Back on the autism/ depression merry-go-round

Cheer up and dry your damp eyes

And tell me when it rains

And I’ll blend up that rainbow above you

And shoot it through your veins

‘Cause your heart has a lack of colour

And we should’ve known

That we’d grow up sooner or later 

‘Cause we wasted all our free time alone

– ‘Rainbow Veins’ by Owl City

 

A quick update.  Lately I’ve been thinking once again about whether I may be on the autism spectrum. A classmate recently confided to me that she was recently diagnosed with autism, and I see a lot of similarities in us/ in the way we interact. So many of the female features fit so well with my experiences, though I wouldn’t say I have any of the stereotypical behaviours usually seen in autism. It would explain A LOT, though I’m not 100% convinced. Either way, I very much doubt I would be allowed to be re-tested again (after having been assessed for autism twice previously). Sometimes I just feel like some bizarre Aspie-Neurotypical hybrid who can’t relate to anyone. Even if I could be assessed again, I’m not sure the results would be any more conclusive than they were the last time.

The thing is, I usually only tend to wonder if I’m autistic when I’m depressed. I’m not sure if I’m depressed because my social skills are so poor or if my social skills are so poor because I’m depressed. I’m a mess lately. I’m crying myself to sleep, getting very little sleep, and binge eating. I feel like I don’t belong on my course because all of my classmates seem to have insightful and interesting views and knowledge to share, and I have nothing intelligent to say. I can’t concentrate and I can’t think straight. My future seems fairly hopeless. And I know it’s ridiculous because on paper, my life looks great. But I feel so hollow and useless. Depression 1 – Gemma 0.

I’d say depression is definitely my biggest problem these days. It’s not that anxiety doesn’t still make life extremely difficult much of the time; it’s just that I seem to be better at dealing with that than with depression. I mean, I’ve certainly been a mess at times during my course with anxiety, especially before the presentations (in fact, that was probably the worst my anxiety has been in years), but at least that was shorter-lived. I’m only mildly-moderately depressed right now, and this has only been going on for about 4 weeks now, but I can’t take it. I’m sitting here writing this at 1am when I need to be up at 6 because I kept crying for 2 hours and couldn’t sleep. And this is better than lying alone in the dark with nothing to distract me from my thoughts. You cannot comprehend how much I hate myself. I always do but I hate myself even more intensely right now. I cannot stand myself. And I’m convinced that everyone else hates me too. Just for existing.

I was messaging the classmate I mentioned above the other day about mental health related stuff, and she suggested that I’m probably still experiencing these intense feelings of self-hatred because of the bullying and other stuff that happened to me when I was younger. I think she’s spot on. The main problem with this though, and I can’t remember if I mentioned this before, is that CMHT have effectively abandoned me. They won’t allow me to be referred back to them, as I discovered a year and a bit ago when I was going through a rough patch and went to my GP to see about being referred back. This is fine with me because quite frankly CMHT did f*** all to help me in the 2 years or so that I attended their appointments. But I feel that if they aren’t going to help me, they should at the very least point me in the direction of somewhere that CAN. I asked the GP, “Well what happens if I become suicidal again then?” Her reply: “Well you can get in touch with us and see what we can do”. Oh, you mean like tell me my mental health problems are due to me being pathetic and not just getting over it (and on one occasion very reluctantly prescribing me an SSRI) like you’ve done almost every single time I’ve been about something mental health related before? I can’t wait! It’s no wonder so many people totally lose faith in the mental health services in this country. They are a disgrace. Can you imagine if we treated physical health problems in the same way?


Patient: “I’ve discovered a lump and I’m worried it’s cancer”

Health services: “Okay, well we’ll put you on the waiting list but it’s looking like about 13 weeks or more at the moment”

Patient: “…But I’m worried it’s cancer. It could get even more serious if I wait that long to see someone.”

Health services: “Well unfortunately that’s all I can offer you. *Hands the patient a leaflet on making healthier lifestyle changes*


Patient: “I’ve got a heart condition and I’d like to see a specialist”

Health services: “It actually looks like we had appointments with you over the course of 2 years a few years ago, so I don’t think there’s anything else we can do to help you”.

Patient: “Yes but it’s getting worse. I had a heart attack last month”.

Health services: “Well unless you’re having a heart attack at the moment I’m afraid we can’t help you. I’m sure you’ve learned enough by now that you can manage on your own”.


