though she feels conflicted about holding me back. So we made a commitment to spend direct interactive time on tuesday/thursday at minimum. This seems to help. Also having more regular talks is important too, as we just haven’t done that, being content to passively be in the same area but really that just makes us roommates at best.
I still find myself feeling some sort of anger/resentment on social media whenever I see anything from S or K. I had a bit of a realization this morning regarding that feeling and what my amygdala is actually trying to do. Both of these people made me feel joy, in different ways. Then they hurt me through rejection and abandonment. I think my brain is using those emotions to keep me away from them, to avoid me getting hurt again. Part of the same anxiety path way. I’m trying to think of people in my past who followed the same pattern, and how I got past it. A was an example…with her though I didn’t see much of anything on social media…in part because I had unfollowed her but also she was rarely active on social media (until fairly lately). Of course with her I felt a little guilt as well as I was the one that broke off the relationship. But still there was pain there. It got better. Then I thought about J. We went years without talking to each other, and what I felt for her as a teenager was very intense, even as a purely LDR. I think it was about 7 years before we even started talking again. And her’s was a case in which I was rejected. We didn’t have a frank discussion of what happened until after she invited me to ren fair. She apologized for what she put me through. I think, on retrospect, that helped repair the damage between us. All that distance gave me time to forget the pain. She’s still an important friend, even if we don’t talk that much now.
Now with K, I think even logically I don’t trust her that much right now. With her 1 blow up when I accidentally upset her, she went direct to fatalism and ending the friendship. That isn’t a mature way to handle things when people get hurt on accident. She is on the younger side, so I suppose that shouldn’t be that surprising. But it still brought up my trauma responses.
With S…I’m still not sure. I understand enough that her anxieties and traumas (what I understand of them) played a big role. This pandemic + her attempt to quit vaping (nicotine product) ramped up her anxiety responses in a big way. It led to a bad situation. My emotional centers seem to desperately want to find a way to label her as a bad person, to give me reason to keep away. But understanding this defense mechanism I have now, is that really true? Shit, over half this country might be falling into this same damn trap in respect to each other.
I’ve been watching a YT series on Narcissistic abuse patterns and the damage they cause. Holy crap no wonder I have so many struggles trusting myself.
Regarding her, I don’t feel comfortable engaging in that shared community at all. Especially when it comes to the more wild events. I think the only way that I’ll be able to feel more ok (it’ll never be 100%) would be through getting closure on what happened, and a plan for how to move forward. Currently, I don’t feel comfortable enough with her to get into that discussion. I don’t see her having the patience and empathy for that kind of discussion now, or maybe ever. Which means I’m either going to have to continue to endure being uncomfortable in that group (while it is all online) or finally just completely remove myself from it and all the contacts I’ve made since. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve removed myself from a community. When I think about it, that was the result of how things went down with another person long ago. There was never an exit plan.
Thanks to a friend I was able to make use of the “Calm” app to start practicing meditation more regularly. It has helped dull the edge of some of my anxiety flare ups, though they are by no means gone. And of course I still struggle with depression episodes that keep me from wanting to reach out to anyone. During the 30 day program, one of the episodes was about friendliness. One of the suggested mantras was to think the following to people you like, and dislike, and to yourself: “May you be strong. May you find peace. May you feel that you belong”. I think that last bit has started a bit of a ripple in my awareness. That sense of community may be the thing I really need to address. I don’t have that currently. I realize I did sort of have that in the past to varying degrees. The common characteristics when I did was a regularity of *sustained* interpersonal contact and it involved an activity that I was at least competent at and somewhat recognized for. I experienced this in MMA, Kenpo, Salsa, IT back in CBT, Dag for a little while, roleplay chats, Ren faires, and competitive online gaming (back in the late 90s to mid 2000s). D&D filled in some of that as well, more so when the games were regular and the group would have follow up meetings outside of that (which also led to meeting my wife; also this gives me more insight on why her working at renfaire was important to her, it was a community in itself). I don’t have the gift of gab, at all, so I’ve always had more success with people when an activity is the focus (but still required direct interactions, which is SF doesn’t give me that community sense).
