Sorry, it might be a bit chaotic. I rarely open up so much to people so I got a bit emotional. Also very sorry for being so late with this prompt, I actuallly wrote it much earlier, but the URL I inserted was wrong.
Some triggers might be possible.
So today, thanks to Daily Post, as a non native English speaker, I’ve learnt a new great word, which is stifle. I am a lover of words in all “my” languages, so yay I’m happy.
So because of this, I wanted to share with you my coping with life strategy, which I’ve learnt during my time in boarding school and now trying to unlearn. I hope it will help someone with similar experiences, as well as myself. This “coping strategy” is as you can guess, stifling them. Why I was doing it?
First of all I think that because I am an introvert, I have always had a tendency to do it. My Dad is a professional kind of stifler and has been one as long as I can remember, but not as professional as me. But since I went to boarding school, I quickly started to have a feeling, that my emotions aren’t really valid. I don’t know if anyone thought so, but that was just how I felt. I didn’t feel good there for many reasons and it was always a nightmare for me to go back there. I know that most of the kids didn’t felt it like this. Sure, not all of them liked school, most kids don’t, they surely missed their families, but noone seemed to have it all to such a degree and to have such issues with adapting there. I was having these issues for all the time I was there. I know only one girl who had it similar to me, luckily her mum noticed it quickly and took her from there in primary. So generally I felt much like an alien, to whom no one can really relate. I felt incredibly weak and hypersensitive because I couldn’t deal with things normal kids dealt without a bigger trouble and, besides some obvious homesickness and other stuff like that, liked it there. Plus I was always kind of individualistic, so didn’t blend in well in the surroundings, while blending with the surroundings was very well-seen there. I know people, both the staff and the kids, thought it is strange that I have other interests than the majority and often prefer just to be alone than in the crowd of people.
In first few years I tended to talk to my Mum in details how I feel and how lonely and stressed etc. I feel all the time, but one day I realised that one of the staff is listening very carefully to what I talk to her about. She came to me then and told me with quite a particular tone in her voice: “You know, if you have a problem, with feelings or something, we can always discuss it on the meeting”. They had group meetings almost every evening there, so girls from a particular group met with their staff and either read something, or discussed things etc.
Maybe I am weird, but I didn’t feel very reassured by that. I needed time to trust people to share my feelings with them. I needed at least some proof that they are really involved. I didn’t want my deepest feelings to be “discussed” by everyone publicly. The more that I just knew they couldn’t understand me, even if they genuinely would like.
So my reaction was a silent rebellion. I thought that NO – from now on, noone will have access to my feelings. I am not a book, to read my emotions and “discuss” and maybe even review if they are “positive” or “negative”. I need to protect myself. I need to have at least some space for myself and this space will be my feelings, which will be just my own, noone else’s.
And you know what? I didn’t even really had to try in any special way to stifle everything. As I now remember it, I feel like it was just I had this outburst of anger and silent rebellion one evening and woke up with a marble mask all over me.
I also stopped to confide to my Mum, firstly because I was now more conscious that walls have ears, but also because I knew she’s worried. I knew from other people that when she’s coming back home after leaving me at school, she’s crying in the car and then at home sometimes too. Since those days I was always feeling guilty whenever I was talking to her about some more complicated stuff that is going on in my life or even just in my head or even if I just noticed a sign of worry in her and suspected it might be because of me.
Teachers, boarding school staff and some kids I was relatively close to, like my roommates, started to see the change relatively late. I tried to not change my attitude totally. On the outside, when I chose to be with other kids, I tried my best to be humourous, likeable, interesting, but as distanced as it was possible at the same time. I had trouble suppressing such emotions like joy or fascination, but never showed up any so called negative, especially, NEVER EVER, anger. With time, I decided to open up just a bit to one of my roommates, as we liked each other quite much and thought we are best friends. Or maybe we both just pretended to be ones, I don’t know. It wasn’t about my feelings regarding boarding school and that stuff though, but anyway, then I felt quite a big regret that I did it, it turned out to not be the right thing to do. But then I’ve bottled up quite a lot of it and, very rarely, from time to time, like once a year maybe, or twice, I started to have quite impressive meltdowns. Like all the anger, all the tears were coming out of me for little to no reason. And people were like… quite astonished. I was too. ‘Cause even before I started to stifle everything, I was rather calm. It felt like it’s not me. While in fact I was having a meltdown, yelling at people, making everything around fly all over the room, and crying, or having hysteria, I felt like I am standing beside and looking without many more emotions than just astonishment. I was just like: “Oh wow! Is this me?”. The next day I was scared though. Most often I didn’t even remember that much of a meltdown itself, but only thinking about not having control at all over your actions… it’s still quite frightening for me. And I felt exactly like I couldn’t gain any control during such meltdowns. It just had to leave me on its own, I couldn’t really help and stop it.
