As we might remember, I am taking an anti-anxiety medication because I am a very anxious person. That part’s going great! Unfortunately, it has a side effect of inhibition. Which sounds more scandalous than it actually is, maybe.
I started noticing a problem with strangers. I used to mutter to myself whenever a stranger bothered me, but with my medication I actually verbalize and act out at strangers who bother me. I’ve even become physical with one in a way that I continue to feel shame about. And I’ve lost a work friend over another encounter that he observed as a third party to my subway train yelling match. My psychiatrist tried to convince me that my reaction matched the circumstance, but it never sat right with me. And then I screamed my head off at one of the landlords who came to my door to tell me not to do xyz (I wasn’t doing x or y, but was doing z, but I was just pissed about the whole thing). Dawg witnessed this one and asked me why I reacted the way I did, and I didn’t have a good answer for it.
The next day I asked my work buddy for the number to her therapist. (Short story: In NYC you have a psychiatrist for the drugs and a therapist for the talking part, so now I have both.) I have seen him for a few weeks now. At this week’s session I had a major breakthrough where I finally understood that I’ve put many, many coping mechanisms in place to deal with living in a rude, inconsiderate city as opposed to the respectful-of-personal-space place I grew up in. And when people break through those coping mechanisms I FREAK OUT and don’t know how to handle the situation so I react in anger, based on fear of not being in control.
So, this week’s homework is to be uncomfortable. Take out the earphones on the train. Let people touch my ribs with their elbows. (UGH! I know.) Let people hit me with their backpacks. (UGH! I KNOW AGAIN!) Listen to people calling women bitches and their friends the n word OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. Sit back and watch the IT’S SHOWTIME dancers flip inches from my face. If anyone has a beef with me, it’s safety first so I’m supposed to apologize. If someone does something to me I can look mildly annoyed but should not escalate.
I wish I could have seen my own face when my therapist told me that this is what he wanted me to do. I kept saying no, that’s horrible, WHY would I CHOOSE to do these things.
It’s about desensitization. It’s a necessity, to make it easier for situations to roll off my shoulders. So I won’t react in anger when unwanted exchanges occur with strangers. So that I don’t have to feel ashamed or bad for my behavior when someone else “starts it”.
I’m learning how to interact with this city. I’m in therapy because I didn’t grow up here. It’s ironic, absurd, but necessary.
A lesson in progress. I’ll let you know how it goes.