A ninja or shinobi was a covert agent or mercenary in feudal Japan. The functions of the ninja included espionage, sabotage, infiltration, assassination and guerrilla warfare.
It could be said that i was taught all these skills. I was told i was born for a reason, and that it was very important that i do what i was told. I learned to sit quietly in a room full of people and report back on everything i heard. I knew how to read adults; to assess their personality and to anticipate their needs. It was important that people liked me. My mother was always very keen to know everyone’s business, and i could be helpful, entertaining, or practically invisible. I adapted quickly to my surroundings, sometimes standing out and sometimes blending in.
The people break has been very relaxing. I’ve gotten to where i’m aware of all the machinations going on in my head, all the time. It’s exhausting. Leaving the house to accomplish daily activities and running into someone i know takes great effort. What’s their name? (If i’m currently either extremely up or down, it can be hard to recall, and if i first heard their name while in one of those states, well, i’m not likely to remember.) What was our last encounter like? Is the smile on their face genuine? Did i do something wrong last time? Are they secretly upset with me? Do they even really like me? Can they tell i’m freaking out? Is it okay to end the interaction now, or would that be rude? Am i talking too much and they want to get away from me? Am i sweating? Does my smile look insane?
Those social anxiety questions aren’t all that’s happening, either. I’ve got the Peanut Gallery yakking in my head the entire time as well. A constant running commentary from voices i’ve acquired over the years. Judging my appearance, rating my interaction with the people i encounter. Giving me advice on everything. Criticising me, criticising them, worrying about how the exchange is going and trying to anticipate what could happen. Doing quick run-throughs of things i could/should be saying. I’m almost always on edge in social situations.
It wasn’t always this bad. It’s been a process. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get this twisted up in knots. Of course this is what’s been going on in my brain during social interactions for most of my life, but i wasn’t conscious of it. I’m the poster child of hypervigilance, but i’m also highly dissociative. I’m the clueless cherry on top of the survival sundae. I wasn’t so much into fight or flight… i was frozen. Like, suspended animation. Sort of floating around, but always in the same state. I was the unexamined life. And even when i finally began trying to figure myself out, it was within the boundaries of what my religion would allow. I was bound by their strict definitions and held back by the death grip they had on my perceptions of life, the universe, and everything.
Once i’d finally extricated myself from religion’s grasp, i started making some real headway. It wasn’t demons or sin or soul ties, it was mental illness. I didn’t need any gods or prayers or sacrifices or appeals or supplications or confessions or loving corrections. I’m just mentally ill. When i found the right person to work with, things started clicking relatively quickly. She explained the science behind how my brain worked, pointing me in the direction of books and studies that were more about the hard science of the brain, and less the mushy quagmire of psychology. That was when i began to be aware of everything that was going on in my head. Learning that my brain doesn’t work like most people’s, and some i may have been born with, but some was certainly the result of my upbringing. And while some of the damage done is likely irreversible, learning as much as i can about every aspect of my handicap could help me live a more functional and satisfying life. With a serious commitment and careful development of a healthy work ethic, i might be both happy and useful.
Some of the things i’ve learned about myself haven’t been pleasant. I was taught to manipulate from very early on. I learned these skills both from and for my mother, and i developed my own tricks to secure my personal safety. I’m incredibly adept. I can fit in with any group of people you put me in. I will quickly align myself with the group dynamic and reflect their identity. I’ll talk like them, look like them, and even appear to think like them. It sounds terribly disingenuous, and of course it was, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t consciously done, and my intention was never malicious. I was just trying to survive. My internal air raid siren started going off before i could speak. I didn’t even hear it anymore, so i didn’t know it was still wailing. My brain and my body were always tense, waiting for the next attack. I didn’t know the war was over and i could turn off the alarms. And although i’ve shut down that internal keening, i’m still learning how to stand down. I need regular reminders that the war is over. I can lay my weapons down.
I now track all the thoughts and voices in my head, and as i stated earlier, it is exhausting. For a long time after i admitted what had happened to me growing up, i was at their whim. They took all my time and attention. I’ve put my past to bed though, and i’m on to the business of day-to-day living. It’s taken me a while to see that i needed a break from peopling. Even the simplest encounters, like buying groceries, can prove overwhelming for me sometimes. And as far as friends go – i prefer short encounters with no more than a couple of people. It’s easier to maintain awareness of what’s going on in my noggin in smaller groups. Like, two or three. With every added person i become more anxious, and my thoughts start racing. I can lose track and slip into automatic so easily. I don’t want that anymore. I want to be as genuinely myself as i can reasonably and safely be, when in relationships with other humans. I want to have strong, healthy boundaries. I’m not a beaten dog wandering around with my tail between my legs, hoping someone will pet me. I’m a rescue who went to a great home, where all my needs are well met, and i get all the attention and affection that i require. Now, if i could just hang out at the park with all the other dogs occasionally, without running off yelping because someone comes over for a sniff. Heh.
END of PART II