joreth: (Misty in Box)
2017-01-16 07:11 pm
Entry tags:

When You're In The Gray Area Of Being Suicidal

https://themighty.com/2016/03/when-you-feel-suicidal-but-dont-want-to-die/

When I was about 13, I was so severely bullied that I became suicidal. I gradually lifted myself out of that state without ever once actually attempting to take my own life.

Then, many years passed. So many years, in fact, that I forgot what being suicidal felt like. I'm not naturally depressive. I don't really have the brain chemistry for it on my own. My depression is entirely situational. When the situation is resolved, I go back to being "me".

So I spent the vast majority of my life not being depressed. In fact, I was so in love with life that I was absolutely terrified of death. It was unthinkable. It was unmentionable. It was the thing that could never happen. I was (and am, in my "natural" state) so opposed to death that I would be an Alcor member if I had the money for it. That's one of those cryonics groups that freezes you at the point of death in hopes that they'll cure whatever you died of sometime in the future and bring you back to life. Any hope, even far-fetched hope, that death won't claim me was worth having that hope.

A metamour of mine calls death The Void, and she is so opposed to it that she is dedicating her life to defeating death through science. She is a dragonslayer. I remember being that afraid, and that affronted by death. Or, I should say, I know that I used to be that person, but I don't remember how it feels to be that person these days.

2 years ago, I slipped into a suicidal depression again for the first time since junior high school. I didn't even recognize it at first, because I wasn't me. I kept losing things and I didn't see an end to the loss in my future, so I started longing for death. But I didn't self-harm. I sought help and I worked on my situation and I eventually pulled out of it again.

But unlike my childhood depression, I did not swing so far to the other side that I forgot what suicidal depression felt like. I changed my circumstances but only marginally. The fear of slipping back into those circumstances remained constant, so the suicidal thoughts remained nearby - gone but not forgotten.

With the new Trump presidency, I lost my battle again. I've been in a suicidal depression since the election and it's not letting up because it's not a situation that I can change. But I'm also not in any immediate danger. As this article tries to explain, suicide is not black and white, it's not an on/off switch. I know these thoughts aren't mine, I know what's causing them, and I know how to seek help if the thoughts get louder than my voice.

But this is what it's like inside my head these days. I'm in the grey area. I can laugh, I can have fun, I can orgasm, I can smile, and all of those things are genuine. But there is a layer underneath that doesn't go away. It's like trying to grow a garden on top of permafrost, or like trying to grow anything in this fucking sandbar of a state - It can be done, but the roots don't go very deep and the sand can take over.

The hardest part about living with suicidal depression is the inability to talk about it. I have made a conscious choice to talk about it online, but I know that it makes other people feel bad. That's really what's so hard about having a mental illness. On top of the symptoms of my illness, I also have to manage other people's emotions about my illness. I can't talk about the thoughts in my head because they will hurt the people who care about me. I can't share the emptiness with others because they feel sad for me or frustrated and helpless because they can't fix it.

I have to feel these feelings and also feel the disappointment and responsibility because my inner feelings made someone else feel hurt. So I keep my thoughts to myself except when they start to bubble over and I write a post about it because I just can't contain them anymore.

I don't want pity or to make others feel sad for me. I'm not complaining or seeking sympathy or hugs or anything. I just want to be able to have my feelings, to be understood, and to be accepted that I have depression without taking on additional responsibility of making other people uncomfortable about my feelings. I want for people to, when they hear or read my words of depression, to just go "oh, that's Joreth and her depression," not "OMG it's so sad! I feel so bad that I can't help! Now I have bad feels because you have bad feels!"

So I share these things hoping to make other people understand what it's like, so that maybe they can learn to just hear and acknowledge their loved ones suffering from mental illness without also feeling guilty or pity or sad or frustrated or hurt just because *we* aren't having the positive emotion that *they* wish we would have in this moment.

Depression, even suicidal depression, is a livable state. It's not a comfortable state, but a livable one. We need more nuance in how we approach and interact with people who have mental illness. Many of us don't need hospitalization or extreme care. Many of us just live in the grey area.

joreth: (Self-Portrait)
2016-11-03 12:50 am

On Learning To Be A Human

http://tacit.livejournal.com/627806.html

This is fascinating! I also had no idea that other people don't feel cold as pain. I mean, I knew other people had higher thresholds for cold than I do, but I still assumed that their experience of cold was similar to mine, just at higher doses, if you will. For me, cold is *pain*, like stubbing your toe pain, as well. I absolutely can't do ice treatments for injuries because the ice causes a deep ache that I interpret as being "in my bones" and in my joints and aggravates the pain from the injury.

I do sometimes use ice to numb the area around insect bites because I'm allergic and numbing the entire area is the only coping mechanism that works even a little bit. But the ache from the cold hurts so much that I don't know which is worse, the body-aching cold or the mind-maddening itch. Both sensations are so unpleasant that I often wonder if this time will be so bad that I will literally lose my mind in order to escape the sensation.

I also find being wet very uncomfortable. Especially the *transition* from dry to wet. It's one of the things that I associate with my OCD that prevents me from doing the dishes as often as I should. If I get hot and sweaty *enough*, I will start to find the thought of being wet less unpleasant, and once I'm in the water, I'm mostly OK about it. But I'd rather not get wet. I was just talking with Ben the other day about how grateful I am that we all come with electronics on our bodies nowadays because I have a built in excuse that everyone respects for not being thrown in pools (since, y'know, my consent isn't a good enough reason on its own).

