I need proof, don’t wanna leave it up to my imagination, everybody’s got their own interpretation, maybe I don’t deserve an explanation

 

(What I Hear—Jessie Daniels)

 

I was reading a what it is like to be me description from a person who had experienced bullying. Aside from the emotional component, I really identified with what the person said about hearing. He said that when he doesn’t respond to his name it doesn’t mean he is being rude or ignoring you—it just means that he probably didn’t hear you even if you think he should have, because he has difficulty separating the foreground from the background noise, missing the forest for the trees, and the name gets lost in all the background information. That is such a good way to describe a frustration I’ve been trying to put words to for years. When I was in middle school I described it as if all the words someone was saying were being molded out of peanut butter, and I had to read them to understand, but the words had been smeared together and stepped on. I can see what I am pretty sure might be this or that letter, but am guessing at what was supposed to be between them, and maybe there is a really clear letter but it has been pushed out of place, and I have no idea where that was supposed to be. In my case, I compensate by watching facial expression for clues as to what the missed words were and responding as if I heard my name to a wide variety of sounds. Not perfect, but it works for me…I also listen to music pretty close to constantly so that it drowns out some of the outside noises to at least decrease the sheer number of sounds I have to decipher. That does mean that in class when I can’t listen to music I am still very attuned to the email notification in the back of the room and the people whispering in the corner and the on and off of the fans and the cars honking outside…not to mention the visual distraction of watching cars drive past…212 is a better room for lectures than 111 despite the extra flight of stairs it requires simply because there is less visual distraction out the windows…

 

Another story I read recently that hit me like a knife through my heart, was about a selectively mute girl in a class with a Russian student who did not speak English. The girl and the Russian student had an aide, but no one in the school spoke Russian. The teacher gave directions, but no one could figure out how to give the Russian student directions he could understand. While the aide was distracted with something else, the girl got up and without saying a word explained what to do to the Russian student in a way he could understand. Besides just the piece of my heart that goes out to anyone whose voice is silenced, and especially when it is silenced in a way I have been like selective mutism, this really hit home, because it was a reminder that there is so much more to communication than use of words and language. Not that I would ever recommend being unable to speak, but eliminating that method of obtaining information allows you to become much more fluent in alternative forms of communication…which is probably also why I sometimes have to be reminded to use an interpreter, because I can communicate well enough without one to feel reasonably comfortable without one…and I just hate the awkward staring at each other when we could be communicating that comes with waiting for an interpreter…

 

 

Verbs are interesting. Some people argue that instead of has or is to describe being diagnosed with a disease we should use fight. As in the girl in the previous example was fighting selective mutism. Also if someone is experiencing discrimination or bullying or other injustices. Fighting, though, seems to imply actively working against or struggling to break free. What happens if I stop fighting and just let everything run it’s course…I’m sure these same people wouldn’t argue that you should describe me as failing at fill-in-the-blank, but I don’t feel like you can rightfully say I am fighting if I am too tired to fight and have remained seated on the rollercoaster that has gone off its racks, too tired to get up or try to stop it. It makes me mad at myself when I am not fighting, but sometimes there is just too much on my plate and I have to admit defeat…I feel frustrated. I realized last night that as much as I really crave being around people and crave connection, it seems like socially I am regressing, and that is really frustrating with how hard I have worked to earn the social skills that I do possess. I mean, I definitely am not avoiding being around people, staying on the sidelines, being isolated, being completely unable to speak, or feeling any anxiety when in social situations…but I also am putting of responding to emails and texts. Yes, sometimes I really do not have the time to spare to immediately respond to a text or an email and it is totally legitimate prosocial behavior to wait to respond…but sometimes all the response needed from me is the one word: Yes or No that I definitely am aware of which is the answer I need and could easily respond…but I don’t, and not just because I forgot about it…and when I could be inviting people in to communication with me, I wait for them to decide if they wanna talk, because I don’t want to impose myself on anyone…and when I am with people it is as if I have finally found the on-off switch on my chatterbox and the words don’t come pouring out like a broken floodgate anymore. A lot of this is probably the pendulum swing of locating normal, because I will be the first to admit that when the anxiety disappeared my mouth turned on and a lot of people thought I was obnoxious because I could now say whatever was on my mind, and I did, but when we are studying for finals, for example, no one really wants to hear about ponies and unicorns. So it is better that I am not quite that talkative anymore, but sometimes I want more than a quick hi from across the room and the only thing stopping me is me…but I am not currently fighting it. I feel like there is too much on my plate to fight it, so I am just riding it out to see where it takes me. If this path leads me into anxiety then I’ll go running for help, if it leads to further dissatisfaction with myself, I’ll think about looking for help, but sometimes you have to choose your battles, and if it is no more than a mild nuisance once in a while, it is not worth my time and energy at the moment.

