Why am I so chaos-driven?
May 30, 2018 3:51 PM   Subscribe

I am frustrated with the state of my relationships, both interpersonal and professionally. I feel like I have left a path of burned bridges behind me. Why am I doing this? How do I stop doing this?

I quit my cafe job today. In short, I didn't feel valued and respected within my team and by my manager, and when I brought that up with them, they refused to acknowledge that they behaved in a way to minimize me. I always work hard to be considerate, timely, responsible, respectful, and sensitive, but find that when this isn't reciprocated, I get confused and sad/upset.
For instance, I noticed some favoritism at work. My manager organized a surprise party for my one coworker, and bought the other one a bouquet of flowers for their birthdays (same position as mine). Everyone knew about my birthday, yet at work that day, nobody said anything or even said hi to me. I told manager that I felt sad, devalued, and disincluded. They became defensive and refused to acknowledge my perspective. I eventually quit, after this and a few other conversations, because I didn't feel seen or valued at work, nor was my perspective being heard without defensiveness. This came after a long string of being disincluded from social events organized by coworkers, which they talked about around me but never invited me to. But I always worked so hard, as mentioned, and was always friendly with EVERYONE, and respectful and considerate. I didn't want to quit my job (which I need) but was just tired of being treated like a stranger everytime I came into work. I also made sure to say happy birthday to everyone, bought small gifts (like chapstick, for instance) and etc for my coworkers' birthdays. I did everything I could to make people feel valued.

This happened with my last job, too. I was a waitress, and I worked very hard and was considerate. I basically expect the same from people. Old boss found reasons to yell at me, take cuts out of my paycheck for forgetting to charge for a tomato slice on a sandwich, and eventually only let me eat the mistake orders, like four hour old cold runny eggs, as my work meal. I eventually just texted her and told her I wasn't going back.

My (former) best friend called me cancer, and "an angel and a demon" rolled into one, in an email around Xmas last year. I accepted her apology, but then when she was rude to me again I stopped talking with her. But who the fuck calls someone a cancer? Why did she feel like it was ok to email me that? (....Am I a cancer?)

I was sexually harassed by my boss when I was a dishwasher last year, and he fired me after I told him to not touch me, like 4 months in, and after multiple attempts on my end to set boundaries with him. This lead to a huge rift in my family, as well, because I decided to report him for harassment and my brother-n-law reneged on his support as well as invited a man to his wedding who lied on record, telling lies about me for reasons not even relevant to the job (we didn't work together) in support of the sexual harasser. I got very angry and told brother IL that I didn't want to go to the wedding if man who lied on record would be present. He accused me of holding the family hostage. Eventually, that man got uninvited, but I was cast as the bad guy for not wanting him there.

A few years ago, my dad blew up at my and screamed at me and told me I'm fucked up when I asked him a question about a car repair. I tried to do so with a lot of diplomacy, but it blew up in my face. I told him he had no right to talk to me like that, and didn't speak with him for over a year.

I'm in therapy, BUT even my (male) therapist made me feel really uncomfortable on several different occasions, saying that I'm "attractive", "not a bad looking girl", "young, have it all going for me" etc [he is only a year older than me, and is in his residency], and I found myself in a situation AGAIN where I had to tell someone their behavior was making me feel uncomfortable. He thankfully apologized, but I really don't even know if I should continue to see him. I had a scary dream in it where the person who sexually abused me as a kid called him to thank him for all the help, and then my doctor tried to force me to have a session in front of a room of strangers. In my dream, I punched him in the face after I told him I didn't want to speak about my issues in a room full of strangers and he insisted. I told him about the dream and told him I scared of him. But at the end of the day...who am I *not* scared of?

I'm not going into great depth here, but basically, I just feel like I am a magnet for horrible situations and people, and I whenever something terrible happens I wonder if I am like, fundamentally broken, which is why I am either A. super sensitive to how people treat me or B. am a broken person who can't handle conflict well.

I have C-PSTD and pieces of borderline (fear of abandonment/fear of being trapped, primarily, and sometimes overwhelming emotions) from years of childhood sexual abuse and physical/emotional abuse within my family for years and years.
A common theme is that I feel like I am being mistreated a lot. Also, I either say something about it, which people don't like, flee or avoid the situation, or let the situation continue while I feel uncomfortable. Like there is almost NEVER a positive outcome when I voice my hurt or upset feelings, and I feel like most often it's turned around to me like "you're always playing the victim" or "you're too sensitive", or in the case of my dad, "you're fucked up." I rarely (if ever...?) retaliate, which is something I feel good about, but like...I feel like I have more of these crappy situations on my record than average. Another common theme is that I constantly feel like an outsider or a stranger in social situations. Like at work, nobody valued me or acknowledged my birthday. I have known these people for 7 months, yet it seemed like I was invisible to them. It makes me really, really sad. My therapist saying those things when I came to him BECAUSE I HAD ISSUES WITH MEN SAYING THOSE THINGS TO ME made me sad also. My friend calling me a cancer made me sad. My old boss yelling at me to go faster made me sad. Then I work harder, or try harder, or whatever, and yet the cycle continues.

