Saturday, April 30, 2011

Crossed wires

I have a thing for difficult people.  I am not an easy person to be friends with and I tend to like people who are also difficult to like.  Sharp people with a lot of edges and defenses.  I understand them.  Unfortunately there are some down sides to hanging out with folks like that.

Last night I invited a good friend over.  The support group I am in is going to involve me sitting down and trying to tell my 'whole story' some week soon.  I haven't spoken these things out loud much.  The majority of my communication about these topics has been through writing.  I feel like I go mute when I want to speak of them.  It is very difficult to overcome a lifetime of taboo and speak the words.  I need practice doing it.  The thing is, I like difficult people.  People with sharp edges and defenses.  It didn't go so hot.  Basically what happened is that this friend and Noah both have similar geek tendencies and in order to feel optimally comfortable they don't step outside those patterns when they are in the same room.  But uhm, those geek tendencies make it so I am completely unable to speak about my stuff.

So when things weren't going particularly well and they were not reacting in the ways I needed I got very frustrated.  And then Calli woke up and I had to go nurse.  We had been sitting in the hot tub.  I was hoping the dark would make it easier for me to talk.  When I got out of the hot tub I realized that I was pretty much done outside anyway.  I tried to communicate that I did not intend to come back and they should follow me in fairly quickly.  I didn't mean for them to do so instantly because I needed to nurse the baby anyway.  But the wires got crossed.  They didn't come in for about an hour.

So I sat on the couch and rocked and felt increasingly invalidated.  This isn't exactly something I do much.  I don't even say the details out loud to Noah much when we are doing our metaconversations.  No really, I am not able to physically speak about these things well.  As time passed I felt increasingly unsafe and like I had made a bad decision to try.  They came  in and acted like little kids who broke a window and are hoping no one noticed.  I flipped out.  I called them names and ran to the office and sobbed.  Then I got up and I went to the cupboard for a towel and I walked back into the office and I picked up the scalpel.

I don't know what it is like for other cutters, but I love it.  I love the fact that for those seconds the only thing in the world is the hot, terrible burn on my leg.  I can't think about anything else.  By the time I get to cutting I am no longer capable of finding the words to talk about the monsters.  I can't.  I am too much absolutely in the present.  I cannot think about the past because I am unrelievedly in the present.  I feel like cutting is a gift.  Cutting allows me to walk away from any situation in my past and not think about it.  No matter how intense my feelings are, I can make them stop.  I can go completely and totally flat line.  It's not disassociating.  It is forcing my body to have no space for anything other than the pain.  That may sound unpleasant, but I promise you that emotional pain is harder and hurts more.

I yelled at Noah that he said... something.  I don't even remember what.  Something about them wanting to hurt me.  Noah's response was, "No.  We didn't say that.  And you will know it later."  I thought that was wonderful.  It gave me space to think it then without trying to demand that his reality supplant mine right then.  My friend apologized profusely and genuinely was upset.  He is a wonderful person and he would move mountains for me.  He loves me a lot.  But you see, I like sharp, difficult people.  And they often have a lot of defenses.  He was trying to make himself feel comfortable because the things I was talking about upset him.  He wanted to comfort me, but he didn't know how.

I spend a lot of time living at that juncture.  That is what living with an Aspie is like.  They can stand near you and really not understand at all that you are having a whole emotional experience in front of them.  I don't know how to describe what that is like on a day to day basis.  To be fair, Noah has learned my "tells" for when I am having an emotional experience at this point.  Noah is quite good.  It took him years and we've had some awful arguments.  But he learned.  My friend hasn't learned my tells.  And when Noah is distracted by other people he stops staring at me intently looking for tells.  So they both managed to miss almost all of the signals from start to finish.

