Beware this is a long rambling post…
Being watched – paranoia or reality?
One thing I as the host often say to people is that I feel like people are always watching me. And no one in my circle of friends really challenges that. Except for the people in my new home state; they challenge me on this often because no one here really does watch me the same way as before. And in spite of knowing about my past, they really do believe I am worrying too much about what others think of me.
From their perspective and experience, it’s true. And without the added trauma history of my past, I’d agree with them 100%. But, and this is a big BUT, even though my perspective may be skewed (I always appreciate friends helping me adjust perspective and kicking my ass when necessary), the origins of these feelings are real. I can’t always verbalize these thoughts in a way that makes sense to outsiders.
So both perspectives are true. And each perspective matches alter personalities in our system. In general, I lack confidence in speaking to people because I never know what’s going to come out of my mouth. Then I worry about offending other people (trigger from past experience) with my opinions. Where I live now, I am not being watched by other people except in the usual sense.
Never Alone, always observed
But, sometimes I feel like I’m being watched. And in a conversation today, I realized that I am being watched. Not by outside people, but by my alter personalities who are observing and protecting me as I start to relax and be more myself around lots of people. They are feeling hyper-vigilant while the adult parts of me are ready to let go, relax, and show confidence in socializing and communicating verbally with people.
Sounds strange right? But maybe not so much to someone else with DID or who is close with an individual who has DID? It feels strange that right now I am my own worst enemy towards moving forward. At the same time, it also feels right and true because the parts of me who are scared and feeling hyper-vigilant are also the ones who were abused, shamed, criticized, and humiliated in public/private/around family/in the community all the time.
They are trying to protect the system (aka us) from experiencing that again. In doing so, they focus on everyone else’s communication and behavior while ignoring how we are appearing to everyone else. And my attention as host is split. Then other alters try to help by taking over and socializing or communicating. And if many of us try to communicate at the same time? Well that never ends in a good place either.
Stress of Communicating with Family While also Apartment Hunting
So this week was full of strangeness. I had to communicate with various family members – trying not to play favorites – and also spent a lot of time interacting with strangers as I went apartment hunting. In my world – talking to people = untold amounts of stress. I can only do that comfortably for short periods of time after a lot of internal preparation.
But I had goals to accomplish this week. Lots of them. One goal was to nail down an apartment I could call home for many years. Another was to go out someplace new and experience peripheral socializing. i.e. find someplace outside of my apartment where I could relax and maybe write blog posts or read or research information for the Resources page. I kind of did both by apartment hunting.
Now my choices are narrowed down to two options:
Option 1 offers a lot of amenities, but is kind of pricey. The space is large enough to accommodate my home office and living space while still small enough for me to feel comfortable. And it’s an open plan studio in a new construction building.
Option 2 is a smaller open plan studio in a renovated boarding house with less amenities and a price well within my budget. The space is open plan and has built-in shelving to help utilize the space in the best possible way. I’d have to think creatively and work with the owner, but can definitely fit office and living space.
Hiding Behind a Shield of Insecurity
I’ve spent a lot of time downplaying my skills and experience, hiding my natural strength and confidence under layers of shame or abuse-induced insecurity. Slowly but surely, those layers are being peeled away. But it’s at times like this – when I get wrapped around and twisted inside those memories without even realizing it – that I am holding myself back because of fear.
All I see is the negative. All I see is how people are reacting to me. All I feel is blame and responsibility for offending those people with my lack of (whatever) and inability to stay focused on the conversation during the interaction. I fear miscommunicating – being misheard and misunderstood – more than anything else.
DID makes following a conversation difficult sometimes. I switch unconsciously when I feel safe and comfortable. My alters and I all share thoughts and speak with the same voice and face most of the time. Only when feeling scared or angry do physical changes manifest. So most people don’t know if I am speaking to them or myself, and I’m not even sure sometimes.
It’s like living in a crazy-making world where everything I say is twisted around until I get into trouble. Past triggers meet present.
If I remember the conversation, great I can cover up alter opinions as thinking out loud or reflecting on information. The times when I don’t remember or when I switch because I feel threatened during social interaction or conversation are the ones that cause the most trouble. And also the experiences that cause my alter personalities to “watch” or “react to” everything with hyper-vigilance.
As I settle in to my new home, I find myself more and more frustrated with this insecurity about communication. For some reason, I feel more scared in the summer than I do any other time of the year. Yes, I deal with worsening symptoms, body pain, flashbacks, and so on other parts of the year. But I never feel as scared and mute then as I do now.
I chose to live alone, to be alone. And I enjoy my current lifestyle. But I feel so much anxiety and discomfort socializing because of internal expectations I never knew existed. As my alters share these expectations with me, we all realize that they are the foundations for this fear and insecurity. Something else to work on in therapy. Thanks alters for finally opening up.
Thanks for reading today’s ramble.