Truths

Revelations

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Anyone who knows me knows I have a very strong sensitivity to sounds. Light too. But mostly sound.

Or maybe they don’t, because I hide it pretty well.

Right now there are men on the roof of my apartment complex fixing things. They’ve been pounding up there for two hours now and It’s really getting under my skin. To top it all off, my dad has been hammering nails with a spoon in the kitchen because some nails are sticking up out of the floor, and then he keeps turning on the vacuum which just adds to my ear pain.

I’m tired.

I don’t want to move today. I don’t want to be outside. I want to curl in my blankets and watch videos like I usually do.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my anxiety lately.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I interact with people lately.

 

121socialaI’m pretty sure I’ve become an expert at faking how to have a conversation. Which is pretty amazing, when you think about it.

I started learning how to fake it in high school. I noticed one of my issues was eye contact. I could not for the life of me understand when you’re supposed to look at someone, for how long, or in what way.

Honestly, I still don’t know.

But I tackled it like I do everything else in life: as if it were a logic puzzle.

I started by doing what I do best: observing people. I saw how when they spoke they often kept eye contact and when it was their turn to think, they often glanced away–but only for a few seconds. When something happened in the background they might glance at it and it wasn’t perceived as rude by the other person unless their friend spent more than a few seconds staring at whatever was behind their conversation. I thought I had it all mapped out. So I tried it.

The result?

Me staring creepily at people for a very long time during conversation.

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On top of that, in casual conversation I’m generally lost. Someone says something and I just smile politely (after years of observation, I’ve learned people enjoy smiles much more than monotony) because I have no idea if I’m supposed to talk or not. If someone asks me a question, I understand they’re looking for an answer. Otherwise I don’t see any point in talking.

Particularly with strangers. With people I know well it’s easier for me to at least comment on what they say or even initiate a conversation. But it takes years for me to make friends like that.

Even though I’m an emotional person, when people start expressing their feelings verbally I’m at another loss. Even if I empathize with them internally, externally I approach it with logic and some people are disturbed by it. I prefer to offer solutions than to just mull in the problem. They’re looking for support, but they don’t understand that my version of support is through logical conclusion.

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And that’s where a lot of my social anxiety comes in. I know they’re probably expecting me to say something (maybe?) but I’m not entirely sure, and I’m no where near to knowing what to say.

I also get confused to why, when I say I prefer being by myself, people take it as an insult to themselves, as if I don’t want to be around them. I don’t mind being around people, I just prefer being by myself. Why is that offensive?

It makes me wonder about my childhood. I spoke to adults rather easily when I was four, to close family friends. When I entered “pre-school” I made a friend but didn’t really enjoy being there. I liked being on the playground by myself, being solitary while swinging or sliding or whatever.

Kindergarten I withdrew completely, until I would not speak even when called upon. Obviously something was amiss, but no one knew how to handle the situation. Putting me in their crappy  public school version of speech therapy did nothing because I still didn’t talk.

I wanted to interact with the other children but I didn’t know how.

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I had friends where I lived. Two of them. They were very unique friends. They didn’t fit in well with others either, and one liked skinning rabbits and eating salt tablets because her mother was very into living off the land and being “healthy”.

She liked skinning rabbits to eat. It wasn’t a Conduct Disorder type of skinning rabbits.

We did a lot of make-believe. They were into fiction and fantasy stories as much as I was and that was the main reason we all got along so well.

My entire childhood was make-believe. I didn’t like reality. I preferred to be in my head, in a book, or running around make-believing shit.

I used to think my social anxiety based itself on how others perceived me–which it does to an extent–but I’ve also come to realize it’s very much based in me. I don’t understand people.

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Everyone doesn’t understand people, but I don’t understand how to interact with them and I don’t really have the drive to do so. I hate having to embody another persona just to go outside and fake it. It takes way too much energy; no wonder I’m tired all the time.

I laugh at myself about this: I’ve barely learned to ask “how are you?” to people.

I’m not joking. I’m 20.

Being with my boyfriend has taught me a lot. His family is very involved and they embrace each other when they meet and ask how each other is doing and I’m not really into being that intimate with a bunch of people, but I try and not seem like a freak–not that it’s worked to any extent–and it’s now an automatic response that when someone asks me how I’m doing, I also ask how their doing.

