Feeling like an outlaw at the inlaws

I have such a hard time deciding when people are angry, upset, frustrated, or even sometimes happy. I’ve read and watched all kinds of things that say this regularly happens in teens because their whole brain is reformatting. I’m not entirely sure how this works in mental illness, but I would assume that because my brain doesn’t function normally it wasn’t formatted properly. Likely in the same place that the teenage brain hasn’t completed formatting. By this argument nearly all teenagers could be considered mentally unstable, which is something I’ve read before about why teens are so tricky to diagnose. I had one friend on medication in high school because OCD ran in her family; the rest of us got nothing but therapy.

But I digress, my point today is my lack of emotional awareness in others. About a week ago my husband and his younger cousin became extremely angry with my father in law. I guess there was a lot of talking over, as always. My father in law has two speeds: he’s either really loud and sounds mean or he’s completely shut down and actually terrifying. My husband, for whatever reason, decided this was the night he couldn’t take it anymore and completely lost it. Which resulted in a shouting match and me cowering in the living room. I was rattled by that incident for three days. I can’t handle confrontation. My brain automatically tells me that it’s my fault, regardless of who’s involved. I automatically assume that I’ve done something to initiate that argument or type of behavior. Why? I guess that’s something I get to work out for myself and try to stop.

The result makes living with my in laws much more difficult for me than I could have ever imagined. As time continues I realize why my roommate experiences have been so shitty. My feelings of horror at any confrontation lead me to not discuss anything. I moved to Michigan in June. I still don’t know the cleaning schedules, where cleaning supplies are kept, how the kitchen is supposed to be organized, or anything that is expected of me. I don’t know if I’ve done that to myself by trying to constantly stay out of the way, or if it’s a nuance a person with a better functioning brain would have been able to pick up. I consistently feel I’m not helping enough, which makes me even more afraid when people are angry. This, in turn, makes me try to stay out of the way more, which then starts the whole nasty cycle all over again. Honestly, I’m told most of the time I feel this way people aren’t even angry.

This article was in my twitter feed this morning about diffusing anger, and it seems like it would be useful for people like my husband. He never backs down when it’s important. I’m going to keep looking this week for ways I can improve my skill set to better deal with my fears of anger and confrontation. My goal is to find a better way to communicate with myself about these emotions that will foster better communication with others. Maybe I’ll even be brave enough to put some sort of plan into action. Stranger things have happened, right?

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