12/17/22: Funk Texting

I funk text people.

It’s like drunk texting, but I’m sober. And I don’t do it nearly as much as I used to, but I still do it.

The thing is, I struggle with maintaining relationships. I’m not particularly fond of small talk, so I’m even less fond of small talk texting: “How was your day? Any plans for the weekend? Thinking about you, wanted to say hi.” I guess these are integral to “normal, functioning, healthy relationships”, but they feel boring to me. Repetitive. Superficial.

But at the same time, I feel like checking up on people on a deeper level is invasive. “Hey, heard about your father, how are you doing?” “You were really worked up last week, are you okay?” If people wanted to tell me, my brain says, they’d tell me without me prodding.

Except, they don’t.

Lurking behind every conversation is the threat of the script itch, that crushing feeling that I’m not having an authentic conversation, that the conversation I’m engaging in is based on a script where everyone’s words have been pre-ordained and all there is left is to speak or write them.

I say, “I’m feeling really down tonight, like nobody really likes me.”

You say, “No, that’s not true, I’ve just been really busy.”

I say, “Yes, it is. Everyone hates me. You’re just pretending so that I’ll stop bothering you.”

You say, “We all have bad days like this, but know that I love you. Everything will be all right later.”

And… scene.

I think it’s a form of derealization, and in my case I think it’s related to a lifetime of autistic masking, of not knowing how to navigate authentically. I too often feel like I’m living by a script of what I’m supposed to say and do, not just when I’m feeling sad or lonely.

Conversations spin out of control so quickly, and seeing them as scripts helps to contain them.

I suppose.

Last night I had that itch again. I was funk texting some friends, and I started yelling at myself: I was ruining things. I was so fake. I was seeking attention. I’m needy and whiny. Nobody needs me around.

These days, the vast majority of my funk texts stay in my head. I stare at the computer or the phone and think, “I should text [friend] and just say hi” and then it turns into, “And say what? ‘Hi’ creates an obligation for them to respond. Maybe they’re busy.”

And it spirals: “They don’t even want to hear from you. You annoy them. They’re only polite to you because they don’t know how to say they want you to go away.”

And it spirals more: “They haven’t reached out to you in months because they’re ghosting you. It would be pathetic for you to say anything to them. Just leave them alone.”

And the spiral gets to: “Well, if you text them now, it’ll be a disgusting plea for attention where you’ll passive-aggressively tell them how awful you are as a clear demand for contradiction.”

This week, the stress level finally reached critical mass. Disrespected by my admin. Feeling of utter ineffectiveness as a teacher. Had to put a sick cat to sleep. Betrayed by my union.

So I funk texted.


Virtual relationships are not designed for people who don’t care for small talk. I missed out on a childhood of parallel play; I want it in my adulthood, but I struggle with accepting that I’m not annoying the other person. I want to just be around people, to be acknowledged, but I fear the demons. I screw up, and then it spirals into a meltdown.

This entry started out so organized, and I feel like it’s falling apart now. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe that’s where I reach behind the mask and find authenticity.

Authenticity is that somewhere inside there’s a little child who got the message over and over that they were annoying. That… he was annoying. That… she was annoying.

“The little girl you were who never had a voice…
Suddenly she’s talking and
There’s nothing you can do to drown her out.”

— Maddie & Tae, “These Tears”

I’m autistic. I was raised by two parents who had better things to do than deal with my higher-than-average need for attention and confirmation. My classmates thought it was funny to provoke my violent meltdowns. My teachers didn’t know how to effectively interact with me, just as I see colleagues now who struggle with interacting with autistic students.

I learned that my ways of interaction were cloying and pathetic. I would love to have this online conversation regularly:

Me: Hi.
You: Hi.
Me: Nice chat. Same thing next week?
You: Sure.

End of conversation. But… apparently, this is weird. Needy. Pathetic. At least, that’s what my voices tell me.

Sure, it’s nice enough for it to develop into something deeper. I like serious conversations. I like fun conversations, too. When I’m content, I’m a very silly person. I like corny jokes. I am also very loyal, but I often feel unwantedly loyal, like a puppy who would curl up on your feet but they’ve been kicked in the ribcage too many times, and so now just sits in the corner, out of anyone’s way, waiting for someone to offer to scratch them on their forehead.

On one level, this is called “learned helplessness”, and it includes the fear that the scritch on the head is a trap. A few months ago, I made the mistake of assuming that someone scritching me on the head was willing to see some of my shadows. So I offered to show them to her.

And she kicked me in the ribs.

So… back in my corner again.

“If I don’t know who to trust / I trust them all
And if I don’t know who to kill / no suicide
I’m already dead.”

— Live, “Brothers Unaware”

Inside is a very trusting little girl, a very trusting little puppy, who doesn’t understand why the world can be so cruel. A girl who has been scolded too much just for wanting attention and affection, so that she doesn’t feel like she’s deserving of love.

People feeling learned hopelessness “come to believe that they are unable to control or change the situation, so they do not try — even when opportunities for change become available” (“What is Learned Helplessness?”, Medical News Today).

This is how I feel about friendships. Even when people absolutely insist that they love me and want me to be around me, I refuse to believe them. I’m waiting for the kick to the ribs, and when I get it, as I did a few months ago, it moves me backward again.

Reading that article about learned helplessness resonates a lot with me, enough that I would seriously consider therapy… except, my last therapist kicked me in the ribs, too, when she decided that I was too stubborn to be willing to change and that I was just playing games and wasting her time.

And that reminds me of the girl in the fuzzy sweater in middle school who said she was my girlfriend for a few weeks until I got sick in class in a weird way once and refused to tell the teacher because I was scared, so she got mad and told me I was too messed up for her to be interested in, and so she broke up with me.

And that reminds me of the time in the same class that we were supposed to hold a trial for the murderer in The Tell-Tale Heart, and my “best friend” and I were the defense lawyers but we didn’t practice because he said it would work better as improv, and I had to go first and knew nothing about how to improv a lawyer and I just made a fool of myself.

And that reminds me of the time in 7th grade English when we were supposed to do a book report in front of the class, and I did mine on an Encyclopedia Brown book. I brought a candle for effect, but when the teacher turned the lights off in the room it still wasn’t very dark. And I hadn’t really written anything, I was just going to improv that, but it went terribly. It was just a boring, even kind of bad, book report, except the Weird Kid had a candle, so that made it even more awkward. Then one of my classmates borrowed the candle for their own book report, which worked a lot better, so that made me feel even more awkward.

Everything is connected in a chain of trauma and memories.

Learned helplessness is what keeps my house in a mess. I don’t think I can ever clean it, so what’s the point?

Learned helplessness is what keeps me in a job I dislike. It’s what keeps me from buying clothes I actually want to wear. It’s what keeps me from writing more routinely, and what keeps me from trying to sell my words.

And it’s what keeps me from reaching out to my friends until the pressure is too much and I funk-text them.

This is the next domino that I will topple. And it’s a big one, but…

I’ve already toppled quite a few.

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