 

A counsellor at my university recently made me aware of a private therapy practice that accepts donations, and I’ve been put on the waiting list, but they only do talking therapy there. While it helps me slightly in the short-term, it doesn’t change anything because it doesn’t get to the core of my problems. I’ll give it a go, but it seems that unless you can afford upwards of £75 an hour for private CBT/ psychotherapy, the help out there isn’t great. And who CAN afford £75 per session? Even if I managed to get a job in the ecology/ conservation sector after graduating and saved up for a few years, I’d probably still be struggling to afford the number of appointments that I’d need to make real progress. It’s not exactly a sector you go into to make a lot of money. But what enrages me all the more is that people who are long-term unemployed due to mental health problems would NEVER be able to afford this. The system fails those who need it the most.

I don’t know where I’m going with this post. I suppose I just needed to vent and to get some of these thoughts out of my mind. I should probably go to bed now.

 

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Me walking into my 9am tomorrow today

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My First Date

“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” – Charlie Chaplin


Just in case you ever thought YOU were awkward…

It was a cold but sunny day in early December 2016. One of the men I had been speaking to on an online dating site and I were going to meet and it would be my first ever actual date! To say I was anxious is an understatement!

We were supposed to be meeting for coffee in the city centre. I arrived first and checked out the café, but it was quite crowded and I was too anxious to go inside. I waited outside for a little while but I was getting more and more anxious. I went into a shop initially to get out of the cold, but then my date texted me saying he’d arrived. For some reason my brain went into complete panic mode and I then – in much the same fashion as I did with my teenage crushes – proceeded to do everything I could to avoid him (and essentially muck him about) for over an hour. I was very close to having a panic attack and kept moving from shop to shop, messaging him to see where he was, terrified that I’d bump into him. (Yes, this is how social anxiety makes you treat a promising first date and someone you really want to get to know. Lovely, isn’t it?)

My date was extremely patient and initially suggested that I go and meet him in the other, less crowded coffee shop he was now sitting in to get out of the cold. I was too scared to even do this, so he then suggested that we each grab coffee separately (decaf for me of course) and then try to meet up somewhere nearby. The coffee shop that I ended up going into was just across the street from the one he was in, and as pathetic as it sounds, I sneaked past very quickly, looking in the windows, to make sure he hadn’t spotted me.

Once I’d bought my coffee and was back outside, I went to take a sip but the lid wasn’t on properly so I ended up spilling it all over myself. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at this point. So much had gone wrong already. Two days before, I’d ended up in A&E after I’d collapsed at work, and I still wasn’t feeling 100%. The day before, our washing machine had broken, and since everyone else had been hogging it, the outfit I wanted to wear (and most of my other clothes) were still in my laundry basket. This didn’t help my anxiety. I ended up having to hand wash what I wanted to wear on the date in the bathroom sink.

We eventually decided to meet in Princes Street Gardens, where I sat on a bench, sipped my coffee, and waited. He texted me saying that he was in the gardens and trying to find me. I was incredulous that he hadn’t just decided to call it a day at this point. He appeared and sat what seemed like a mile away from me on the bench (I think he was just worried that he’d scare me off if he sat right next to me). I was so anxious that I couldn’t even look at him, and we rather awkwardly just texted each other for the first few minutes after he’d sat down. I was gradually able to speak to him after a little while. (Again, I’m aware that all of this probably sounds completely pathetic to anyone who doesn’t have SA, but I was so, so grateful that he was so patient and understanding despite my anxiety doing its best to ruin things for us). Then, in yet another one of my anxiety’s hilarious jokes, the coffee and the anxiety were having their effects and I suddenly really needed the loo. I felt so awkward and awful having to tell him this after all the bother I’d already put him through that day, but he seemed totally unfazed by it and we walked together to a department store in search of the toilets. As we were just leaving the gardens, the one o’ clock gun went off. Having lived in/ around Edinburgh all my life, I was completely unperturbed by it, but as he hasn’t, and he also has an aversion to loud noises, he pretty much ducked for cover. I think he was a bit embarrassed by this but I found it both funny and adorable.

My jaw just about hit the floor when I came out of the toilets and saw my date still standing there. There had been a huge queue so I’d made him wait around for even longer. I was so convinced that he was going to do a runner!

