Finding an emotional needle in a haystack of self-protection

For a few minutes after having finished watching, I didn’t know what to say. Everyone who knows me how rare that is – everyone who knows me probably never even ever saw me speechless.

Episode 3 of season 4 of Sherlock hit me like nothing I have ever seen in any show, videogame, or movie. Emotionally. I cried. I actually cried. Several tears, not just one. I have never, ever, in my life, actually cried from any kind of art. I choke up very rarely, but I never dropped any tears. Ever.

I very rarely cried even in real life. 5-6 times at most, ever, due to my incredible distance to emotions and unimaginable amounts of emotional self-protection. At the 14th of September 2013 I got thrown out of my first stationary therapy after having been there for 4 weeks due to self-harm in front of half the other patients. I had not a clue it could do any harm to anyone, especially if they see me doing it, or traces of it. Noone caring about me is so deeply wired into my brain, it’s parts of my most basic intuition – and I have very few intuition at all.

When they told me I caused mental breakdowns in half of the patients – about 35 people in total – it broke down on me how stupid that was. They told me they couldn’t keep me. Of course they couldn’t, I was a burden. A pattern that continues throughout my life to this day and shows itself every once in a while, after I spend enough time in a group of people and start to think about my actions just a bit less. I never oppose the decision of throwing me out of any community, not then in stationary, never in any other community I had to leave since then – which was quite a few – and still now I never questioned any of these decisions. I know that if I’m a burden, I have to leave for the sake of the others. I am just important as every single one of those people and if I am a burden to multiple – which is always the case – there’s no other choice but to show me the door.

But I didn’t even think of that possibility back then. So when they confronted me with the harsh reality that I did so incredible harm in such an obvious way to so many people, one new fact burned itself into my brain: I can and do cause harm in others, and there’s no way for me of knowing when it happens.

I can cause great harm in others, I did many times in my life, several of them so heavy I get blocked with no attempt of communication ever again. And I never, ever realise it until it’s too late, the harm is done and I can try to sort things out. Even if I can it never works as, again, the harm is done. Me not having been aware makes the situation worse for them because it means it can very well happen again without me being able to try to “get better”.

The core assumption of noone giving a shit about me is still there. It always was and is until today. If I hear something that suggests otherwise, even if I make observations that rationally don’t allow any other assumption, I still don’t “accept” it. Either I just ignore that or find some other possibility; often people being very good at lying for any reason that has nothing to do with wanting to show me they care for me.

This new knowledge didn’t oppose that core assumption. It just meant that just because people don’t care doesn’t mean they don’t see or in any other way feel (in a sensory way) what I do and can get hurt by it anyway. A lot. Until then I always assumed that if I do something that physically only effects me, noone else could – and therefore would – get hurt because noone gives a shit about me.

The concept of memory-based triggers and graphic imagery wasn’t intuitive to me because neither existed or did anything to me until then. For graphic imagery, that’s still true. I have never seen or heard anything that shocked me purely for what it was; that might never happen – and I saw and especially heard some very, very cruel shit.

But memory-based triggers do work for me. Maybe even before without me being aware but I am aware since I’m generally aware something’s wrong with me (which was shortly before I got into my first stationary therapy, which was my first therapy overall). It’s still impossible for me to intuitively judge on what I do or say could do to someone, even in (for others, as I get told so often) obvious situations. But I am very able to do it rationally, if I think about it.

In most situations I don’t, because it’s exhausting and takes a bit of time, making me less quick-witted. I lost a lot of friends due to hurting them in a way that was so incredibly obvious once I got told what I did wrong, from them or someone else, or if I thought about it a lot after I saw the damage being done. But I am never aware while it happens.

I even did this to girlfriends, one of them in such an amount that left her scarred until today. She told me she wants nothing more than me dead 1.5 years ago. We had spoken two times since then, one was just two sentences from her as an answer to an e-mail trying to apologize, the other was smalltalk on Facebook. She blocked me later that day without anything I did in that particular situation – the reasons became obvious about half a year later: September 2016, she messaged me out of nowhere. She took back what she said to me the two times we talked before about being over what happened. She said she had lied, for self-protection and because she tried to oppress it. That day she obviously couldn’t and it was so brutal she needed to tell me, 3.5 years later.

That did not make me cry. It impacted me heavily and threw me back a huge amount in trying to get over losing her, and then letting happen what happened. Losing both my job and having had to drop out of university at the same time (university because of the job) didn’t either. And losing the next, other two girlfriends didn’t as well. I had a lot of heavy emotional situations since that 15th September 2013. I had a 6-day-long suicidal phase just in January, after going off my meds. I never cried again – since almost 4 years now.

