If it’s one thing I hate, it’s crowded restaurants.
It’s it’s another thing I hate, it’s suddenly crowded restaurants. It’s arriving to pick up a carry out at a restaurant at 11 p.m. that usually has two people in it at the most and finding it filled to the brim with conversation and leaking human bodies out of the door.
There are two major occurrences in my brain when this happens:
- Sensory Overload
- “Oh God, they’re talking about me/staring at me/laughing at me/scrutinizing my discomfort.”
Let’s talk about the first occurrence.
I’m sure everyone with anxiety has experienced mild sensory overload at some point. I’m sure most of you know what I’m talking about. If not, the easiest way I can sum it up for you is that anything you can experience with your senses is ten times louder, or tastes ten times stronger, or feel sensations/textures ten times worse. If I wasn’t so tired, I’d explain all of this more creatively. Cut me some slack tonight.
My sensory overload mostly comes from noise.
There are some textures I really hate and even thinking about them sends a shiver through my spine and I feel it on my fingertips so I’ll stop talking about those.
I’ll focus on sound.
Vacuums are the bane of my existence.
Motorcycles? They’re the death of me. I cover my ears whenever one passes.
Dishes make me cringe and spikes my anxiety.
Essentially any loud noises scare me or send my anxiety into hype mode and any really soft noises annoy me to the point I’ll willing to get violent and aggressive to shut them up.
The sound of my boyfriend’s playstation controller clicking over the phone is like a thousand little needles pricking my eardrum and irritation center of my brain. Sometimes I have to put the phone on speaker just so I don’t hear the clicking.
Compared to our conversations the clicking is irrelevant but to my brain it’s . . . I can’t come up with anything colorful this late. The noise just hurts my brain.
Whatever, it’s late.
The bass of a stereo thumping through the wall. It’s annoying to some people but to me it hits a nerve where I can’t contain my rage. Voices mumbling through the wall as well. Any sound I can’t clearly define because it’s too soft singes my soul.
Here’s a secret: when I was a young child my family and I were often in situations where only one room was available. We all slept in the same bed. My father snoring was one thing, but in the silence of the night I always heard my mother “breathing too loud”. I don’t know what I meant by it, I just knew it sounded as loud as my father to me.
We could be sitting on the couch and I’d be at one end and she’d be at the other and I could swear she was heaving breaths like a dragon with a dry throat. It irked me to the point where I’d have to leave the room or put in ear phones.
All of it irked me so much I slept with ear buds in my ear playing my favorite playlists at night or made makeshift ear plugs out of a headband. I’m very creative when it comes to protecting my fragile psyche.
Because I never did anything without my earbuds as a child, when I set alarms for myself now, the alarm music incorporates itself into my dreams and they don’t wake me up. It doesn’t matter if it’s a song or a shrieking tone and it doesn’t matter how loud it is. I will sleep through it and I will hear it as background music in my dreams. Often my parents barge in my door and shout at me to turn my 30 alarms on my phone.
I’m not exaggerating, I just counted them. I have two phones I use for alarms. That’s only one of them.
When I download a new song, I set it as an alarm and it can last two days at the most before my brain sleeps through it.
I wake up to the light noises. Mumbles. Soft thuds. The sound of my door knob.
Excluding loud music and soft music, every other noise has the potential to make me cringe.
Voices are included. When I’m in a loud room like I was tonight, there are so many conversations barking off at once I shut down. Let’s be honest: everyone hates being in a place where you can’t hear yourself think let alone talk with whoever you’re with. But for me, it’s different. The volume of their voices have the intensity of two jet planes flying inches above your head.
They thwart my ability to comprehend my own thoughts. I get so distracted by all the other conversations going on that if someone is making an attempt to speak with me, I might not hear correctly or I won’t be able to fake my way through a response like usual because my mind is blank.
Once I’m in complete shut down mode, my anxiety kicks in. That’s the second occurrence. I’m convinced beyond doubt every person in the room can sense how uncomfortable I am. And because they see how uncomfortable I am, they’re talking about it, laughing about it, staring at me . . . e.t.c.
The fact that I am distracted by all these conversations turns me into a detective. I’ll scan as many conversations as I can for proof of mutiny.
Even though I’m not their captain. I should be. But that’s besides the point.
But even while I’m listening to one conversation, another will distract me and then I get frustrated by the fact that I can’t pay attention to both at the same time and catch them both in the act, together.
Tonight I could keep my composure because we were only picking up food to go. But even that five minute interval felt like forty minutes to me.
I can shut down pretty hard if I’m stuck in a noisy, human-filled area for longer than an hour. I won’t force myself to talk anymore because all my energy is going elsewhere.
If I’m expected to talk, my anxiety is paralyzing half of my body and all the noise is paralyzing the other half. I already have trouble forming words verbally as it is, I don’t need anxiety tugging back words from my tongue; I worked hard to get those words there. I break a sweat making attempts at verbal conversation.
I’ve just settled on the conclusion that I can’t think when I talk. That’s the simplest way I can put it.
I also can’t think very clearly at 2:08 a.m when I keep yawning like this.
So there you go. Conversations sound like twenty motorcyclists revving their throttles to me, but the chicken I got out of it was bomb.