Monday, March 31, 2014

Understanding Where Things Went Wrong (Part 2)

Things I should note about the last post:

I don't blame my husband, nor do I hate him in any way. I don't think it was intentional at all, regardless of how it affected me. He's still a dear friend to me, and I hope always will be.

Also, I think it's important to understand the definition of dependence, which I overlooked. It is about feeling that you cannot function without someone helping you with everything. It is about thinking you are inadequate at coping with an overwhelming world and feel that you require a supportive relationship in your life to survive. They ignore and deny all their own needs and wants in order to maintain the relationship they depend on, and are unquestioningly loyal and supportive at the expense of their own individuality.

Yeah, I don't feel any of that is remotely true for me. If I thought I was unable to function on my own, I would never have moved out in the first place. The entire point of getting out of my situation was because I was desperate to learn to be independent and didn't want to go back to a situation where I required someone to take care of me. Yeah, stuff is really hard, and I'm definitely not healthy yet, so I do need some help and support. But I don't need anyone in my life. Eventually, I will get there.

So yeah, unhealthy attachment. That is a whole other thing entirely, and something I will admit to. But the whole situation was pretty complicated and got out of control pretty quickly. Probably why I've spent so much time braindumping and processing and trying to understand everything.

I think it came from finding someone I felt I could trust in a lot of ways I really haven't in years, especially since moving to Australia. There was a closeness there I had been craving for a very long time. I have good friends, and many who care about me a lot, and I feel the same. And I even have a couple really quite close friend/relationships, but they don't live in Sydney. So there's still a certain level of very close friend I haven't had. Like someone I could ring up and be like.. hey, I feel like some company, want to hang out? That sort of comfort level. Admittedly, I've been super anti-social for many mental illness reasons since I moved here, and I am not the sort to trust very easily at all, though I've desired to have more intimacy in my life. So I've felt quite lonely, intensified by the isolation and my illness and being trapped in an unhealthy relationship.

So yeah, having finally found that, my brain went YES, this is awesome. Must hang onto at all costs!! Which I suppose is warning sign number one, but all went well for a while anyway, so hard to say I could have figured it out by that point. Then it was yanked away from me, quite suddenly and in a particularly triggering way for me, which started a whole long downward spiral of badness.

The best place to start is to mention the fact that my self-harm addiction reared its ugly head in a pretty significant way while my marriage fell apart last year. And I've still been struggling with it even after moving out. Normally, I don't reach out for help after self-harming to anyone at all, and also, it usually isn't severe enough for medical attention. However, because well-meaning friends were taking away most of the sharp things around me they could find, I resorted to pulling blades out of my shaving razors. They were very sharp, much more than I was used to, and so I ended up with deep cuts a few times on accident. And so, I freaked out and then called the one person I really trusted.

This led to concerns about associating my self-harm tendencies with someone rushing to help me out, and the associated concerns of dependency and, eventually, that I am unable to self-regulate when and how much I truly need someone for support. Needless to say, I disagree with all of that, and I've explained why at least in regards to the dependency. But that's beside the point. The way I found out about all of these concerns was after an extremely bad and stressful day. I ended up with a really bad wound that didn't stop bleeding. I freaked out and reached out for help... but he was with some other good friends, and without telling me why, he sent them in and refused to come in and see me. Unbeknownst to him, non-communication is a massive and traumatic trigger for me, and I freaked out really badly. It's related to stuff that happened over a decade ago, and it hadn't come up for me in a very long time. Still, I was really hurt and I felt that he betrayed my trust. It's hard enough for me to call someone I've put trust in for help. To be avoided by that person without explanation was pretty beyond what my brain was able to cope with. And that started the unhealthy cycle that ensued, because I ended up far past my threshold of thinking clearly, and I stayed there.

File:Attachment Theory Hyperactivation.png
A good diagram of an unhealthy attachment cycle
Most of the details beyond that are unimportant and unnecessary. After the triggering incident, I was very, very clear about why that's a big problem for me and that all I need is upfront, honest communication about what's going on and why. But despite that, my friend kept pulling away from me, since he felt he needed to for his own health, and he was really terrible at ever communicating to me about it. Generally, things that needed to be boundaries would come out after a conflict, and after I was blamed for things going wrong. So yeah, this whole cycle kept my brain in high anxiety overdrive, second-guessing and freaking out at how different his words of reassurance were from his actions of pulling away more and more. So, I kept clinging more and more tightly, terrified and panicked about losing this super important friendship that I had finally found after so long. Rationally, I know that is a terrible idea and never ends well, but I wasn't coping with things at all. I haven't found myself in a situation like this in a very, very long time, so I was a bit lost and flailing about trying to keep the friendship intact, and feeling like I was never able to do anything right to do so.

This also led me into a really terrible space in my mind, full of blame and guilt and self-destructive behaviours. The judgments of my behaviours and motivations made me react defensively, because I knew they weren't true. But because I was panicked about saving the friendship, I would take on these ideas and, since I did honestly make mistakes, believe these terrible things about me to be true. So, I'd backtrack and give in and do whatever I thought would help things go back to status quo. But after every conflict, he'd pull further away instinctively, though without any true explanation of his needs. So I'd get hurt or angry because he was acting different to how I thought things were, react extremely poorly, and everything would start all over again.

Finally, enough was enough, for both of us. I was tired of feeling constantly one step behind because of the lack of communication and how quickly things had changed in the space of a couple months. I was tired of feeling blamed, judged and completely misunderstood, as if my feelings or perception of things was completely invalid or even important. I was tired of being shut down and shut out of talking things out because of being 'irrational' and 'unreasonable' simply because I disagreed with these judgments and misunderstandings. I was tired of taking on all the negative ideas about me and taking it all out on myself. I realised how terrible and unhealthy this all was for both of us, and I wanted out.

I'm pretty proud of getting to that realisation instead of giving in and taking all the blame onto myself one more time, as I could have. Yes, I wish I had understood it all better much earlier. Looking back now, if it was a situation I found myself in again (dear god, I hope not), I would take the first sign of pulling away as needing space and be like... ok, let's try this again in a bit once things are settled down. But hey, hindsight is always fantastic. I'm not proud of a lot of my actions, but I can only keep moving forward, keep learning, and keep trying to do better.

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