I know that what I deal with is a pain for those in my personal life. I mean, between the panic attacks and the inability to adapt quickly to new environments, and the instability triggered by it all, it just gets to them. I would love to make things easier, and I try, but there is only so much I can do. Because the bottom line is…
I am not normal. I will never be normal. I will always struggle with things that people take for granted as just part of living life. I will never easily adapt to new things and environments.
We had a vacation. It was filled with lovely things. I would have loved to have enjoyed all of it, but I’m not equipped to “enjoy” such events. I look longingly at events and adventures my friends and family have, and I wish I could go and do and come away thrilled with the experience, but the truth is, I come away with much less than I had going in.
It’s not about what I want. I rarely get what I want, because my brain does not work like it should. I am now trying to scramble to re-adapt to my home environment so that I don’t miss a step, whilst being at a deficit from maneuvering through everything we did when we were on vacation.
People wonder why those of us with major mental illness become suicidal. Well, let me just clue in those who don’t deal with this stuff. Exhaustion and the inability to keep up with the demands of others wears us to the point of thread bare. And it never stops! We are continually expected to function like everyone else all day long, every day. I can say with confidence here that I am going to fail every time under those expectations.
It must be difficult for people to have someone like me in their lives, trying to accommodate to make things better, never knowing which way to jump to make it easier, better. I struggle as well, only I never get to push back from the table and say, “I have had enough; I don’t want to play any more.” I don’t get that option. It’s live and in color 24/7…living mental.
Me going to a social function in a strange place with thousands of people and having an expectation that I should enjoy it, is like me going to a baseball field, stacking all the plates, the pitcher’s mound, all the equipment in my arms and then telling me to “play ball”. I’m already overloaded, so me joining in the game and swinging for the fence is just not going to happen. I try. I give it what I have to give, but I am not graceful about it.
And so those in my life are faced with a few options, give up doing anything social in order to stay in the environments where I optimally perform, have me come with them where they face having me drag down their fun as I struggle to cope in the environment, or go by themselves to such occasions. It’s a difficult decision for them. My immediate family does pretty well, but then they are all introverted so they need very little interaction in big social settings. My husband, however, is extroverted, so it is difficult for him to get the interaction he needs and still have me with him. I also have many friends who are very active and always doing fun things, and I just can’t do it all.
The first severe panic I had was in Kansas City at an amusement park. There were thousands of people there. It was very hot, and I found myself in a sea of people being jostled about like flotsam on the waves. The entire world became blurry and started to spin. I felt I was being upended, and the closeness of the heat and bodies contributed, making me black out for a moment. I don’t remember how I made it out of the crowd, but I ended up in a little atrium area, sitting on a bench. A friend found me and gave me a paper bag, telling me to breath in an out of it.
That was the official entry of social phobia which quickly let to agoraphobia. I never feel safe in public. Even if, mentally, I’m solid on the environment, my fight or flight response will kick in and leave me in a primal state. I tend to feel guilty when I can’t be what the people in my life need me to be, but that is just hubris on my part. It is unrealistic for anyone to expect they can be all things for all those in their lives at all times.
I’m angry because I came away from this experience feeling defeated, when in fact, it was a huge win. I managed to survive three days with constant interactions with people in large environments that were extremely over stimulating. I had two issues where I had panic attacks but they were minimal in comparison to the debilitating panic attacks that wreck me for hours.
In reflecting on the experience last night I decided I was going to take this as a win for me, personally. I would never have attempted such an endeavor in years past. I won’t claim there weren’t difficulties, and going to the large event, much like the amusement park that kicked everything off over a decade ago, was probably not a good idea on my part. Still, I made it through about an hour of swimming through a sea of hot sweaty people whilst being hot and sweaty as well.
The real struggle is trying to find balance with a spouse who is very extroverted. I don’t have many options for compromise. I can either go and fall apart at some point, be scared from the beginning that I will fall apart at some point, or stay away from such situations and let him go and enjoy himself.
I will go and attempt such places and have always done so just to stretch myself a bit. I mentioned in a previous blog that agoraphobia is a hole that continually tries to close over me, so I am always trying to keep it open so I can crawl out. Such events stretch that hole a bit further, even if for just a short time, so I need to continue to attempt to take such risks.
However, I need to do so without the pressure of letting someone I love down and creating disappointment for them. I don’t want to do that, and I don’t want the stress of ruining a potentially great experience for someone else because I can’t control my body. I may have to go with someone who is not so interested in being at the event and who will be okay with leaving, even if it’s 15 minutes into the adventure.
I could dwell on the fact that I am no longer a person who gets enjoyment out big group events base on the simple fact that my body cannot handle it, but I don’t think that is healthy. The reality is that it is what it is, and I am done trying to accommodate everyone else by performing at a level that exceeds my range of actually capability. It’s generally me placing those expectations, though there is frustration produced by others when I am unable to perform as everyone else, so I know there is a level of expectation, albeit subconscious. The price is too high and is generally underappreciated by those I’m trying not to inconvenience. If you want me along, I’m a special needs case, and there will be adaptive measurements in place for me to go along.
I have a friend in a wheel chair. It would be stupid for her to attempt to get her chair in through an area it won’t fit just because all the people in her life can walk it with ease. There has to be room made for her to get through, or she can’t go. It is no different for me, and I’m done trying to be something I’m not. I’m sorry this is such a pain for the people in my life, truly, but this is what I have to work with, I can’t modify any more than I have, and I must learn to accept that if I want to live a longer life.