Saturday, April 4, 2009

Here We Go Again

I know I've been slacking on the blogging lately. This one will probably be long enough to make up for it, though.

I feel like I have to explain myself yet again. I've been doing way too much of that lately, it seems.

First of all, I have to point this out. My brain does not work like normal people's do. Probably what's going through my conscious mind at any given time is song lyrics or melodies or random strings of numbers, like counting to 1000 by 4s, or something. But what that does is it frees up my subconscious mind to let me turn things over and over for awhile until I get ready to consciously deal with them. Which sounds nutty, I know. But that's why I have to think about what I'm thinking when someone asks because what I'm really thinking isn't what's running across my brain at any given moment. It's like the iceberg thing in Hemingway's stories. What's on the surface is not really what's going on.

Even when I write, I have to, like, listen to music or something to distract my easily distractable conscious mind, so that I can get things to come out from under all the layers.

Ok, next thing.

If my brain doesn't work like other people's, I don't feel things like other people do, either. Oh, I think I figured out when I was about 5 or so that I feel things much more deeply than most folks do. That's not a knock to other people at all. I WISH I could be that way. I wish I weren't overly sensitive. I wish I didn't become inflamed with La Grande Passion about ever-damn-thing. I wish I could just generally be content, but I can't. I'm usually either ecstatic or broken-hearted. Which sounds totally bipolar, but it isn't, LOL.

I'm also extremely empathic. One reason that I hate being around people so much is that just feeling their emotions exhausts me. I can turn it off to a point, but it get overwhelming. I pick up vibes off people, and it affects me. If someone is upset, I get upset. Doubly so if they're upset at me.

So I've had to learn how to compartmentalize and hold people at arm's length to be able to survive. Because if I get emotionally entangled with everyone who comes along, I would go absolutely batshit crazy within an hour.

And, while this sounds like I'm making excuses for my maladapative behavior, I'm really not. I know I'm fucked up, but I'm trying to explain why, so hopefully I can make people understand, rather than just get frustrated at me.

I come from a family with a long line of various anxiety disorders in their wake. Not only do I have the genetic factor, but I learned all the avoidant behaviors at a very young age. I went to therapy for a little while for my social anxiety disorder. It was September 2007, I think. The more stressed out I get, the more reclusive I become. Everything was just going to hell in a handbasket, and I had to withdraw from school. So I decided that I'd try to get therapy while I wasn't taking classes, just to see if I could do SOMETHING.

The therapist was an asshole, but that's neither here nor there. She kept trying to psychoanalyze me and was asking me shit like, "Did your mother have any complications delivering you?" Um, how the hell should I know, and what does that have to do with the price of eggs in China? I finally looked at her and said, "Look, I have a degree in psychology from a hardcore behavioral psych department, and I can tell you exactly what's wrong with me."

And what's wrong with me--which is something Asshole Therapist never picked up on, even when I told her point-blank--is that while other people learned how to interact with other folks when they were fairly young, I never learned. My social interaction skills are probably about on the same level as a kindergartener's.

Allow me to explain. And, no, I'm not taking the "blame my parents" approach here. Just trying to shed a little light on the subject.

My mother has various anxiety problems, and so do my aunt and grandmother. I, actually, am probably the most well-adjusted one of the bunch, which should tell you a lot. Daddy's side of the family was only marginally better. His father was a tyrant, and poor Granny was the kindest soul I've ever met, but she had what she called "nerve problems," too. Daddy isn't all that bad, just a laid-back soul and a good ol' boy, but he was either working two (or three) jobs when I was younger to support Mother's living-way-outside-her-means habit, or on the road driving when I was older. So he wasn't around much, and when he was, he just wanted to keep the peace and caved to Mother in all things just to shut her the hell up.

Side note: If you look up "batshit fucking crazy" in the dictionary, you will find my mother's picture next to the entry. In her defense, she has mellowed as she's gotten older, and she's not always a nutjob, but she seems to pick the worst possible times to go off the deep end on me.

Ok. Now that we have that little bit of background out of the way, we can get on with the show.

