I don’t stand up for myself

It’s a chronic thing…
Tonight, I took a risk and tried to talk to someone at a hotline about stuff that I have not yet been able to talk about. I had to wait a while for a response, so I took the time to type out what was in my head. Once they responded, I checked that it was OK for me to talk about this stuff. I asked specifically if I could dump something heavy on them, and not just be alone in it. The person hesitated and I offered to leave the chat, but he invited me to vent. So I copy/pasted what I had written out while I was waiting. Then I panicked. I triggered myself when I put that stuff in writing and sent it off for someone else to see. I asked that he not read what I had typed out, and I apologized over and over again. I then recognized I was freaking out, and told him as much. I apologized for that too.

I’m not sure what part of our exchange made him think I had been there to talk about this before, but something did. He became curt and asked if I needed additional resources to the ones they had “already given [me]”. He sent off one link and then advised me to contact a local resource. I was taken aback. I didn’t remember talking to anyone about this before, let alone any time recently. I read anger and frustration into his sudden change in response. That impression sent me off on a triggered set of responses: I apologized for wasting their time and left. Emotionally, I shut down. I started questioning my memory around things. I wondered (then panicked) if I had lost time again (hasn’t happened since termination with De, but even then there were signs that made me aware I had. This time there was nothing I could point to as evidence, though now that I think about it, hours have seemed to fly by at times. One minute I’m waking up and going about my morning routine, the next thing I know it’s 2 or 3 in the afternoon and I can’t tell you what happened in between). Anyway, I didn’t challenge what I believed to be a false assumption, I just went with it. I gave up my chance to find some relief from the thoughts weighing on me because I run at the slightest hint of rejection or annoyance with me. It’s always better to run and hide than face pissing someone off. So I ran. I closed the chat and shut down completely. I felt like shit because I thought maybe I had forgotten that I was there already. Maybe I was there and was a jerk. Maybe they were correct…

Once I finally calmed down from the multiple-trigger frenzy in my head, my instinct was to go back and correct the assumption: to tell them they had me confused with someone else, as I had not been to that chat in months… I wanted to do this because I felt the need to head-off any anger or ill will. But the opportunity was gone. The misunderstanding happened and I had no way to undo it. That triggered me again. When misunderstandings happen, I need to try to make them right if I can (though even that can get awkward). Generally though, very few misunderstandings lend themselves to resolution. This whole freezing and not being able to stand up for myself in the moment gets in the way of a lot.

TL and I had tried to work on it in therapy. Many conversations were had around misunderstandings and how to handle them. Many conversations surrounded miscommunication on my part, and trying to develop the ability to go back and make things right… I was finally getting better at it with TL (I could bring it up in later sessions either by writing it out or talking about it), but it clearly didn’t get to a point of resolution. I learned way too early that any attempt at correcting a misunderstanding was “talking back” (my aunt’s favorite phrase was “shht! Don’t talk back”). Explanations were not to be had. Rewording things and trying to express myself better a second time was unheard of. TL and I had many conversations around that also. It often took me too long to respond to her or try to spit something out so we would move on to other topics. I would consider my words very carefully. There were several “false starts” to my speaking. I would stumble over my words and get flustered. A lot of things went unsaid until I could later find the courage to print out my journal entries and hand them to her… I took blame for anything that was misunderstood, and I apologized profusely for it. I think by the third go-around on the topic, she started asking if misunderstandings really were that bad, and if someone misunderstood me, was it always my fault in miscommunication, or was it the other person just not paying attention or not understanding what I was saying. She even unintentionally modeled handling misunderstandings when she didn’t explain something well a few sessions later and I became confused. She tried to impress on me that going back to explain things again was very possible and not the end of the world… she also tried to get me to see that the error in communication was not always my fault (I have a tendency to take the blame whether I’m the one doing the speaking or the listening)…

Anyway. I guess the work we did on it helped some because I wanted to go back and correct the guy’s assumption. Unfortunately, I was too late and had already ended the chat. It’s a learning process. As De said to me a few times, “this took a lifetime to learn. [I’m] not going to unlearn it overnight.”

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