They didn't mean to, but they did actually create a space where it was unsafe for me to talk.  And they are big boys and get to put on their big boy panties and deal with feeling bad about that.  And I need to put on my big girl panties and accept the fact that I set them up to fail.  Talking about this stuff is hard for me.  I need very specific kinds of support to do it.  There is not a worse possible two person combination for creating that space amongst my entire network.  Both of my boys can be wonderfully supportive and safe to talk to... one on one.  When I get to dictate 100% of the terms of the conversation.  Heh.  But when they are standing next to one another (or sitting, whatever) they all of a sudden have to take one another into account and I feel like they are both pathologically unable to be safe for me around another alpha male geek.  I'm not sure why.  But they trigger the fuck out of one another.  (Ok, I have suspicions as to why, but that's not part of this story.)

Thing is... this isn't news.  At all.  And I invited these two men to be the ones I tried to practice telling my story to?  Awesome way to ensure that absolutely everyone is upset.  That was the wrong decision.  I could have invited just about anyone else.  I could have invited that friend and sat with him in a separate space from Noah.  I could have told them early on in the night that I need them both to take a vow of silence because if they talk over me I will be unable to speak--and they would have done it.  They love me.  They love me so much that they have both been through years of me being nasty and mean to them.  The friend in question?  Uhm, I cracked a few of his ribs years ago when I was overly rough with him.  He wasn't thrilled, but he has never ever been nasty to me because of it.  (It was an accident.  Really.)  Naw, it is part of this story.  I think this friend would have walked away from whatever else he was doing and married me if I had asked him to.  He loves me.  A lot.  And Noah and he kind of have a low level dick contest when they are together.  And they are both socially clueless all the time anyway.  Yeah.  I really invited the wrong combination.

Why do I do that?  Why when I get to the point of wanting to spill my guts, do I need to talk about my sexual abuse in front of men who feel slightly competitive towards one another and are unwilling to be flexible when the other is present?  Maybe because I don't want to tell the story and I want reason to be upset and angry instead so I can focus my energy there.  I want to be mad at my boys because they love me so much and I want to hurt them badly for committing the unforgivable sin of loving me.  I want to start getting hyperbolic now because that's the headspace I am in.  I think that is the underlying reason.  I think I picked them because talking about these things is horribly painful and I would rather derail onto another strong emotion than look at them.  I would rather look for any reason in the world to turn around and start emotionally kicking the people who love me as hard as I can.  I am quite certain my friend didn't sleep well and he probably feels very bad for hurting me.  At this point he probably is blaming himself for being a terrible friend.

Or not.  Or maybe that is my story and he went home and slept great and he thinks that I am in a place where I am hurting and he is sorry that I am hurting so much and it's not about him.  I hope that is what happened.  I'm not sure he has boundaries that strong, but I'll hope for him.

And that leaves me.  In the office.  With a leg I can't let my kids see for a long time.  Right before our big European vacation.  Awesome.  It won't blow up my life, but it is going to add a low level of stress for a long time.  I am going to be freaked out about the possibility of Shanna seeing it.  We are kind of a naked house.  I am more of a clothes person, but when it is hot I don't have a problem with stripping.  I often work in the yard with no clothes on because I'm easier to wash off.  It just seems practical.  But that's off the table for a while.

It's really not big as far as patches go, at least not for me.  I was pretty tentative last night.  I haven't used a scalpel in a long time and I was having trouble figuring out how I wanted to hold the blade.  You see, as much as I may be suicidal, I am a perfectionist.  I am not interested in going in deeper than I intend.  I want to be very particular about going through just one layer of skin at a time.  It makes it a much longer more burning process.  It also requires more self control to move very slowly.  That is what gives me the intense focus that severs my connection to the memories.  My old therapist, Traci, was a Harm Reduction person.  She didn't think that addicts or cutters, or whatever other self destructive behavior pattern you have, necessarily needed to stop.  Obviously they were filling a need.  You just should be aware and careful of how you use it.  Obviously it is better to find other ways of coping.  But if this is what you got, you use it.