Oh, and I don't do caffeine. Like, at all. I went off caffeine some 21 or more years ago as part of the process to diagnose a sleep disorder and by the time we ruled out caffeine as a causal factor, introducing it back into my system started giving me migraines. So I just don't take caffeine. Chocolate, as having something very similar but not exactly the same as caffeine, doesn't trigger the migraines, and also doesn't cause any other similar symptoms such as more "energy" or the ability to fight off exhaustion or sleep deprivation better. It does, however, help keep my mood more even and less volatile, so I eat chocolate fairly often.

But I otherwise *do* inhabit my body. I *feel* myself in my space, almost all the time. I'm acutely aware of where I exist and I believe that's related to being in chronic pain as well as having to compensate for other people (mostly men) being largely unaware of the space that they occupy, with a little bit of "oh no, am I going to sit on my cat?" pet-owner-concerns thrown in. The chronic pain and being acutely aware of my body is why, I believe, I developed the reaction to pain of feeling sleepy. It's the only time I can disassociate from my body so when I hurt, I sleep. This has the drawback, however, of being able to sleep through some discomforts that ought to wake me, like needing to pee or my arm being asleep or whatever. Because, otherwise, I'm very much "living in my body".

What's more, I can also start to "feel" my partners as extensions of myself when I am in close proximity for extended time periods or when I am granted extreme amounts of physical intimacy. They did a study on dancers a while back (I don't have the citation on hand) that showed that partner dancing develops this particular encapsulation of other selves over time, so I suppose it's not surprising that I do it too. Knowing that it's a dancer thing, I now use this to teach people how to deliberately foster this sense of partner-as-extension in relationships through my and Sterling's Simple Steps workshop where we use dance techniques (with no actual dancing required) to improve relationship communication.

I am one of those people who "feels" music the way [livejournal.com profile] tacit describes never having understood before. I knew that others didn't have that same sensation because I've tried to teach people how to dance and I've seen the lack of recognition when I try to describe this feeling. Knowing that he has synesthesia, I didn't realize that he also doesn't "feel" music. I sort of imagined the act of "seeing" music as being like "feeling" music only with extra visual stuff. Because of my connection with music, I'm particularly fascinated with how he experiences it and how his experience can be consensually manipulated to better communicate with him through music.

One thing I noticed, though, is that I do have periods where I don't feel like I'm living in my body and I feel like I'm this ball sitting at the top of a meat vehicle. Those periods are my depressions. That description of being a ball sitting on top of a biological vehicle isn't metaphor, it's literal - that's what my awareness of my self actually is in those periods. If you've never been aware of your body yet separate from it, I think it's very hard to understand from the descriptions. If you've *only* been aware of your body yet separate from it, I think the feeling of being connected to your body, of *living within* the body is very hard to understand. In both cases, the descriptions all seem metaphorical to the person who doesn't know those feelings themselves. I know because I am both of those people. When I am feeling connected to my body, the description of a ball atop a meat vehicle sounds metaphorical and I can't quite wrap my head around it empathically even if I grasp it intellectually. But when I'm in a depression, I can't remember what it feels like to be connected and I doubt that I ever really did, and my brain insists that my memories of once *believing* I was "living in my body" are lying to me and that I never *really* felt that way at all, therefore I likely never will again, or if I ever do, it'll just be a return to a delusion. Depression sucks.

I find this particularly noteworthy because Franklin isn't prone to depression that I know of so this sensation is either different from his or isn't dependent upon depression to exist. I don't know if the sensation of not living in my body has a causal relationship with my depression or just a correlated relationship, but they always go together. In fact, that's one of the red flags I use to determine if I'm in a depression. When the depression turns suicidal (thankfully rarely), I don't just feel like a ball sitting inside a meat vehicle, I feel like a ball being *constrained* by the vehicle, limited, like the vehicle is filtering out all the color and warmth in the world and if I could just break free of the body, I would no longer feel the pain of being colorless, of being cold, in a sense, of an absence of life and warmth and color and joy.

Because to me, cold is pain.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
2016-05-24 12:36 pm

No, You Don't Have OCD Just Because You Like Things Neat & Tidy

One of my pet peeves is when people straighten something and then laugh and say "OMG I'm so OCD!"  No, you're not.  OCD is not about liking things tidy.  Yes, some people with OCD do express it in ways that include straightening things like crooked pictures or their table settings, but that's not what OCD is.  Look at the letters - OCD is about having intrusive thoughts that you obsess over, and then having compulsive behaviour that you literally cannot stop yourself from doing no matter what.  What makes it OCD is that last letter - D for Disorder.
A psychological disorder is a deviant, distressful, and dysfunctional pattern of thoughts, feelings, or behaviours that interferes with the ability to function in a healthy way.
Let me repeat that:  distressful; dysfunctional; interferes with.

When I was a child, we used to laugh at and tease my dad because he couldn't leave the house without checking that the stove was off and then asking all of us if we checked to make sure the stove was off.  Then, as he drove away from the house, he had to have everyone verify for him that the garage door was closed.  If he couldn't get verification of these things, he would sometimes even drive all the way back to make sure.  We all treated it like some kind of quirk, something worth making fun of.  Dad seemed to take our teasing in good humor, but that may be a survival trait he picked up from his own family growing up.  His family is ruthless about teasing each other.  As much as I loved hanging out with my fun-loving uncles, growing up for me was also torturous because I couldn't escape the harsh insults and criticisms from people who seemed to have a magical laser-like ability to find exactly those insults that would hurt me the most.  So when my sister and mother and I would roll our eyes and say "geez, Dad!" or "there he goes again!", it was probably pretty mild by comparison and something he was able to laugh about himself.

