Self-care Space

anxiety is like being naked in a mason jarI am naked in a mason jar. The lid descends, shutting off my oxygen. I can feel the air leaving my lungs, squeezing them slowly. I cannot move.

That is how I feel on the inside. On the outside, I look normal, or as normal as I am. The stress and anxiety that I feel on the inside are hiding from other people. I am so very good at hiding how I am feeling.

But it comes out in other ways. I become moody, grumpy and will lash out at the slightest perceived infraction. I am frustrated, and I don’t know what to do about how I feel. And I don’t know how to explain it to other people.  

How Do I?

How do I explain what it is like being me to people who are, well, not me? I have difficulty figuring it out to explain it to myself, let alone other people who are not in my head. I want to figure this stuff out to explain—both to myself and other people.

And what hasn’t worked is trying to explain to people that I feel unsafe. I think the confusion has been that people focus on the word ‘unsafe.’ In their minds, I am in danger. But that isn’t what I mean at all.

And so, I talked with my therapist about needing a better, different way to express how it feels to be me. And dang, my therapist came up with the best description – the mason jar, naked, lack of oxygen. That description was exactly how I feel and now I have a better way of explaining.  

The Two O’s

overwhelmed in my mason jar when lots of people are aroundOverstimulated and overwhelmed. Those two O’s is how I end up naked in a mason jar. I don’t feel like that all of the time. Generally, I feel relatively good, aside from the depression, anxiety, C-PTSD stuff.

I get to the point of meltdown when I am feeling constantly bombarded, and I don’t have introvert burrito time. I blame my brain for all of this. My poor brain struggles to process all of the information.

When that happens, my critter brain senses that I am in danger. And it begins to override the higher functioning parts of my brain. Triggering the fight, flight, freeze or appease responses.1

The Opposite of Self-Care

On the inside, I am naked in a mason jar. On the outside, I am getting frustrated, angry even, and everything irritates and annoys me. I am aware that those are not necessarily appropriate feelings. And so I do what I have been doing my whole life; holding those feelings inside.

But then when I do that I am not taking care of myself at all. I am doing the opposite. I am continuing to hurt myself, deny myself my real feelings because my real feelings are not acceptable. In part because I don’t understand my feelings well enough.

A considerable part, the foundational part of self-care, is knowing yourself well enough to know what you need. And act on what you need, to put up healthy boundaries – to take care of yourself.  I know what I have been doing my whole life is not taking care of myself. As I try to figure out that, I will make mistakes, stumble, but I will continue to learn.

Why Am I Like This?

Why am I like this? Well, that is definitely the million-dollar question. There are some answers to the question of why. But there is a deeper question, a better question, what happened to me? 

Complex PTSD

Well, for one, I endured YEARS of abuse. I now realize that I am most likely in the category of complex PTSD. Complex PTSD shares similar symptoms with PTSD, which is why it is not (yet) a separate diagnosis. Complex PTSD is what happens when someone, usually a child, is traumatized for months, more often years.

“Complex PTSD comes in response to chronic traumatization over months or, more often, years.” 2

Homebody aka Introvert

Two, I am an introvert. I was born an introvert. I think that the abuse caused me to turn inward more than if I hadn’t been abused. But based on what I have read being an introvert is how my brain formed. I prefer calm and quiet environments.

“The definition of an introvert is someone who prefers calm, minimally stimulating environments. Introverts tend to feel drained after socializing and regain their energy by spending time alone. This is largely because introverts’ brains respond to dopamine differently than extroverts’ brains. In other words, if you’re an introvert, you were likely born that way.”3

Sensing Everything

Third, I am a highly sensitive person. I see being an HSP as an introvert’s introvert. I am introverted times one hundred. That is how I define being an HSP, it isn’t the official definition. I think I was born an HSP, there are commonalities between HSP and hypervigilance, the latter a skill I picked up during childhood.

There are usually four main signs of being an HSP:4

  1. Depth of processing, meaning you pick up on even small stimuli and you process information very deeply
  2. Overstimulation, which happens because HSPs are processing so much information all the time. HSPs can feel overwhelmed or “wiped out,” and usually need alone time in a low-stimulus environment to come back down from overstimulation.
  3. Empathy, or strong emotional reactions. An HSP picks up not just on physical stimuli, but social and emotional cues as well — and they have more active mirror neurons, which allow them to feel a deep empathy and understanding of other people.
  4. Sensing the subtle — in other words, picking up on even very minor things that other miss and making connections that others may not.

Combinations of Things

I take all of those things, and I look at the definitions. Then I look at how I am, and I think, ‘Yeah, that makes sense that I have c-PTSD, am an introvert, and an HSP. I take all of those things together, and it is a wonder that I can even leave my house.

But I do because I won’t let those things dictate how I live my life. I used to ignore how I felt or drank  A LOT of alcohol to numb it, which is another way of ignoring something. But those feelings have been with me my entire life. At least now I am looking at them, trying to figure out how I exist in this world.

As I work on self-care, and I work on learning myself better, I realize that I do need to put into action what I need.  Over the last several weeks, my anxiety has been high. I have been overstimulated overwhelmed and oversocialized. I have ‘OVERED’ myself. It took me a week to recover from that.

Self-care Tip:

I need to stop ‘overing’ me.

Sources Cited

  1. (October 6, 2020) Trauma Response and Complex PTSD: Fight, Flight, Freeze, Appease. Retrieved from https://medium.com/fearless-she-wrote/trauma-response-and-complex-ptsd-fight-flight-freeze-appease-2da4cf76a8be
  2. What is C-PTSD? (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.beautyafterbruises.org/what-is-cptsd
  3. What is an Introvert? (n.d.) Retrieved from https://introvertdear.com/what-is-an-introvert-definition/
  4. Is Being an HSP a Disorder? (n.d.) Retrieved from https://highlysensitiverefuge.com/is-hsp-a-disorder/ 
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