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I've become a heartless bitch

(48 Posts)
ohdearlord Tue 05-Jan-16 12:48:32

This isn't about one incident in particular - more of a general trend in my reactions (this already doesn't sound good).

Life for me has generally been rocky to downright horrific. It's not now, apart from some chronic health issues (that are manageable) it's all quite lovely now. But that is a relatively recent state of affairs.

My childhood was quite devastatingly abusive. My adolescence spent primarily in mental health units. Towards the end, the one family member I had any sort of a relationship with committed suicide. I had DD in early my twenties. And her early life was spent dealing with some disastrously complicated legal proceedings surrounding custody.

Over a decade or so I've put myself back together, restored relationships with family, gotten my mental health sorted, completed Masters studies, settled down with DP and DD. DD is happy and healthy. I'm proud to, so far, have beaten the odds (not without significant help!).

But. I have become harsh I think. Not in an aggressive way, more in a cold kind of no-nonsense way. Which is understandable I suppose - it's been a survival strategy. But I think now that things really are settled and lovely, it's no longer particularly reasonable - and it's certainly not reasonable when I apply it to other people.

When other parents cry at Christmas performances, or DP wells up when he talks about feelings or friends are stressed over, relatively, minor issues - I just don't feel anything myself, or worse feel very frustrated. I used to be very empathetic and "feel-y" but these days I find myself more often than not thinking, "FFS pull yourself together". I KNOW that's not reasonable. It's not my business to be deciding how someone else should feel or react but I don't seem to be able to help it - at least as a private, internal reaction.

Thankfully I haven't yet ever actually said it out loud. And DP seems to get that just because I don't go in for big displays of emotion doesn't mean that I don't love him and DD dearly etc. etc. Or that just because I don't cry doesn't mean something hasn't hurt me.

There are a couple of friends in particular who are quite lovely but are big bundles of feeling. All the time. Over nothing and everything. I don't dislike them at all. But I also can't relate to them in the same way that I used to 5 or 6 years ago.

Would it be unreasonable to quietly take a step back from them? Even though I know full well they look to me for a lot of support/venting space/advice. I don't want to say anything because I don't think my position is anything like objective, but equally I don't want to end up snapping. I still see my psych from time to time and she says that over time I will probably "warm up" again. But until then, would I be being unreasonable?

SlaggyIsland Tue 05-Jan-16 12:58:51

I don't think you sound heartless at all. There's nothing wrong with having a no-nonsense attitude, it's not you are being unkind to anybody.
You've been through a lot in your life, and you certainly have the right to distance yourself from people who are being emotional drains.

ExtraBlessings Tue 05-Jan-16 13:00:20

OP your sound like you have overcome an enormous amout. Good to know that your DP isn't one of the people expecting big displays from you.

There's all sorts of stuff in my head that doesn't get said (too rude or unkind), I expect we are not alone! If these friends are relying on you for space to vent it sounds like they are demanding a true of support from you that you don't have the resources to give right now. Your health is important and step back might be a good thing.

All the best OP

Oliversmumsarmy Tue 05-Jan-16 13:12:50

I know exactly where you are coming from. When people cry over nothing I always wonder how if something truly upsetting happened would their reaction be the same. How do they tell the difference between coffee dripping on their shirt and someone dying if both reactions are the same.

ohdearlord Tue 05-Jan-16 13:18:14

Thank you :-)

I don't think they mean to be drains at all. I just don't feel like I can handle high-intensity emotion with much tact or empathy at the moment - and really don't want to end up snapping at them.

DP definitely isn't one of the people I'm finding difficult. He very quietly supports me with us all just getting on with life. It's unnecessary drama that I can't deal with.

One friend in particular is in her mid thirties, and is always, always having some kind of "boy-drama" (her phrase, not mine). I understand where she's coming from - she's a practicing Christian adhering to no sex before marriage, and relatively traditional rules of dating/gender roles. She desperately wants to get married - but that gets her into some absurd situations. I want to be kind and understanding, and maybe gently challenging as and when it was appropriate - but just the intensity of the emotion over what often sounds like high-school type situations makes me want to pull my hair out.

ohdearlord Tue 05-Jan-16 13:21:57

Oliversmumsarmy - yes, exactly. I feel like saying, "FFS what are you going to do when the shit really does start to fly? Where is your self-respect? Pull yourself together, stop being so damn wet, recover your dignity and bloody get on with it." But that's not terribly kind, or helpful :-)

LibrariesGaveUsP0wer Tue 05-Jan-16 13:26:45

I feel that way a lot of the time OP. And I've not overcome what you have.

