Trust as Illusion

I don’t understand trust. Why are people suspicious of those they just met, and not those they live with?
Surely we have all had experiences where people we have known for ages and trusted became dangerous to us.
There is no guarantee someone will not attack you or betray you or steal from you.
All of us have experienced some sort of betrayal from people in our lives that we felt as close to as our jugular vein.
People change. You must constantly reassess your trust, anyway.
Trust, to me, is a decision. Not to be suspicious in that moment, not to look a gift horse in the mouth. I decide to trust. Anything else is me allowing myself to be lulled.
I don’t talk about this sort of thing much, others get uncomfortable with the concept. What do you think?

Replay: PTSD

So a few weeks ago a long time online friend messaged me that he was in love with me. I played it off and made light as I fell down the rabbit hole.

Fifteen years ago I was talking to an IRL friend I was helping with a legal case and he told me he loved me on MSN Messenger, which I was using for the first time. That relationship ended five years ago when I ran from him with our children with only hopes of staying alive long enough to see them safe.

Living with an abusive unpredictable monster for a decade has given me a lot of skills. Unfortunately it took me quite a few days to figure out what was going on, but in those days I did:
Come to a conclusion to be honest with my feelings instead of just deflecting his.
Spent an honest hour in therapy discussing my own trauma instead of telling jokes to my therapist as I have done for the past four years. She was stunned, I swear.
Treated the friend like an adult who I can trust despite wanting to protect him. Okay, so I did mention my various flaws in every casual conversation with him… some things never change.
Madly coped by listening to music, a lot of music, and I found some good new stuff out there.
Forced myself to eat a sustainable amount even though all food tasted like cardboard, and only lost five pounds.
Worked, every day.
Took perfect care of the children without them knowing I was rattled- though I was a bit lenient on the schedule.
Did all my self care, except sleeping, which the forced eating helped cure. Insomniacs, take note of the above and check your caloric intake.
Cleaned all the places I hate cleaning, like behind the stove and under the fridge.
Decided to purge. Got rid of half the contents of a closet and a couch I hated.
Debated intentionally with trolls daily and adequately defended the rights of women in a public internet environment instead of doing nothing with my insomnia.
Overcame some sort of sore throat virus with the help of turmeric heated in milk (thank you, internet friend’s mother).

I swear I was a superhero.

I finally pinned him down to a real conversation today and he did not mean it. When you are in love with someone, you plan, right? He has no plans, never had any plans, did not even consider any plans. He downgraded love to attraction, most notably. It was very sweet, I suppose. He, as always, was quite kind.

I always, always! fall in love with people who say they are in love with me- despite everything. This time I will never have to explain it, embrace it, or deal with any fallout. Some feelings I can keep to myself, right? The relationship it affects is mine, with myself. My life will be unchanged. I will be back to normal shortly, I expect. I am looking forward to my tastebuds registering again. Still have some purging to do in the house, though.

Oh, and my abuser, who messaged me his love on MSN so long ago? He didn’t mean it, either. He was lying that day, as he told me years later. He was fishing, and I got caught. Caught good.

Exposure Therapy

My therapist keeps advocating CBT, a modified exposure therapy for my triggers. I am supposed to increase the time I can stand being uncomfortable in a situation in order to learn tolerance for it and to normalize it.

I don’t know why I am trying to work so hard at my therapy.

I work full time, I raise a herd of little kids all by myself, I have some savings in the bank and my only vice is the internet.

What’s happened to me is not more than what happens to so many of us. I ought to consider myself recovered and successful rather than nitpicking at lingering effects and cursing my PTSD symptoms.

I need to write a long post on the effects of low dose estrogen. It’s a doozy.

I would rather do that than increase the time I can stand someone looking over my shoulder.

Still Looking Backwards

It was a short-term goal my therapist and I set for me, well over six months ago, to look back at my life and try to see it through “the lens of autism” in the hopes that it would make sense.

It doesn’t, still, and I have gotten in the habit of looking back and analyzing frequently.

What I talk about in my sessions with my therapist is about the feelings of isolation or being misunderstood. I can explain that as being symptomatic of autism but what stands out to my therapist is neglect.

I know I am a different sort of parent from my own.

I try to figure out what is going on with my kids in school, I play with them and their friends, I encourage them in things I don’t care for – growing out their hair, playing social video games.

I don’t always do this because I am interested, though I am. I sometimes am motivated by what I remember of my own childhood, because I don’t want my children to ever feel as I did. I felt a lot of self-loathing, and as if I were never good enough. I want my children to feel validated, to feel that their own interests are legitimate, that they matter as their own selves.

I look back and I remember always feeling as though people did not understand my intent. My intentions were often announced by me, and still not understood or accepted.
I think this is how things work, actually. I think we assign our own motivations to others and rarely accept their stated intentions as truth. For we see others through our own lenses, our own frames of reference, rather than through their eyes.
I think we also deceive ourselves quite frequently, even regarding our own intentions. So maybe it is not that people did not understand my intentions or feelings, but that I did not understand their interpretations of me- why or how they were so off.
I remember feeling gutted by the assessments of others.

This all looks like autism at first glance. But the therapist says that a skewed or dysfunctional attachment to the primary caregiver creates a bit of disassociation like this, for instance:
I have always felt closer to people who talk a lot about themselves. I often feel as though I have a better picture of them, as if they were “more real” than others who are more conservative or discreet in their self praise. This is not the healthiest, but it is instinctive, I cannot help it. I know, now, that this is my tendency, and so I try to lean away from those I am trying to lean into. If that makes sense. Because I know now that self absorbed people are not good for me (or really anyone) and that their endless chatter on their favorite subject is not necessarily the truth.
So the therapist’s assessment is that I am attracted to people who convey a false sense of intimacy (immediate intimacy) because I did not have real attached intimacy with my primary caregiver as a child. Deep shit, right? Makes for a complicated life and a lot of bad judgement of character. Like being autistic.

