I am naked in a mason jar. The lid descends, shutting off my oxygen. I can feel the air leaving my lungs, squeezing them slowly. I cannot move.
That is how I feel on the inside. On the outside, I look normal, or as normal as I am. The stress and anxiety that I feel on the inside are hiding from other people. I am so very good at hiding how I am feeling.
But it comes out in other ways. I become moody, grumpy and will lash out at the slightest perceived infraction. I am frustrated, and I don’t know what to do about how I feel. And I don’t know how to explain it to other people.
How Do I?
How do I explain what it is like being me to people who are, well, not me? I have difficulty figuring it out to explain it to myself, let alone other people who are not in my head. I want to figure this stuff out to explain—both to myself and other people.
And what hasn’t worked is trying to explain to people that I feel unsafe. I think the confusion has been that people focus on the word ‘unsafe.’ In their minds, I am in danger. But that isn’t what I mean at all.
And so, I talked with my therapist about needing a better, different way to express how it feels to be me. And dang, my therapist came up with the best description – the mason jar, naked, lack of oxygen. That description was exactly how I feel and now I have a better way of explaining.
The Two O’s
Overstimulated and overwhelmed. Those two O’s is how I end up naked in a mason jar. I don’t feel like that all of the time. Generally, I feel relatively good, aside from the depression, anxiety, C-PTSD stuff.
I get to the point of meltdown when I am feeling constantly bombarded, and I don’t have introvert burrito time. I blame my brain for all of this. My poor brain struggles to process all of the information.
When that happens, my critter brain senses that I am in danger. And it begins to override the higher functioning parts of my brain. Triggering the fight, flight, freeze or appease responses.1
The Opposite of Self-Care
On the inside, I am naked in a mason jar. On the outside, I am getting frustrated, angry even, and everything irritates and annoys me. I am aware that those are not necessarily appropriate feelings. And so I do what I have been doing my whole life; holding those feelings inside.
But then when I do that I am not taking care of myself at all. I am doing the opposite. I am continuing to hurt myself, deny myself my real feelings because my real feelings are not acceptable. In part because I don’t understand my feelings well enough.
A considerable part, the foundational part of self-care, is knowing yourself well enough to know what you need. And act on what you need, to put up healthy boundaries – to take care of yourself. I know what I have been doing my whole life is not taking care of myself. As I try to figure out that, I will make mistakes, stumble, but I will continue to learn.
Why Am I Like This?
Why am I like this? Well, that is definitely the million-dollar question. There are some answers to the question of why. But there is a deeper question, a better question, what happened to me?
Well, for one, I endured YEARS of abuse. I now realize that I am most likely in the category of complex PTSD. Complex PTSD shares similar symptoms with PTSD, which is why it is not (yet) a separate diagnosis. Complex PTSD is what happens when someone, usually a child, is traumatized for months, more often years.
Homebody aka Introvert
Two, I am an introvert. I was born an introvert. I think that the abuse caused me to turn inward more than if I hadn’t been abused. But based on what I have read being an introvert is how my brain formed. I prefer calm and quiet environments.
Third, I am a highly sensitive person. I see being an HSP as an introvert’s introvert. I am introverted times one hundred. That is how I define being an HSP, it isn’t the official definition. I think I was born an HSP, there are commonalities between HSP and hypervigilance, the latter a skill I picked up during childhood.
- Depth of processing, meaning you pick up on even small stimuli and you process information very deeply
- Overstimulation, which happens because HSPs are processing so much information all the time. HSPs can feel overwhelmed or “wiped out,” and usually need alone time in a low-stimulus environment to come back down from overstimulation.
- Empathy, or strong emotional reactions. An HSP picks up not just on physical stimuli, but social and emotional cues as well — and they have more active mirror neurons, which allow them to feel a deep empathy and understanding of other people.
- Sensing the subtle — in other words, picking up on even very minor things that other miss and making connections that others may not.
Combinations of Things
I take all of those things, and I look at the definitions. Then I look at how I am, and I think, ‘Yeah, that makes sense that I have c-PTSD, am an introvert, and an HSP. I take all of those things together, and it is a wonder that I can even leave my house.
But I do because I won’t let those things dictate how I live my life. I used to ignore how I felt or drank A LOT of alcohol to numb it, which is another way of ignoring something. But those feelings have been with me my entire life. At least now I am looking at them, trying to figure out how I exist in this world.
As I work on self-care, and I work on learning myself better, I realize that I do need to put into action what I need. Over the last several weeks, my anxiety has been high. I have been overstimulated overwhelmed and oversocialized. I have ‘OVERED’ myself. It took me a week to recover from that.
I need to stop ‘overing’ me.
- (October 6, 2020) Trauma Response and Complex PTSD: Fight, Flight, Freeze, Appease. Retrieved from https://medium.com/fearless-she-wrote/trauma-response-and-complex-ptsd-fight-flight-freeze-appease-2da4cf76a8be
- What is C-PTSD? (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.beautyafterbruises.org/what-is-cptsd
- What is an Introvert? (n.d.) Retrieved from https://introvertdear.com/what-is-an-introvert-definition/
- Is Being an HSP a Disorder? (n.d.) Retrieved from https://highlysensitiverefuge.com/is-hsp-a-disorder/