October 26, 2012

I would prefer not to

Tell me about your coping mechanisms, friends. Because mine are driving me up the wall lately.


When you have a moment of success, what do you do? Call up someone you love [mom, dad, partner, goldfish?] and share, or have a quiet celebration with yourself and light up the world from the inside of your soul? When somebody does you wrong, do you confront them or cry about it in the corner of your bedroom? Do you call your best friend at three in the morning because you are having an anxiety attack about the general direction your life is taking, or go run for about ten miles and meet them the next day? Do you swallow bile or get a punching bag? All of the above? None of the above?


For someone who has a short fuse regarding so many things, I internalize. I take it all in. I process on the inside, and only share when I am good and ready, or when I find myself so mentally contorted that I cannot separate my head from my ass.


And like with many other things, I take it too far. I have no measure. I turn hibernation into agoraphobia, independence into isolation. I have kept some sad things from my parents because I did not want them to hurt because of me. I will make myself physically sick before I allow myself to admit that I am up against the wall and could use a little help, goddamnit. There is no pressure from the outside, it was not the way I was raised. It is just who I am.


I am fascinated by people who resolve their issues externally. I wish I could do that.


I had a coworker who sat across the room from me. She had no filter. Every task she had to tackle, her first instinct was to ask me what or where something was, and what to do. Pretty soon she was calling me “Ms. Google It,” because after having to explain the simplest things to her [sometimes right in front of her], I had to tell her to actually look things up before tugging on other people’s sleeves. I, on the other hand, almost brought a conference to a halt because I was running in circles trying to figure out a conceptual issue. By the time I knocked on my other coworker’s door and asked for advice, it was almost too late.


I get that. That was foolish, and I learned my lesson.


But I don’t get the bank clerk yelling at you because they are having a bad day and you just asked them a question they don’t know the answer to. I don’t get people who take a mile when you give them an inch. I don’t get acquaintances that don’t respect personal boundaries, or your time and space. I don’t get displaced aggression, or that childlike attitude of bringing you their broken toy and telling you to fix it. I don’t get people who do things just to get a reaction from others, or just to see where their limits are. Testing, manipulating, venting, dumping responsibility into other people’s laps. Expecting them to carry your burden, be your whipping post, fix your life for you. I do not get that to such a degree that I feel like I might be from another planet sometimes.


The very thought of someone doing something because I made them, of having an effect on someone’s behavior, no matter how well-meaning, goodhearted or justified, scares me. Don’t get me wrong. I am a functional human being. I say Hello to neighbors and earn money, I love and play as much as the next person. But the principle behind that thought of being the agent of something freaks me out. You know fight or flight? It does not exist with me. I freeze. I endure. I do not run away, but I refuse to fight either. Because I have found that the rules of direct engagement usually disagree with my sensibilities. More often than not, the other party will try and get you to communicate with them in their code. Yellers need to be yelled back at; bullies need to be bullied to actually understand what they are doing to people; control freaks need to be subdued; drowning people will take you down with them. Me? Like that poor bastard Bartleby, I would prefer not to. All of it taints me, compromises me, contaminates me.


I understand that we are all blood and goo underneath the skin, and that the ‘externals’ are doing pretty much the same thing that I am, which is trying to make it through the day and not feel as shitty about yourself as when you woke up. They are two sides of the same coin. And the right way to go about things is probably somewhere down the middle, helping as many as possible and victimizing none. I understand that getting your hands dirty is necessary sometimes, and that lofty mastheads make for long falls. I just have a hard time not preferring not to.


  1. You certainly hit an issue that I am familiar with on this post, particularly the first half...

    When I finally came to the end of my rop and sought recovery, I was a person who internalized everything. My life was a secret to even my most intimate friends and family. They certainly had no clue how I really felt about things because I never expressed those kind of feelings or opinions.

    Then in the blink of an eye I found myself in a position where my very existence counted on my finding a way to share honestly about my most private thoughts/feelings. I was convinced that I was doomed.

    Nobody reading Shell Shock today (probably including yourself) would guess that the author who shy's away from NOTHING used to share NOTHING only a few short years ago.

    It has been a long, strange trip...to say the least and yes, that journey for me included a professional Trauma Therapist (several over the years, actually)to help me sort through the repressed feelings and learn to feel comfortable trusting others with knowledge I held close.

    It has been a process of trial and error and there have been many awkward moments along the way. But for me, this was a life or death endeavor (your may or may not feel that way).

    Ultimately I am still an introvert, getting my emotional strength through internal methods but I am probably as comfortable in public, interacting with others as I have ever been.

    This is a wonderful, interesting and relevant post.

    Once I started to experience my feelings, knowledge them I had to learn appropriate ways in which to share them. You give great examples of what one should NOT do when they are feeling overwhelmed or stressed.

    I learned that I could be true to my feelings with out acting out & acting the fool...at least most of the time :-).

    For me the motivation was overwhelming...I had to change or the future was F**ked for me and most likely very SHORT. In other words...I had no choice but to embrace the change so in many ways it was less complex for me to to change and try and a new way of processing thoughts and feelings...

    1. Hi Thormoo,

      Wow, you touch on so many things I don't know where to begin. Thanks for the honorable mention on your blog!

      I was deliberately trying to avoid the words 'introvert' and 'extrovert' but I guess they caught up with me :) I too get my emotional strength through internal methods and I don't think that will ever change. As a child, I always had one friend that I confided in, and today that [lucky or unlucky, LOL] person is my partner. But I have also learned that the world is full of awesome people and that different parts of my personality can be expressed with them too, and get so much back. Sometimes you have to get out of your own country to find them, but they are definitely out there.

