One of the things I learned about while researching my ADHD is a phenomenon that is highly co-morbid with ADHD, called Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. That link gives you the majority of the details, but the gist of RSD is that small accidents and events that would normally be completely ignorable cause the subject to become extremely agitated and depressive. For example, breaking a glass, or spilling a drink on the carpet, small events that should just be simple mistakes, turn into massive breakdowns.
I have a long history of these kinds of episodes, dating far back into childhood. When I described this to my therapist, she said that this sounds a lot like PTSD (possibly even C-PTSD), and that it was definitely something we needed to explore more in depth.
During my last visit we pursued why I keep getting so triggered by the prospect of losing Katharine, or us ending up in a state where we’re never physically intimate with each other. Any time the subject comes up, any time I even think about the idea of having to go through life without us ever having sex, I turn into an absolute mess, spiraling around guilt or fear, or just feelings of being worthless.
It turns out that it goes pretty deep.
The obvious factor is that touch is so significant to my love language that I equate a non-sexual relationship to meaning no physical intimacy at all, and to me that’s a loveless marriage. Katharine is monogamous, and can only be in a monogamous relationship. Therefore, being in a relationship with Kat means the only intimate connectivity I can receive has to come from her.
My need for physical connections got much worse post-transition, partly because of dropping a lot of the walls around my self-expression, but also because estrogenic sex drive has given me a massive thirst. I’m already extremely touch starved because we don’t have sex more than once or twice a month, and when we do I don’t really get the kind of sexual connectivity that I want. Plus, Kat just isn’t so big on expressing love through touch; she has gotten much better over the last year as it become so clear that I needed more of it, but it’s not her natural inclination. So, because I’m so dry, the idea of spending the rest of my life without receiving the attention that I so desperately crave is excruciating.
Pre-transition, my own issues with sex (rooted in my gender dysphoria) meant that I frequently spurned Kat’s own interest. She would be horny, she would want attention from me, and I wouldn’t provide it. I was rejecting her .
Now that I know what that same rejection feels like, I have intense guilt over having done that to her, and any time the subject comes up I get wrapped up in that guilt. That guilt turns into feelings of inadequacy, or feelings like I don’t deserve to be happy, which then wraps back into Tier 1, and the two start spiraling around each other.
So what’s the source of all this?
It all has to do with my mom. I have no memories of my mother every showing affection for me in a physical manner. We were not a family that hugged, or showed any positive physical attention at all. LOTS of negative physical attention, I got beat and spanked quite frequently, but never hugged. My grandmother is the only person I have memories of giving me affectionate touch, which is probably why I felt so connected to her when I was younger.
Because touch is my love language, that means I never felt actual love from my parents. Even now, when I came out and needed love from my mom the most, when I needed her to show me that she cared for me and wanted the best for me, she has turned her back on me to the point of refusing to even ever greet me or acknowledge my presence without me initiating first. I am nothing to her, mearly a means to connect with her grandchildren, who have now become her new point of attention.
And that is the root. That is why I break down at the thought of never getting intimacy from my wife, because for me that is the same rejection I had from my mother. Katharine was my first real girlfriend, the first woman I was intimate with in a loving manner. I never had anyone before her who showed me that kind of connectivity, and the thought of losing that physical attention literally means going back to being barren of human touch.
My therapist played this video for me that she’s been trying to get Katharine to start watching regularly, about how people have to love themselves to be able to love others.
He makes a point in here that most people don’t love others, they love their own idea about what those other people do for them. The love what they can get out of that person. It hit me that that’s what my love from my mom was. She loved what I represented to her, she loved me as a legacy. When I rejected her religion, married an atheist, and then came out as a trans lesbian, I completely abandoned that legacy, and I became worthless to her.
Now her attention has found a new legacy in my children, and that is why I need to stop having her babysit our kids and probably should stop communicating with her entirely. I used to think my mom wasn’t a narcissist because she wasn’t overtly so self centered in her behavior, but after all this I’m finally seeing it.
My mother has caused me a lot of trauma, and it’s gonna take a lot of work to get through it. I’m sure my father also had a massive contribution, but that one will be harder to explore because I’ve lost all my memories of him.