In college, I took my first broadcast class with a teacher who had OCD bad enough that he was, at one time, institutionalized for it.  On the first day of class, he showed us a video he had made called The Touching Tree.  He showed us this video for 2 reasons:  1) it was an example of the kinds of things he would be teaching in his course - composition, lighting, camera movements, editing, etc. and 2) it explained what having him for a teacher all semester would be like.  Watching this video I finally put a label to my father - OCD.  I had no idea that his silly quirk about the stove or the garage door or needing to check all the windows at night or not being able to sleep without a fan running or needing to have a bowl of ice cream before he could sleep or of microwaving his food even if it came right off the stove were all symptoms of a mild form of OCD.  I also had no idea that some of the intrusive thoughts and odd behaviours that I had were also OCD.

Many years after identifying that I probably had some form of OCD, I discovered another thing that explained why my OCD isn't quite the same as either my dad's or my former teacher's versions and not in ways that were accommodated for in the natural variance of expression of the disorder - I discovered that anorexia actually could *cause* OCD.  My own condition wasn't isolated as an anxiety disorder on its own, but a *symptom* of some other disorder!  So there are some specific things about me that don't *quite* line up with classic OCD.  But there are lots of things that do.

For instance, one of the expressions of OCD is getting stuck in a counting loop.  Right now, go ahead and count to yourself from 1 to 10.  If you don't have OCD, you probably just counted 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.  If you do have OCD, there's a good chance that your counting sounded more like this:  1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...  Imagine if you had a simple task like counting inventory.  Now imagine reaching a particular number, and then thinking to yourself "wait a minute, did I skip a number?  I might have skipped one.  I did skip a number.  I better start over to make sure I didn't skip a number," and having that thought intrude repeatedly while you are trying to count so that you never finish counting.  Imagine not being able to silence that voice and not being able to stop yourself from starting over, even though you KNOW that you didn't skip a number and that this is holding you up from your job.

My version of that is songs.  In fact, while writing that paragraph about counting, in my head I now have the counting song from Sesame Street stuck in my head, but only the chorus.  I constantly have a song playing in my head.  Most people are familiar with earworms.  But what if you have never in your entire life NOT had a song stuck in your head?  And what if it's not the whole song, but one verse stuck on repeat, like a scratched record, and it's playing for hours, sometimes days?  As the song lyric is playing in my head, I'm having parallel thoughts that go like this:  "did I sing that too fast?  Thoughts travel faster than verbal sounds, I might have played that part too fast.  Yep, the tempo is too fast, if I try to sing it out loud, I'm singing faster than the song in my head.  I need to start over.  Did I faithfully recreate the entire song with all the instruments and harmonies or did I just play the lead vocals?  I'm sure I forgot the guitar in there.  I better start over.  Oops, I'm going too fast again, I better start over..."  This is why I'm always wearing headphones, or at least why I try to always have them with me.  I can drown out this broken record player with other music (and it has to be some other song, not the same song).

Sometimes, it's not a song lyric, but a spoken sentence.  If you ever watch a movie with me or listen to a podcast with me, watch my hands.  I will often tap out the rhythm of the last sentence I just heard and I'll tap it out over and over again until some other sentence or phrase catches my attention.  Sometimes I'll mouth the sentence myself just after they did, and I might silently whisper it several times.  This is an outward expression of the same loop in my head and that sentence or phrase will be repeating long after I've managed to still the tapping or whispering.

OCD is expressed in a lot of different ways, so even though it's popular to think of it as neatening up things or washing hands, that's only scratching the surface of ways that someone can have disruptive, intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.  Something that I didn't know until I talked with my teacher that first night of class is that people think that germaphobes are neat freaks but sometimes they are incredibly dirty.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but think about it - if you are *afraid* of germs, you might be too afraid to actually clean a surface where you think the germs are living.  That might get you too close to the germs.  So someone with the germaphobic expression of OCD might actually live in filth and squalor because they are too afraid of germs to clean their house.

So, you see, OCD doesn't mean simply that you like things in order.  It doesn't just mean that you like even numbers.  It doesn't only mean that you straighten crooked picture frames or place your books and DVDs all in order.  Does the thought of those things being out of order intrude on your ability to do anything else?  Are you helpless to move onto the next task until the straightening is done?  Do you repeatedly go back and check to make sure you really did straighten it correctly?  Do you know that you're acting irrationally and do you feel a sense of self-loathing that you can't control this straightening behaviour?  Then you might actually have OCD.  But just liking things straight and orderly, even if it will "bug you until you fix it" is not OCD.

My OCD is very light because my anorexia is very light.  I've only had it get out of control twice in my life and both were under extreme duress (which is actually kinda the definition of anorexia - when I feel that my life is out of my control, I seize control over the one thing I know I can control, my diet).  Most of the time, my OCD interferes with my life but in a manageable sort of way.  I'm fortunate, I have found some tricks that work just well enough that people think I'm merely quirky, like my dad, instead of actually making it hard to hold down a job or maintain social ties.  But those intrusive thoughts are still there, always running in the background.  It's a constant struggle to drown them out or channel them into helpful ways.  The compulsive behaviour is always there, interfering with my daily life.  It's a constant struggle to contain them to unnoticeable blocks of time or movements too small to notice.  If your interest in straight lines isn't something you fight with in order to be productive and prevent people from thinking you're weird, then it's probably not OCD, you just like things straight, which a lot of people do.

