Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell

This isn’t a post about homophobia in the military or US military policy. It’s about my own raging social anxiety and how it’s always affected my personal relationships with almost everyone except J.

I don’t ask.

I normally get the sense that people are troubled, but I don’t ask people what’s troubling them. I don’t ask people much beyond, ‘Are you alright?’ or, ‘Can I do something to help you?’ I don’t ask for details, because I don’t want to pry. I’m happy to accept anything a person voluntarily shares with me, but I don’t ever actively search for more, because asking after people isn’t something I ever experienced or witnessed in my life. Asking was nosy and invasive and intrusive and caused people to bark, ‘None of your business!’ at you, which is something I didn’t want. Or you’d flat out be ignored. Also not my favorite. And no one ever asked after me. If I began to cry or pace the floor or feel sick or look troubled or want to talk about something, I normally got some form of, ‘No one wants to hear it,’ or, ‘Don’t cry,’ or, ‘Just calm down.’
So asking after people isn’t something I do. That doesn’t mean I don’t care. I will ask if someone needs to talk or needs some help or if they are alright. But I just don’t ask for details, because I feel like if someone wants me to know something, they’d tell me. ‘I’m just having a bad day,’ to me is met with, ‘I’m here if you need to talk about it or if I can do something to help,’ and often, that’s the end. I don’t interrogate people about what’s bothering them. I’ve learned (maybe incorrectly) that that’s rude and offensive and invites acrimony.

And I don’t tell.

It’s extraordinarily hard for me to open up to people and trust people. I am actually feeling some serious weight of trust issues right now. And I’m going to give more evidence about that here by being vague about what’s bothering me, but suffice it to say, something is troubling me very, very deeply this week. I’m extremely anxious. Trouble eating. Insomnia. Lots of crying and pacing and fidgeting worrying about it. It’s damn near consuming me. But I won’t write about it here, and the only humans I’ve talked about it with in any detail are J and my best friend. They’ve been very comforting and understanding, but the anxiety is still there. And I won’t tell another soul anything beyond, ‘I’m having a bad day.’ And if someone did ask me follow up questions, I wouldn’t bark, ‘None of your business,’ at them or ignore them totally…but I would reply with, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’
I’m not blaming other people for the way I am. There are thousands of people who have had similar experiences as me that didn’t develop crippling trust issues and social anxiety and near pathological introversion. I’m just trying to work through why this is such a pervasive and continuous problem in my life. In the past, when I have opened up to someone, I’ve always been dismissed or ridiculed. Told I’m afraid of everything, I’m exhausting, I’m annoying. That being my parent, my family, my friend wears people out. That I expect too much from people. I’m demanding. I’m irrational. They don’t have time to ‘deal with me.’ It’s very rare that anyone other than J or my best friend hasn’t told me to essentially go away when I’ve tried to open up to them. They don’t have the energy or capacity right now for me to open up to them. And the more I heard those things from many, many different people, the easier it became to believe, and therefore, stop interacting with most other people. I don’t feel wanted. I don’t feel safe. I don’t trust most people to open up to them, because so many people have unequivocally and repeatedly told me to box it all up and keep the lid latched.

There’s this saying…

asshole

I don’t run into assholes very often, because I rarely leave my house, and I live with J and my son (who are not assholes), and I text my friends at a distance (and they aren’t assholes either). But I’ve always thought the problem was me, and today in particular, I feel like I must be right about that. That social anxiety is right. If it’s hard for me to open up to one person; to trust one person; then maybe that person is untrustworthy for real. But if I can’t open up and trust ANYBODY…well…

I do trust and open up to J and my best friend. But really? NOBODY else. Not wholly, anyway. Only situationally and partially at best. I can’t trust my mom and dad. I can’t trust my brother. I can’t really trust people I grew up with and have known for 15-30+ years. I don’t trust doctors. I just don’t trust people. I wish I wasn’t so closed off and wary to trust other people. I wish I wasn’t so well conditioned to hold everything in. I wish I was a more open person. But I’m hard to read, and hard to get to know, and hard to be close to. I just am. It’s bad for my anxiety and it’s made making deep, real connections…any sort of loving relationship with another person…incredibly difficult for my entire life. But as much as I wish I had more close connection, and as much as I want to be a more open person, I am still extremely wary to trust and open up.

I don’t ask and I don’t tell.

Questions and Answers - Magnifying Glass on Words

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