Image description: Background is blue/white/grey ice crystals with the overlaying text reading, “Misunderstandings were constant, I could not get away. I pored over the dictionary to decide what to say. Unfairly, although we used the same words, We weren’t speaking the same language, their meanings unheard, my meanings incorrectly inferred. ~Mamautistic, 2016”
Being misunderstood is probably the single most effective way to get me to lose my words. I’m not actually completely certain why being misunderstood is so triggering of my mutism. When I’m misunderstood, that’s a situation when it would be most beneficial to have words! Not to completely lose them.
I suspect that this phenomenon has at least something to do with how confusing my life has been and how frequently I’ve been misunderstood throughout the years.
This topic has been sitting in my queue of unwritten posts for a while now. It’s a difficult one for me because when it’s been a while since a big misunderstanding, I often forget what happened – how exactly it went down, but when there’s been one recently, it’s often still difficult to find the words to describe it.
I’m working on being less harsh with myself after the fact about situations where I lose my words, but it’s difficult.
I wrote the following journal entry on the day after a recent (albeit prior to being evaluated) in-person misunderstanding after which I was able to actually somewhat analyze what had happened, which is a huge thing for me. This was the misunderstanding that caused me to realize that I literally could not make words during those types of situations:
Yesterday morning, [husband] and I had a pretty serious miscommunication. I was trying to explain to him how similar situations could be handled to avoid that kind of upset (it was a situation with one of the children and an electronic device) and he interrupted me to say that he shouldn’t need to “ask my permission” (not even remotely what I had suggested) and that it couldn’t all be “put on him.” (again, not even remotely what I had suggested)
We had a long drive ahead and I let him know that I couldn’t continue with the interruptions and taking it personally that he was doing.
I read my book silently for about half an hour and then put it down to watch the scenery and think.
Eventually (about an hour after the incident) I figured out why the original situation had upset me so much and that I wasn’t actually angry with husband. My mind was working pretty normally and I knew what I wanted to say – I’d formed the words in my head and repeated them over and over silently – but I couldn’t make the words come out of my mouth.
Once I was able to talk again (about two hours after the incident), I let husband know that I wasn’t angry with him, but I couldn’t elaborate any further.
Nearly 12 hours later I was able to talk about it a bit more, but all day long I felt less articulate than usual – usual being when not upset/trying to communicate about emotions – even when talking about topics which I don’t normally have issues articulating.
Prior to that incident, I knew that I often had to remove myself from similar situations and I would. But, having removed myself from the person’s presence I then had no reason to think that I was unable to speak because I had no reason to try. Being stuck in a vehicle during one of those situations gave me a perfect opportunity to confront what goes on in my mind and body during very upsetting in-person misunderstandings.
Misunderstandings online are a little different because, while I lose my ability to verbalize, I don’t generally lose my ability to type. Being misunderstood is horribly upsetting and I almost always end up overanalyzing what happened, trying to figure out how I possibly could have given the other person the impression that I said what they responded to – presuming that the other person wouldn’t just pull assumptions out of nowhere even if I can’t see it.
Sometimes I’m able to take a step back and return hours or days later and let them know that what they responded had nothing to do with anything I said, they apologize and clarify, and we move on. but then other times I just keep writing while still upset, creating another mess of misunderstandings that I often can’t even go back and look at until a good deal of time has passed.
It’s frustrating because, in my written communication, I’m extremely particular about wording and I usually err on the side of over-explaining my position as thoroughly as possible, yet these misunderstandings still happen regularly. I don’t understand why it’s so difficult for people to just read my words and respond to what I’ve actually written. It doesn’t make any sense to me. In real life I understand that there’s body language and tone of voice that people can erroneously read into, but online there’s none of that!
Online, all we have are the words! To ignore the words and read something completely different – often even the opposite – into what was written just seems like a complete waste. Why even bother having a discussion at all then?
To me, communication is primarily about communicating my thoughts about interesting topics and coming to a greater understanding of someone else’s thoughts about interesting topics. That’s not really possible to do without carefully listening to the other person and trying to understand what they’re actually saying.
Not being capable of clarifying effectively (or sometimes at all) when others misunderstand me is a horrible experience. But I’m thankful to at least know now that it has a name and isn’t just me being sulky.
I truly need that time to regroup after such a stressful experience and that’s okay.