On the Outside of the Outside, Looking in

This morning I experienced something that hasn’t really happened since I was in my teens. I thought I was awake and I tried to move my arms but I was still asleep. I felt like I had no strength in any of my limbs which is a bit disconcerting if you’ve never had sleep paralysis before. I panicked for a few seconds but eventually realized what was happening and i worked my way out f it by thinking about moving one limb at a time. I realized I was dreaming when I was finally able to sit up and open my eyes. What I hadn’t realized until afterwards was that I had been watching myself from the outside of the whole experience while I tried to wake my body up.

It’s always a bit uncomfortable being on the outside looking in.

I don’t know what it is about today but my mood has been strange. As thoughts have unraveled I’ve felt like I’ve begun to disappear. I was thinking about yesterday. I went to my parents’ house, they grilled burgers, and then they started lighting fireworks off to celebrate the 4th. I found, in my first Independence Day not overmedicated on psych drugs, that my oversensitivity to sound does extend to things like fireworks. One of the kids lit off a small pack of firecrackers and I could feel myself tense at every tiny explosion. I knew this would be a possibility before I decided to go and I pre-warned everybody that I would probably leave before the celebratory explosions began. It didn’t really bother me leaving before the sun had gone down to retreat to my apartment for something a little more quiet.

I realize, sometimes, living on your own can be hazardous in a way. You’re left with nothing but your own thoughts, calculations, and self-talk. It was in one of these moments when I was trying to go back to sleep that I really started thinking about just how outside of things I have become in the last 18 months and realizing just how much more insular my thought processes are now because of it.

Let’s start off with one fact: I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged anywhere.

With that always in the background I find myself very attached to people and I don’t really think about the social dynamics. Today, I took a different approach to the thought of friendships and I asked myself this question: “If I’m putting in all the effort and reciprocation is inconsistent to non-existent, what is the benefit of investing my time?” This hit me in the face and hard because I realized that there were certain relationships where I have (and sometimes still do) where, if I don’t make the effort to contact someone, I wouldn’t ever hear from them. Yet, I get called a friend which is weird to me because I’ve done the exact same thing to others because of various reasons, usually life, nothing malicious, and they just never want to take the time to talk to them again. If there was no reciprocity then what was the point?

Maybe I’m coming to this thought late in the game. I don’t know what to do with this information, these thoughts, but I don’t know if people realize they do this or if it’s some other factor. I have bailed on events I’ve been invited to for social reasons but I think I’ve been pretty clear with almost everyone I spend time with the social difficulties and the steep learning curve regarding my sense of self just in the last year as my senses reassert themelves.

In my reading, I understand better my difficulty in feeling like I belong. We do not perceive the social dynamic, especially in groups, like a neurotypical. I think i can best describe it this way:

In social interactions, a one-on-one is the most ideal for me. I am 100% there trying to use the skills I have to understand our interaction. The more people added to the mix the more I feel like I’m fading out of the picture. For a Neuro-typical this is easy as they allocate attention to whatever they feel they need to attend to in the moment. For me, I’m still just 100% there and my attention gets spread over the entire situation. This is not too difficult but, as the number of people grows, the harder and harder it is to decide where to allocate attention because it all comes in as a flood; there is no executive function directing incoming data to my brain. Upon reflection  it feels a lot like I’m disappearing; my social capabilities decline and my anxiety goes up. I withdraw.

Most people I know don’t understand this or don’t try to understand this. I had to fight myself constantly before I went to work because I didn’t know what to expect. There’s another stitch in the side: my anxiety wants to know everything about an event before I go. It can sometimes take a fair amount of self-talk to get myself to go places sometimes. This has, admittedly, led to a lot less social interaction on my part. I get invited to friends’ shows and I have to decline because the idea of interacting with that many people puts me on high alert even thinking about it. So, I’ve “flaked” on a few things I said I would go to. Some people understand, some don’t.

What you don’t realize is that I already feel like I’m on the outside looking in. Like there’s this great invisible barrier between me and the rest of the world because there’s just some stimuli I cannot perceive. The unknown can cause anxiety, anxiety drives a need to remain asocial. Then i stop getting invited to things because I don’t show up very often. There are people who I don’t hear from unless I make an effort, sometimes multiple efforts to get in touch and make plans. In retrospect, I’ve realized how this really makes me feeel and I don’t really like it. I don’t want to anything because I don’t want to come off like I’ve got the wrong idea and then everything just gets worse because I’ve upset someone. It feels kind of like a no-win situation and I don’t know what to do. I’m still learning. 

But when you’re in situations with people you’ve known for a long time you know they expect you. They’ve grown comfortable and conditioned to the you they’ve known all this time. The idea that you could, all of a sudden, have this realization, doubt, epiphany, whatever, about your relationship feels like it would introduce a seed of mistrust that I wouldn’t pick up on or they wouldn’t tell me about.

The story of my life: I solve one puzzle and it just creates another. I don’t know what to do with this.

Now Playing:


Artist: Poison the Well
Song: “Botchla”
Album: Tear From the Red

But I adore her
This will never happen
But I adore HER
That will NEVER happen.
Over my DEAD body.

