I didn’t sleep well. This will contribute to the tone of whatever it is I’m about to write -I don’t know myself yet.
As I just sort of exist for the time being, while I survive the difficulties I’m coping with at my unit, my mind but mostly my body occasionally remind me to feel. A nerve got jammed in between two of my ribs a month back, recently after I started working there, and that pain every now and then returns. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I’m almost certain that tight muscles in my neck and upper back were the cause of this nerve getting pushed where it shouldn’t be. In other words; I think it’s stress related.
Stress happens to be something I’ve read a lot about. It’s become clear to me over the years that I am continuously stressed out, without feeling it as such. Research done on prisoners with antisocial behavior, showed that cortisol levels can be extremely high in some individuals, but the body doesn’t show the exterior signs of stress (sweating, shaking, feeling hot or nauseous, …). This same discrepancy occurs in children with attachment issues, which, obviously, is the case with me. However this doesn’t mean that the stress isn’t there; the cortisol levels are much, much higher than in other children. There is just no expression of it.
As a survival mechanism, it is likely that I learned to ignore signs of stress, because living stressfully is tiresome. It’s almost like I chose not to listen to my body. My mind is so preoccupied with functioning socially adequately, that there is no room for attention to my body. I do run a lot, but even then I’m thinking things through and barely focusing on my body at all. Which is often why I come home realizing I have entirely strained my muscles and need several days to recover.
If I try now to actually “feel” my body, I notice many, many things. My stomach is in a knot, because I have to go to work in a couple of hours. My job is awesome, but I have to interact while doing it and this is still a horrifying thing. As soon as I’m there and said hi to everyone, it subsides and I feel better. I think.
The nervous tics that inhabit me are subtle, but there. I bite my nails, I fiddle with my hair (in a very repetitive, compulsive manner, usually when I drop my guard for example when I’m reading something that absorbs me), I grit my teeth, I bite the inside of my mouth, … People often think that I am “tense”, but that’s not the word for it. I’m constantly on guard, there’s a difference to me. I’m not a simple victim of awfully stressful events around me, I’m a competent survivor because nothing escapes my attention.
The head nurse of my unit has a problem with me. I’m pretty sure I knew this before he did. The effect that rigid authority has on me, is unmistakeable. It triggers me like a flag does a bull. Every ounce of flexibility I have is turned to stone. Maybe I panic and resort to primitive and “safe” levels of functioning, sticking to what I know. But panic doesn’t exactly characterize me.
It’s more like a vast, intricate and very rigid pattern of coping with oppression. There’s only one; stay calm, remain friendly, head down and wait for it to pass. But this also means that the oppressor is under the impression he’s not getting through to me, when in fact he is imprisoning me in a system that I developed in my childhood. This is a very annoying thing, but I must add that I’m slowly learning to deal with it better. No, I’m not being singled out. No, I’m not his main worry or aim. I’m just an employee like all the others, and yes he’s failing to see my strong points but that’s his loss and doesn’t say anything about me.
The only light during the day, are the psychologists. The most experienced one seems to have some idea of how I function and why. He always seems burdened though, but that may well be my completely parentificated mindset (any person of any kind of responsibility for me becomes one I want to look out for, it’s almost like I feel guilty that someone would worry about me at all). The psychology students who are on their internships are a very important part of my support there as well. I had a really good conversation with one of them yesterday. She couldn’t imagine me being in doubt about anything ever. But she also couldn’t imagine me being anything but nice to anyone. The last part struck me the hardest; I always used to think of myself as such a terrible, terrible person. I suppose my parents did give me that impression a lot. Don’t be so selfish, don’t ask for so much attention, just act normal for once. And now I’m learning to adjust that image of me. I’m actually an incredibly nice person. Wow.
At 27, I somehow managed to fail at growing up and shaping an accurate image of myself. I feel relieved, that I’m perceived as genuinely nice, but also busted and stupid for not having figured that out on my own. Better late than never, of course.
It may seem simple, but it is incredibly soothing to suddenly realize that yes, I am friendly. Always, always had I firmly believed I was inherently disregarding of others, short tempered or intolerant. This is the only reflection of me I ever saw within my family. A ferocious “bulldozer” (nickname my mom gave me!?) that nobody could really handle and that should be placed in an institution so everyone could rest from her terrorizing presence. Anywhere I go, I’m afraid I’ll dominate everyone.
But I don’t. I don’t dominate anyone. I’m really, really supportive to people around me. I’m nurturing. I’m positive. I can be a rock solid source of calm when needed. It’s an extremely cathartic experience to suddenly have your eyes opened.
It’s like I ate the forbidden fruit or suddenly leveled up in Counterstrike and found the most delicious and effective of weapons out there; love for myself.