      Then there is this whole blogging thing, which makes it easier to share the most intimate things with the world. Anonymous or not, there is freedom in that empty screen waiting for your words to fill it, and that freedom trumps the potential anxiety of actually imagining 3D faces, brains and hearts that will be reading those words soon. At least for me.

      There is a saying over here that goes "If you gotta do it, it ain't hard." It is interesting how when we find ourselves up against the wall, or literally in a life-or-death situation like yourself, priorities fall into place without much philosophising. They were always there, but we refused to open our eyes.

      Your story of recovery is fascinating and it is great to watch your determination to stick with it, good days, bad days and all. And even though our life stories don't have that much in common in terms of mutual identification, I like how there is a shared humanity that challenges us and pushes our buttons and resonates with us. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Dear Chris,
    Reading today’s post put me in a reflective place. I had a comment for practically each sentence that you wrote. But now, as I try to put them down, it seems my thoughts have collapsed in on themselves leaving me with a feeling of—batter. You know…all the ingredients thrown into a bowl, becoming a new thing.

    I pick and choose what I share and with whom. I don’t have one person that I share everything with. Sometimes I hide behind my writing, carefully controlling the esoteric leakage. Other times I say it plainly and loudly. When I was a child I learned how to keep a secret, having carried a knapsack full of my own. I still carry that knapsack. It’s incredibly durable.

    We walk around with a world inside of us, feeling set apart, yet somehow included in this outer realm. We find our truths and our friends, and share what we dare, looking for acceptance, inclusion and love. I think our differences are incredibly interesting—how we learn to do it for ourselves.

    You words always stir me up Chris. I love this about you.

    1. I hate it when that happens :) I mean, thoughts collapsing in on themselves. I've missed out on commenting on other people's posts more than a few times because I worked myself into a lather trying to establish brain-language coordination.

      I was better at carrying my knapsack some twenty years ago. Over the years I thought I got rid of it, only to find it turned into a ball chained to my ankle. I had gotten used to carrying less weight and am finding the whole thing objectionable now :)

      I can tell when you hide behind your writing, which makes me a frowny reader, but I understand completely. I think it's good to have different strategies.

      Have a lovely day, my friend.

  3. I internalize everything. Happy/sad, good/bad. I keep it in. I hate being fawned over or feeling like something I did is worthy of attention. I don't like negative attention, obviously. But I don't like positive attention either. Just let me do my thing, live my life in piece. My first book came out yesterday and I'm thrilled, but I don't need cake and balloons. Okay, cake yes, but forget the rest of it. I am a writer. To release books is my job. Just as delivering babies is an OBGYN's job. Cliff Huxtable didn't need a party every time he delivered a baby. It was his job (albeit a TV job) and he did it without need of fanfare. It probably wasn't best example, but it's all I can think of at this point.

    1. Cliff Huxtable, LOL. You mean just like it was dr Luka Kovac's job to invent medical methods that piss other doctors off, or how Barney Stinson's job is to be awesome? I could go on all day :)

      Jokes aside, I get it. I just wonder if you were always this matter-of-fact about it, and is it as easy as it sounds for you? Because I sure as hell wish I could make my wheels turn a little slower sometimes, or even take a rest, and just say 'it is what it is right now.'

      Thanks for commenting and once again, congratulations on getting your book out!

  4. I'm an amazing, truly amazing, pretender. To the point of pretending so hard that I make it true. There are things no one in the world know about me because they don't exist anymore. The things, not the people. I pretended so much that whatever those things were, they aren't anymore. I have not always been that way, at least not about everything. There was a time when everything came out of my mouth. No filter. Though, I would die twice before I asked for help. But, if there ever were a thought in my head, it would be coming out of my mouth at any moment. I think that enough bad things happened because of it that the internalizing began. I would think that if no one else in the whole world knew the issue existed, then the issue did not exist. I go to great lengths to keep up that ruse, too. Ridiculously great lengths.

    1. And have they ever bitten you in the ass? The issues you poofed away from existence, I mean.

      This sounds very familiar. It is very hard for me to gauge sometimes what ought to come out of my mouth and what should remain unsaid. I feel like I either underestimate or overestimate things, and my reactions are either explosive or self-detrimental. I guess that somewhere along the line I started keeping things in because the reactions of others told me I was doing it wrong. Finding that middle ground is my holy grail.

    2. Oh gosh. I wrote that very, very late at night while I was highly medicated hahaha. It's so strange reading things you wrote when you were all wonky. Not too shabby, though. At least it was coherent. And the message still stands up. Yes, many things have bitten me in the ass. Hitting rock bottom when no one ever even saw me falling. Refusing to acknowledge something hurtful that was said until 18 years later, when it all comes pouring out. But the worst? It is when you have accomplished something so amazing, so truly miraculous, but you cannot share it with anyone or be proud of yourself because the accomplishment is something you cannot tell anyone. Because you have pretended for so long to be this sweet little puppy, and the accomplishment will reveal the snake you really were.

    3. LOL, could have fooled me :)

      I have that same refusal to acknowledge things. I'm pretty bossy and stubborn about what I want to deal with and what I don't.

      I have also thought of myself as a snake more than a few times, or a similar symbolically-baggaged beast. Perhaps we ought to ask what opened up the space for the snake to slither in instead, and what fed her so consistently that she outgrew the puppy.

      There are accomplishments that are meant to be our own and not shared, but carried in the gleam of an eye or the self-control of a motion. They can be heavy as hell, and have a tendency to make themselves known in passive-aggressive [or aggressive-aggressive] gestures. A difficult bunch indeed.


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