Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Your Needs are Valid

At a meet-up I go to several weeks ago, I learned for the first time a startling and difficult concept to me. I have somewhat black and white thinking, so to me things are often all the way good or all the way bad. I have such literal thinking, that I think it was hard for me to understand that something could be both good and bad at the same time. Well, I'm still struggling with that, but I think I'm getting better. I will label things as all good or all bad and nothing in between. I am just realizing this. So one bad part can spoil the whole experience.  Etc.

I forget the particulars by this point, but I was trying to understand how I could both overwhelm people *and* have those people enjoy the conversation with me. To me, they were mutually exclusive. You could either overwhelm people and it was a bad experience, or people would enjoy talking to you, and want more, or have a positive experience of you. I forget what he said, but through sheer persistence, by the end of that night he had me finally getting a flash of insight into "Ohhhh, you CAN be overwhelmed by something you like." I had not realized this before. (I think it was, I was feeling overwhelmed by the intensity of the meeting at the end and needed a break. But I had really enjoyed it also . It was then I realized how other people felt when they were both overwhelmed and enjoying something at the same time.)

This is important because realizing that this kind of duality can exist is the building block of realizing a lot of other important truths about life. And it was important as a building block in the therapy session I had with my mom today. She expressed to me that she had often felt frustrated by my needs and my unhappiness as a kid and adult, which was not a surprise to me. But she also expressed, after a longer process, that her frustration was not about me. Her frustration had nothing to do with me. Her frustration was not a reflection on me. She actually said these things, and it was exactly what I needed to hear. It was ironic to me because I have been trying to get someone else in my life to understand those same things about how my emotions are not a reflection of her, and while I thought I might have some trouble in that area, I maybe didn't quite realize how much. She acknowledged that she and I had two different ways of looking at things, and that frustrated her, but it was okay. She stated her needs, I stated mine, and we were able to find common ground.

I am trying to think of how I can use this insight in other parts of my life. Because I so desperately need to. How do I even begin to untangle the reactions I have nearly every minute to being so deeply, desperately uncomfortable in my own skin? How do I take the emotional and sensory experiences I have and start to feed them through a different area of my brain, an area that says "Your experiences are valid"? Hmm.

After my mom left, I wandered around the Eastern Prom aimlessly, wanting to go to a place where I could process my emotions in a calm and safe place but not having the energy to get the bus back to downtown. The air was far better than it has been but still not great, so my thoughts were scattered. The apartment is feeling iffy these days, more chemically than emotionally but yeah.
As I sat on the bench, thinking I was waiting for a bus to go to whole foods but ultimately not taking it, I heard some kids, maybe around ten years old,  playing kickball at the field I was next to. They were a joy to listen to and observe because they were so genuine and so much just who they were without any shame or other emotions on top of it. Not guarded, not afraid, just living in the moment and being who they were. So beautiful.

"I do better when the ball is more deflated because it's easier to kick around," I heard a  kid at the  soccer field  say to himself. He made it seem so easy - without any shame or self-consciousness - he evaluated himself, figured out what his strengths were, and figured out a plan of action. No kicking himself because he needed the ball deflated, no tears because his needs were (or weren't, this is hypothetical) different from others, no shame for having the need, just.... This is how I do better, and this is what I should do about it.

So... I do better with environments that don't have a lot of sensory information, because I am sensitive to sensory information. So I will try to seek them out, whenever possible. I do better when I have avenues to express my emotions, either through writing, talking, or even crying and having meltdowns when I need to. I do better when my emotions can come out, even when it's somewhat violently. I do better when I allow my body to express its unfettered agitation and feeling, until it passes. I am only human, and this is a human need, to express emotion. People do it differently. My way is not wrong. Just like the kid with the soccer ball un-self consciously assessing his needs and then acting on them, I need to act on my needs - for emotional expression and for sensory comfort - and just do it and be done with it, no shame needed, shame is a nasty emotion that just gets in the way. It's not that I don't do these things, but I don't do them without shame. I don't think I would even know what my emotional expression and selfhood would even look like without the many layers of shame I have put on top of them. But I'd like to find out.

This isn't to say I can get expect to get my way all the time, because I know I won't. That is a fact of life. Since I have very little ability to tolerate when my sensory and emotional needs are not met, I will try very, very hard to seek environments that do fit my needs, however. But those times when my needs are not met and I fall apart - I need to see, I want to see, that this is merely an inevitable, and perfectly normal and understandable and valid, reaction to attempting something that for me has a difficulty level off the charts, and feeling the very warranted side effects of that happening. I always am able to get through my emotions and move on, but it always also leaves me feeling slightly traumatized, because the experience of shame and self hatred for having the reaction and the upset moves me so far from my center. But if you think about it.... I express, to both myself and others, that I have these emotional and sensory needs. If, when I don't get them met, these things happen, meltdowns happen, it seems I have two options. One, I could see it as a perfectly logical thing to follow pushing myself into a really difficult place (and validate for myself that it was difficult), or I could punish myself relentlessly for even having attempted to do something difficult for me, punish myself for having a natural reaction, and just generally make myself 100x more miserable. Why would I voluntarily choose to do the latter? My poor body and soul. The answer is because I didn't choose it voluntarily. But it feels validating to hear from someone important to me that my way is valid and that there is no reason for self hatred. I start to see that maybe there might be another option.

I feel scared, for some reason. Granted, I usually always feel scared, but this feels different. I wonder if I am afraid what is below the level of shame. I wonder if perhaps without being able to "get lost" in the shame (as if anyone could ever want to get lost in such an awful thing), if I am worried I will be too focused simply on how truly difficult it is to be me. From eating, emotional expression, figuring out how to talk to people, dealing with my emotions, trying to maintain a sense of calm in a body that is anything but in most environments... Each day is so exhausting with very little pay-off. But if I could start to do all these things without shame, maybe my level of and number of emotional connections would increase, and it would make it easier to handle all the difficult things. I can only hope.

I like... I hope.... I breathe.. .I am... You see, we're not that different... you and me... Colin Raye song =)

Going to finish writing my other blog and go to bed soon. And try to remember to breathe and self validate.

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