This week I was reminded that showing vulnerability is a strength.
I was also reminded that being honest is one of the best things one can do, especially to those they care about.
So I wanted to share a bit of myself with you all, both as a way for me to externalize the thoughts going through my head, and as a way to be honest with myself and share with a community that has found the strength to be vulnerable together.
When I was a teenager I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. For the most part that has manifested itself in my life through my inability to interact with other people and pick up on social cues. After working on this for many years, I slowly found that I was able to handle interacting with people by silently observing and copying what others would do. I’d watch what parts succeeded, and pretty much copy that. Over the years, I collected this social vocabulary through trial and error, until I found I was able to interact with people without issue most of the time.
About 7 years ago, I met and fell in love with a wonderful woman. The relationship started off really well, and the vocabulary I’d built up over the years gave me the tools to communicate with her. But as we started to become more serious, speaking to her as an acquaintance or friend didn’t really make sense, so once again, I used the method I’d used in the past. I’d watch the way she’d act, and I’d emulate it, taking the successes and elaborating on that, while repressing the parts that didn’t receive a positive response.
As you might be able to see, this starts to work against you eventually. Copying another only lead to me losing my identity.
Over the years, life’s stresses took their toll. We both went to college and moved in together. I graduated and worked a job that slowly started to strain my mental health. While this was going on, our relationship slowly started to turn, to what I’ve now accepted as, abusive. I would go to work, a place I felt isolated, disconnected, and incompetent, and then arrive home to a toxic home life, and deal with abusive cycles that those who have been there will understand.
She found solace in judging others, in finding flaws and exposing them. By copying this, I’d receive a positive feedback loop and continue this. Drama and judgement fueled a positive connection between us. It was the stop-gap measure for the fights we’d have. It was how I kept the focus off myself, and my own flaws. It was the centerpiece of conversations.
I barely slept, getting maybe 4 hours of poor sleep a night, dreading the morning. I’d wake up and tell myself “This isn’t the life I want” just to somewhat remind myself that this wasn’t the end, that something else existed beyond that apartment, my car, and the office.
This continued for one and a half years.
Then all of a sudden, I lost my job. I hadn’t been sleeping, I’d been falling asleep at work, in the company car while going 70mph on the freeway, during meetings even. My body was just giving out. They let me go, and while that hurt, I understand, and agree with their decision.
Things started to change. I was at home more often now. The stress still there. Now I was not only useless as a partner, but also as an employee. I was a failure, and I was reminded of it frequently, whether implied or not.
I looked for an out, I needed to save money, I needed to escape. I thought about moving in with my parents to try and get back on my feet. I confided these thoughts in some messages to my sister, in private.
Turns out my partner had decided to open my phone and read those messages.
Our relationship continued to deteriorate over the next month, up until a point where the emotional abuse crossed the threshold into physical abuse.
Being hit made me realize how far from the line I was. It was like I’d opened my eyes for the first time, and a mile behind me was a line drawn in the sand, by a younger me, who could have never imagined this kind of pain in their life. A threshold that should’ve never been crossed, now years in the past.
I moved out a week later, taking only what belongings I could with me, leaving behind my pet bird, my partner, my friends, and the area I’d lived in since I was 7.
It’s been over a year since then.
In that time, I’ve moved once again, and live in an area I love. I’ve reconnected with old friends and made new ones. I have a job I love, and the time and space to pursue hobbies I’m passionate about.
And I’ve met all of you.
I still struggle with feeling emotions. They feel like they’re there, but they’re just under the surface, muted as a coping mechanism to help me get through the life I used to live. Sometimes they bubble up to the surface, and I don’t quite know how to express them, the language lost.
I still struggle with finding flaws in others. I often find myself immediately judging people. Negative thoughts being the first in my mind, as they were the method I used to need to facilitate my relationship.
I still struggle with dealing with failure, and my own self critic. It’s crippling to me to the point where I resist attempting certain things, due to the emotional and physiological reaction I have towards failure.
This is all to say that over the past two months, I’ve come in contact with many others going through similar or completely different struggles as we all walk through the journey of life together. HeartSupport has given me the opportunity to connect with the positive feelings I know are in me. To hold your hands (virtually for now) and feel the love and empathy I knew were buried deep in there and bring them to the surface.
I meet you, and I hear your stories and your struggles, and while negative thoughts enter my mind, I know them for what they are. Complete lies. This space gives me the ability to exercise my kindness muscles, and over the months that I’ve been here, I find those lies emerge less. The first thoughts that enter my mind when I read your stories are “How can I best convey the care I have for this human being?”, “How can I best show them that they matter?”, “How can I support them while they’re going through a difficult time?”
I’ve come face to face with some of the most difficult parts of life, but also seen some of the biggest hearts that I think exist in this world. People here truly connect, and truly care. I wish I could somehow convey just how much I love this community, but I don’t think I have the words to do so. All I can say is that I love you all a whole bunch.
If you read through all of that…
I’d offer you a free hug ticket or something, but I give them out for free anyway…