Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Margie's meetup, overcoming difficulty

Rambling from  Facebook I wanted to save somewhere about overcoming difficulty to go to the meetup I go to tonight, and hoping I can apply this to other areas of my life.

Let's see if I can put these thoughts into words before I forget them. I worked hard to figure out how to calm the racing thoughts today. I want to keep it up. I spent... a lot of time trying to figure out if I should go to my meetup tonight, because I had been informed by email before that there was a new rug that may bother me. So... the argument in my head was basically "I have no idea how bad it will be, how can I make myself go somewhere where I'll be captive to whatever it is? How can I make myself handle that stress when I have so much else to deal with?" versus "If I don't go, I'll just be wandering around Portland all night lost in my increasingly distressed thoughts. I DON'T WANT THAT. I WANT PEOPLE."  along with the realization that my determination and ability to put emotional connection with others first and foremost before my desire to avoid physically challenging situations would be a skill I really need to develop for the rest of my life.... and that this would be a good test for the apartment, to work on tolerating a space I didn't find particularly comfortable for the good of connecting to others.

Surprisingly after I made this decision I felt somewhat calm.... and resolute. There was a smell of something , a feeling of something, but I was calm. It's an interesting feeling, walking into a building fully expecting something to assault you, at least sensory wise - but hoping it won't. I am sure to some degree it heightens the senses and makes incoming sensory information exagerated, so senses are not always reliable. At the same time, though, with me, if I can be prepared, a flow of adrenaline or some other unidentified substance seems to be working overtime to stop or block the anxious thoughts about the smell. So, on the one hand I'm more aware of sensory information, but on the other hand I've got my shields up so I'm more prepared to deal with it.

I focused on the taste of my smoothie which I still had with me, and associated the positive taste of that with the place instead of the anxiety I was feeling. I focused on the sound of M's voice as I came in. Something was affecting me, but I would be hard pressed to describe it. It was an awareness of feeling off, feeling uncomfortable, but also on the one hand an awareness of being in the presence of something wonderful, emotionally. I stood there resting against the banister of the stairwell, listening to people speak, thinking, "Well, if all I can do is stand here and listen, I'll be okay." Listening to someone talk about the duality of life, I had to laugh, since it was exactly what I was thinking about. There were some great themes and examples of other people struggling with jealousy about wanting to be more like others in their lives tonight, that I could really relate to and needed to hear. Stories of others who had looked to other people for love and "fixing" and to hold them up and then found they needed to hold themselves up. Emotionally, it was a very interesting night to listen, although most of the emotions I couldn't actually feel, because when I am trying to block out my thoughts to just be in a place, I have to block out all of them, good and bad, and my only way to access them is to try to process what I can remember afterwards, usually in writing.

Anyway, I thought "Okay, I think I can tolerate being in the house. Let's go further and see." I had worried about being in the room, but it became clear that I could easily sidestep that problem by sitting in a chair on the edge of the room. Far away enough from both the floor and rug that although I was still aware of it, I wouldn't have to be overwhelmed by it .I felt affected physically, but wanting to participate emotionally. The discussion topics made it easy to do so, because there was so much emotionally meaty stuff being discussed. While I had to put effort into talking, somehow my anxiety valve got shut off along with all the other thoughts I was trying to suppress, so while it was hard it was also not hard at all, which is an interesting duality. Emotionally ,it was easier than usual. Physically, it was harder. Can those two really exist at the same time? I guess they can . And did.

There was a new person I really liked, who I exchanged contact info with. There was another new person who was an OT who worked with kids with sensory processing issues. She didn't know of any resources for adults but said she'd ask. None of the child OTs seem to know. I 'm told by people I'm going to have to blaze my own path. I guess they're probably right. Some autism centric conversation followed. I spent the first part trying to figure out if I knew the guy on the right. Face recognition issues are lovely. Sometimes you can't even figure out if you know someone, let alone what to say to them. In fairness, I was across the room from him. Up close, I could see that I did not know him.

The level of emotional intensity... For me the level of emotional intensity was very low, because as I said, if I allowed emotions in they would focus on the physical stimuli and make it impossible for me to be there. And that is exactly what happened when I started to relax a little, they came rushing back in. So  it's not an environment to relax in, but to function in is good enough. It's not like I came back being like "I had so many emotional connections" but I DID have emotionally meaningful conversation, and a "lite" version of connection, and I did it in the presence of a significant negative sensory factor, which is unusual for me. I still don't know if it was the fragrance on someone who was there or the rug that bothered me, actually, but that's not significant. And I got a hug at the end and good hugs always make me happy. =)

We talked a lot about... I am losing the thought. I am working on not identifying with my panic. Before I left, listening to the radio at the public market, the weather came on, and triggered its usual panic response. I told myself, This is good practice. Practice being with your panic and realizing that it's okay. Practice tolerating the feeling of panic. I did, for a minute or two. I managed to listen to the forecast, which is triggering to me often in the summer, and try to say "You see this feeling? Don't identify with it. It's a trick! You're really safe, and okay, and fine, and nothing bad is happening in the moment! Don't identify with it!" I did for the rest of the evening, but it remains to be seen whether or not I can continue to do it on a consistent basis.

But yeah. I figured having a goal to work towards tonight even if difficult would be far better than the alternative.

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