Forgetting the monster and dangers

Sometimes, I forget "my demon" exists.

I just do.

I know that seems pretty weird to say, given the long post explaining it… but it just isn’t something I think about.

As I said in the last post, the escaping defense is so automatic, I don’t even notice that I’m doing it, or not doing it, and the triggers haven’t been that sensitive in years enough to require conscious effort to manage.

Life just doesn’t revolve around it anymore. It once did, but that seems like lifetimes ago.

But, in reality, I know that it’s not because it’s gone.

I just adapted to it, and learned to work with it.

But, I do so knowing that it changed who I am.

Most of you who read here know me offline, or at least have known me offline at some point in time.

If polled, probably almost all of you would say that I’m an introvert… a very obvious one. (The others of you, will be explained in another post.)

By definition, an introvert is one whose energy is drained by time with people, and extrovert recharges their energy by being with people.

By practical means, introverts are quiet… extroverts, well, are not.

And by both of those, I’m very introverted.

Except… I’m not an introvert naturally.

I know that sounds weird. But I’m not an introvert by birth.

One of my childhood nicknames was Mouth, due to a tendency to not shut up.

One of my first memories is the first day of kindergarten, getting put in time out on the piano bench because I wouldn’t stop pestering a boy named Kevin.

In second grade, I was given an award at the end of the year for "Miss Congeniality", and my biggest memory of that year is just a vague recollection of having my desk being moved fairly frequently to minimize chatter. (Which worked only briefly, until I made friends with my new neighbors…)

I was one of the kids who spent a lot of time around in the neighborhood… standing on trash cans outside windows to talk to friends long part the time they’d been sent to bed.

Until I became the kid who buried themselves in books 24/7… who pretended to be afraid of the dark in 4th grade to get a nightlight to read by.

I don’t know what happened between the end of second grade and fourth grade. I don’t remember any sort of dramatic trauma or anything in particular… I think it was just a gradual transition as I realized that escaping into a book worked.

Some of you who’ve spent more time connecting with me online will not be too surprised by that extroverted side. Get me in a chat room, and there is no introvert. The triggers aren’t being hit, and so the anxiety doesn’t flare up, and so the defenses aren’t in play.

But most of the rest of you may have a hard time believing it.

It’s always sort of interesting when people who I know well online meet me in person… it’s a very different impression.

Even so, sometimes I completely and totally forget.

Life is what life is, and in life, I’m an introvert. Extended time around people drains me… probably from the effort spent both maintaining and fighting against the defenses. It’s a war that goes on, and both sides are charging their energy needs to my account.

The interesting thing, is that with the meds at a certain level, that can almost be changed back. Not entirely, but close. I spent about 5 years letting them do so.

But, while it brought more happiness in the moment, it made me less happy with life in general. The best analogy I can use is the fact that I prefer having 68 facebook friends that I actually want to read and interact with than having 500 friends most of which couldn’t even name my daughter if asked (or even her nickname.)

As dysfunctional as the defenses are, they do have a purpose, and I prefer life with them to without them… those some nice happy medium would be nice.

But while acceptance is nice and good and makes life smoother… that it’s so integrated that I forget about it something is not a useful thing… because I’m not alert to when I’m being hit by parts of the demon, that they are just that.

For example…

The monster.

Mentioned in detail here… I was aware enough to realize it was probably part of the same issue as here.

But, when you look at the DSM criteria… what any mental health professional uses for making diagnosis…

* Is inhibited in interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy
* Views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others

The first one is one that generally always applies with me (with a few exceptions), the second is the one that only applies with me intermittently.

Suddenly, you realize the monster is actually just the demon… just showing a different side of itself than the usual battlefront. Yeah, it’s a kind of a "Duh…" moment.

The sensitivity to rejection, I’m aware of on a regular basis, although sometimes not in the moment. The irrational inhibition I’m used to dealing with and almost always recognize when it’s at higher levels.

But somehow those feelings of inadequacy and inferiority.. of just being fundamentally messed up.. that are fueling that can attack on their own, and I totally miss it for what it is. It looks like a totally different monster, even if I’m sometimes aware that it’s somehow related.

Having that in mind would have made things a bit more understandable here… And a bit easier on myself here… Oh and it’s showing in the latter parts here… and I’ll stop there… but I know those are far from the only places it has shown itself around here, they are just the most recent big ones.

