I was chatting with my baby brother this evening about the fact that since I have “come out” as having a “mental illness”, people are treating me differently. He understood how this was distressing me, but pointed out that it was likely that people just didn’t know how to handle it; didn’t want to upset me, make me feel worse, etc. so were walking around on eggshells.
That’s a very valid point.
Yes, I broke. I shattered into a thousand pieces due to long-term trauma. But I am trying to put me back together, and it is not an easy task.
Although I now understand that people mean well when they say they are worried about making contact with me, or worried about visiting in case they ‘trigger’ me, that’s sweet but … it doesn’t help me; it makes me feel worse.
Pause for a moment, if:
• I feel alone
• I feel rejected
• I have strong feelings of abandonment
• I feel outcast
• I feel that I stick out like a sore thumb
• I feel unlikeable
• I feel unworthy of attention
• I feel unlovable
How am I going to feel if people avoid me? Won’t talk to me? Don’t want to make contact? Won’t visit? Are afraid to josh around with me like they used to?
Is this going to help me deal with the list of feelings above, or is it going to exacerbate them?
I have to work hard to build self-esteem, care for myself, learn that I am worthwhile, likeable, lovable, etc. I have to do this myself, but if people hide away from me, my stuffed-up brain just keeps reading it that I am unworthy, unlikable, unlovable, unworthy of attention and too odd or embarrassing to be around. I interpret it as abandonment and rejection all over again and start to spiral down.
Yes, it is true, I am indeed still vulnerable as I work toward recovery; I do hurt; I am still reactive. But I am trying to learn; I am trying to heal; I am trying to get to the point where I can live a healthy, happy and fulfilling life; this is possible for me. The prognosis is good, but I need to interact; I need to practice being around people; doing things with them, having fun, laughing, playing, eating, drinking – just living a normal life and being treated as a ‘normal’ person. I need to believe that I am worthy of care. If others think I am worth it, it is easier for me to find inside myself.
I don’t need to be treated as fragile; I need to be treated the same way you treated me before; I need to be treated like a ‘normal’ person. If I get upset, don’t be afraid; don’t be angry – just ask me to explain and talk to me. I have probably just got the wrong end of the stick. Communication is key.
Validate me. If I react adversely to something, try and find something in what I am upset about that rings true and acknowledge it, e.g. “Yes, I would feel upset/angry if xx happened too. Something similar happened to me once.” Guess what? My freaked-out brain will go “Wow! It’s ok to be upset/angered by that. Normal people find that upsetting too. I’m not bat sh*t crazy!” This will calm me, and I will be fine again. Simple.
Sometimes, I do revert to childhood but not so often now. I am practising. But please don’t be afraid if I do. If a child were to fall and hurt themselves in front of you, would you turn your back and walk away or would you offer comfort and encouragement to get back on their feet? Exactly.
You don’t need to walk on eggshells.
Because if I am eggshells and you walk all over me, then you crush me even further.