Thursday, November 21, 2013

I'm not crazy, my mother had me tested: Part 9

I get overwhelmed easily. Not in the “this is too much work, I’ll never catch up” kind of way, but in the “get me out of here, I can’t handle this music, the crowd, the smell of the pumpkins, the ringing of the checkstand” sort of overwhelmed. I can’t handle concerts. Crowded shopping malls? No way. Listening to music and trying to write at the same time? Not happening. I can’t deal with it. My brain sizzles and craps out like an old fridge.

This presents some problems in my life. The Man and I have learned that I do not cope well with having the sunroof open. I can’t hold a conversation with him in the car if there is music playing. I couldn’t write last night while he played a new video game because he wanted the volume loud and I wanted him to wear headphones, but he wouldn’t, and I gave in. No writing that night. We have just learned to adapt and listen to each other, to either cooperate and share space or move to another space.

The Man recently competed in a Spartan Challenge, a sort of muddy obstacle course race, and he finished. He didn’t win, but he finished, and that was pretty awesome in itself. I went to support him as he ran, but I had no idea what was in store. The day was plenty warm, and there wasn’t much shade. The event attracted thousands of people, people with very bright clothing and very loud voices. The summer day was punctuated with the thumping of loudspeakers blaring hard rock music and an annoying announcer shouting all around the obstacle course. I was trying to take pictures of The Man, but I was also trying to find shade, stay out of the direct blast of the speakers, avoid other spectators and crowds, and not get in the racers’ way. This went on for four hours. By the end of the day, I’d not eaten anything or used a bathroom. I was numb from the vibrations of soundwaves, shouting encouragement, and standing too long. I just shut down. I didn’t know how to tell anyone that I was completely overwhelmed and exhausted. The Man asked me later if I was okay, and my face was still frozen in a sort of half-smile to be polite and half-pained scowl. It took me two days to mentally recover from that event, about as long as it took for my sunburn to fade.

I have many techniques I use to deal with feeling overwhelmed. When I was little, I’d smush my doll’s silk tag and relish the slippery fabric gliding and sliding between my thumb and finger. As it is apparently inappropriate for a thirty-year-old to carry around a childhood doll (pfft, ha), I adapted and have spent the last twenty-five years rubbing my fingers against my thumb directly. And then I pick, dig, and mangle them to the point of bleeding sometimes. Usually it doesn’t hurt--I’m not in it for pain--but the movement is a very comforting sensation.

I also try to get as much time as I can at home without distractions so that I can pursue my recharging activities, both crafts and watching movies. Having alone time is important to me, and I appreciate every second I get doing what I want to do without distractions or noise, without the have-tos and need-tos. Sometimes I just can’t go out and deal with people and having to be “on,” having to try to read expressions and hold conversations, having to figure out the right responses and body language, having to meter out my own monologue, having to tune out noises, smells, sensations, and feelings. I need time “off” where I can be in control of my surroundings, my level of engagement. I need time on my own planet.

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