Conflict Avoidance

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I have been conditioned to avoid conflict.  I have been punished, ignored, cold shouldered, berated, insulted and put down whenever I rose to a conflict instead of rolled over, whenever I voiced an opinion that was contrary to what was being said.  I didn’t realise it was happening – it started off small, and phrased like a concern for me “you shouldn’t argue with people on the internet”.  By the time it was blatantly “don’t do that, that’s rude” it was too late, I was hooked into the narcissist and I wasn’t getting out.

Despite the many years I’ve been away from Him, I am still not free.  I have identified an immediate aversion to conflict, to the point where I will go along with things that I do not like, things that I feel are unkind, because I cannot deal with the conflict.  If someone says something unkind about someone else towards me I’ll smile and play along – doesn’t matter who it is, I just shut down, go into conflict avoidance and people please mode, and my brain disconnects.

I never used to be like this.  Back in high school (a friend of mine reminded me of this) I was sitting at a group of desks and another girl came over and said she wanted it.  I politely said no, and when she persevered, I told her to fuck off.  In exactly those words.  I had no issues telling two girls who were harassing me at home to fuck off and never come back again.  I had no problems standing up to bullies.

I am now into my fourth week of fluoxetine, and I have discovered an amazing effect.  I’m getting my backbone back.

Today a colleague was rude about one of the people I provide support for.  This particular individual is Chinese.  The rest of the office is not.  This particular colleague asked me to tell the Chinese woman to see her “once she’s done with her jabbering”.  Instead of my usual response – a polite, mincing smile and a churning of discomfort in my gut – I felt immediately angry.  While I couldn’t vocalise it properly, I certainly let it be shown in my face and posture.  This colleague was being very rude and racist about another colleague, one who she works with, and one who works harder than damn near everyone else in the office.

And for once, my first response wasn’t conflict avoidance.  I was, and still am, intensely proud of myself for that.  I feel more like me than I have in a decade.

Today Was Not A Good Day – And That’s Okay

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The day started out wrong – my phone had reset during the night and my usual alarms didn’t go off.  Instead, I was woken by my partner’s later alarms, and couldn’t quite figure out what was going on.  So I hauled myself out of bed (admittedly after a bit of prodding – mornings suck) and pottered through my morning routine, which all went well, and I was off to work at a good time.  I just didn’t want to do anything, I wanted to be an amorphous blob, right from waking up.  I just didn’t care.

Nothing really bad happened at work.  We found a couple of old things that really should have been done a year ago (left over from the person in my role previously), and discovered a frustrating error that’s been repeated across a number of projects from someone who’s long since gone … and this may actually be a problem for this project.  It’s all gone up the chain and greater minds than I are deciding on things and will handle it.  Nothing out of the ordinary, and nothing I haven’t handled before.  And yet, by about 11.00am, I was silently panicking.

So I was panicking and I didn’t care.  I was sitting at work, in a job I know, around people I love working around, in a safe environment with two wonderful bosses who never get angry when I mess up, are always quick with praise, and who I get along with … and I was panicking and I just did not care, I did not want to be there, and I hated my job.  I got the frustrated fidgets – what can I do to get ahead, can I get another job on top of this one, what can I sell to get a bit more liquid assets, how can I maneuver myself into a position where I don’t have to do this anymore.

Instead of resisting the feeling and getting grumpy about it and saying I have no reason for it, like I always do, I took a moment to go home for lunch, sit down, and go ‘no, this is okay.  I am having a shit day, and there is no real reason for it, and that is totally okay.’  I felt a little better.

I went back to work, sat down, and within 30 minutes I was nearly jumping out of my skin again.  There was a cacophony of voices in the office – it’s all open plan, and we have a few Capable of Outside Voices Only people there – and too much auditory input is one of my major panic triggers (which I usually put down to the fact that I can’t filter any of it out).  I put my earbuds in and listened to a few minutes of white noise rainstorm, and that gave me just enough headspace to breathe, to sit back and let the noises wash over me, instead of slam into me.  It gave me just enough headspace to go ‘no, this is okay, accept this feeling, stop resisting it’ and really feel it.  It gave me just enough headspace to relax my stomach, my shoulders and the muscles in my face.