If you take away only one thing from this, take this:  OCD and other anxiety disorders are not about willpower or preferences.  This is not something that you can just stop if you try hard enough.  By definition, a compulsion is something that you cannot stop, at least not without help.  I didn't eat for a year and I used to do 500 crunches every night before bed, so trust me when I say that I have plenty of willpower.  And yet, I can't stop doing certain other things.  That's because these things don't fall under the category of "willpower".  Willpower doesn't touch these things.  And logicking or rationalizing them doesn't make them go away either.  Most people with OCD are very well aware that they are doing fucked up shit.  We are aware that it's not rational, that our brains are lying to us, and that other people don't do these things.  That's part of the problem - we know the truth but we can't stop anyway.  IT HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH WILLPOWER.  I can't stress that enough.  This is not something that a person can just change if you explain how ridiculous they're being.  This is not a character flaw.  This is not a sign of weakness or laziness or lack of trying.  This is a mis-wiring of the brain that mere "willpower" or "strong character" can even touch let alone fix, anymore than having trouble walking on a broken ankle is about "willpower" or having a "strong character".  It's fucking broken, we know it's broken, and it will take outside intervention to correct it and even then it may never be as good as an ankle that was never broken.

Here are some videos that explain OCD.  If you have ever straightened something up and then said to the person next to you "oh, it's just my OCD", then you need to watch these, at least the shorter ones.  And if you only watch one, watch the first one called OCD & Anxiety Disorders: Crash Course Psychology #29.  I'll include near the end the trailer for the video that my old broadcast teacher made, because the whole video is about 40 minutes long but if you have the time to watch the whole thing, I recommend it.  I'll post the whole video just after the trailer.



OCD & Anxiety Disorders: Crash Course Phsychology #29:





Debunking The Myths About OCD (TED-ed):





This Is What It's Like To Be In My Head For 3 Minutes:





A video about OCD:





Preview Of The Touching Tree by James Callner:





The Touching Tree (the full movie) by James Callner:


This movie was my introduction to OCD and it's how I learned that my dad likely has it because I recognized him in the main character.  The teacher in this film is actually *my* first film teacher.  And I don't mean that my teacher was like the film teacher, I mean that the actor who played the teacher was my professor in college.  He showed us this film both as an illustration for the sorts of things we would be learning in class and also to introduce us to his condition so that we would understand what it meant to interact with him.






Just because you like things neat and tidy, it doesn't mean you have OCD, but there is a slight possibility (2%-8% of the population) that you have something called OCPD - Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. Now, this is really confusing because the names are so similar and even the symptoms seem similar. But OCPD is characterized by a general pattern of concern with orderliness, perfectionism, excessive attention to details, mental and interpersonal control, and a need for control over one's environment, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency. People with OCPD do not generally feel the need to repeatedly perform ritualistic actions - a common symptom of OCD - and usually find pleasure in perfecting a task, whereas people with OCD are often more distressed after their actions.

According to Wikipedia: "Unlike OCPD, OCD is described as invasive, stressful, time-consuming obsessions and habits aimed at reducing the obsession related stress. OCD symptoms are at times regarded as ego-dystonic because they are experienced as alien and repulsive to the person. Therefore, there is a greater mental anxiety associated with OCD. In contrast, the symptoms seen in OCPD, though they are repetitive, are not linked with repulsive thoughts, images, or urges. OCPD characteristics and behaviors are known as ego-syntonic, as persons with the disorder view them as suitable and correct. On the other hand, the main features of perfectionism and inflexibility can result in considerable suffering in an individual with OCPD as a result of the associated need for control."

Anorexics are extremely likely to have either OCD or OCPD - or both! I likely am one of those anorexics that has both, as I have the distressful intrusive obsessive thoughts like patterns and loops of OCD as well as the satisfying feeling of lists and organization and the rigidity and inflexibility (my mother would say "stubbornness") associated with OCPD.

More about OCPD at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsessive%E2%80%93compulsive_personality_disorder and more about OCD at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsessive%E2%80%93compulsive_disorder
joreth: (Misty in Box)
2016-02-22 01:48 pm

What's The Difference Between A Gaslight Victim And A Gaslighter?

I have a question and I need for everyone interested in answering it to assume that I am asking in good faith, not trolling.

Are there any articles that directly compare and contrast the difference between being gaslighted and someone who is *actually* the horrible things that a gaslighter accuses the victim to be?

Let me expand a bit.  OK, a lot.

I've had the misfortune to see a gaslighter work his black magic now in person, right in front of my eyes but on someone other than me, and I've seen the devastation it caused. I've seen it in a poly context, which, for some reason, actually made it harder for me to see at first - easier for the gaslighter to hide. I've been an outspoken critic of what I have eventually come to see as real abuse in the poly community and how our own community standards protect and privilege abusive relationship structures and behaviours. So, in no way do I want to counteract any of the work done to bring awareness and solutions to gaslighting.

But I'm reading a lot of articles on gaslighting lately, and it struck me that, if I switched perspectives in my head and read the article *as if I were* the gaslighter himself (choosing a gendered pronoun because I am most familiar with male abusers and female victims, and I feel the need to use different pronouns to help keep the illustrations understandable), using the excuses and justifications he gave to make it look like he was the victim, if I took on that mindset for a moment, I couldn't tell from many of these articles who was whom. And a gaslighter or narcissist can find ammunition in these articles to continue their subjugation, and validation in these words.

