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Mostly, I succeed at being a normal person, and integrating with society, and all that. But every so often (and it IS more often, these days) I capitulate, concede defeat, take off my mask of conformist presentability, and let it all hang out.
And it’s ugly. I’m ugly. I hate things. I glower at everything and everyone in the house. I don’t want to do anything. I shout. I wear about 5 layers of clothing, and sit in a corner like Stig of the Grump.
Other odd things happen too.
Noises start bothering me. I mean REALLY bothering me. People chewing, dropping things on the floor, footsteps, rustling paper… I can actually feel the sounds on my skin. I’ve never admitted that to anyone before; I guess it’s some kind of hyper-sensitivity, but I don’t have it all the time thankfully. Imagine what teaching a class of 30 kids, all banging drums, would FEEL like. Like a powerful right hook, I suspect.
I stop being able to think in a straight line. My mind won’t be able to dwell on a subject for very long. If I try to do something organisational in this state – for example, plan the week’s menus – then I stare at the same piece of paper, and fiddle with the same pencil and stare into the corners of the room for easily an hour without achieving a single thing.
The reason for all this irritable discomfiture is very simple.
I need to be alone. For my health. For EVERYONE’S health and wellbeing.
Now, tell me, is this unusual? Am I being unreasonable, or showing signs of my ancestral tendency to hermit-hood? Is it too much to ask that, once in a while, I am completely undisturbed for a few hours?
I’ve looked at others to see what they’re up to – like an insecure Bake Off contestant during the technical challenge - to see if they’re doing things differently to me. Why can they manage to be surrounded by people 24/7, without losing their minds?
I actually dread school holidays, and family holidays. I love having my family around me, don’t get me wrong, and I appreciate them every second… but I also need distance from them if I’m to stay sane, and I get very little during holidays.
It has taken me quite a long while to understand this situation, and it has caused a lot of strain and strife in my close relationships, but I think I know why I need more alone time than most.
Do you know what an ‘empath’ is? I just looked it up, and this ridiculous definition popped up.
It has nothing to do with science fiction, and has EVERYTHING to do with people.
I also don't think there's anything 'paranormal' about it; an empath is just someone who is more sensitive than most – especially to the energies and moods of others.
As a child, of course, I didn’t realise I was a bit different. Well, I DID know, but I thought it was because I was an ethnic minority. I didn’t know why I would cry if I saw an elderly man shuffling laboriously along the street, or why I would feel so frustrated and sad when my parents argued – even if I couldn’t hear them, or why my friends would get angry if I knew more about their mood than they cared to admit.
Worst of all, I just didn’t have any barriers. There was a huge world out there, of humans and their thoughts and emotions, crashing about like rudderless speedboats; there was love and hate, anger and guilt, frustration and regret – and I was standing in the middle of the road, open to any vibes that came within my radius, vulnerable as a blind hedgehog.
I’d feel it all. It was too much.
This is why I need to reset now and again. It’s not enough to say, “I’m going to my room for a couple of hours. Please don’t disturb me.” It won’t work, because children don’t understand the words “Do not disturb.” Bless them. If they’re not marching through the house playing the kazoo or exploding bombs, then they’re ‘not disturbing’ anyone, as far as they’re concerned.
Also, even if the other inhabitants of the house are being quiet as mice, I can still feel them. It’s like having small, gentle, but insistent tentacles pawing at my brain. The air in the house is still spiky with the presence of other people. Different people ‘vibrate’ at different wave lengths too – my son has the knack of making his presence tiny, of flying under the radar, of soothing my soul. My daughter is the vibrational equivalent of a kitten – cute, hilarious, demanding and perpetually moving... with claws.
I need for those vibrations to settle and for complete stillness to descend before my brain will release its stranglehold on my reason, and start allowing me to think again. For that, it has to be complete solitude – nothing else will do.
It’s really important that people like us are not misunderstood. I realise that I can come across as utterly unsociable or even misanthropic, but chances are, I’ve just been overloaded with stimuli.
At the end of the summer holidays, when I’ve had 45 solid days of noise and questions and outings and chores, I’m ready to run away to a cabin buried deep in the woods, and leave everything behind. However, give me ONE day of silence, when I can do what needs to be done, in my own time, at my own pace, alone with my thoughts, (in my pyjamas)… and I’ll be just fine, and ready to interact with humans again.
And failing that, I’m saving up to buy a desert island.