Women on my mother's side of the family have some weird abnormality that is apparently genetic that makes it damn near impossible for them to have kids. I am an only child in a family of only children. I know nothing about large families because mine is steadily dying off. Mother and Daddy were married for 10 years before they ever had me. I do not know the exact number of miscarriages my mother had, and I do not know what lengths they went to to have me because such things ARE NOT DISCUSSED in my family. I only know what little I know from overhearing snippets of conversation I was never supposed to hear. But I do know she spent a lot of time in the hospital at UAB because it was such a high-risk pregnancy, etc., etc.

They had me when they'd all but given up on having kids. And my mother has spared no energy making sure I know I'm the great disappointment of her life.

I guess it was probably because she was so glad she finally had me and was afraid she would lose me, but I never interacted with kids other than my first cousins on her side of the family until I started school. Which wouldn't sound too bad, I guess, but I only have three. And one wasn't born until after I'd started school. And one was nearly 5 years older than me. The other wasn't quite a year younger.

So, basically, I'd only interacted with one kid even remotely my age before I started kindergarten.

Also, I was weird. I was reading at 3 years old. And that was how I entertained myself. I didn't know anything about what "normal" kids did.

Then, once I started school, I wasn't allowed to have friends. I mean, other than people I ate lunch with at school or whatever. I couldn't go to most people's houses. My mother only let me go over to certain kids' houses. They were "decent people," she said. But "decent," of course, meant they had more money than we did. And those kids didn't want me around, anyway, so I seriously never had friends to play with or whatever.

So I entertained myself. I had this playroom down in our basement that my parents had made just for me. I'd go down there and play with my stuffed animals and read and play Monopoly by myself or whatever. (Or tie myself up, LOL.)

I was way overprotected. My mother never trusted me, but I'd never given her any reason not to trust me, so I don't know what the big deal was. She didn't let me stay at home alone until I was probably 12 or 13. I either went to work with her, or she had someone stay with me at home. She eavesdropped on my phone conversations. She would ransack my room looking for...I have no idea what she was looking for.

I didn't go on a date until I was 16. And I had to be home by 10:00 pm. Yes, I'm serious.

I never kissed a boy until I was 16. Hell, the first time I had sex was exactly one month before my 18th birthday. And it wasn't just the first time I'd ever had sex, either. It was the first time I'd ever done anything other than kiss. Yes. Seriously. I blew through it all in one night. With a guy nearly 10 years older than me. We dated for nearly a year after that, right until I left to go to college. I never understood why my mother wasn't ok with things normal people were ok with, but she turned a blind eye to me fucking a guy 10 years my senior. She's irrational. But thus began my love affair with dirty old men.

Not only was I incredibly overprotected (and repressed because I was brought up in the motherfucking Baptist church), but Daddy and I were always the ones on the receiving end of Mother's completely irrational fits of crazy. And since Daddy was hardly ever there, it was yours truly who got most of it.

If you went home and asked anyone about my mother, everyone would tell you how kind and generous and wonderful she is and how perfectly kept her house is and how she is so well-mannered and blah, blah, blah. She was always one for keeping up appearances. Everyone thought I was just some weird genius kid and that she had to supervise me so closely because I was incapable of fending for myself. (Which is totally untrue, as the 7 years I've spent away from her have shown.) Nobody would ever believe some of the shit that happened when it was just her and me.

I mean, I'm not jumping up and down here and saying, "Oh, look how bad my life was." I hate people who do that. Here I am. I made it. I adapted. But I'm going to share a few things just so that it might be a little easier to understand.

J. only thinks she's bad about the compulsive cleaning thing. Oh, no. My mother would vacuum the carpets and yell at me for walking on them. You can't wear shoes in the house, even now that she doesn't have carpet in the living areas. You can't actually USE the trash can in the bathroom. (Why is it there, then?) Everything is ironed the second it comes out of the dryer (or off the hangers because she doesn't dry her clothes). Even pillowcases and underwear. No, I'm not joking. I never really got it. You iron it, then you hang it up, and then it gets wrinkled again, so you have to iron it again before you wear it? WTF? The house has to look like a showroom, not like someone actually lives there.

I'm a slob. I know I am. But I figured out a long time ago that I'd never live up to her standards, so I don't even try 99% of the time. I'm such a goddamned perfectionist that if I can't do something perfectly, I won't do it at all. Pure defense mechanism.

