Having worked in a number of medical and psychotherapeutic environments, I understood what it meant. After I got over the initial shock of yet another thing wrong with me (I am hard on myself) and something I could add to over weight, nail biting, occasional lisp and stutter, now I had a psychotherapist telling me I was (officially) a stress case.
Great. Wish I could say I didn’t already know, but I was hoping I was wrong.
Growing up in our house, my sister used to ask me why my Mom went to bed so early. I used to tell a half lie. “She has a hard job Kim and her body hurts, so she has to go to bed early”. I left out the part where my Mother took prescription Tylenol #3 (I call the elephant gun Tylenol’s). She wouldn’t just take one… she took them like they were candy, and downed them with a beer (when we had beer in the house), a glass of homemade wine or a large mug of strong tea.
And she would get into her nightgown and check out of life for the evening. Pretty much every single night. And I suppose as a kid, I always thought she was upset or sad, but most of the time I thought she hated us. People kept telling me I was wrong about my Mother but it turns out, thirty years later, that I was bang on. She hated her life. She resented her marriage, and her kids were pawns and an inconvenience to her.
I know I am over sensitive. I forgive myself because clearly, I didn’t ask to be this sensitive. It is who I am. It is also what allows me to write the things that I do with the sensitivity or playfulness that people enjoy reading. My talent is a byproduct of my emotional sensitivity and I love being a writer. Therefore, at the age of 42, I embrace my sensitivity. God gave it to me for a reason, even if it makes my life more difficult, particularly when dealing with less sensitive (or kind) people.
And I am a grudge holder because when you have hurt me deeply… I make sure you never get the chance to do it a second time. Unless you are my Mother of course. She’s burned the bridge about 6 times now (and this time… she nuked the foundation irreparably). I will always care because that is who I AM. I will not be THERE for her ever again, because that is who SHE IS.
I tried anti-anxiety medications for a year (the year of my divorce in fact). Perhaps the fairly Zen like proceedings of my divorce were assisted by a numbed down chemical state. I couldn’t think on those medications (we tried three, my doctor and I). I felt like a zombie. I felt depressed and lacked the energy to care and do most things. I hated the medications and took myself off of them, and began to do other things.
Like drink. And for a time after my divorce I experienced my College years again. I drank Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to complete drunkenness every single week. On a tight budget, I ate french fries and rice a lot to afford my Vodka. Nice huh? But life in my little apartment with no car was lonely, and frightening. Dating again was scary and as much as I feigned bravado, I was frequently taken advantage of by guys I later dubbed “psycho’s”. The truth is that I was vulnerable, too trusting and a little lost. I blame myself for being such an easy mark.
Someone suggested that I take a test online to check for addiction. Sounds stupid right, but the result was like 100% problematic drinking. I recalled how my Mom “checked out” with her pain killers and stimulants. I recalled how my Dad “checked out” with his obsession with working himself to death and staying busy to avoid his marriage. I recalled some of the boyfriends I had who were recovering drug addicts (Cory liked heroin … nothing scarier than hearing someone describe how to inject between the toes). David was an alcoholic (and tried to bang down my apartment door with a bottle of Jack, leering through the mail slot while my kindly neighbor called the big Russian superintendent).
Sometimes I drink. I like drinking and the sense of momentary happiness and escape it gives me. Unfortunately on some of the medications I am on, I have learned that alcohol can increase instances of migraines. My discovery of a new local craft beer I love coincided with with a string of headaches over the last three weeks… sometimes I am slow to connect the dots.
When people are “wasted” they say things that have a certain tinge to them. It is honesty most of the time in its most raw form, but it is also biting in many ways. I love good sarcasm, but sometimes people get mean when they drink. And as pathetic as I think it is for me to be triggered by that at the ripe old age of 42, I feel uncomfortable when I am sober and other people are not. Because as a sober, sensitive writer type person… I am listening acutely to the truisms that are coming out of your mouth. And they are hurting me…when I detect the malice (however subtle) or judgmental tones in it.
Sensitive people are like sponges. We don’t want to absorb everything but we do.
I wish I could “check out” too. Daily. Have 3-4 glasses of wine until I stop caring about things that are bothering me. But the problem is that when I am inebriated, the opposite happens. I stop listening to people around me and turn inward, where a whole bunch of other things are waiting for me. Pain from rejection and anger toward my parents. Worry for certain family members who have medical problems. Worry about my ability to grow my business. Worry about fitting in here in Texas, about being far from so many people I love… worry about my health…
When I am sober, I am absorbing every possible sarcastic nuance and personal political interaction.
When I am not sober, I am cannibalizing myself with things I cannot fix, change, forgive or even understand most times.
Perhaps writers are solitary creatures because of sensory overload. Or perhaps it is far easier to manage the internal dialogue alone, rather than flipping a switch between the external observances and the internal dialogue.
Maybe some people are too smart or damaged to ever really “check out”. And maybe I am jealous of you, because you can. Without the same consequences that I experience.