So then one of the staff started to think something must be really much more wrong with me than she always have thought before and talked to my Mum. But, although I didn’t put off my marble-icy mask at home totally, I was a bit more at ease and spontaneous, and didn’t have any meltdowns at all, so she didn’t see anything concerning and actually didn’t really believe in what that lady told her.
But she did notice some things soon and started to think about some alternative for me, I mean, alternative school.
And so for two years, at the age of 10 and 11, I was going to an integration school, much closer to my home, well not that close really, but it made a huge difference for me because I could be at home everyday after school and felt like I am incredibly lucky. I was always jealous about kids in such situation.
So it was better, but my attitude didn’t change, I actually even forgot about what I told myself about protecting myself and not giving other people access to my emotions, it just was going on its own now. I had to remind it to myself a few years ago. So the problem wasn’t really solved. All those emotions seemed to sit with me, and although I felt lucky and grateful that I am at home, I didn’t feel really happy.
I had neurosis, different psychosomatic symptoms like migraines or nausea or other crappy stuff, suicidal thoughts, everything felt very overwhelming, like any activity I had to do craved a lot of motivation, which I actually didn’t have, I was constantly depressed, anxious. It was then when I started to have symptoms of emetophobia and other speciffic phobias, although I really can’t recall any particular event that could trigger it, I just started to be more and more afraid of this and that even if I previously wasn’t and soon it became just a very strong anxiety, hard to deal on a daily basis.
After those two years, something happened, that’s another long story, anyway my Mum and me realised that I need to change school again. And, looking at things practically, there weren’t many more reasonable options for me than going back to that boarding school for the blind. I saw it too. My Mum knew that it would crave a lot of strength from me to come back there again, so to encourage me more she said she’ll do her best to make my biggest dream come true if I’ll be strong enough to come there again. Which she did a few years later. So yeah I decided to go there and burn myself all over once again. After all we live in the civilised world and everyone needs to have some education, I wanted to have it too, it’s not that I didn’t.
After the break it was even more hard. During my two years outside of that environment I was even more different, gained some strange interests and fears.
So it all clicked in the mind of that lady who talked to my Mum about me not expressing feelings and what she got of it is she started to think I must be on autistic spectrum.
So again she alarmed my Mum and talked it through with her. My Mum was frightened. Literally.
I needed to go back to school during summer holidays because they wanted to examine me for Asperger’s. I was twelve then so they didn’t really discussed it all with me before, I just got to know I will be examined in July and there will be some professionals from an autism centre. But, I was a very curious child. I liked to learn new things, I liked to observe the world and for some reason, especially people’s behaviours and personalities, in as big degree as it could be possible for a blind child. And also I was starting to be very interested in psychology and medicine. In our school, there were many kids on autism spectrum. Most of them were rather very low-functioning, some were Aspies. And I liked to observe them all and their behaviours too. Most of them seemed quite weird for me, but I could even relate to some. Like their aversion to changes for instance. Also when I was living at home, I listened to a radio programme where a lady from this exact autism centre was speaking about Asperger’s syndrome. So although they didn’t literally tell me who will examine me and what is ther job in general, as soon as I heard the name of the centre, I started to have a bit of a clue what’s going on.
I tink it was a bit unhonest of them to not tell me what they actually want to do and what they are concerned about. I know I was just a kid and kids shouldn’t know everything what is talked about them, but… it made me really worried. I started to feel even more abnormal and not validated at all. So I hid even more. The thing I remembered the best about ASD was that people with it tend to have interests, which were rather rare and tend to be extremely good at any particular thing. A bit stereotypical maybe, but that was what they said in that programme and it caught my attention, as it fit me in some way. I always felt quite uncommon because of my interests. And that thing with changes and adaptivity… I was wondering about it all the time. It wasn’t that I was afraid about having Asperger’s… well, probably I was, getting a diagnosis is most often a bit anxiety provoking for people and I’m sure I wouldn’t be an exception. But I am sure I could accept it. It is more about the fact that because of how different I am, they wanted to proof me how unhealthy and abnormal it is. That I don’t have the right to be different. My Mum said it was because that staff was so caring about me, but didn’t I hear all comments, of hers and many others, about how I should change and be like the others? “ALl the kids do this, why don’t you?”. Things like that. I am not sure whether it can make sense for anyone else like me, but that’s simply how I feel.
But even when finally that day came and the lady from the autism centre came to examine me, noone told me what’s going on.
She was all smiles and sweetness and told me she wants to make “an interview” with me.
I don’t really remember what she asked me about, I was very stressed out and hypervigilant all day long then. So “the interview” was finally over and I still hadn’t have an idea what was going on. It was driving me just soo crrrazy.
