2 p.m. [Read more…]
2 p.m. [Read more…]
fall semester, junior year, 1997
I sort of wake up.
I enter a bar, order a drink, sit at a corner table facing the wall. It’s more convenient to sit at the bar, but there are people there. Humans. I’m more of a wall-facing sort in places like this.
When I was in elementary school, my social struggles developed into an intense fear of other people.
I sought out friendships, connections, but lacked the basic communication skills necessary to traverse the social world. I didn’t know that I lacked body language; I didn’t know that my mind was unable to catch the nuances of non-verbal communication. Needing people, interested in others, I repeatedly jumped into interactions, only to stumble for reasons I had no way of understanding.
I grew up in a place where, at a very early age, girls are encouraged to be “girly” and boys are encouraged to be “manly”. Like, cartoonishly so.
I was too shy and socially-disoriented to really make it happen. Early on in life, I was pretty scared of people…I couldn’t make sense of them; I just saw people as these vague, menacing specters. As a result, I needed a lot of down time. I just wanted to be alone, reading, hiding away.
She has a travel-for-work kind of job, so I tag along sometimes.
Being at a social event…it never feels like you’ve simply entered a space with other people. It feels more like waking up in another person’s dream…like being thrown there. You find yourself in an unfamiliar space. The context and reality are inscrutable, cryptic. Nothing works the way it’s supposed to. At a basic level, you don’t know how to be.
I go to this seasonal/holiday event at a small auditorium. It ends and the crowd begins to disperse.
I see this couple there, vague acquaintances, and I cringe. I have to flee the scene. I’m desperate to avoid a conversation with them.
When I was 32 years old, I found myself facing a dilemma.
After socially isolating for a about a decade, I began therapy and was diagnosed with both depression and autism spectrum disorder.
The psychologist said that, in addition to managing the depression, we needed to spend a fair amount of time just talking…simply sitting around, conversing…so that we could begin to map out how my mind was processing social data. Once we had a better understand of that, we could then make a game plan.
Growing up, August was traditionally the month that I was knocked flat with school anxiety. The last few weeks of summer, I was reliably a train wreck of fear and frayed nerves.
Today, in my late 30’s, I still feel echos of that as August sets in. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been out of school for a long time now; July gives up and some animal part of my brain tells me to hide, to run…from nothing specific or real, just the predatory talons of memory. (I’ve written before, in this post, about my teen habit of avoiding peers by literally climbing walls and hiding above ceiling tiles. I did that.)