“Being abused can seriously affect your ability to distinguish between “not obviously pleased” and “obviously displeased” because abusers go from Neutral to Hostile for absolutely no discernible reason, and eventually you start worrying that everyone is going to be like that and you start feeling this urge to make absolutely sure that the people you actually care about aren’t mad or upset, because to you, “there’s no evidence that they’re not angry” is the same as “there’s evidence that they are angry”
It’s been a rough week. I wondered where the hell I went wrong, especially since I was doing SO WELL for a while after my medication changes. I was finally feeling….normal. Like a weight was lifted from my shoulders, and I could actually cook and clean and be happy when happy things happen. I could focus on work! Alleluia!
The good news is, I don’t feel depressed. The bad news is, I feel pretty anxious. Unable to focus. Normally this is when I will do mindless physical activity at work, like moving heavy things around that need moving around–unfortunately I have a whole heap of sitting-at-the-desk work that needed to get done, and I kept staring at it, wondering why my leg is having somatic pain, why my jaw hurts so much when I’m not clenching my teeth THAT hard, and wondering my my chest feels tight and my heart hurts. All freaking week. It was so difficult to trudge on through.
I think the above quote highlights one of the reasons why I’m still battling anxiety today.
I have ability to overly sense emotions on people’s faces. A little flicker of a forehead crease, a little bit of a fold as people set their jaw almost imperceptibly, a slight eye narrowing. Maybe they’re thinking about something else serious, but I automatically assume I did or said something to make them angry, and start feeling worried.
But see–I think of them as angry, whereas someone else would see it as neutral. And it is probably neutral. But because I perceive anger, I start reacting as if it was anger or disappointment, and my anxiety kicks up.
It’s gotten better over the years, honestly. I don’t react nearly as strongly, and I don’t perceive wrongly nearly as often.
But it’s hard to retrain yourself. I grew up having to read my dad’s moods, and to do so, I had to monitor every facial expression, every movement, to determine how to react in the hopes of preventing another ragefest.
All of this is assuming that the other person is actually feeling neutral.
If the other person IS clearly disappointed or has constructive criticism–then all bets are off.
Well, okay, with constructive criticism, I can disassociate slightly, start pretending I’m in a play, and act normal (about as normal as an alien in a human suit), until the conversation is over, then I can go somewhere else and decompress.
But disappointment. If I’ve made a mistake and the other person isn’t happy, or if I’ve done something that needed to be done and the other person isn’t happy about it…sigh. My brain can approach it as a transaction. Conversation, discussion, come to a solution–that’s about it, right?
But my body–ugh. My body still betrays me. As my brain tries to stay in control, the tears leak out, because even though my brain isn’t making me re-live events, my body is back there, receiving my dad’s hurtful, belittling rages, and tears start to escape. And if tears escape, it’s too late, and I am now branded as “too sensitive” and “too emotional” by the other person, and the reasonable discussion is gone. This is even with Ativan.
I still haven’t figured out how to disassociate in these situations while staying in full control of the discussion. At least with my dad, I could zone out for several minutes before he required a response. With other people, it’s more of a back and forth, forcing me to remain present. And I can’t control my body’s reaction when that happens, and it’s so freaking embarrassing when my face pees all over itself.
At least it’s Friday.
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