So I couldn’t stand it any longer in the evening. I went out with my Mum, I wanted to be as far as possible from the school building, so we went for a walk and I asked her quite directly as for me what they suppose to be wrong with me. Am I mental or what?
So finally someone had mercy and told me that they suspect me to have Asperger’s.
Even though it was one of things I expected to hear, it was a massive shock to me and it was hard for me to not show it.
The next day I had some other tests and stuff and then the lady who did all these fascinating interviews with me said she sees that I might have autistic traits, but all that I show isn’t enough to put me on to autistic spectrum. Then she was clearing things up for my Mum and me. That very many people show autistic traits, but they aren’t on the spectrum etc. bla bla bla, as far as I can remember she even said there is a connection with blindness and autism, so there’s like higher risk or something. Actually I know that as a little child, before 6 years old I think, I had much more autistic or autism-like symptoms. Like sensorisms or being easily overstimulated and others. She also said laughing that my interests are too many to look like in typical autistic person and that although most of them are not typical, they are quite wide actually. Which I now agree with. She also talked with my Mum and the lady from the boarding school, who still expressed some doubts about the outcome of the interviews.
The lady from the autism centre told me some things that helped me to realise at least a bit that things I feel, fear, enjoy are more valid than I think.
After some time though the staff from boarding school decided to make one more test. They didn’t even tell my Mum about it only when it was already done. They took me to a psychological clinic where one very cold and self-confident lady wanted to talk to me.
The school staff had to tell her about my love for writing, I enjoyed writing fictional short stories back then very much.
They were about a little creature I’ve made up. I called him Parpill. And he had different adventures. Most often quite childish, but also some maybe a bit peculiar, like when he was in prison. 😀 Some were horrific a bit, like when his whole family got sick with malaria, but nothing too bad, just things most children in their early teens wouldn’t come up with. 😀 My Art teacher helped me to project him. Her husband worked in a printing house so she got me some so called professional paper and booklets and she herself ilustrated my short stories whenever she had some free time and wrote them in normal print after I wrote it in Braille. I really really enjoyed doing it with her. Now I have a whole series of my Parpills books at home and I am proud of them although they are very childish, but that’s obvious I guess.
So to my big surprise, that cold lady from the clinic, after some very basic questions, asked me straight away: “You write about the Parpills, right?”. “Yes I do”. “You believe they exist?”. “Errm… sorry, what do you mean?” “Do Parpills exist?” “Surely not! Why would they? They are my own creatures created by me, I wouldn’t like them to exist, everyone could see them then and knwo everything about them” “But do you see them?” “No I can’t see obviously and they don’t exist”. That’s of course not the exact dialogue, only some bits I remember now, some more ridiculous ones. Basically she insisted I do see my Parpills and I live in my imaginary world and I should be more in the reality. So she told me that if I want to write anything, I would do much better if I’d write about our everyday life in the group.
You know guys, she couldn’t say something more wrong to me. I think that then my individualism was maybe even a bit too much expressed, but as for the circumstances and my age it isn’t a big wonder for me. But what I want to say is that I hated to think about myself as “a part of the group”, or class, or as an element of pretty much any community besides my family.
If you have any doubts yet, I obviously didn’t write anything about the group. But I also didn’t write anything about Parpill since then.
I don’t know when they told my Mum about that appointment, but I got to know everything about it years afterwards. I had already left that school and talked to my Mum about it. She told me they wanted to diagnose me with schizophrenia. And it’s still difficult for me to believe in it. Cuz… why? Or maybe Parpills really exist but I am schizophrenic because I deny it and claim I created them? Freaky world. I don’t get it anyway. Mum said that she was very irritated by that when the staff told her about what they did and she didn’t believe it either. So they kept apologising her and that they thought so because of me being so withdrawn and “overly imaginative” and because of the anxiety and that they know they did wrong and that psychologist was wrong as well, they know I don’t believe in Parpills.
Now as I think about it more, I am laughing, with some frustration, but laughing, but it really wasn’t fun when I got to know all that from my Mum, especially that I was in quite a crisis then even besides it.
Then they stopped with making up diagnoses for me, luckily. I am interested what would be their next pick. 😀
But my emotional issues stayed with me and sharpened. At the age of 15-ish I started to self harm. I didn’t have any meltdowns any longer. I cut myself and relished physical pain because it let me run away from all the MishMash inside me. Plus I could proof myself I am strong, at least with pain, if not mentally. It has always been my kind of complex, that I am not enough strong mentally, ’cause I haven’t dealt well enough with all that I had to deal. I also burned myself. But I didn’t want my scars to be visible, like it wasn’t because I wanted attention. I just wanted to manage it somehow. And i made myself ill on purpose, either to just be left alone and not need to do anything, as I was very depressed and even things like getting dressed were like huge challenges, or because I wanted home/not go back to school, or just for to self harm and maybe even die, accidentally, it wouldn’t be that bad. So I did things like walking barefoot on the snow on our terrace to go to school. Yes I know, really crazy things. I wasn’t very suicidal like hadn’t suicidal ideations, but often thought how nice it would be to just die and not exist.
