Update: My chicken meter is still very high; I have yet to contact the Accessibility Services Center.
But it’s okay.
It’s not okay, but I’ll pretend it’s okay.
As most of you know I’ve been working at a Peer Respite House since Mid June. It was my fourth job in a six month stretch of me realizing I cannot function in the working world. So far I have yet to prove this theory wrong. Work is stressful, and not in the way you’d think.
You’d think people hearing voices and feeling immediately suicidal and wanting to take all their pills or hurt themselves in other ways would be stressful. You’d think hearing stories of someone ending their life upstairs in one of the closets once and not being found for a few hours would stress me out even more. You’d think knowing things could go from perfectly fine to the ultimate pile of shit in less than a tenth of a second would stress me out.
But you want to know what really stresses me out?
The phone calls.
You want to know what else?
Can you guess the next thing?
And last but not least?
Connection. Connection. Connection. Something that’s been absent all my life.
If someone is hearing voices, if someone is feeling anxious, those are topics we can talk about. If someone is upset about housing, that is something we can talk about. If someone says “hey” and then stares, I have no idea what they want from me. In fact, I’m more inclined to smile, say hello, and walk on past.
It’s not me being absent . . . well it kind of is, but it’s also me not knowing what to do next. It wasn’t until I met my boyfriend’s family that I learned (yes, I had to LEARN, at 19 years old to do this) when someone says “hello, how are you?” it’s preferred that you also say “I’m doing good (bad, okay, e.t.c), how are you?”
Unfortunately, at the 2 year mark, that’s about as far as I can get in a conversation with them. It’s better than nothing though, right?
No, no it’s not.
Anyway, always ask “how are you” back. It keeps you looking like 1) you’re human and 2) you know how to have a conversation. Obviously for me it’s a complete ruse because I’m sure I poofed into existence out of blackhole stardust and I have no clue how to hold a conversation.
At 16 I learned how to make eye contact for the first time in my life. It took a year of observing correct technique from my peers, how they interacted with each other and how they interacted with the teachers, and I finally was able to sustain it for more than one second so I too could look normal.
I picked up a job at this Respite house not to “get through school” like I feel the staff fucking thinks, but so I could find people like me and hopefully gain some social skills. Because my social ineptitude is solely related to my social anxiety and my social anxiety is solely related to low confidence. . .
That’s what I was told. I have trouble in conversations because my amygdala hijacks the rest of my brain.
R . . . right?
I’m questioning this diagnosis as of now. Because my confidence is no longer an issue. I’ve worked hard on it for many years. Yet my anxiety seems to have sky rocketed. And it seems, even in situations where my anxiety is low, my social skills are, well, not there.
I was used to not feeling connected to people outside of the world of mental health. But now that I see I struggle even to communicate with people who are “like me”, I took a step back and did what I do best: find patterns. And for the last month and a half I’ve basically come up with the following theory:
What if my anxiety is a direct result of my brain not understanding the world around it? What if my social anxiety presents itself not because I’m scared of someone judging what I say, but I’m scared of them judging how I say it: that is, interrupting–which I do all the time accidentally because I’m not sure if I’m supposed to talk or not. Through observation, I’ve learned over the years that if there is a break in conversation, you should be free to speak . . . but if that break is too long, it becomes weird to speak because mentally everyone has already moved on. That being said, if you do decide to talk in the break, for the love of God stay on topic, don’t just jump to something no one was talking about. That makes you look fucking weird apparently.
What if my anxiety is related to the fact that I know damn well when I try to speak, I can’t express myself properly. There are so many words rushing around my head that they crash into each other and I can’t say what I need to. So I either gather everything I’m supposed to say before hand and spew it out my mouth at the speed of light before it gets screwed up, or I speak very slowly and stutter over my words.
Of course the more comfortable I am around someone, the less this happens, which indicates anxiety plays a part. But it’s not the whole story because it happens regardless of where I am or who I am with.
What if there’s a reason I feel so lost and confused in conversations? What if there’s a reason I can’t understand things verbally and rather need them written or drawn besides me being a “visual learner”?
What if there’s a reason I was reading and writing in kindergarten, but not speaking?
What if there’s a reason I can’t leave the house without someone?
What if there’s a reason I still cry at the slightest indication of criticism or being told to “stop”.
What if there’s a neurological reason for my social anxiety besides the idea of feeling “judged”?
What if there’s a reason I’m an observer, a mimicker, someone who knows how to smile and repeat phrases like a robot to people so that I appear that I know what I’m doing?
How I can’t keep track of a conversation if it’s more than just me and one other person.
How, if I’m talking to someone, one little noise (a crack, a bang, a voice, laughter, several voices, e.t.c) will force me to fall silent until it passes because I can’t think with noise going on. Hence one of my reasons I hate talking on the phone besides also hating people listening to me.
How finger snapping, a mumble from a television in the living room or dim/bright light or snoring can get my blood boiling and possibly send me into a rage if I’m already on edge.
How I can’t say anyone’s name to their face. I don’t even say my own name. I would give some examples to prove my point, but honestly it’s one thing I’m extremely embarrassed about.
What if there’s something from the time that therapist/counselor told my parents in elementary school that I was “shy” and “I’ll grow out of it”, to all the interest I rarely showed in my peers or their interests, to the days I spent riding around making lists of every brand of car I saw, drawing their emblem symbol next to the name, and illustrating how their front, sides, and backs looked until, at 9, I could recite the make, model, and year of a car from looking at it. I still can.
I still have my toy car collection by the way, I treasure it.
How, when I became obsessed with psychology, I listed every psychoactive medication, their generic and chemical names, the class of drug they were, and what they were typically and atypically administered for, until I was 15 and reciting it to my high school teachers and doctors in the hospital.
You know when you get a gut feeling about something and you just know something doesn’t add up?
That’s my gut feeling. And if this is a result of what I think, I’m going to be very furious at some very important people in my past.
FYI: it’s not my parents.
P.S, feel free to leave an opinion. I’m opening to hearing interpretations. In fact, please, leave an interpretation I’m desperate here.