April 27, 2020 at 11:23 am #351588
Hi Forum Folke,
Well… I’m also not sure where to even begin.
Plus, I’m having a tough time writing this… this is revision #4 at least.
I decided my life history isn’t necessary to what I’m looking for, though I’ll of course be happy to answer any questions.
The long and short of it is simply that I’ve been a social cripple since age ten, when my parents split up and my whole world came crashing down around me. I went from a normal ten-year-old to an intensely shy, withdrawn, socially awkward and timid boy… and it hasn’t become a lot better in the intervening years (I’ll be 67 this June) except for the last 3 years, post-AA.
Autism runs in my family, and I’ve been diagnosed as being an “extremely high-functioning Asperger’s” case. It would explain a lot of things about my adolescent years… the inability to look anyone in the eye, the borderline obsessive behavior towards many things… Alcoholism also runs in the family, and it showed up in me, as well.
Anyway, what everything boils down to is this: I don’t react emotionally to people, other than negatively if they become an irritant. My overall life outlook is similar: life is either bad, or neutral… but never good.
I’ve been fighting major clinical depression for over twenty years; can’t even remember how many different therapists I’ve seen, each with his own idea of what to prescribe for it. Always with the pills. Tried ’em all, and encountered a whole slew of interesting side-effects, but very little relief… or progress on why I was so depressed. they probably helped with mood stabilization and prevented me from suiciding, but not a lot more than that. Came on gradually starting in my 30’s as SADD, and slowly escalated into year-round depression, deepening over time. I’ve heard that depression is simply anger turned inward… seems as likely as anything else I’ve heard, and I certainly have issues with anger.
The more depressed I became, the more emotionally numb I became, absolutely indifferent to people one way or another. I’ve often wondered if I was becoming a sociopath or something. The darker side of the emotional spectrum works just fine, thanks… but the opposite end of the spectrum? Nope. As I said, things are either bad, or not bad, but never good.
I absolutely cannot remember the last time I was excited over something, or eagerly looking forward to something, or jazzed about something I was doing right then… just neutral, numb, indifferent. Plodding, marching… but never dancing.
I married very young, at 19, fresh into the US Navy, and such large decisions made at such a young age seldom work out well… and that was the case for me. First, I was nineteen going on fourteen; extremely immature for my age (emotionally, socially, you name it.) We’re actually still married (48 years), but that’s as much due to my perfecting the art of being a doormat as to anything else. My abysmally low self-esteem told me I didn’t deserve any better, so I accepted/tolerated serial infidelities as no more than my due. I was intensely self-involved and selfish, and basically a loner anyway (I really had no business getting married, but tell that to a horny, immature nineteen-year-old), and was pretty much emotionally absent from things, and she’s an intensely social creature… you do the math.
So I find myself here, now, 67 years old, an AA member for the last three years, and making more progress on myself in those three years than in all the prior years with the paid professionals and their damned pills. At least NOW, I’m aware of the issues I face, and can modify my behavior (or apologize if I didn’t recognize going off the rails at the time.) The status of my marriage is one of… not sure how to describe it… committed, caring, in-for-the-long-haul… but there’s no love in it. I care for her, I care what happens to her, I would never wish anything bad for her, I would never (knowingly-in-advance) do anything bad to her, I want nothing but the best for her… but I just don’t feel much of anything for her, and I’m now realizing that I never really did. It’s more a loyalty/obligation thing: I took a solemn vow, and I meant it and still do, and there’s been a whole lot of life we’ve faced together (with her at the helm pretty much; I always play a supporting role), and I can’t just discount it all.
My reason for this post is this (finally… ): As I said, I’m pretty much emotionally numb, and I just don’t react to people very much. So imagine my consternation and confusion when I met a woman at an AA meeting (our first, oddly enough, for both of us) and was immediately blindsided by such a rush of emotion, the likes of which I have never experienced in all of my life. And all from that other end of the emotional spectrum that I thought was dead, or that I never had in the first place. Love (I think… how would I know?), joy, anticipation, eagerness, a fierce desire to protect and nurture, to be firm bedrock on which she could regain her feet… and so much more that I can’t even begin to describe (I’m not really on speaking terms with my emotions, other than the dark ones.)
It’s like she threw some switch that somehow turned on all those emotions I’ve not been feeling for so very long; I find myself crying (the poignant, happy kind) over passages of music, or over many things in my mound of self-help books when I read them (AA, Buddhism, a whole scattered lot if them), or just in joy of being alive. I finally feel alive and happy to be that way; I no longer feel that things would be better if I were to just not wake up tomorrow.
So of course, I want to be with her full-time, to follow this new way of existing, but there are so many complications (aren’t there always?) First, I’m 67 and she’s 52… that’s nearly a generation of separation; not cradle-robbing, but within shooting distance of it. She’s married, but her husband has filed for divorce (ten years of living with an alcoholic was enough for him), I’M married, but only legally/morally/obligationally… and I am simply not the kind of person that could live with buying my own happiness at the expense of someone elses (namely, my wife.)
