What I like the most about Harm Reduction Therapy is that you start with the basic premise that you don't want to die. If I really and truly wanted to be dead, I would be dead right now. Instead I have chosen life, over and over. Just over a year ago I had a chance to die peacefully in my bed holding my last precious gift to the world. It would have made for a touching movie and all. But I wasn't ready. When my midwife said, "If you close your eyes you won't wake again" and I practically asked for toothpicks to keep my eyelids open.
Most of the time I struggle with ensuring there is more than 50% of me that wants to live. It's hard to explain what this feels like. When you experience a fight or flight reaction in your body because you are afraid, one of the first things it does is cause digestive problems because your digestive system gets put into a holding pattern while your body focuses on other things. It's quite brilliant, actually. But it's uncomfortable after years of daily, continual small startles that shut off my digestive system. One of the ways this manifests for me is burning, awful diarrhea. Cheers.
I want to stop startling. I want to stop being afraid. I want to stop being in pain. I'm not entirely sure how to go about the whole thing. On one hand I have 30 years of establishing this pattern. On the other hand, it's not like it's been all the time in a long time. I just have a little bit of reducing my stress levels left. The parts where you stop feeling where your friends hate you and want to attack you.
I've been thinking a lot about the gaslighting article I read recently. And this one about how "citation needed" is not actually an argument. I spend a lot of time with agressive geek boys. I spend a lot of time with my stomach hurting because I feel very uncomfortable with the level of agression I need to display in order to be comfortable around many of my male friends. They expect me to rise to their leve of sarcasm and snottiness. Sometimes I do. Often I feel attacked instead. It's not exactly a gentle friendship approach. I feel weird because I don't know how much space in this area it's actually ok to demand from a friend.
I am currently having a hard time with a friend because his casual conversational gaslighting makes me so angry that I can't handle being around him without spending most of the time screaming at him that he is an asshole. I don't go through most of my life feeling angry and screaming at people that they are assholes. I truly don't. There is more than one person in the world who causes me to feel this way, but it's probably far less than 10% of the population.
Why do I feel so guilty about getting angry with how they treat me? I don't like the way that I am treated. I'm allowed to get angry about it. Why am I so closed off to the idea that it's ok to be angry? I've had a lot of people mention in my life that they think I am angry person. It's never said with a tone of approval. Many of my friends have casually told me they think I am really angry. It comes up. I don't know that there is judgment intended, but I get told a lot that my reactions are irrational or overly sensitive.
I'm kind of ready to tear down the rational tree and use it for firewood. I'm starting to feel like the obsession with "rationality" is just one way of manipulating people. If you didn't have the experience in front of other people in a verifiable way then your lifetime experiences should not be relevant if they are outside the common pool. Freak. Why don't you act like everyone else.
Because I haven't met very many people who can sit down and trade me story for story. I have never met anyone who has a lifetime total of more weird traumatic shit happening to them. I don't say this in pride. I set the bell curve on weird, apparently, for the people I know. I have to believe that there are people in the world who survive as many or worse things. I have to have faith that people have survived worse than me. That gives me a path to follow. There have to be people who have as much right to be angry as me. I am angry. I am very angry.
I think it is right that I am angry. I am right to be angry about the things that were done to me. I'm right to be angry when a friend says something rude but covers with, "It was just a joke. You are too sensitive." Actually my level of sensitive is exactly where it should be. You are a fucking asshole. But how do you say that to your closest friends? They have sensitivities of their own.
How do you have a conversation with someone who was bullied as a child and say, "You learned some of those behavior patterns a little too well." I'm really tired of being at the bottom of the shit hill. As a child I was taught that the way to get out of from being at the bottom of the shit hill was to find someone lower in status and dump all the shit on them. That was my role in my family. I'm tired of playing that role with my friends too. I'm tired of feeling like I have to shut my mouth and put my head down because I am too angry and I should stop being angry and learn to just accept people as they are. Fuck that.
I think I'm ready to say that gaslighting isn't ok. I consider it abuse. It is crazy making. I've had enough god damn crazy making. I get to say, "Actually you don't get to decide for me whether or not I get to have an opinion. You are not the judge and jury on "rational"". It doesn't matter if my side of an argument is "rational" if it is true. Many things are not rational and still true. Pi is irrational and you don't see anyone trying to banish it.
