April 27, 2020 at 11:23 am #351588Boris1010Participant
Hi Forum Folke,
Well… I’m also not sure where to even begin.
Plus, I’m having a tough time writing this… this is revision #4 at least.
I decided my life history isn’t necessary to what I’m looking for, though I’ll of course be happy to answer any questions.
The long and short of it is simply that I’ve been a social cripple since age ten, when my parents split up and my whole world came crashing down around me. I went from a normal ten-year-old to an intensely shy, withdrawn, socially awkward and timid boy… and it hasn’t become a lot better in the intervening years (I’ll be 67 this June) except for the last 3 years, post-AA.
Autism runs in my family, and I’ve been diagnosed as being an “extremely high-functioning Asperger’s” case. It would explain a lot of things about my adolescent years… the inability to look anyone in the eye, the borderline obsessive behavior towards many things… Alcoholism also runs in the family, and it showed up in me, as well.
Anyway, what everything boils down to is this: I don’t react emotionally to people, other than negatively if they become an irritant. My overall life outlook is similar: life is either bad, or neutral… but never good.
I’ve been fighting major clinical depression for over twenty years; can’t even remember how many different therapists I’ve seen, each with his own idea of what to prescribe for it. Always with the pills. Tried ’em all, and encountered a whole slew of interesting side-effects, but very little relief… or progress on why I was so depressed. they probably helped with mood stabilization and prevented me from suiciding, but not a lot more than that. Came on gradually starting in my 30’s as SADD, and slowly escalated into year-round depression, deepening over time. I’ve heard that depression is simply anger turned inward… seems as likely as anything else I’ve heard, and I certainly have issues with anger.
The more depressed I became, the more emotionally numb I became, absolutely indifferent to people one way or another. I’ve often wondered if I was becoming a sociopath or something. The darker side of the emotional spectrum works just fine, thanks… but the opposite end of the spectrum? Nope. As I said, things are either bad, or not bad, but never good.
I absolutely cannot remember the last time I was excited over something, or eagerly looking forward to something, or jazzed about something I was doing right then… just neutral, numb, indifferent. Plodding, marching… but never dancing.
I married very young, at 19, fresh into the US Navy, and such large decisions made at such a young age seldom work out well… and that was the case for me. First, I was nineteen going on fourteen; extremely immature for my age (emotionally, socially, you name it.) We’re actually still married (48 years), but that’s as much due to my perfecting the art of being a doormat as to anything else. My abysmally low self-esteem told me I didn’t deserve any better, so I accepted/tolerated serial infidelities as no more than my due. I was intensely self-involved and selfish, and basically a loner anyway (I really had no business getting married, but tell that to a horny, immature nineteen-year-old), and was pretty much emotionally absent from things, and she’s an intensely social creature… you do the math.
So I find myself here, now, 67 years old, an AA member for the last three years, and making more progress on myself in those three years than in all the prior years with the paid professionals and their damned pills. At least NOW, I’m aware of the issues I face, and can modify my behavior (or apologize if I didn’t recognize going off the rails at the time.) The status of my marriage is one of… not sure how to describe it… committed, caring, in-for-the-long-haul… but there’s no love in it. I care for her, I care what happens to her, I would never wish anything bad for her, I would never (knowingly-in-advance) do anything bad to her, I want nothing but the best for her… but I just don’t feel much of anything for her, and I’m now realizing that I never really did. It’s more a loyalty/obligation thing: I took a solemn vow, and I meant it and still do, and there’s been a whole lot of life we’ve faced together (with her at the helm pretty much; I always play a supporting role), and I can’t just discount it all.
My reason for this post is this (finally… ): As I said, I’m pretty much emotionally numb, and I just don’t react to people very much. So imagine my consternation and confusion when I met a woman at an AA meeting (our first, oddly enough, for both of us) and was immediately blindsided by such a rush of emotion, the likes of which I have never experienced in all of my life. And all from that other end of the emotional spectrum that I thought was dead, or that I never had in the first place. Love (I think… how would I know?), joy, anticipation, eagerness, a fierce desire to protect and nurture, to be firm bedrock on which she could regain her feet… and so much more that I can’t even begin to describe (I’m not really on speaking terms with my emotions, other than the dark ones.)
It’s like she threw some switch that somehow turned on all those emotions I’ve not been feeling for so very long; I find myself crying (the poignant, happy kind) over passages of music, or over many things in my mound of self-help books when I read them (AA, Buddhism, a whole scattered lot if them), or just in joy of being alive. I finally feel alive and happy to be that way; I no longer feel that things would be better if I were to just not wake up tomorrow.
So of course, I want to be with her full-time, to follow this new way of existing, but there are so many complications (aren’t there always?) First, I’m 67 and she’s 52… that’s nearly a generation of separation; not cradle-robbing, but within shooting distance of it. She’s married, but her husband has filed for divorce (ten years of living with an alcoholic was enough for him), I’M married, but only legally/morally/obligationally… and I am simply not the kind of person that could live with buying my own happiness at the expense of someone elses (namely, my wife.)
