Passive Aggressive Communication and Abuse

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Most of us have come across this kind of communication before – a partner who sighs too loudly and, when asked “what’s wrong”, insist nothing is.  The parent who cleans dishes too loudly and clangs them into the dish tray so they know you heard them.

A friend who gives you a compliment that doesn’t feel like a compliment at all.  A colleague or a boss who puts paperwork on the desk too hard, or who scowls and huffs.

Before I wade into this difficult topic, I need to point out that this is a learned behaviour – sometimes, this is the only way they were taught to communicate by their parents / family, other times it is as a result of abuse and a necessity to save their own skin because they can get their point across without directly confronting the issue and receiving the abuse from that.

In all instances it is a method of manipulation and control, and the psychological damage from it for the victim can be quite dramatic.

I experienced this kind of abuse growing up, from family.  I experienced this kind of abuse from partners.  I experienced this kind of abuse from people I worked for and with.  And it is taking some very good people to very slowly unravel the damage.

completely panic when the dishes are loaded into the dishwasher too loudly and with too much force, or if someone does a big dramatic sigh, or is in a bad mood.  My anxiety ramps up to over 9,000 and I try so hard to make them happy I end up tying myself into knots.  At work it’s not quite as bad, but if the person I’m working for / with is in a bad mood, my anxiety hikes up – I assume it’s because of something I did.

I am very fortunate that I am now surrounded by people who do not use passive aggression to communicate.  The person I predominantly work for / with is very intuitive and calm, and immediately and simply reassures me when something crops up.  After working for her for a few months now I’m starting to realise that she really means it’s okay.  The person I have at home, while he’s a bit less talkative, is equally intuitive (if deeply confused by my reactions at times) and is also learning to communicate that it’s okay.  I’m starting to believe him, too.

There will always be people in my life who will induce abject terror when they are in a bad mood.  These are the people I am unable to remove from my life who have abused me in this manner.

But for other people, the ones who haven’t, the ones who are showing me day in and day out that they are not going to abuse me (because they simply don’t), I am hoping that I will some day be able to work my way through their bad moods without backflipping in terror.

Achievement with anxiety

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When you have anxiety and/or depression, your energy levels are depleted, and so your available energy for normal every day tasks is limited.  This is actually a surprisingly hard concept to get your own head around, let alone for your friends and family to understand.  It took me until very recently to realise that I can’t do everything I set out to do and so I have to adjust my expectations of myself to match.  More importantly, I have to adjust my expectations of myself to reduce my anxiety.

Because I get all these grand ideas about cleaning the house, or knitting a thing, or organising the garage and then the weekend gets here and I hardly have the energy to leave the couch.  I take the dog for a morning walk and then I get back into my PJs and cuddle up on the couch.  Sometimes I have a nap.

And all of this is totally okay.

So what if the floor doesn’t get vacuumed this week or next.  So what if I don’t fold and put away all my clothing.  That is totally okay.  These are inconsequential things that are not actually that important.  I’m conditioned to believe they are important, that if I do not maintain a beautiful spotless home and keep all my clothing tidied up, I am somehow failing as a woman and as an adult … but to me, in the overall scheme of things, they are really not that important.  So I will save my energy for completing tasks that are important to me.  Like walking my dog, and keeping my kitchen clean, washing my work clothes, and sorting out prep-for-university tasks (I’m going back to university again-again-again-again).

Then, if I have energy left over after what I’ve deemed are my essentials, I’ll do some cleaning.  But if I don’t, I don’t push it, and I try not to let myself feel guilty for not doing it.

The walk to wellness begins in the rain

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The walk to wellness begins in the rain.

For me, it began out the other side of a mental breakdown, after I had hit the lowest point in my life yet and clawed myself back out (with the thanks of the most amazing friends and a timely holiday), when I got sick and had my period at the same time as a storm rolled in.  A real one, with dark clouds and rain and thunder and lighting.

My anxiety had been overwhelming.  I’d begun a new job, I was working with new people, and I was undertaking new tasks.  I was overtired.  It was the first real chill of winter, and my mood dropped.  I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t want to get out of bed.  I just wanted to be an amorphous blob.

It was during that time I realised something had to change, and it would need to start now.  So on my way home from work I went past the supermarket and picked up magnesium, vitamin B mix and vitamin D.  There was a sale on all vitamins at the time – it was a sign that it was time I got myself into gear and start taking better care of myself.

This was about 3 weeks ago.  I’ve been on them since, which has improved my energy levels and plateaued out the extremes of my anxiety.  6 days ago I began meditating for 5 minutes every morning, which has helped to calm those extreme peaks even more.  Yesterday I went to the doctors and came away with a script for fluoxetine, and I’ll begin that in 10 days.

This blog is going to be a way to chart my walk to wellness (more of a shuffle, really), with all the difficulties involved with recovering from narcissistic abuse, sexual abuse, anxiety and depression.  Add a dash of autism in there and we’ve got ourselves an interesting ride, folks.