Can I have insight? (Seeing signs of my ex-girlfriend in others' photos or features.)

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littleoc

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I didn't put this thread into "Relationships" subforum because I feel this is a hypervigilance issue. Feel free to interpret it however you want, though :)

I'm having a weird problem that I've never heard about before. For context, I have facial blindness. Not the worst case ever, but I can't recognize my nephew or siblings in photos without work.

And for more context, my ex-girlfriend who I was with for nearly ten years (more officially, about eight years, from age 14 to 22) had an elaborate game involving fake characters that I had to portray accurately and prove were real over and over and over or else face consequences. The last year I had a TBI and began having serious difficulty understanding reality. She took full advantage (even though I had previously already cut her off) and I am still recovering.

Anyway. I decided I want to start dating again. I've been meeting a lot of new people and, though I'm a serious person who's planning on putting a lot of effort into relationships, I figured it would also be good "practice" to learning what a good relationship looks like. I'm not really sure I've seen one before. (My main goal is not to figure that out by dating. That's what therapy is for. I'm just following human instinct and possibly trying to act normal for my age with everything that's been going on lately.)

Sorry if the information I give isn't as detailed as my posts usually are. I'm a little tired. Guess I have been all year :o

I've begun having a significant problem. I get interested in someone. I check for red flags. I look at their social media. I notice a picture that looks like a pose my ex girlfriend (Brandi; let's just name her to make this post easier) in a picture she sent to me when I was being brainwashed in the last year of the relationship.

I panic and start obsessively internet-hunting for facts about how to identify an abusive relationship. It's to the point that I'm staying up until 6am every night when I get home from work after midnight.

This is not usual for me at all. My OCD usually makes this impossible. Sleep is at the center of my rituals.

I have no idea what's going on. The women I'm talking to seem pretty nice. And it is normal to be cautious, but this feels like a trigger and a bunch of hypervigilance. I can't bring myself to meet anyone in person yet, but I've made some cool online friends. But any time someone seems interested, and they show me a quirk or do anything that should be a sign of being flirtatious or something -- it feels like I'm back being brainwashed trying to prove that "I" am a real person.

I can't tell if it's the fact that we're talking through texts (how Brandi interacted with me almost exclusively in the last year when the real me had to stop existing, long story short), or the fact that I'm picking out facial features or hair colors or eye colors that match Brandi's, or if I'm scared they will accuse me of being abusive, or several other things.

I'm so confused about this (I have a lot going on) that I've paused my dating life. I feel that I would be ready but apparently something weird's going on. I'm not even really sure where my question is -- have you gone through this and/or do you have insight?

On the surface it really just feels like a standard case of feeling like I'm still not allowed to talk about myself? Like I still need to verify in my head that my facts are straight? I felt that being on this anonymous site helped with that so much, but I apparently missed something.

I mean, a lot is going on. Maybe I'm too stressed out. I'm probably going to keep using the dating app for making friends, but clearly I should not use it to meet up romantically. Which I wasn't doing anyway, but that's a long story too and not the point of this post.

I just realized that I'm ashamed for trying to date. Not because I think it's weird but because I'm sure people are going to say that I shouldn't do it and I'm going to hurt somebody. Ugh.

I may just need to try to see my therapist. I'm so busy lately. Can't really find the time to get everything done. Having those six hours to sleep sure would be nice, considering that.

I remember that this happened with a lady in undergrad who I highly respected but had no romantic feelings towards (and she was straight and had none for me). She was (is) a little overweight, interested in acting (is now a professional actress and director -- she's really cool, 11/10 would friend again even if she weren't successful because she's also one of the nicest people I know), and had similar interests to my ex. I never mistook her for my ex until one night when I was watching cartoons with her in her bedroom, and she asked me if I could get her a glass of water. I became terrified of her and saw a bunch of Brandi's features in her face. I should probably elaborate on what happened more but I can't even bring myself to do it. My brain was CONVINCED I'd just been assaulted even though I was logically aware that I wasn't. It took me a couple years to get over it.

That's probably enough information?

Thanks for listening :)
 

bellbird

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Yeah, I sometimes see glimpses of Z in others' faces if I'm quite dissociated, or their mannerisms/quirks.

I'm just so over it. Like, I left, god damnit!
So I really empathise here.
And it's worse when it's the people who we are dating or romantically interested.
I get interested in someone. I check for red flags. I look at their social media. I notice a picture that looks like a pose my ex girlfriend (Brandi; let's just name her to make this post easier) in a picture she sent to me when I was being brainwashed in the last year of the relationship.

I panic and start obsessively internet-hunting for facts about how to identify an abusive relationship. It's to the point that I'm staying up until 6am every night when I get home from work after midnight.
One thing that's really standing out to me is your lack of sleep. That's going to make everything more difficult.

I wonder if it could be a helpful starting point to set a time frame, perhaps from when you get home from work, that you won't go on social media and looking for red flags. Give yourself that time to breathe or study, or hopefully sleep :)

Doing background searches can wait for another time of day, but it's really important we clear some time where sleep is the priority. It will help with everything else.
 
So I kind of have a similar problem in that when I'm dysregulated I sometimes get confused and mistake my current wife for my former, abusive ex-wife.

When that happens and I'm aware of it, I try to concentrate on all the ways that my wife is different from my ex. Physical characteristics and behaviors that are unlike what my ex had and did. Maybe this would be an idea because, while there may be similarities, there are always differences, too.

I also try to remember our shared history, but if it's a new person in your life, that may not be as helpful.
 

grit

MyPTSD Pro
You are charting into a new brave world of dating and you have had some bad experience in the past. It is really understandable your protective side will become a bit active or even overactive. The fact you are noticing, acknowledging, putting it into words, is really a great start. All I can add more in this post is just truly look at this side of you with compassion and acknowledge this side of you probably saved you in the past and just wishing to be recognized and valued as the great gut feeling not ignored and dismissed. Please keep writing and you will get to the next level of acceptance depending how much you really want to change.
 

Gs172003

MyPTSD Pro
So I kind of have a similar problem in that when I'm dysregulated I sometimes get confused and mistake my current wife for my former, abusive ex-wife.

When that happens and I'm aware of it, I try to concentrate on all the ways that my wife is different from my ex. Physical characteristics and behaviors that are unlike what my ex had and did. Maybe this would be an idea because, while there may be similarities, there are always differences, too.

I also try to remember our shared history, but if it's a new person in your life, that may not be as helpful.
Agreed but I'm still trying to learn this. It's not easy but it's helping.
 
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