I’m going to take a big risk here and be totally transparent. And raw. I have spent a lot of time this summer reflecting. For the most part, I’m a pretty open book. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I don’t have much trouble putting it out there. Then there are those times when I need to close myself off. It’s not a choice, but an absolute necessity. The walls go up. I become distant and even the simplest social setting is exhausting to the point that I need to sleep to recover. I would rather stay home with my husband and kids than venture out into the world. I guess hiding is a form of self-care for me.
The me they see
I’m pretty much a “what you see is what you get” person. I’m direct, honest and sometimes a bit blunt. I’m loud. I am opinionated, but can handle others’ opinions in a reasonable dialogue. I’m fairly open about most things. I’m fluent in sarcasm and I find most things in life amusing. Mom always said, “It’s better to have laugh lines than frown lines.” My mom was right. I laugh, a lot. I can be the life of the party, when I am able.
The me they don’t see
The key phrase is “when I am able”. Truth: I’m not always able. I have spent most of my summer struggling with social situations. I’ve avoided most social events, except for church, Bible study and our usual Saturday club breakfasts.
I did venture out to one activity one night but for the entire first half of the evening I sat glued to my phone. When someone made the comment about several of us being on our phones at a party, I decided to just be completely honest, “This is my wall. I need to stay behind it right now.” We actually had a really great conversation, we got each other. She understood my need for my “wall”. One-on-one was okay, I could deal with those odds. A crowd was too much. Once half the crowd was gone I felt safe to come out from behind the wall. I was even able to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening.
The me that hides
Unfortunately, sitting in a social situation glued to your iPhone is generally considered rude. But if they only knew. The cost of coming out from behind my wall can be so high.
I’ve spent several months withdrawing from an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication that is not a healthy choice for me. Please, if you are on medication, do not think I am bashing you, or condemning you. I am not. But I had to look at myself and my personal situation and decide what was best for me. It was a very hard decision and it has been very hard on me both physically and emotionally.
I was prepared for the physical withdrawal. I spent months doing research and reading what others had gone through. I talked with my Nurse Practitioner and we agreed on a plan to wean me off the medication. But nothing, and I mean NOTHING, could have prepared me for the emotional withdrawal. I felt emotions I had forgotten existed. Everything made, and still makes me cry. I hate to cry!
Add to this that I am an HSP, or Highly Sensitive Person and it has all been completely overwhelming. That doesn’t mean I am just sensitive, get triggered easily or get my feelings hurt easily. It’s the way God created me.
The me that shares
I say all this because I know I am not alone. I am not the only person who is sitting on their phone in a crowd, hiding. I am not the only person who cries herself to sleep and can’t explain why. I am not the only person who fears, yes fears, going into social situations where I am expected to be “on.” I am not the only person who has to have quiet for at least a small part of the day to keep it together. I am not the only person who wonders if people hate me because I’m hiding. There are so many of us out there. I want you to know, you are not alone!! And it’s okay. I get you.
Take care of you. Develop some means of self-care, even if it is just taking a nap or taking time to read, take a walk or be creative. It is not selfish – it is necessary. Allow yourself to feel. It’s okay.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m saying, thank God right now that you don’t. You don’t want to understand it, trust me. But if you love someone who does there are things you can do to help them. First, make sure they are getting the help they need. Support them even when you don’t understand. Give them quiet and space. Allow them to cry and don’t expect explanations. You may not get them. It’s not because they don’t want to tell you, but because they may not even be able to explain it themselves. Validate their feelings. Don’t betray their trust in you. Don’t say things implying that they don’t have a reason to cry or that they are overreacting. Encourage them to be open and share how they feel. Pick up on their physical queues – know when they are reaching their limit and it’s time for a break.
For the rest of you, don’t assume the woman on her phone is being rude. She may be hiding. But guess what, she can handle a one-on-one conversation, although she won’t likely initiate one. She is probably nice, funny and would be a good friend. But she is also scared. She probably doesn’t trust easily. It may take some time to really get to know her. But it is probably worth the time.