I’m not very good at hints, but on looking rather stunned and crest-fallen after reading May’s last post I think her saying “you could always write a response” was just about unsubtle enough for me to pick up on.
I’m not sure what I’m going to say yet, so let’s see where this goes…
Sidling does fit well as a description of my behaviour, I think. Yes, definitely worse when I’m stressed, which as May generously points out is quite a lot recently. The new job is a lot more stressful than the previous (don’t worry I’ll spare you the boring details, suffice to say I inherited a pup of a project that turned out to have real expectations of delivery, but smoke and mirrors support and resources, and more skeletons than a ghost train), but then staying in the old job while the organisation wound down around me would also have been extremely stressful – so I was kind of stuffed either way on that one. At least I have a job for the next 18 months, albeit not an ideal one.
I’m also a mass of misery. I’m not sure what other feelings I have really, as I’m emotionally constipated (I’m in the process of signing up for counselling/psychotherapy). As May recounted I have admitted to feeling scared, so I guess that’s a start.
I tend to think in a fairly binary way and I also compartmentalise (arguably quite badly, see comments on previous post). I think of strong emotions as ‘bad’. There are family reasons behind this – as a child growing up I witnessed regularly and at close hand an aunt who was bi-polar going through the highs and lows (and being hospitalised at regular intervals as she reached the extreme ends of the spectrum). I also saw her seemingly recover and get a couple of good jobs and find some stability in her life, before she committed suicide.
This means, as has been pointed out, that it’s not that I don’t have emotions but I handle them badly. I try and squash them down – and this applies to the ‘good’ ones, such as joy, too. Something that annoys May and makes her sad, I think. It means it’s difficult for us to connect on an emotional level.
So, when someone approaches me with strong emotions my ingrained, automatic response is to either sidle or hunker down into ‘protective shell’ mode. This makes effective communication near impossible and also doesn’t really provide reassurance/support. I know this intellectually, but at the time what I may know plays very little part in my reactions. I panic. this the quickly deteriorates depending on what I’m faced with – getting defensive or silent/dumb or trying to escape. This is only exacerbated when it’s someone I care about. The fear of saying the wrong thing, as I have far too often, is increasingly paralysing.
None of this is ground-breaking stuff and I’m sorry for May, in particular, who will probably be disappointed that there’s nothing new or non-obvious.
I also realise that I haven’t really addressed the non-communication aspect, which did improve a bit (I think) after our previous therapy – but I agree has relapsed. In the interest of getting this posted before the weekend of family fuss, however, I shall save some stuff up for another post soon.