The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - Broken Brain
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I posted a while back about my own personal need to save versus illusion, and this weekend at Penguicon was no exception. I had a fairly severe internal meltdown thanks to no sleep and no isolation - I'm friendly, and I love people, but being around people drains my batteries - on top of having to be alert for five panels, and so I wound up haunting the hallways, my brain caught in the endless moire loop of this fucked-up thought pattern:
BRAIN: You realize nobody likes you. You're worthless.
EXTERNAL REALITY MONITOR: That's utterly stupid. You're wandering around this con, people are happy to see you, they're hugging you, they're actually tugging you aside to engage in conversation. There are so many people here who clearly like you that it's foolish to think anything else.
BRAIN: It's true. You're utterly stupid for being this insecure and needy in the middle of all these people who so clearly like you. That's why they hate you.
Fortunately, I did not have an over-the-top emo moment where I acted out in order to gain attention and love. That trick never works, Rocky. And my wife snuggled me to sleep and ninety minutes later I emerged refreshed and ready to party, which was good.
But deep down, I'm operating on a fundamentally flawed system. I'm trying so hard to visualize my own internal self-worth, to comprehend on some level that there is a reason why people are so good to me, and when I'm knocked down - whether it be via exhaustion or seasonal affective disorder or alcohol - that I literally cannot see that someone likes me if they're not paying attention to me at that very moment. I'm only alive and loved while the spotlight of their love is resting on me, and when they turn away to face that beacon somewhere else I am in a cold and lonely place where no one can ever touch me.
Was that the hellish isolation of middle school that did that to me? The terrors of high school? Is it my brain chemistry, a tangle of neurons so knotted that it scoops my electrical skeins into a crazy reverse loop-de-loop and turns love into terror? Or was it something I developed to survive some other situation, a scar that still tugs in awful directions?
I don't know. I just know that it's not fair on the beautiful people who shower me with love and affection and attention. And so I wade off into a darkness that's little more than a set of self-inflicted blinds, groping in the darkness and crying against the illusions that afflict me.
I'm worthy. I know it.
I just wish I could feel it.
Tags: i am unworthy, my brain is right, precedent to the open source boob projec
Damn. That is some fine writing.
I understand that feeling... Thank you for sharing.
Why are things in my head appearing in your journal?
Please get the heck out of my brain.
I've spent a third of my life in therapy and I'm amazed at how just when I learn to recognize them, my feelings of "not being good enough" pops up in an entirely different (and sometimes unrecognizable) disguise. Thank you for reminding me that I am okay and people like me.
|Date:||April 20th, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC)|| |
Or maybe you just don't realize that nearly everyone else feels the same way, at least sometimes.
It's the not acting on it that's key. Feeling it does not make you broken, acting on it does.
Or, as a wise man once told me, "Don't compare your insides to everyone else's outsides."
|Date:||April 20th, 2008 11:22 pm (UTC)|| |
That's some fabulous advice. I need to remember that, myself.
|Date:||April 20th, 2008 11:21 pm (UTC)|| |
Interesting that this happened even *with* Gini around.
Not nice that it happened.... that broken brain voice is never nice... but interesting.
Not even just that Gini was around, but there were probably a dozen people that know him quite well, that he knows love him, always with one of us trying to find a way to hang with him because we like his company.
Silly Ferrett-brain, let the man relax and enjoy.
|Date:||April 20th, 2008 11:23 pm (UTC)|| |
I completely understand all of this...I wish logic could trump emotion; Jim talks me through so many things like this, and I think he gets frustrated when I say that I understand, logically, what he's saying, but I still don't feel it. Not sure there is a better cure than just letting people love you, though, you know? And sleep...sleep helps.
A timely nap saved my ass.
|Date:||April 20th, 2008 11:27 pm (UTC)|| |
Good luck with this, Ferrett. I know it's hard, but I'm glad that you have at least some rationality to try and fight back, that at least in some way you realize that you are well-liked.
I actually understand what you're going through fairly well.
|Date:||April 20th, 2008 11:27 pm (UTC)|| |
Oh, Ferrett. As someone who was there, enjoyed panels with you, conversations with you, we were quite happy to see you. My pretty girlfriend is still all smiles that you called her stunning. And anyone willing to put on heels and parade around is going to get people to like them.
