I really do think that The Pedant said the shit he did mostly because he has baggage around women leaving him for not being empathetic enough. Therefore when I said how awesome he was in a crisis, he mistrusted me and assumed I must be assuming he was someone other than he actually is (after all, the exact same actions that made me adore him made other women scream at him and/or break up with him, so clearly I must just not be comprehending what’s really going on here), and he corrected me. Ham-handedly, so that it fucking stung. But I did some thinking and got some sleep and got past the sting a bit, and finally sent him the following email:
One more time ’cause I sense that you don’t really believe me:
I don’t care if you actually understand things I go through re: my anxiety etc.
Nothing inside someone else’s head has any impact on my life. What impacts my life is HOW PEOPLE INTERACT WITH ME. Just believe me when I tell you what’s going on and do what I need and WE ARE FINE whether you connect with my experience on some deep level or not. I mean, yeah, don’t sit there telling me I’m an alien. But you thinking silently inside your brainmeats that you have no idea how I’m actually feeling or why? Is irrelevant to me. I. DO. NOT. CARE. I will perceive your acts of assistance as love (I need a thing in order to feel better, you did the thing, ergo you must want me to feel better, ergo you care about me) and I will be happy.
Think of yourself as a low-level worker in a factory if that helps: when your machine beeps, you put a card in the slot. What’s the card for? Where does it go? Why does the machine need it? How does the machine even make that beeping noise? Maybe it would be nice to know these things, but you don’t NEED to know them in order to do the job well. To do the job well, you simply need to hear the beep and immediately put a card in the slot. Conversely, if you knew PRECISELY what the machine did and what the cards were for but you consistently failed to put a card in the slot when you heard a beep, you’d be fired.
The other day you heard my machine beeping even though it was really really quiet (when we were on the bus home and you intuited that I was maybe not okay, I was not – to my knowledge – doing anything weird) and produced a stack of cards I don’t even remember giving you. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that you did exactly what I needed. Maybe you were just at a loss and flailing, and happened to flail in the right direction. But anyway you helped me feel better in the most efficient way possible and I interpreted this as caring, as I am wont to do. And I guess your gut response to my admiration was “Oh shit, she’s misinterpreted me as a big hero somehow; I should let her know that I was just doing the bare minimum.” I did not misinterpret you, though. Your actions – which are all that really matter, remember, not whatever’s inside your head – were objectively the right ones for the situation. And people who do the exact right things in a crisis are generally labelled as heroes. My gratefulness that day was not a trick or a trap or a misunderstanding. It’s proof that we’re compatible such that your instincts mesh with my needs.
Just on a side note, I don’t really understand why AssholeBrain does what it does, either. I mean brain chemistry childhood trauma blah blah blah but on a fundamental level most of it doesn’t make actual SENSE to me. I think we’re kind of in the same boat on this.
On another side note, I determined a while back that fellow anxious/depressed people are not good partners for me because we’re too much alike. It’s too easy to drag each other down, or to have similar mental issues at the same time so that neither of us has the emotional resources to help the other. You having no idea what depression or anxiety feel like is A SELLING POINT, and always has been.
Let me say this, though: one of my biggest, most pervasive fears in life is that I’m so fundamentally broken that even the people I love secretly hate being around me. And you repeating several times that you can barely stand to be in the same room with someone suffering anxiety and will only help them in order to “quiet things down” if leaving isn’t an option…well, it’s like the most horrible disparaging thoughts about myself that everyone else always said “Oh you’re just being silly and paranoid” turned out to be absolutely true.
If we are to continue seeing each other – and I do want to try to make this work, because you have a shiny crystal lattice brain and your body fits with mine like it was built in a lab specifically for that purpose – don’t talk about that anymore. You’ve said it; I know where you stand; repeating yourself will accomplish nothing productive. If you stick around and help me through whatever dumb shit my brain is doing, do so without commentary. If you choose to leave, instead, perhaps you can remember that you “left the oven on” and have to run home and deal with it. Or, hell, tell me that you’re not sure what to do so you think it’s better that you just go, or something. I don’t know. Just don’t act like I’m a chore or a pariah. Thanks.