 

Speaking of things that are out of my hands and currently frustrating me, this semester in my class that is a continuation from last semester, one of the students seems to no longer be in the class. That wouldn’t be a problem—I know students sometimes drop out of school for one reason or another—but that student was replaced with a different student. Both of these students are social work students. That is a huge deal for me. I worked really hard at the beginning of last semester and was gently introduced to the student last semester and ended up getting partnered up with her for our get to know you activity before knowing she was a social work student, and I had assimilated her onto my safe list, and no longer felt that I needed to stay “turned on” and cautious while in her presence…and now we have a different social work student and it feels like I am starting all over. This time though, I was already feeling exhausted and overwhelmed before the class even started so I didn’t have the energy to pour into safety learning. This time the first thing I found out after his name was the program he was in. This time instead of being partnered up with him and being forced to figure it out, he was on the opposite side of the room as I was. This time I felt cornered the entire class. What for everyone else was just a hey, welcome to class, was for me a loss of my sense of safety. I know that my reaction is a little bit over the top. I know that in general people in the mental health professions are not out there for the sole purpose of hurting people (and making money). I know that in reality I am still perfectly safe and chances are that no one is going to hurt me, especially not in a class focused on communication with other professionals, but my limbic system senses unknown mental health (pre) professional and sounds the alarm. This isn’t a good way to live needing to get comfortable with each person individually. I need to begin to generalize that I know all these other people in this category that are good, so perhaps the person is good, but I’ve had enough bad experiences that the bad has predominated. There really isn’t any defining characteristic that I can identify to determine in advance who is going to be a caring person, sensitive and responsive to my needs versus who is going to intentionally hurt me, carefully manipulating and gaslighting for their own gain. I want to protect myself from further hurt. I don’t want to let people trample on me and take advantage of me like they have in the past…but I also want to believe that most people are good. I want to believe that most people don’t have ulterior motives, that most people truly do want to be kind. That most people would prefer to put out metaphorical fires than to start them. It is a hard line to walk, remaining open enough to let the goodness of the good people seep into my heart without opening up so far that the bad people can laugh as they throw daggers of hurt into my heart with their eyes closed.

 

Sometimes the only way you can protect your friends is through prayer. It is hard. So hard. Your mind wills them to know that your sudden silence upon reaching that conversation topic isn’t a signal of uncomfortability, nor is it a sign that you don’t care, rather it is a silent scream of warning of what may lie ahead…but your mouth is silent, obediently sealed, hiding away the knowledge of the trap. Your stomach tries to revolt, but of course no one can see that…and even if they did, would have no inclination to believe that it is a stand of solidarity in the warning your mind is trying to put out. I do not like the sense of powerlessness that I possess…but I suppose either way there isn’t much my warning could do anyway…’cause I am for sure not going to advise anyone to argue against agreed upon school requirements when there is a possibility that doing so could cost me my friend and her the education she is fighting for…so it will be better to support her if/when things go wrong than to risk everything and warn her in advance…this makes me mad, in the sense of if you want to hurt me then okay fine, let’s just get this over with, but you don’t hurt my friends.

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