My emotions devour my reason: in this article I discuss one of the most necessary things for improving relationships, as well as your mental health.Tweet
Over the course of my lifetime, I have continually asked myself, “How does the outside world see me?” On the surface, this certainly sounds like a positive thought for one to have, but don’t be fooled – it’s not! In fact, it’s so wrapped up in a critical view of myself, that I worry about my impact on others.
But wait folks, that’s not all! Not only am I worried about my impact on those around me, I am also chronically concerned that I have done something to make them dislike me. A baseless fear that feels real, is constant, and creates real-world problems for me.
As if having this life-long affliction wasn’t enough, it’s been made exponentially worse after being diagnosed with PTSD. A sad side effect marred by distrust. In this regard, I was much more trusting in my pre-traumatic stress. Now, I really struggle.
It’s dangerous territory for me because I’m not sure how to fix it… Over time, I have grown increasingly more frustrated as I wrestle with the problem. “Why can’t I find a solution?” I often find myself asking.
I suppose it’s like many thoughts and feelings. In order to solve it, I must approach the issue with a cognitive behavioral lens.
For instance, can it really be true that everyone I know has systematically found such a massive fault with our friendship that they have all collectively said, “I am done with him?”
Of course not! Every fiber of my logic says this is preposterous. Yet, despite knowing it, my emotions devour my reason and thus cloud my judgment. As a result, I prosecute myself and find me guilty of being a “less than” friend.
What’s worse, is the sometimes-self-destructive results. Sometimes, it’s as though my pre-frontal cortex quit without giving its notice and let the office bully take over – the bully being the fear-based parts of the brain. This can only lead to more chaos.
And… indeed, it does. My fears, as irrational as they may be, conjure up plans to work on getting the next person fired – only this time, and because it’s now taken over the job that was previously occupied by logic and reason, it picks on the outside world.
Hence the trust issues and uncertainties as to who is a friend and who is not… For me, being the boss of this brain, I am uncertain as to how to deal with the fact that I allowed PTSD to take over in the first place.
“How in the hell did I get here?” is another question I ask myself often. While the answer is certainly vague, I do know it’s rooted, in part anyway, by the choices I have made. One thing I’m certain of, is that a brain stuck in fight-or-flight mode is never a good thing to leave idling. This is the trap my past has enclosed me in.
Ironically however, I need both social interaction and long bouts of down time. And it’s in this down time that the connections in my life are called into question. Waiting for people to reply to messages, hoping that friends will take a moment out of their day to say hello, only leaves room for doubt and rumination. Neither are helpful. So, I guess I lash out and I suppose it may seem out of the blue for some, but damnit, stop telling me we will get together, and then nothing! For me, friendships need to be more concrete than that.
Therefore, it’s tough to leave me hanging, especially when my brain is both social and sick, in need of inaction and support. The remedy – or so I think – is to confront the friend or friends who I feel haven’t honored their commitment. It doesn’t help that I am a person who generally commits to what I say.
Could it be that this is too much to ask for in return?
While this may be the case for myself, I can’t expect that other people share this mindset. Besides, people are busy. The problem is, PTSD puts me in a situation where things need to be clearer-cut. For example, please be honest. Are we friends? Tell me if you are or aren’t, and if you have an issue with me in some way, let me know. And please, if you can’t commit, don’t say things like, “I will get a hold of you.”
Even though I am very flexible in almost all aspects of my life, the connection and friendship thing needs reassurance. Please bear with me – I am working on it. All I ask is that you read about mental illness and try to understand that my actions often need support. Also understand that they are only produced because I NEED to know.
So, I mentioned earlier that I wasn’t sure how to fix this irrational yet sometimes rational quagmire. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have the tools to try and figure it out. Firstly, I would have to say that setting boundaries with others is never a bad idea. Beware though – many will defend their own promises to commit to getting together and somehow never follow through. As far as I’m concerned, owning your mistakes is much more productive and saves all involved an unnecessary amount of grief.
With that said, I can do other things to manage my insecurities. For example, one thing I can do is be honest with those I am close to about said insecurities. If they are any kind of friend at all, they will understand. Furthermore, if I expect them to be honest, then they have the right to expect that from me too.
This is, after all, as fair to them as it is to you. I will warn you, that it’s not proper to use an illness as an excuse to cover up any mistakes made in your relationships with others. “Sorry, it’s just my this or that.” This is of course applicable if it is not your disorder. After all, conflict is normal among people no matter what their challenges.
In the same vein, it would be a mistake for your friends to always assume that any misunderstanding was perpetuated by your illness. This can be problematic because it can relieve a friend of any responsibility in an interaction gone awry. They can, and some do, use your illness against you by suggesting that the problem is a manifestation of said illness. If this is the case, the best thing one can do is jump ship because the relationship is not worth saving.
After all, you are not your illness and while it can cause conflict, it’s important to fix what we break. “We” being all those involved in a conflict.
Back to where I’m concerned: I bring my insecurities up in therapy. It is, sadly, made worse by my trauma, so it gets added to the things to solve. I will solve this problem, and I believe you will too.
So, there you have it…What this post is about, essentially, is the power of honesty. In other words, being willing to acknowledge and confront all the obstacles produced by your mental-health condition. Believe me, if you are honest with yourself and those around you, you’ll be all the better for it.