I have a very logical mind. I did wonderfully in school, particularly in the areas of math and science. My brain has always been quick to analyze and decipher. I have an incredible knack for problem-solving.
Yet, when it comes to anything within the emotional realm, I am completely and utterly lost.
I have struggled with depression and anxiety my entire life. Unlike many others who can pinpoint the onset of their mental illness to a particular traumatic event, mine has been caused, in large part, to a bonafide chemical imbalance caused by a mutation on a genetic level. Because of this fact, I have struggled with my emotions throughout my entire life. I have never experienced a single day that was not marred by depression. Yet ironically, despite the fact that my life has been ruled by my emotions, it is those same emotions I struggle to understand the most.
I usually have at least a basic grasp of how I myself feel, though I am sometimes not entirely sure exactly why I feel that way. My emotions are often raw, unfiltered and overwhelming. I am always weighing my own feelings, questioning whether or not they’re rational and trying to determine their origin. I search for validation in my own feelings because many of them make no sense to me.
I have serious trouble understanding where other people are coming from when they share their own feelings. Others frequently become frustrated and angry with me because they feel they have to rehash the same things with me again and again. It isn’t that I haven’t been listening. I have heard everything they said. I just honestly have trouble interpreting it. Because my brain struggles to process emotions, my logical side is quick to take over, deconstructing everything others have said and done, looking for sense and causation. There are times when one statement and feeling has been interpreted by me five different ways and still ultimately makes no sense.
My own emotions are often raw and unfiltered so unfortunately that is the only experience I have to relate to when interpreting the feelings of others. I have been wounded often so I also naturally find myself hearing what you say from that approach since it is what I know best. The old adage that you live what you know applies. I only have experience with my own feelings and the emotional states that I have experienced so I can only relate based on what I know.
I am also very empathetic, so the feelings of others often bleed off onto me, especially anything related to sadness, depression, panic or despair since those are the emotions I experience most often myself. It is hard for me sometimes to differentiate where someone else’s feelings end and my own begin. It all becomes one large garbled, distraught mess without a definitive beginning or end. When I cannot even determine which feelings are my own, it becomes impossible to even attempt to understand where any of the emotions I am feeling are even coming from, let alone whether or not they’re even valid.
There are also days when my depression leaves me feeling completely numb. On days that I am feeling nothing at all, it is hard to relate to the emotions of others. I try to put myself in other peoples’ shoes and experience what they are feeling, but when there are no emotions there on my end, it is difficult to understand where others are coming from or relate to how they are feeling. On those days, no matter how badly I want to empathize and sympathize, the emotions of others are often met with my apologetically blank stare.
Some emotions are particularly overwhelming and immediately trigger my flight response. For instance, I do not handle anger well. In my past, when others were angry, it ended in abuse. These days, when anger is aimed at me, I automatically want to flee. It is honestly not even something I stop to consider. Rage equals abuse. I instantly become afraid that if I stay to try and determine whether that anger is justified, I am leaving myself vulnerable to be hurt. Anger makes me shut down, makes me want to run away, to hide and get somewhere safe. It doesn’t matter whether a person has ever laid a hand on me or hurt me in any way. When met with rage, my brain starts flashing a neon light to get away, get somewhere safe. I have no control over that overwhelming urge to flee.
The situation becomes increasingly difficult when talking about matters of the heart. I am truthfully clueless about Love. Though I know whether or not I love someone, I am oblivious about anyone else’s feelings for me. Like or Love, it’s all lost on me. Though others may feel they are being completely clear with their feelings and intentions, most of what they say has been interpreted and reinterpreted multiple times with differing outcomes and has been completely lost on me. I find myself asking for clarification again and again because I honestly just don’t know where I stand.
Part of it is the long-instilled and reinforced self-deprecating belief that I am not worthy of love on some basic level. I have been told for so many years, in both words and actions, that I am unlovable, so much so that I have begun to accept it as truth. Regardless of whatever good others may see in me, I have trouble seeing beyond the flaws. Because I have trouble accepting that I am lovable on any level, I am constantly looking for other, more reasonable explanations for other people’s emotions than love.
It goes even beyond that, though.
I am not entirely sure what love looks like or feels like coming from someone else. Though admittedly I’m not entirely sure how love is supposed to be, I know how I feel, how I act and how I treat others when I love them. I have trouble, though, identifying love from others. I know the jumbled, dysfunctional, abusive mess that other people have told me was love, but that isn’t love to me. When people use the word love but their other words or actions contradict it, I am left thoroughly confused. Again, the logical part of my brain looks for reasonable alternative explanations.
Even when people have outright told me that they love me, I find myself questioning it. My logical side immediately wonders whether they said it to try and make me feel better in some way, whether they are afraid of being alone or are more in love with love itself than they are in love with me. I have trouble believing in things that are good or positive, not because I automatically mistrust the feelings of others but rather because I have trouble on some level believing that anything that good could happen to me. I keep waiting to hear someone elaborate that while they do love me, they are not in love with me, or that though they care, they have fallen out of love with me. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. It always has. It always does. The logical side of my mind is quick to remind me of that fact.
My very logical brain is always thinking and over-thinking, analyzing and over-analyzing. Though my mind cannot seem to wrap itself around anything emotional, the logical part of my brain has always been quick to step in, question everything, yank it apart, weigh it all and prepare me for the worst. The logical side of my brain never settles on one outcome, either. Instead, it searches for every and any possible meaning and reason and continuously shuffles through them all, weighing the probability of each, until I am even more confused and overwhelmed.
I honestly hate that I cannot understand where other people are coming from and read situations better. It seems like others are constantly angry and frustrated with me because they feel I’m just not listening or hearing them. I honestly don’t mean to be like this. I truly wish I had a better handle on my own emotions so that I could better relate to others and be able to respond accordingly. Unfortunately, though, most things within the realm of emotions are completely lost on me. I genuinely have trouble understanding and processing feelings. I don’t mean to be like this. My brain just doesn’t work correctly. The emotional side of my brain barely functions and the logical side has been stuck in overdrive, trying to pick up the slack and make sense of everything.
Republished on The Mighty on 1/29/17.