Are you ready for some positivity?
Could you use a hope injection?
I may be able to help.

If you’ve read more than a couple of my posts you probably know that i have struggled with the day-to-days of being a grown-up, and that one of my most important goals is to be more fully functioning on a more consistent basis.
Well, to that end, i have a story to tell you.

I’ll remind you real quick of some major life points to help set the stage (Have you ever noticed that cops always say “real quick”? Could you get off the highway and come over here real quick, ma’am? Could you sit down over there real quick while i have a conversation with your husband? Have you also noticed it’s never real quick at all? You haven’t had a lot of interaction with the police? Oh. Well, never mind then.):

  • the people who made me did terrible things to me,
  • i strove to be good enough to avoid pain,
  • i still got hurt,
  • i developed some rather extreme avoidance skills,
  • my sense of personal identity was all but lost,
  • without a strong sense of self my interpersonal relationships were tenuous and fleeting at best and often contentious and tumultuous.

It’s been a funny few years, and by funny, i mean peculiar rather than haha. I expected to get better at peopling, but instead i found it more difficult. It’s probably because i didn’t want to avoid dealing with certain people and situations by dissociating or using substances anymore. It became excruciatingly difficult to be social. I would either switch immediately, or drink/drug to cope which was more and more frequently followed by a bunch of sliding* around. I wanted friends, real friends who knew the real me, but i couldn’t keep my damn door open – it didn’t take much wind to slam it shut again, and that doorman is a tough sumbitch to get by. If your brain is the gathering place for your friends to hang out and shoot the breeze for a spell, my brain was a crowded karaoke bar where no one listened to anyone else sing, where everyone was just waiting for their turn at the mic. The rotation was filled and there was no room for any new singers.

There was a group of women that i wanted very much to be a part of; they knew how to cut loose and have a good time, but were all successful in their careers and fully functional and involved with their families. I had been hanging out with a younger crowd, twentysomethings not fully established or set upon a firm path. It was an indication of how i functioned on an emotional level, and a reflection of who in my Peanut Gallery was usually in charge, or as i call it, “in the face”. I craved the company of women with whom i had more in common.

But i consistently buckled under the pressure. They kindly invited me to a number of their get-togethers, but i would be so nervous and anxious that i’d pound back the liquid courage (way too much and way too quickly), leaving  myself vulnerable to switch at the slightest provocation. Such lovely and welcoming women every one of them, but i felt unworthy of their company and out of place amongst them. I forced a kind of blithe joviality until the effects of the alcohol calmed me down from my state of near panic.

It all came crashing down on me one night and broke my leg in three places. No really.
I knew then that i needed to withdraw from people and figure my shit out. I had one remaining social obligation that managed to be only a minor disaster, and then i shut ‘er down.
I stopped peopling.
I hermitted in my Little Crooked House.
I hunkered down and i got to work.
No more drinking and drugging to cope, because i removed the stimulus.
I needed to scrutinise my behaviour in social situations, so that i could figure out what worked and what didn’t, what i was looking for and what i was willing to give in return.
When, where, and with whom was i most and least comfortable, and why?

It was a tremendous relief. I didn’t miss peopling. I mean, i didn’t miss anyone at all. I have a group of online friends that provided me with the perfect amount of socialisation, with no touching and from the safety and sanctity of my personal bubble, which at that point stretched out around 2km in all directions. I could stay in general contact with those i’ve interacted with locally by using social media, and no one noticed my withdrawal. Instead of hurting my precious little feelings, i found it liberating to see the world a bit more realistically through my physical detachment. I saw that people had lives of their own, and i was only a teeny, tiny part of their experience that could be removed easily and without a flicker of acknowledgment, let alone any fanfare. It brought my intense anxiety into sharp focus. It was vividly clear to me that my response to social interactions was wildly off-kilter with the significance attached by those around me.

This was more than a consolation, it was a revelation.
I currently have a personal (and very private) issue that i’m dealing with in my life, and this time away from anyone outside my immediate family has freed me to concentrate my attention on it and not be distracted by obsession over social minutiae. It’s enabled me to prioritise appropriately, it’s shifted my focus to where my actions are now better in alignment with my values.

I ventured out to socialise in the flesh a couple of times, to observe my deportment in a local bar run by a safe friend. It was for a set amount of time, with my husband as chaperone, and during low traffic hours. I saw people i knew and spoke with them, but only briefly. I had conversations with my friend and a couple of others i don’t know well, where my aim was to listen more than talk. I recognised all the old familiar thoughts and feelings, but they weren’t as acute – they’d been softened by the light of fresh knowledge and the insight i’d gained. I’d go home and go over my time there, trying to learn more and continue to ease the pressure i felt being in social situations.

I was still very content to stay at home, with only my husband and my children and their families for company, but i knew it was getting on to time for me to go back out into the big, bad world and see if i did indeed have my shit figured out. Recent events in the world of politics had brought me pretty low though, and i wondered if i’d ever want to go anywhere, ever again.

Then along came the Women’s March on Washington, and suddenly i knew it was time.

… to be continued with a flourish, tomorrow

*Not fully switched, but no longer running the show. It’s like standing right behind someone, observing them live my life for me. I’m not generally able to affect whoever is currently in the face, just helplessly watch.

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