Mid-Life Crisis and the Love Languages

Have you ever been listening to someone complain about another person and suddenly started feeling sweaty? Nervous? It can be about something stupid, like a husband who forgot to put the cap back on the toothpaste.

And suddenly you want to find an exit as soon as possible.

Something this small shouldn’t effect you this way, but for some reason, it just hit too close to home this time. Perhaps, oh, I don’t know…because that very morning you also didn’t put the cap back on the toothpaste?

Oh, but there was a reason!!! There was a reason you didn’t put the cap back on. You see, everyone was brushing their teeth at the same time, and one of the boys knocked the cap onto the floor and it rolled under the shelves. You actually had the thought, “When I’m done here, I need to go find that thing,” but by the time you had “checked” everyone’s teeth, made sure they didn’t spit on each other, overseen the rinsing of toothbrushes and wiping of mouths, you simply forgot.

So then, when this friend, who is in a deep state of crisis with her husband, who sees nothing but disrespect at every turn, who believes that he doesn’t love her anymore and hasn’t loved her in years, mentions that, on top of all that, he didn’t put the cap back on the toothpaste, you suddenly start to believe that everything she is saying about her husband is actually about you.

Oh, no? You don’t do this? You must be normal.

Unfortunately, both my husband and I are both like this. Both of us tend to over-analyze everything. We tend to apply everything negative said about another person to ourselves. The worst part of it is that we then take this fully imagined criticism and get offended by it.

Overthinkers of the world, unite! This right here is the root of a solid 90% of our arguments.

So now, if this happens enough to cause real world problems in my marriage, imagine what this must do to an individual’s private thought life.

And let’s say, for example, that this person listens to a lot of podcasts that delve into the lives of say, serial killers and the psychoses that created the monsters they became.

There is a meme out there that says, “I’m just over here, overthinking the joy out of everything.”

That meme would be about me.

The Awareness Spectrum

I’m sure that we all have neuroses of varying degrees and measures. That’s kinda what makes us all so interesting. For people who are normal, and who don’t live most of their lives in their heads and thought lives, this does not end up debilitating.

Then there are the people who have problematic thought and behavior patterns and who have absolutely no idea that they could use some professional help. Those people, while they can be scary, have the benefit of not questioning their every move, every thought, every potential action, every pale shade of emotion.

Then, on the farthest end of the spectrum, are the hyper-aware. That’s me. This hyperawareness is what has, in spite of being highly-functioning in social situations, caused me to live in a pit of social anxiety for my entire life.

People who know me would not believe it if I told them that conversation makes me nauseous, because I pretend very very very well to love conversation. I cannot fathom that anyone would want to know anything about me, but when they ask, I feel a compulsion to say everything they might be interested in knowing.

All the while, my social anxiety is threatening and warning me that I will be discovered for being a fraud (I’m not a fraud) no one really wants you around (there are a handful of people who do want me around) you only care about what people can do for you (I wouldn’t ask someone to do something for me if my life depended on it.)

Yeah. So hyper-awareness stinks. But there is a good part of all this hyper-awareness. It is that all this awareness creates empathy–the ability to relate to the emotions of others.

Hyper-Awareness and Narcissism

I am not a psychologist, a therapist or any other kind of —ist. But there are some terms that have been tossed around enough to become widely understood in everyday vernacular.

My armchair serial killer podcast obsession has caused me to become somewhat fascinated by Narcissistic Personality Disorder: a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.

I would bet that you either can relate to some of those descriptors, or can imagine someone in your life who you’ve known that fits the bill.

When I started on my mid-life crisis starting in 2018, which was compounded by post-partum depression and the onset of peri-menopause, I discovered that there is, perhaps, a part of Narcissistic Personality Disorder that could be genetic. Or perhaps it is a generational curse. However you want to call this, I realized that I was becoming my Grandmother, Gigi.

I began having thoughts that perhaps not only did I take up all the space in the room (as my social anxiety chided me for constantly), but that perhaps I should take up all the space in the room. This, like my Gigi, who believed that everyone was always thinking of her, but not only that they were, that they should be always thinking of her.

At least if I controlled the narrative, and took up all the oxygen, I could silence the voice of the anxiety.

Push, Shove and the Whole Nine Yards

Thus began months and months and months of wrestling with thoughts that no one loved me, that my husband hated me, by turns hating myself and being madly in love with myself…being on an emotional roller coaster, powered by hormones, that was happening within the confines of my own mind.

I made a solid lot of bad decisions, but on the other hand, I made plenty of good-for-me decisions that I had never made before and were long overdue. At one point, I was so confused and upset by what was happening, I went to go see Georges, the counselor who had helped me years before, and he said, “Well look at you. You’re finally having your adolescence.” As if this was a good thing?

But it was a good thing. You see, even as I was making questionable decisions and hardly able to recognize the range of thoughts I was having, I had the absolutely certainty that God (oh yes, him again), was with me on this journey.

As if my social anxiety and fears of being judged by others had kept me tightly wound up in a ball for forty some-odd years and God had removed the cover holding it all together, allowing the whole thing to start spilling out. I was a mess. But God had started this. He would see it through.

At some point in this, when my emotions were on regular rocket launches and crash landings, I was convicted in my deepest heart that I needed to start showing the people in my life that they were important to me, regardless of how I was feeling, or risk alienating them by my crazy ups and downs.

I thought back to the conversation with Dr. Gary Chapman, and how I *might* have told him that I thought the whole “showing love in spite of how we were feeling seemed a little fake to me” thing.

Back when I said that to Dr. Chapman, I wasn’t feeling much of anything. Now, I was on a whirlwind of emotions and scary feelings and ups and downs and highs and lows…

And I decided to actually give it a try.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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