I get really, really sad every time these situations come to a head. I'm never trying to be an asshole, it just seems that by voicing my discontent I am inviting drama, or am the cause of drama, but if I say nothing, that causes issues too. Like in every one of these situations I leave behind smoldering wreckage of friendships and relationships. Since I quit my job, I know I won't be able to see my old coworkers, many of whom I like, in the street without feeling uncomfortable and horrible.

I have many other examples, I'm just posting recent-ish events for brevity.

I dunno, I was in therapy from 19-25, then back in again at 27 til now; I just turned 29. In fact I see a therapist 3x a week total. I take Wellbutrin and occasionally Ritalin for disassociation. I work really hard, but I just... I am chaos, my relationships are chaos, and this hurts a lot. What is wrong with me? What do I do? How do I fix myself? How do I get better at tolerating people's shitty behavior? Should I stop telling people when I am bothered by something? Am I attracting what I put out into the world? Am I a shit magnet because I am shit? These questions might sound silly, but they're there.

I don't even really know what I am looking for in response; resources, ideas, feedback.
posted by erattacorrige to Human Relations (21 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I have a lot of stories about being female and growing up in the 70's and 80's, about male harassment. Back then, we called them chauvinist pigs.

I think the restaurant industry as a whole has a lot of horror stories about mistreating women. I was probably more "protected" because I was in office jobs, and if I had a good boss, no one would treat me badly, but overall, the gist was that I had to behave certain way and not rock the boat. God forbid I'd want to advance, because a secretary can't advance.

Your relatives sound pretty harsh. I can't imagine asking my dad about a car repair and getting yelled at, but let me tell you: it's not your fault for doing that. Those events mean so much more when it's a parent doing it, eh? Who knows? They could be damaged themselves, but it's not an excuse.

Maybe you should look at getting a female therapist who specializes in women's issues. I would personally feel more comfortable with that -- you can just tell the guy, not a good fit, and find a woman therapist more in align with your needs.

I don't know that you invite chaos. Maybe it's just that you are a woman who has been in some bad situations. You've had some bad experiences, and when you have another one, it reinforces something in yourself that you are bad, but you're not bad, or inviting chaos. They are being jerks.

It's okay to quit a job that you hate. Hopefully you can snag another one soon. They always say to get a new job before you quit an old one, but if it's affecting your self-esteem that badly, hey, you did what you had to do for yourself. Take a couple of days to come down from the stress, then go find another job.

Maybe ask some people in your area about the best places to work, or look on Glassdoor (reviews). Who treats women employees the best, gives good hours, etc. Do a little research.

I know it's a cliche, but stop beating yourself up so much. I think a lot of women have experienced what you have experienced, you're not alone, and it's not just you, we all go through it in one way or another (sadly). It's hard enough to go through that stuff, but blaming yourself for other people's behavior is even harder. Sometimes people are just jerks, and I applaud you for calling them out for it. You're right to do so.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:24 PM on May 30, 2018 [12 favorites]

Ditch your therapist and find a new one. Not because he’s male but because he seems inexperienced, verging on incompetent. It might be good to balance out the men in your life with some stable women though, and a female therapist might help with this.
posted by freya_lamb at 4:38 PM on May 30, 2018 [37 favorites]

Do you feel like you're doing effective work and making progress with your current therapist? If your answer isn't an enthusiastic yes, I'd find a new therapist. A therapist who is still in their residency training may not be the best fit for a complex case like yours. It's OK to try a few therapists out before finding a match that you feel very good about. You may also want to consider seeing a woman rather than a man for therapy. With a history of harassment and abuse, you don't need to be in a position of having to correct the inappropriate statements of a male practitioner.

As for work, I think lots of jobs have these components (blatant favoritism, harassment, poor management) and that it has nothing really to do with you specifically. I do best with boundaries at work. Keep it professional and friendly, but don't expect all my fellow workers to become friends who I see outside of work. Cultivate a social life outside of work.
posted by quince at 4:39 PM on May 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

You're pretty young, and in the middle of a run of bad experiences. Don't assume that this is how it will always be. Your emotions are all over the place, and you are mixing up work and friendship. At the cafe, your job is to serve customers. If there are friendships that get brought into work, that's annoying, but nobody at work owes you a birthday party. You should not expect to get emotional needs met at work. People should be civil, polite. Leaving you out of social events is a jerk move, so the best response is to build a better social life outside of work.

