OK, Fine, Let’s Talk About Feelings (H)

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.

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7 responses to “OK, Fine, Let’s Talk About Feelings (H)

  • a

    My response to the last post quite inspired May! And I do understand how she feels. It’s quite clear that she looks at your emotional response to things (or lack thereof), and says “This does not work. Why do you keep doing it?” I wish I knew why I keep doing it. All I know is that strong emotion makes me terribly uncomfortable, and I just want it to stop. Intellectually, I realize that it’s useless and non-helpful to react in that manner. Emotionally, there’s not a thing I can do about it. I don’t think she understands that. It’s reflexive.

    There are times, when all is calm, that I can think rationally and have a discussion about an emotional topic. But those times are rare. Fortunately, my husband has enough of his own issues that he can’t get too worked up about my issues. That doesn’t stop him, of course. :) He thinks I am alternately cold or crazy.

    I hope the two of you can find a mutually beneficial solution. But I’m guessing that it will be a long road for both of you.

  • Katie

    I don’t have much to say but just thank you for sharing, there are kernels of truth here that apply to us too though we are different in a lot of ways.

  • wombattwo

    H… You really don’t have to justify yourself to us, you know. You’re dealing with a really difficult and stressful thing the way you’ve learnt to. The way you know how. This IS how it is for you, and nobody can argue with that.

    Infertility is a complete shit. As is baby loss. I don’t have words for how hideous they are. the only people to say “this is how to deal with it” are those who haven’t been there, as those who have know how hard it is.

    In the end though, you are married to a lovely woman, and she is married to a lovely man. What the two of you could do is work out how to be what the other one needs. Easier said than done, definitely.

    The overwhelming feeling I have though, H, is that you sound really sad. That you are feeling really miserable, and a whole load of other feelings that you can’t yet name, but you know they’re there and you don’t know what to do with them perhaps? Counselling is good, for sorting out what’s what, putting names to things and having a safe space to talk. If I could give you one piece of advice though, regarding counselling – go and see a person-centred counsellor. I think that might be what you find the most useful. I’m seeing a person-centred counsellor at the moment and to have a space where someone really gets what I’m saying, is so empathic and non-judgemental is really good.

    Sending lots of hugs, even though I’ve never met you, and my most sincere wishes that things get better, for both of you, very very quickly.

  • QoB

    I do exactly this myself – though I have learned to be emotional in private and then talk about it more calmly later while dealing with the emotional hangover. And it’s not a bad thing, per se, we all have our coping mechanisms and I’m not in a position to say which are better than others.
    But they should be helping you cope, they should be functional – and when they’re not helping you any more (and they’re definitely not helping May) then it’s time to look at adjustments, maybe?

    And also what WfI said – kudos.

  • Abash’d the Devil stood « Nuts in May

    [...] course, he mentioned his family tragedy, the poor aunt who was bi-polar, and whose hallucinatory highs and terrible, crushing lows scared [...]

  • On Sidling « Nuts in May

    [...] said in my last post that I have a problem with strong emotions and a reason why. However, I think I need to learn not [...]

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