Author Topic: [long] Not Really Human  (Read 514 times)

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Offline Asche

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[long] Not Really Human
« on: August 26, 2020, 06:31:57 pm »
I feel like I'm not really human.  Most of the time I'm so busy doing that I don't think about it, but when I have time to just sit with myself, I have this overwhelming feeling like I'm a foreigner, an alien, in this sea of human beings, and the only person in the world from my planet or of my species on the Earth.

This morning was one of those times.

Over the years, I've learned to act more or less like the humans around me.  It's like a fake personality, a ventriloquist's dummy, a mask that I wear almost all the time, to the point that I almost think that it is me.  But it's always a strain, and I need a lot of alone time to recover.  I'm constantly having to figure out what a human would do in the situation I am in, and then faking that response.  I can act the part of a human being, but I can't ever feel whatever it is that makes them do what they do.  At some level, human beings don't make sense to me.  When I try to act human, it's as an outsider, someone who doesn't ever feel whatever it is that would make them naturally do what they do.  It's like pretending to be a groundhog when you're not.

On the rare occasions when I think there might be some reason to try to communicate what I'm feeling underneath, it's a struggle to put it into language, because English doesn't seem to have words for it.  Maybe that's why I like learning languages other than English: for me, every language is a foreign language, even the language I grew up with.  Putting my thoughts and feelings and ideas into words is always a process of translation, of groping for words and phrases and allusions that sorta kinda maybe are a little like what I'm thinking and feeling.  And when I finish, I realize it still isn't what is in my mind. It sounds like what a human might make of my non-human thought patterns, or like the way a human might describe how they think a horse thinks.  It loses a lot in the translation.

And it's always a strain.  I'm sort of like a refugee, a displaced person, except that refugees have a memory of a country where they once belonged, and I'm like a refugee without any memory of a nation of origin.  Another way I describe it is like being the last passenger pigeon, a creature with nobody like them anywhere in the universe, simply waiting for the final extinction, occasionally wondering if it wouldn't be kinder to just get it over with.

It's always been this way for me.  Even as a small child, if I tried to express how I felt or how I saw the world, or if I acted on my feelings, I would get rejected and punished.  My family would mock me and punish me, my peers always rejected me for being "weird," and the adults who had power over me just kept scolding me and punishing me for not being like the rest of the kids.  In order to develop, you have to be seen by other people and they have to show that they see you and accept (and value?) you for who you are, and nobody wanted to know the inner me.  They just wanted it to go away.  I not only had no need for a language to describe who I really was, I was better off for not having one, because that way it was less likely that I would inadvertently let more of my weirdness and unacceptableness show.  And I've never found anyone who gives me the feeling that they also feel something like what I feel inside.

It's this way with my "trans-ness," too.  On the one hand, I feel so much better now that the part I'm trying to act is a female part, but on the other hand, when other people talk about what being trans is like for them, it doesn't sound like what I feel inside.  I don't get "identifying as ..." at all -- it just plain does not compute.  I wouldn't say "I feel like a woman," because I have no idea what that would feel like; I don't even know what being human feels like, other than maybe the feeling that there are other people like you.  I'm always on the outside looking in. Gender is just one of those funny things that those humans do, and though I can (with effort) act like it means something to me, it's all an act.  Inside, I'm just me -- a little like E.T., but not as cute.

(I was wondering: what would the movie E.T. have looked like if Steven Spielberg had tried to make it from E.T.'s point of view? And would anybody have wanted to watch it?)

"...  I think I'm great just the way I am, and so are you." -- Jazz Jennings



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Offline EZ Linus

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Re: [long] Not Really Human
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2020, 04:27:10 pm »
I would watch that movie--the one from ET's point of view. This place must have seemed really bizarre to him/them. The world is a weird place. I can commiserate with you. I have always felt like an outsider, like I'm faking it. I wonder when someone will find me out. Imposter's syndrome? I don't know. I go through the motions and sometimes I can watch myself doing it (disassociation?) and it's not really me, or genuine, but I'll do it anyway. To "fit" in. I need alone time to recover after being social, with anyone. It's exhausting. It's part of being an introvert I think. Social things take the air out of us and then we wonder why we feel so tired afterward, why we feel like outsiders when all these other people around us seem to do it all so easily. I mean, I just wanted to say, you're not alone in feeling alone. <3

Offline LunatheaEvergreen

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Re: [long] Not Really Human
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2020, 02:33:10 pm »
I think i know what you mean. I would spend days working not feeling a thing. Go home and sleep and start the day off again. Showers are like a ritual to me. I would just stay under the running water for like an hour just feeling everything i should have felt through out the week.

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Offline Sephirah

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Re: [long] Not Really Human
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2020, 04:58:41 pm »
That doesn't make you non-human, sweetie. If anything, it kind of illustrates even moreso why you are.

See... as humans, we have the capacity to think and feel beyond sheer instinct. Beyond reflex actions of food, and security, and procreation. It's what our big brains give to us.