So, there’s a lot more detail, but it’s only supportive, not germane to the issue. I am absolutely torn asunder over what to do, over how to handle this. My head is telling me one thing, but for once, my heart is fighting back, and has an agenda of it’s own… and it’s not listening. I don’t want to hurt my wife, but I don’t want to lose what I’ve found, either. The thought, now, of going back into that dead, gray emotional void is just intolerable. I can’t go… I can’t stay… this is the emotional equivalent of the “bottom” you hear alcoholics and addicts talk about, that turning point where they are forced into change because they can no longer stand the life that drinking causes, but can’t continue without drinking either.
She is NOT aware of the depth of my feelings for her, or towards her; we are friends, and are in regular contact through meetings, but more these days via text of phone or Zoom. She genuinely likes me, and is extremely grateful for my friendship (she has few friends, and her “home” is no more than a house with a hostile atmosphere; she lives in her own room and doesn’t come out very much.)
The REAL problem for me here is that emotions are not something I am accustomed to dealing with, and it feels like a battle I am woefully ill-equipped to fight. I also have a personal history of not knowing what I want… discovering something, becoming interested, immersing/learning, gearing up to do… and then just losing interest altogether right when it comes time to actually start DOING the thing I got interested in… so I absolutely do NOT trust what comes out of my head, either.
Head = untrustworthy, Heart= unknown territory… I simply do not know what to do, where to turn. I posted this here in “Emotional Mastery” because at least for me, it involves out-of-control emotions, and I could absolutely use a degree of mastery here.
Practicing mindfulness helps… but only for as long as I remain mindful, which at my level is hard to maintain. Meditation is unfamiliar and similarly difficult (probably doing it wrong anyway). Giving it up to my ‘higher power;… well, that’s another whole can of worms I’ll not open here.
I welcome thoughts, comments, suggestions; two heads are always better than one, especially when one of ’em is mine… and a whole forum-full of heads is even better!
So thanks for reading, and if I’m ready for the guys in white coats with butterfly nets, let me know. I won’t be surprised, and it might be the best answer anyway.April 27, 2020 at 12:55 pm #351796anitaParticipant
My retelling of your story (it helps me process information when I do that):
You think of yourself as having been a “normal ten-year-old”, before your parents split up and your “whole world came crashing down”. As a result you became “intensely shy, withdrawn, socially awkward and timid boy”.
At some point, you were diagnosed with “an extremely high-functioning Asperger’s”. You joined the Navy and got married at about 19. In your 30s you’ve been seasonally depressed, and clinically depressed at about 36 and onward. You were prescribed anti-depressants but “very little relief.. or progress”.
“The more depressed I became, the more emotionally numb I became, absolutely indifferent to people.. just neutral, numb, indifferent. Plodding, marching… but never dancing.. Things are either bad, or not bad, but never good. I absolutely cannot remember the last time I was excited over something, or eagerly looking forward to something”. In your 48 year marriage, you perfected the art of being a doormat (your words), and you played a supportive role. You “don’t feel much of anything for her.. never really did”, it’s a matter of “a loyalty/ obligation thing”, and you are aware that she had a series of extramarital affairs, or relationships.
At 67, you met a 52 year old woman in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and you experienced what I would call an emotional awakening: “joy, anticipation, eagerness, a fierce desire to protect and nurture.. it’s like she threw some switch that somehow turned on all those emotions… I find myself crying.. or just in joy of being alive. I finally feel alive and happy”.
The two of you are friends. She genuinely likes you. She is living in her own room, while her husband intends to divorce her, and you are living with your wife. The two of you did not proceed toward a romantic/love relationship yet and keep contact via text, phone and Zoom.
You wrote: “The thought, now, of going back into that dead, gray emotional void is just intolerable.. this is the emotional equivalent of the ‘bottom’ you hear alcoholics and addicts talk about, that turning point where they are forced to change.. emotions are not something I am accustomed to dealing with.. I simply do not know what to do, where to turn”.
My thoughts, my input: my overly simplistic suggestion would be: go for it, absolutely, live life, take this opportunity to truly live! You don’t have minor age children that you are responsible for, and your wife cheated on you multiple times, so.. go for this opportunity to experience a life worth living!
It is overly simplistic because emotional awakening is not a simple or easy process, it takes time and it requires support throughout.
The reason you shut down emotionally early on in life, starting 46 years ago, was that the emotions you experienced were so distressing that your brain/body shut down: minimize emotions= minimize distress.
When a person gets injured and becomes paralyzed, it takes a lot of physical therapy work to start walking again and it involves lots of effort and lots of pain. Similarly, for you to experience emotions again on an ongoing basis, it will take lots of work and pain, and someone there to help you.