Ya know, I’ve said that knowing what I’m up against with Prince Charming has made a big difference in things… in knowing there is a reason for it…

It’s the same situation with my demon and with his on that front. Knowing why stops making it mysterious and makes it an issue of using that awareness to manage it.

But, it really doesn’t help all that much when you completely forget that reason has arms that sometimes might not look the same as the ones you deal with more often.

*Shrugs*

Ah well. Can’t change the lack of realization from the past… but, feel free to comment and point it out when I’m missing obvious arms. lol

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Worthless demons

So, as I explained in the last post, I have a tendency to retreat to my own fantasy worlds in my head, particularly when things are going less than stellar in real life.

It’s a coping mechanism… not the most effective for resolving the situation, but sometimes good for toughing out a situation.

Except when it does nothing.

As mentioned, it could sometimes delay the anxiety attacks by keeping the triggers from being noticed… but when they were hit anyway, fantasyland was easily shattered.

But normally, that was the only thing that could break through in a dramatic enough way, except for immediately after a major fight.

Normally.

The thing about the current situation with Prince Charming… is that I can’t do it.

It completely stopped working.

I know I was still doing it before the meeting, because I know I was doing it while painting.

But it stopped working.

So I assume it probably was part of what got broken in the weird spell of just crumbling feeling after he ended it again two days later.

I just can’t get absorbed enough in the character, in their world… I just can’t shift over into them.

I normally do it so much as an automatic thing without even paying attention to the fact that I’m doing it, and I was so overwhelmed by things at that point… that it took me months to even realize that I wasn’t doing it or able to do it.

As time has passed, it has come back a little bit… but its still weak and fleeting.. a 5 minute reality break, not a full escape or anything I can maintain extendedly.

It’s just a daydream now.

That is a good part of the reason why I went back on meds. It’s been years since I’ve had anything flare up into a problem… what anxiety issues there were had been things I could easily keep under control without much effort… but that’s been under normal circumstances.

Things right now are not normal, for me anyway.

I’m sure other coping mechanisms are strengthening… and it’s actually a good thing in the long run to have it not an option. I sort of wonder if the intensity of the waves of emotion would have been enough to draw so strongly as to blur the lines again in the attempt to escape them.

But it sure isn’t making dealing with everything any easier.

Right now there is no escape. Only endure.

I don’t like endure much.

Escapism, my own demon

As a kid and as a teen, I read a ton.

I was the kid that could get the librarians to sign things for me that were supposed to have a parent signature…. the one who could fill her backpack to the stuffed point on Friday, and have them all back by Monday… the one who went to restock books every morning before school.

I read a lot of fiction at the time.

I let myself get lost into the world of the character, to feel and see things in their world…. to let their world block out mine.

It was an escape from things that weren’t so happy in my world.

*

At times, the characters didn’t leave when the book ended. I’d become so used to them and their interactions and their world, that I could continue their story and interactions myself.

I’d never heard of fanfic at the time, but that’s basically what it was… just mentally instead of written.

At some point, I figured out that I didn’t need the author for anything but character generation… to show me who they were by the book, and then they could go on forever from there in my imagination. After that part was done, I didn’t need to have a book around anymore… didn’t need to be tied to paper… so generally the author’s written portion was just a small part of the life of their characters in my head, just their introduction.

Eventually, I figured out that I didn’t actually even need them for that. I could make my own characters, my own worlds.

And I liked mine better, because I could make them just how I wanted them to be.

I stopped reading fiction at that point. I still don’t have much of a tolerance for it unless it’s really good and/or a classic.

*

The point at which it got notably worse was when I switched to a different high school. Up to that point, most of my classmates had been people who had been in my classes off and on since kindergarten in a suburb district.

Now, I knew nobody, in a fairly rough school known for some gang fights at the time.

I had my friends from the bible studies and such, but it was rare that I had classes together with any of them in this large of a school. Most of the people I was in a class with, would only be in a single class with me, so small talk never really blossomed into friendship much.

So, I lived elsewhere… interacted with friends there… except they didn’t actually exist.

*

This is where a normal person would say they became a writer of some sort.

I didn’t.

I just lived in their worlds in my head, while living in my own physically, writing it off as being a daydreamer.

I actually tried to turn them into writing for a bit. And the stories that came from it were ones that people always thought were so amazing. It’s not hard to translate a character to paper and make it believable and exciting when you’ve lived in that world for a while.

But, the process was brutally painful.