I checked myself at least 5 more times in the next few hours between lunch and home, reminding myself ‘I am having a shit day and that is totally okay‘.  By the end of the day my skin felt tight, my chest felt strangled, and I just wanted to scream at the sky.  I resisted the temptation – it’s rather alarming for people in the surrounding area – but that feeling stuck with me until I got out to do a bit of manual labour that evening.

That, along with listening to podcasts, helped flush out the last of my negative and anxious thoughts, and while I’m still feeling the after affects of an anxious day, I’m beginning to relax.

I will say that admitting ‘I’m having a shit day’ and then saying ‘and that’s okay’ made the usual frustration fidgets a lot less severe.  While my brain was turning things over, it wasn’t the usual desperate churn, and I never once felt physically affected by the desperate need to do something, but also do nothing, and be anywhere but here right now.   Definitely something to continue working on.

Narcissistic Abuse and Expressing Emotion

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I was in a long term, committed relationship, with a narcissist for a long time.  Almost a decade.  Almost a decade, to be precise, throughout my twenties.  As a result of this, I have a myriad of issues I am unpacking and unpicking, including PTSD, but one issue I’ve noticed (and I’m working on really hard) is the inability to express emotion in what I perceive as a correct and healthy manner.

As an autist, I have always experienced emotion very intensely, to the point of physical pain or discomfort.  As an autist in a relationship with a narcissist, I … edited my emotional output and expression to be palatable to the narcissist’s inability to cope with anything other than superficial expressions of emotion.  I would, in a sense, tense up my emotions, whip them up so they were light and fluffy enough to be appropriate for the target audience – Him.  This, in a sense, prevented me from fully appreciating the depth of emotion that I could experience.

Another part of my abuse was the constant pressure to be perfect, to always be happy, to never be sad or angry or upset.  Everything was always fine.  Everything was always okay.  Nothing was ever wrong.  This caused me to avoid situations that might bring up any negative emotion, to seek only things that brought me enjoyment, and to ruthlessly clamp down on feeling.

It’s so ingrained it’s now part of my coping mechanism, and it got me to where I am today.

I realised it was a problem late last year, with my now partner.  In an effort to correct this, I would spend considerable time before talking to him sitting, breathing, relaxing my stomach muscles and allowing myself to feel.

It’s taken a long time, but now I can look at him and there is no tension in my chest.  I can look at him and allow myself to smile and know that it is a genuine one, not a pinched, repressed one.  The fluoxetine definitely helps with this, but it has also been months of hard work, months of patience on his part, months of care and consideration.

It feels amazing to be at this point.  I know there’s still a ways to go in this specific area of recovery alone, not including all the other ticks I’m trying to shed, but just this level of progress is so heartening.

Fluoxetine: Day 2

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Fluoxetine, also known as Prozac, is one of the generic “catch all” SSRIs that are often tried first and foremost, unless there is anything that would indicate another medication would be the best starting point.

I have just started it.  Last night I took my second dose of 20mg Fluoxetine.  I’m on ondansetron – although protip:  do not take this combination if you have a heart problem, and be aware that it does increase the risk of seratonin syndrome.  I’m taking this combination because, if I don’t, I will vomit.  I’ve taken ondansetron before, and it works incredibly quickly as an anti-nausea, and I was not going to be taking anything with a side effect of nausea without an anti-nausea and anti-emetic.

So far it’s quite a pleasant trip, and it really is a trip.  It’s like being permanently lightly high on MDMA – everything feels a little different, positive emotions are more colourful, and the filter that usually exists between your brain and your mouth (or in this case, the fingers) is largely absent.  Thus the rambling.

I have had minor excessive salivation.  I have had hyposalivation (drymouth) – which is handy because it makes me drink more.  I have had gastrointestinal cramping (honestly fairly typical of my GIT system with anything new).  I have had headaches.  I have had fairly intense nausea (thank you ondansetron).  I have had moments of light dizziness.  But overall I’ve had a sense of … relaxation.  Looseness.

I have also had a couple of small, but intense … anxiety / overstimulatory / wrong stimulation attacks.  I don’t know what they’re called, and I don’t know quite how to describe them, other than the visual and auditory stimulus is not something I like, want, or am interested in, and it is in such a way that it is … uncomfortable.

But overall, the first two days have been … loose, relaxing, verbose, cuddly, and not bad.

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.