I haven’t been sleeping properly in a very long time. I wake up after five or six hours and can’t fall back asleep. And my asshole downstairs neighbours – after a brief hiatus due to me complaining to the landlords – have continued with their schedule of screaming at each other on a regular basis.
This morning it actually seemed like I might get a full night’s sleep, except their screaming woke me up. This was at about 9am; late enough in the day that I can’t make a noise complaint with the cops, but still two and a half hours before my alarm was slated to go off. So, yet another day when I got six hours of sleep. At this point I’m feeling pushed to the brink of some kind of psychotic break and when I texted my landlady that the screaming has begun again she basically said there’s nothing she can do about it.
I’ve been here longer than the neighbours, and pay rent just like they do. And yet their screaming fights have made it so that I dread running into either of them and thus feel sort of itch and creeped out every time I pass through the common area of the house; for one thing their actual fights remind me of my dad’s tantrums and trigger me pretty hard, and in my experience growing up around my dad, if you cross someone’s path while they’re screaming like that, it’ll get aimed at you. Plus even if they’re not arguing at the particular moment that one of them sees me in the hall, it’s awkward because I feel like I know way too much of their business and if they have half a brain they’ll know that I know.
The laundry machines are right outside their apartment door, by the way; on many occasions I have been about to do laundry but then postponed because they started doing their screamy thing.
Sometimes their voices drown out movies I’m trying to watch. Often their fights wake me up because they usually get started around 9am and I’m generally on a more afternoon/evening schedule (and hey did you know that depression is caused by the brain not having enough of a chemical called seratonin? And did you know that not getting enough sleep makes seratonin levels drop even further? THESE PEOPLE ARE LITERALLY MAKING MY MENTAL ILLNESS WORSE). And I can’t leave my bedroom window open in the nice weather because the male half of the couple smokes right under it (and makes endless disgusting gagging/coughing/horking/spitting sounds).
So maybe I’m wound really tight today because my landlady isn’t backing me up on my complaints and I feel it isn’t fair, or maybe it’s straight-up the lack of sleep thing, or actually it might be bordering on PMS time for me, but today was not a good day.
The Pedant met up with me this afternoon to take me to the house of a friend of his who’s a seamstress. I want to purchase some custom clothes from her and The Pedant had to go pick up his latest turtleneck order so he orchestrated a whole meet-and-greet thing. Which is awesome because she lives out in the back of beyond and I probably would not have had the wherewithal to find my own way there.
He and I met en route and I started finding myself a bit extra stressed out by the stupid cowlike slow-walkers I was encountering everywhere.
The seamstress herself was adorable and so were her two cats. She took my measurements and I gave her a drawing of the garments I’d like. She’ll crunch some numbers and give me a price quote soon.
While waiting for the bus homeward The Pedant and I both realized we were starving and detoured into a convenience store. He got juice and I was like “OMG they have my favourite flavour of potato chips that nobody even carries!” – like, calling to him from across the store and happily waving the package. Today felt more like an errand day than a romantic thing – and I’m not comfortable assuming someone will pay for stuff for me unless we’ve specifically negotiated this – so I kinda just thought I’d be buying the chips. But when I reached the counter it turned out The Pedant had already paid for them.
From there we took a bus back to the Buttfuck, Nowhere Bus Terminal where we had first rendez-voused. As we tried to exit the vehicle, a clump of little kids in front of us apparently realized at the last moment that they didn’t want to disembark yet. Which is fine except they remained standing in the doorway. I have a fear, at the best of times, of being too slow to get to the bus door and ending up carried way out of my way. Today was not the best of times.
Let me be clear: I am generally, outwardly, a timid person who fears confrontation. I can’t stand raising my voice in public – not even to hail a cab or flag down a friend I see walking on the opposite side of the street. But when these kids just stood in the doorway like that I raised my voice and said “Coming through.” Several times I said this, with escalating volume. And they still didn’t move or even turn to look at me (who the fuck did they think I was talking to?) and so finally I shoved past them by force…only to face a wall of people surging forward to get on the bus. People who looked right up at me in their stupid dimwitted cowlike fashion but swarmed the door anyway instead of parting to let me through like you’re supposed to. And I ended up bellowing “COMING THROUGH. COMING THROUGH. GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY AND LET ME OFF” at the absolute top of my lungs and basically did the murder walk directly at them, with every intention of throwing elbows in the faces of anyone who didn’t move aside fast enough. The Pedant followed in silence. I don’t know what his face looked like, since he was behind me. Maybe he was embarrassed to be seen with me or maybe he was amused that I let those people have it; I don’t know.
In the terminal, we stood around while he decided which bus he wanted to take home. There was only one route to take me home but for him there are several ways he could go. In the end he said he’d just go the same way as me (and then past my house and north again to his), even though that must surely be more roundabout than the other ways. I wasn’t surprised by his choice, since he’ll often make excuses to hang out with me a bit longer. In retrospect though I realize he’s never heard my voice go that loud before, ever, nor seen me assert myself against strangers at all. So he must have realized that I was…in a bit of a state.
“You should put your earplugs in,” he said. “Otherwise when we get on the next bus the noise will probably make you even more ragey.”