So, for example, this one article lists several "tell-tale signs":

1. Something is “off” about your friend, partner, … but you can’t quite explain or pinpoint what.

So, this gaslighting observation that I mentioned above, in the beginning, he had me (a close but outside observer) convinced at first that he was the real victim. He confided in me his perspective. I do believe that he really did believe the stories he was spinning to me. It wasn't until I talked to the victim alone and then confronted him about the victim's side, and then HEARD him say "no, they don't feel that way, here [victim], tell Joreth that you don't feel that way" and then the victim proceeded to confirm the gaslighter *even though* I had just had an hour long conversation with them in tears about exactly how they felt. The victim told me that *I* must have misunderstood or misheard their anguished cries, that it wasn't a big deal, that everything was worked out.

I KNOW WHAT I HEARD. The victim felt a particular way, the gaslighter insisted that they didn't, and then the victim's story changed to match the gaslighter's version.

My point is that I believe the gaslighter is that fucked in the head that he (and most of them) really does believe his (their) version of events. I don't believe that most gaslighters are deliberately plotting to undermine people like in the movie, but I know for a fact that undermining people is the effect that's happening. I was one of his confidants, so I heard what I really believe to be his honest and true view of himself and his motivations. I believe that I understand the view of himself that he holds, at least well enough to read an article from a gaslighter's perspective who doesn't think he is doing anything wrong.

So, when I read articles like this and I put myself in the mindset of that confidante for whom I was on his side before I knew better, I have a hard time telling from these articles that *he* was the one who was doing the gaslighting. That's how he had me fooled for as long as I was.

He believed that something was "off" about his victim. They kept "changing their story". They weren't consistent. They saw things in strange, corner-turning ways that he didn't understand. I was constantly playing "interpreter" for them because he just didn't understand the victim.

4. You feel threatened and on-edge, but you don’t know why.

As the blogger Shea Emma Fett alluded to, abusers really do feel victimized, but they feel victimized by their victims' resistance to the abuser's control. When this gaslighter attempted to control his victim, and they resisted, the abuser felt personally threatened. I went out on a date once with a guy who I had a history with and I was interested in a future with, and my then-bf, when I told him all about it, accused me "HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?!" Listen here, asshole, I did *nothing* "to" you. This thing *happened* to me. It may have affected you, but it wasn't done *to* you and certainly not with malice. Nevertheless, he, and the abuser I'm talking about, felt threatened. This abuser was *constantly* fighting with his victim, to the point that he started working as late as possible to avoid being at home where another fight might break out. He was on edge all the time. He didn't understand why this was happening or how to avoid it (because he didn't understand that it was his own doing and he didn't understand the victim's wants - namely the desire to not be abused). He would check off "yes" to this one too.

6. You never quite feel “good enough” and try to live up to the expectations and demands of others, even if they are unreasonable or harm you in some way.

The motivation for this gaslighter's behaviour was a massive amount of fear and insecurity.  Every time he felt his insecurity crop up and it prompted him to try to control other people to manage his fear, I stuck my nose in to tell him that he should do better.  His victim also ineffectually tried to tell him that his attempts to control them was hurting them and he needed to do better.  In my own arguments with him, he accused me of being unreasonable for insisting that his attempts to control his partners were harmful.  He insisted that *my* suggestions for not controlling people were actually harmful *to him* somehow.  We argued in circles and I never got a clear explanation for how other men (even men that he didn't like) seeing naked pictures of his wife harmed *him* (for example), but he clearly believed that it did.

Remember that ex above?  He honestly believed that my date, and what we did on our date, with my new prospective partner was something done *to* him, and that it harmed him in some way, even though he wasn't on that date and he was told about the date both before and afterwards, prior to my seeing that ex in person again so that he could make informed decisions about how to relate to me in the future (and no, I didn't have wild, unprotected, fluid-exchanged sex with some random stranger and come home with an STD or something, which is usually what people point to when they want to defend the position that it's reasonable to be upset about what one partner does outside of a given relationship or to control, or even request, a specific set of behaviour for outside a given relationship).

I insist that a no-rules, boundaries-based relationship is the better relationship standard, and the gaslighter believed that my standards are too high, are unreasonable, and harm him in some way.  He's not the only one who thinks that either.  I have been told, verbatim, that not everyone is as "evolved" as I am when it comes to relationship and emotional maturity.  I call bullshit on the "evolved" part.  As far as I'm concerned, respect for agency is the bare minimum.  I get that it's not always *easy*, but it's also not some advanced, high level concept set aside for, I dunno, monks who have reached enlightenment or Clears who have spent millions of dollars to the Church or whatever.  Learning to respect other people's agency is something that children are capable of learning, and it's a lifetime of societal reinforcement that causes us to unlearn it (if we learned it in the first place) by instilling a sense of entitlement to other people's bodies, emotions, and minds.  When fear has a hold of you, respecting other people's agency may be challenging, but challenging is not the same as "harmful".  But because it can be challenging, someone who is an abuser or who is gaslighting someone can indeed believe that the standards their victim might suggest are "too high" and are "harming him".  Personal growth is uncomfortable, especially when you resist it.  That doesn't make it, necessarily, "harmful", but it can feel that way, so a gaslighter could see this "tell-tale sign" as evidence for his narrative too.