The last time I cried was when my psychologist in the hospital told me I had to leave. I started to choke up when I called my step-father to pick me up and started crying when I hung up. I know very clearly what I thought back then – of me, and what I am. I don’t know for sure what happened that day (I never know for sure what happens inside of me emotionally), but logically the knowledge I can cause great harm in people without being aware at all changed something. About 5 weeks after realizing something has to be wrong with me I also realize that even if I myself am irrelevant to people, my actions are not.

It’s obvious I took a huge step away from acting on any emotions. I was always logically aware of that after these things happened; I have a good amount of self-reflexion. I explained it several times to some friends and therapists as the reason I’m so emotionally “cold”. As rational as I can act, as few control I have about the emotions I do have – and since they seem to be incredibly dangerous to the people around me I usually withdraw from everyone as soon as I realize I might break down. It works, most of the time, since some time now. The emotions are still there, and the loss of reality that comes with it is as well, but since noone’s there I can hurt the damage I can deal to others is not very big.

Since crying didn’t happen for about 4 years I thought it might never happen again. But this episode of my favourite TV show did it. It fucking did it. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the new character they introduce at the end of S04E02 who is the main character in E03 hit me closer to home than any character ever in any art – movies, shows, and video games. She didn’t get so close to me at first, throughout the episode I got to like her due to what I thought was an interesting concept, but at the very end – the spike in the arc of tension, for those who saw the episode – it hit me.

So. Fucking. Hard.

What she did, said, and showed – so, in terms of art, felt – mirrored so much of what I see myself as and, more importantly, what I fear to be. She showed so much of what I fear I’m capable of, and know what I did already, within the context and measures of my own life and also, of course, with much less actual intellect. But that fucking twist of her deepest mechanics, her motivation, the solution, and the aftermath – I never had anything that hit closer to home than that.

There are so many more things that make it hit so close to home for me that I can’t and won’t talk about as I never talked about them before, and don’t plan on ever doing. That doesn’t belong in this world and in anyone’s ears.

I don’t know what that means for me. I don’t know how long this will follow me, and how much it changed. I never know these things until months or even years pass. But I do know this for sure now: It is physically possible for me to be touched. And it’s humanly possible to imagine something that’s this close to how I feel. That is something I feared was not possible at all, leading me to very abstract explanations that always felt more right emotionally than rationally.

So this is one thing that episode did for sure: It showed me I am human. Somewhere, somehow. The tears where relieving. I wanted to cry for years now, over a hundred times. I have tried to force it, force me to show emotions, which I never do and am almost never able to at all. Here, I didn’t even expect it, also because I knew a few – the biggest – spoilers. This not having been spoiled doesn’t surprise me; I did not talk to anyone who saw it yet, but I suspect that resolution felt incredibly cheesy, dumb, maybe even unbelievable and/or cliché for many. Not for me. I was not prepared for this. And that is so good. This was important.

Showing emotions – willingly or not – never worked. Noone ever notices if I break down and would jump from the next bridge. It happens a lot more than the people around me might think. Don’t blame yourself for it – noone ever notices, so it’s normal; it is not your fault, and there is nothing you can do. As I said above: It is pretty much impossible to make me believe anyone actually cares about me, no matter what you do and no matter how rationally good your arguments are. Without touching me emotionally – and that also very rarely happens; by a human once in my life – it is impossible.

Just because it is physically possible doesn’t mean anyone would have a measurable chance, as what hit me in that episode was the fact that this character pushed the deepest of my buttons without that being the intention and without the writers of the episode knowing them; obviously even without knowing me. I know when people try to comfort me because they think they have to, or even if they want to; it just makes my emotional barriers way more thick and if they do anything I told them could help, it will never work as I know they didn’t do it out of intuition or knowing me well, but out of knowledge. Of course, they wouldn’t try if they didn’t care for me, which is what I know rationally. But as I said above, there’s always a possibility for another motivation as I can’t see into anyone’s head. When it comes down to it, everyone is just very good at lying and acting for all my emotions care.

Over my entire life and especially the last 4 years I had lots of moments I wanted to cry and where it “should” have happened (measured by logic and other people), but my emotional barriers are incredibly strong. It’s self-protection, of course. I hate it with a passion; I don’t want it to be there, but it doesn’t seem to be under my – and especially anyone else’s – control. And I was so far to believe they’re just an impenetrable wall by now. I gave up. So me not being able to hold my self-protection up like I always could in any situation, no matter how severe and bad, proves me wrong. It physically is possible, which is infinitely better than it being 100% impossible. It obviously still stakes a lot and it will probably be many years until it happens again, but now I know there at least are one or two needles in that coal mine full of hay.

And that is so fucking good to know.

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