One that requires skill, not luck, so no I’m not doing bingo or shit like that. Plus there is also my personality type to begin with…I do not do well with highly extroverted/loud/flashy type people. I don’t feel that I fit in with the local poly crowds here for that reason. That is not an adjustment that I can or want to make to “fit in”. The only reason I stay in that discussion group now is because the occasional good idea still floats up. I feel that as the numbers increase, the quality will continue to decline…so I suspect it will eventually happen. I still believe in the idea of multiple romantic relationships being valid and potentially helpful things, but they require a ton of work and patience for all involved parties (and *clear* boundary work and non-judgmental understanding of triggers). I can’t do casual, at least not in person when you start throwing around all those “love” chemicals that go off when being physical. It seems like the people that do all tend to be the flashy/loud types, and I just don’t fit in there anyway. I suppose the time I spent on Lit was casual, but my sharp internal world and ability to write evocative imagery was useful and appreciated in that place. Doing that requires an intense focus that my default personality fits well with…it does *not* work in a crowded bar.
Better to focus on my strengths. I’m just not sure where I’m going to find a community that I fit in with currently. All the physical in person things aren’t an option while COVID is still a problem. That only leaves online communities. Roleplay options (of any variety, but written) are a little hard for me to do right now, as I need to be isolated to really enter into that world of imagination. Being interrupted every 10 minutes by a cat/dog or even the presence of another human makes me feel uncomfortable. I thought about competitive gaming, but I haven’t really found an option that fits me. I can’t do the battle royale or “MOBA” type games. Too much drama, plus for the games I seem to enjoy more there isn’t a good way for me to break into that community. Though maybe it is also that I just hadn’t really committed to trying to break in. I also thought about looking into joining other D&D or even shadowrun games on Roll20. I’m not sure that’ll do it.
I need to do some more thinking.
I really wish she’d stop popping up in my head. I keep getting these scenes of different arguments and the points I would make. I never really have the other side of that though. Then those feelings of shame and inadequacy start bubbling up, and it hurts. I’m struggling to not just cut off every connection I have to that community right now. I do not feel welcome. That is not my kind of tribe. I’m not sure what my tribe even is. I know I had it once long ago. I’m not sure where I can find it now. This plague doesn’t make things easy in that regard either. I’m not sure what to do right now.
I’m planning to attend an online discussion group and the discussion is about individualism vs collectivism. The group page had a scoring system and asked questions about how one’s family of origin influenced which path they leaned towards, how they have changed over time, and how they can get a better understand of people that score the other way. I needed to write and so I’m putting this up here so that perhaps I can reference it later.
individual score= 16
collectivism = 10
My family did value independence highly. I recall my mother telling me the story about how she was emotionally and physically abused by her mother, and how she had started to repeat that behavior with my half brothers who came before me. After her divorce and then having me and my sister with my father, she made it a point to “break the chain” and did her best to avoid that type of behavior with us. She was not always successful, but the point that stuck with me is that positive change is always possible and you are not doomed to always be who you were yesterday or a clone of your upbringing.
Over time I’ve only grown to be more fiercely independent. I attribute this to my traumatic experiences in school that were the result of being singled out by groups of kids and physically and emotionally battered. The more I understand about the kind of lasting damage that can do to a child’s development in the long term, the more I see how that plays out in the intense social anxiety I experience when I find myself in group situations like crowded bars or even tightly packed discussion groups where I’m either physically “trapped” or when my ideas run counter to group opinion. I’m very sensitive to majority views in group because I understand that has an associated trigger that my limbic system recognizes as a potential threat. I will literally feel my heart race as if I had just sprinted a mile.
As far as understanding a greater understanding of poeple from a different value system? I’m not sure in this instance. I’m already a highly avoidant type personality (which seem to be more frequently found with collective types in my view…I tend to pull away then upset/afraid when what they want is for me to move closer when they feel upset/afraid), which I’ve learned the hard way really tends to piss people off that are more the anxious type. My current thinking now is just being really clear on how my boundaries work, and hope their ability to blend in harmoniously can work for an effective exchange of ideas.
I’ve been listening to the audio book “Unfuck Your Boundaries” several times. It is relatively short but there is a lot of deep stuff in there. I just had some serious insights become unlocked for me this morning. I had already recently come to understand that I have issues with my internal boundaries which make me particularly sensitive to criticism that attacks my character, and issues with indirect manipulations on myself (people trying to get me to change my behavior/emotional responses without directly asking me to do so). In the book, the author describes the physical responses we have when those boundaries are crossed, and went in to basically explain our brains are hard-wired to avoid pain, and so even when we don’t logically understand the trigger, we respond. The little man in the stomach idea.