I didn't feel valued and respected within my team and by my manager, and when I brought that up with them, they refused to acknowledge that they behaved in a way to minimize me. People don't admit that they were crappy to you, or at least hardly ever. Value yourself. Come from a point of view that says I am a worthwhile person. I deserve respect, friendship, love, kindness. It may be that your parents didn't know how to convey that to you. So you have to teach yourself. When you are confident in your own worth, you behave in a way that makes it harder for other people to dismiss you.

Take some adult ed. classes. Get a new job. Set some life goals for yourself. You deserve to have a wonderful life.
posted by theora55 at 4:41 PM on May 30, 2018 [18 favorites]

I’m going to be blunt: there is a chance that your sense that you are perfectly kind, considerate, and respectful, and yet people are just awful to you, in situation after situation, no matter what you do. But that chance is dwarfed by the real probability that you have some serious cognitive distortions going on. I think you see the world in a way that maximizes your victimhood and nobility and minimizes your personal responsibility. That sounds like a painful way to move through life, and I hope this ask spurs you to decide whether you want to find a less painful one.

To be clear—cognitive distortions do not make you broken. They do not make you a shit magnet. They do not make you anything other than human. Literally every human has them. Sometimes they’re positive (“my (now overweight and super gassy) spouse is even sexier than he was at 25,” etc.), sometimes they aren’t (“I’m a shit magnet.”). But they always serve a function.

In fact, cognitive distortions are what you should WANT to be the problem, because you can work on them if you don’t like the function they are playing. You can’t change other people—but you can change your perception of the world around you.

But do you genuinely want to change your perception? You currently pitch yourself as the hero in this story, and changing your perception may require you to not be the hero anymore. It is totally fine if you prefer to keep that role—sometimes keeping how we think about the world intact is a really useful thing. Like I said, we all use our cognitive distortions to serve a function we need filled. If you decide that you need to keep having the need met that this narrative you’re telling yourself meets, it’s okay.

If you do want to find another way to meet that need, I had really excellent success with CBT therapy. Twelve sessions of CBT did for me what two years of traditional therapy didn’t. (I’ve also heard excellent things about TEAM therapy). Might be worth ditching your current therapist and finding a new one.

I’ve been in the kind of pain you’re in. Life can get easier, or at least less painful. Best of luck.
posted by suncages at 4:52 PM on May 30, 2018 [63 favorites]

As it relates to the work situation you describe, it sounds to me that you are collapsing favouritism with "being friends outside the work environment". While in a sense, this is fair-- it is a kind of favouritism-- it is also a generally accepted and arguably benign situation which is very very difficult to prevent. In my view, just because you work with people, they don't have the obligation be just as good friends with you as they are with other coworkers. You taking the position this is unacceptable favouritism is okay-- that's your view-- but others can have a counter view without being defensive. Are you open to the perspective that their view is also okay?

I have a good friend who has a similar history of abandonment and abuse and as much as I love her, it can sometimes be challenging to be friends because of a dynamic which reminds me a bit of your story. We get along very well, and see each other weekly. Every once in a while, I say or do something which she experiences as inappropriate or attacking. Example: while joking around in a group, I made the remark (admiringly) that she was one of the only women I knew willing to be rude to a very good looking man if he deserved it. Several months later, she expressed rage to me that I had called her rude in front of other people. That had of course *not* been the intention and so much later it was difficult to address it in context, but I know from experience that if I respond that it was a joke and not the intention, then she will be angrier because (in her eyes) I was defensive when she tried to set boundaries or stand up for herself. This has caused nearly friendship-breaking fights in the past, because if she thinks I'm being defensive she wonders what I'm hiding and starts looking for other evidence that I don't really care about her or think bad things about her. I now know her well enough that I realise she's hurt, not unreasonable, and I address her feelings and not my intentions. But I nearly ended the friendship at the beginning because on those rare occasions, it just felt like so much drama and work. (I'm glad I didn't! I love her!)

