www.geoffmitchell.com

Defenso-Reacto Man

There’s a few personal websites I visit on a daily basis. They’re linked on the sidebar under “recommended clicking“. I do so because the writing is consistently worth reading. These are personal websites, or “blogs” if you wish, although I think the term “blog” should be reserved for the vapid and banal diary-style entries you’ll typically find on mySpace. The sites I frequent are far more creative and thought provoking than a series of twitter generated sputtering about “hating my science teacher because they gave me a C“, or “Carrie’s friend is so totally lame to think that Sarah’s brother is cute, OMG!” and “it was, like, so hard to find a pair of red pumps to match my black low rise jeans and my pink “90% Bitch” tank top.” No, the sites I am talking about are not some vacuous teen’s online social presence. These are websites authored by very creative and talented writers with humorous, personal and insightful thoughts to share. Clumping them into the category of a “web log” is an unjust association.

So, one of these websites recently posted an entry in which the author boldly laid out the personal details of their own struggles with what they conveyed as a “borderline personality disorder”. Interestingly, it sounded a bit too close to my own frequent feelings than I might typically feel comfortable revealing. Yet I was both impressed with the honesty and grateful to hear somebody else sharing their experience. It was good enough to merit taking a moment to send them an email of praise for the writing, as well as offering that they were not alone in their struggles. That there were others out here that have their own struggles as well. That we were in the same camp. Perhaps not the exact same dysfunctional cabin, but definitely in the same dysfunctional camp.

It also gave me the inspiration to write about an issue of my own.

My wife, after I finally reached the point of considering marriage as an option at age 37, quickly tagged me within the first year of our marriage as “Defenso-Reacto-Man”. Translation? I have a short fuse and an unusually defensive nature. I take way too many things very personally. Way too many things.

Hell, even the most sincere, innocent and innocuous questions like “Did you take out the trash?“, “Where’d you put the remote” or even “how was your day?” can and have been met with the assumption that there’s a thinly veiled criticism lurking behind them, that I’m being told I’m not taking out the trash soon enough, that I have to get out off my ass and find the remote, or that her day with the kids was miserable and I should feel bad if I had a good day.

I know it’s not rational. Hell, it’s ‘borderline’ in it’s own right. And it’s not just at home that this happens. it’s at work, too. And in traffic. And in line at the grocery store. It’s a constant tone and presence in my daily life..

I think I know where it came from. I think it came from childhood experiences and insecurities that come from moving and struggling to make friends, and then from working for so long in an engineering community, where even the slightest ideas or efforts get aggressively critiqued and dissected in order to refine and improve them, regardless of the cost to one’s pride. I think I’ve had one too many projects or ideas that I’ve labored to produce and then have brought before a group of my peers, dramatically unveiling it with exuberant pride, only to have every little aspect of it pulled apart and analyzed for the slightest possible issue, fault, or usage scenario I’d never envisioned.

I understand that nobody’s out to get me and nobody’s out to prove me wrong, make me look bad, or put a “kick me” sign on my back when I’m not paying attention. But I also know that just because everybody’s not out to get me doesn’t mean that they’re not all lying and they really are all out to get me.

See? See what I’m dealing with here?

And more importantly, see what my poor wife’s had to endure? She’s been closest to the flame and the recipient of far more teeth-gritting responses then anybody should have to deal with. And what’s worse is that my own kids have been witness to negative rants, frustrated mutterings and even the occasional improper language usage.

And then we wonder why they talk back or exhibit aggressive behavior.

Well, we don’t wonder, we know what’s behind a good chunk of it. Sure, temperments involved and one’s not nearly as bad as the other, but I’m not helping thing by modeling impatience and frustration, now am I?

I’m trying desperately to find a way to maintain a better balance and think before I react.

I’ll be honest. I’ve gone for some counseling before, and even tried Wellbutrin and Ridlin at times, each with no lasting or sustained success. I’m not opposed to giving something else a try. I do believe that many people suffer from issues that are honestly tied to physiological conditions. Wiring, if you will. And chemical imbalances in our systems are known to be significant factors in depression, aggression, and numerous serious illnesses.

Yet I also think that, if everything was picture perfect and I had not a care in the world, I’d be managing just fine. I know I would. So I have to take a great deal of ownership for my own expectations as well as the way I react or handle things that don’t go my way. The very same things that don’t go their way for everybody else. Whether it’s bad traffic, somebody asking the one question in a meeting that I can’t answer, or the fact that after going through the checkout to find I only have the cash for the eggs and milk, I drop the eggs by the car and find the milk’s gone bad when i open it the following morning.

It’s about how, or perhaps even if I let these things get to me, that will make a big change. And perhaps some meds, too. Maybe I can get my hands on some GLeeMONEX.

I’ve already started working on this. I’ve made some progress. I’ve lost a little ground too, but I’m still feeling good about the distance I’ve come. I’ve got a good deal of work ahead, and I will continue to try and get my perspective aligned with the realistic expectations, and the waste of energy that is a negative or frustrated reaction.

That’s all i have to say for now. I’m sure you’ll all start talking about this as soon as i leave the room.

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Written by gsm

08/10/2007 at 8:08 am

Posted in  Journal 

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