Of course I think ABOUT it
Burn my path if it does
Shape my body as I FEEL
Torn, BROKEN

And if it happens
I’ll BURN and crawl deeper in my hole
Darkness ALWAYS says hello
And your BURNING BODY will light my way
Burning body LIGHT MY WAY

Why I might have lied about not being able to come out tonight.

Social situations just continue to confound and confuse me. I could have gone out tonight and I could have seen friends I haven’t seen in months but I didn’t. I would almost say I couldn’t. There was this sinking feeling, this anchor causing anxiety and rooted me here reading the Fountainhead or watching wrestling.

The truth is, I was anxious and, in my brain it didn’t seem correct for a Sunday evening. Like I would never go out to a bar on a Sunday evening and listen to music and hang out with people. Maybe that was the large part of it: people. I just haven’t had the stomach or the nerve for being around people lately.

Part of it has to do with work, I think, and all the people I have to deal with. Not to mention being under the watchful eye of my coworkers and bosses all the time. At least at my last job I could go hide in my cubicle and, if I really wanted to, could probably get away with doing absolutely nothing but what I wanted as long as it didn’t make too much noise or raise the suspicions of my superiors.

The beta blockers have helped a lot with my ability to be social but I still have that conditioned response that tells me it’s going to be awkward. Or maybe I’ll go and no one will talk to me. They’ll be so wrapped up in their ridiculous conversations about nothing, their small talk that is just so uninteresting, that I’ll just end up at a table by myself as I usually do. I’ll have a Jack & Coke in my hand, stirrer standing like the mast of a sinking ship between my pointer and middle finger and I’ll just get lost in the music.

That’s not really a bad feeling. If I can attenuate to the music and the pictures it creates in my head I can forget about pretty much everything that’s going on around me. There are times when people have caught me like this and checked on me as if I was having some sort of crisis. I’m not always depressed, I’m just practicing silence and listening. It’s what I do, I guess.

I said I was both broke and i have to work tomorrow. Both are true but the ghost of anxiety and rigidity to myself, my interests, my usual way of doing things got in the way more than anything and I really don’t want to have to explain that to people anymore. I get tired of telling people I do things a certain way or I approach aspects of my life in a particular fashion because I have Asperger’s. It’s tiring and people don’t always understand or just don’t want to understand or just don’t have the capacity to understand. I HAVE to do things the way I do. Certain days are days I don’t do anything and changing that has become increasingly difficult as the Lithium has left my system.

The thing I’ve noticed is that I’m not one of THOSE guys. I’m not the person everyone thinks about when they’re having a get-together or even want to get out of their house. I’m not the person people think, “Oh, I should see what he’s doing. I haven’t hung out with him in a long time.” The difficulties I have now being social, even more than before, make it seem like I hate being around people. It’s not really that. I just don’t like being around a collective of people all that much. Me and a few other people in a public setting works okay. When there’s more, I’ve found that my senses have become more and more powerful and let a lot more information into my brain. Part of me is afraid to even try to go a bar where there are people talking or being loud.

I don’t want to make it seem like I’m just trying to get sympathy here. I don’t want or need sympathy. I need acceptance. I need people to realize I am miles away from being the same person I was 18 months ago despite still being me at the core. I am not the Lithium zombie that I was before. I have suffered bouts with the highs and lows as always and my anxiety was almost crippling for a while.

Nobody really knows this. Not a lot of people I would consider calling a friend knows what I’ve been going through because I don’t tell them. It’s not that I don’t want to tell them. I don’t even think to tell them because people, more often than not, fall off my radar completely when I’m by myself. My therapist says I should get more practice in being social. I need to work on being responsive to questions about me rather than just shrugging them off. I just don’t like talking about myself. I would rather talk about wrestling, or a book I’m reading, or politics, or the Bible. How I feel is more consequential to me than anyone else. Otherwise, I’d get asked more often and in more sincere means. I don’t care that no one asks, really. I have friends who understand anxiety and depression but no one really gets all my other stuff.

It’s nights like tonight where I want to be around people but am ambivalent about such feelings because there’s some mental wall there that tells me I can’t or I shouldn’t even though there’s no real good reason other than I can’t or shouldn’t. It doesn’t feel… right, I guess is the best way to try to explain it.

There’s a certain tiring quality to being this way. I sleep as much as I can and as often as I can now. It passes the hour better than watching TV. I read more now which is good, I guess, but it’s not much of a substitute for the intellectual stimulation of a conversation. I get that sometimes but mostly I just do what I can to keep my mind off anything else. If I find something, I absorb myself into it and the time just passes. Sometimes that just includes staring at the ceiling for a couple of hours before I have to go to work in the mid morning. I haven’t found anything else that really disrupts the pervasive thoughts of having to go to work so I just lose myself in my imaginations. I tell stories and I don’t write them down. Mostly because the thoughts are so fast and fleeting I can’t make anything coherent out of them anyway.

So, if you’re reading this, maybe you’ll try to understand. Maybe you’ll just stay in your own little world and I’ll stay in mine as it gets smaller and smaller. I’m tired of being left out of the game. I’m tired of not fitting the social norm or that I’m viewing everything from the outside looking in the window.

I’m tired of windows, closed doors, and fences. Now more than ever I’m aware that socializing is work for me, not necessarily pleasure even though I want to do be able to do it. I think I lost part of myself or unlocked something or closed something off.

Are you in the inside looking out?