Does that sound familiar to you? If it doesn't, then throw this comment away. But if it does, please consider--

There is absolutely nothing wrong with standing up for yourself. However, in my view people also need to be clear their read on intentionality is not always correct. "This hurt my feelings!" is always okay. "This hurt my feelings and you are a terrible horrible person because what kind of person would deliberately hurt my feelings?!" is often not okay, or not fair. At the very least, if you ascribe intention and malice to someone, you should realise it's unlikely to result in a mitigation of your bad feelings.
posted by frumiousb at 5:59 PM on May 30, 2018 [22 favorites]

Are any of those therapy appointments for DBT skills groups? If not, you may want to look into it.
posted by lazuli at 6:04 PM on May 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

this is a combination of maybe 30 percent your behavior or manner, 70 percent situations that would be bad for any young woman. the 70 percent first:

1. restaurant work is notorious for sexual harassment and general abuse, verbal and otherwise. Nobody brings that on themselves, no matter what they're like, and in a bad environment nobody can hope to avoid it for long.

2. this is a strongly biased statement, and I think a correct one: as a young woman, particularly a young woman with borderline tendencies, don't go see a young male therapist. you can't bring anything out of him that isn't already there, and that doesn't matter, because the power dynamics will still make you feel bad about what he says and does. an incompetent female therapist can also harm you or fail to help you, but I think it is safer. If a male therapist doesn't have a spotless record and decades of recognized work with your demographic, don't be his learning experience.

you may know this, but there have been some studies on what patient demographics suffer the most abuse/inappropriate behavior from therapists and psychiatrists, and up there at or near the top are women with histories of previous abuse and women with borderline diagnoses. a self-serving therapeutic community often looks for traits in this population that could somehow elicit bad treatment. they do this to avoid admitting that predators select targets, not the other way around. why do powerful men choose young, traumatized, borderline women to abuse? it's like the other classic question: why do robbers rob banks? Because that's where the money is.

bad or unethical therapists say inappropriate things to you, knowing your presentation and some of your history, because they know you're used to it and there's pretty good odds for them that you won't react with shock, outrage and complaint. you don't cause it -- being young and pretty doesn't give any man in a position of trust a reason for telling you you're young and pretty. that's not good. but like I say, in a situation like therapy it's easy to say it's all his fault but it still harms you even if you know that. get out if you can.

As to the 30 percent -- of course it feels bad when people don't like you personally or include you socially. this is MASSIVELY inappropriate to bring up in a work setting. being "seen and valued" in some therapist-y, non-literal, non-monetary sense is not something you can demand of an employer. not getting invited to parties, not getting told happy birthday, that doesn't qualify. you can't ever demand that people explain why they don't like you, as if they're obligated to. that's not even acceptable outside of work. maybe with family? nowhere else.

and people who accept that kind of boundary violation as normal are likely to be people with their own inappropriate behaviors, like your ex-friend who insulted you so horribly. that's worse than anything you mention doing yourself, but it's further on the same spectrum of not knowing/respecting what just isn't ok to say, even if it's ok to think it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:07 PM on May 30, 2018 [33 favorites]

It's fine for you to express your feelings to others in a respectful way and it's better than holding negative emotions in. But it's not realistic to expect others to acknowledge and validate your feelings, just because you have expressed yourself. Sometimes people do, but usually they don't.

Trying to get those around you to validate you will make you feel chaotic. However, you do need a therapist who will validate your feelings and help you learn to validate yourself so you can stop trying to get this from others. It really doesn't sound like your current therapist is doing this.
posted by Gnella at 6:11 PM on May 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

I have a couple of friends whose personal histories have commonalities with yours (both good friends who I think are fantastic people).

What I notice with both of them is that they're very observant, very sensitive, sometimes have unrealistic expectations about how observant and sensitive others are going to be and went through long periods of ending up in shitty jobs and friendships where they were being put down and exploited. Both are also unusually good-looking by conventional standards, have a history of trauma and have a history of difficult wage labor jobs like waiting tables.

For both of them, I think a turning point came when they started moving in less shitty social circles - while both of them sometimes brought the drama, the real precipitating factor was that mean or exploitative people spotted them and zoomed in to take advantage. Starting to meet better, kinder people and identifying the lousy ones changed things for them.

I may be projecting here, but I'm going to project hard: I bet your problem is that you're putting yourself into situations with either awful or just immature/high-drama people, and those people are bringing out the anxieties and chaos in you if not actively seeking to exploit you. For instance, your friend with the "you're a cancer" thing - look, that is just not a very mature thing to think or say. I wouldn't say that about someone I really actively disliked, never mind a friend.

I think the advice to seek a different therapist is good - avoid young men and see if you can find someone who shares some of your background and values. (This latter helped me immensely with therapy.)

If you have trauma, you are probably unconsciously pulled to recapitulate it - unconsciously seeking out people who will reiterate earlier chaos and trauma. How do you meet people? Try seeking out some new places to meet people - spaces that are going to attract a mixed-age crowd and where few people are looking to hook up, spaces where what draws people there is kind of staid. Book groups, volunteering, etc - also places that are not majority straight men.