But like I said, it’s an automatic response. It comes out quickly and sometimes unemotional. It’s not something I do because I understand the impact of it, I just do it because I think it’s expected. It’s polite or something, right?

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That doesn’t mean I don’t care about how they feel, it’s just I didn’t understand you were supposed to ask. I figured if they wanted me to know how they were feeling they’d just tell me. That’s . . . that’s logical.

I forget sometimes  and I don’t say it–that’s usually if I’m expected to ask first.

A lot of my social anxiety is built around the fact that I know people are expecting a particular response from me and I have lists upon lists of responses in my head, I just don’t know when to use which response. Social interaction is more like a puzzle to me.

Who am I kidding, everything is a puzzle to me. Everything has a pattern. And fuck Vacuums. That’s my life story.

The only reason I’m good with humor is it’s the one thing I know people won’t mind. If a joke is weird, they might write it off as a weird joke but they might also laugh. If I say something weird or do something weird, the reaction is much more violent–at least in terms of the expression on their face. People forgive weird jokes much quicker than they forgive weird conversation.

It’s odd thinking about all this now. I’ve always known it, I’ve just never sat down and thought about it, not to this extent.

It makes me wonder if the more I discover myself and the more I accept myself for how I truly am, how much of my social anxiety will remain. A lot of time was spent trapped behind the anxiety and beating myself up for feeling anxious because I thought there was something seriously wrong with me.

Now . . . now I’m just different. I’ve always been different, but now I know I’m just different. That takes a lot of pressure off me.

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About AlishiaDee (372 Articles)
Alishia D. is a blogger, a beginning novelist, and a counselor at 2nd Story Peer Respite house where diagnostic labels and the culture of mental health is long forgotten. She's a mental health peer who has bounced through as many labels as she has doctors, and enjoys being sarcastic when she can. She also hates writing in 3rd person.

8 Comments on Revelations

  1. I also do not understand people. Or talking. But, I’m an ok faker.

    So! Cheat sheet for small talk: look at the face triangle, the two eyes and tip of the nose. The idea is to look there without foussing on any one feature. This achieves the “Lookin at someone when they talk” and avoids the staring thing. Practice in a mirror.

    Then the useful conversation fillers;”really?” “Ain’t that something…” “go figure. …” useful as responses without giving a meaningful response.

    Unless you were sharing to seek comfort and mull, as opposed to looking for suggestions. I don’t always get that, either.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, a smile and a nod can get you through a lot. I do it here, automatically, in response to too much Dutch. And most times it works.

    It seems to me that social responses are based on your interpersonal history with the person questioning you. The closer you are with someone, the more honest they want you to be with your response. Of course, you’ve got to both have the same idea about how close you are to each other. I’ve had that problem, and thought I was friends with people who saw me only as an acquaintance. When I found out how they viewed me it really hurt. And I’m not sure how to build intimacy without honesty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s really frustrating too. Sometimes I feel like I’m brutally honest and it offends people but then I’m confused because . . . well . . . you’re the one who wanted me to be honest, right? lol. I just don’t get it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well…there’s brutal truth and then there’s gentle truth. If your friend had a weight issue and turned to you asking if she was fat, you could say ‘yes, you’re a whale’ or you could say ‘yeah, you carry some extra weight’. The problem is, of course, words. We like to think words mean the same thing to each of us, but they don’t. They get colored by our experiences; I met a man in Wales who flipped out anytime someone said ‘abandoned’. He also thought enigma was something sinister. Neither of those words carry for me the same emotional content that they did for him. My point is, in stating your truth – which I think you should do – take special care with your word choice. Go slow and watch the emotions of the other person. If you feel that intake of breath, that pull away, stop and find out if it was a particular word you used. Then take the time to explain yourself as gently as possible.

        I’m not saying that technique is easy. It takes a lot of control on your part to pull it off. But. Being someone who is often triggered by particular words, I can say that’s probably the best way to approach it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh of course! I mean I always try to do the whole “think before you speak” thing, and I try to maneuver through my words before I blurt them like an idiot but even then sometimes I still get bad reactions–or what I perceive as bad reactions I guess. Sometimes I can’t read the emotions of the other person and if I think I do, I usually take it as something negative to whatever it was I said. I think that’s one of my problems. If any of that made any sense XD I’ll always try to pay attention though, I never like offending people.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Then you’re a better person than me. There are a few people walking this planet that I really enjoy offending. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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