The Up-cycler

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Ya’ll know I have a problem with, when my head is too full, I just dump out everything, right?  I am having one of those days, in the midst of one of those periods, when I just want everything to stop a dad-gum minute and let me catch my breath and get my bearings.  Vertigo is not fun!

(As our younger son once said as he exited the “fun house” at the fair, “That was NOT a FUN HOUSE!”).

It’s ridiculous, too, that I never feel on top of things,considering I am someone who doesn’t have a job, and only one kid still at home, and for the most part, he’s self-sufficient.

Despite the “given” that I have health and sensory mental/emotional challenges, I still feel that inner mandate to try and measure up to the popular idea and standard of productivity that would have me “on top of” the house work, smiling for hubby when he gets home, with a hot and comforting meal and also have something that counts as a contribution to humanity to show for my time when the day or week is finished.

The truth is, I’m sitting here in my p.j.’s still.  On a day that is rainy and overcast, when I am feeling very blah, sometimes it’s just not that high on the priority list. Those days are pretty rare, but you know what? I think just about everybody could benefit from a day like that once in a while if they can swing it.

We have it pounded into us how important it is to have a balance in life.  But so much about modernity makes balance an illusive if not impossible goal.  Who gets “enough rest”?  Who really “manages” their stress?

I read a lot.  Obviously for the blog, there is a lot of reading and viewing of information during the week, and I am working harder than ever to make sure to counter my intake of what I call “the bad stuff” going on in the world, with the Good Stuff of the Word in appropriate proportions.  Even though I am capable of consuming a higher-than-average amount of written content in a shorter time than some folks, the Bible is not on the same plane as other written material or other media such as video.  It is nutrient-rich, dense, requiring more “digestion”.  So it isn’t like I can put the two kinds of content on opposite sides of the same scale and figure easily how much Bible it takes to counterbalance the other.  It’s a matter of Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness.  Literally if I don’t put the Word first in the morning, I’ve blown it already.  If I wake up and when my feet hit the floor, I say, “Morning, Lord, just want to acknowledge You and yield to You before I start my day” things go much better.  Unfortunately, I am not that good.  When I do manage to do it, though, I can testify that the day always goes better.

The fact is, I am not a good juggler.  I don’t change gears easily from one thing to the other anymore.  I once had that capability “in spades”, you have to if you’re an RN, but that aspect of me seems so long ago, and so far away now, that it’s like another lifetime altogether.

When there is a lot of emotional stuff going on, I get tired more easily and sometimes I have to take a nap just to reset my brain.  Sometimes I even have to do that more than once per day. But not often.

Alexithymia

Have you ever heard of something called Alexithymia?  One thing that my husband has often expressed through out our years together, is his inability to articulate or sometimes even understand what he is feeling inside.  As someone so over-endowed in the “feeling” department, this is something I can’t begin to even conceive of, nor wrap my brain around.  Needless to say, it is a source of friction for us. But we’re learning something!

A•lexi•thymia: 

a: an absence of,  to be without

lexi: word

thymia: emotional condition, state of mind, mood

Alexithymia is a condition in which a person has an inability to articulate in words, what they feel inside, and in many cases are unable to even recognize what they are feeling or if they are feeling anything at all.  Often these people describe themselves as “empty” inside, or at the very least, that “there is something missing” in relation to emotion and feeling.

Apparently my husband is Alexithymic!

It can be caused by damage to certain areas of the brain, or be a part of someone’s natural-born neurological “wiring” such as in cases of autism or Asperger syndrome, but it also can be a developmental feature formed in self-preservation or compensation when a child’s parent is emotionally negligent or worse. If a parent is, say, narcissistic or psychopathic, or deeply depressed, or preoccupied with a sick spouse or total-care sibling, a drug addict, or maybe just a totally overwhelmed single parent, a child being raised by that parent might learn that having any feelings or emotions of their own, is taboo and forbidden.  If you are not allowed (from the cradle on up) to acknowledge or express your own emotions, you learn to ignore them.  You don’t develop the vocabulary for discussing them.  You can recognize emotions in other people, because you have to in order to remain safe, but where thoise emotions in others are somehow associated with yourself, you will also have a great deal of “blindness” to them.  You can imagine, then, later in life, if the child who grew up in that sort of paradigm, how they might have significant difficulty even being “in touch” with their own feelings. Unsurprisingly, someone who grew up under those conditions might not learn or develop empathy either.