It wasn't just the house she insisted be perfect. I had to be, too. When I made Bs in school, I was grounded. For months. Not that it really mattered because where did I get to go, anyway? But still.

The first time I made a B in school was in math in 6th grade. I do not have a head for numbers, and the teacher couldn't explain long division well enough to make me understand it. Mother didn't speak to me for two weeks. (That was always one of her tricks, the silent treatment. Most of the time, I felt like the adult, and she felt like the kid.) She made me stop playing softball. She made me stop riding horses. (Softball and horses were the only things I did where I had even remotely any human contact with people who weren't members of my asshole family.) She told me I'd never amount to anything and that I was lazy and useless and horrible and all kinds of lovely things. For a B. In 6th grade math.

When I went to go get my learner's permit when I was 15, I failed the eye exam. Miserably. (Nobody believed I couldn't see past the end of my nose until then.) So I had to go to the eye doctor. Because one of my eyes is twice as bad as the other and because of my age, he told me I'd be better off with contacts instead of glasses until my eyes got adjusted to seeing correctly because with the difference between my eyes, I'd have double vision with glasses. Ok, so I got contacts. They showed me how to put them in and how to do whatever at the place where I got my contacts. Then, they sent me home with a trial pair before we bought a whole box to make sure that particular brand and strength would work for me.

Somehow, I managed to pop one of the bastards out somewhere. My astigmatism is bad enough that I can blink, and they'll fly out, but I, of course, didn't know that then. I'd never worn them before; there was no way I could know. Oh, boy, that was a mistake.

I didn't know where I'd lost it. Hell, I didn't even know THAT I had lost it for hours. I wasn't used to wearing them. But when I tried to take my contacts out, I realized there wasn't one in one of my eyes. So Mother flipped the fuck out. She told me I was stupid and useless and completely irresponsible and that I'd never amount to anything because I was so lazy and irresponsible and dumb. I spent hours on my hands and knees, crawling through the house trying to find that stupid fucking contact while she berated me. She compared me to the white trash down the road and said I'd end up just like them, trashy and jobless and broke, because I didn't have enough self-discipline to do anything. (By the way, the man she compared me to burned down his house and killed one of his stepkids and is on Death Row, if I remember correctly. I have three-quarters of a master's degree. Just for the record.)

And I have zillions of stories just like those. Same theme, just different details.

My oldest cousin walks on water in my mother's eyes. He's 29 years old now. He still lives at home with his mama and daddy. He's a truck driver. He had a scholarship to a technical school and didn't take it. He's a functioning alcoholic and a hypocrite and a flat fucking loser who's so in debt he can't live anywhere BUT with his parents.

He rear-ended me in my car one night when he was drunk. I never told my mother who did it because I knew I'd be blamed for it if I did. You can imagine the berating I got for not knowing who hit my car. He never 'fessed up, just let me catch hell for it, and my car is still missing paint on the rear end from that. But he can do no wrong. If he told her the grass was purple, she'd believe it, just because he said it.

Then, there's me. I'm the only person in my family ever to go to college. Not only did I go, but I finished. I have a degree and most of another one. I have been mostly self-sufficient for the better part of my adult life. But I never have been and never will be good enough for that woman.

Again, I'm not saying this to make anyone feel sorry for me. I'm just hoping it'll help clarify my position a little.

So, you figure, a highly sensitive, highly intelligent child, born into a family where no one understands her, not socialized properly, and constantly berated for her perceived failings or just straight-up ignored...well, it's no wonder I'm a little fucked up. Then, you throw in a bunch of good old country stoicism, where you don't show your emotions, you don't show affection, you don't talk about what's bothering you, you just martyr yourself for other people...and, yeah. It's a mess. Most people say it's a wonder I turned out as well as I did.

I learned that the best way to avoid Mother's wrath was to stay out of her way. I am a case study in avoidant behavior and attachment style. I know WHAT'S wrong with me. I just don't really know how to fix it.

Ever been around a scared animal? I have. I've been around lots. I love horses because I can relate to them. They're prey animals. They're constantly on guard, protecting themselves from perceived threats. It doesn't matter how domesticated they are, there's still no guarantee they'll react sanely to things. Horses will run from confrontation for as long as they can. They'll only fight if they feel they have no other option.

