Sunday, 15 February 2015

Of camels and straws

Life is a little delicate at the moment.

It's been a busy couple of months - I've moved, and am now living alone again instead of sharing with family.  I've ended up involved in some community theatre type stuff, which is going terribly well.  And I've started learning Auslan, because a) I flap ferociously when I talk anyway so I might as well do something productive with those movements, and b) given my ongoing sensory problems with noise and being able to hear and speak in loud environments, I reckon the basics of a non-verbal language would be a really useful addition to my personal toolkit.

But, this flurry of activity brings a problem:

There's only so much I can handle, and taking on extra stuff either means something has to give, or like the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back I'll collapse under the weight of it all and end up in an overwhelmed puddle of tears, pain and hopelessness.

In related news, I recently ended up in an overwhelmed puddle of tears, pain and hopelessness.

 I reckon there are a couple of issues at play here:

1.  Sensory stuff.  Because my brain doesn't filter stuff out like most do, I have to consciously handle a lot of noise, smells, textures and other inputs most people aren't even aware of unless they concentrate.  That takes energy.  It's why I'm done with a party or trip to the show a lot sooner than most people: it's just too much, and I'm exhausted.

2.  Focus!  While my many experiments in finding techniques and tools and systems to get myself organised are just about keeping my head above water, none of it comes naturally to me.  I'm easily distracted, I struggle to focus on anything (even my special interests, really) and generally the inside of my head looks a bit like this.  (Caution: autoplay video.)  That means it takes me longer to get things done than you'd expect, so sometimes I end up overwhelmed by what would be a normal workload for someone else.

3.  Depression.  It's a bitch, yo.

4.  I don't have the support network to back me up.  If I'm home late after an Auslan class or rehearsal there won't be dinner in the oven thanks to a helpful partner or housemate, there's nobody to help out with the extra housework that comes with living alone, there's nobody to hold me if I just need a damn good cry.  99% of the time I am completely OK with this.  I choose to live alone because not having anyone to split the chores with or come and see that hilarious cat video is a fair exchange for not having to deal with the inevitable interpersonal awkwardness and drama.  But I need to remember, when I'm comparing myself to other people, that they've probably got a network I don't.

5.  There are a whole bunch of life skills I've been slow to learn, because at the age I should have been learning them I was dealing with the whole depression, anxiety, undiagnosed Aspergers thing.  I don't just mean practical things (although I just learned the other day you can take the knobs off your stove to clean it.  Who knew?) but a lot of stuff related to focus, organisation, and emotional regulation and resilience too.  I'm learning.  But I'm freakin' slow.

When everything's going well, it's tempting to add one more straw to the camel and one more and one more. And it's tempting to get slack about the systems and supports that are keeping things going well.  I know it's really dangerous to be complacent - this isn't my first experience with overwhelmed puddlehood, and certainly not my worst - but it's very easy to be lulled into a false sense of security when your camel looks so sturdy.

Go easy on the straw.