That you haven't met people around you who feel the way you do.. that doesn't mean you're not part of the same species as everyone else. It just means that you feel differently to the people around you. And that's okay. Being able to feel that... that's what makes you human. Not what you feel.

And honestly, the world would likely be a much nicer place if more people realised and came to terms with that.

Offline Tessa James

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Re: [long] Not Really Human
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2020, 01:01:57 pm »
So here we are nicely retired and its Covid 19 time!  For too many of us that means more social distancing and even isolation.  I am reminded of my acute isolation prior to transition and the years of considering myself an alien visitor to this planet and a culture I once felt no part of.

One of the best changes for me has been a greater emersion in queer culture.  With a wonderful Q Center now thriving in our rural community I get to meet new people frequently.  Being able to welcome diverse people to our safe spaces continues to help me feel loved and loving of our eclectic and inclusive community.

I frequently feel no sense of gender at all while my default remains girl and now more human than ever before.  I just have a greater appreciation for how wide the world of humanity can be.  I dearly hope to meet you some day and share some humanity with you
Open, out and evolving queer trans person forever with HRT support since March 13, 2013

Offline Asche

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Re: [long] Not Really Human
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2020, 07:40:06 pm »
That doesn't make you non-human, sweetie. If anything, it kind of illustrates even moreso why you are.

I think you miss the point.  It's not that I objectively think I'm not human.  I'm trying to express a sense of alienation from the rest of humanity and maybe even from myself.  "I'm not human" is just a crude approximation for describing a sense of being for which there are no words to express.

I do think that as a child I was different from most of the people around me, but I don't think that is where my sense of "I am not human" comes from.  It came from being given from my earliest years from everyone around me the message that who the real me was was utterly unacceptable, and from being constantly punished and rejected for not being someone else.  Due to events in my infancy, every rejection felt like a life-threatening abandonment, the kind of abandonment that I imagine that the "imperfect" babies that in ancient Greece were abandoned on hillsides to die must have felt.

I felt that my self was under threat from my earliest years: one of my recurring fears was that "they" might erase who I was and replace it with a personality more to their liking.  (When I read The Child Buyer, it felt like a nightmare.)  I was ostracized and isolated pretty much until my late teens.  To survive, I created a false self and suppressed my real self.  The false self never worked very well, but my real self was suppressed so well it feels like it was buried in the cellar with a concrete slab poured over top, and it never developed (I'm reminded of the line "when children die, they do not grow" from the song "I come and stand.")   It's the child in the mop closet in Ursula le Guin's story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas."

It's not that I can't find "my people."  Once I left my family and the (US) South, I started finding people who I (or at least the false me, which I call "the mask") could relate to; mostly, people that didn't freak out if they heard an idea that was newer than about 1860.  But if your real self is buried in the cellar under a foot-thick concrete floor, those relationships will never feel real.

For what it's worth, I think my siblings suffered some of the same things, except that it didn't seem to break them as thoroughly as it broke me.  It did leave them unable to really relate to other people.  When I see them at family gatherings, it feels like they are well-programmed animatronic robots, not really people.   (My parents felt even more unreal to me, so I know where they get it from.)
"...  I think I'm great just the way I am, and so are you." -- Jazz Jennings



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Offline Sephirah

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Re: [long] Not Really Human
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2020, 05:03:48 pm »
No I didn't miss the point, sweetie. I get what you're saying. You don't feel like a person.

Believe it or not I've felt like that a lot of times in my life. Sometimes I go out and sit... and just watch people around me. And it feels like I'm watching them as an observer from another world. I think a good deal of trans people feel that way. Like a stranger to the rest of humanity. I have to wear sunglasses during the day because my eyes are extremely photosensitive, but I have sat and watched behind my "screen" a whole lot of times.

I don't think it's all that uncommon, honestly. You feel... different. Like no one around you understands you. And maybe at times that you're not even sure you understand yourself.

Asche that is not your fault. It's the fault of the people around you. I could very easily put myself in your place. People don't understand a lot of things. And the things they don't understand they go one of three ways:

1) They fear it. And shun it.

2) They hate it. And try to erase it.

3) They try to change it. To fit in with their own beliefs.

It sounds to me like you suffered option 3, and I am very, very sorry for that.

The point I was trying to make is that... I guess... you are as much a valuable entity in this world as anyone else is. That you don't feel like other people doesn't make you an anomaly. And that you should embrace the way you feel rather than dwell on the differences it makes you perceive with others. :)

*hugs*

Offline Asche

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Re: [long] Not Really Human
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2020, 07:25:52 am »
From the "silver lining" department:

There's one positive thing that my experience has given me:  I have a lot more empathy for marginalized people.

For instance, lately, some of us in our UU congregation have been working on how UU congregations unintentionally make people who are not privileged cis straight white people feel unwelcome.  We've been reading about stuff like structural racism and microaggressions and erasure, and I'm struck at how much most of the other people in our congregation are struggling to understand these concepts which seem so obvious to me.  I'm not black, and I would never claim to really know what it's like to be Black in the USA, but when I read or hear about what many of them go through, I have no trouble imagining what it might do to you to go through that stuff all your life (tl;dr: it sucks.)  When we have (Zoom) discussions, I find I keep having to explain this stuff to the other people.  I think some of them sort of get it, but it's still an intellectual concept to them.  Privilege really does blind you.