That being said, after all the stories you told at the con, you need to start a diary comic. Even if it's stick figures a la our guest of honor, your daily life is funnier than mine.
Aw, thanks! That made me feel way better. And I'm trying to get my next comic, which is more diary, up and running.
And your girlfriend is very pretty, and if she doesn't know that, well, I'm happy to have been the person who told her that day. In a just universe, she'd hear it from someone new every morning.
(A shame how our partners' compliments wear off after a while. In a just universe, I'd believe my wife and she'd believe me!)
Oh, and I meant to say, LMK know when your next graphic novel's on the shelf and I'll pimp it here. I'm terrible about remembering unless I get bumped.
Well, on the other hand, you know all this, which puts you many kalpas ahead of most people, who are blindly acting out what they can't see that they are feeling. Wish I had such self-knowledge.
|Date:||April 20th, 2008 11:41 pm (UTC)|| |
I totally understand what you're saying here - there's the logical part, that says 'Hey, look at all these awesome people who make an effort to spend time with me.'
And then my brain says, "No, they're just too polite to tell you to go away."
I wish I had the solution, other than to just keep playing whack-a-mole with the illogical bits and hammering them down when they pop up. Eventually, I hope, they'll get tired of rearing their ugly little heads.
Your friends will help you play whack-a-mole sometimes, too, you know.
|Date:||April 20th, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC)|| |
Common theme seems to be that every single one of us has the same doubts; the same worrying about whether we are worth caring about. Knowing that everyone else worries about the same things helps me to conquer my own fears. More importantly, it helps me to understand that when the person next to me is acting like a total weeb, the problem is usually something they're dealing with on the inside, not something that has anything to do with me.
Anyone out there totally confident and 100% lacking in self-doubt at all times? Guessing there won't be a lot of hands raised on that one.
If it helps, I was having the exact same internal battle at the exact same time in, for part of the time, the exact same hotel room.
(And have it on a regular basis...)
It's interesting to see you post this, since I'd put you in that small category of "Respected Con Icons" - the people that everyone likes and wants to hang around with.
(And I say that even though you thought my wife was made of LEGO until Friday.)
But I also know that there are other people that I think of in the same way that have to fight the same doubts.
While I can't attest to the same quantity of people already knowing you at that con this weekend, you should know that people like you. Especially the ones in the Clan B Gathering rooms. (Even if your wife is not made of LEGO.)
|Date:||April 20th, 2008 11:55 pm (UTC)|| |
(hugs) I know just what you mean. I've done considerable work on this issue, first with a therapist but I will need to continue it for the rest of my life.
If we get a chance, let's talk about this someday, because I really feel you here.
You know, an awful lot of online acquaintances who visit New Orleans offer to take me out to dinner, but I accept very few of those invitations.
I know. And I'm looking very much forward to meeting you, and I do consider it an honor.
(The dumb part of my brain wanted to add, "If you'll have me," but I'm trying to be better about that. *g*)
Are you sure that isn't biochemical? I used to have weird-ass sudden bouts of depressive thoughts just like that. They were entirely at odds with observable reality. I'd feel so different once the mood passed that it was like I'd been carrying around a different brain.
It was finally fingered as low serotonin and low beta endorphin. A few months of low-dose SSRIs cleared it up entirely.
Well, I know it's at least partially biochemical. See also: Lack of sleep.
If you're flawed it's the same flaw that I have cause you have perfectly captured the way I feel in public social situations. Extroverted Introvert.
I have no words, other than Wow and thank you.
Thanks. Anything I can do to make you feel not alone.
|Date:||April 21st, 2008 12:24 am (UTC)|| |
That's going to be me on Saturday. I know I'll be going into an environment where people will be happy to see me and talk to me, and I'll feel like I'm all alone. It's going to me my personal goal to fight it, even if for just one night.
Good luck. Fight the good fight.
