“We need to work to get you outside of your comfort zone,” she tells me. Doesn’t she know that all things are outside of my comfort zone? Over the years I have said this to people, and they all laugh… it is no joke.
I get up out of bed, and I worry about the day. My skin itches – I cannot put on enough lotion to overcome the drying effects of the air. The world is blurry. I need glasses to correct my vision, but they give me headaches, and make me dizzy. I wear contacts, which irritate my eyes, but are better than glasses.
The food that I eat might taste good, but more often makes me nauseous. After eating, my stomach almost always hurts. If I can stay home, I might be able to work to settle it – but if I have to go out, the anxiety will make it worse.
If things are out of place, a couch or table is ‘askew’, or perhaps some water was spilled on the counter, my skin will crawl. If the floor is wet at all (perhaps a splash from the sink, or a drop from a tea mug) or if it feels dirty (I sweep nearly every day, but there is always something) I am up walking on my toes, and wishing I could hover.
If I put on shoes, my toes hurt. A tag, seam, or twist in an article of clothing will make me squirm – and even tear the clothes apart trying to tear the tag off if I can’t fix it easily. My scalp is almost always irritated.
If the day is dark, I am very tired and irritable. If the sun is bright, I have to squint, and very quickly get a headache. Any noise that I haven’t chosen will become a focus point, and leave me angry. The pressure from wearing noise canceling headphones gives me a headache, and anything set in my ears makes my ears itchy, and gives me an earache.
When I am cold, I tense up, to the point of pain. When I am hot, I struggle to think or breathe.
All day long, no matter where I am, my environment is attacking me. If I am home, I can have some control over it. If I have to go out, I always get overwhelmed. People, crowds, smells, sounds, traffic, detours, construction, open spaces… everything is too, too, too much for me – and that is just the sensory.
I have failed so often to meet other people’s expectations of me that I am always afraid. I am afraid of saying or doing the wrong things, wearing the wrong clothes, being seen, being judged, being hurt. So are other people… I get that. I do. I know that some other people obsess as much as I do about every word they have spoken – or how long they have remained quiet – but not most.
I freeze up at the thought of talking to people. Doing things with them is worse. It can take me days, or even weeks, to bring something up with my husband – who is highly supportive – and even then I shake as I speak.
People tell me it gets easier with time – just push yourself… But I have. For years I pushed myself – to go to school, to run my daycare, to try to adopt, to talk to the specialists, to go to work, to be social… it never got easier. With time, it only ever got harder.
To stay home is hard. To go out is worse. So if I am here, at home, on my computer… cleaning the house, ignoring unwelcome sounds and smells… eating with others, going to church, attending Bible study, writing my story… know that I am doing all I can.
It may not look like normal to you – this life of mine – but when the very act of living and breathing is beyond my comfort zone, please, PLEASE, don’t ask me to do more.