We wandered back along Princes Street and went to a café for some lunch. I was so anxious about eating in front of him. Once again, I know it sounds pathetic/ stupid, but I was too anxious to let him see me eat, so he kindly agreed to look away/ look at his phone while I ate my lunch. To anyone else eating there (and probably to anyone reading this), it probably looked as if we’d just had a huge argument about something and weren’t talking. To anyone reading this who thinks this was a bad thing to do on his part because he was just “enabling” my anxiety in this situation, you couldn’t be more wrong. I can see your point to an extent but (Warning: mini-rant coming on here!):

  1. The fact that he was so patient in these situations in the early stage of our relationship meant that I felt able to trust him and gradually become more comfortable around him. I felt he accepted me, anxiety and all. I gradually became a lot more comfortable in situations I was extremely anxious in before. For example, after about a month and half together, I was able to eat in front of him with no problems whatsoever.

 

  1. I am an adult with an anxiety disorder. I have had said anxiety disorder since I was around 4 years old. Therefore, I think I’m more qualified than you are to determine what I can or can’t do at any given time. It’s not your place to push me to do stuff that makes me extremely anxious because “You should be able to do this like everyone else” or “There’s nothing scary about this, you’re being illogical”. No shit. How I wish anxiety disorders operated in logic…

 

  1. “Flooding” (in the context of anxiety) is a thing. Over the years, I’ve taken baby steps with my anxiety in a wide variety of situations and I’ve made some great progress. But there is such a thing as doing too much, too soon, too fast, and that can be counter-productive.

 

After we’d both eaten, we pretty much just wandered around the city centre for another hour or so. He later said that he’d just wanted to spend as much time with me as possible and didn’t want me to go. I didn’t want the date to end either. Eventually, he walked with me to my bus stop, and after some initial awkwardness and hesitation on my part, we hugged. I was extremely anxious when it came to physical intimacy in the early stages of our relationship, but he was again very patient and understanding with this, and I gradually overcame my anxiety around that too. It was so great to hug him despite my anxiety. I felt so happy after our date and I couldn’t wait to see him again. We arranged a second date a few days later. Over two years later, we’re still together. Yes, I realise that I am ridiculously lucky. This almost never happens – I went on my first ever date and met such an amazing person. I’m so lucky to have found him.

I’m not saying that just because I found someone amazing, you will too. My boyfriend has suffered with depression in the past (and still does sometimes), and I reckon he likely has mild SA as well, which is probably why he is so understanding. But I have a friend who has also had lifelong social anxiety and her boyfriend has SA too. I know someone else who has suffered with social anxiety and selective mutism for years and is in a long-term relationship. Particularly if you’re still quite young, it’s at least within the realms of possibility. People with even severe SA can and do end up in relationships. All I’m saying is, don’t write yourself off yet.

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Guided Tour

Following on from my last post, for the second of the dreaded oral presentations, everyone in my class had to give a 20-minute guided tour of part of a museum to a group of 5-7 other classmates and a tutor. Again, I was a complete wreck for nearly 2 weeks leading up to this assignment, and I again had nearly constant chest pain for 3 days leading up to it, and struggled to sleep. I was again able to let the tutor in charge know about this, and she was thankfully very understanding, saying she was glad to hear that I again wanted to push myself and present in front of my classmates if I could. We agreed that I could give my presentation first if I was going to go ahead with it, to get it over and done with.

I practised and practised, and the study skills person I’ve been assigned also agreed to come to the museum and listen to me practise a couple of days before the actual talk. I also met up with a couple of classmates the day before and practised in front of them, which was quite nerve-wracking by really helpful. They were really nice about it too.

On the actual day, I decided to go ahead and do my presentation in front of my classmates, WITHOUT taking any beta-blockers. It was absolutely nerve-wracking and I was visibly shaking, and my voice was shaking, to begin with. But it again went a lot better than I thought it would and my classmates were really great. I’m so hard on myself all the time, but even I was proud of myself for doing a talk like that, in a public place, without any anti-anxiety medication. Though you can’t imagine the sense of relief I felt after it was over!

At the end of the day, my classmates and I were all asked to give informal comments on each talk: one about what was good and one about what could have been improved on. While most of the classmates in my group said that I spoke very quietly and could have been louder, most of them also said that they could tell I was very passionate about the topic. This gives me hope for the future, in terms of possibly having to present/ give talks to people if I am lucky enough to get into an ecology/ conservation related career. It at least seems a lot less hopeless and a little more attainable now.

