Shame is complicated

Well. I am starting to set up conversations with people. It’s going to take a few days to schedule all of them. Scheduling is a moving target. And I’m trying to figure out how to build the wave. Looks like the first chat will be the easiest and least stressful. The next scheduled one is the one I’m most anxious about. Then I don’t know where the rest of them fit in yet. I need to leave time for crying after these.

It won’t be someone else’s fault I’m crying. I do it from stress.

I’m scared. I feel like I still… know my boundaries when I run into them and have to cut to stay “ok” in my day to day life. I don’t realize until I’m way way way over capacity “Oh I should have stopped a while ago.” Then what do you do? Because if you cut to cope because you are over capacity PEOPLE ACT LIKE THE WORLD IS ENDING. OH NO. LET’S THROW EVERYTHING IN THE AIR AND CHANGE EVERYTHING BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS WRONG.

Or maybe I was a little over my rev limit?

Fuck. I don’t know.

I feel bad that my ability to cope is so limited. It is a lot bigger than it used to be, but I still have limits.

It really complicates things that interacting with children (and their uhm questionable fucking ability to respect body autonomy) changes how I can handle adults. And that is so variable and it feels so incredibly unfair. Like, if Noah had a date scheduled after the day/night I had with the kids yesterday…

Oh god I would have flipped out. But when you are dealing with other people you need to schedule commitments and keep them. So my boundaries with other people aren’t allowed to be fuzzy and squiggy like that.

But my life is fuzzy and squiggy and variable and I am not someone who can manufacture consistency for another adult’s sake.

I have a hard enough time providing consistency for kids. That is my limit.

I have a hard time being patient and giving and loving with adults when I’ve had 12+ hours out of the last 24 with a kid screaming in my fucking face and hitting everyone. One of the kids had a hard day this week. It happens. These are tiny little people who have a lot going on with their sensory systems. There are days they are just fucking overwhelmed and they are obnoxious as fuck to deal with.

At the end of that I have no patience to give to grown ups. I really don’t. And that’s not fair. I feel like a fucking asshole but if I am activated that many times in a day I literally just can’t turn around and give to an adult. I will flip out and start screaming and breaking things.

I need to go hide away from people after that. Because I’m frazzled as fuck. I got through it without being mean to the kid. I didn’t scream. I wasn’t unduly rough. I didn’t punish harshly. I did enforce a metric fuck ton of time outs. But that seems appropriate and useful. Stop hitting people. It’s not ok.

I’ve seen a bunch of kids go through phases like this. It isn’t about a kid sucking or being bad. It’s a hard phase and it takes patience, love, and correction correction correction.

I get so tired.

I feel like an asshole playing the “traumatized body/brain” card a lot. But the reality is that my central nervous system is shot. I have an acute stress disorder. These things are noticeable strain. I do have limits. Things that activate my emotional system… I can only be calm through so many. Once I get scared enough… I’m not physically capable of thinking and processing the way I must in order to act like a fully present adult. My range of tolerance is wider than average (according to the shrinks I’ve been seeing for a long time) but it isn’t infinite and I start off so much more distressed than average.

I don’t want to take things out on people because I am moody and variable. That means that mostly I assume to defaulting I should offer nothing sustained at all. Because I might fail.

So far Pam is the only sustained once a week dinner guest who can actually deal with my emotional variance and the fact that sometimes you show up and I’m screamtastic and fussy and… no fun.

Everyone else stops coming.

And Pam is leaving the state. Eventually. She keeps threatening. We’ll see.

When I feel ok I have a lot to give. I have patience, love, energy, tolerance… when I don’t feel ok I feel like a bank vault. You don’t open that easily or for fun. It’s fucking hard and takes a sequence of codes and… then only take out what you fucking have to what the fuck close that fucker already.

This is why I don’t want “polyamory”. I’m not good enough at being consistent enough to be a dependable part of a group of people like that. I feel ashamed of myself, but it is true. I have very good friends who sometimes want to have sex with me. And I love them a lot. I will move mountains for my friends. When I can.

When I can’t… I fucking hope you have other support people too. Because I will fail you. I give you what I have to spare. That is what I can give.

I have signed on for being the sustainer of my children. I have signed on for helping to sustain Noah, with the strong caveat that he knows sometimes he has to catch himself. (Hey–he can’t always catch me either. Seems fair.) I have signed on to be a consistent source of non-continuous sustaining for my Bonus Kids. I’m one of Their Grownups. I like that. I like that I did manage to find someone who thinks I am worth the trouble of coming to because their kids need someone like me.

I’m grateful I managed to find folks for that. It wasn’t looking like that was going to work out. It was looking like I was not worth that much effort from anyone.

I’m really grateful things have gone this well for 6 years with my Bonus Kids.

