It happens regularly, maybe even cyclically.
It happens like this:
- I spill or break something and start swearing profusely
- As I begin cleaning up, Mr. Chickadee asks if I need help (he doesn’t know that I was being a complete klutz again and is worried about my well-being)
- I snarl some shrewish reply to leave me the fuck alone and I’ll deal with it
- He tries again to be helpful
- I make increasingly antagonistic responses
- He gets fed up and walks away
- I realize I’m being a raging bitch again and spend the next hour or so crying
- Eventually he comes back and holds me while I sob and get tears and snot all over his shirt, and we talk and try to get on with things
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Yesterday, it was spilled (almond) milk. I was furious with myself because I’d attempted to pour the fresh almond milk from an overfull bowl into a Nalgene bottle even though I knew better, and I spilled it all over. When Mr. Chickadee tried to be nice and help, I attacked him for not having gotten through the massive stack of dishes to clean the one-quart Pyrex spout mixing bowl that I prefer for the task. You know, the one I didn’t bother to pull out and clean myself. When he offered some other solution, I sneered back with a sarcastic tone, “Oh yeah, because that will help so much.”
And then I realized what I was doing.
I apologized as fast as I could: I’m sorry, I’m just frustrated with myself for making a mess when I knew better. I didn’t mean to be mean. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
But it was too late.
“OK, I’m done.” He wiped his hands and left the kitchen, then took the dog and left the house. I did what one always does in these situations: finished putting away the almond milk, cleaned up my mess, and then went to bed to cry.
After half an hour, ruminating and crying and realizing full well that this was the wrong reaction and wouldn’t help anything, I got up and took an Ativan. By then, Mr. Chickadee had returned and resumed the dishes, so I went over and offered to help. No need, he said kindly, so I shuffled back to the couch and laid down again. By then the Ativan had chilled me out enough to stay calm and back away from that horrible downward spiral, but not enough to stop the “slow leak” tears. I felt utterly defeated.
When he finished the dishes, Mr. Chickadee sat down with me and we talked and I cried yet more, as we always do when one of these outbursts wears off enough so we can be civil. I apologized again and again, as though it would actually make a difference. I don’t intend to behave that way and I don’t want to be mean, but I don’t even realize I’m doing it until it’s done. When he reacts by leaving, though, my distress doubles and triples. Mr. Chickadee says it’s better for him to leave than act on his own anger at being unjustly attacked. I sadly agree.
So what do we do? Our coping mechanisms are at odds; we’re both trying not to hurt one another while protecting our own soft spots, but it never works. We do this dance over and over, but we never stop tripping each other. Mr. Chickadee said, it’s OK, we both know what’s going on and what we’re trying to accomplish here, we’re just not doing it well. We will find a way.
I’ll do my part by asking Hippie Dude for suggestions; that’s a good use for a therapist, right?