7.  You feel like there’s something fundamentally wrong with you, e.g. you’re neurotic or are “losing it.”

The gaslighter excused his efforts to control people away by claiming he had PTSD.  I do not believe that self-diagnosis, I believe another one made by an actual diagnostician but that's not actually relevant right now.  What is relevant is that the gaslighter *does* believe that he suffers from PTSD and he does, indeed, exhibit several symptoms, including "checking out" (which, I'm told by reliable clinicians, are also symptoms of a handful of other mental illnesses including the diagnosis I believe is more likely to be the correct one).  Every time he tried to control his victim and they pushed back, here's what would happen.  The victim would insist on their reality, and the gaslighter would go glassy-eyed and catatonic, unable to interact with the world around him.  *Until*, that is, the victim recanted and accepted the gaslighter's reality.  Then, suddenly, he would "wake up" and start interacting again.  Later, though, he would use that as "evidence" that the victim was "inconsistent" and kept "changing their story" and therefore shouldn't be trusted to know what reality was.

But because he would get "triggered" by his victim's resistance, he would often come to me in distress over how he was "losing it" or that there was something wrong with him.  PTSD and other mental illnesses are viewed as "something fundamentally wrong with you" or "neurotic" by society in general, so regardless of which mental illness he might have, he could legitimately think that "something is fundamentally wrong" and he would be "correct" about that.  He felt that he was being hollowed out, that he couldn't function in daily life anymore as their arguments increased in frequency.  He had trouble concentrating at work because he was always upset about their latest argument.  He was stressed and frightened by obsessive thoughts of losing his victim.  When I saw only his catatonia and the aftermath of their arguments, it was completely believable that he was the "victim".  But that required keeping the victim feeling isolated in an "us against them" tribalism within the group, because as soon as I started talking to the victim themself, and seeing the arguments from the beginning, not just the effect of the argument on him, things looked very different.

My second fiance was a gaslighter.  He was very young, though, and clumsy about it, and I'm way too self-confident for those kinds of tactics to work for very long on me.  He did things like this too, only he wasn't nearly as believable about it.  Whenever we got into an argument, if it looked like I was going to win (or that he was going to lose, since the argument was usually about whether or not he could have sex with me or I could go out in public without him), he would get "sick" somehow.  He got "the flu" twice a week on the nights of my ballroom dance class.  He got an upset stomach on laundry night if I wanted to do it at my parents' house instead of his parents' house.  He got another one of his upset stomachs on the night of a friend's bachelorette party when I told him it was "no guys allowed".

One time, he even "knocked himself unconscious" on a low-hanging pipe in the carport when we walked from the car to the house during an argument.  He managed to somehow hit himself in the head hard enough to lose consciousness completely without actually making any sound of impact and while moving at the rate of a slow lumber.  I've had someone swing a metal pipe at me with the intention of hurting me and hit me on the head and I didn't go fully passed out.  Head injuries don't work like they do in the movies.  And when I left his ass lying on the concrete, he also somehow managed to get "robbed" in broad daylight while lying unconscious (that one was the last straw and I called his bluff hard enough that he admitted his lie).  His various maladies and misfortunes were intended to distract me from the argument and trigger my compassion so that I would forget why I was mad at him and run to him to take care of him.  Fortunately for me, I'm not the "maternal" type and my reaction was to give the benefit of the doubt the first time or two, but then to become contemptuous of an adult who couldn't care for himself.  Contempt is the number one relationship killer, and unconsciously developing that emotion as a response to abusive tactics has probably saved my life on multiple occasions.

So, once I saw this gaslighter's tactic from the other side, I recognized it from my own abusive ex-fiance.  He would get "sick" and I would have to stop arguing to care for him, because if I kept being mad at him while he was sick, then *I* was the monster with no compassion.  Fortunately for me, I'm not terribly bothered by people I'm mad at thinking that I'm not compassionate because *I* know better, and that's what matters to me.  But this gaslighter was taking legitimate mental health issues and preying on his victim's concern over harming others and their fear of being seen as not compassionate.  Again, I believe that he really believes his side of things.  I don't think he actually deliberately calculated how to fake PTSD in order to win an argument (whereas I do believe my ex-fiance faked his unconsciousness - which happened more than once - although his upset stomachs were probably a real reaction to anxiety).  I believe that he really was "checking out" because I believe there is really something very wrong with him.  But it was always just so *convenient* that it ended as soon as the victim recanted, and then that recanting was used later to further undermine the victim's position and even their standing in the community.  If the victim stood their ground, they were "driving" the gaslighter to a mental breakdown, but if the victim backed down, they were unreliable and couldn't be trusted.  Either way, the victim was the "monster" who kept "harming" their abuser.

But from the gaslighter's perspective, since these episodes came more and more frequently as the relationship spiraled faster and faster towards its demise, he felt that he was "losing it" and becoming more and more unhinged.  And he was becoming unhinged.  He was a total wreck of a person by the end.  But he was still a gaslighter, and I do not believe the victim was doing it *to* the gaslighter.  I believe it is a consequence of the sort of person the gaslighter is who had to face the sort of person that the victim was.

8. You feel like you’re constantly overreacting or are too sensitive.
9. You feel isolated, hopeless, misunderstood and depressed.

This is really just more of an extension of the last one.  The relationship was spiraling out of control because the victim was doing more and more resisting of the gaslighter's attempts to control them and their own breakdown as a result of the gaslighting working, and that led to daily fights that consumed their every waking moment and also took over the atmosphere of the rest of the immediate community whenever either of them was present.  When you feel like your life is going out of control, regardless of why or how, it's not unexpected to feel isolated, hopeless, misunderstood, or depressed, especially if someone is trying to tell you that your behaviour is out of line.  When he wanted to control his victim, I told him that he was essentially overreacting.  I told him that he needed to dial it back and let his victim (who I had not yet begun to think of as "the victim") have their agency and do their thing.  I told him, more or less, that his feelings of fear and the need to control them were too much, out of sync with the reality of the situation, and that the solution was for him to get over his issues, not control the victim's behaviour.  In essence, it could be argued that he saw my words as telling him that he was "overreacting or are too sensitive".  So, from his perspective, these are a big "yes" also.