I will be glad to communicate with you further, I have a lot more to say, more than one post should contain, so let me know what you think and I will be glad to reply to you every time you post.
anitaMay 1, 2020 at 6:13 am #352478Boris1010Participant
Thanks for taking the time to both approve the post and answer it thoughtfully. I was half-convinced you wouldn’t post it, as even to me it sounded like a Jr. high school “dear diary” entry (except for the history part.)
I just read another daily email from Hazeldon, and it talked about “… learning to listen to your heart for the first time…” That hit really close to home. I’ve been living from the neck up for the vast majority of my life… and this new voice is both confusing and disconcerting. I have a long history of going after things I *think* I’m interested in, and spend a lot of time learning and gearing up for them… only to drop them when it comes time to actually DO the thing I thought I was interested in doing. So as I said earlier, I don’t really have a lot of faith in my ideas of what I ‘want,’ and listening to my heart has no track record at all… though maybe that could be taken as a point in it’s favor.
My real problem is that as much as I think I want a chance at a fresh start, I’m not sure I can live with buying my own happiness at the expense of another’s. Knowing that the only way I can even try to go for it is to inflict such pain on another person just slams the brakes on everything. I mean, my wife’s not malevolent or deliberately mean… she genuinely cares about me, in her own way, and seems to want me to be happy. It’s not like my life with her is nothing but unmitigated misery… we do things together and have our little routines and rituals and all… but it’s so sterile for me, no joy, no real happiness.
She also is not aware of the nature of my feelings towards her (I don’t know when or how I became such a secretive soul, but I always seem to feel like I have to hide everything from everyone, especially who I really am… something I’m not even sure of myself.) Like so many other alcoholics (or addicts of any stripe), I am a “collector of masks,” one for any and every occasion. Nobody ever gets to see the ‘real’ me, ever gets an authentic, unedited reaction from me; every response gets parsed by the ‘context’ I’m in, the kind of people I’m with. I’ve no idea why this need to hide seems so important, but it is, and it’s how I’ve operated for many decades. And perhaps the saddest thing of all is that there’s a mask for her, too, and that’s what she sees. I’ve become extremely good at hiding what’s behind that mask, and apparently the price for that is the mess I find myself in right now.
I’m not even sure what it is that I’m looking for here, beyond validation of what ‘this new voice’ seems to be telling me, which you’ve already given me. And I guess that only I can determine just how high a price I’m willing to pay for a shot at the brass ring. Whatever else may be true of me, I’ve always been an extremely gentle soul, and the thought of causing such pain to another person is distressing in the extreme. Plus, I don’t feel that I’m worth that cost, that I have any right to do something like that to another. By what right do trash somebody’s life so I can improve (*maybe*) my own? AA preaches acceptance a very great deal, and it also seems to figure prominently in Buddhist thought (unless I misinterpret what I read), and they also talk a very great deal about guidance from a ‘higher power;’ well, the jury’s out on that one for me; I’m more than willing to admit that I am not the greatest power in this universe, and I’m open to the possibility of something like a greater power… and none of what I want to do seems to be in alignment with any of this. It feels very much like me trying to take control of things once again, and force things into the shape I ‘think’ I want them to be.
Okay… I think I’ve finally figured out why I’m here:
*I don’t trust much of anything that seems to come from within myself,
*I don’t believe in a ‘guiding force’ or anything of that nature (at least I’ve not seen convincing, objective evidence of such), AA seems hopelessly mired in the past, somewhere in the time of Bill W’s reign, and while I have to give them credit for setting me on a more spiritually-oriented path, they’re otherwise not a very good fit…
*Having read many of your responses to others in these forums, I’ve come to… respect? admire? trust? your take on things, and if I can’t go by either me or AA, I could most certainly do far worse than to listen to your thoughts on the matter(s.)
I don’t know how to resolve this dilemma I’m facing (dilemma: a situation requiring a choice between two unsatisfactory ends, something I learned as a kid when my best friend blew a test in school, and his dad was drilling the things he got wrong into him… and me, because I was there with him; I’ve no idea why this little childhood vignette has stuck so tenaciously all these years), and maybe there is no resolution to it; it may well be a matter of heart -vs- head. I’ve heard that the longest journey anyone can ever make is the eighteen inches from one’s head to one’s heart… I’m certainly finding that to be the case. I very much look forward to your thoughts on this.May 1, 2020 at 8:54 am #352488DharmaSeedParticipant
It’s ok to be where you are, just like a modified photo, there may be an image in the society of the ‘stepford person’ the one who is the ideal just out of grasp, emotionally perfect, but we aren’t built for that.
Feeling a lot may indicate a gifted sensitivity that has had to be blocked off into numbness as a defence mechanism, which is self-preservation, this is your gift, my friend.