After both of the two oral presentation assignments, I felt really ill (flu-like) for 2-3 days afterwards. Some of my classmates had similar experiences. I suppose it’s probably all that stress weakening our immune systems. I swear sometimes that our tutors are trying to slowly kill us off. 😛 The night after both oral presentations, I slept for about 10 hours straight, (partly) catching up on all the sleep I’d missed before. I slept like a baby.

Doing both of the oral presentations really boosted my confidence in terms of dealing with public speaking situations like that in the future. There’s a strange sense of power in knowing that you have it within you to do what terrifies you the most.

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My Neck, My Back, My Social Anxiety Attack

I mentioned in my last post that the first term of my master’s had pushed me to the edge with my anxiety. Two solo public speaking assignments were to blame. For the first of these, we each had to give a 15-minute talk/ Q and A in front of our classmates and tutors. I was, admittedly, an absolute mess in the two weeks running up to this. I barely slept and would wake up in the middle of the night crying, unable to get back to sleep, because I was so anxious/ stressed out about it, and I couldn’t relax for a second or even think about anything else.  I had more or less constant chest pain for 4 days. So I ended up having to go back to my GP to get another prescription for beta-blockers. I’d made one of my tutors aware that I have an anxiety disorder, and she did say that I could choose to present only to the tutors, but being as masochistic? determined as I am, I really wanted to present to the whole class, just like everyone else. We agreed that I could go second (I wanted to get it over with asap but I didn’t want to be first) if I did indeed decide to do this.

On the actual day, I took a beta-blocker and decided (in a fit of madness) that I’d go for it. Unfortunately though, I think there had been a misunderstanding with my tutor. She was choosing the order that everyone else would present in randomly, and the third person had already gone without me being called up. I was getting increasingly more anxious, wondering when I would be going, and worrying that I would have a panic attack if enough time elapsed for the beta-blocker to wear off. We were on about the 7th person when my tutor finally seemed to remember, came over to me while the room was silent and said “Oh sorry. Would you like to go now?” I sheepishly replied “…Yeeaahhh”, and got up and just gave my presentation there and then. The propranolol definitely took the edge off but I was still very anxious.

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Having severe anxiety but pretending everything is fine like:

The presentation itself went a lot better than I thought it would. I still can’t believe I did it, though my volunteer role giving presentations to primary school kids definitely helped. (I still can’t believe I did that either actually!) I do still feel really embarrassed/ ashamed about my tutor asking me in front of the whole class though. I’m worried that they maybe think I got special treatment or that I was just being pathetic, or maybe they wonder what’s wrong with me. Then again, maybe that’s just self-stigma. Logically, I know it’s not my fault that I have an anxiety disorder, and I certainly didn’t CHOOSE to be this way. I don’t see how how getting “special treatment” in this case is any different from someone with dyslexia getting “special treatment” with more time in exams/ computer software to read their work back to them. Yet I still feel SO much shame around my anxiety. I still have this paranoia that no one would accept me if they knew, or that I’d be an even easier target if people knew. My SA doesn’t define me but it is a part of my experiences and probably always will be. I wonder if the massive amount of shame and self-stigma that I experience is a large part of why I struggle so much to let other people in, and to make friends. Since my late teen years, anyone who I’ve been able to have more than just a very temporary friendship with has known about my issues. Once people know, I feel I can relax a little bit and let more of my true self show.  I don’t have to put all of my energy into trying to hide my anxiety.

A couple of days after the oral presentations, at a gathering at some of my other classmates’s flat, one of my classmates asked me why I got to choose when to present. I don’t think she meant it maliciously, though I can never be 100% sure. I got a bit flustered and ended up blurting out something about getting to choose to when to present because I had “other things going on” (alluding to my mental health). Though she seemed to interpret this as me getting to present earlier because I was working later on that day/ had other commitments. I didn’t correct her and she didn’t ask any more questions about it.

I really wish I felt able to be more open about my mental health than I am. This is kind of ironic, I know, given that I write this blog. But I do still really struggle to be open with people in a face-to-face setting. I know it perhaps sounds ridiculous, and I feel terrible for writing this, given that I write a mental health blog, but I also worry about how being open about my mental health would impact on my future career prospects. Stigma is still very much alive in 2019, unfortunately. And yes, it’s incredibly stupid, because if I had an employer who was understanding and supportive around mental health, I (like millions of other people in the UK and around the world) could do a much better job.