I haven't needed to cut in a long time.  Last night it didn't feel optional.  Last night I felt like I was completely unsafe and in danger of being actively hurt or reprimanded or something if I continued to feel those feelings.  It was not ok to be in that part of my brain.  I'm not even sure I understand entirely why.  Ok, yeah... their behavior was sucking.  But I know that about them.  My entire relationship with both of them is predicated around me bullying them into acting how I want them to act.  I'm probably not supposed to admit that out loud, but no... really.  The default expectation when we are together is I decide how they are allowed to behave.  I give them longer and shorter leashes depending on my mood. Really.  That is pretty much the only way I can stand being around them and oh man that sounds horrible.  I'm feeling terribly guilty right now.  But the thing is, I'm setting boundaries.  And it's ok for me to set boundaries.  The boys don't notice when I try to set my boundaries in subtle, nuanced ways because that is not part of their language.  They both really appreciate a 2x4 upside the head because otherwise they do not notice what is going on.  They cannot step outside their own stuff to listen to other people unless the other person bullies them into silence.

What an interesting symbiotic relationship.  To be fair, I am describing them while picturing them at the absolute worst of their combined behavior while together.  Both of them are much easier to communicate with one on one and I normally only need a flyswatter and not a 2x4.  Ahem.

Through the writing of this I have gone through feeling hurt, angry, sad, melancholy, amused, and at this point I'm shaking my head with resignation.  My boys were my boys.  The problem is, I wasn't me.  The little girl who was badly sexually abused and who was badly emotionally abused at home isn't part of who I am on a regular basis.  I am not a hesitant person.  I am not withdrawn.  I am engaged with the world.  I am strong and assertive.  I have opinions and by Gawd I'll not hesitate to share them.  But I'm also nice.  I believe in justice and bullying is one of the fastest ways to make me stand up and shout someone down.  My boys are bullies.  Lovable bullies, but bullies.  Normally I am great with that dynamic.  I think it is fun and funny.  It is endearing.

But my little girl doesn't need a bully.  I shouldn't have invited that friend.  That was a very hurtful thing for me to do to both of us.  This is the kind of thing that is normally a stumbling block to forward progress.  I know that the friend in question doesn't know this blog exists let alone read it.  So I could go forward feeling like I made my mea culpa to the world and "oh look how evolved I am for dissecting my feelings" and then I will stop trying for a while because I proved that talking about these things in person is unsafe.  But the thing is, I picked someone who doesn't know how to talk to a little girl.  That's not really his fault.  He doesn't have that life experience and he doesn't recognize whatsoever that I'm having a massive psychological experience in front of him.  He thinks I'm me.  And I'm just as much of a bully as him and I love him for it and he loves me for it.  We accept and like that part of one another.  In respectful ways.  Our dynamic has gotten much healthier over the years.  I still have to set the terms for our interactions.  And I didn't last night.  I'm not sure I would have been able to keep it up even if I had tried because the space where I can talk prohibits that kind of strength.

I need to talk to someone else.  And that's normally the stumbling block to progress.  I need to create space in my life to talk about this more.  It's hard though.  Calli is uhm, resisting weaning efforts.  I think she is nursing twice as much as she was three weeks ago and I'm ready to put my head through a window.  She is, in fact, in the living room with Noah fussing loudly.  But I have 2 more minutes of personal time.  Damnit.


  1. Does rather sound like it was the wrong person to choose to 'spill your beans'. I'm not clear why it is expected that this is to be therapeutic. Sounds like the writing format is ever so much more natural or comfortable a venue for you.
    If I could be helpful, I can make myself available to/for you.
    BTW, I also tend to have 'difficult' friends; usually much more interesting in the long run :-)

  2. Turns out I wasn't wrong after all. It's a long story and I'm going to try to write it soon. :)

    I can try harder to explain why it is therapeutic, but it's going to probably take a few posts. It's complicated.