How can I untangle all that?

And my therapist, in case you were wondering, is pro-neurological diversity and not in doubt of my autistic assessment last year. So it is not even a simple matter of her throwing her own disbelief into it.

Boundaries Between Identities

Most often when I try to explain emotional things my tongue dries up and my mind goes blank and I crack a joke instead.

I wasn’t always like this. I used to write poetry, free form stuff that drew pictures in the mind of the reader and also created emotional response. I used to be in touch with myself, I think.

I haven’t been able to write poetry for years. I think I stopped during my second marriage. I don’t know if it was about the marriage or about being happy or about embracing religion or about being so busy working that I put in fifty plus hour weeks. I just stopped and never started again.

I don’t know if I ever explained myself properly, emotionally. I just know I used to write it down pretty clearly. I could write rants, too. Those emotional rants you write while crying, the ones you never wanted anyone else to see. I don’t cry anymore, either. I stopped crying and talking about emotion while I was with their father.

I joined a PTSD forum a few years ago and was flagged as being in violation of the rules because my paragraphs were not double spaced on my intro (see how I am doing it here, remembering this). I made maybe four comments and never went back. It hurt my feelings, to not be able to follow the rules. It brought up some deep pain in me that I know has been there since childhood. I was always in trouble, socially.

I was in touch with myself when I was very young. I knew what abuse was, from outside, when it was being done to others. I had boundaries and I had terrible crying fits that could last hours when I realized someone didn’t love me or had cheated or had hurt me in some way. My boundaries eroded from constant battering, on all fronts. Abuse wasn’t abuse anymore, it was how things were. It was what was to be expected if I wanted to keep my religious beliefs, my husband, my everything. It wasn’t until the children were being battered that I woke up and I remembered where the boundaries should be.

Most of those boundaries never came back. I tell my children all the time where their boundaries should be, how to respect the boundaries of others. But I haven’t got them anymore, myself.

I think it is a good thing I don’t date. I think it is the best thing I have done for my children apart from separating them from their abuser.

I worry all the time that it is not enough. I worry every time I am angry that I am abusive, that my children are being scarred. My own mother was pretty cold. I don’t remember much anger from her, or much feeling, really. She compliments me all the time now and I have no idea where it is coming from. She was not like that when I was a child. I have always responded to very verbal and very intense people, like my father. Which is not a good thing, necessarily. Very verbal and intense people are often self absorbed or abusive. I just couldn’t feel people who were more low key. So I worry that I am setting my kids up to expect outbursts from people, or scolding, or punishment when I make them clean up their messes or go to their rooms. Am I being hard on myself? Maybe. I don’t know the proper boundaries. I feel a sense of panic if they have no consequences, too. I am terrified to go easy and frightened of coming down too hard.

I don’t know how or where being autistic plays into this. I don’t know where I and autism differ (perhaps we do not) and I often do not find the PTSD until retrospect kicks in. I hate it, I hate the PTSD. I was the most patient person in the universe until PTSD. Now I am tired and I am distracted and I am irritable often enough that I worry how it affects my children.

I was sick with food poisoning for the past few days. None of the last minute Christmas stuff got done. There is no one to do it for me. I have to get it done and I have to do it while being tired and meeting my prior commitments. I have to keep the PTSD at bay. I don’t want to spend Christmas yelling at my kids, like I did this evening. Kids will goof off and break rules and violate boundaries with each other. Why do I expect more? PTSD is always so much worse with stress or fatigue.

Maybe I should try EMDR. Maybe I should talk about what happened to me.

Happy Holidays.

Shocked

My father has passed away quite suddenly. I no longer have to be concerned about his dementia or about my stepmother handling him alone.

Somehow that does not make it much easier.

The children and I will miss him terribly. He taught them how to fish.

Apologies to the both of you

Dear Jacob,

I have read what your mother wants us to do to remember you, I have. I keep tearing up and it comes and goes all day. I cried on the way to the pharmacy, just couldnĀ“t keep it in anymore. I took the kids to the store and let them spend their allowance, and that made them happy. I am trying.

I did want to ask you, if Amy is with you, could you please tell her that I am still her friend, will always be her friend? That I miss her? If she is not with you, maybe still you could help her to know. I want her to know, somehow, that the time matters not to me at all, that I have not forgotten her and I never will.

You disappeared just after her, and now you are home. I am so glad you are home, and sad, too.

Love always,

three

Conditioning

I have a trauma anniversary coming up in a few days and I have been very proud of myself so far. I have not been irritable or triggered that I can tell.

A few days ago I skyped with a friend I had not yet met but had corresponded with for a few years, a nice young man finishing up his MasterĀ“s degree. It was a nice conversation even though he said some nice things to me that threw me completely. I am not so good at compliments.

Even worse than the fact that I spent days obsessing over this conversation and feeling awful about everything I said is the fact that most of what I said and all of what I did not say came from cultural and abuse conditioning. I have been living in Western culture for four years, answering to no one but myself and still I am paralyzed inside, unable to voice perfectly acceptable comments because I have been conditioned not to speak to men, or not to speak nicely to men. This is a nice young man and he deserves some positive communication. I can write it, but I cannot say it. I feel ashamed to be controlled by things that are no longer present in my life.

I said nothing wrong. I just did not say much of what I wanted, encouraging or supportive stuff. I am supposed to be free, supposed to be able to talk as freely as I write.

It nearly makes me feel like crying. I never do that.