I feel like a little kid that learned to tie her shoes and now she's tying bows in all the strings and ribbons she's finding.
This is such a great way of putting it BlackRaven! I am not with my ex anymore, so any of those boundary drawing skills couldn't be used on him anyway, but I use them constantly with other people now. Not that I was really bad at that before, I feel like I've been pretty good about drawing boundaries with other people, just not as good at it in romantic relationships. But it's that I am much more aware of it now when I'm doing it, because we've discussed it so much.
I haven't been on in a while... this used to be my regular hang out. Even if I wasn't posting, I was reading, daily, if not multiple times a day.
I'm actually deep in a mental health rabbit hole of a different kind, but I think it may relate to some people here in that a lot of it has to do with FOO issues and why I felt drawn to my ex in the first place...
Basically, without writing a novel, I'm deep into researching whether or not I may be autistic, as well as have comorbid ADHD. Through my research, I'm pretty confident that I am/have both of those things. I've never related to any other type of content more than I do content surrounding ASD and ADHD. I would say the only other time when I've related this hard was actually finding this thread and all of the content surrounding sex addiction (and maybe also when I discovered threads on being in relationships with a person with BPD, re: my ex). I've trusted my gut thus far, and it hasn't steered me wrong, so I'm allowing myself to go with it and really dive deep into research to see if this is just a passing idea, or something that has deeper meaning/application.
Testing centers that test adults are hard to come by, not to mention the testing is very expensive. Self diagnosis is accepted amongst both communities, due to how difficult it can be to get a professional diagnosis. And ultimately, who am I hurting if I identify with a group of people and the things that help them cope? I would still like to have a professional diagnosis at some point, just because I like to "know" things, and I feel my parents might be more accepting of it if it was coming from a professional (still working out for myself why the fuck I feel I need parental approval of anything at age 34, but there you go, FOO issues run deep, haha). But ultimately I'm comfortable with self diagnosis for now, and even just finding the community among ADHD and Autistic forums, especially those geared towards women, has been immensely healing.
I bring this up because in figuring this out over the past couple of months, I've realized that a lot of my FOO issues stem from these diagnoses being overlooked. From always feeling "weird" or "not normal." I wouldn't say any behavior towards me was intentionally abusive, it was more that the people around me just didn't "get" me, and I kind of forced myself to fit into the mold of what was "acceptable" behavior to get by (what I know now as "masking"). I would say that my brothers and I are all neurodivergent in some way or another, so I actually felt better and less stressed in the home because we were all "weird." The only time home was more stressful was when it came to sensory stuff that wasn't accommodated, or when bound by strict rules that I didn't "get". I felt the most awkward, and unable to fit in, in social situations with my peers. Or in any situation where I wasn't allowed to ask a bunch of questions to make sense of a situation from every angle. I learned quickly that a lot of my behavior - like the question-asking - was annoying, so I basically withdrew and only interacted with peers when necessary, and when I did, I did my best to mimic the "normal" social cues so I could avoid ridicule. So basically, I find myself wondering how this ability to "mask," as well as the trauma of never truly feeling "accepted" by my peers may have made me predisposed to being in a relationship with someone where I had to be overly accommodating.
To paraphrase a quote I read about neurodivergence, It's impossible to separate the symptoms of complex trauma from the symptoms of neurodivergent people, because growing up neurodivergent and misunderstood is traumatic. My therapist has often pointed out to me that, while some of my hyper vigilance obviously stems from life with my ex - like the very specific triggers surrounding his various paraphilias - there is a good amount of hyper vigilance in my stories of my childhood. And when she has tried to dig deeper and find out what may have triggered me to be hyper vigilant, I have a hard time answering that, because I can't seem to point to any specific traumatic events that may have caused it. In short, I pretty much just always remember being this way, with family, friends, peers, just normal day to day tasks even. So in a way, I was predisposed to being in a relationship with a lot of hyper vigilance, because that feels "normal" to me.
I've described it to her in the past (again, before I had even begun to think about ASD) as: my brain is like a computer, and there is an operating system that constantly runs in the background collecting data. All data, every teeny tiny detail of an event or situation. The color of someone's dress, how someone all the way over on the other side of the parking lot dropped a pencil, also the sounds of things going on around me even if I can't see them. My brain collects all of those things, and then eventually over time if enough of those things connect to one another, my brains makes those connections on its own and then can write a narrative that is more often than not, correct.
It's not something I can shut off. It's just a program constantly running in the background. Kind of like how our phones listen to us and then show us ads for things we've talked about. And it allows me to "know" things that I shouldn't, simply because my advanced pattern recognition put all of the very tiny details together. Basically, my brain operates as if I'm a detective always solving a case. Only it's not just for negative things, it's for anything and everything. I've been accused many times over my life of "spying" on people because I knew things I shouldn't, because I had put together a bunch of clues they were unaware they had dropped.
