Thursday, January 25, 2007

Down On Me

I'm upset.

I know I'm upset -- more than the usual annoyed or frustrated -- because I see and feel myself shutting down. I don't want to talk about it, I don't want to write about it, yet I feel it simmering inside, giving me that anxious stomach, dangling on the verge of tears, and the urge to crawl into bed and hide under the covers.

I brought it on myself. I'm not saying I'm at fault-- I did what I did and I didn't apologize for doing it, because it needed to be done. But I did it at the wrong time, and it didn't go over well. The only thing I truly regret is saying what I did in front of a third party.

What I said was a little harsh, but looking back at it, I realize it was the only way to get this person's attention. The polite little "please don't do that" requests weren't taken seriously; when I got mad this person perceived it as a "mild annoyance," and let's be honest, it was the reaction they wanted and only fed into the behavior continuing.

I guess what sent me into upset mode was being caught off guard. I knew this person was mad at me for my comment, but nothing was said, and over the course of the evening the tension lifted and I thought it was over. Then, BOOM -- an angry reprimand that caught me like a sucker punch.

My immediate response? Withdraw and shut down, which the person took as reciprocated anger. I forced myself to explain that this is my instinctual reaction -- forged by a childhood surrounded by alcohol abuse and mental illness -- and it's hard to change something that's been hard-wired into my brain.

I was then given a big explanation why the person exhibits the behavior that started this whole thing. The reason? The person has to push my buttons to get some kind of reaction out of me. I was told that I keep myself so emotionally shut down that this has to be done to find out what I'm feeling and thinking. I was told we hardly talk any more and the person feels insecure about my feelings about them.

My question is, why does it have to be the "piss off" button every single time? I have lots of buttons -- why not try the "make me smile" button, the "kiss my butt" button, the "show me you care" button? If this person is so insecure about how I'm feeling about them, why deliberately annoy me? I didn't realize I was in Second Grade World where pulling someones hair translates into "I like you, do you like me?"

Despite the other person's protests, I've seen how they push other people's buttons, too -- one person in particular is a major target, and I see the enjoyment incurred every time the Target gets upset by this button pushing. The Target doesn't hold in any emotions ever, so the theory I was given doesn't apply.

Yes, in a way this person was right. Individually, it's mildly annoying. But slowly accumulate dozens of these annoyances, and it becomes Chinese water torture. Poke a stick at a dog enough times, and it will turn mean and bite you.

I guess I'm so upset because it's the straw that broke the camel's back. This past month has been so incredibly stressful -- packing, moving, unpacking, the holidays, and my daughter's surgery. I've been juggling things at work, fighting off the seasonal blues, changing hormonal medicines, dreading an upcoming mammography (the doctor found some areas he was unsure of and wants them checked), and all the while battling against the urges to eat my way through it. It's all small things that add up to one big ball of stress. I've spent the last week playing nursemaid (sleeping at the hospital, getting up every night to tend to my healing daughter, other than going to work virtually housebound with her), and it's my TOTM. So I snapped at being poked at for the Nth time, and now I'm told I'm emotionally withdrawn and unresponsive. Add it to the list of things I feel I never seem to do quite right, and the whole stack begins to crash around me.

Well, I guess that's the gist of it. Do I feel better? A wee little bit, maybe, but not much. I'm not driven to run to the bakery and buy a dozen doughnuts, but I'm finding it hard to feel anything but down. The person was doing their best to "kiss and make up" this morning, but I had a hard time responding. It's funny how that works: if I get told I'm emotionally withdrawn, it just makes me withdraw even more.

Sorry for the depressing post. I read in a couple different places that this week is supposedly the most depressing week of the entire year. So I guess I'm just one of many.

*I entitled this post "Down on Me" in honor of the Janis Joplin song. I've always loved this song, which I guess tells a lot about me.


Helen said...

Why do people do things like this? When it happens to me, I usually try to remember that they are probably projecting (at least a little) onto you -- you, unfortunately, just bear the brunt. I hate it. And particularly when there is a grain of truth. ;-) But, your situation here is even worse -- this person should have known all your stress and, if what they perceive is really a problem, couldn't they have waited until things calmed down for you? They would probably say not...there are no good times for such things. Are they allegedly your friend? Sigh. Anyway...I've had a bad week too in a different way so I guess your post just hit a chord with me. I hope you can resolve this situation and, most importantly, that you are patting yourself on the back for a great job at not eating away the stress!! :-)

Vickie said...
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Vickie said...
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Vickie said...

worded comment - badly - twice and gave up. Sorry you have this happening on top of everything else. It is the stuff like this - that you talk about - that gets me too. The big stuff - kid emergencies - I can handle - but the interactions and feelings and what are they thinking - what do they mean - is this their thing or mine - am I up or down - THAT is the stuff that is hard to take.

Lori said...

I'm sort of going through something similar; you're supposed to be the mature one who understands and accepts everything but if you don't, you're just not understanding. And somehow it get pushed on to you and the other person gets to get off scott-free. "That's how I am" or "that how s/he is" and frankly it gets old being the understanding one.

It's not like there's a competition on whose feelings are more important but it ends up that way, doesn't it?

I'm so sorry you had to go through this and you have been under a lot of stress and worries this past two months.