© Michelle Routhieaux 2015
Homework – Janice
What are you avoiding and how is it limiting you?
Janice asked this question today and she shared a story about someone’s snake phobia escalating into agoraphobia. And she asked what we avoid. I avoid people. I avoid trusting and getting close to people, not just because they cause me anxiety but because they actually do harm. Like the boy confined to his bed from fear, I separate myself from the world. Only I’m still in it, interacting every day disconnected with hundreds of people. It’s an art, a precise skill, a talent to be able to con so many. It requires being constantly alert to other peoples’ motives, even the ones they’re not aware of. Learning how people work, what the rules are, what you can get by not saying and what you must disclose. I’m good at reading people because it’s almost all that I do. Observation, Calculation, Hypothesis, Prediction. But there is little accurate prediction that’s consistent. I’m like a spy. Others get information on a need-to-know basis. When I find a safe person, someone I feel I can actually trust, the floodgates open. There is such an intense need to tell, a need to share. However, that person rarely shares my level of need to know or time and energy to dedicate. Michael’s mom on Burn Notice says, “Loving Michael is trench warfare.” So is loving or being close to me.
Janice asked, “Wouldn’t it be nice to go around inside a big safe bubble all the time?” No! It’s lonely! And scary! And it’s really not safe. It’s just separately dangerous. I avoid people. It limits me by keeping me away from the world. I so desperately desire to be close to people and not get hurt. But I require a distance, a space between us. Written communication is good, something I can look back on. Close proximity. Not necessarily interaction, just closeness and acknowledgement, reciprocation. But I can’t take being too close to people. If they want from me what I want from them and what I give, no more than I give, I run. The excessive neediness of others I can’t handle. I have enough trouble handling my own.
It (my fear and avoidance of people) limits me by keeping me out of relationships. I’ve never had a successful romantic relationship. I’ve had a handful of dates, a manic weekend in Virginia with a 58 year old guy, the traumatic stalking director thing in ’04. My most semi-official and promising futureless relationship was the 47 year old crazy Ukrainian immigrant who is now making my life Hell. Actually, the Hell is only his fault when he’s around or in any way communicates with me, appropriately or not.
What’s the process?
- I was me.
- People hurt me.
- Therefore, I must have done something wrong.
- Therefore, I am bad and must repent. I don’t deserve goodness.
- Since I don’t know what I did wrong, I continue to be myself only better.
- I get praise for perfection.
- People still hurt me.
- I must’ve done something wrong. I try to be better.
- And I stay farther back.
- People still hurt me.
- I try to be better and get really good, but not good enough.
- I stop letting people in.
- People still hurt me.
- I hurt myself.
- I decide that maybe it’s not me. Maybe all people are out to get me and no one is safe.
- I stop giving. I shut everyone out.
- I stop being perfect.
- I stop caring.
- I feel angry and hurt.
- The praise or negative feedback to my behavior doesn’t faze me because I just don’t care. But I do. Praise seems fake. And criticism just proves my point.
- I become jaded, bitter, cold & distant.
- People continue to hurt me because I can’t get away from them completely. And I desperately miss and need them.
- If “everyone’s out to get me” is not working out or is too scary, I must have been right. I did something wrong. If I can just do it better, then I’ll get what I need. Someone will love me. Someone will stop everyone from hurting me.
- I do projects, join groups, take stands, accomplish wonderful things many people are proud of me for. But I’m not proud of myself, at least not for long. When the project is over, I’m still alone. It’s not the project I was looking for.
- And people still hurt me.
- I take chances along the way. Some grand and some minor. There are victories, periods where I feel reasonably safe. But then the safe person, the grounding point or points, my anchors turn, leave, die, or hurt me in some other way. Sometimes it’s outward drama. Sometimes they don’t even know.
To be successful in trench warfare you need a team that’s got your back. Hell, you need that to win a game of paintball or laser tag. But when it comes down to it it’s every man for himself. Shoot or be shot. Even with your best friends. I choose to be shot for them. They choose to shoot me. When you study them long enough, most people are predictable.
- So I reach a point where I can reasonably assume that everyone is out to get me AND I have done something(s) horribly wrong. If it’s not one or the other, it simply must be both. My distrust for others is coupled with my great desire that no one else feel this pain, making things more complicated. I must be perfect enough to gain enough approval to survive but brazen enough to make it known that I hate most of the world and not to mess with me.