I can assure you, I wasn't spying. It's just that when you're around someone who picks up on every little detail, you're never as discreet as you think you are. The slightest change in semantics or tone of voice can tip me off. For example, I tended to know when people had crushes on other people based on tone, inflection etc. And then I would point it out, not in a teasing way, more just like an observable fact, but apparently it wasn't socially acceptable to point that out, haha.
There is also literature that discusses how neurodivergent women are more likely to go undiagnosed because of the societal expectations of women, and the fact that we're better at masking than men (typically). Also, there are studies that show that the percentage of women who enter into abusive relationships - especially emotionally abusive ones - is higher in the neurodivergent population than in the neurotypical one.
Also, interestingly, there is a higher percentage of neurodivergent men who end up as sex addicts than in the general population (the abstract I read specifically cited men with ASD, but I believe I've read elsewhere that this includes other ND individuals like those with ADHD for example). It didn't use the term "sex addiction," rather it referenced paraphilic behaviors, but I think we all know that those things tend to go hand in hand.
This is a point which I find very enlightening, because on the occasions when my therapist asked me what I liked most about my relationship with my ex (this is before I had even considered that either of us might be on the spectrum) I had always told her that it was hard to explain, but that I was attracted to his "weirdness," and how it allowed me to feel like I too, could let my "weirdness" out. Looking back, he has much more "obvious" ASD traits, like rocking back and forth, going non verbal in times of stress, etc. But I've always told my therapist that I felt like we just "got" each other in a way that others couldn't. And when asked to expand on that I had a hard time pin pointing what I meant - that is, until my discovery of ASD and how it often presents differently in women vs. men. Basically, discovering the non-stereotypical ASD traits, as well as just anecdotes from autistic people about their own experiences, produced multiple light bulb moments.
Anyway, this post isn't meant to demonize neurodivergent people. In fact, most of the feelings I have surrounding a potential ASD/ADHD diagnosis are positive ones - relieved to finally feel understood, like there are other people out there like me, happy that my "weirdness" isn't just particular to me and doesn't make me bad. The only negative feelings I have are that these things weren't addressed earlier, especially as a child when I had such a hard time processing things on my own, and was essentially told in so many words that I needed to figure out how to "get over it" because my quirks were not acceptable in adult life/society.
It's funny, most of the things I like most about myself - how direct/blunt I am, how detail-oriented I am, how I can talk your ear off about my various special interests - are all things I've found out are potential ASD symptoms. So in actuality, many of you may have already guessed that I may be on the spectrum, before I even knew myself, haha (in opening up to a few people about this, they've mentioned they've thought about it before). Also, I feel that many of the things that had steered me away from even thinking about an ASD diagnosis were some of the stereotypical media portrayals - lacks empathy, doesn't understand sarcasm etc.. And then I found out that a TON of ASDers are actually HIGHLY empathetic, and also very funny/sarcastic. Just goes to show how hurtful stereotypes can be!
I'm bringing it up in case anyone else can relate. Maybe it might make you feel less "weird." It may help you understand your spouse a bit, if he/she fits somewhere on the spectrum. Also, FWIW, for those of us who strongly identify with our spouses being among the personality disordered, I've read abstracts that suggest that there can also be a comorbidity between ASD and BPD, which makes sense to me, since undiagnosed/unacknowledged ASD can/does lead to trauma, and BPD is believed to have its roots in trauma.
I'm also not saying that ALL people on the spectrum are/will be sex addicts, nor am I saying that all sex addicts are on the spectrum. Not at ALL! It's just that reading about all of this, it felt like there was another puzzle piece that fell into place. And throughout my healing process, whenever a new puzzle piece find its rightful place, I feel an overwhelming sense of relief. And if some of the connections I've drawn might help someone else find a piece to their own unique and specific puzzle, I would feel like I had given back in some way.
And there you go, I still ended up writing a dissertation. Oh well, that's just me I guess.
If anyone here is on the spectrum or suspects they might be, I would love to discuss it. Especially how they think it pertains to why/how they ended up in a relationship with a sex addict. However this might not be a topic that everyone is open to discussing publicly on the forums, and I totally get that. Feel free to PM me if you would like to talk but would rather not discuss on an open forum.
Anyway, I'm not here to diagnose anyone. I just wondered if anyone else might relate. And if bringing up my own potential diagnosis might help someone else feel less alone.
I took great care to avoid offending anyone with this post, but if I did, I apologize, and would love to hear how I can discuss this topic more appropriately/inclusively. I'm still learning about all of this stuff, and am open to hearing about everyone's experiences!
I hope everyone had a great weekend!
[This message edited by HeHadADoubleLife at 4:28 PM, May 3rd (Monday)]