I suppose that’s my challenge. To eventually be open about it and to raise awareness and educate people. I don’t want to scream it from the rooftops but I also don’t want to have to expend enormous amounts of energy trying to hide that part of myself. I hope that when I’m an old woman, young people will look back at the way mental health conditions were stigmatised in much the same way that many of us look back in horror now at the way gay people were treated when my dad was young. I want to be brave and I want to be part of that change.

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Unstoppable?

In case you wanted to know what having high-functioning anxiety is like in song form. I’ve felt like this throughout much of my master’s. I hide it pretty well sometimes. 


Hi everyone. I’m sorry that I haven’t posted on here over the Christmas break like I aimed to. During my undergrad, I’d always set myself impossible amounts of stuff to do over the breaks and then get really annoyed with myself for not doing it all, even though I still achieved a lot. It seems I’ve done the same thing again over the Christmas break. Depression (SAD?) has also made a return lately, and I’ve felt pretty exhausted much of the time. Thankfully, and mercifully, it’s fairly mild* these days. I can just about deal with being a crying mess every now and then if it means I don’t have to feel suicidal again. I’ll just do what I can to get through it and hopefully it’ll pass eventually. I find that taking vitamin D, using a SAD lamp, getting outside every day (especially in nature, if possible), exercise (when I can be bothered**), getting enough sleep (*laughs maniacally*), and actually penciling in downtime for myself, all help. I’ve also been working my way through a book on overcoming low self-esteem, and doing daily mindfulness, which are also helping. If you’re like me and find all the spiritual mumbo-jumbo that often comes with mindfulness a bit off-putting, I can recommend the Headspace app, especially if you’re also too busy to fit 30-60 minutes of mindfulness into each day, like some mindfulness courses recommend (no, they’re not paying me!)

* I suppose mild depression is a bit like someone being mildly pregnant but still…

**Though to be honest, I’d like to know who greets the prospect of going on a 5k run with the thought: “Wow! I can SO be bothered today! I am so ready!” ,and not: “Uurggghhhh…”

I’ve just started the second term of my master’s and it seems I’ll likely be working straight through to mid-August now, so I thought I’d write a quick update just in case I don’t find the time/ energy to write any other posts before then. The master’s has actually gone far better so far than I thought it would. It’s been far better than my first time at university, and while I still wouldn’t say I’ve made any friends as such, I have at least been able to talk to plenty of my classmates in class. There are only about 30 of us in total, and the smaller group definitely helps. I’ve even done stuff with my classmates outside of university, which has been a great experience. I’m really grateful to them for being so nice/ welcoming to me. Even if I don’t end up staying in touch with anyone from my course, I’ll at least finally have some nice memories from my time at university.

I’ll hopefully write in more detail about this in a later post/s, but my master’s really has pushed me to the edge in terms of my anxiety, yet I’ve done the impossible and gotten through it. I’ve struggled with my mental health at times but I’ve gotten through it. I’ve also managed the coursework/ time-management side of things a lot better than I thought I would, and while I did hand a couple of things in at the last minute, I didn’t need any extensions. This is a huge improvement from my undergraduate degree. This is partly down to me not being severely depressed (like I was during much of my undergrad), but also, I think, partly down to me having learned some coping mechanisms over the years. For example, I no longer force myself to keep working when I’m feeling extremely stressed out; I always take a break for at least 20 minutes when the stress builds up to this level. Not only is it better for my mental health, but I’m actually a lot more productive that way. I used to just force myself to keep working even if I was so stressed out that I was crying, and I’d end up just burning myself out and getting nothing done. I think being just that little bit older helps too.

I also saw a counsellor for a few weeks in the autumn, and while I do feel that it helped, we’re agreed that I’d benefit from longer-term therapy. I’ve never really discussed with anyone the emotional and sometimes physical abuse I experienced from my dad, or the bullying I experienced in high school, in much detail with anyone. I believe those experiences lie at the core of why I feel the way I do about myself/ my low self-esteem. I definitely can’t afford private therapy right now, and I don’t think I will ever be able to, but another counsellor at my university has made me aware of a couple of places in Edinburgh that take donations rather than having a set price per session. I think it’s a bit much for me to process all the emotions that might bring up right now alongside everything else at the moment, but I hope to go for counselling there as soon as I finish my master’s.

