It’s been a little while since I’ve written anything for my Looking Outwards series, but I promise you I’ve not forgotten it. (It is not necessary to read the others in the series before this one.) I’ve been so ill in the past couple of months that I’ve not really been out and interacting much (although I’m feeling increasingly irked by this whole ‘needing to go out and interact’ idea – more on that another time), but at least I have this lovely computer, with which I can speak to to all of my friends and family whenever I desire. As if.
One of the many delightful results of my own unique combination of ME, depression, and introversion is that talking to people is so hard. If I was well, I’d still have limits, but in my current state, it all too easily becomes exhausting. It doesn’t help that ME makes my brain feel foggy and like it’s full of mouldy cotton wool (another one I’m hoping to write more about soon), and even if I can think of the words, getting them to my mouth or my keyboard is like swimming through treacle. I reckon a good 50% of the time, I do not get any kind of dopamine rush when my phone pings, but rather a distinct feeling of ‘ugh’.
I should add a reminder here that introversion does not mean not liking people, or not liking talking to people, or not liking spending time with people. It’s just that it’s tiring. I need plenty of time on my own to recharge.
This is increasingly becoming a technological problem. Texting and online messaging have an advantage of over seeing people for real because they (usually) do not make me nervous, but at least in person I can (usually) automatically scrape together a smile, and the back and forth of conversation will (usually) kick my brain into speech. But while the internet and smartphones have opened up a world of instant communication, it is also very easy to mute conversations, to put your phone on silent, to switch it off altogether. And then get on with your knitting and forget to switch it back on. For like three weeks. And remember but then think ‘ugh, I’m still in pain, I don’t want to’.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the people who are sending me messages. I want to talk to them. I hate it when I’m too exhausted. I suppose it’s like going for walks – in moderation it’s really good for me, and I love doing it, but I have to be careful. My limits are lower than most people’s, and if I go over those limits, I’m only going to exhaust myself even more.
Nevertheless, Facebook is becoming a dangerous game. It’s great for being nosy about people that without the internet, I’d naturally fall out of touch with. But when I can keep up with the lives of the people that are important to me, and hear all their news, without ever saying anything myself or even remembering to ‘like’ – that’s not a conversation, and it’s not a relationship. With some of my friends, we can happily go for months without speaking, and then pick straight up where we left off and be as close as ever. With others, I want to be texting them nearly every day, and it breaks my heart that I can’t manage it. I want to say ‘I’m always here for you’, but the truth is I’m not. I’m here for you as often as I can manage. Even if I don’t reply to you for days or weeks on end, I will always reply as soon as I am able.
“Is this a selfish ask?”
I don’t know if I have a solution to all this, except for the same solution to most of my current problems: if I’m very very patient and take excellent care of myself, I will recover, and piece by piece I can stop putting my life on hold. I have to stop beating myself up, and trust that the people worth having will still be there when I’m well enough to talk again, whether I’ve been quiet for a few days, a few months, over even a few years. Is that a selfish ask? I feel sick and sad just writing it. I have had to be so, so selfish, and there’s a stigma around being selfish. There’s a balance to find, but I don’t know if I’ve found it, and I don’t know how much of my unease is simply down to my insecurity.
The trouble with blogging
One of the difficulties of blogging about emotional stuff is that there’s a risk of it becoming a means of communication with individual people in my life, or even a substitute for it. I try never to let the latter happen, although the former to a certain extent is inevitable. It’s impossible to tell everyone everything, so if I write something that someone wouldn’t have otherwise known and they want to discuss it, I should probably mostly just be glad that they’re engaging with my writing. It’s also inevitable, given that lots of people who know me read this blog, that some of you reading this will be people I ought to speak to more often, but don’t manage to. To you, I apologise, and I hope that you can bear with me. I promise I’m trying my hardest.