“Oh. Yeah.” I’d forgotten that I’d resumed carrying earplugs in a little container attached to my keychain. I put them in.
The bus terminal had a convenience store in it and The Pedant said he wanted to pop in there for a sec because the juice he’d bought before wasn’t tiding him over well enough. There was still a bunch of juice left, actually, and he’d given me the carton to carry, so I stayed outside the store with it lest we look like we were stealing. When The Pedant came back out, he had two different snack bar thingies and invited me to read the ingredient listings to see if one of them was safe for me. One of them was. “I figured it would be,” he said. “Seems to basically just be nuts glued together with sugar syrup.” So he handed it to me and we got on the next bus and sat in silence, eating.
By the time we transferred to yet another bus (and the final one, for me) I was not doing well at all. Just being around people was starting to wear me down, and this weird fight-or-flight instinct came over me – a panicky IT’S NOT SAFE HERE GET HOME GET HOME NOW feeling. The bus was standing room only and I put my arm around The Pedant and moved closer to him. “Are you okay?” he murmured, and I explained to him – with my voice starting to warp and slow down like it always does when I’m seriously overstressed – that I was not. And suddenly I had to fight back tears.
“Well,” he said, “On the bright side, lots of good happened today. You finally met [friend], you’re gonna have clothing that fits you properly for the first time in maybe ever, and you got to hang out with some cute cats.” This was the exact right thing to do: keep AssholeBrain from wallowing in negativity.
When my stop came up I went to kiss him goodbye and he said “I’m just gonna go ahead and walk you home to make sure you’re okay.” Which nearly made me cry again (people being nice to me can send me over the edge…). On the short walk to my apartment I did start to feel a bit better because proximity to safe place (by which I mean both home and The Pedant, I guess) and my speech centre started working well enough for me to angst to him about the landlady’s lack of support for my neighbour troubles.
He responded with suggestions and added “By the way – incoming dog” and pointed. There was indeed a guy coming toward us walking his dog. I totally hadn’t noticed because I was wrapped up in my own brain drama. It was a cute dog and the sight of it cheered me up a bit – like gave me an actual tangible little mini-blast of endorphins. The Pedant knows that dogs distract and cheer me and totally pointed this one out on purpose to get me out of my head a bit.
As we continued walking he also asked me what I was doing for dinner. I thought maybe he was about to offer to buy me some, but he didn’t; I think he was just making sure I had food on hand so I’d be powered-up enough to do my shift tonight (which has since been cancelled – boooo).
At my door he told me to nap if I had time before work – with earplugs in, just in case the neighbours started screaming again – and returned my hug and smooches, and said he’d be in touch soon.
So, to sum up, The Pedant realized that I was having a bad brain day and:
- Fed me, just in case it was low blood sugar crankiness setting me off
- Reminded me to put in earplugs to take the edge off all the crowd noise
- Gently distracted me with happy things
- Provided a comforting presence without dwelling on my weirdo behaviour or making me feel self-conscious
- Made sure I had a plan and resources in place for taking care of myself once he left
He is such a friggin’ superhero.
Oh wow. Look at this text exchange we just had (as I wrote this post I got overwhelmed with gratefulness all over again and needed to thank him a second time):
Me: I wish my brain hadn’t gone sideways today but you were a goddamned champion at handling it. You paint yourself as being bad with helping people through things but dude. DUDE.
Pedant: Most people have broken down crying because of the level of support I gave you today, and one woman broke up with me over it.
Me: You gave me exactly what I needed and I am falling for you like a fucking anvil.
My asshole anxietybrain is worried that this declaration of feeling (the implication that I am rapidly falling in love with him, vs. just feeling love) will scare him off but in light of how clearly devoted he is to me – and seemingly upping his game every time I mention that I like some thing or other that a person might do – I think it’ll be fine. Possibly he doesn’t differentiate between “love” and “in-love,” or assumed I was in the latter state already.
I’m just so fiercely angry on his behalf. I get that different people need different kinds of emotional support. I get that what he offers may not have been what his exes needed, and it is valid to break up with someone if you are incompatible with them in that way. But he’s told me that his exes actually screamed at him that he has no empathy, has no idea how to interact with people, obviously didn’t really care about them, etc. And that pisses me off. He’s obviously internalized this idea that he’s just…broken or whatever. And he’s so not. Not in that particular way, anyway. He calls himself a “high-functioning sociopath” and I would imagine it’s because of women telling him he doesn’t seem to care. But he does. He just expresses it via acts rather than talking.
Oh wait, hold on, plot twist:
Pedant: Yeah…I should probably let you know that part of that was me simply not wanting to put the energy into dealing with it.
Me: That did occur to me. Would have been nicer to believe you were acting out of concern, but I suppose it worked out for me okay either way. What is your purpose in telling me that, though? Genuinely curious. Subquestion: what would “putting in the energy to deal with it” have looked like?
Pedant: If I’m honest, you don’t get an inaccurate picture of my motivations. If I had had the energy to deal with it, you’d have ended up fielding rapid-fire questions from me while I tried to figure out behaviour which has never made sense to me.