Whether or not my feelings, reactions, thoughts, etc are rational is not a useful part of the conversation. And derailing the conversation to whether or not my feelings are acceptable to have derails the conversation from whether or not someone else's behavior is reasonable. Obviously opinions will vary. Where do I get to set my lines though?
I think that next time I go see my friend I have to be in my own car. Instead of getting angry when he dismisses me I think I will get up and leave. I'm done with accepting that in my life. I'm done with biting my tongue when someone who "loves" me tells me that I am over reacting and I need to chill. I'm done. I choose to live. It isn't living to be angry like this. It isn't living to feel like I have to carefully monitor every single fucking word out of my mouth so that it is all coded in strong enough language so that I am not dismissed instantly by someone who thinks he is just smarter and better than me.
That codependent chicklist I was looking at? That's my relationship with this friend. I can't be in control all of the time and I don't want to be. I want to stop feeling like I have to control our friendship in order for him to stop talking to me like I am shitty and stupid. I want to stop feeling like I have to carefully pick my words to ensure that the evening goes how I want it to. I want to stop feeling like I have to restrict the conversation to like three topics or I will feel like shit at the end because I am tired of feeling berated.
I have done the cooking and cleaning and serving and tongue biting thing to preserve this relationship for a long time. I'm not sure why. Because I feel an emotional connection. I feel an emotional connection with my mother too, I'm not talking to her. I think it is hilarious how people tell me that our chosen family bonds are strong enough to weather anything. I always want to snicker. It's really cute that people trust me like that. I've already walked away from my entire biological family. There are at least a dozen, probably more, people in the world who are my actual "family". And I don't believe those ties are important. Why do my friends think they are in a different position?
I've read a fair bit about how severe trauma makes it more difficult to bond. I could move away from the bay area tomorrow. I'd miss people, sure. But I would be able to find other people for the level of friendship I have here. I'm confident. Especially if I took my household with me. I don't see other people much. I could cut contact. I don't want to.
If I want to have healthy relationships with people. If I want to have a healthy life... it involves committing to relationships and situations. That is what keeps people balanced and here. That's what choosing life means. I choose my friends because they make me think and work at being a better person. What should I do when a given friend is not encouraging me to be a better person? What do I do when a friend wants me to stay the same person I was when I was 19. I'm kind of tired of the sarcasm, bitterness, and constant verbal sparring. It's not my culture. Yeah, I married a geek. He adapts. Noah doesn't bait me and he is only sarcastic in very gentle ways. He's nice to me. I can live with Noah day in, day out and never be made to feel smaller.
Noah doesn't want me to feel smarter than him. He doesn't crow when he is right, which is a good thing because I would get nasty fast. You see, he's right a lot. Probably most of the time. I rarely argue a factual point with him. I hate being proven wrong. However, in with his being-rightness, he has a lot of humility. He doesn't think he is a better person because he knows things I don't. That's the difference between him and most of the geeks I know. That's why I married him. He doesn't think he is better or smarter than me, even though I think he is. I usually feel like men look down on me, especially when they know a lot of things I don't.
Noah believes that I have equally valuable knowledge in areas he doesn't. He trusts me. When we are talking about a topic where I have more subject knowledge than him... he might ask probing questions about the nature of the support of my knowledge... but that's it. Even when he tells me I'm wrong it is very clear he is challenging an opinion not me. I feel respected. I feel like Noah married me because he wanted an equal partner to go through life with.
That's not how it feels with other people. It feels like a constant jockying for "who is right". Not all people, of course. My assholes. I'm vacillating about how to communicate this best. It's mostly my assholes but most everyone does at least a little of this. My assholes are really bad. They bait everything. You can't say the sky is blue without them challenging it... why? Just to be funny? It's not funny. It makes you look like a dick. And I'm sick of it.
I'm getting kind of tired of being baited. I've had enough this lifetime. I'm tired of ending my time with my "friends" angry and hostile. If I feel like that after spending time with someone... it isn't fun. And I should stop doing it. I am not ok with constant dick contest challenges to everything I say. I get enough of that with Shanna.
Then it comes down to the guilt of holding boundaries. If you hold boundaries people will get mad at you and tell you that your boundaries are in the wrong place. I can promise you that the person I am talking to will get upset if I just up and walk out ten minutes into our next hanging out time. The hanging out time that I haven't scheduled. Because I'm not over being mad about the last hang out. It was almost a month ago. This isn't good.