I've seen a lot of scared, abused horses. I'd say they gravitate toward me, but they don't really gravitate toward anyone, honestly. But I've owned a lot of horses that have been all fucked up by other people. They're afraid to be touched, afraid to be in close quarters with people. They just KNOW you're out to hurt them, just like everyone else they've ever known has. They don't trust you. And it's not your fault. You're just paying for the sins of the shitty pieces of humanity who've come before you.

There are practically no horses than can't be helped. Maybe not completely fixed. But I think I've only ever been around one who was hopeless.

What I would always do, if they were calm enough to let me into their stalls without freaking the fuck out, is take a five-gallon bucket in their stalls, turn it upside down, and sit on it with a book. I'd usually have the radio or something on, too, both to entertain me and to block out whatever background noise there might be. And I'd just sit there and read my book and wait.

You see, horses are social animals. Even the most terrified ones. In the absence of a herd (which there would be an absence if they're in their stalls all by themselves), they'll eventually gravitate toward whatever other living being there might be. So that's what I did. I just waited until curiosity got the better of them. Sometimes, it took just a few minutes. On the worst ones, sometimes, it'd take weeks. (I didn't sit in their stalls for weeks, of course, LOL. I'd just do it every day for awhile.)

But, eventually, they'd come up to you and sniff you. And this is where most people would fuck it up. Even if they make the first move, you still can't push too hard, too quick. As long as what they were doing wasn't going to put either of us in danger, I basically just ignored them. To reach out and try to touch their soft, velvety noses on that first, tentative approach would've scared them, and you'd have had to start the whole thing over again.

I wouldn't even make a move to touch them until they were more or less laying in my lap, demanding it. And then I'd pet them and speak very, very softly to them (you can never raise your voice around a horse that's scared like that) and give them a treat out of my pocket if they'd take it. If not, I'd drop it in the trough, so they could eat it later, when my being close didn't make them so nervous.

And I guess, maybe, I'm a lot like those horses. I'm so used to, no matter what I do, it always making matters worse instead of better. So I've learned not to do anything at all. And when I think someone's upset, it makes me upset. And then it creates this vicious cycle where I honestly cannot function at all. "What do you want from me?" is about the only thing you'll get out of me when I get to this point.

I don't mean to be that way. I know it's counterproductive. And I don't mean to create drama. But I honestly do not know how to interact with people on their level. I'm like a child or a scared horse or puppy in a lot of ways. As soon as I'm pushed at all, I completely shut down and hide. And the more I'm pushed, the worse it gets.

It takes me a long time to get my thoughts together. And while I'm gathering those thoughts, I need quiet and positive attention to both make it easier for me to think and to encourage me to share them once I've got it all together. If I think my sharing is going to cause more problems than me shutting up, I clam up. I honestly talk best when I'm tied up and blindfolded and being petted. I don't respond well to leading questions, but gentle queries will help me get started sometimes. The problem is, if I ever get caught up in the anxiety cycle, nothing good is going to come out of it.

I have no idea if me doing the TMI thing helped at all. But I do want to say, yet again, I'm not saying all this shit because I'm desperate for attention or pity or whatever. I'm just explaining that I know I'm fucked up and trying to show where I'm coming from.

This is one of the major fundamental disconnects I have in my brain about being submissive. Sometimes, I wonder if it's really me, or if it's just my maladaptive behavior shining through. Would I really be this way if I had any idea how to relate to people on an adult level? I have no idea. And that bothers me. Because if this is what I am, what I was born to be, then it'll be what truly makes me happy. But if it's just my various problems coming out, then it'll ultimately be unhealthy and unhappy for me.

But that's my own shit to figure out. I believe my emotions are mine and not for other people to have to fix. I own my own shit and take responsibility for the way I feel and don't expect anyone else to change because I feel a certain way.

God, I could ramble on forever, but this has already gone on way too long. Perhaps there'll be more tomorrow.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I've known you for how long, now? Although if I did not know you, I would hope to read this blog to find out who you are because this tells who you are to the "T."