I’ve been going through a downswing in energy lately. When there isn’t energy to spare I especially feel the energetic costs of trying to maintain my semblance of normality. The expectations surrounding “normality” differ from place to place, but they are still there. No matter how much one is encouraged to be themselves and walk their own unique way (which in my experience I have ended up doing anyway, mostly by necessity), unless one wants to be a hermit, there are times when we have to interact with the world by its rules. When one does not have an innate reference for social cues that everyone else seems to be born with then one has to carefully memorize routines rules of engagement and that takes an amazing amount of processing power to keep up, to behave normally socially, to not be overwhelmed by too much happening at once. This is fine when I am manic, but in depressive mode, for me characterized by lethargy and low energy, I find myself struggling to keep up. Losing my tenuous ability to verbalize what goes through my head and appearing like I’m not intelligent enough to speak coherently doesn’t help.
At times like these I still want to participate, to keep up with what is going on in the group, but it seems all I can manage is to float back to being an observer. And somehow this doesn’t feel like quite enough. I am always acutely aware when expectations are not being met. In this case I feel like I need to speak up more. Like somehow not always having something to say is not ok. Like I am being creepy. I have noticed people pulling away during these periods, and I have noticed myself pulling away, not wanting to burden others with my burgeoning negativity, amplified by what I am perceiving. Sometimes I do just have to pull away and recover too, as all the mental filters break down and everything seems too unpleasantly loud. But it doesn’t have to be this way. I have felt happy and content to be in low energy mode. When people around me bother to slow down, in a way that recognizes the extra moment and encouragement I need without being condescending, and accommodate me, I can function perfectly fine. Is that too much to ask for?
I’m noticing that this struggle is still happening. It seems to be getting harder to cope, associated with higher levels of anxiety that come more frequently. All despite my having surrounded myself with understanding aware folk. Safe spaces, where people have made a commitment to understand each individual human being for who they are. Spaces where I’ve made contributions, I’ve established myself. Yet it seems like people forget all too readily. I feel like I have to contribute all the time, to be positive all the time, to be on, to be socially adept, to continue to be part of the gang. I feel like maybe in these liberal circles being linguistically able is a badge of recognition and if I don’t have it then I don’t belong. Never mind that I’ve demonstrated amply in the past that I am capable of this. I kind of despair that I’ll never be able to be part of the group, simply because I cannot be “on” all the time. Sometimes I view this condition as akin to having a stuck valve, somewhere in my body. Someone else came up with this analogy, and it fits well.
With work, populated by much less understanding folk, or who, instead of viewing this as just another facet of me, look pityingly upon it as a disability, I suck it up, breathe through the anxiety, and force myself into a routine to make sure I am physically there when I need to be as best as I can. Then I go home and I hole up and I almost throw up. Or I put some video series on to dull the mind until the waves of dissatisfaction and anxiety recede.