- Some people are intimidated. Some are scared. Some stay away. The people who are awed or inspired flock to me for help. After all, I’m good at providing the affection I so desperately need but don’t get. Yes, I’m bitter. I know what he should have said in that situation, what she most likely was thinking, because I’ve been there and I’m not afraid to say it. I have nothing to lose. I genuinely care about the fate of the people I help, but I also genuinely hate that I care. I hate that I’m the only one that cares THAT much, to THAT extent, and that my life has made me so good at it.
- I don’t practice what I preach. I’m a cross between Elpheba & the Wizard, Mark & Benny (RENT). The Benny side of me answered someone in the van this morning who asked why we don’t have a cure for bipolar or why we won’t soon by telling him that curing disease is not “fiscally responsible.” What? I know it’s completely true. I tried to explain the orphan disease/drug phenomenon. It was not what the man needed. He needed hope. All I had at the moment was truth.
- I call myself an opportunist. Someone recently called me a mercenary. My friend’s father (and I use that term loosely) recently died from a heart attack. Later that day his mom suffered a minor heart attack. My first thoughts? Wow. His life is going to get a lot better.
I am not fazed by this Haiti thing. I don’t care! I may seem bitter and cruel. So be it. But I actually had a conversation, well a line of thoughts, during a prayer this week about Haiti. Here’s how it went:
The people of Haiti don’t realize what a gift they’re giving the world. Sure, they lost 72,000 people, but they’re bringing the world together. People are united for a common positive cause. There is hope. People are feeling and talking. This is a good thing.
Then I thought, who does my suffering benefit? Cuz it certainly isn’t me. But I do benefit. I have people who support me. I create many jobs – doctors, nurses, file clerks, people in billing, insurance companies, benefits departments, therapists, the pharmaceutical industry. My suffering benefits so many other people. It would be irresponsible for me to get better. “Fiscally irresponsible.” Heck, I’m even good at my non-job job because of my suffering. It’s made me who I am and made me good at what I do.
It’s a disturbing and not illogical line of though. The system is set up for me to succeed at being sick. Maybe because they know that’s what I’m good at or maybe because they want me there. I add more to the US economy as a disabled person than an income-tax paying citizen.
That’s not the point. What was the point? Oh, that it’s not an illogical or untrue line of thought. The problem is that I don’t WANT to suffer. I don’t’ LIKE, or most of me doesn’t LIKE, feeling this way. I like feeling, but I don’t like not feeling and being cut off. This more of a lifestyle than a set of disorders. It’s a way of life.
M- said the other night that she wants to be ready when she checks back into reality. I’m not sure I want to check in. What if I don’t like it? What if I can’t come back? There is a certain comfort in knowing that people will hurt you no matter what you do, that it’s lonely when your mom doesn’t yell, and that every now and then when you just can’t handle it and your mind and body are freaking out that people you have known for years and feel safe with will take care of you for awhile, even if it does mean a ton of suffering.
The most brilliant, creative, and artistic people are and always have been deeply trouble. My best writing comes at my lowest times, which seem to be the most productive growth-wise and spiritually. My best work in dance and theater came at times when I was losing or sometimes out of control. Up or down. Finding a balance has meant losing many moments of brilliance and creativity. It hopefully has tempered some of the pain, and definitely extended my lifespan. But these moments of clarity and understanding, of breakthrough, are few and far between. It takes something huge to break the stone statue and let out some of the molten lava inside. And there’s just a small window of opportunity when the emotion is accessible, close to the surface. Miss that window and God only knows when it will come again. That’s why crisis is good and urgent. Crises that affect me directly and cut to my core. And it’s why Barb unearthing my family during the Michael situation is so rich with opportunity. Because she happened to touch something deep inside me at a time when I’m able to access my emotions, think clearly and write! Woohoo! But I see her once a week. And I see Janice for a few minutes and in passing. And I send Susan emails. And I talk to you (my journal). I don’t know how to make progress doing that, other than this. Writing and passing it along. I want more. I need more.
You don’t deserve more.
Leave me alone!
Please, just leave me alone…
I breathe and hear the clock tick. There’s a hair on my sheet. I forget if the pattern represents sin or cos. A perfect curve… I miss Terrie.
(sit and listen and stare)
Cocoon to Butterfly. When does it end?