And I was a feminist from a very early age, though of course my views evolved as I learned more and more.  When my mother and other women in my life talked about what they were experiencing, or I read women's accounts, I empathized (even if it never occured to me to think of myself as female -- and I still don't), perhaps because I had experienced a lot of stuff like it.  One reason I never fit in in "men's groups" (back in the days when I thought: if I'm male, I need to learn to relate to other men, right?) was that a lot of the "bonding" that went on seemed to be based on misogyny and attempts to prove that they weren't women.

For all that I feel like I'm not really human, I feel this inner conviction that all people, even the worst of us, are still human beings and there's a certain level of consideration and respect that everyone deserves, no matter what they've done.  Nobody is "trash," and for us to treat anyone as if they are is to throw away some of our own humanity.
"...  I think I'm great just the way I am, and so are you." -- Jazz Jennings



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Offline EZ Linus

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Re: [long] Not Really Human
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2020, 12:28:26 pm »
Asche,

I empathize with your empathy! I have no clue why so many people, even close friends of mine, don't see their white privilege and need it pointed out and explained to them. But you know, maybe that's what some people need. Even if they still don't get it, some people aren't even aware that they have lived with this privlidge their entire lives and need it pointed out. It's the first step in educating many people in Western society that choose to look away, or don't even know they are making that choice.

There are so many people that live in communities that are walled off from diversity. They don't SEE, literally SEE, what others go through other than what's on TV, and good luck with that being a correct representation of diversity or reality. Sometimes, one has to grow up in that environment, have friends, know others, experience things to understand a little bit of what's happening in life and some people just haven't had those experiences.

You have at the bottom of your signature "CPTSD." I am curious to know if this means you have a diagnosis of complex-PTSD? If so, you might have a lot more insight than many other people of what it's like to be treated horribly. I have C-PTSD and know all too well what this feeling is and it comes with dissociative states which makes me (for one) feel like I am not of this world. Can this be something contributing to your feelings possibly, if in fact I am correct about what this is on your signature?

Offline Asche

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Re: [long] Not Really Human
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2020, 06:51:29 pm »
Yes, I have complex PTSD.  (I have updated my signature to be clearer.)  At least, I asked my therapist whether that was it, and she said yes.  And whenever I see a list of symptoms of C-PTSD, I tick off most of them.  (Just looking at the list is often triggering.)

My therapist has been trying various techniques, with middling success.  We tried EMDR, but when I actually started feeling something, my mind went out to lunch for about 10 minutes (I think -- I wasn't aware at the time), so she figured the memory of the trauma (almost 60 years later) was still too powerful for me to stay in the "window of tolerance."  She tried hypnosis, but then when I was going into trance, my visualization showed a swarm of wasps attacking me.  The biggest improvements in my life all involved getting out of toxic environments -- getting out of That Awful School at age 12, then out of my family home and away from my birthplace at age 18, and most recently, retiring from a toxic job.  (Well, transition also made a huge improvement, too.)

I was reading in one of my trauma books (Bessel van der Kolk's The Body Keeps the Score) and at one point he says that people who never had anyone they felt safe with growing up have a particularly hard time recovering; that, in fact, conventional therapy doesn't work.  Well, that's me.  I cannot recall anyone who made me feel safe.  My safety came from "daydreaming," which I have been told was actually dissociation.  Dissociation gave me a brief respite from the Hell I lived in.  To this day, I only feel really safe when I'm completely alone and know that nobody is going to come by.

One of the nice things about the trans community is that people here are no strangers to trauma.   I can tell people what I went through and am going through, and nobody tries to tell me I'm exaggerating or misinterpreting stuff or malingering.  Nobody tries to tell me that I don't have a right to feel broken, that it wasn't really that bad.  I can talk about suicidal ideation, and people don't freak out and call 911.
"...  I think I'm great just the way I am, and so are you." -- Jazz Jennings



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Offline EZ Linus

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Re: [long] Not Really Human
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2020, 08:04:04 am »
I have found that EMDR only works on people with PTSD, not C-PTSD. If you're recovering from a single incident, it's much more effective, but compounded trauma is a lot more complicated. I've been in therapy for many years. I'm 52. I had a tremendous amount of trauma growing up. There is a ton of body memory and that might never go away. I know what you mean about tiring of people wanting to call 911 when you have your feelings. It makes you feel much more isolated.

In the last year, I've finally been gaining a little ground in therapy with doing DBT group sessions. There is a module in it about radical acceptance that I thought I'd never be able to wrap my head around and I'm finally getting there I think, at least about accepting the past anyway. Also, accepting that I may not ever be able to fully recover or feel safe around people might just come with the territory with what I've been through, but that doesn't mean I can't try to build relationships the best I can.

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