It's hard, but sometimes satisfying.
|Date:||April 21st, 2008 12:29 am (UTC)|| |
My SO tells me I over-intellectualize. I need to just BE. Perhaps you're worrying too much about the why to really enjoy the what, which is that people *like* you, for whatever reason, and the reason doesn't matter. It just IS. When you lapse into one of those *I'm not worthy* modes, look at your circumstances. You're probably tired, wired and need some breathing time.
I once told a friend that I was terrified to approach strangers to sell ads for a brochure. She was astonished, said she'd always thought I was the most confident person she knew. I guess we all have that inner fear factor, in some form or another. The secret is to ignore it and just BE who you want to be. The rest will follow.
So, another two-cents'-worth of advice, FWIW.
|Date:||April 21st, 2008 12:51 am (UTC)|| |
Just a thought, from someone who's had the same thing to struggle with for many years:
Could you maybe tell yourself you're wrong to think people are hating you in a way that DOESN'T involve you also telling yourself, "That's stupid"? Once you do that, you're no longer just feeling bad for the original woundedness, but also for the fact that it's irrational, which as you know, makes the feeling worse.
When you are feeling this way, you need to treat yourself the way you would treat any other person you love who is feeling this way: with compassion, with attention, and with absolute understanding. The big breakthrough for me was exactly that. I have to see my realistic side as one person, and my wounded side as another person, and love my wounded self using my realistic self.
This isn't anything original, either. If you've ever heard anything about the idea of the inner child etc., that's all this is really... the ability to look at the hurting side of you with a feeling of wanting to protect and love and make him feel better. You DO need the spotlight of someone's love and attention. The key is, you can be the person doing that.
There's a lot of mockery paid to therapy techniques where people are told, "Okay, now envision yourself giving yourself a big hug," and the like. What people don't realize is that the reason these techniques exist is because loving and supporting yourself is something that healthy people do without thinking about it... but hurt people have to be able to visualize it and practice it.
No, for me, I need to know that it is stupid. I have a brain that's good at rationalizing. If I give it that crack, I can - and have - justified all sorts of awful behavior.
I personally need to know that it's Other. And not worthwhile. And ejectable. And for me, that trigger is "stupid."
Oh dear. Are we the same person? I've felt exactly like that at every con I've ever been too. I always get dressed up in something tight and low cut, and then it goes a little something like this.
I walk into the con, early, and sit somewhere with my book.
Brain: OMG no one's going to talk to you!
Me: Fine. I have a book.
Brain: OMG, everyone's looking at you!
Me: Maybe cause I look nice?
Brain: You mean overdressed.
Me: Actually, I mean underdressed. Bordering on slutty.
Me: I'm going to talk to someone.
Brain: What if the person you talk to is THAT GUY. The one that everyone at the con actually hates, and then they'll think you're with him and everyone will hate you by association.
Me: Fine. I'll just read.
Brain: Is that your favorite writer over there?
Brain: I'll take that as a yes. Gonna talk to him?
Me: No. I'm going to get him drunk and drag him back to his room.
I'll choose drunken!sex with the con prom king over self esteem any day!
For the record, I think you're extremely beautiful. And it shouldn't be a surprise that people are looking at you.
Beyond that, I'd have to sit in a room with you for a while, but I'd lay odds you have a pretty darned good brain on top of that.
You are totally worthy, and also totally human. I think we all have those doubts about ourselves, unless one is so egocentric they inflate their importance in the world.
For what it's worth, you do a very good job of not letting on. I only recognized the signs because I knew what to look for, or knew to anticipate the burnout.
And thank you (belatedly) for the compliments. I lecture people to accept praise gracefully and with thanks, but obviously did not follow my own advice.
Thank you. I'm glad I didn't fuck it up too bad.
You are cute. Take that as you will.
|Date:||April 21st, 2008 01:50 am (UTC)|| |
Others have already said this, but I think the trick is that everyone feels this way, at least in some way at some times. I don't think everyone's emotions are identical, but there are many many similarities, and I think insecurity about one's place in the world is a huge one.
One of the places this was brought home for me was when I was discussing sin/redemption (in the context of people being trained for ordained ministry, in particular, a discussion about preaching) and someone pointed out that "it's much easier to convince people that they're sinners than to make them realize they are loved." Basic human characteristic - we all know we're not all we could be. Acceptance is much more difficult.