I would never ever ever ever ever play with or sleep with the parents of my Bonus Kids because I can’t fuck that up. That’s like shitting in the waterhole. It’s really stupid long-term.

I fuck up a lot of sexual relationships. I fuck up a lot of non-sexual relationships too… but I fuck up sexual relationships faster. I run hot and cold and that hurts people.

Even I need to understand some boundaries.

I know many dozens of non-breeding long-term polyamorous adults. I have never been capable of the emotional consistency I see them enact. That’s bothered me my entire adult life. That is part of what reminds me of how broken I am. I know so many people who can do it. Who can be consistent and dependable in their emotional reactions.

My emotional reaction to thing A is impacted by thing B and thing C and thing D and thing E and I don’t fucking know how that will go on any given day.

I’m more predictable and calm than ever in the past. How come this progress never ever ever ever feels good enough?

Ok, I just thought of a piece of why Noah dating is so difficult for me…

I always know, every day, that at the end of the day I have to handle the extent of my emotional variance on my own. Noah helps a lot more than anyone else but he has limits. His manufactured cheerfulness is part of what he does for me. That consistency of affect helps me more than words can say. I calibrate off of him. I try to match him. I model after him. When he isn’t here and I am flailing… it’s hard. Even if he can’t sit down to process with me for hours, being around him is regulating.

If I am going to leave more space in my life for not depending on him to be physically present and I know that he is leaving me to go do something fun with someone else…

I need to lock down hard on not depending on him. Because I will resent the fact that I will sometimes have really shitty days and he will be out having fun instead of helping me. Because I built a life that was very near my carrying capacity and then I added shit and sometimes I get really overwhelmed and… I don’t have enough help. Getting less is hard.

I do encourage him to go do things with friends. Because I feel guilty as shit that he doesn’t have much of a life. He works and has the social life I bring to him, mostly. I don’t know if he’d be more motivated to seek out more of a social life if I provided less of one? I do invite a lot of forking people over. He’s not just hiding at home with his family or working. But not much is of his initiation.

But dating is… different. I feel bad about that but it is.

It isn’t fair that I don’t really believe someone can treat me like I’m important and be seriously in love with someone else. I think people can fuck their friends and still be nice to me, sure. But be really in love? Not really.

Love means so many things. What is love?

I will lose time and support in that equation. Because love may be infinite but time is not. I’m doing fairly well… because I have the level of support I have. If it decreased I would… have a hard time.

If I have to spend yet more time alone with my kids regulating myself… that has a cost. The road trip demonstrated that to me quite clearly.

I wasn’t all that nice by the end. Not really. The kids were so glad to get home.

Both kids have commented a lot recently that I’m doing better. They have individually and collectively commented on the fact that I’m not screaming anywhere near as much as I used to and that is really nice.

I’m scared to rock this boat.

I’m scared that being selfish with my energy and only wanting to give it to my kids like this means I have no business pursuing nonmonogamy because I am just using my friends and I’m not offering good trades.

If I’m going to do this… I need to get more comfortable with canceling going forward. I can’t pay the cost of doing something I don’t want to do in the moment any more. And that’s complicated.

I’m not dependable enough and… that makes me feel like I shouldn’t be doing this at all. Maybe swinger parties. Other than that I’m too much of a selfish asshole to date.

fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck

This is part of my transactional shit. Noah and I talk very explicitly about what we trade. What kinds of energy expenditures we each need to receive. What are our priorities and which can be dropped when things get tight?

I don’t have enough to trade other people. Not really. I have “what I have going spare today” and often that is so little.

The only consistent front to Noah dating that I can manufacture consistently is space. I can’t promise closeness. I can’t promise loving reconnection. If I have to cope on my own then I need to fucking cope on my own and that is messy and hard. Because mostly how I cope is to be pretty fucking hard on myself. That is how I have come this far.

I did not get this far on compassionate self acceptance. I got this far from being a fucking dictator with my body who doesn’t give a shit what I’m feeeeeeling.

Just work, bitch.

But Noah really wants me to be sunny for him. I can’t do that when I’m coping on my own. It is variable and inconsistent and happens randomly. That’s how it has always been. He is spoiled by how consistent I have been able to be while bouncing off of him for hours a day.

That’s from you. That’s from modeling off of you. When I lose you…

Noah teaches me how to be nice. I can hear it in his voice. When he errs towards nastiness it feels like an instrument being played off key and I instantly mention that he’s harsh. He stops, gets this weird look on his face, and tries again.

I think that is a lot of what has allowed me to be as stable as I’ve been in the last ten years. He works so hard to model it.

