Don’t tell me what to do, how to feel, or how to act. Don’t tell me I’m too sensitive, overreacting, or expecting too much. Don’t demand that I look at you or listen to you, and don’t presume to know me. Don’t claim to know how my world works or judge me for my stance.
I have found that I’m very defensive. Sometimes it is warranted and sometimes it is not. There have been a number of instances lately that have caused me to pause and try to make heads or tails of situations, my reactions to them, and how I allow them to influence my feelings of self-worth and happiness.
This past week, I ran into the “godfather.” Not the godfather from the movie or one that oversees the mafia. This one is the self-proclaimed godfather of South Florida. Truthfully, I cannot understand how he can introduce himself that way and take himself seriously, yet he does. I first met him almost two years ago at my book release. He was the first to arrive and set me on edge from the moment I met him.
Perhaps it was how he claimed to know me or that he told me, and my boyfriend, that he had been following me; that he knew all about me. He marketed himself as the man that was going to help me and expected me to entrust him with…something. He was the one that made things happen. What things? I really don’t know. I steered clear and wished him to leave, which he finally did.
And then, as luck would have it, we ran into him again at a grand opening this past weekend. He claimed to remember us, but my boyfriend put him on the spot, asking him what I did. He couldn’t remember, but tried to finesse his way to my good side. Again, he told me he was there to help me and to help me make things happen (even though I never requested such support). I’m still not sure what his game is, but he seems to simply be a promoter of BS. I agreed to take his number so he would leave, questioning if my gut was speaking truth. But it didn’t matter. This man gave me bad vibes and I wanted far away from him.
But as I looked at my phone, avoiding eye-contact with him, he reached down and lifted my chin. “Look at me,” he quipped. I pulled back, shooting daggers at him with my eyes. I fumbled with my phone and felt my body pulse with anger.
How dare he touch me! How dare he demand I look at him or even listen to him. I wanted to lash out, but I was conflicted as I didn’t want to create a stir where I was a guest (and my boyfriend part of the band playing). I took his number and walked away, frustrated with myself, my reaction, and my handling of the situation.
I find myself struggling with these reactions often. I want to show kindness to others, to be sensitive to them, or to at least not be rude. It’s happened at work, where I’ve reacted badly to bosses and colleagues. It’s happened in social situations where people have looked at me the wrong way or questioned my actions. It happens when strangers want to start small talk. It happens at least once a week when I have to log in to teach online.
I feel cornered and respond in a very negative way. Maybe I’m just uncomfortable, am sensing bad vibes, or simply don’t feel like talking. But when it happens, anxiety stirs and that often manifests itself as anger. I find myself hating the word and wanting to run away to hide.
Lately – OK, for several months – I’ve been feeling cornered. I’m at a loss for which way to go. Living in the moment has been almost dreadful because many of those moments are locked behind a computer or knowing that I soon will be. I find myself anxious and near tears – or literally in tears – and having to turn on my camera, smile, be happy, and entertain.
I cry too often and, more often than not, don’t really wish to be around people. If it is scheduled and I have to be “on,” that makes it even worse. The idea of having to participate actively in anything is almost too much.
It takes me back to my marriage. Every day as I walked out the door, I had to be a person I was not. I had to act the happy wife with her life together. I had to hide my struggles and protect my abuser. No matter what was happening at home or how depressed I was, I had to show up, do my job, and pretend that it was all OK.
I realize that this is a simple life skill that all must master and put to use at times. Perhaps I’m just burnt out from years of playing the happy wife.
If I am off, which I am often, and I have to show up (to work, to peer group, to a meeting), I fall apart. Sadly, this is creating a cycle. I’m depressed or anxious, I have to be “on,” I get anxious, I put on my happy face, I act out the appropriate roll, I hold in the true emotions, I fall apart worse, and it starts all over. I am finding myself reliving emotions brought on by by past, or my ability to deal, and my reactions to others falter. It is almost as if one aspect of my life pulls my body back to where it once was, then all other parts follow suit.
Those who reach out and demand anything throw me back to the past. Those (people, entities, or circumstances) that require me to be a certain person at a certain time illicit an unsolicited reaction from my body; a reaction to being controlled and cornered. Those who speak to me as if I’m a child, or beneath them in some way, become him. The words are attacks and my body, mind, and emotions respond in kind.
I fight daily to sort through what is real and what is imagined. I hate myself for allowing these things to affect me, for allowing them to affect my life and and the lives of those close to me. I, to this day, question my sanity and what is wrong with me that these things bother me. After all, I’m supposed to be the strong one, the one supporting others, the one who has done battle and defeated the victim in me and, yet, here I am. In all of it, I’m determined to deal with these triggers and to not allow them to control me.
My hope is that one day, I will overcome.