I don't get all this getting wound up into a frenzy about something on facebook. Or sobbing because you lost your favourite scarf. Just pull it together. blush

SlaggyIsland Tue 05-Jan-16 13:30:22

OP I'm guessing you'd be very empathetic if someone had a genuine crisis or tragedy.
I'm totally with you that it gets very irritating if people are fussing and crying over minor things, especially if it's situations of their own making, and especially if they keep doing the same thing over and over.
I get very eye-rolly at some of the self-created, frequently drunken dramas of certain acquaintances. I've distanced myself, but a friend loves to message me with the latest "oh no so and so has had this happen, isn't it dreadful"... I just couldn't give a shit quite frankly.
I have all the time in the world for anyone dealing with real issues like bereavement, serious illness, SN children etc. It's often those with the worst burdens who seem to make the least fuss I find.

doitanyways Tue 05-Jan-16 13:30:29

I must admit I am similar, especially on here when people say 'I am sat here crying' over a missed school lunch or similar but then I don't think it's a bad thing. I think it's hugely helpful to get things into perspective.

That said, I also feel aware that my losses are not other people's gains, if you follow me.

Bullshitbingo Tue 05-Jan-16 13:32:51

Don't worry op, you sound like me, and I had a perfectly happy childhood. Have you thought that perhaps this is just your personality and that now your life has calmed down, it has enabled the real you to come out?

Some of us just don't have our emotions so close to the surface as others. I find with my 'highly strung' friends I just have to limit the amount of time I spend with them. I find it exhausting to be around a lot of the faff and I expect they get annoyed with me as I'm always trying to diffuse the drama and add a bit of perspective. As long as you're not rude or cruel, i don't think it's a problem.

Whoknewitcouldbeso Tue 05-Jan-16 13:37:12

Honestly thank good for people like you quite honestly. I know your mindset has been cultivated by a terrible run of events, of which I'm really sorry to read about. But nowadays people are so bloody soft I often wonder how we would really cope if men had to get drafted to fight and women had to send their kids away in the event of bombs being dropped. We would all collectively fall apart, it's embarrassing.

Unfortunately I am one of the over sensitive that cries at the drop of a hat and spends far too much time worrying about other people and situations I can't influence. I loathe it but it's a byproduct of my own health issues and grief from miscarriages etc.

Keep being you and if drama lamas are driving you mad then absolutely take a step back.

CMOTDibbler Tue 05-Jan-16 13:43:50

OP, I don't think theres anything wrong with you at all, and your friend would have me feeling very eye rolly and unsympathetic. I've never cried at a childrens play, and tbh find them tedious at best.

I agree that you are probably the sort of person who is deeply dependable in a real problem, and a complete rock.

ohdearlord Tue 05-Jan-16 13:57:18

Oh what a relief! I really did think I'd become unbearably cold and judgemental!

SlaggyIsland - yes, actual problems and whatnot do still elicit a good deal of empathy and responsiveness. I think my threshold for what constitutes an "actual problem" is quite high though. And I do tend to adopt a flak-jacket-on-where-should-we-run crisis management approach (DP jokes I should quit academia and become a paramedic or similar). Another friend, who I feel slightly less okay about taking a step back from, has some custody issues of her own - and hasn't seen her children (young) for a couple of years now. But despite knowing what needs to be done about it, and us having sat down to fill in forms etc. several times - she just can't bring herself to actually begin the process. So it ends up in very circular sobbing into wine. It's a dreadful situation that began with her abusive ex removing the kids from the country in parental abduction. And obviously my heart breaks for her, and them. But even then I feel like at some point you have to stop crying and deal with what is.

Doitanyways - I'm not sure I do follow you. Or at least I understood the phrase just not how it relates?

Bullshitbingo (love the name!). Yes, I had thought that. And my psych has suggested it too before. In every other aspect of my life I'm a fairly hard-core rationalist. I'm not at all good with things that don't follow logically. Up until life calmed down finally nothing had been very logical at all - no matter how hard I tried to make it so. Least of all the bizarre world of family law. I dealt with the whole process - how to get through it, how to recover my mental health, how to go about re-establishing family relationships, how to step-by-step progress things with DP, how to manage getting the degrees I wanted from where I wanted, how to manage my time as a single parent with all of DD's never-ending activities, studies etc. with spreadsheets, Gantt charts and flow diagrams. I still do. I do think to a large extent it's who I am - I want to know what's going on and to have as much influence over it as possible.

breezydoesit Tue 05-Jan-16 14:04:27

I sometimes think that there is a real lack of stoicism these days. It tiring being around melodramatic people who cry at the drop of a hat.

