I clutch the bar of the stroller and rock it back and forth, even though the baby is scampering about the room. The movement keeps my shaking hands hidden from view. I feel the tension in my shoulders and neck. The room begins to go out of focus. There is a roar in my ear. My heartbeat is picking up. My pores open in a flood of sweat. I need to get out of here. NOW.
One look across the room and my husband is at my side, herding me and the kids out the door into the sunlight. I take deep breaths of the fresh air and wipe the tears off my eyes. Slowly, steadily, we walk up the street and as we round the corner towards our house I feel my heart return to me. I walk into my living room, flooded with natural lighting and listen to the hum of the refrigerator and relax. Here, I am safe.
Most of the time I say I’m not so social. It’s hard to explain how the sound of three or more voices competing to be heard turns into hi-dub chatters in my ear. It’s hard to explain how different scents of perfume, food, and drink mix in my nostrils to create a sickening sensation in my stomach. It’s hard to explain the assault my eyes experience when fluorescent lighting meets marble floors and columns. And it’s impossible to explain how my heart drops when those sensations cause me to cower in the corner as you walk by and either pretend I’m not there, glance at me with discomfort, or worse, disdain.
My coping mechanism for the anxiety that is usually triggered by an overload on my senses is not to put myself in a position of unnecessary vulnerability. It works for me. I am happier staying at home, going to a less crowded park, only hosting small families and knowing when to say no. I live within my boundaries not because I’m afraid but because there are some challenges in life that are not meant to be overcome. Anxiety is a challenge that I work with and around. It’s hard for me to go to parties. I don’t go often. If I have to attend a function, I take along my knowledge of who I am, my ability to know when I’ve reached my limit and the security I feel from those who care to understand me.
So the next time you see me in the corner, sweat glistening off my forehead, panic in my eyes, try a little tenderness or a small smile as you walk on by.
But don’t you dare judge me.
6 thoughts on “That’s Me In The Corner”
Hey, it’s sensory overload! I pray I never lose the power I gained the day I was in a loud, large, loud crowd. I was huddled on my chair, hyperventilating, stuck, frozen, *loud*, until my friend leaned over, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “You can leave, you know.” I looked at her in shock. I left. And I fell back into place.
You know, I never thought of my reaction to sensory overload as “anxiety”, but it is a panic attack. Thank you for pointing that out. Also, I’d suggest reading up on sensory integration issues. I have yet to find anything for sensory integration in adults, but the stuff about kids is still pretty useful.
I have sensory processing problems, and therefore anxiety. Mine isn’t just in big crowds, it’s in indoor places with too many noises and lights. It’s with my own kids when they run around the house being loud and crazy and you know, like kids. It was at school when the florescent lights buzzed above me and the teacher would say “what’s the answer to the question on the chalk board?” and I would panic. My heartbeat in my ears and my chest pounding I would feel like fainting but instead would feel absolutely paralyzed.
I too have found a way to make allowances for my situation. Davening in shul for long hours AIN’T gonna happen. Going to formal meetings of any kind don’t happen. I focus on big spaces (like parks) so there is plenty fo room for voices and carry–even loud ones–without funneling directly into my ear canal.
If nothing else all this certainly helps me to understand my daughter’s sensory processing issues.
I don’t have anxiety, but I’m not very social. I’m much more of an introvert. And for years, it bothered me a lot. I hated big parties. I was never able to go over to a crowd of people talking and join their conversation. And if I ever had to be in a situation like that, I’d worry about it in advance and I hated every minute there. But now, I’m comfortable with who I am. I do better one on one or in small groups. It’s just who I am. If I’m uncomfortable at a party, I won’t go. And if I have to go, and I’m sitting alone in a corner, I’m ok with that. I don’t mind observing. Everyone’s different.
glad to see all your experiences. i think it’s empowering to take something that can cause loneliness and fear and bring it out into the open with compassionate validation. we are all awesome:)
Yes, you ARE all awesome. EVERYONE has their stuff, no one has the right to judge it. As if the world was full of perfection except poor, messed up you. AS IF.
This is such a gorgeous piece of writing. And yes, yes, we all have our own stuff, and yes, people too often judge what they cannot understand. Love and understanding to you hun.