11. You feel scared and as though “something is terribly wrong,” but you don’t know what or why.

Again, I believe that he believes his own narrative.  This gaslighter felt that his life was spinning out of control and he didn't know how to wrestle control back.  Every day was fraught with arguments and intense fear.  More and more people were becoming unhappy by the splash zone of this one relationship.  Life began to look chaotic and turbulent.  Not only was this relationship a source of pain and fear, but because the two of them were constantly fighting, all his other relationships started to suffer and he started to fear that he was about to lose his other relationships as well.  Then, not a month after he told me that I was the one stable thing in his life, we had our own blow-out that he apparently couldn't anticipate.  Everything was "terribly wrong", but because the truth was his gaslighting and he didn't recognize it, he didn't know why everything was "terribly wrong" or how to fix it.

12. You find it hard to make decisions.

With his catatonic episodes happening more and more frequently, and the arguments happening constantly, he started to revert to a more child-like mental state.  He had trouble making decisions because his brain was just freezing up from all the chaos.  He was never good at making decisions anyway, preferring others to take the lead on things, which is actually one of the reasons why it took me so long to figure out that he was controlling the people around him to manage his insecurities.  It's hard to believe someone is a manipulator when they appear to be such a follower.  But because he felt that his life was out of control and that he was losing his own grip on reality, making decisions became more difficult than usual.

13. You feel as though you’re a much weaker version of yourself, and you were much more strong and confident in the past.

This was something he actually told me, more or less. He was so distraught by everything that was happening, that he felt like he was becoming "hollow", which is sort of like saying he is a "weaker version of [himself]". I have absolutely no doubt that he felt like he was losing his mind. His life wasn't looking the way he wanted it to look and the way he had always controlled his life in the past wasn't working with this partner. This partner was resisting his control, and he felt so entitled to controlling them to keep his own mental issues manageable that their resistance to his control was threatening and made him feel harmed.  Having those feelings, and the extent to which this whole relationship was disrupting everyone's life, it doesn't matter that he was the one abusing the victim, those feelings still feel real and still affect how one sees oneself and their place in the world.

14. You feel guilty for not feeling happy like you used to.

This gaslighter was *known* for his exuberance for life. In the dictionary, next to the word "happy", you'd see his picture.  I've known a bunch of people like that - in fact, it seems to be one of the elements of "my type". [livejournal.com profile] tacit is one of those people for whom "happy" is an integral characteristic too.  But, obviously, this gaslighter was not happy all the time during this period.  He was stressed and anxious and depressed and angry and sad all the time.  For someone whose very *identity* includes "happy", not being happy can make one feel like one is not oneself anymore.  And for some of those people, if part of their identity rests on their ability to be happy and for others to see them as happy, particularly if their happiness makes other people happy and their sadness makes other people sad for them, no longer feeling happy can feel like a personal failure.

So, this gaslighter failing to control his victim, causing them to be miserable, which causes them to challenge the relationship and the attempts to control, which makes the *gaslighter* unhappy, this can lead to a sense of guilt for not maintaining this happiness in the face of all this loss and misery even though the gaslighter is the one causing the chain reaction in the first place.  Since this sort of gaslighter doesn't realize that he's the one setting the spark, he has a difficult time recognizing that his unhappiness is something he can fix because it's something he caused.  Or, he might suspect or know (possibly subconsciously) that it's something he caused (even if he believes he caused it but have the wrong ideas on *how* he caused it), and so feel guilt for knowing that he did it all to himself.

So, this whole long exposition is to explain that I am looking for sources to help explain why, when a gaslighter feels these things, it's *not* a sign that they are a victim or being gaslighted by their actual victims.  When a person is gaslighted, they start to believe that they are an abusive monster who is doing terrible things to their abuser, but an abuser actually *is* doing all those things.  I could write a similar checklist of "how to know you're being abusive" and read it through the perspective of a gaslight victim and that victim could conceivably reach the conclusion that they are, indeed, an abusive monster because of the lens that each is viewing the world through.  I know there's a difference, I just don't know how to explain or illustrate that and I'm looking for sources to cite and other people's words to use as analogy or illustration or explanation.
joreth: (Misty Sleeping)
2016-01-27 01:05 am

The Big Sleep

www.theage.com.au/interactive/2016/the-big-sleep/

I'm seeing this article making the rounds on FB. It's a story about a married couple at the end of their years choosing how to finish their life. Consider this your content warning both for the article and the rest of my comments.

For most of my life, I have never understood the desire for suicide. Death, or as [livejournal.com profile] tacit and my metamour call it, The Void, has always terrified me. I want any and all methods possible to prolong my life. I suppose I could be called a transhumanist, because I'm in favor of radical life extension. I want to live for hundreds, thousands of years. I want death to be *optional*.

And that's what makes me support this couple. I couldn't understand this decision until recently, but I also have always known that it was not my place to decide what was right for other people. Just because I couldn't imagine the sort of circumstances that would make someone embrace death doesn't mean that I would *never* understand that decision, and the thought of longing for death but being denied it was just as terrifying to me as the thought of dying itself.