When I lose my model I fuck up so much more. That doesn’t feel like a fair burden. And, I know this is bullshit, but I’ve had a hard time with how much he works. I’m not supposed to feel like that is a choice to be away but that’s been hard. I’ve had to be very conscious and deliberate around not being an asshole to him over that. It’s not a rational reason to be mean to him and I’ve had to work on it because it is triggering to me.

It has taken a lot of time and effort to be truly supportive and not kind of an asshole about how much he works. I think I’m pretty good now, but it wasn’t easy.

Noah is the person who makes me feel safe. That’s not fair. I know I should “feel safe in myself”. Whatever. I don’t. I never have. I spend a lot of time feeling like I’d like to vibrate out of my fucking body to get away from myself because I am the problem. I am the one who brings so much pain on myself.

I am the one who can’t behave consistently enough to be worthy of love.

Maybe if I were someone who could say, “Today is a bad day for a date… you should reschedule” I would be able to handle him dating without wanting to scratch his fucking face off when he comes home all excited and I had a shitty day with a side of shit salad. But I am not capable of doing that kind of thing. I’ll put my head down and tell him to do what he wants to do and then I’ll need three days away from him because I hate him so much.

It isn’t fair. Or rational. Or whatever. I know.

I have never had a time in my life when I was not giving to other people pretty much at the extent of what I had to give. I’ve never had a time when I was just… idling. I’m tired. I have hard days with this caregiving crap.

Noah is tired too. His job isn’t easy. He comes home to us.

I’m sorry I am not good at letting you have other people in your life who are more dependable and worthy.

That’s something Noah brings up a lot. I’m really insecure about the fact that everyone he has wanted to get involved with since we got married is just… so mellow. He brings it up really frequently how irrational I am because these are incredibly non-threatening people. They are not drama.

I’m the problem. It never comes from someone else. Just me.

But he also doesn’t want to deal with the fact that giving him space to go be with people who are not worthless pieces of shit means that I am going to spend a few days hiding to deal with the fact that I don’t really like being the problem, the drama, the variable one who just can’t get her shit together.

I feel embarrassed that I fucking exist.

Just stop crying about things that shouldn’t make you cry you stupid, whiny bitch.

None of these people should make me cry.

Being alone makes me cry.

Then why do I need to go be alone once he comes back?

Because I had to hold it together in front of the kids and I need space to recover from that facade. I can’t model off of you when I need to react to you and I have not been allowed to do so even a little bit all day. I needed to pretend all day that I was fine and everything was fine and I don’t mind lots of extra alone time with the kids, sure why not.

I have to pay the piper for that later.

And I’m not supposed to take it out on you. That’s not fair either. I can’t let my tone of voice get shitty. So I need to be alone. In order to not take my emotional variance out on you I need to be alone.

I’m told that my “yelling” by having a harsh tone counts just as much as when I escalate in volume and start screaming.

So yeah. I need a lot of alone time.

Even though I don’t decompress very well alone. I can’t decompress in the presence of the person I am feeling activated because of. I can’t use you to calm down when I am upset because of you. That’s what I mean when I say that it is losing my safe person. If I’m crying because I had to spend more hours manufacturing sustaining cheerfulness alone because you wanted to go fuck someone else… I can’t be in a room with you. I just can’t.

I know we are already talking about several steps down the line from this. I know.

I feel like I should have some idea of what my feelings are given the conversations I’m going to have soon. Fuck my stomach hurts.

I don’t have enough to trade. I have no right to even be having these discussions.

I feel like shit.

Luckily the first conversation will happen this weekend and will actually be the lowest stress one of the bunch. I need to finish scheduling them. Oh golly.

*head desk*

If only I wanted to fuck fewer people this would be easier. Or Noah. Either of us, really.

Something occurs to me: a lot of this comes down to… I don’t ask for additional support on the really hard days. I just don’t. You have to just show up and see that I need it and provide it. Or it will be invisible to you. If Noah is going to be present less, he will see a lot less. Which will be massive in my life. That will be a huge reduction in support. Because I will not be capable of asking for more support in other ways. I just… that’s a thing. That’s a very known thing.

It all comes back to being my fault. Everything would be fine if I were less fucked up.

3 thoughts on “Shame is complicated

  1. Noah

    For whatever it’s worth, I bring other people up because I’m trying to strategize around what’s (relatively) okay for you.

    Boundaries are hard.

  2. Miss Jenny

    no-one taught you to self-regulate your emotions when you were a child and developmentally capable of learning self-regulation. It’s not “your fault” that you didn’t learn though obviously it is your problem and the consequences of failures to regulate are yours to deal with. But the window for learning to self-regulate is gone and anyone who thinks its a skill you should magically grasp is….ignorant of child development.

    But you can learn to regulate from specific external queues and it sounds like that’s what you’re doing with Noah. He gives you the feedback you can’t internalize and you respond and of course you feel safer around him. He helps you stay in control.

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