I don’t know why, but that phrase is stuck in my head. Sometimes it feels like the old me died and this is my life after death, a life I never expected to have. Very surprising, this whole thing. I become more unrecognizable to myself every day, as if I am actually living inside someone else’s body, watching from the inside as they pretend to be me very badly. I mean, they aren’t pretending to be me in a bad way, they just aren’t very good at it. They keep doing and thinking and feeling things that are very un-me-like. But it mostly all feels very good.
I am going tomorrow to a friend’s massage therapy/reiki/cupping studio to see how I feel in the space, to take pictures and get ideas. And then I’m going to paint for her. Watercolors to fit in her relaxing, serene space. Hopefully, anyway. I mean, the girl I’m trapped inside of is going to do all of that. I’m just going to watch because none of those things are things that I would ever be capable of doing.
Yesterday, the girl I’m trapped inside of went to a friend’s for Thanksgiving. My children were away with their dad and my darling, wonderful, beautiful, loving friend, (we’ll call her Sheena), invited me to be with her family. I got dressed and made myself presentable and I went to a place I’ve never been, a house full of people where I only knew one. I made it over 4 1/2 hours before the need to escape overwhelmed me. I recognized that the social anxiety still holds a bit of sway over me. It was the most wonderful day, probably the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had if I’m being honest. From the minute I walked in the door, I was enfolded in introductions and hugs and love. Sheena, her boyfriend, her parents, her sister and sister’s wife and 2 kids, 3 family friends and their husbands, a single man, and a couple more children. Every adult, as I was introduced to them, gripped my outstretched hand as if to shake and then pulled me into a hug. Every one of them. It was a love bomb and I have never experienced anything like it. There were also several rather large puppies to get all the kisses from. Then there was wine and THC edibles and a joint going around and women were cooking and everyone was talking and there was music and stolen nibbles of food and so much laughter and love and light. It was like being inside a light bulb, a little bubble of light and warmth. Everyone talked to me like I had been at every Thanksgiving gathering forever. I was among my people.
Well, the girl I am trapped inside of, anyway. There was so much food and I ate until I thought I would die and then, of course, had pie. And more edibles. And smoked another joint. But yes, after 4 1/2 hours, my “real” self began to regain a bit of control, I suppose, and I started to feel anxiety and a very strong desire for my room and solitude. I was overwhelmed, total sensory overload, and I needed to be away.
And I think that’s a thing that I need to really look at. The feeling of sensory overload. That’s what causes anxiety more than anything else. I don’t think I’ve always recognized that. I thought my anxiety came from triggers caused by trauma, but maybe it doesn’t always. Even just thinking back for a moment, I can see where the majority of my anxiety attacks were actually caused by sensory overload, not PTSD. I said to the Unicorn last night that maybe I needed to force myself out into the world more, and I don’t think that’s necessarily true. If sensory overload is a thing for me, I need to mitigate that in the smartest way possible, the easiest way, and that would be to accept it as a fact of my brain function. I shouldn’t feel bad, or ashamed, for needing solitude when that solitude brings me calm and peace and mental wellness. Controlling anxiety is just as much about avoiding anxiety-inducing situations as much as possible as fighting the anxiety head-on. I need to learn how to steer around the anxiety, avoid situations that I know may trigger it, and allow myself the room to breathe and leave when I need to rather than trying to force myself to push through the anxiety. It’s easier to step around it, to give it it’s breathing room just like I need, than to rush straight into it like it’s some thing I can battle into submission.
Big thoughts in my head these days. So many big thoughts.