Over the last couple of days, I’ve been acutely aware of the amount of time I spend alone. Further, whenever the opportunity to be in the company of others presents itself, I will shirk it if at all possible. It feels almost like ‘something’ inside my body has paralysed the part of me that is capable of being sociable, communicating, or simply being with others.
I’m not necessarily presenting this to you as a problem. I’m not trying to work through this logically, in an effort to come up with solutions or ideas for graded exposure exercises. In fact, I fear I have gone beyond the point of being able to tolerate the company of large numbers of people (acquaintances or not) ever again and, worse, have accepted this as my ‘normality’.
As an example, my cousin has this evening arranged a small (family only) get-together at her place. My ‘routine’ for situations like this is to promise that I will give it some thought, perhaps consider going for a very short period of time…, all the while knowing within myself that I cannot and will not be going. There are many reasons for this:
My difficulty with crowds of people in a confined space.
My intolerance to high levels of noise.
My low self-esteem, which will manifest itself in the form of the ‘poisoned parrot’ sitting on my shoulder, telling me I am less pretty, less well put together than everyone else in the room. Said self-esteem also causes me to squirm inside my own skin, a physical reaction I fear others will notice.
I have a habit of fidgeting, rubbing my hands together, jiggling my leg(s), pacing the room – all things that I imagine others will interpret as pretty standard ‘mental patient’ behaviour.
Why would I subject myself to this when I can change into my pyjamas, close my curtains and be safe in bed by 10?
But where does this leave me? How will it affect my future? At 31yrs of age, should I really be resigned to never being able to function around other people again? Any current plans I do have for the future revolve around taking some OU modules. But is this just a roundabout way of being able to stay holed up in my bedroom for even longer periods? Having worked in an office environment for a number of years before having to succumb to my mental difficulties, I can say with absolute certainty that I will never do this kind of job again. If you’re wondering why, refer back to the list above! I’ve often thought I might like to get more involved in the MH field, whether that be volunteering or in paid employment. Personal experience has taught me that the MH profession could use some more people with first-hand knowledge of the levels of torment, distress and (my personal Nemesis) chronic agitation that go hand-in-hand with mental illness. Just this morning, a very good friend of mine said:
“I definitely think you’d be brilliant in a role supporting people with mental illness. You have a really lovely way of talking to people.”
That’s just it, though. As much as I appreciate these kind words, as much as I value the person who said them, they’re not true. Because I don’t ‘talk’ to people. Can I live the rest of my life communicating only through the written word? Maybe I’d make a good Trappist Monk.