If you're like my friends, meeting new people in new, stable, "boring" situations will let the non-chaotic/non-anxious parts of your personality shine through, and you'll get a chance to be valued and seen for the best parts of yourself.

Your manager sounds super unprofessional, so does your therapist, and being around people who are unprofessional like that isn't going to create a setting where you can establish healthy, confident boundaries and habits.

Another thing about my friends - both of them are wonderful people who has been taught not to value themselves and tended not to see that they were being treated badly until it was a red-flag "let me text you about how you're a cancer" situation. I bet that the baseline in your friendship with that person, with your dad, etc is actually pretty unpleasant and disrespectful - that it's not just the text or your dad's comments.
posted by Frowner at 6:52 PM on May 30, 2018 [25 favorites]

I'm a therapist (not yours!) and I second the DBT suggestion, and a full program, not just skills training. The modules for interpersonal effectiveness and emotional regulation sound very applicable to you, and an individual DBT therapist should be able to help you integrate and apply to your life. DBT includes CBT, but CBT doesn't sound quite right for what you're describing.
posted by namesarehard at 8:57 PM on May 30, 2018 [6 favorites]

I agree with Frowner, and I disagree with the people who say that others at work being friends with each other does not mean you are excluded - at least your boss should refrain from being friends with some people, but not with others. Alison from Ask A Manager would back me up here, she keeps saying this all the time.

I, too, grew up with somewhat emotionally abusive parents, I was bullied at school, I was punished for others' misdoings at work, and even now I sometimes run into situations where people are continuously shitty to me. I am also 29. I have started to wonder why that is, and am still trying to figure it out in therapy. My close friends (who am I really grateful for and who'd never call me a cancer, wtf) say I have a lot of empathy and a strong sense of justice (do you find yourself in this?) and that some people will exploit that no matter what. I also know that due to my childhood, I am not always good at not making myself a target or at standing up for myself in the right way. I'm probably also a little weird.

Once, after being excluded in grad school a few months ago (basically, another student is having a nervous breakdown and making me her primary target for some reason), I cried to my husband, asking why this kept happening, and what if it is me? After all, they say that if it stinks wherever you go, look under your own shoe, don't they? And he said, "but you did look under your own shoe, and it's still the others who stink".
Keep looking under your own shoe with a good therapist. But also accept that sometimes, people just stink, and that all we can do is find people who don't. Best of luck to you.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 12:19 AM on May 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

I have found this answer about chaos illuminating, you may find it helpful - an answer column by Ask Polly that I could have sworn was on the blue but I can't find it right now.
posted by xdvesper at 1:43 AM on May 31, 2018 [3 favorites]

Try to find some line of work that's not in food, and preferably not in retail either. Those jobs are disastrous for your self-esteem and honestly, in many cases I think it's by design. To get away with the kind of shit they pull, bosses actively make you feel insecure and less than. Making you pay for trivial mistakes or-- literally-- eat them? Screw that. If this is what's been happening to you lately, it's probably putting everything else in a worse light too. Get mad about this situation and do something about it. There is nothing wrong with looking into all the other stuff too, but the fact that leaving this job is making you think about all your other problem areas right now, is a sign to me that they set out to make you feel like shit, and they succeeded.
posted by BibiRose at 7:03 AM on May 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

If you're not happy with your therapist, get a new therapist. I would. You don't need us (or anyone) to approve/disapprove of that decision.
posted by Leon at 7:03 AM on May 31, 2018

But that chance is dwarfed by the real probability that you have some serious cognitive distortions going on

I agree with much of what has been said so far, and it is true that CPTSD is going to affect how you perceive and interact in social situations. But I want to push back a little bit on this, gently, because...

Ok, first, all kinds of women get harassed and assaulted. What I’m about to say is not remotely meant to negate any of those experiences; I’m a woman with my own “fair share” (ugh), and I am not one of the women I am about to describe. And of course this is also anecdotal. But... via relationships through the years, I have noticed that for women of a certain level of what I’ll call conventional attractiveness, the world is a wildly different place. I think the frequency of those harassing or abusive or dehumanizing interactions is...I mean, it’s always stunning to me, I guess. Like I have an expectation that a certain percentage of my interactions with men will be gross or belittling or dangerous, but that percentage is not 100%. It’s not even 90%. In fact, my favorite thing about cutting my hair and getting older is that that percentage has dropped significantly.

But for women who are more universally viewed, even subconsciously, as a prized possession...that shit is at close to 100%. I am not exaggerating.

