A few days ago I posted that I had some heartache over the weekend, though it turned out well in the end. What I didn’t get into was how D’s response to me when I told him how I was feeling, sent me over the edge. The things he said were perfect and respectful, and this went so against my anticipated response, that it’s sent my down an interesting rabbit hole.
Before I get into this, I want to be clear that when I speak of the way people in my life have responded to me, I’m specifically talking about people in my life that I’ve seen or see as over me. Not better than me, but either an elder, superior, a mentor, things like that. So I’m not referring to those I see at my level.
That said, when I called D in tears—telling him how I wasn’t doing well and why—he did everything right. He was understanding. He let me talk. Told me he was sorry for the misunderstanding and my pain. Not verbatim, but things to that effect. It made me feel better, and calmer, but it didn’t fix things. Not yet. I needed to have some time to think after our talk.
The next day I sent a long email detailing out all the things that I was upset over. Going into much more detail as to why. Even though the previous day he’d been so understanding, I really felt that after he read my email, the talking would be over and he’d be done with me. Because I was doing something terrible…
I was questioning him.
Someone I saw over me. My mentor. And guide.
Questioning him isn’t something I do. Not that I can’t, but I don’t. That’s what I was taught my entire life. Not by my parents—though there were times when this was their philosophy too—but by others that claimed to be elders and/or over me. I’ve never been able to question without punishment. Whether that was through attack, shame, guilt tripping me, or making me think it was my fault. But I didn’t realize this until D responded the way he did.
When I asked him if he understood, he told me he did. That he respected how I felt because I am an intelligent person.
I was shocked. Not only did he not shame me, or blame me, but he never said I was being too sensitive. He didn’t say I needed to get over it. He was only supportive. He took responsibility for his part, and then talked me through any feelings of mine that might be pulling from something else. Because I was, in fact, triggered at the time over the Oregon shooting.
One thing I’ve learned from two years of dealing with Complex PTSD, is that when I’m triggered, I get very sensitive. A fact that D is aware of as well. So when I was having feelings stemming from another time and suddenly aiming at him, he didn’t shame me for that either. He wanted me to have self-compassion.
This is not my norm. Not with people I’m close to, that I also see as over me. So it made me spin even more. The realization sank in that this was how ALL those over me should have treated me, and it was hard to accept. It called into question every other person’s response and their reasoning.
Now I must rewrite my internal narrative, because D changed something for me. He showed me that a good person should not freak out when their integrity is called into question. Or when they are questioned period. That a decent person would rather get to the root of the issue, fix it, and move forward. There doesn’t need to be blame placed, just resolution. This was not what I knew to be true prior to now.
So this had me going, “Wait! What’s going on here?” I’ve ALWAYS blamed myself. No matter the circumstance. And something that I’ve noticed—which I believe feeds into my insecurity and sensitivity—is that when someone does respond well when I’m upset, I jump straight to self-shaming. I turn it inward, and use that to punish myself for being such a horrible person because I *questioned* them.
I’m sure there are times in my past where others I saw as above me, or mentors, and elders, did things right. But because I wasn’t so self-aware then, I didn’t see what was happening. When people did respond well, some would say things like, “I think you’re triggered,” or “You’re being really sensitive,” both things that were closely related to the shaming and blame that came from abusers. So even if they were well-intentioned responses, my PTSD brain chalked them up as the same kind of blame based response.
I think the difference with D is that he never told me I was being sensitive. He didn’t say anything about my feelings aside from he was sorry I was hurting. He didn’t tell me I was taking it harder because I was triggered. I told him that, because I’m now sufficiently self-aware to tell him that.
By not placing blame on me in any way, he allowed me to respond with more honesty. To tell him the details of why I was feeling the way I was. Which enabled me to separate the feelings that were there over the gun triggering, from the feelings I had with our misunderstanding. All because he didn’t get defensive or start blaming me.
It’s insane how one person responding in the right way can shift everything.
I’m now looking at major events in my life—times when I was very hurt and was blamed for my own pain. And at smaller events, where I was shamed for simply feeling. Guilt tripped for speaking up. And I can see very clearly how those responses would make me feel like I couldn’t open up and be honest with my feelings. It made me clam up, go inward. And that’s caused not only emotional shut downs, but also issues with my physical health.
Going through these past events is exhausting, and might seem like a needless pulling up of past shit, but it’s not. It’s helping me to rewrite my narrative. Because I’m not to blame for having feelings. I will take responsibility for things I’ve done wrong, I have no issues with that. But for simply speaking up, telling people when I’m hurt or confused, when I question their methods or choices—these things are not wrong doing on my part. People should be able to be questioned and not freak out on the person asking.
This is the narrative I’m rewriting…
Questioning people does not make me a bad person. Having hurt feelings doesn’t mean I’ve done anything wrong. I am an intelligent person, with wise things to say. When I have hurt feelings, it’s not simply because I’m overly sensitive or triggered. My feelings are valid, and I’m allowed to have them. I do not need to fear speaking up and asking questions. When people respond poorly, that reflects on them, not me. Their own defensiveness is a likely sign that they are more aware of their wrongdoing than they are letting on.
Rewriting this narrative is necessary for me to continue to heal. It makes me tired. Makes me sad. But is what I need in the long run. Because D was right. I am intelligent. What I say and feel is valid. And I need to see that just as much as he does.