So, there’s a lot more detail, but it’s only supportive, not germane to the issue. I am absolutely torn asunder over what to do, over how to handle this. My head is telling me one thing, but for once, my heart is fighting back, and has an agenda of it’s own… and it’s not listening. I don’t want to hurt my wife, but I don’t want to lose what I’ve found, either. The thought, now, of going back into that dead, gray emotional void is just intolerable. I can’t go… I can’t stay… this is the emotional equivalent of the “bottom” you hear alcoholics and addicts talk about, that turning point where they are forced into change because they can no longer stand the life that drinking causes, but can’t continue without drinking either.
She is NOT aware of the depth of my feelings for her, or towards her; we are friends, and are in regular contact through meetings, but more these days via text of phone or Zoom. She genuinely likes me, and is extremely grateful for my friendship (she has few friends, and her “home” is no more than a house with a hostile atmosphere; she lives in her own room and doesn’t come out very much.)
The REAL problem for me here is that emotions are not something I am accustomed to dealing with, and it feels like a battle I am woefully ill-equipped to fight. I also have a personal history of not knowing what I want… discovering something, becoming interested, immersing/learning, gearing up to do… and then just losing interest altogether right when it comes time to actually start DOING the thing I got interested in… so I absolutely do NOT trust what comes out of my head, either.
Head = untrustworthy, Heart= unknown territory… I simply do not know what to do, where to turn. I posted this here in “Emotional Mastery” because at least for me, it involves out-of-control emotions, and I could absolutely use a degree of mastery here.
Practicing mindfulness helps… but only for as long as I remain mindful, which at my level is hard to maintain. Meditation is unfamiliar and similarly difficult (probably doing it wrong anyway). Giving it up to my ‘higher power;… well, that’s another whole can of worms I’ll not open here.
I welcome thoughts, comments, suggestions; two heads are always better than one, especially when one of ’em is mine… and a whole forum-full of heads is even better!
So thanks for reading, and if I’m ready for the guys in white coats with butterfly nets, let me know. I won’t be surprised, and it might be the best answer anyway.April 27, 2020 at 12:55 pm #351796
My retelling of your story (it helps me process information when I do that):
You think of yourself as having been a “normal ten-year-old”, before your parents split up and your “whole world came crashing down”. As a result you became “intensely shy, withdrawn, socially awkward and timid boy”.
At some point, you were diagnosed with “an extremely high-functioning Asperger’s”. You joined the Navy and got married at about 19. In your 30s you’ve been seasonally depressed, and clinically depressed at about 36 and onward. You were prescribed anti-depressants but “very little relief.. or progress”.
“The more depressed I became, the more emotionally numb I became, absolutely indifferent to people.. just neutral, numb, indifferent. Plodding, marching… but never dancing.. Things are either bad, or not bad, but never good. I absolutely cannot remember the last time I was excited over something, or eagerly looking forward to something”. In your 48 year marriage, you perfected the art of being a doormat (your words), and you played a supportive role. You “don’t feel much of anything for her.. never really did”, it’s a matter of “a loyalty/ obligation thing”, and you are aware that she had a series of extramarital affairs, or relationships.
At 67, you met a 52 year old woman in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and you experienced what I would call an emotional awakening: “joy, anticipation, eagerness, a fierce desire to protect and nurture.. it’s like she threw some switch that somehow turned on all those emotions… I find myself crying.. or just in joy of being alive. I finally feel alive and happy”.
The two of you are friends. She genuinely likes you. She is living in her own room, while her husband intends to divorce her, and you are living with your wife. The two of you did not proceed toward a romantic/love relationship yet and keep contact via text, phone and Zoom.
You wrote: “The thought, now, of going back into that dead, gray emotional void is just intolerable.. this is the emotional equivalent of the ‘bottom’ you hear alcoholics and addicts talk about, that turning point where they are forced to change.. emotions are not something I am accustomed to dealing with.. I simply do not know what to do, where to turn”.
My thoughts, my input: my overly simplistic suggestion would be: go for it, absolutely, live life, take this opportunity to truly live! You don’t have minor age children that you are responsible for, and your wife cheated on you multiple times, so.. go for this opportunity to experience a life worth living!
It is overly simplistic because emotional awakening is not a simple or easy process, it takes time and it requires support throughout.
The reason you shut down emotionally early on in life, starting 46 years ago, was that the emotions you experienced were so distressing that your brain/body shut down: minimize emotions= minimize distress.
When a person gets injured and becomes paralyzed, it takes a lot of physical therapy work to start walking again and it involves lots of effort and lots of pain. Similarly, for you to experience emotions again on an ongoing basis, it will take lots of work and pain, and someone there to help you.
I will be glad to communicate with you further, I have a lot more to say, more than one post should contain, so let me know what you think and I will be glad to reply to you every time you post.