And the kicker is, it’s not just from men. I’ve been close to or involved with a few women who had been or were professionally hot, for lack of a better phrase, and other women fucking hated them. Like basically no interaction was safe. Like the typical trip to the corner store to by an avocado would involve a strange, possibly frightening interaction with a guy who comes out nowhere AND open hostility from women. Just all the time. Constantly. No safe harbor anywhere.

I only bring this up because it’s a pattern I’ve seen, and that OP’s description of how she’s treated in work places and by her therapist were very, very familiar. Any one of the women I’ve know in the circumstances I’ve described could have written that.

So. One of the most frightening and frustrating parts of CPTSD is not being able to trust your own perceptions. It’s also a symptom of various kinds of abuse. But the thing is: sometimes it’s not a distorted perception. There are people that the world treats like this through no fault of their own.
posted by schadenfrau at 8:02 AM on May 31, 2018 [17 favorites]

Frowner and Schadenfrau both made fantastic comments. (BTW, I used to be thin and conventionally attractive. Aging and metabolism slowing have worked their wills, and I have definitely noticed the difference in how I am treated. Not being young and pretty = also not being perceived as the world's personal property/commodity for the taking. Invisibility can be hella freeing!)

I really think it can be both - you can be attractive and vulnerable and victimized that way, and at the same time, you can have personal issues that make it harder to be in a relationship with or friends with you. Again, in my experience, C-PTSD makes it both - someone with C-PTSD can be simultaneously vulnerable to exploitation by parasites and drama kings/queens, and be very needy and demanding in friendships. It's not your fault, it's the C-PTSD, but good therapy helps a lot. If you can find a female therapist, a specialist in dialectical behavior therapy, as well as group therapy or a twelve-step group like Codependents Anonymous that will give you support from other people in a structured setting - that will probably be more helpful than what you've got now. Something like Mood Gym might help as a stopgap.

I would suggest that the best thing you can do right now is get the hell out of food service. I've looked at your past questions and you have considered a health care career - is it possible for you to get a job in health care? Maybe go to a temp agency that specializes in health care jobs - google "health care staffing agency." Sure, health care has its problems, but, IME, food service (and retail) are uniquely toxic and exploitative, especially for young, attractive, female-presenting folks.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:37 AM on May 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

Also, I’m going to second the advice to get a new therapist. Specifically I would advise you to look for an older female therapist, and one who is informed about and familiar with a number of modalities specifically for treating complex trauma. For many people talk therapy and skills training associated Linehan’s DBT isn’t sufficient, particularly for developmental trauma. There are a number of modalities that now include a physical approach, and that directly address trauma related responses (rather than view it as cognitive distortions of a personality disordered).

If you want my current CPTSD book list, feel free to PM me.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:00 AM on May 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

While it's true that coworkers aren't obligated to be friends with us, I'd be unhappy at a job where not a single person would even say hi to me. Stealing money from your paycheck and giving you cold, nasty food isn't an acceptable way to treat employees.

I don't believe that you're a cancer. Someone recently accused me of something similar. A guy on a dating site said that I'm "Pathological, spread my pathology to society, and a time waster" because I didn't succeed at college and had to leave, due to my disabilities. I think that stemmed from ableism and classism, not from me being pathological.

Your boss at the dishwasher job was a predator. Your family added insult to injury. My dad used to blow up at me (as well as my mom) too. Right before I moved into my apartment on my own, he admitted that he abused us for most of our lives because he couldn't deal with living with other people. He has been as cool as a cucumber ever since he has lived by himself. It turned out to be his issue, not mine. He could've chosen to live apart from my mom and me from the beginning and arranged family visits instead of abusing us, but he didn't, which is also his issue, not mine.

Like others said, switching therapists is a good idea. A bad therapist will make it even harder to recover from the pain you've been through. It's not worth it.

Like you, I've never had a positive experience from voicing my feelings to someone, besides my mom and current therapist. For example, two of my exes started showing up to dates hours late or even not showing up at all while we were dating. In each relationship, I told them, "It upsets me that you've been really late to dates and missing dates." Both of them had eerily similar answers, almost word for word: "You're right. I haven't been nice to you lately. We should break up." It has been very difficult for me to cope with the fact that not only have the people I dated or befriended treated me badly, such as in the similar examples I gave above, but all of these people would rather cut contact than be respectful to me.

I can't make people be nice to me, but I can choose what to do about how they treat me. Nowadays, I wouldn't put up with behavior like what those two exes did. Continuing with this example, I'd wait for 15 minutes, then leave.

I recently started my own group on Meetup.com. I'm not sure yet how it'll go, since we don't have our first event until Saturday. However, being the leader gives me some control. If someone in the group tries to stomp on me emotionally, I feel more empowered to shut that down. Maybe running a Meetup would be empowering for you, too. You can base it on something you love. It wouldn't have to be a huge commitment. There are many Meetups that meet once a month.

