The No Contact Life

I did my research before going completely No Contact with my family. I discussed it with my therapist. I can’t say I already had my mind made up, but I was fairly convinced it was the right decision. It’s been close to three months since I unceremoniously ranted my way out of my family (who can resist some parting shots when you’ve kept your mouth shut all your life? I mean, other than better people than me). I have noticed a couple significant differences already, which helps during the few times I doubt my decision.

You know that voice that nags at you when you screw up? Mine used to be loud enough to drown out all reason. It told me what a failure I was as a human being if I so much as forgot to turn off a light. It was omnipresent, just waiting for an opportunity to tear me down. Sometimes, it would get bored when I was alone and start to pick at me. I always felt it just hovering in my consciousness, watching everything I did with critical eyes. It was also distinctly my mother’s voice.

Over the years, I began to argue back with it, but it always had an answer to every protest. Any time I felt I was competent, it would clear its throat and rattle off a list of my failures as a reminder that my triumphs were only flukes. I couldn’t escape it, and arguing with it only led to a cycle of negative thoughts that I often couldn’t break out of for days. I had gotten to the point where I couldn’t imagine living without it, and this drove me to many, many thoughts of suicide, some of which ended in attempts.

Maybe a month after severing contact with my mother, I noticed that the voice was changing. It didn’t sound exactly like her anymore. It was beginning to sound more like me. As time went on, it sounded more and more like me. Somehow, it was making it easier to fight against it. More than that, however, it was beginning to grow less critical. Instead of insulting and discouraging, something that isn’t typical of me, it was gentler. It was as if I couldn’t realistically be that cruel in my own voice, so I used hers. As soon as the illusion was broken, so was the constant stream of abuse from myself. I still relapse into my old way of treating myself from time to time, but it is markedly improving.

Closely following this was a revelation that I am actually good at things. It came about in a weird way. I was playing a video game–bear with me here–called Batman: Arkham Asylum. I had come to the boss battle with Poison Ivy, and I was about ready to pitch my controller at the screen. I was getting too panicky during a certain attack she had and dying before the second phase of the battle. There are only so many times you can have a boss taunting you from a Game Over screen before growing discouraged and angry enough to give up completely. Too stubborn to rage quit, however, I kept trying the battle over and over. At one point, a calm suddenly came over me, and I began to properly time the attacks and dodges, finishing up both phases of the battle with little damage. Somehow, I was able to put aside the irritation with my constant failure and actually see everything happening on the screen. When I stopped berating myself and started cooperating with myself instead, the battle ended up being a lot easier than I was making it.

I’ve been trying to apply this to other areas, and it works. When I stop telling myself I’m not good at things, I’m good at things. It seems simplistic, but it takes a lot of effort when you’re used to operating in a different way. The overall change in how I view myself is well worth the effort, though. I’m beginning to have my sense of worth restored.

I won’t say I don’t have any suicidal thoughts anymore, but I feel like they’re for different reasons. The most recent occurrence was after reading an article about how people with addictive personalities may have trouble caring about other people because of a deficiency of oxytocin when they were toddlers. I began to have the “I’m broken and can’t be fixed” thoughts, convinced that my apparent inability to care about other people would lead to the demise of every relationship and destruction of everyone I loved (which in the moment, I was unable to see as a contradiction). All I had ever wanted was to love and be loved, and it felt like that had all been stripped from me before I could even comprehend hopes and dreams. I didn’t want to live like that, and I didn’t want anyone else to suffer because of it. I got as far as starting a note, which is usually the type of thing that gets you to talk yourself out of it or sufficiently vent the bad feelings. Instead, my partner walked in and noticed something was wrong.

After a brief fight because I don’t translate emotions well, he talked me through it, pointing out that if I really didn’t care, how my perceived deficiency affected anyone else wouldn’t bother me. Normally I take in that information, reject it in favor of “I suck and need to die”, and learn absolutely nothing from the whole experience. This time, it actually made me reflect and decide that I was blowing things entirely out of proportion based on conjecture, which I imagine is what normal-minded people do on the off chance they find themselves in a mental freefall to self-destruction. I decided to live, but that’s something I do fairly often. What was new was the decision to doubt myself less. To doubt him less, for that matter, and not take what he said to me as a vain effort to prop up my emotions from a sense of obligation.

The entire world hasn’t shifted overnight, and I didn’t expect that to happen. I really didn’t know what to expect. I’d read accounts of people who had gone No Contact, but experiences always differ. There is no right decision for everyone. For me, though, it’s been positives across the board, and they just keep coming. Having a mother happy to drop me at a moment’s notice can cause a lot of anger and resentment to work through, but it also means No Contact is easier to maintain and pretty damn near guilt-free.

Better yet, even the anger is fading. It isn’t gone, and I won’t get my hopes up that it ever will be, but it’s no longer all-consuming all the time. I have moments where it flares up and nearly chokes me, but I also have a lot more moments where I forget it even exists. I wouldn’t have even thought that possible not too long ago. It’s a kind of freedom that’s hard to describe. It still feels fragile, but I expect that to improve as well. It’s enough that I don’t feel as fragile anymore.