HumptyDumptyBumpty Tue 05-Jan-16 14:08:30

Sorry you had a crappy childhood, OP. I'm another one posting to say you're not alone, and not weird/cold (IMHO).

I have an overly emotional mother who makes everything about her feelings and how she feels so I have tended towards pragmatism and logic in reaction. She calls me cold/unfeeling, but that's cause I don't fall for her emotional manipulation.

I often eye roll at 'sat here crying' on MN/FB/anywhere. Always makes me think (probably unkindly) that the poster is a bit emotional immature (when it's over a lost scarf/packed lunch etc). I want to post links to the heartbreaking threads about bereavement and abuse and give those posters a good shake!

WhereYouLeftIt Tue 05-Jan-16 14:08:55

You have not become a heartless bitch. Or if you have, then I have always been one.

"There are a couple of friends in particular who are quite lovely but are big bundles of feeling. All the time. Over nothing and everything. I don't dislike them at all. But I also can't relate to them in the same way that I used to 5 or 6 years ago. "
If they have been 'big bundles of feeling' 'over nothing and everything' For 5 or 6 years, of course you've reached the point of FFS-get-a-grip! (It would probably have taken me less than a year.) Watching someone do the same old shit over and over, never learning from their mistakes, being a drama llama, and expecting you to sit there making sympathetic noises and handing over cups of tea - well, it just becomes irritating.

So when you say "I find myself more often than not thinking, "FFS pull yourself together". I KNOW that's not reasonable." then only thing wrong with that statement is that actually, it IS reasonable to feel that way. I would find your boy-drama friend very taxing.

"Would it be unreasonable to quietly take a step back from them? Even though I know full well they look to me for a lot of support/venting space/advice."
No it would not be unreasonable. What is unreasonable is for your friends to treat you as their emotional dumping ground. Overemotional dumping ground.

And you know, sometimes - not often, but sometimes - it actually is helpful to be told to get a grip. (Been told it once or twice myself, and it did actually help.)

ifancyagreencard Tue 05-Jan-16 14:10:32

ohdearlord - I've gone through nothing as traumatic as you. You've done an amazing job to be where you are.

I definitely agree though - I used to be the weepiest, wet blanket in the world. Then I had to walk my parents through some truly desperate years of ill health. By the time Mum was dead, I was done for. It's almost like I had to grow a hard skin to cope. And that skin hasn't sloughed off. So I am MUCH "harder" now as a person. Do I like myself as much? Hmm, I'm not sure. I am much less empathetic than I used to be but the upside is that I no longer feel other peoples' pain quite so personally. I think (hope) I'm still a good mate but I don't get so into others' shoes that I become down myself.

And there is no problem in the world that a spreadsheet can't sort wink

redexpat Tue 05-Jan-16 14:10:36

We each only have so many shits to give. You are simply rationing them for things that actually matter. Nowt wrong with that.

Iwonderif Tue 05-Jan-16 14:20:48

I think overcoming certain things in life does often make us "hardened" but like so many others have written I think it's also because we have experienced many things that luckily others have escaped. Tragedies etc.

My son would have been 10 this year he died very unexpectedly shortly after birth. I now have little patience for people's pathetic moans. Can't help it. I've seen and felt the depths of utter torture and so like losing a scarf or spilling a cuppa I do think like so many of us "FFS....get over it"

What I've learnt though is to understand they haven't had to experience the rubbish years I have & they simply don't know or understand how utter crap life can be. I'm not sure I could distance myself but I'd like to think I would try. Negative, energy zappers are just so tiresome.

All the very very best.

Gatehouse77 Tue 05-Jan-16 14:37:15

I get where you're coming from too.

I often describe myself as emotionally stunted. I have not had anything like the background that you have overcome but was brought up in a home where, for the most part, anger was the only emotion expressed.

DH says I'm pragmatic, which is true. It's like if I let emotion in then I can't make a clear headed decision. When my youngest was sent in an ambulance (with me) for breathing difficulties and kept in overnight lots of people said things like how scary, you must have been in a state, etc. I thought, not really. By the time I knew it was serious we were in the hands of of medical professionals so why would I be scared?

Also, I don't cry which goes way back to my childhood because crying meant my father had 'won' and I wouldn't give him the satisfaction.

You're not alone.

lorelei9 Tue 05-Jan-16 14:40:03

you don't sound cold or heartless to me at all.