I think I understand why I have so much trouble with criticism that gets interpreted as character attacks or, and this is perhaps the bigger trigger, is based on false assumptions about my intentions. My brain is literally trying to avoid pain. Both physical and social. And I know social pain activates the same as physical pain (I need to find articles supporting this). I remember getting physically hit by my sister, and come to think of it, one of my brothers as well directly because my words or actions were being interpreted maliciously. I have a particularly vivid memory, though I can’t recall the words too well. I remember the summer I had spent with my cousins in SC, along with my sister. She started getting angry about something (and now we understand she has severe anxiety issues as well, so I don’t blame her for her behavior, but I do understand how it effected me growing up), and I called her out on it. I think I might have said something along the lines of “stop being a bitch”, but then I might have used a different word as well. Regardless, it resulted in my getting punched in the mouth (and I had braces on at the time). I think I understand more now why my father was so strongly against any violence now. Anyhow, there were quite a few instances like that with my sister that involved me getting physically attacked. It was basically always because something I said/did was misconstrued as something else.
Things like this happened with my mother as well, although it was less likely to result in physical punishment. It did lead to literal abandonment. I remember there was this one time she got real angry at my sister and I at church one day. I never understood why. But she literally left us there and we had to walk home. We were maybe 12 or 13 at the time? Now that I think on it, I see exactly where I got my silent storm issue too. She brooded often.
And then there was school, particularly elementary. I was a pariah there. I was fat and I had a nose picking habit. This led to me being singled out and just reviled by nearly everyone. It literally led to me being physically attacked and socially isolated. As a child, that is major fucking pain. It is no wonder I can get such intense social anxiety around groups of people. The only time it isn’t there I realize, is when I’m running something. I think that script got flipped when I started guild leadership back as a teenager. It was the only time I wasn’t afraid.
So yes, all of this for me to realize the fear I experience in trying to fit in (unsuccessfully) in social groups, and how I handle nonconstructive criticism from loved ones is literally born out of those experiences I had growing up. When someone appears angry at me, especially for reasons I either don’t understand or that aren’t true, my brain flips into survival mode. It learned there was pain incoming and that is why I would feel so bad afterwards. I need to explore more on how I can get help to calm that trigger.
Update, talked with my wife a bit more about this understanding. A couple of things I need to do going forward.
1. In newer relationships that actually seem to be going somewhere, I need to bring up this boundary up as soon as possible. I need to explain I have a trigger around nonconstrucive criticism, and if it gets triggered I need space. This is *especially* important in the age of social media where we’re always available because of all the instant messengers. It is vital to have that space and not allow anyone to simply blow up on me without permission. I can dig into the source of that trigger if they want, but the important part is establishing that boundary early. It also makes it easier to run the “no” test early on. It is a form of PTSD, in the sense that I get the same emotional response as I did back as a child. I have to be able to tell someone that triggers this that I am feeling hurt and that I need to back away from this conversation, now. We can schedule out a time to come back to it later. If they continue to lay into me, then they are crossing my boundary. I need this boundary to function. It becomes more important the closer I get to someone as that is where the pain lies.
2. I also need to explain the intense social anxiety I can get in group situations. I mean heart pounding I’m about to get attacked by a bear type anxiety. Again, I could dig into my childhood and how I was a social pariah and how social exile is literally interpreted as physical pain, but that isn’t as important. The point is I’m going to likely feel that at some point, and I *need* to be able to get away periodically into more quiet spaces to overcome it. This is a need for me. Non-negotiable.
I gave a listen to “Breathing” by Andrew Weil MD after a recommendation from a friend regarding finding meditation material. It was helpful. I started using the techniques I learned last night before going to bed, and this morning. And during my lunch hour. A big storm was rolling in so I decided to take advantage and sit in the back and further work on those breathing techniques while I watched the storm roll in. It reminded me the day before Hurricane Andrew. And through that, I was reminded of my father while I worked on engaging my parasympathetic and I realized another reason why he always seemed so calm. He had gardening as a hobby. All that time spent alone, doing an activity that required relatively little processing while doing it. If the goal is to spend more and more time in this state, therefore making it easier to enter and stay there…then he sure had a ton of experience doing just that.
These days, in the electronic industry that has blown up since I was a boy, there is this strong drive to *always* be engaged in something, being productive in some way. To always have some sort of input, whether it be movies, books, games, music, or other people. We forget what it is to just…be.
To feel the wind on your skin. To hear the birds chirp as they find their next meal. To see the wet grass sway in its’ chaotic form. To feel the moisture of the early rain showers on my legs as I set on a chair. To smell that moisture in the air. To just exist in the now, as tomorrow is never a certainty.
I can’t guarantee that I will never say anything offensive again. But what I can do is much more frequently seek feedback on how someone is feeling during or after a discussion. In fact, that should be my go to filler. It is only through getting a more accurate picture of how my words and actions effect someone that I can predict what can hurt and hopefully prevent it.