I have been suicidal twice in my life. The first time, I was a very young teen. That teenager doesn't seem like me. I see her from the outside now. So I was unable to empathize with people who wanted to die, although I supported their right to choose on principle. The second time was much, much more recently, and it was after I discovered words like "transhumanism" and "radical life extension". This time, I was able to experience being in the mind of someone who longed for death and who wasn't able to understand people who wanted to go on living. Now I live with the memories of being both people in my head.

You might think that, having come (mostly) out of a suicidal depression, I would feel grateful that I stuck it out long enough to no longer wish for death, and to find life even more precious for those (and other) close brushes with death. But this makes me even more strongly in favor of the rights of assisted suicide. It's true, I'm glad that I did not have the opportunity to go through with it. Now. But I am even more convinced now that our approach to suicide is wrong. There are far too few resources to help people like me who are having an emotional imbalance, for whatever reason, get past it and learn how to embrace life, and there are far too many laws that are unable to distinguish between people like me and people like those in this article. These are not the same kinds of suicidal tendencies, but in both circumstances, the tendencies are treated the same - as a problem we have to legislate against. Instead of placing benches in the courtyard, we put up signs telling people not to sit on the planter.

These people made a rational decision that they considered from all angles for many, many years. They do not believe in an afterlife, which could (and often does) influence someone's desire to die by convincing them that there's something better waiting for them "on the other side". They had nothing to gain from their suicide, and plenty to lose - including their daughters, their freedom if it failed, their daughters' freedom if they were found guilty of assisting the suicides, but most importantly, they stood to lose that which frightened them more than death - a slow decline into pain and confusion.

I am no longer certain that I can face that kind of future with a stalwart, steadfast commitment to life borne of fear of The Void. I'd like to think that I still love life as ardently as before. But I can't fault them for their choice, and I can understand their fear better than I ever have before. I have always stood for making death optional because my goal is to live forever. But in making life optional, that requires making death itself a valid choice. As the unrelated saying goes, consent is meaningless if you can't say no. Making death optional doesn't mean very much if you can't choose that option when you want it.

Surprisingly, this article actually made me feel hopeful and optimistic. Yes, they died. But they died on their own terms, just as they lived on their own terms. We should all be so lucky.

joreth: (Nude Drawing)
2015-02-05 05:58 pm

Weight Progress & Thin Person's Body Issues

Even though I ballroom dance, I'm not a Dancer and I don't have what is typically thought of as a dancer's body. I'm relatively thin and small, but I have just enough of my Latina heritage to give me hips and an ass, while just enough of my Northern European heritage to make it not obvious and to make people who don't know that I'm Latina say stupid things like "oh, but you're so skinny!" whenever I complain about weight.

When I buy dance tights, I have to buy the larger sizes because of the stereotypes of what a dancer's body is supposed to look like, so I already feel annoyed buying tights right out of the gate. About a year ago, I bought my usual size, only to find that I couldn't pull the waistband up over my hips. I bought another pair, one size up (which, of course, was too big everywhere else, but I dealt with it), and felt bad about my weight gain ever since. So I've been trying to dance regularly and to control my portion sizes, and y'all know about my recent 2nd attempt at a 30 Day Challenge regimen.

Well, my larger size tights got ruined the last time I wore them thanks to a rough edge on my fingernail, so I only have the too-small pair left. I tried them on today, just to see, and I was able (just barely) to pull them all the way on! They fit everywhere except getting the waistband over the hips (as they probably did when I couldn't pull them all the way up at all last summer), so even though they're still uncomfortable to get past that point, it means that I've lost enough weight to wear them again.

This is in addition to having to add another hole to my belt and now being unable to wear my jeans (that I bought specifically because my old pair didn't fit anymore, so I think of them as my "fat jeans") without a belt. I'm feeling so much better about my shape and my progress lately. I know that I'm still thin and that I don't have the social stigma that others do, but it's still problematic for me.

The biggest concern I have is that I'm too poor to replace my wardrobe, so I need to maintain my weight just so that I don't have to buy any new clothes. I'm not quite down to my target weight yet, but it does mean that I'm starting to fit into some of my smaller clothes again, which really relieves a lot of my anxiety about spending money. I was pretty OK with how I looked with the extra weight, but every time I got dressed and something was tight, I fretted about needing to spend money on clothes.

This anxiety triggered my old anorexia that I thought I had gotten over decades ago, and I've been working to keep the anorexia in check by channeling the obsessive thoughts into a more healthy version, such as portion control as opposed to starvation, and the 30 Day Challenges as opposed to binge-exercising. The weight loss has been gradual with no adverse health effects, so I'm doing much better this time around.

I'm feeling encouraged by the tights, but I'm going to work on not letting it fuel a frantic workout routine and to remind myself to eat regularly.



Please don't comment with "but you're so thin / pretty / don't need to worry about weight" or offer compliments or tips. I know I'm thin, I know some people think I'm fine just the way I am, and I'm already doing what I feel is healthy and necessary for my body, given my peculiar dietary and psychological issues. This is way more complicated, involving psychology & social class issues, than anyone can help with in the comments section. If you're not my therapist, nutritionist, or medical doctor, I don't need advice and I'm not fishing for compliments. I don't care what other people think of me so validation that someone else finds me attractive doesn't help, and, in fact, will probably trigger one of my other issues about objectification.

I, and other people, need space to discuss our body issues without that space turning into someone else's expectations or desires for our bodies. It's not about how you see me, it's about how I see me and how I feel about me and how I can deal with all the sociopolitical-economic issues around being me.