I really do have quite a few talents, and I’m truly grateful for all of them. I’m pretty good with a garden, I make beautiful quilts, I can write well, my photographs are generally well received. I’m extremely good at my job, and I have an innate sense for teaching. This isn’t me bragging; this is me being honest. These are things at which I can excel, and they help to make me the person I am.
Another aspect of me is that I’m pretty self-aware. I tend to spend a lot of time in my own head, and I’m lucky enough to be able to step back and see things pretty objectively. This gives me a clear picture to see my flaws as well. Among them are my impulsivity (yes, classic AD/HD child, I know), my reticence to trust people, my perfectionist nature, and my near inability to show vulnerability.
I loathe pity. It is one of the most condescending, obnoxious gestures ever to be wrapped up in a pretty little bow and purported as anything resembling sympathy or even just caring. So when someone starts to “feel sorry for me,” I get my hackles up worse than a Doberman, and don’t react well. I don’t like my own reactions, and so my way to counter it is to downplay, or even hide whatever is going on with me. If I don’t tell you something is wrong, the pity never hits the table, and I don’t get defensive. Voila. Problem solved, right? Right. OK, maybe not.
There is a fine line between trying to prevent that obnoxious pitying look and tone, and building a wall between myself and the people who love and care about me. As a kid, love came with a price. It became one that I decided was too expensive to pay, so I withdrew from my family almost completely. To this day, they still have very little idea who I am as a person, and that suits me. I have spent years trying to figure out how to avoid falling into their habits, playing their manipulative games, and I have nearly failed on several occasions. I have found myself doing things that are out of character for myself, or that I did not want to do, and it stunned me. I had learned my lesson the hard way, on multiple occasions, when it came to being vulnerable around my family. No way was I making that mistake again.
The trouble is that I never learned how to be vulnerable with someone without feeling like I was being “weak” or annoying. It plays into the trust issues that I have, and I know this. But I always feel that if I ask for help, or need to “lean” on someone (har-har), that they will feel put-out, or irritated by it. Now, it isn’t their fault; the people in my life that I do trust have never made me feel like that. This is entirely on me, in my own freaky-wired brain. But it is definitely an impediment to my bonding with people. I’ve been married to the Scientist for nearly twenty years. Long time. But in the metamorphosis of our relationship, I know that we have both done damage to each other. We’re working on that, but despite learning from our experiences, damage leaves scars. I definitely feel like my inability to be vulnerable with him feels to him like I don’t trust him. A lack of trust in any relationship is like a slow poison. Now, there was a time when I didn’t trust him. No doubt. But it hasn’t been nearly as often or as severe as he might think.
But lately, I tried to step back and see if I’d made any improvement on this one. And I can honestly say, “Nope. You suck at this one, Mick.” And it’s true. I do. My stenosis has escalated recently to where one of my “optional” drugs is no longer optional, but part of my daily regimen. The pain level has increased, and I’m having some different/new areas of numbness here and there as well. That said, I do need to really assess if it’s something that needs to be dealt with in the doctor’s office, or is it merely the result of a flare up? This has been an amazingly stressful month for me, both physically and mentally, and it could be just a response to that. However, in mulling this over, in adjusting my meds, in dealing with the frustration at the realization that I may well need to go in for spinal injections (they mix steroids and pain killers and inject them into the epidural space), I didn’t tell anyone. It just didn’t occur to me to do so.
What finally sparked the conversation was a flippant remark on Facebook, actually. I was joking around and said something about trying to use the Ostrich Method. My friends joked back and forth with me, and it really was pretty funny. However, the Trainer called me and said she knew something else was up behind the kidding around. (She is entirely too perceptive for my own good, by the way.) So I talked about it to her. She asked some pointed questions, and I definitely kept my casual stance on the whole thing, but I did talk to her. The next morning, the Scientist and I wound up in a conversation about it as well. It went in much the same way; I didn’t reveal what’s going on in my head about it completely, but I did tell him what’s been going on, how I’m handling the situation, and what my plan of action is. So I’m not there yet, but I’m trying.
I do think about “spilling it” to someone I trust, whether it’s the Scientist, the Musician, the Trainer, the Silent One…whomever. But every time I start to, the words just get stuck in my throat. They simply refuse to come out of my head. That little warning voice reminds me that it’s safer if no one knows. No one will have leverage against me, or reason to think that I’m weak, or can’t handle my life if they don’t know the details, right? Just not sure how to silence that warning voice. Because I’m afraid that, until I do learn to do so, I will not be able to truly allow that level of trust and vulnerability that’s necessary to successful relationships. I felt it once, a few years back, and doing so bit me in the ass. It was used to manipulate and use me, and the knowledge that I pretty much did it to myself by handing over my trust pretty well destroyed me. That scar is one that has never quite healed, and it seems to reopen whenever I consider trying to find that comfort level again.
So I keep working. I try to at least trust myself to know that I’ll get there at some point. It’s pretty much too late me for me in the realm of Cinderella stories, but that doesn’t bother me. I just want to be able to feel relaxed and comfortable trusting the people who are closest to me, and just hope that they return the favor.