It has come to the attention of the folks who study this sort of thing, that there is a corresponding condition that will often predictably develop in the spouse of the alexithymic and/or non-empathetic person.  The name for that condition is Affective Deprivation Disorder (AfDD), and the person who coined the name was researcher Maxine Aston.

Now, for those of you who, like myself, maintain a very healthy skepticism toward all things “psychology” related, let me say that much caution is advisable when it comes to psychology and psychiatry, because so much of that “field” is nothing but theory, and is based in secular humanism.  There is no test, for example, no blood test, no genetic test, to show a “chemical imbalance” for instance.  Those are words someone chose arbitrarily to describe and label a state that is characterized by certain traits being present or being experienced. So it is neither exact, nor a true “science”.

However, I don’t think it is a good idea to entirely throw out the baby with the bathwater.  Even if we do not agree with secular humanists about the basis for certain conditions, there is still some benefit to affixing terms and labels to certain things if only for the sake of being able to converse about them.

And there are certain steps, practices, exercises or measures that consistently help compensate or even correct specific problems. For example, if we are talking about something as straightforward and familiar as depression, it is a fact that some exercise, and some sunlight each day can help some of the people some of the time.  Especially if consistently applied.

So, just for the sake of being able to talk a little about what we are dealing with, I’m using these terms which might understandably be referred to as “psychobabble”.

Affective Deprivation Disorder 

Affect: Someone’s “affect” is their outward display of feeling or mood.   Most people can fairly accurately detect the mood of another person by summing up things like posture, set of the jaw, raised or lowered eyebrows, less-than-usual eye contact, etc. Those things make up the outward “affect”.  But there are  people who are “blind” to these cues.

Deprivation and disorder, well, those terms  are probably familiar and self-explanatory for most readers.

So a spouse (me) of someone who is Alexithymic (hubby) will often develop a somewhat consistent and predictable set of behaviors in reaction to this condition in their mate, and that would be the Affective Deprivation Disorder.

Because the Alexithymic can seem almost to be devoid of all emotion, it can feel impossible for the spouse to ever achieve an emotional connection with the alexithymic partner. (Just because they can’t articulate nor possibly correctly identify their emotion, does NOT mean they don’t have them!).  Remember how you felt when your kids were babies and something bothered them but you couldn’t figure out what it was?  Frustrating, right?  Upsetting, and stressful, no?

Alexithymia is a spectrum, some people who have it, may not exhibit all of the aspects, and may make it through many years of life having learned to some degree to compensate and fake their way through situations and mimicking the approximate expected emotional displays, until some event finally comes along that they have never had to fake their way through before.  Then the repertoire of compensatory mechanisms they have relied on, fails and suddenly the couple plunges into uncharted water.

Without going too much into detail about the specifics in our case, this is one aspect of what we are dealing with.  For me, having information helps lessen the sense of helplessness and powerlessness (and desperation) I often feel in the face of this lack of emotional reciprocity in the relationship. (Info helps me deal with any challenge).

This desperation often results in the “emoting” spouse ramping up her emotional behaviors in a bid to elicit some emotion on the part of the non-emoting partner.  Apparently this is common enough that the entire phenomenon has been dubbed “Mr. Perfect and his crazy wife”.  Mr. Perfect always maintains maddening calm.  The more upset “crazy wife” becomes, the more quiet, “reasonable” and emotionally shut-down the “Mr. Perfect” becomes.  So much so that “crazy wife” may come to actually believe she is indeed the one who is crazy.  Because Mr. Perfect doesn’t know he is missing the “emotion chip”, her panic seems utterly irrational to him.  Meanwhile his “coldness” is easily interpreted as loss of affection.  The two states of being, exacerbate one another over time.  He becoming less tolerant, she becoming more desperate/suspicious/insecure, or what have you. This is not our whole picture, but a peek into it.

