The Wreckage of Indifference…

Erin Schaden
8 min readJun 8, 2024


I used to think that overt mistreatment was the greatest pain. But, now, I know that perhaps when someone openly mistreats you that is the largest gift they can give you. When their mistreatment of you is so glaring, so blatant, perhaps this is the best news ever. Because it is hard to avoid, it is hard to justify and it is hard to continue to allow…

But indifference, or perhaps it is just my relationship with indifference that plagues me, is a mind fuck.

When someone treats you as if your existence is really pretty immaterial either way, it is excruciatingly painful. When you can be the center of their lives and focus and then without issue, event or disagreement, you get moved from a place of value to a place of little to no value, it feels like an indictment of the highest order…

I mean you don’t even rank high enough for them to tell you what is going on, why their behavior and treatment of you changed, you are just suddenly and inexplicably no longer a priority to them. Maybe you never were, I mean there is always that, that your own delusion about your role and importance in their lives was always fleeting and immaterial…there is always that, perhaps you placed more stock in the relationship than the other person…but what about the ones where they tell you they love you, you are their loml, and then proceed to treat you as if, you are nothing at all?

Someone once asked me this question, which when asked felt like she punched me in the gut and slapped me across the face at the same time, “what would your life look like if you didn’t have someone abusing you?”

When she said it, I thought the question mean spirited, dead wrong and out of line. I am pretty sure I ended the call quickly…but that question, more than any other, plagues me still. It dogs my footsteps as I navigate the relationships in my life. And it has caused me to realize that I do seem to always have someone in my life who treats me badly, often rising to the level of abuse.

The progress is that it used to be someone who physically abused me AND emotionally did so, now I have been successful in extricating myself from the relationships where I allowed the physical bullshit, I have gotten better in my selection process to some degree…but not so great in others.

So it would appear I am still working through my childhood issues, this does not set me apart from others, as I believe we all are working through our childhood shit, whether that is intentional or not. We all spend the second half of life, getting over (or not) the first.

But this whole emotional abuse is another thing. I do seem to need someone who promises to love me, care for me, show up for me and then fail to do that, repeatedly, to be in my life. And to some degree I can see that all my relationships have been just an evolving rearrangement of people in my life who have different names, look different on the exterior, but in the end, are really the same person.

I see the rearrangement I do with the deck chairs on the deck of the Titanic while it sinks to its freezing depths…and I can see that I too, end up frigid, alone and quietly freezing to death in the cold light of neglect in my relationships…and yet, here I am still praying for a sunny day, praying that the relational boat doesn’t sink this time.

And I think I finally see that the wreckage of indifference is not so much in how other people treat me, it is more applicable to how I treat myself. I allow this. I invite it. I return to it, over and over and over again. It is just how I do relationships. And I see, now, perhaps for the first time, in this new light, that while I have and will always be the common denominator, perhaps, if I do some more work on me, I will eventually get a different result.

And perhaps someday, I will not call something loving that really is an indifference. Perhaps I will not be willing to commit myself and my heart to someone who does not, cannot or will not treat me better than a pervasive and ever lasting afterthought.

This is hard to own today. I just so desperately want to be important enough to rank into consideration…but I can see now that most of my prior attempts at this have only served to get me mired in another wreckage of indifference that I barely survive. And I am clear that I do not know how to do it differently.

I will always subsume myself because it is all I know how to do. And it is very painful because I KNOW there are other ways of relating, but I, for the life of me, do not know HOW to do it differently, to pick differently, to relate differently.

Last night I had a dream that I was walking down the streets of Santa Monica naked. And I knew I was naked and that everyone was staring at me, but that I felt completely comfortable except that I was annoyed that everyone was acting like it was such a big deal. Someone that knew came up and gave me a sweater which I threw over my shoulder in case I got cold later. I did not put it on, instead I quite stridently, just kept walking.

The dream ended with me being arrested, and complaining that I had never been arrested before (like that was some sort of barrier to ever being arrested) and that I was somewhat incredulous that walking naked through the streets of Los Angeles would even be considered a crime…

I refused to put clothing on and the police accommodated my refusal. They handcuffed me, then took them off. I was not ranting or raging, I was just calmly talking to everyone that gathered like everything was just perfect in the world. Some old people (I don’t know why they were old, they just were in the dream — perhaps some judgmentalness I feel from adults — like I am not still one of them) came up and were yelling and carrying on about my nakedness and demanding that I cover myself, or the police do it for me…and I was just baffled as to why they were so offended by me just being in my most natural state.

At no time in the dream did anyone seem to indicate that they felt like I was off my rocker, that I was having some sort of mental health crisis, which in my experience is almost always the case when you see an adult walking through life sans clothing. I mean, the person is almost always deranged or high. But in the dream, no one talked about me needing help or that there was anything wrong with me, they just seemed to accept my nakedness as a fact that was unchangeable and, while against the law, not all that terrible. I was definitely being stared at, but more in a passing “that is weird” kind of way. I mean, I did have to be arrested for it, and they would not accommodate my repeated requests to NOT be arrested…but the whole crazy scene felt really normal.

It was no accident I had this dream last night. I have been at the height of feeling like I do not matter, my feelings, needs, wants, desires are just not relevant. The level of indifference I have been dealing with lately has been brutal. And I have spent the week feeling like I am so unworthy. And this past week, I got this wave of indifference from three people that I love very much. It literally was coming at me from all sides.

And so the dream, if I am to break it down, seems to be my subconscious showing me that which I have failed to see all week: I am walking through life, being who I am, no airs, no desire to be seen as something other than I am, being willing to be vulnerable, raw and present, and some people are coming after me, in a way to get me to change. But most of the other people, just don’t care enough about me to really do anything but cuff me and haul me in to hold me accountable for my most egregious conduct of being naked. And the rest of humanity didn’t even notice me at all. A middle aged woman walking down the streets of Santa Monica, and most of the people in the dream didn’t react at all.

I can see the indifference I am weathering and I can see how it is shaping me, warping me into someone I do not like and do not want to become. And even as I say this, just like in the dream, even though the whole time I was vaguely aware that I was doing something that was not ok, I still just kept walking, brazenly down the street, challenging someone, to say something to me, except I had no idea what I was asking them to challenge me about: my nakedness, my insanity, my refusal to comply?

Maybe it is all of those things. Maybe it is none. Regardless, I feel depleted today, turns out that surviving the indifference of others is consuming and exhausting and heartrenderingly sad. Today I see the wreckage, because I am the wreckage. A mighty ship laid bare of her cargo, passengers, and hull. The deck chairs I was just so busily rearranging are now all broken and askew, floating in the flotsam of what once a mighty seagoing vessel.

This is how I feel today, hollowed out and going down. I feel naked and alone with my confusion about what all this naked rawness brings. Does it really liberate me, or only keep me stuck in my delusion that if I can even be recognized as enough, that I might actually be enough one day.

So as I swim among the debris, I can see that someone who valued herself more, might not be in this whole debacle to begin with…I mean, why do I always have to stay until the bitter end? Why do I have to be the one that sacrifices herself so much for others? Why are my feelings, needs and desires so easily dismissed as unimportant? Why is swimming amidst the jetsam of indifferent relationships appear to be my lot?

Because I let them be…





Erin Schaden

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