Throughout my whole life I've always been the "quiet kid" but I was going through a traumatic childhood and no one knew. Knows. But it feels like no one cares, I hear other peoples days and how they are but no one asks me. It feels like no one knows me but when I try to speak I can't physically do it because I'm so used to being shunned. It's hard to connect to others and I don't know how to bring it up. I always try to be there for others but it clearly shows that they won't do the same for me, I don't ever feel it.
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It sounds like your trauma has made you believe other people don’t care about you and that you don't deserve the support of others. Trauma and abuse usually do that to people; when you’re abused as a child, you usually think you deserve it. The truth is, you don’t deserve to be abused or traumatized at all, nor do you deserve to be surrounded by takers.
“Quiet kids” could just be kids who are more reserved, shy, or introverted. Other times, they are like you, trying to fly under the radar, possibly because you feel you don’t deserve help or you fear someone intervening and possibly making things worse. Are you familiar with the His Dark Materials trilogy, by Phillip Pullman? You kind of remind me of the main character in the second book, The Subtle Knife, because he’s practiced his whole childhood (so far) blending in with others and trying to avoid drawing attention to himself and his family. He worried that if school counselors or teachers noticed his unusual family situation, he’d be taken away; he didn’t want to risk that.
It sounds like the people around you don’t really seem to pay attention when you speak. It also sounds like they don’t seem to put forth the same amount of effort that you do in their interactions with you. This could lead to what’s known as empathy burnout, where you give to others but they don’t reciprocate and you eventually run out of energy to take care of yourself.
I found an article about the signs and how to avoid it:
Basically, learning how to assert yourself and maintain boundaries with people will go far. People have to understand that they have to care about you, too, and they have to understand that you have limited energy. Most people tend to be kind of self-absorbed, but usually with a little prodding, they wake up and modify their behavior to keep things balanced. But leeches never do this; they want more and more and will keep taking and complaining if you push back. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re around absent-mindedly self-absorbed people or just leeches. This other article can help you learn how to establish health boundaries:
In addition, I found a couple of articles about how to recognize when people are emotionally unavailable and how to learn how to be safely emotionally vulnerable:
I’m wondering if the people around you don’t think to ask about you or just talk your ear off about their problems, but don’t always tell you the whole story because they aren’t being entirely honest with you. They might not be truly emotionally available to you because they don’t want to be; why be available to someone when you can just come and go as you please? This will help you weed out the leeches around you and surround yourself with people who care about you.
Additionally, it takes practice to establish boundaries and to be emotionally vulnerable. I say this as someone who wears her heart on her sleeve, so to speak, and struggles with boundaries. I tend to care about other people’s feelings and ideas more than my own, so even if I recognize that someone else is being unfair, I have trouble speaking up about it. These two articles should help you strike a healthy balance between the two so that you can both support and reach out for support from the right people and you can cut off the wrong ones. Another book that may help is When I Say No, I Feel Guilty, by Manuel J. Smith. This book talks all about how to set and enforce boundaries with everyone.
I also think it would be a good idea to do some more research on how trauma works. A great book to start would be The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van der Kolk. I think your childhood has given you a lot to unpack here, so let this be one step towards that. Plus, I highly suggest this article from a counseling center: https://www.bradencenter.com/understanding-the-difference-between-ptsd-and-cptsd/
I can’t diagnose you, but you may want to look into Complex-Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or C-PTSD. This differs from PTSD in that CPTSD is usually the result of repeated exposure to traumatic events or abuse, while PTSD is usually the result of exposure to a singular traumatic event. In either case, your brain is constantly in survival mode, so you’re exhausted more often and find it harder to connect with others. People in this situation tend to be more reactive and don’t always read people well. They tend to find danger or threats when there aren’t any and they may have trouble connecting with others because of this.
Finding a counselor or therapist who specializes in CPTSD could be a great long-term plan because they can help you unpack that suitcase. Yes, you deserve help. Having a professional help you unpack that trauma would be a wonderful way to get you started on the path to healing. You’ll be able to process everything over time and be able to start making better connections with others. Since COVID shut a lot of places down, you can seek out lots of tele-therapy options; try your school’s counseling center, your employer’s assistance program, or your health insurance options. You can also look to the Internet for online options, such as Captain Awkward’s blog, TalkSpace, or BetterHelp.
May your path to healing go smoothly. Remember that this is a process, so it’s okay to make mistakes along the way. Take it one day at a time, one step at a time.
Hello from NYC! I am not a peer counselor, I am a member, here, at Asking Jude. Without knowing anything specific about your life or about your family, my advice is to find one of the people you say that you have 'been there for others' and tell them what you're sharing here. Other than that, if you feel that you can't do that, then, find a psychologist or psychiatrist to talk to.. A peer counselor , here, at Asking Jude will give your more specific information...