Recently I’ve frequently got “you’re paranoid!” or “you’re getting a bit worked up” from different people. As I have had several flaps lately — a good example being the Mussel Episode — I stopped to wonder.
We have such a low download limit with our ISP (the very lowest, normally intended just for people who check their emails about twice a day and download occasional software updates) that I have more than once put the two of us over our limit. Every time that happens, I lose access to the internet (get redirected to a finger-wagging page from the ISP) and I feel completely hangdog for the rest of the day. As though I’ve been ordered to go to my corner.
It’s not as if I’ve committed a terrible crime; just got a bit too enthusiastic about choosing birthday gifts on Amazon, uploading photos to my blog or viewing other people’s desktop pictures! But it’s such an unpleasant feeling (and the top-ups too expensive) that we will be moving on from this ISP — and not because they asked us to go (though presumably they would eventually ask us to upgrade).
Still, it gets me that I can feel so bad about something like that… it’s all part of the “getting worked up about nothing.”
I asked Mum if she thought I got too worried about things, and she asked for examples… I deliberately picked something small and far away that I wasn’t actually bothered about! I said I got on a train when I was 19, and a woman said “dinnae fash yersel!” when I started asking how one went about getting off trains again. “That’s normal anxiety,” said Mum.
I suppose so, though I’d much prefer to feel relaxed and in control, realizing that if certain things go wrong (such as missing my station or being refused access to Google) that it isn’t the end of the world. With my severe hearing loss, I would find a missed station more difficult to sort out than most, unless I happened across a good Samaritan, and there are many! All the same…
It makes me think of a documentary we saw yesterday about WI members. Some of those ladies had such hard stories to tell about their lives… it made me think how I’ve really had it easy compared to some. But I was struck by one of the ladies (a survivor of physical and mental abuse) — she said that every individual is convinced of his/her own importance… but none of us are at all important. Anything could happen to us, often through our own mistakes… but it’s not the end of the world. Ultimately (she said) we have to realize all of this, and be kind to ourselves.
With my brain cells fizzing gently (from getting in flap after flap, like wondering whether the Google page keeps morphing because it’s not really a Google page), I insisted on a chocolate cake today in town. Mum said “you’re the one who waves and says ‘no no, not having cake’, so why are you demanding some now?” I said “because it’s a cold and miserable day and I want a treat.”
I identified with the following two posts from Bella Online’s deafness editor, though I’ve been deaf all my life (not late-deafened).
In this piece, the story about the checkout queue is one of those things that happen — strangers think you will hear them if they address you from behind, and some get impatient when you don’t. It’s one of those things wearing away at you like a dripping tap.
There are other articles like the above, indexed on this page at Bella Online.
It’s not quite the end of March and there are icy showers of hail aplenty, but my stress levels are already rising.
I have more problems in the warmer, brighter weather when people come out to enjoy the sun. I don’t look around and think “awk, look at all the people! I’m going home!” Usually what happens is that I set out to have the same kind of day that I had yesterday and the day before, and it’s only when I notice how troubled I feel that I realize there are more people around than usual. The increase would be marginal and I react to it before noticing on a more conscious level.
I felt quite bad today, and it’s only Friday – it felt more like a Saturday. I didn’t want to continue feeling that way, so I straightened up and looked around, thinking there must be something in the way I think that brings it on. It’s often what you can’t see that is so scary… if you are looking away and there are shadowy figures loping towards you, they could be anybody. But if you look directly at them, you see a harassed mother clutching her 6-year old; an elderly couple ambling around contentedly; a group of tall schoolchildren looking at nobody but themselves. They are no threat. But even as you glance at them, they move out of vision and other shadowy figures enter in.
I’m not afraid of them as people – not in any real sense. Sometimes I feel alien in their world as though not experiencing life the way they do, but as soon as I recognize them as fellow human beings with troubles of their own, my inadequacy dies away. It’s this initial lack of recognition that causes the problems. When I first start to stress out, I don’t shake, although a panic attack would be on the cards if I felt really trapped. I feel tight, tucked in, maybe a bit dizzy – and ill. I’m not sure I know what ‘sick building syndrome’ feels like, but if you put the word ‘people’ in there instead of ‘building,’ that’s what I imagine it would be like – though I’m probably way off course.
To get away from the bodies pressing round me, I withdraw more and more into myself. I’ve been accused of not seeing friends when they pass me on the road… “I waved and said hello and you didn’t see me”. That’s deliberate – that’s me trying to escape into myself. I have no intention of ignoring anybody, and if I do see you, I will smile back; relieved to see a face I know… but disassociation seems to be my way of keeping to what I’m doing or where I’m going without being thrown off course by the strangers around me.
The problem is, having withdrawn into yourself, you can’t withdraw any further; you’re still conscious of people, and would pull back even more if there was anywhere to go. That’s where the tight feeling of tension comes from, as though I’m leaning back into a wall and wishing it would let me through.