During the break from uni, I visited my boyfriend’s family over new year again. I was there for about 10 days in total this time, which I think is the longest I’ve visited for so far. We visited Inverness for a couple of days for his brother’s birthday and I unfortunately had a bit of a breakdown. My depression had been pretty bad, and to cut a long story short, I ended up crying uncontrollably into my breakfast cereal – at the breakfast buffet of the hotel we were all staying in – in front of everyone. (Because y’know…that’s normal). I was absolutely mortified and just left the table, quickly explaining to my boyfriend that my depression was really bad and I didn’t think I should be around his family at the moment, before rushing back to our hotel room. I was absolutely mortified. I feel absolutely humiliated if I cry in public/ in front of pretty much anyone except my boyfriend. I was convinced I’d just ruined everything with his family. I don’t even know where my head was at that morning, but I was full-on heave-sobbing as if someone had just died, and I felt like hurting myself. (I didn’t). I do unfortunately still have those feelings whenever I’m feeling extremely distressed like that – even though it’s been nearly seven years now since the last time I self-injured – but thankfully I haven’t acted on them. It would be too easy to go down that road again. It’s like an addiction. The best option is never to self-harm. The next best option is to never do it again.

After explaining to his family that I really wasn’t feeling great, my boyfriend came and found me and just cuddled me/ spoke to me until I had calmed down. I’m so lucky to have him. I was a mess.

When I had eventually calmed down, stopped crying, and washed my face, my boyfriend rushed down to see if the breakfast bar was still open, as I hadn’t eaten anything yet. I was mortified, going out where people could see me again, as my eyes were all bloodshot, but I had to rush downstairs if I wanted to get any food. I was quite hungry by this point, and anyone who knows me well knows that food is pretty much my number one priority in life. My boyfriend got me some cereal and we sat down at a table together. I had just gotten to the point where I was well enough to be joking with him that I’d be having a Pavlovian response to muesli from then on, and start crying uncontrollably whenever I so much as saw the box, when his mum texted him. She said that she was sorry to hear that I wasn’t feeling great and that I shouldn’t feel I need to hide any part of who I am around them. My boyfriend’s brother was also encouraging. I’m so glad that his family are so understanding when it comes to mental health stuff – a lot more understanding than most people. They’ve been so nice to me even though I’ve been an anxious wreck around them. My stupid brain is still trying to convince me that his family all hate me, but I’m sure that’s my low self-esteem talking. I hope I’ll be more comfortable around them/ more able to have a conversation with them eventually.

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WTF? – Part 4

During our 2-hour conversation, my dad’s partner also said to me (regarding my anxiety) “If you have a problem, maybe you should go to the doctors. Have you never thought to work on that?” I just wanted to launch into the whole history there, and how the GPs and the vast majority of mental health professionals I saw before were about as much use as no use (some were worse, actually), but he moved on too fast. I think a lot of people who have no direct experience of mental health problems think that it’s just a case of going to see a GP – who is of course 100% understanding and sympathetic, and doesn’t just blame you for your problems – who will prescribe you a magic pill/ magic counselling that will solve all of your problems and cure you. Never mind mental health spending cuts. Never mind that most of them have never even heard of the condition you’re presenting with.

I feel that perhaps my dad’s partner is projecting on me. He clearly does have his own issues – I don’t feel a healthy adult would ever treat someone the way he’s treated me, unless of course that person had been extremely offensive towards them. But it’s clear to me that he will never address his own issues. He will continue to blame other people and never question any of his own negative beliefs about the world. And I find that really sad for him. But I know he would never go to therapy or anything like that, because he sees that as “weak” or self-indulgent.

When he and my dad finally spoke to my sisters and I about their relationship, my dad’s partner said that he doesn’t have anything against me. I know that’s the closest I’m ever going to get to an admission/ apology from him. I know he will NEVER apologise for what happened in Florida, and I’m just going to have to deal with that. That still gets to me sometimes. It’s like he’s saying that he DOES still think I’m a horrible person and that I was in the wrong. I can forgive him to an extent, but I feel I won’t ever be able to trust him. I don’t like being around someone who is so toxic to my mental health and to my self-esteem. Even now, I still feel like I’m walking on eggshells and have to constantly bite my tongue around him, for fear that the tiniest thing will set him off again. It’s not a pleasant feeling.

