I have an issue being assertive.
Standing up for myself was never a possibility before. I had to bow down to my mother for 29 years. I had to stand there and take whatever she threw at me. I couldn’t fight back. I couldn’t be assertive, because my mother never viewed me as a person.
I’ve had to learn how to stand up for myself. You would think, at 30 years old, I would have figured it out on my own. But no. I am learning now what I should have been taught as a child: assertiveness.
It feels so wrong. It feels so dangerous. If I had stood up for myself while I was living at home, I would have ended up in pain. Even though I’m not at home anymore, it’s been difficult to get over that gut reaction. But I’ve been working on it.
There was a situation on Wednesday. I was eating my dinner. The cat used the litter box, which didn’t bother me because I couldn’t really smell it (certain smells don’t affect me much, and the smell of shit is one of them). My roommate started spraying air freshener, which then made my food taste like chemical and flowers. I kept eating, because I promised my therapist I would eat dinner every day and I knew I needed it. Someone had commented that the smell was better than smelling poop, and I said not really. It was the truth.
Apparently that warranted name-calling, because she then called me a name. I asked her to please stop. She persisted and called me something else. I felt the noise in my head increasing, so I got up, threw away my food, and went upstairs without saying anything.
This wasn’t the first time it happened. I knew it was going to happen again. I knew that me just saying STOP wasn’t enough. I went outside and grounded myself. I told myself I was not at home anymore, that she was not my mother, that I can stand up for myself and be okay.
So I took a deep breath and came back inside. I was doing to do it. I was going to be assertive.
And I did it. I told her when I say stop, it means stop. I told her when I’m telling her to stop, it’s for a reason. I told her she needs to respect my boundaries. I told her this wasn’t the first time, that it’s not fair and I can’t tolerate it anymore.
She didn’t absorb anything I was saying. She immediately defended herself, saying she didn’t keep calling me names, she used adjectives (as if that was any better — I don’t understand). She made it seem like I was in the wrong, saying that she was offended by my attitude and I should be sorry (as if that warranted being called names and adjectives — again I don’t understand). She told me to move out if I didn’t like it. She didn’t care at all about what I was saying or feeling.
I got frustrated and went to my room. I was angry. I was upset. I was walking the line between present and past. I felt myself slipping. Then I dissociated, and came back to find a disaster on my head.
My head had a lump the size of a softball. There was blood on my desk from the cut on my forehead. My head was scraped down the center, and bruised across the top and the side. I looked like a disaster. I couldn’t feel anything.
There was no way I could hide this. This is it. My therapist is surely going to send me away. I went outside, sat on my steps and smoked the last of my cigarettes. I could have stayed out there all night if I had more.
I may not have felt any pain, but I certainly felt the panic. I broke my therapy contract. And I don’t even remember doing it. All I could think about was how mad my therapist was going to be when I showed up at session looking like I did. I ruined everything. I was going to miss school. I wasn’t going to be able to finish the book. I was going to end up locked away somewhere.
And none of this would have happened if people just listened when I say stop.