If you want to understand how vital and fundamental the human need is for emotional reciprocity, look no further than the mother-child bond.  Watch this short video.

Affective Deprivation Disorder (AfDD) is a relational disorder resulting from the emotional deprivation sometimes experienced by the partner (or child) of persons with a low emotional/empathic quotient or alexithymia.

It is not the same as Emotional Deprivation Disorder which can lead to the Alexithymia. EDD is that deprivation I spoke of above, that takes place in the formative years.

There are actual “tests” or tools that have been developed for measuring these things.  The tests do confirm what we already know about ourselves as a couple, but didn’t have explanations for, nor did we know where to look for help that might be available.  That is another good thing about naming and labeling certain conditions.  It saves one from having to replicate the same research someone else has already done.

Indicators of AfDD:

  • Relational conflict
  • Low or diminishing relationship satisfaction
  • Reduced relationship quality

Psychological and physical Symptoms for the AfDD spouse

• Loss of self esteem.
• Feeling confused/bewildered.
• Feelings of anger, depression and anxiety
• Feelings of guilt.
• Loss of self/depersonalisation
• Phobias – social/agoraphobia
• Posttraumatic stress reactivity
• Breakdown

• Fatigue
• Sleeplessness
• Migraines.
•PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder and other “female” problems)

  •  Loss or gain in weight.
  • Sleep problems
  • Lethargy
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Overeating
  • Irritability and loss of desire for social contact
  • Extreme mood changes

I just did the strike-through on the few that I don’t deal with).

So, a kid grows up emotionally deprived or neglected, and the result is that he suffers from an inability to emotionally relate, thus rendering those who are close to him, deprived as well.  The difference between being emotionally deprived as a child and as an adult, is that the emotional deprivation in the formative years is harder to overcome.

You know how they say, knowing you have a problem is half the battle?  Well, I don’t think it is half, in this case, but at least it is a start.

Why on Earth am I sharing all of this? 

Because we need your prayers!

My husband’s father had  a stroke six years ago.  He died this past May.  It was during that period from the previous March when his Dad started his ultimate decline which required nursing home placement, until his death in May, that hubby’s coping mechanisms that had previously held together, finally gave way. Beginning in January the cracks really started to show. Things that would shatter some marriages. So it’s been a rough year.  This is the kind of thing the enemy loves to exploit and make as much damage with as possible.  Knowing that is happening, and keeping it in mind that our battle is not with flesh and blood, are not always enough to prevent conflict and keep us from saying and doing fleshly things ourselves that exacerbate the harm.

So, yeah, it’s been a rough year thus far, and now we head into whatever is going to come of the election in a month.

Sometimes people ask me how I stay positive.  The answer is, I don’t.  I fight discouragement just like you do.  Sometimes I keep the upper hand and sometimes I don’t.  With an enemy that is always walking to and fro through out the Earth, seeking whom he may devour, we just can’t afford to let down our guard.  The Christian life is a daily battle.  We are to take up that cross daily as a reminder of what is in our flesh, that reason Christ submitted to the horrible death He endured in our place.

One way to keep on track, or get back on track, is by reminding ourselves, and one another, what we already know

A triple-stranded cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)  When you don’t know what else to do, as Christians, if you both focus on drawing nearer to the Lord, you will be moving closer toward each other by default.

