I've been deliberately withdrawing from friends lately, pushing most of them away gently, pushing some away more abruptly, violently and perhaps even more permanently than I'd like to think about. I'm doing this for a very good reason. To me at least it seems like a good reason. I'm tremendously sore right now, incredibly afraid of everything and everyone around me. It's not fair to my friends and other people in my life to pretend like I can act like a normal human being. Recent events have very plainly demonstrated my inability to do so. During recent events where it might have seemed to an observer like nothing was wrong, it took an extreme amount of effort on my part to maintain that illusion.
I'm imagining things all the time these days. It's no effort for me to contrive of an imaginary situation in which one of my best friends would hurt me and do me harm. I'm ashamed of me, I ashamed to be who I am for any number of reasons. For every reason. Shame, weakness and inadequacy are all I know for me. I see it in everyone I interact with, though with some people more than others. If left to my own devices I imagine situations where I get hurt. I can easily imagine my friends hurting me, my housemates taking out their aggressions on me, or me doing something badly or inadequately in the company of people who can judge me and hearing their judgment and finally feeling shame for not being better. I have daytime fantasies about this stuff (though I hate that word "fantasy" because it doesn't attach the true relevance or weight of the subject matter to what's being imagined).
I get deeply, traumatically affected by these imagined scenarios of hurt, embarrassment, shame, loss of pride, loss of face, punishment. I retraumatize myself by having them. What good does it do me to do this? It's protection. For most of my life I've felt the need to protect myself from situations that hurt me so I anticipate their coming. For a good portion of the time my anticipations were accurate and the abuses I imagined were those that I would in fact receive by my environment. I still do this today. I still practice this ancient mode of "protection" by considering, at every turn, "In what ways is this person capable of hurting me?"
Usually this hurt came in a way that was directly or indirectly related to some physical aspect of me. I was mocked, tortured and abused for my relative ineptitude at sports, my inbility to keep up with others, my relative uncoordination, the way I looked. for everything. I was openly mocked and semi-privately assaulted when nobody was looking and I couldn't defend myself.
I still don't truly know why. But I've made assumptions. I assume it was because I deserved it, for the crime of being weak and physically stupid. What else could I possibly have believed?
Compliments don't work. I was talking with a near and dear friend about this a few days ago. She noted that at a certain party, she could sense that I was hurting. I told her how lately this has been happening, how I could only seem to focus on the negative. She asked if I could focus on the positive as well, naming several outright yet unforced compliments I'd received over the course of the party. The problem, as I explained wasn't that I was blind or oblivious to the compliments, or even to my positive qualities. The problem was that they didn't ultimately seem to matter. They didn't make a difference in my self-outlook.
Enter my therapist, a guy I haven't seen in three weeks due to holidays and various schedule alterations. I told him everything I've just written.
"No. You're right. Compliments don't seem to matter."
"So it would seem."
"What does matter?"
I had to ask him to repeat the question.
"What would matter? What do you need?"
"I don't know."
"Take your time."
"Safety. Advocacy? Security... something. There's no word I can think of. These words approach the meaning but there are one or two key points not covered here."
"Take your time."
"I'm going to tell you a story. When I was four and a half years old I got my first bicycle. It was a cheap, heavy thing from Toys 'R' Us that was black, silver and had Space Invaders stickers plastered all over it. My parents got training wheels for it. After a couple months of riding up and down our street, I'd gotten good enough at balancing on the thing that I was cornering properly, holding myself upright and the training wheels were an impediment and my father grew sick of bending them back into place after my turns had pried them up. The day came when the training wheels came off. I remember it clearly. The first ride I took on my bike without the training wheels was in the neighbor's yard, the Flynn's. Their yard was flatter and had fewer obstructions. Both my parents were there, Mr. and Mrs. Flynn and their son Andy was there. I got on the bike, my father gave me a push and I was off. I made a complete loop of the yard on my first try, returned to my starting point and everyone cheered for me. Then the next few loops, I fell off my bike flat on my ass. I remember crying. I remember being told that it was okay, that I could just get back on the bike and try again. Then I made a few more successful loops and got cheers again. From then on, balancing on the bike was no problem. In the first few months without the training wheels I fell off my bike a lot. But you know what? That wasn't a problem either. It was okay to fall off my bike.
That was the last time I can remember it being okay to fall off my bike. From then on for the next few years, I became the preferred target of most of my peers at school. When I did something badly, I was pointed at and laughed at. If I was clumsy or awkward, that was met with immediate ridicule. I was a favorite dodgeball target. It was not okay to fall or do something badly. It was expected of me to fail, but not okay. It went on for years. The abuse escalated. Sometimes I was hunted down and taunted and/or beaten because I was an easy target that either didn't know how to fight back or simply wasn't strong enough to do so. The last time I can remember being physically incapable of something and truly believing that was okay was when I was just under five years old.
I still can't seem to really describe what I feel I need."
"You just did. With a story."
"There doesn't seem to be a word for it."
I'm still going to isolate myself for a while if you don't mind.