I really, really wish I could be normal.
“What IS normal?” the Internet is wont to philosophize. “Who decides what’s normal? Plus, being different is great! If we were all the same, it would be boring!”
I agree with this in a very generalized context. In the area of personal preferences, likes, dislikes, etc. – I’m all for diversity. I like what I like and I don’t really concern myself with whether anyone thinks it’s “normal” or not. But that’s not what I’m talking about when I make a statement such as the above. There is such a thing as abnormal, mental-health wise. It’s not endearing, it’s not necessary to a diverse society, and it most certainly is not fun.
To expand on my original statement, what I would like is to be able to behave as a normal, or, let’s say, typical person in social situations. Just to be clear, because this always comes up with well-meaning people trying to empathize with me on this subject — I’m not talking about simple shyness or run-of-the-mill introversion. I’m talking about difficulty processing stimuli and interacting with people in a relatively normal manner, when simply trying to do so triggers other issues. To put it into super-simplified terms, I would like to be able to have a weekend at an event of some type, where I do activities and talk to people, and not wig out.
I am sitting here in my hotel room on this, my last night in Louisville, and I’m assessing the weekend. I am not sure I would call it an overall success. There were fun bits, sure, though it’s worth pointing out that the really enjoyable parts involved people I already knew and am comfortable with, and non-stimulating activities (basically, sitting around, talking). Even so, the effort of being cheerful and upbeat and making conversation for four days has started to wear on me. Add to that the overload of sensory input and it’s all just a little too much. Yesterday my tic really kicked off and it was hard to hide it and I’ve also been really twitchy when in the group situations — bouncing my knees, wiggling my toes really fast, etc. I’m exhausted and stressed by being around people and all the loud noise, and I hate it. Why can’t I just go to a music festival and chitchat with people and not need to go hide out in my room with earplugs in to recover? I’m not talking about wishing I could be a social butterfly. I don’t mind being “the quiet one” and having quality of friends over quantity. What I don’t want is for mere social interaction to cause psychological and physiological upheaval. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Because it’s not just the ticking and the exhaustion, my thought processes are not right, either. I have been bordering on the breakdown of rationality since Friday. In fact, Friday night I was on the phone to Robert telling him I was going to change my flight and come home the next morning. I won’t even get into what set that off, because it’s not important. The point is, I’m on the verge of having a meltdown and sliding completely into irrational thinking and it’s being triggered by things that shouldn’t even be an issue. Some of that is due to my regular, everyday problems that I have even when I’m home and in my safe space, but some of it is due to my environment here in Louisville and my inability to process it all. I hate that. Why can’t I have a conversation with people without either a) ticking, twitching, etc. because of my discomfort and anxiety at having to socialize or b) needing to come back to my room and “rest” afterward? I’m just so tired of it.
One of the things that bothers me the most is I feel like I’m just being a wimp…like I’m copping out; being a baby. I mean, how ridiculously first-world-problem does that sound? “Oh, poor me, I just can’t deal with the stress of interacting with people because I’m such a delicate little flower. I must go lie down. By the way, is there a pea under these ten mattresses?” It’s hard for me to accept that this is a real problem/issue/characteristic and not just me being lazy or anti-social and looking for an excuse to be a hermit and not try. After all, there were times throughout the weekend when I probably pulled off “normal” pretty well, and people who saw me during those times would likely think I am exaggerating how it makes me feel. They might feel like if I can act that way part of the time, I could do it all the time if I tried hard enough. That’s not the case, though. The effort is exhausting and, if it goes on long enough, I just start to shut down in self-preservation. I’m not electing to do this. If I could change, I really would. And maybe I could, but I don’t think it’s something I could effect on my own. I think it would involve professional help, truly.
If anyone should want to know more about people like myself, just Google “highly sensitive person.” You’ll find a plethora of information and descriptions about people who experience the same things that I do. I think I have HSP tendencies (always have) that are now being exacerbated by my other issues. I would be a HSP under any circumstances but the behaviors and reactions are compounded and magnified by my still-not-entirely-controlled bipolar.
I know this entry is sort of all over the map and not very cohesive. I’m not writing for any prizes on this one…just getting down some of the things in my head to help me make sense of them.