A couple of months ago, my dad and his partner were round for dinner. My dad’s partner had been drinking and said to us that you can just pick out a tiny little thing about someone, like asking them if they had showered that morning, or that you saw them biting their nails, and you can instantly make them insecure. I suppose that showed me what kind of person he is. He also talked about getting (more than) even with his childhood bullies, beating one up and asking “Where are your pals now?”, and saying to another, “Your mum isn’t here to hear you screaming now”. He knocked another off his bike. I get it, I really do. We were both bullied horrifically and it will probably stay with both of us for life. But I have never once had the urge to be a bully myself. THAT is the difference between me and him. I don’t want other people to hurt like I hurt. I don’t want to pass on the pain. I know it sounds pathetic but what he said/ did to me while we were in Florida still affects me now and I don’t know how to get over it.

I really do feel for him. He has never told anyone in his family that he’s gay, or about being with my dad. I’m sure his family know; it’s just that they don’t WANT to know. He constantly has to lie about where he is/ who he’s going with. He lives with his parents and is worried that they’ll kick him out if he ever tells them. It must be horrible have to live two separate lives and keep your identity a secret. I just feel stuck because I don’t really know how to get on with him when I know anything could set him off again.

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WTF? – Part 3

Out of the things my dad’s partner listed that were annoying him about me, there was nothing I had done any different to anyone else in my family. In fact, in some ways my siblings could be considered more disrespectful than I am but he’s never had a problem with any of them. This combined with the bullying I experienced in the past made me feel that there’s something fundamentally wrong with me, and that no matter what I do, it’s wrong. I was so paranoid around other people (even more so than usual) during that holiday as a result of all the vitriol he’d thrown at me during that conversation.

Time went on and on and I felt we were just going round in circles with the discussion. I have never known an adult to act so immaturely and so irrationally. No matter how many times my parents and I tried to explain, he couldn’t seem to understand that his judgements about me and who I am weren’t actually objective reality. My dad’s partner is exactly the same with certain things that other people in my family have done, and that other people he’s met have done, though I don’t think he’s reacted as aggressively towards them as he did towards me that time. My dad said his partner is just like that sometimes, and can be really irrational. Once he makes up his mind about something/ why someone has acted a certain way, or said something, you just can’t change his mind. He once shouted at a shop assistant, “Well I know who WON’T be getting a service superstar award!”, seemingly just because the shop assistant had looked at him the wrong way.

My dad’s partner wanted me to apologise. I considered this carefully but I couldn’t bring myself to apologise for being disrespectful to him, because I would really be lying. And I didn’t see how this would help either of us. If I had apologised to him for being disrespectful, it would have only destroyed what tiny fragment of my self-esteem remained, and would only have made me resent him all the more. If I had apologised, it would have only confirmed his apparent belief that other people are out to get him, and that his perception is 100% objective reality at all times. Yet again, I was trying to help him. But he obviously couldn’t see this. I apologised that he’d perceived the way I was talking to him had been rude. He still wasn’t happy and still wasn’t getting it.

I just wanted an apology from him really. That – and for us to make up and start to enjoy the holiday- was all I really wanted out of the conversation. I had been damn near suicidal for the past 2 days, yet despite this, and all the horrible things he’d said about me, a simple apology would have made it all okay, and I would’ve forgiven him. He refused to apologise to me because he thinks this is a sign of weakness, due to the way he’s been raised. This admission was the closest I ever got to an apology.

Normally in situation like this, I would just acquiesce for the good of social harmony. But I was just so sick and tired of being a doormat and NEVER standing up for myself, even when I know the other person is being completely unreasonable. I was adamant that I wasn’t going to let someone bully me into submission AGAIN. So I stood firm. I would apologise that he’d taken what I’d said in the way he did but I wasn’t going to apologise for something that I hadn’t done and that he was being totally unreasonable about. When my dad’s partner realised that I wasn’t going to apologise, he went off on one again, and stormed off from the table, like a teenager having a strop. I felt awful as he was crying and had clearly been miserable for the last couple of days too, but I was still glad that I had stood up for myself and hadn’t just let him walk all over me.

My dad told me the next morning that it had been a really long night. He said his partner had been so emotional and my dad couldn’t rationalise with him or get any sense out of him whatsoever. My dad’s partner continued to not talk to me for the rest of the holiday. I had tried to keep the communication channels open but he kept closing them. It did unfortunately mean that the holiday was a lot less enjoyable than it could have been, but I enjoyed what I could.

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