Thursday, April 4, 2024

Am I dysregulating or panicking from someone else's dysregulation?

I posted recently that I was relieved to find that the extreme emotions that I have regularly experienced have a name, dysregulation. And more importantly that I can do something about it. But now I'm wondering whether it's me who is dysregulating or someone else and I'm panicking about it. And that sometimes, in an extreme panic attack, I begin dysregulating too. 

I have experiences of dysregulation, including self-harm and unmanageable emotions. They seem to be triggered in part by emotional flashbacks. These, as I understand them, are times I'm thrust into the negative emotions by a milder version of what occurred or even by something benign. 

But emotional flashbacks, or panic attacks or dysregulation are also triggered by less mild or benign situations. Which I guess would not be emotional flashbacks but actually abusive situations. These include out of control anger, irrational behavior, yelling, shaming, sarcastic comments, attacks, self-pity, crazy-making behavior and gaslighting about all that. In this case, from my husband. And I'm beginning to see that this behavior is him dysregulating and that sometimes I've gone into full blown dysregulation in a trauma response to that. 

For the most part, I'd say, I handle his angry outburst pretty well. Too well, it seems. Because it has become the expectation in our marriage that I just "deal with" them. For the first 35 years, there was no real, concerted effort on his part, to admit to, let alone control the angry outbursts. He would only apologize after he'd spent all the adrenaline energy, in the form of raging, screaming, cursing and attacking anyone who got in his way. It is only when he's in a state of post-meltdown euphoria. Or when he was really trying to get himself together. That comes and goes with alarming frequency. 

He never (or very rarely) addresses the suffering they cause unless I confront it. And then he does it  kicking and screaming. It takes long, painful hours of "come to Jesus" meetings to make him even admit what he did. Mostly he backpeddles, saying he "didn't mean to" and giving long senseless explanations. Because, I think, that like my dad, he's trying to convince himself he really didn't act that badly. Which only makes things infinitely harder for me, as a people pleaser. 

Unless he was in the post-adrenaline euphoria state. Then he's admit what he did and adult up to it. He'll get off his high, arrogant horse, humble himself and promise to do better. He's very convincing and I believe him. Because I want to. But when I look at it realistically, I can see how calculated it is. By the fact that 1)He's all over the place 2) inconsistent 3) irrationally and randomly provoked and 4) only humbles himself when he's gotten me to my worst. I now believe that this is done so that I can never plan a positive strategy to cope. It's as if he's saying "plan on this: being in a state of constant crisis, chaos and "he loves me, he loves me not."  

Just recently, he blew up at me at Easter dinner. We had a house full of grandkids that we were both dealing with. He blasted me for not dropping what I was doing, caring for three of the children, to help him figure out what one grandchild needed. And then when I did, he yelled at me because I asked several times if it had worked. I asked several times because he had not responded the first two times. And then he blew up over several other random things. And then made a silly, jokey apology, bowing down before me (which was actually shaming) because he wanted me to do some other thing for me. So clearly dismissing and belittling me. 

And he never apologizes for it. It just gets ignored until I say something. At which time we have to spend hours in more "come to Jesus" meetings, getting him to admit it. Sometimes he's quicker to get it than others. But he never addresses it first. If I want any closure, I have to. Which I know is insane and not really closure at all. It's still all about him because he'll pout and pity himself how he's "such a loser" "always wrong" Which is just more gaslighting me into feeling responsible for making him feel that way. 

He'll make big promises to change when he sees that I'm at my wits' end (a place he seems to like me being in). He will push me to dysregulate (hit myself and meltdown). And then he's so sorry, he didn't mean to, etc. How he understand why I did this because he "had it coming." As if he's suffering some consequences by being confronted by what he did. And it's still all about him. 

I never really get anything but the shit end of the stick. And I've begun to realize that he isn't suffering any consequences. I am. I'm getting the shame, gaslighting, abuse, shitty feelings and fear. He's just being shown his behavior and not liking what he sees. And I'm punished for that. 

If he were actually sorry or actually suffering, he'd be damned sure doing something differently.  But he's not because it's working. He can continue to behave abominably because he knows I'll do the heavy lifting. I'll put my neck on the chopping block taking the risk addressing it. He may or may not accept it. He knows I'll feel guilty because that's what I do. He knows he can guilt me into turning myself into a fucking pretzel to "save my marriage." Which is exactly what it  is. My marriage. His playground. 

He can ride on my coattails feeling like we have such a great relationship when he's not putting in much if any work. He has a great relationship. I have shit and shoved in it. I get a few crumbs thrown my way and because dumbass Marilisa has always accepted crumbs, dumbass Marilisa keeps on accepting crumbs and being so grateful for them. 

This is the pattern for most of our family interactions. I've been pushed and pulled back and forth through it all. I still am. We are in a constant cycle of build up to meltdown, meltdown, post-meltdown peace, him feeling ashamed and setting me up and build up again. He will not accept any responsibility unless he chooses to. And then, nothing changes. I'm told that he'll do better. But no plan is given. And I'm expected to accept this as some kind of magnanimous gesture and be grateful for it. And we go back to square one the very next day. 

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. 

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