Yes, that is me above. Time flies.
“Can I hug you?” was probably the question that I asked the most often as a child. I didn’t understand at the time why I was asking for a hug. I just knew I felt the sudden need to be held. But not just by anyone, I always seemed to pick certain people.
After I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, at twenty-three, I had a little more understanding about what make me tick. But something FINALLY clicked for me last night and as usual it didnt make me like myself anymore but it made more sense. My therapist had told me I had adapted so well over the years and, in several ways, I would absolutely agree.
Obviously, I learned the hard way while I was growing up that it is not acceptable to ask just anyone for a hug. So what did I do? It’s almost laughable today as I’m writing this to realize how I’ve adapted this simple question without a different expectation without even realizing it. The question “Can I hug you?” was simply reworded as
“Can we talk?”
Touch is extremely grounding for me. When I feel overwhelmed, its something I crave with such an intensity that I seek out affection from others because that “hug” calms me like nothing else can. Or at least that is what my brain thinks. I realized with an uneasy sense of clarity that I am not only continuing this behavior, but that I am, in an unintentional way, manipulating others by attempting to provoke a protective response from them.
Unfortunately, I never really made this concrete connection between my emotional outbursts where I might share something that is not socially appropriate with wanting a hug. But its absolutely there whether I want it to be or not. It completely explains why I respond so emotionally when I share something in a moment of anxiety or being overwhelmed and the person responds in a non-protective way. Maybe the person I am reaching out to perceives this as “needy” behavior or intentional attention seeking behavior and they are freaked out by it and in turn push away.
Now, obviously, since I am just now learning about myself, and because outside of those moments I can see what I am doing, I need to be much more mindful of what I share. However, in those moments, I do not have much awareness of what I am doing. When I do realize what I’m doing, I try desperately to undo what I’ve done and push them away.
The end result of this is generally me becoming emotionally distraught because I reached out to someone because I needed touch (not for romantic reasons) but to feel grounded, and then denied myself by saying to that person “I’m sorry” or “Nevermind” and then berating myself with “This is not appropriate, I need to calm down right this second and get myself together” and my anxiety spirals from that to an incredibly intense feeling of a ribbon of self deprecating thoughts: I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. Why can’t I be normal? Am I a bad person? Yes, I must be a bad person. I can’t handle this. I need to get away from everyone. And the list goes on.
When everything started to come together in my head last night, I literally went into a fetal position without realizing what I was doing and shut down. All I kept thinking was that I was a bad friend, a selfish person, with serious attention seeking behavioral issues. I couldn’t handle it and all I could do was cry. Then my brain went from being shut down to freak out mode. I suddenly wanted to apologize for doing this, to make things right. But how?
Now it makes sense that I am constantly apologizing for asking questions. Somewhere deep inside, I knew that my reaching out for help was selfish and inappropriate and unfair to the person I’m asking. Solution? Push them away and FAST. I’ve done this for years. And guess what? It has never worked.
So the question that remains is this: How do I fix this? I cannot ask people outside of my home for a hug. I can only fathom the response I would get if I got horrible responses as a child and I do understand that it’s not socially appropriate. But I need to find a coping skill that can mimic what a hug does for me in a way that is socially appropriate so I can stop this incredibly vicious cycle. I don’t just seek out anyone for this need, my brain seems someone who seems protective by nature and someone strong.
I cannot believe it took me almost twenty-seven years to figure this out but I think that once I find that coping skill, my emotion outbursts will start to decline because I won’t feel that need as often. Maybe then I won’t feel this panic-stricken need for affection when I feel overwhelmed. I AM glad I figured the root of it- but I am at a loss for what to do?
I feel such a sense of sorrow to know that I have been unknowingly manipulating others because of my inability to communicate that I didn’t want “tough love”. Tough love isn’t grounding, well at least not for me. That’s because it wasn’t that I really wanted advice or that I really wanted to talk- I wanted a hug and I didn’t even realize it myself! No wonder I have confused feelings of friendship for romance multiples times in my life.
So with all of that said, please, I need some insight. Does anyone else have this issue? Or a similar one? Can someone please help me find a coping skill that I can use in a social, public, or work environment?
Your turn: I am ready to listen.