Along with AA you may access other groups, this whole journey you have outlined, its a goldmine you’ve accumulated with very powerful potential to help others on a path like you
Be numb, be you, be a goth or melancholic, like Dante, you’re diving in it to bring up pearls for others, you know a lot now because of the challenging path, you will make a lovely refuge for those struggling, you have profound expertise now, how will you use it, we are all broken somehow, our brains are made that way, you can be the gold that holds another broken plate together. Realise who you are and what you will achieve.May 1, 2020 at 9:35 am #352492anitaParticipant
You are welcome. Correction: I am not the owner of this website, neither am I a moderator. I am a member just like you. What makes me different from any member here is that for the last five years, I’ve been posting every day, numerous times per day, interacting with many hundreds of members from all over the world, continuously looking at myself as I read other people’s stories and as I interact with so many. Much of what I know, and what I get to know more and more every day, is a result of my work here, most of which is on record, if you go to past pages, starting May 2015.
In my following response to your recent post, I will quote from you and respond to each quote. I will number the quotes in case you will want to refer to these. It will be a long post, so take your time with it:
1. “I’ve been living from the neck up for the vast majority of my life” and you are not alone, living this way. You have lots and lots of company. We can tell the difference between young children and adults because young children, before they get very hurt, live from their hearts. I don’t know any adult who lives from the heart with just the right amount of input from the neck up, just enough to keep the person healthily and happily walking on a reasonable path of life.
Disassociation from the heart is the norm, the difference is in the extent. (There are people even more disassociated than you have been all these years).
2. “I’m not sure I can live with buying my own happiness at the expense of another’s.. to inflict such pain on another person just slams the brakes on everything”- you are assuming here that your wife is happy, and that if you separate from her, she will experience much pain. What if neither one of these assumptions are true.
3. “my wife.. she genuinely cares about me, in her own way, and seems to want me to be happy”- I wonder about the nature of her own way of caring about you. I will give you an extreme example, and it is extreme, but to make a point, here it is: Mengele, the Nazi pseudo doctor who performed terrible experimentations on concentration camp prisoners, the man who with the move of his hand decided who lived and who died in Auschwitz, cared about one particular gipsy boy in the camp. He gave him treats to enjoy, kept him around, dressed him nicely, and one day led that boy to the gas chamber with a business as usual attitude. Mengele genuinely cared for that boy in his own way.
4. “we do things together and have our little routines and rituals and all.. but it’s so sterile for me, no joy, no real happiness”- those little routines and rituals don’t give you joy, but they do give you emotional comfort, and therefore you are motivated to continue your way of life with her. Don’t underestimate how important these routines and rituals are for you.
5. “She is not aware of the nature of my feelings toward her”- once in a while she is aware, but she doesn’t care to remain aware, is my guess.
6. “I always seem to feel I have to hide everything from everyone, especially who I really am”- it is not difficult to accomplish that, to successfully hide from others who you really are, because most people don’t care to see who you really are. They are too busy with their routines and rituals, too busy hiding themselves, too busy with their worries and anxieties and obsessions etc.
7. “Like so many other alcoholics.. I am a ‘collector of masks’, one for any and every occasion.. every response gets parsed by the ‘context’ I’m in, the kind of people I’m with”- it is a social skill, to adopt and adjust to different people and situations/ contexts: people other than very young children do behave differently in different situations and with different people: one way with a supervisor at work, another way with a friend in a Saturday outdoors barbecue, another way with the dog at home.
I think that in the context of this thread you are not hiding, are you? You definitely have the opportunity to be you, here.
8. “perhaps the saddest thing of all is that there’s a mask for her, too, and that’s what she sees”- I am guessing that your mask is what she wants to see. I don’t think that reality is that you are denying her something she wants, fooling her, not at this point after so many years at the least. If you removed your mask now, she will urge you to put it back on.
9. “the thought of causing such pain to another person is distressing to the extreme… trash somebody’s life so I can improve.. my own?”- again, this is an assumption that you are making, that she will experience such pain, and that her life will be trashed if you were no longer in her life. Seems to me that you are afraid of being in such pain yourself, that your life being trashed if you lose those routines and rituals with her.
10. “I don’t know how to resolve this dilemma I’m facing (dilemma: a situation requiring a choice between two unsatisfactory ends).. as a kid when my best friend blew a test in school, and his dad was drilling the things he got wrong into him.. and me, because I was there with him”-
– the dilemma: to pursue this woman from AA vs. your marriage, to live from the heart or stay neck up, at this point, so far, seems to me that this is a dilemma in theory, for you. Not something you are really considering.
Regarding your childhood friends blowing a test, you are welcome to tell me more about it, about your childhood experience with your father, your parents, but only if you want to look deeper into why this memory “has stuck so tenaciously all these years”.
- This reply was modified 7 months ago by anita.