Me: I would not have enjoyed that in the moment but usually I am all about analyzing and categorizing what AssholeBrain does (yes I think of it as a separate entity). So feel free to barrage sometime. Not now. Still exhausted.
Pedant: The rapid-fire questions have caused others to have a worse meltdown because I made it obvious that I don’t understand them.
Me: As for knowing your motivations, I do appreciate transparency. BUT statements like that make me wonder what the motivations of THOSE are. Warning me not to get too attached? That you’re a flight risk? That you don’t care about me, particularly? [Pause; new message] I’m results-oriented. Don’t care much if you understand my anxiety, as long as you can identify it and know what I’d want you to do. Like, if I have a heart attack, do I want a paramedic helping me, or a civilian who’s had a heart attack before? The former will be like “Yep, these are the symptoms of a heart attack, all right…I’ll get the paddles.” The latter would…pat my hand and go “I know how you feel, you poor thing!” I guess. And then I’d die. So don’t put energy into trying to understand what I feel on any deep level. I don’t need that. I just need you to BELIEVE that my brain works the way it does, and do practical things to help when I’m having a rough time.
I can see that he’s read these messages, but he’s not responding. Which is bugging me because you saw where I asked for validation that he still likes me and isn’t gonna bail because of my anxiety, right? But I’ve long suspected that dealing with my emotions/anxiety is kind of draining for him and he’s totally confirmed it now so I feel like it would be overkill to prompt him.
If he still hasn’t responded by tomorrow maybe I’ll nudge him for reassurance that we are in fact still dating. For now I guess I’ll give the boy a break though.
Tough roller coaster of a day, though. Bleh.
Oh, wait, incoming:
Pedant: Most people start to feel very alienated as soon as one makes it obvious that one doesn’t have the ability or inclination to understand people’s emotional states or issues – or that even acknowledging them costs one a significant amount of effort (to the point that I have to force myself to hug someone who is clearly freaking out). I’ve learnt that it’s better to give people the truth and the chance to run away early rather than let them get the idea that their emotions resonate with me. Keep in mind that the paramedic usually simply walks away after turning a patient over to the doctor.
Me: We’ve been seeing each other for like five years. I think my chance to run away early may have passed. 😛 Also, way to ignore the gist of my metaphor. But, okay, to me it boils down to this. Do you want to be in a relationship with me?
Pedant: I was pointing out that the metaphor is more accurate than you might have realised. A first-responder doesn’t have any emotional attachment to the person on the stretcher, and that’s exactly how I act, all the time, even with my friends.You did walk away from me once, remember? And for exactly that reason.
Me: Nope. I walked away because results fail and logic fail. Results fail: I said I wanted more frequent contact from you and you did not accommodate that in any lasting way (you do now). Logic fail: I said the lack of contact was freaking me out and you took over a week to respond to that email whatsoever. If I clearly state that lack of contact makes me feel like you don’t care, and you proceed to go silent for nine days, that would appear to be a pretty clear message. This time around you seem to have grasped that I like steady-ish contact and that if I have an issue you can’t address right away you need to at least acknowledge that you’ll get to it. I’m getting what I want, and it is making me happy. Don’t care if you’re doing it because you understand my feelings or because you think “If I do X, I’ll get Y, and Y is a desirable outcome.” [New message] Also, that was the exact point of the paramedic metaphor. If I have to choose between someone who “gets” me but is otherwise useless vs someone who gets shit done and keeps me functioning, I choose the latter. [New message:] Basically: I will always tell you what I need from you. And as long as you’re more-or-less hitting those targets, I don’t see myself going anywhere. [New message, since he read all of this and said nothing and ten minutes had gone by] Simple, yes? RTFM.*
Even that last message didn’t goose him into responding, and it would seem absurd to keep monologuing at him since I’ve already said so much with no response at all, so I guess I’ll check in with him tomorrow. He probably just needs to process what I’ve said for a while.
But hey: on one hand he says he has “no inclination” to understand how someone else feels, and on the other hand he says if he’d had the energy he would have bombarded me with questions today trying to understand what I was going through. So, either he does want to understand people but just puts up a facade of not caring, or he really doesn’t care about other people’s feelings but assumes that they want him to care so he makes an effort. This is curious. I must get to the bottom of it.
Also: how does he think asking someone in the midst of a panic attack “rapid-fire questions” to try to understand them constitutes dealing with their anxiety? Did his exes really get angry at him for “not understanding them” or were they angry with him because they were struggling with a bunch of difficult emotions and instead of helping or giving them breathing room, he was all “but whyyyyy do you feel like this right now? Whyyyyyy?”
Finally, just as an aside, I’ve often worried that The Pedant is gonna bail on me because my anxiety issues are too much for him. I’ve thought about making a once-and-for-all declaration, like “These shitty things my brain does? Those are never gonna go away. If you’re not able to cope with that, you’d best run now.”It’s kind of vindicating that apparently he’s been worried that I’ll bail on him, too, and did a similar “you’d best run now” declaration. Seems like we’re both pretty invested in each other. 🙂
*Tech support acronym: Read the Fucking Manual.