I believe you that you're respectful to people, despite how they've been treating you. I applaud you for that. It can be tempting to fight fire with fire, but I encourage you to keep doing what you're doing.

If you ever have a positive encounter with someone, you might want to write it down as a reminder. It's easy for me to dwell on the numerous abuses that I've endured, but with effort, I can think of the nicer memories. Like when a stranger gave me a polka dot scarf because I was wearing a dress and backpack that both had polka dots and she wanted to bring the look to new heights. I still have that scarf. Or just yesterday, when a stranger helped me hoist a heavy rolling cart full of groceries onto the bus. If you haven't had these kinds of experiences yet, look up stories about people being kind to each other. The Chicken Soup for the Soul series has some stories like that. There are some nice people out there.

I hope you find a job where you feel comfortable and welcome and eat nice lunches. I hope you find kind, caring people who listen to you and appreciate you. You deserve it :)
posted by Social Science Nerd at 2:46 PM on May 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hello everyone, and thank you for your thoughtful responses. I have been reading these throughout the day and reflecting on them.

To speak to what many said about the nature of food service/retail:
Yes, you are all right about the shittiness and pettiness of these jobs. It's good to be reminded that this isn't atypical, even if it sucks. Keeping that in mind will help me to take it less personally. I do sometimes tell myself, if someone if being rude or micromanage-y, "well, this person feels the need to be a god of small things." And reminding myself that this is not my whole life but a rung to keep me on my path. Also, yes, my former boss was a predator (dishwashing job). My most recent manager and I always had weird tension, and I brought it up with her three times without success. I did my best. Regarding boundaries at work, like expressing my feelings, it is really hard for me to know and understand what is appropriate because these types of jobs are inherently unprofessional. Also, I thought that conflict resolution was a part of every job. I do not think that the majority of the people on my team were trying to hurt me, but also, could have done a better job at being inclusive or at the very least not openly crappy. I had been struggling with shrugging off feeling left out at work (CBT techniques I had learned in therapy before), and most often was able to not let it bug me, because honestly the stuff my coworkers cared about was not that interesting to me (them: let's go drink! me: let's stay home and study Hungarian!). But, I found myself just wishing I felt less lonely because I spent hours in like, a ten 10 square foot sized space with them and overhearing them 2 feet from met having fun and feeling bad about not having fun too. I realize that's dumb, but it was A LOT of hours in VERY CLOSE quarters with like A COUPLE people. I think it would have worn on anyone at some point, TBH. I know that not everyone has to like me at work or anywhere, and also that sometimes management is going to have favorites etc. All of that stuff was beneath me, and I think I learned a lot by sticking with that job for 8 months before calling it quits.
Also, it's true that a lot of this is because of gender-y stuff at work, and women having to put up with a lot. Absolutely. More about this down below.
I forgot to mention that on my bday, I was experiencing a Ritalin crash (it's a new thing I'm trying) and expressed my feelings openly when I normally would be able to keep them balanced and inside. So...I dunno, Ritalin and me don't seem like a great fit. Looking for feedback on this, if anyone has it.

I think there is a lot of truth to the cognitive distortion thing! That sounds right. I refer back to Harry Potter a lot on this, because he always found himself in these scary scenarios, saving people, being gossiped about, and fighting evil (I realize this is elementary stuff, but the books still help me, especially because I too, have chronic pain, like Harry did from his scar from his trauma). I dunno how to get out of this. I have gotten better in recent years; old me has been known to tell people to stop abusing their kids (I see this a lot in the city) and stuff like that. Newer me has been much better at getting out of situations and not reacting to situations where a reaction would have no positive foreseeable outcome. I think it has something to do with saving my younger, more vulnerable self. My younger sister is like this, too. Will look deeply into CBT / DBT programs and specialists.

In regards to trauma, PTSD etc stuff: When I read Terry Crews's statement about being molested at a party, *once*, when he was a *grown, fit, large man*, and his resultant PTSD, I cried, not only because this happened to him, but because _if a grown, powerful, rich man can experience PTSD from ONE incident, that means that I am that much stronger for having experience more sexual abuse/rape/molestation/harassment than I can count when I was a powerless, small child, as well as a young, poor woman in an imbalanced society_. Like, holy shit. I was sexually abused for years as a kid by friend's dad... and raped by a boyfriend when I was sleeping at 19...and had my butt smacked when I was walking around Barcelona...and had a bunch of bosses say terrible stuff to me...and been given two black eyes by a man I went on a date with...and and and and. And these are all random events. LIKE. FUCK I AM WAY STRONGER THAN I REALIZE. PTSD is like, the natural response to this stuff, not to mention, a lifetime of this stuff! So, thank you to the people who commented on the gender component to this, because it is so frustrating to have to explain this to people (.....men) who have never had such experiences. Terry Crews did, though. And he knows how horrible it is; he froze up in the moment when he could have punched the abuser in the face. Damn.

