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Ask Lucy: My Space
A Bad Case of the Grouchies
"How do I manage irritability toward those closest to me? I believe this is happening to me due to anxiety and a defense mechanism to ward out hurt feelings. I have had this problem for a while now, with my mom and best friends, but more lately it's happening with my boyfriend. I definitely still love him and want to be with him, but sometimes when we're actually together I get annoyed and even angry at things, like sometimes when he shows affection. It's very hard because when I'm not with him, I want to be, but when we are together I'll all-too-soon feel like I want to be alone. My entire life I've used this 'trust no bitch' defense mechanism, and it's preventing me from having a close, happy relationship. Any pointers?
- from Angry at Love"
You know much more about you than I do, so I'll just respond with something that helps across all situations:
Often, when I'm not with my lover, I'll long for him and yearn to be embraced, and then when he's there, I'll want to be alone. I am still working it out. I call myself "solitude-sensitive"; you might like me in that regard. I deal with it by altering my social life in accordance with the ebb and flow Honestly, I tend to sort out my feelings a lot when I'm alone which is part of why solitude is so sacred to me. I've always considered it to be what I called "solitude sensitive" and one of the conditions of being my friend or lover is that they must respect the fact that I need solitude, usually copious amounts of it. To fail to respect that part of me is to invade my personal space emotionally. You should try to be mindful of your come-here-go-away feeling patterns. If you don't have a pen, paper, or keyboard at hand, then just note your emotions, what triggered them, and whether being around people or solitude will help you feel better. Sometimes, you'll think that you want social time, only to dip your toe in and get frostbite. You might think that keeping yourself all locked up is rejuvenating you, but all work and no play makes Jack a dull and homicidal boy. Thought and self-analysis exercises gauge how much solitude you need to feel free and satisfied so that you know at what point that you actually WANT to be around people, thus increasing your desire for intimacy.
BUT if it seems to fluctuate with anxiety, then focus on trying to ease your anxiety in conjunction with trying to tailor your social interactions accordingly. I'm not saying don't compromise; that's a natural part of healthy relationships. Sometimes, if I'm not sure if I want to be alone or need affection, I'll tell my lover to be "on call for a cuddle emergency" in case that changes (and the shift seems to happen pretty rapidly for me - not in terms of happening when I want to, but I can go from needing to be alone to needing cuddles in a second.
Affection can feel smothering if you don't want it. It might be related to your anxieties that unwanted cuddling feels invasive or like sensory overload. Think about your preferences: when do you feel like you want affection the most and how often? You might just have different boundaries than most people like you do with kissing.
"I definitely still love him and want to be with him, but sometimes when we're actually together I get annoyed and even angry at things, like sometimes when he shows affection."
That wreaks of anxiety. Personally, when I'm anxious or sad, I often need my space and don't like it if people are touching me (even to express affection) because, well, I have no idea. Perhaps it feels invasive during highly vulnerable times, thus increasing your need for boundaries, possibly those of a different nature than the ones you know. But there are ways to do it without lining your comfort zone with rusty barbwire!
Although let's face it: certain "zones" require rusty barbwire lining, but you can't wrap barbwire around clouds, especially the gray and drooling ones. (And by "drool," I mean tears.) So adjusting your behavior to help you cope with anxiety is necessary, just as it's necessary for your loved ones (or those who consider you a loved one, anyway) to adjust their behavior. Then here's the kicker: we can't actually control anyone else's behavior so much as we can influence them. You have to change the topic of the conversation from neglect of loved ones to your comfort levels when coping with high anxiety.
Person: *does something*
You: Can you please not do that at the moment? My anxiety's running high.
You might need time to figure out how much alone time you need to decompress. If your loved ones fail to respect your boundaries, the knowledge that they are the ones douching out just isn't enough comfort. Irritability is a symptom of anxiety. I don't know what works for you in terms of symptom management, but to me, it sounds like one of your best bets might be to (not) be around people if you're anxious. Irritability, even toward justifiably unpleasant behavior, can incense a lot of unnecessary arguments. If people try to bait you into arguments, don't take it. Let them be the one who fucks up and acts objectionably. If you're in a situation in which you MUST be social (like reunions or family dinners), plan some pre-canned responses and cherry-pick your responses carefully. Part of successful symptom management means maintaining self-awareness so that your mental illness affects people as little as possible. I realize that severe mental illness hurts everyone who occupies the same space with someone who suffers from it. If people ask why you're not up for affection or anything else, explain how you're being responsible. If necessary, explain to them why mulling over your boundaries is unacceptable.
I hope that any bit of that helped.
Note: According to her, it did help. :-)
#Real #Advice #Solitude #Anxiety #MentalIllness #Boundaries #Respect #GetOutOfMyBum #AskLucy
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