I think what redex said is very apt.

Also, I originally disliked the term "first world problem" but having just ditched a friend who is full of them and says things like "it's not fair that people aren't sympathetic, rich people have problems too", I get it. (Her idea of a huge problem is that the cleaner has given notice and yes, she and her partner are not disabled or ill and could easily clean the house themselves).

also agree with the poster who says some of these people don't understand how crap life can really be.

hefzi Tue 05-Jan-16 14:42:03

I think that other people can experience emotional pain, and just because it's not objectively as "bad" as mine or someone else's doesn't necessarily mean that they're not hurting - HOWEVER, some people really do need to work on developing their emotional resilience instead of emoting all over the place at minor issues. Or - accept that what they are crying over isn't actually what they are crying over, and get some therapy grin

We all have days were the straw breaks the camels back, and we end up in tears over something really daft and minor - but when that's happening regularly, people need to take a long, critical look at their life. I think a lot of people have unresolved grief issues, partially because death is something so far removed nowadays from people's every day experiences, so people squash down their grief instead of confronting it, and then end up crying every time a celebrity/soap character dies - but this can apply to all sorts of unresolved issues. And, of course, aside from people with genuine but unresolved problems, some people just love drama!

HPsauciness Tue 05-Jan-16 14:46:14

I note you are an academic, and I think to survive as a female academic, without attracting every upset/distressed/emotional student in the vicinity, you do have to get, not necessarily hard, but a bit distanced from it all. You can't be over-empathic or it would be really draining. That's not to say I'm not sympathetic, for a short while (about 10 min) before directing people to the right services/get support, but I do think you have to get an air of brusqueness about you unless you want to be a magnet for this.

Your friends do sound quite immature tbh, a small amount of crisis/listening is a great thing to offer a friend, if it's very regular or taking over your normal conversations, then I think the lines you are drawing are fine.

I know what you mean about feeling a bit numb though, I put it down to having to cope with a busy workload, children, shit happening, and just having to plough on through. However at some point there may be a day of reckoning, or you may just get a bit despondent over time, so look after yourself too.

knobblyknee Tue 05-Jan-16 14:57:25

YANBU. I've been through a similar 'process' and this is how it was for me;

Its time to move on to the next stage in your life.
You have reached a point where it is no longer appropriate to let people vent or dump. You've dealt with your stuff and they havent. Thats why its all drama for them and not you.
Venting doesnt fix anything, so its like you dont have the patience or energy to listen to the same scenario over and over. Plus frankly, when you've been through worse, its kind of yeah OK.
You have a family and its time to move on. The 'shutting off' is basically a self-protection mechanism, You know it has to be done and there's no point getting upset over it.
Look how far you have come.

You may lose some friends over this, try not to be too upset if that happens. But you are starting a new chapter.

Best of luck. flowers

AllThatGlistensIs Tue 05-Jan-16 15:00:49

Another one here saying if you're heartless, then I must be too! And it doesn't seem that you are.

I used to be more slightly more of the 'wear your heart on your sleeve' type when I was a teen/ in my early twenties, but certainly not now.

In a nutshell, I had two miscarriages, and we now have three Dc under 11. 2 are disabled, and our youngest will need high levels of care for the rest of his life. It could have torn DH and I apart, but somehow, we toughed it out and are stronger than ever.

I just don't have the time anymore (or the patience if I'm honest) to deal with drama lamas. DH and I talk about it a lot, and I do say that I know it's our life experiences that have hardened me in a way, so I bite my tongue a lot and would try never to be rude or dismissive towards people, but find myself screaming a lot internally. My fuse is an awful lot shorter these days.

Some people around us, and certain family members drive me insane. I find myself thinking, "Are you for fucking real with your inane, pointless, insignificant crisis? Get a fucking grip, or come and stay in our house for a week, try to care for our children, deal with two different special schools, a legion of health care professionals, support workers, endless forms and social workers, all the while making decent, 1:1 quality time for the middle child and see what the real world is like for us!" blush

Obviously I don't shout it, but by god I think it a lot.. Agree with what Gatehouse says about being pragmatic, sometimes circumstances dictate that you have to leave emotions out of a situation and just deal with things, it's definitely a coping mechanism that I use.

I'm stupidly silly and affectionate and madcap with DH and the children, I just seem to have become awfully dismissive of other people's drama, although I do continually have to remind myself that just because I think they're a blithering attention seeking idiot, doesn't mean that their issues aren't real and relevant to them! blush grin

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