Latest posts by Susan Silver (see all)
- Alice in Wonderland: Thoughts and Memories on a Classic of Literature - October 17, 2019
- Celebrating the Life of Alan Turing (Mathematical Cross Stitch Pattern) - September 19, 2019
- Interview with Life Through a Mathematician’s Eyes - June 8, 2019
I was sitting on my twin bed tucked away in the living room of my mother’s apartment. In my early thirties, I had a fight with my father. Abiding by his rules had pushed me too far. So I moved to Oregon to live with my mom. My family believed that I could only survive if I was on disability. They feared that I may become homeless.
My mom entered the kitchen of our tiny living space that we shared.
She said sincerely, “I love you.”
I deflected. “Don’t say that.”
“Why does it bother you so much?”
“It’s too much. I feel love on a logarithmic scale.”
What is a Logarithmic Scale?
You may or may not be familiar with a logarithmic scale is. I’ll explain it as simply as I can. Essentially, it’s a scale where the numbers represent exponents. I grew up in Los Angeles,so I am very familiar with earthquakes, especially having lived through the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. I am acquainted with the Richter Scale, one of the most well known logarithmic scales. It is base 10. Each number of the scale increases the amplitude of the earthquake by powers of 10. This is why a 6.7 compared to a 3.0, which is the first quake you can really feel, is quite devastating.
So you can imagine the intensity of emotions that I feel in my inner world. I’ve never really felt that people can handle my emotional core. It feels like it would just burden for them to carry that weight. I am slowly unlearning this, as I have a support network that likes me as I am. I feel that I can reveal more of myself with every passing day.
The Benefits of a Logarithmic Scale
The benefit of experiencing affection in this way is that I can get enthusiastic about people, places and things at a lower threshold than other people. I think this benefits me as a community manager who has to get excited about coffee makers and auto insurance. It makes the mundane feel extraordinary.
Then you get my feelings about mathematics, which land on the higher end of the scale. It is like no other experience I have had in my life. My algebra post started off as a draft of 3,000 words which I boiled down to about 900. This is the only reason why I can’t blog consistently. It takes time to edit such lengthy writing. It’s made me realize how mathematics is tied fundamentally to my identity. I’ve been ruminating on these subjects since I was a little kid; I just never had an outlet for expressing them.
Why So Sensitive?
I’ve learned this past year that there may be more going on with my sensitivity beyond being an introvert and an empath. My history of repeated abuse is also part of why I reel when people attempt to show me affection. What people may not know is that abuse rewires your brain. It can interfere with development when it occurs at a young age.
I discovered that, for a trauma survivor, you may experience the positive affections of others as pain. You develop feelings of shame and unworthiness of love. You may experience self-loathing.
I discovered that I had gotten caught up in negative emotions around my math feelings. I loved math and loathed myself for loving math. All of this because of the experiences of my childhood. As I was writing this blog, I was experiencing my trauma all over again.
In August of 2018, I reached a low point. I had success, security, a home, and even my cat. Yet I was depressed. I would cry when good things happened. I just could not accept my circumstances. My brain become so aware of its own negative self-talk, it literally told me enough. I immediately signed up for Better Help and began talking with a counselor again, and my life changed forever.
An Inflection Point
Are you familiar with inflection points? These are the points where the curve changes direction. From concave down to concave up or vice versa. My life went from one of its lowest points and is still climbing upwards. Hopefully there will be a few dips from here on out.
I think it was many factors. There are four distinct ways.
1. Having someone accept my math feelings
It is the support and encouragement I received over the past several years from a friend who listened to my math feelings. The first person in my life to embrace them and tell me that they were good. Their kindness let me open up more and more, until I could start this blog. They made it feel like a safe space to express my innermost thoughts.
2. Admitting my Anxiety Issues
When I started telling people more about my inner feelings of anxiety and depression, they were met with support. I told my supervisor at work about my anxiety issues. She wrote me one of the nicest letters that I have ever received about how well respected I am at work. She handpicked me to work with a new client, because she believed in my talent and wanted me on her team.
3. The Support of my Best Friend
I confided in my best friend about my traumatic memories. She said that I was brave and courageous. She reminded me that I am very well-adjusted.
4. Working with a Therapist
The last bit, working with a therapist and putting in the hard work to rewire my brain. We’ve been using CBT techniques so that I can become aware of my thought distortions. This awareness has lead to me developing a new inner voice; one that defends me when things feel like they are going downhill. I have been able to change the behaviors that no longer help me. I recognize that these changes are due to my own hard work over the past 6 months.
Learning to Live with a Logarithmic Scale
The best result of all of this is that I have had anxiety free days. This still feels like a luxury. I have opened myself up to new feelings that I am exploring without fear. My self-confidence is higher and I’ve been able to own compliments and accomplishments without deflecting. I’ve even let someone tell me that I am attractive without making a negative comment about myself. It’s nice.
Have you ever encountered an event that flipped your view on life 180 degrees?