Yesterday I was grieving a lot because I worked really hard to not have a reactive response to situations I didn't like about that job, and I felt like I had failed. I spent like, 6 hours crying and cried myself to sleep. But when I woke up, I felt better, because I reminded myself that I worked so hard there, I covered peoples' shifts all the time when they were just too hungover to make it in, I worked a 13 hour day on Mother's Day working a shift at my other job and picking up a shift at the job I just quit, working in a position I was not even trained for because they needed me to, I had a very good rapport with my customers and even when I had the very occasional rude customer, I was always courteous. I saved up over $1,000 worth of tips while my coworkers were constantly like, "dude, I had no money to take the train to work today....." And I navigated other unpleasant interactions with my manager quite well most times. Probably if it weren't for the Ritalin I wouldn't have quit my job on my bday even if I had felt the exact same emotions, which I'd felt before and never quit in spite of them. One of my good customer friends is a philosophy professor around here, and like, shit. That's just the type of person I connect to; not the ones putting "BEST FRIENDS!!!!" temporary tattoos on their wrists. I'd rather be me; I am cool in some pretty zany, nifty ways!

I was grieving yesterday, and I felt very bad about myself which is probably why I connected all of this to myself as a giant dumpster fire, but frankly, I am glad it is over. I spent a lot of time and emotional energy navigating a space that I didn't fit into, but the history of my life is one of trying to make myself smaller so I fit into a round hole. I am not sorry that I am a large square peg who doesn't fit into a lame, tiny round hole. It was just not a good fit for me, but I did still learn a lot and I have to give myself credit. Also, I did not spit fire back at anyone. The worst I did was tell them I am not working this Saturday, which is the only day I've ever called out, and I do not feel bad about that either. I gave a lot, I will give less next time and have better boundaries, and hopefully be in a situation where professional boundaries are clearer in leadership anyway.

I would still really love more tools on boundary navigation and setting. I do not really understand why it's a bad idea express my feelings about work to people at work, like Queenofbittnya said. I would be interested in some clarification on that point. I also still do not understand why I felt like being accepted was important when I don't think all that highly of some of those people (*not all). I respond really well to VERY clear affirmations; for instance, I was never late, never called out, and never left work early if I felt unwell because I believe in integrity and that your word is your bond. So, it's really easy for me to deal with my feelings in certain situations because I'm like, "well, do it for your core integrity, if nothing else. You'll survive. Nobody likes to do XYZ thing, yet we all have to. Integrity is more important than anything else." Having VERY clear ideas helps me a lot.

I have many friends outside of work, and they have all been wonderful about this. And I am working slowly towards grad school. I do have goals, friends, interests, hobbies, and hopefully, a better job that awaits me in the future. Until then, I have another bakery job which is fine and I feel safe and respected there.

I will seek a new therapist. I don't dislike my current one and I'm glad I told him about my concerns about his statements, but I definitely need someone with MORE EXPERIENCE in the stuff I struggle with. Not be someone's guinea pig.

There is a lot I wanted to comment on, but I have to finish a post bacc application... : )

I love Metafilter! Thanks, guys. Will post more if I think of it.
posted by erattacorrige at 4:07 PM on May 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

Glad to see the responses have been helping you! On boundary-setting and navigation, I've always found Ask A Manager to be super helpful, though it's mainly focused on white-collar professionals. Your coworkers not vibing with you is definitely not your fault: it seems like you were just very different people.

On what Queenofbittnya said: One part of it is that asking someone cruel to be nicer to you almost never works. It just exposes your vulnerabilities and lets them know they're affecting you. There is nothing you can say to get an asshole to be less of an asshole, and questions like"why aren't you kind to me/why don't you like me" often make even well-meaning people uncomfortable.

Another is that at most jobs you're supposed to hold the workplace at arms' length. It's not that close, intimate friendships can't spring up at the workplace, it's that (depending on the workplace) they're often not the norm, which is civil/professional friendliness. In that situation, it's best to focus as much on concrete things as possible ("We should streamline our planning process with a groupchat so everyone's looped in" vs "you two keep planning things in private chats and you're leaving me out"). Restaurants and retail are super petty and cliquey though, and often require playing the game of pretending to be like other workers (to some extent) if you really want to fit in.
posted by storytam at 2:45 AM on June 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

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