I feel like staying on this merry go round isn't choosing life. It's getting derailed. But I'm kind of tired of walking away from people who love me. Everyone fucks up. I can't give up on everyone, right? Isn't this what battered women feel? I love him but I feel bad when we are together. I love him but I'm tired of him making me feel small and stupid with his casual comments about how irrational I am. I am tired of being brushed off because obviously my opinion is worth less because I was traumatized as a child. It's a great dismissive tactic. "Oh you are just over reacting because you had trauma as a child." No. I am not over reacting you gigantic piece of shit. My reaction is totally appropriate. You are an asshole.
I'm tired of feeling like I have to come up with extensive justifications before my feelings magically transform into being "ok" because *you* agree with them. Who died and made you in charge of rationality? I don't think I actually expect people to do only what I say. Noah sure doesn't. Sarah doesn't. Shanna doesn't. Calli doesn't. I love them and let them go about their day. Because them going about their day never makes me feel small and bad and stupid and inconsequential. If my friends make me feel that way (yeah yeah no one can "make" you feel anything) then maybe I shouldn't hang out with them. Maybe the word "friend" is misapplied.
How do you decide if behavior is too much in a friendship? How invested do you have to be before you will put up with anything because he means so well. He's convinced he is being friendly and that kind of mocking/joking/baiting is awesome. I disagree. Does my opinion matter? Do I get to have any influence over his behavior? No. I can't control him. But I can walk away. I kind of feel like that has to be my next step. I have tried hard to control his behavior and make it "ok" for me. It's not.
The next time I see him I am driving. I am not going to try and control his behavior. I'm not going to continue the endless begging I have done for ten years to try and get him to stop being nasty. I'll just get up and leave. It doesn't matter if I've been there for 2 minutes or 2 hours. I'm done talking to him about this. That is what choosing life is in this situation. I can't "make" him be nice. I can't. But I can get up and walk away and say it isn't my problem. If he considers his behavior jim-dandy that's fine. I don't. I can control whether or not I listen to it.
Honestly that would probably be a good approach for him too if I am a jack ass and start bitching at him like a harpy. I don't pretend I'm innocent. I've done my share of bullying. I'm ready to stop though. I can't push him into being what I want him to be. He's there or he isn't.
It's hard reaching this point of resignation. He is obviously committed enough to the friendship that he is making grandios statements about how nothing could end our friendship because we are so close. It's like he's never met me or listened to any of my stories. I can end any relationship if I don't think it is good for me. I do not actually feel life long compulsion to maintain relationships "just because". Everyone else was raised with that. Not me. I wonder how sociopathic that is. I don't feel like I have to stay with Noah. I want to. I could leave. Easily. I don't want to. I like him. I like being around him. He makes me feel good about myself.
If my friends don't make me feel good about myself, maybe they aren't such good friends. Where is that line though? Where do I get to say, "Well obviously he still enjoys my company and gets positive from this interaction... but I feel drained and angry. I have nothing to spare. I'm done."
I don't exactly have a lot of spare energy or patience in my life. I need my friends to be easy. My kids require all the patience I have in life. I barely manage to be civil with Noah and Sarah with their (patient, gently worded) requests and conversation on many days. Why in the fuck should I turn around and have a social engagement that fills me with rage and frustration for over a week? I don't believe that is all my fault. I don't feel that way with very many people. Just my assholes.
I can't be at the bottom of the shit hill anymore. I'm done. I'm tired of nasty comments and casual put downs. I'm tired of being made to feel less-than. If you spend your whole god damn life in a dick contest trying to prove that you are smarter, better, more knowledgable... and you are going to prove it by making everyone else look dumb then you aren't a man. You are an obnoxious little boy and I'm sick of it. I'm done being patient with adults who won't grow up and learn to be civil. If you want to stay with the good-ol'-boy network that tolerates that shit from guys, fine. I'm done.
Choosing to be alive means consciously trying to avoid pain. I've spent a lot of time being angry about this friendship. I don't want to just dump him. There is a bond there. But I need to keep it very distant. And I need to just get up and walk away from him when I'm getting angry. If I don't he will never believe that I am serious. He's gotten away with this shit for over ten fucking years. No wonder he thinks it is ok. You don't convince someone that their behavior is a problem by biting your tongue and putting up with it.
The thing is, I'm not an innocent victim. He hasn't abused me. We have a mutually broken dynamic. It's not his fault and he hasn't done anything terrible. It doesn't have to be abuse and terrible for me to say no more. I'm allowed to do that at any point. Truly.