This article is more or less an expansion of a post I made on a Facebook group I am in, while I was deeply struggling with verbal communication last spring.
I have been struggling with verbal communication lately. Sometimes when I am stressed or chronically over stimulated my words seem to dry up or stall. I used to call it autistic survival mode. There are, for me two main symptoms of survival mode, insomnia and difficulty with communicating comfortably, on all levels. I used to say where there were supposed to be words, it felt like there were walls instead. Big concrete, insurmountable walls.
Last night while I was tossing and turning with insomnia my worry brain latched onto the idea of trying to describe my difficulty communicating during these phases. After all, it is not as if I don’t want to communicate with people, and it doesn’t exactly feel like I can’t. It’s also not like anxiety(for me) where I am second guessing everything to the point of nausea. I thought maybe if I could describe it, I could handle it better, or at least, have words for explaining it to people. Maybe that would help me feel less guilty…hopefully.
In trying to figure out how to describe this almost physical sensation, I decided my discussions are sometimes like a big bag with several little red serving boxes of French fries inside. They may be a bit mixed up, pointing every which way, maybe a couple even spilled inside the bag. But they exist and they smell delicious. I’m hungry. I want to eat my fries.
I set my big bag of fries beside my lazy boy (in this imagining I have a lazy boy, cozy) with every intention of eating them. Though the room I am in, is not a typical room. There is one huge, television in front of me, and surrounding it are an endless seeming array of somewhat smaller televisions.
The central tv is playing a continuous loop of every comforting thing in my universe. It has hot coffee on rainy days, fuzzy blankets, firm hugs, thick cushy socks, deep pressure, and many other comforting sensations and visions. It’s hypnotic.
However if I look away from that central tv, each one of the smaller televisions are playing an equally endless and attention captivating loop of every miserable sensation I have ever had, nails on chalkboard, burlap, top sheets, itchy fabrics, sock seams, bright light, loud sounds, crowds, lots of people talking at once, each tv competing with the others in an overwhelming cacophony of misery.
So of course I look at the central screen, with its soothing hypnosis. Eventually, with practice and many mishaps, I figure out how to reach for my fries while specifically not looking away from the tv with the comfort movie. Only to find, with the best of intentions, someone (spoiler, it was me) has taken my fries, put them in a locked box, and hidden it behind the wall of screens.
Now I have to search behind each individual screen. It’s utterly exhausting and sometimes sometimes physically impossible. Once I find it, I have to rip that screen off the wall (it dangles, playing it’s loop even louder), dig into the physical wall with bare hands and force open the locked box. I’m only able to dig out one French fry at a time. Each time I manage to pull a single fry out, the room resets. I have to go through the entire process again to get another fry.
It’s deeply, completely exhausting and can make it impossible for me to communicate verbally with anyone outside of my most trusted family members. Even just attempting to force myself to talk when I am feeling like this will often result in anxiety, depression, negative self talk, and panic attacks. Being forced to communicate and function in the every day world is usually devastating to my already limited energy reserves during these times and can result for even more protracted periods of insomnia and communication difficulty.
When every word is a battle, everything is exhausting.