Because in writing their story, I was nailing it down. I was forcing the sequence to become a firm committed storyline, no longer able to flex and flow with how I felt that day. This would mean that it no longer worked. I could no longer get the same effect by being them.

It was like a death.

Even telling someone about a character in anything but vague details frequently has the same effect.

And letting people read the resulting stories was just as brutal. I never had anyone react negatively, everyone was always amazingly gushingly positive… but it didn’t matter… it was the equivalent of opening the inmost places of my head and heart to anyone who wanted to, with no boundary of safety.

I couldn’t do it.

Even explaining to this degree is something I’m not too sure I can make a public post.

*

My characters have always been all over the place, something that I attribute to the wide variety of fiction I read, mostly due to the limited books in the library making me keep finding new things.

They are just as likely to be male as female. They usually range from teens to midlife, but children and elderly are occasionally used. There’s a strong tendency towards races other than white, but not exclusively.

Sort of like an internal multiple personality, but it’s one that I control with full awareness that I’m doing it.

But the first time I think I realized was an issue with this was as a senior in high school, when I was dealing with a character that I didn’t like.

At all. He was a teen boy… a jerk… and yet, I couldn’t lead him to be anything else.

But, I couldn’t not go into his storyline either.

It was the first time that I realized that it wasn’t entirely voluntary… because I deliberately tried to not go there… to stay focused in the real world, or to go to another story, and I couldn’t do it.

*

College actually eased up a bit at first, because I had lots of other things keeping me busy and focused.

But I remember one particular day, when a friend had walked past our room several times while doing things… and eventually peeked her head in to tease me that I’d been staring at the same wall for close to 2 hours now every single time she went past.

But then the anxiety attacks started.

And I started spending more and more time in my daydreams.

Because, that’s why I go there, is to escape the current reality, and the current reality causing irrational issues is a really good reason to avoid it.

Sometimes it was enough to keep the attacks at bay, but mostly, it just stalled them a bit. Eventually they would break through and rip me out of dreamworld.

*

I’d been in counseling for years… and had started therapy for the anxiety attacks… but never had I mentioned that I was doing this. It didn’t really seem worth mentioning I guess.

The stories grew more and more elaborate… the lives of the characters more and more complicated.

*

Now, I should mention that when I’m doing this, it’s not always staring at the wall.

Part of the time, it is.. especially when there’s a lot of drama and frustration in my life, and I’d rather be somewhere else.

But a good part of the time it’s when I’m doing something else at the same time. Shopping, or working on something alone, or driving.

Especially when I’m with strangers, or larger groups of people… places where the anxiety is increased.

It’s a common thing when shopping in a crowded store… because when I go there, everyone else sort of fades into being background scenery… thus not triggering the defenses.

I can accomplish the tasks, but yet, I’m really not there.

The best example of this I can give was an instance when my mom was in the hospital. Public place, lots of people, lots of anxiety. I was walking down the main hallway to go get something and return, and walked right past my brother and brother-in-law… and apparently looked right at them when I did so.

I say apparently, because I didn’t notice them. At all. They were scenery. I got back up to mom’s room, and was surprised that they were there… as they are sitting there going "Uh, hello? You walked right past us and ignored us.."

*

So.. it’s not at all uncommon for me to be somewhere else while I’m shopping.

But, while the anxiety attacks were still frequent and strong… and so, the daydreams deeper to avoid it… there became a weird trend.

I would find myself looking at baby clothes.

I had no children and no plans to have any within the next couple of years at that point.

But one of my main characters at that time was pregnant.

The point at which things became too weird came when I was unloading things from a shopping trip, and realized that I’d purchased a package of two baby bottles from a clearance table.

That was the point at which it seemed like it needed mentioned… having crossed the line from daydreaming into, well, I wasn’t sure what.

*

I’ve had a lot of weird conversations with therapists over the years… but that’s the one time that I think that I ever completely caught one offguard.

And that was the point at which it was officially given a label… self-desertion escapism.

And with it, a diagnosis label change from generalized social anxiety into avoidant personality disorder.

There really isn’t a whole lot of difference between the two definitions… but one sounds a lot scarier. lol

*

As it’s been explained to me, "going to a happy place" to avoid anger or fear or whatever is normal coping mechanism… even encouraged.

But, most people, when they go to their happy place, they are still themselves.

It becomes problematic and worrisome when to be in the happy place, the person has to completely abandon who they are, their sense of self, and adopt being someone else to be happy there.