Not that we think we are the only ones who have had a rough year.  It seems to me that everywhere I turn, Christians are struggling in similar ways.  Is this part of what it means that all who will live Godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution?  I know many things come about due to our own sins and failures, but God is another One who does’t let a crisis go to waste.  In His case, if we will submit to Him in the crisis, He will bring good out of it.You might say a hobby of mine is to take something old and give it new life.  The trending term for this is to “up-cycle”.  I collect vintage jewelry and do neat stuff with it.  Either incorporate it into a new jewelry piece, or into a work of art, that sort of thing.  You could say God is the original and ultimate “up-cycler”!

Maybe sharing this will lead to someone else figuring out what is “missing” in themselves or in their marriage.


Further reading on these topics:

.Maxine Aston: Affective Deprivation Disorder

Alexithymia Test

Empathy Quotient Test

Emotional Intelligence Test

The Eemotional Blindness of Alexithymia

Does My Partner Feel Anything? 

Affective Deprivation Disorder and Alexithymia in Marriage

Mr. Perfect and His Crazy Wife

 

8 thoughts on “The Up-cycler

  1. Hi S. T. Lloyd, I read some of the posts and supporting psychiatric evidence of having an unemotional husband that you listed, prayed and went to bed with all of those thoughts. This morning I wondered where in The Bible does it refer to any type of psychoanalysis and thought of Pilate as he asked Jesus what is truth. Pilate had The Truth right before him and as far as we know he chose to continue on his pursuit of analysis instead of accepting The Truth.

    Being intense and analytical can lead us down paths that are not pleasing to the Lord. I don’t think God was in Freud’s or Jung’s theories of which is the basis of modern psychology. There are always labels in psychology to define our sins or shortcomings. I have to choose the beautifully simple loving kindness of the Lord to fulfill the longings I have to be cherished and loved where my husband falls short. When I label I justify the sin and tend to wallow. Today I choose to talk with a friend who walks with the Lord, get dressed and make a cake that my husband loves…clear my mind of worldly things and listen to scripture of My Wonderful Counselor.

    It is the simple things that will help us through the everyday mundane life. Find the Lord in the beauty of simple things, stop researching the labels and find the scripture and live it. Don’t cling to the psycho babble of today. Get up, rejoice!

    • I know. You’re right, and I’m trying. I truly am. Like I said, I don’t subscribe to all of the psychiatric/psychology stuff, but there is some truth in these things, and I do stay in the Word and look at all of it through that filter.

  2. Well, now I have a name for my husband’s condition [redacted]

    Before his father passed away he told him that he loved and was proud of him, and that he has a good wife. It was a blessing and I thought things would be better. [Redacted]

    Having said all these things, I will tell you that God Almighty restores what the locusts have eaten and redeems all who call on Him. I am constantly amazed at how He brings light to the darkness of my marriage. God hasn’t chosen to restore my husband, but He blesses me in other ways. My husband is stable in his job which is a blessing to someone who grew up in fear and instability. He supported me while I homeschooled our sons although he never participated. He supports me in my interior design business, but I never ask him to do anything. As you can infer, I try not to make any sort of emotional demands of him. This isn’t always easy for me. Out twenty-fifth anniversary is coming up and I know that I will be disappointed if I have any expectations so I ask the Lord to hold my heart in His capable hands.

    Sometimes the Hallmark channel is a heart breaker for me when I realize how much I’ve missed in this lifetime by not being cherished as a little girl and now as a woman and wife. I trust the Lord and believe in the beauty of Heaven and look forward to that fine day. In the waiting, just like you, I will put myself aside as best as my sinful nature can and Serve Him. I’ve never rambled on so much about something so private on such a public place. I hope it helps to know you are not alone.

    Bless you, and know that I am praying for you and your husband.

    Well….here goes…I’m pressing post comment.

  3. Huh??…………………………::just kidding.

    However, the one difference when we can read the Word–it is The Living Word–constantly speaking to God’s children.

  4. As usual, very timely and relevant. I’d always heard the phrase, “he didn’t get enough hugs as a kid”. Guess it is a real thing! Thank you and you are always in my prayers.

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