From what I’ve observed from the interactions I’ve seen between, there are different levels of connection. There are deep connections, in which people feel comfortable enough to touch (hug, playfully smack, whatever), laugh, and share things they’d only ever whisper or things they’d consider secrets. There are moderate connections, where most people’s close acquaintanceship or friends fall: you freely speak with each other, go places, enjoy things together, but tend to keep an acceptable amount of personal space. There are business-like connections, where you may know about someone’s life and they may know about yours, you may joke and laugh and maybe even enjoy an occasional night out with them. All three of those layers can overlap depending on the people involved, and their situation.
Then there’s surface-level connections. You greet each other. You smile, they smile, but you rarely see any other emotion from either person. It’s like being in a constant state of your first meeting with each other. Nothing propels the relationship forward.
Some people simply do not click, and I think that’s reasonable given there’s about 7 billion people on earth. If everyone got along instantly all the time, well, social justice issues wouldn’t exist.
I am one of those people stuck in a perpetual cycle of surface-level connections, and not because I have an aversion to people (or visa-versa), but because I didn’t know those other levels of connection existed. I’ve learned this just recently, and I’ve learned just recently that the relationship I share with my parents, and everyone else, is entirely surface level, and always has been. We don’t do things together. We don’t speak about our emotions with each other. We’ve recently tried eating more dinners together. 70% of the time, they end in arguments or physical confrontations. Coupled with all the health problems my father has, with the mental health ones I have, and with all of the financial weight landing mostly on my mother’s shoulders, it’s needless to say connection is a difficult thing to make.
I remember briefly as a child all three of us doing some things together, but not often. I remember a lot of arguments and fights and fear and anger, and I remember being stuck in my head. I’m sure that’s when the fantasies started becoming a form of protection. My world still protects me today, but in a different way now, a way that hinders me.
I’m starting to see that you can care and love for your parents in different ways. I will always love my parents, but I don’t want to be around them. I don’t want to be associated with them. Now that I’ve got a glimpse of what connection and openness and honesty is, I can’t handle being boxed in this situation. I’ve been in it for 21 years, I think that’s enough.
How I was raised gave me three essential things: shelter (sometimes), food (sometimes) and clothes (about once every five years). I’m thankful for those things when we had them. But I didn’t learn how to communicate. I didn’t learn how to take care of myself very well, how to navigate anything outside the walls of my room, and most of all I didn’t learn how to manage any sort of emotions, not even the good ones or the “stable” ones.
What I did learn was that when I get angry, depressed, frustrated, or even happy, any emotion at all, the only tool I have is to dissociate from the situation: emotions aren’t meant to be felt, they’re dangerous. This could mean I enter a fugue state (which I’ve only had once or twice, I don’t recommend having one in the middle of a four way intersection like I did), it could mean a complete shutdown where I don’t speak, eat, or move, it could mean I hear, see, or get caught up in thoughts that aren’t based in this physical reality we know.
But to put something dangerous like emotions out in the open? How do you do that? Online is easy: I’m writing words I hear and see in my head all the time. Speaking them requires you own what you say. It requires the ability to acknowledge the pain and to trust who you’re speaking to–assuming you know how to trust. Which is something I was also taught, implicitly, is a sure way to get yourself killed or taken advantage of.
For me, this awakening is huge: to realize the majority of my life has been filled with consistent mental and physical abuse Not because I get to blame all my mental problems on my parents, I would never take that cop out. My childhood only exacerbated what was already there in a sense. This is huge because I’m aware of two major things now: 1) I can love my parents without feeling guilty for also never wanting to live with them again. 2) I have a chance to move forward and explore parts of myself that never got a chance to blossom. I have a chance to learn things I never would have realized I needed to learn.
One of those things includes being open and honest when I’m having trouble. Which is almost all the time, but that constancy might reduce the more comfortable I feel talking. It’s just hard to shake the feeling that admitting struggling is a failure or a weakness or going to bring embarrassment or be a waste of time. I get stuck in a cycle of struggling, feeling overwhelmed, wanting to reach out, reaching the edge, and just before I’m about to put a gun to my temple, my brain pulls me back into some la-la land where I don’t feel on edge–or I feel entirely on edge for a completely different reason like people controlling me, or demons following me, talking to me, or aliens, spirit animals, whatever (I think mine is a bear, it came to me in my shower one day). Then I come out of it and wonder what I was feeling so horrible about to begin with. I’ll have completely forgotten.
My brain has turned into a protector, a survivor, but I would like to do a little more than just survive.