Today I’ve been thinking about why telling the story of how I acquired my phobia makes me so uncomfortable.
I feel like there are two different ways I can try to tell the story, and both of them have problems. I can tell it in a very short, matter-of-fact way, but re-reading that, or thinking about how it’ll be perceived by other people, is uncomfortable because it feels inaccurate. It doesn’t actually get across why the experience scared me. I feel like I’m not actually answering the question. Also, it’s just really alienating to look at a description of my experiences that doesn’t actually convey how I felt at all. It feels unreal.
On the other hand, if I try to describe how I felt and why I felt that way, (a) I feel like my powers of description aren’t up to the task regardless, and (b) I don’t want to think about it that closely! I don’t want to re-feel those feelings.
It’s hard to talk about it without a certain degree of detachment, but because of that detachment, what I’m talking about isn’t really the thing. It isn’t really the phobia.
So far, I can’t seem to find a middle ground between those two things, being totally detached or overly immersed. I’ve made some progress over time, at least when it comes to telling myself the story inside my own mind, but there’s definitely still a long ways to go.
I’ve been thinking about fasting– not in the sense of “considering whether I should do it,” just thinking about the topic– and I think I can now (months after I started thinking about it, yeah) explain why the idea fills me with Nope.
So. Eating, actual meals, regularly, is something I struggle with executive-function-wise. In fact, it’s one of the few situations in which I actually feel… vulnerable / helpless / not-able-to-cope re: being autistic, is when I’ve gotten hungry enough that it impedes my ability to get myself food.
Why does hunger impede my ability to get food.
- physical fatigue/weakness
- on top of executive dysfunction, makes getting up & doing things even harder
- executive function goes down
- makes it harder to stop doing other things & start looking for food
- makes it harder to follow a long series of instructions to get / make food
- sensory issues / need for familiar things goes up
- limits my choices for foods I can eat
- makes it harder to get / make food (going to a noisy store, touching unpleasant textures)
- general emotional fragility
- makes managing my phobia harder
- which may further limit my food choices and may also make cooking & eating take longer
- makes me start fucking crying instead of just going “ew!” when I touch an unpleasant texture, which is not fun
I didn’t used to have as extreme a reaction to low blood sugar as I do now, I think, but… I do now. It affects my mood pretty dramatically, and it also makes me physically weak, a lot faster than I think it should at least.
tl;dr I associate not-eating with meltdowns.
Not only do I get stressed out about making Important Phone Calls myself, just listening to someone else make an Important Phone Call also makes me uncomfortable and anxious on their behalf. Not horribly anxious, but still, it’s a thing that happens.
You have two main strategies for responding to anxious thoughts:
“But that’s not actually going to happen,”
and “If that does happen we’ll be ok.”
To be really effective you need to use both of them.
You consider doing something (X). X is something you could do if you chose to, but not something do very often if at all. You would have to go out of your way to do it. You imagine what would happen after you do X. One of the results is something that would be dangerous or unpleasant (Y). You imagine that you would be scared or upset if Y happened. You can easily and reliably prevent this unpleasant thing Y from happening by not doing X. You don’t do X. You stop worrying about Y.
You remember what happened the last time you did something (A). You thought A was a harmless thing to do, and you did it almost without thinking, but then something else (B) happened because of it. B happened suddenly and unexpectedly, and it was very hurtful and/or scary, and you were terrified. Thinking about it now, you’re still terrified. What if you do A again by accident? And not only that, if something as harmless-seeming as A can make B happen, what if other things you do cause B to happen, too? You are constantly on alert to keep from doing A. You are constantly afraid of B.
Both of these things could be described as “learning from the consequences of your actions,” but they are not the same thing.
I literally didn’t give a second thought to “”self-diagnosing”” social anxiety (as a teenager, before I spent much time online, before I’d ever heard the term “self-diagnosis.”) It seemed pretty foolproof. I had anxiety about social situations: social anxiety.
But the more I read in-depth stuff by and about people with social anxiety, the more convinced I am that I acutally kind of don’t have it. I don’t have the same kind of anxiety about social situations that most people mean when they say “social anxiety”, anyway.
One of the big differences is, social anxiety is supposed to have “self-monitoring” as a big component– like, wondering how other people are perceiving you, what-iffing about negative ways you might be perceived, doing extra careful things to make sure people perceive you the way you want them to. And with the post about bars, I got to thinking about the fact that I do the self-monitoring thing sometimes (see the points about dancing), but I don’t really do it that much.
And when I do, there’s either an anxiety/shame snowball effect where I very quickly worry myself into total incapability, or it sort of dead-ends because I have no fucking idea how people actually perceive me, what I might be doing “wrong,” or what I might need to do to “fix” it, so I just exist in this state of tense balance/calm given-up-ness where I think I should probably be doing X, but I’m probably failing, but I’m going to keep trying to do X anyway.
I’m not smart enough to what-if during social situations (and I don’t really do it outside them either.) I’m not quick enough. I don’t have enough extra brain capacity. If I really start what-iffing, I stop talking (and probably start crying.)
(Sparkly maybe don’t read, at least not until later. It’s not bad and it’s not about you, just kind of serious and thinky.)
Continue reading “OK I lied here’s a post”
(or: this again)
There are people out there who have real honest-to-goodness immediate genuine Feelings of fear and anxiety, instead of freeze-dried individually wrapped text-message notification awarenesses of disaster occurring. What a thing. What things there are in this world.
Like, ok, you have your heart-pounding terror, good for you, and I have my heart-sorta-pounding-but-in-a-fake-low-blood-pressure-way and my slow slow frozen thoughts and my calmly and gently attempting damage control measures while the world collapses.
They sorta kinda implied that heart-pounding terroriness is the definition of Real trauma, but I know that’s not what they meant, and it’s not even really what they said. I’m not complaining about that.
I’m just having that feeling that’s like: why am I so un-relatable?
I feel like the only people I’ve heard describe doing the thing that I do– they don’t analyze it in terms of anxiety or anything like that. They don’t use those words for themselves. They think they’re actually being normal-calm. So I can’t exactly discuss it with them.
Today I “took a day off” from captioning and Sparkly and I did a bunch of cleaning around the house, took out the trash, etc. And I cooked a nice-ish dinner. I also sent a couple of messages and finished a writing thing elsewhere. And Sparkly applied for some more jobs! Yay Sparkly!
Today’s weird thought:
My parents know that I have social anxiety, in the sense that they watched me grew up and saw how it affected me in various ways. But they don’t know in the sense that I’ve never actually used the words “social anxiety” in reference to myself when talking to them.