It becomes dysfunctional daydreaming when the emotions and connections and relationships in the fantasy world are being used to meet needs, by an imaginary person in an imaginary interaction with a false self… which can replace getting them met organically by real people reinforcing the value and worth of the true self.

It becomes a serious issue when those lines between the false selves and the true self start getting a bit blurry… as to whose emotion is which… and goes into personality disorder territory when the lines start getting blurry in general as to where the boundary is between false self and real self.

*

That’s been a long long time ago. More than 15 years.

The lines have long since stopped being blurry.

Using the official DSM criteria, I generally fall right on the borderline of still qualifying. Out of 7 points, it requires 4… I have 3 regularly, and 1 that sometimes applies, but often doesn’t.

I do better now with other coping techniques.

The anxiety is generally not nearly as heavy of a problem anymore with reduces a need to run from it let alone do so in such a strong way.

Online options for interaction give me a lot more ability to connect with people that I do also have connections with in real life without the anxiety becoming an issue that provokes defenses… as well as with people who are real people interacting with my real self rather than a person I’m controlling their interactions interacting with someone who isn’t who I really am.

And I do a lot better with facing issues in reality to correct them rather than running from them to fantasy places.

In general, most of what does remain is passable for being a normal introvert.

Mostly.

It’s not something that generally has an impact on everyday life anymore, but it’s sometimes there.

It’s still a coping mechanism that’s one of the ones that I use automatically without even thinking about it.

Especially when the anxiety is higher, and/or when the situations are not easily resolvable in the real world… when I get overwhelmed and can’t make it not be so.

When I feel powerless… and unable to do much to influence the real world to be more tolerable… is when I most tend to run.

I can’t fix dramatic people and issues in real life, but in my fantasy I (mostly) can bring complicated messes to calm resolutions.

Or just be in a better place altogether.

Except….

Except when it doesn’t.

Except when it completely and totally fails me.

And that, is another post.

Baggage reversed

A lot has changed in dating in being 8 years older.

In my 20’s, it was always a bit of a question when someone was divorced. Not always a red flag, but just sort of a question that you wanted answered in the back of your mind until the topic came up.

Now, having past the 30 mark, it seems like the default status has changed to divorced.

It almost makes me think a bit on some of the ones that haven’t ever been married.

Which then, makes me remember they are thinking that with me.

Actually, my full story of being twice engaged, never married looks even worse.

Granted, either one of them could have moved forward… and I know at least one of them would have been a divorce if it had. The other one might have been survivable, but it wouldn’t have been an easier road than the one with Prince Charming would be at all.

But it’s just a switch in thinking to realize that I’ve reached the point to where it’s more a flag to watch that someone hasn’t been married than it is that they’ve been divorced.

It makes me feel a bit odd on the site, but, normally I usually don’t. Especially among my college friends, very few of them have married unless they did so very soon after graduation… and even fewer have kids.

I guess it’s a more isolated pond.

The blindsiding

You know what worries me the most with considering future relationships?

It’s the complete blindsiding.

I knew going into things with Prince Charming that there were some caution flags… but none of the issues that I was keeping an eye on were things that were tips of icebergs.

None of those things that I thought I knew to be cautious about were things that resurfaced.

The massive issues that would eventually become the big challenges were things that I had no idea about.

I can see some signs of them now looking back, knowing what I know now, but at the time, they were totally hidden from my view.

To be fair, I don’t think that if I had seen the signs for what they were, that it would have changed anything.

Had I known upfront, I still would have wanted to see where things led, just as I want to try rebuilding now… with full knowledge of what I’m dealing with that would let me know how to best do so.

And it would have helped me so much in understanding things, and spared so much pain had I known upfront.

But that’s what scares me with future relationships… and somewhat even with future friendships.

How do you know that there’s big things that you don’t know?

You can’t.

You can watch for signs obsessively, and over-read molehills into mountains… but even then…

Even with my major defense mechanisms in place, this one slipped through completely off radar.

But, I survived… I lived through worst case scenario.

So I can live through it again.

But that doesn’t mean I especially want to if I can avoid it.

Right now, it’s easy to look at men that I’m talking to, and tack on “and he doesn’t have issues like Prince Charming did that he’s going to dump me when he gets too close to me…”, but then, I’d have argued that point with Prince Charming all the way up to 30 seconds before he did so.

There’s always risk with people… they are human, there’s always going to be the potential for great harm.