I decided there had to be a way of re-asserting my right to the spot I’m standing on. I’m too aware that others are challenging me for it – some humbly, others more aggressively. I’m constantly under the impression I have no right to standing room unless I’m alone. The only thing to do is to stand tall, take a deep breath, and look calmly but directly at the other people and at the area around me, and stop trying to escape when there’s nowhere to escape to.
It gives me a little breathing space, but I continue to feel ill – and I can never stop in one place for long because there’s always somebody trundling round a corner and bouncing off me.
Talking of what gives us balance – I’m a much steadier person when I have lots of time alone. It makes everything else seem like an adventure in comparison. If I experience too many such adventures, it becomes stressful… I’m usually much better after a few days at home, rather than going out day after day. It was like that when I was going to the skating rink… I was a fair and balanced skater for a few days after getting the hang of it, and then I lost my nerve, surrounded by other people wheeling crazily around. I stood at the side, gripping the handrail, and didn’t want to go back. I didn’t get better the more I tried… I got worse. I’m like that with lots of things. I don’t believe that ‘facing my fears’ and immersing myself in situations I dislike is to my benefit; it usually has the opposite effect.
I’m looking out at softly falling snow… it’s brighter weather, but not all that warm yet. The sun is coming, though. Oh yes, I can feel it, waiting with trembling anticipation behind its cloud. Nothing I can do will make it stay there.
Ooch – I was afraid of that. I got up this morning and discovered I was writing my blog posts in German. Fortunately I save my posts, so I can always replace the corrupted ones.
I’m still giving town a miss because that’s what made me ill in the first place. Boys sitting on the pavement with their backs against the walls (too young at the age of 15 to know how copiously dogs pee around – this pet minder could have told them) and older boys bouncing balls up and down the main street. People eating ice cream in cars and outside cafés, and other people sitting on benches, eating fish and chips. And then there are the people carriers on the prowl for non-existent parking spaces… cars get bigger and bigger every year, and there is less and less room for them. Mum said the folk with Glaswegian accents have disappeared now, and it’s mostly English accents left. The rain is coming down today and maybe it would have been quiet in town, but I’m taking my time. Better than pushing too fast and ending up in the soup again.
I found the following very short snippet in the Scotsman (Edit Feb 2008: their article has gone now):
Scream helps to beat stress
WORK-RELATED stress can be cut by up to a quarter by letting out a loud scream, according to new research revealed today.
A study of 1,000 people showed stress levels have increased this month, partly because of the heatwave and travel delays.
Half of those questioned said travelling to work was a major cause of stress, while most complained that being in an office all day made them bad tempered.
Many of those questioned said they were too inhibited to scream.
Last updated: 18-Aug-06 01:53 BST
Well – how is that mostly work-related stress? There’s an awful lot more going on than that. I bet most of them said it was heat and work and traffic jams rather than admit they were fazed by the crowds.
I said to Mum I can see what’s going to happen – I will get back to normal and then the psychiatrist will come knocking at my door… “can we help? How about a little trip to the bottom of your garden? The flowers won’t eat you, you know.”
I suppose I can discuss this thing’s tendency to resurface, particularly in dense crowds. It would be interesting to know if the psychiatrists receive any feedback from recovered sufferers. Do any of them say they are completely clear of it?
Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this post when it was hosted by Blogigo:
Pacian wrote at Aug 18, 2006 at 15:09:
Ich bin ein Blogger! That article in the Scotsman is a great example of bad science journalism. I don’t quite see how the study it actually mentioned supports screaming. Some vital piece of information has obviously not made it into the article, and given that even BBC journalists are quite happy to give huge clinical meta-studies and small opinion polls equal weight, I’m not exactly going to take them at their word.
Diddums wrote at Aug 18, 2006 at 17:29:
Bin ich das einzige, wer nicht Deutsches sprechen kann? According to Babelfish, that’s German for ‘Am I the only one who can’t speak German?’ Maybe you are too inhibited to scream – LOL. Now that you mention it, I wonder just what sort of research they are referring to. Maybe it will be in the other papers. Does it have to be a scream, so long as it’s some kind of self-expression, like a blog? One thing you learn after a bout of agoraphobia is that we have to deal with things, not simply bear them because we are told to. Agoraphobia (and similar) is the system’s protest at not being listened to.
Once I watched something flat and uninteresting on TV about a well-known personality. I didn’t know that she suffered from various anxieties and phobias. Having experienced similar things myself, I wanted to know more. For her, it’s flying, travelling, crowds. Surprisingly little was said about all that – more was said about her stalker! I don’t think he should have been given the coverage, and she said she didn’t want to talk about him. I didn’t want to talk about him either – or listen to him talking!
My dissatisfaction with the programme got me surfing the internet and I found this: “Agoraphobia is known as the ‘mother of all phobias’.”
I didn’t know it was referred to as that – I don’t hear it often. The article warns against agoraphobics throwing themselves into some program that claims to cure phobias in minutes. Well good grief, I’m a complex person; I can’t be mended with superglue. Meanwhile it’s reassuring to know that others know what I already know.