I just know I’m not in a good place to deal with it right now if it did move forward, and that makes it rather scary.

That more than anything is my biggest reason for not moving forward with a new relationship with someone else right now.

At least with the prince, I now know what I’m dealing with.

The trick with pushy friends

I have finally discovered the secret to getting friends off my back about moving on.

I’ve had these two friends in particular, who don’t actually even know each other, who have been on me towards finding a replacement for Prince Charming…. since, I don’t know, pretty much all through this.

The logic of why has changed, but not the direction of the push.

But I’ve now discovered the secret to getting them to lay off…

Just tell them about a guy who seems very much like the prince. lol!

He doesn’t look all that similar… but he does have similar build and hair and glasses.. which was enough for both of them to respond about similar looks.

He works in the same general industry, has a lot of the same struggles with that industry, and has a couple of other life situations that are sort of weird how similar they are. He also has several of the same interests, and several of the same strengths.

He has a very different personality though… much more of the shy quiet serious one, where Prince Charming generally had strangers eating out of his hand in about 30 seconds flat, and had amazing abilities on connecting and presence.

It’s still more than enough similar to be not at all what either friend was hoping to see!

Which has made me laugh quite a bit at their responses.

I mean, you told me to look for a replacement…. what do you mean you didn’t actually want me to look for a replacement, but something entirely different? lol

I dunno…. he’s one of several guys I’ve been talking to… the knee injury leaving me not able to drive giving me a good reason to do so, rather than be feeling like things need to move to either move offline or end.

And before I dated Prince Charming, I probably would have had no problems with having jumped at meeting him in person already. He’s a nice guy, and we seem to get along well in chatting.

But my heart just isn’t into it yet.

He’s great to chat with and as a friend… and he’s also put that he’s not interesting in getting into anything serious at the moment…

But I don’t think that my heart is ready to give him a fair chance yet without it being a comparison… or to give him my full heart and attention, which is only fair to be able to give.

Right now, he’d be just that… a replacement for what I really want.

I can’t give him a fair shot for who he is on his own just yet… but of the guys, he’d be the one most likely to move forward… so maybe eventually it will slowly move that direction.

Maybe… eventually…

But right now, it isn’t there.

It just amuses me greatly that the two people who have been pushing me to look at new doors, don’t like my looking at a new door. lol

Searching and intentions

So, the last time I was on the dating site, the prince never showed up in my matches, at all.

The only way I knew he had a profile was because his picture showed up under the “who viewed me” tab of mine.

So I must have pulled up on his matches, but he wasn’t in mine.

I could get it to pull up on search if I put in specifically what he had listed… like just specifically his age, his zip code, etc.

So he did have it searchable, but it never matched on mine.

Until I discovered something.

When I was bored, I changed my settings. I changed it to “actively looking”, and to “looking for someone to marry”… just to see how it changed the selection of guys that I was seeing.

Suddenly, there he was, number 3 in my supposed top 70 matches on the site.

It made me laugh that whatever he’s told the site, it thought that his best matches were people who were actively looking for marriage…. given the response when things got serious with us, would give me pretty much the opposite impression.

I turned my settings back to how they were… since actively looking for marriage people isn’t what I’m looking for either.

So, for a while, he’d turned his profile unsearchable (but not deleted it), so that the only way I could get it to come up was by the “who viewed me” page.

But now it’s back searchable.

How do I know this?

Because apparently when he unhid it, he changed something…. because now, with my settings unchanged, he now pulls up number 2 in my top matches.

Which mean he’s on my match page pretty much every time.

Which also means that every time I go into the “meet me” section, he’s the first one who pulls up asking if I want to meet them. 😦

This isn’t a good thing… as if I hit yes or maybe, it will send him a message.

But, the site uses the “meet me” thing to refine its matches. Right off the bat, it tells you that after you answer on more people, it’s matches for you will improve.

So the question is actually “would you like to meet this type of person?”

Obviously, yes… so I don’t really want to hit no and have it changing my options the wrong direction.

I think I’m just going to leave that section alone for right now.

Mine is on unsearchable, to prevent the messages from guys asking me if I would have their children… as that way, the only people I have contact with are the ones that I contact.

So, he isn’t seeing mine show up anywhere and having to deal with it, except the who viewed me section if he decides to look at it.

The site really needs a “this is someone I’ve dated, discard them from my matches but don’t take it to mean I don’t like that type of guy” button.

They could make it a red “ex”. lol