I used I-doses. For those of you who don’t know what Idoser and Doses are, Idoser is an app and Doses are binaural sounds used with that app, that impact your brain like drugs do. They say they’re not addictive, but they make damage to the brain. I didn’t know it at first, I just wanted to use them to have some relief and also it was my way of rebellion. My school was religious, I started to be a Goth and turned myself back from God. I believed in Emilie Autumn instead lol. And wanted to be Wiccan. I didn’t realise that I am also worrying my family, who are genuinely and deeply religious. You can’t use drugs in school area. But I felt smarter than their rules. I was doing it. And no one, besides a few girls of my group and a few classmates with whom I shared some Doses, didn’t know anything.
And I practiced things like OOBE, LD and stuff, which seemed to give me some relief at first, but complicated things even more with time. And I think now that they also contributed to that my sleep is even worse and that I have sleep paralysis regularly. My Mum thinks so too.
After some time eople started to see that I do really strange things with myself, some nuns tried to talk to me about out of body experiences and lucid dreams that they are bad, that I shouldn’t use drugs wherever I get them or whatever it is I take. But I didn’t care and I kept denying that I take anything. Or actually I did care, I started to notice it was bad, but I didn’t want to stop, ’cause it still provided a relief.
I gave up on these things only when I started to rediscover Christianity and realised how bad it all is. Plus it was just my way of saying help me.
But with self harm I struggle to these days. Sometimes I may not cut for months, my record is about nine months, but it still comes back when I have a lot of emotions.
It also happened a few times that I felt very high and agitated, just exploding with joy, was alone at home, felt like I desperately need to talk with someone about it, but what I did was I cut myself. And I only realised afterwards what I actually did. Ugh…
I left the school at the age of seventeen with a master degree in stifling feelings. Sadly, I suppose that’s what I’ve learnt there the best.
It’s not that I only had bad things happening to me there. I would be extremely ungrateful to say so, but still, mainly bad things.
The next school year after I lived I went to the psychiatrist who was very helpful for me and, what I appreciated the most, honest and open. She finally called my problem by it’s name, said that I suppress all my emotions and that I have reactive depression.
It was four years ago. Now I still struggle with stifling emotions. I am conscious of it, but it doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. It’s always very hard for me to tell people what I feel, to open up to them and to express it. It’s hard for me to tell them what I feel to them. Sometimes I perceive talking to someone about my feelings simply as a disgrace. And sometimes I stifle everything before I can even think. That’s why people may think I am not honest with them, or even two-faced, cold and haughty. Moreover, I myself sometimes ask myself what I really feel and what is true about me. I am good at introspection, naming and differentiating feelings and see them very well in others, but my own feelings seem to hide from me so often or mix together so I can’t often even tell what exactly I feel ’cause it’s like a blending of many many emotions and I see them as from a distance. Or I can’t tell why even more often. I know a lot about myself, but some areas are totally unknown for me, and that sucks. It’s hard to work with yourself and process things when you feel like you don’t have connection with yourself. But I try, and I think I’m making some baby steps forward. Of course there are always three steps backwards and one step forward, but it’s always something. Especially that as for now I don’t have regular therapy. I talk with my former therapist on the phone from time to time, she always thinks about me and finds some time for me and it even happened that when I was in crisis and had noone to talk openly to, she was able and willing to talk to me at such crazy times like 6 AM, even though had so many other things to do. But she’s really very busy and needed to cut out some people’s hours from her schedule, as she has many clients and also other jobs. A few of them! But we talk like once a month and the rest of the work is entirely mine. It’s hard.
What I’d like to tell you in this post is that if you do this too, if you stifle your emotions for any reason, it’s not a cure for your problem. It’s inversely. It will only worsen everything. It’s a simple physical reaction. You can’t pull everything you feel inside. With time, there won’t be anymore place and you will just explode. In this way, or another. And believe me, none of these ways is nice or helpful to your life situation. I know it’s hard to unlearn it, but at least try to. It will truly help you.
For those of you who don’t struggle with tis issue. If you know someone who seems to be detached, like they don’t care for others or don’t show their affection, are cold, haughty or don’t trust you where as you think they should, because you are in relationship for instance, please try to not be judgmental. It’s very likely just their mask. It’s difficult, but try to look a bit deeper. Try to help them get rid of it. Are you still here? 😀
Congrats, and a big thank you, if you got through this post. It matters a lot to me. I can’t believe I wrote all that. I’m not really sure I did well, but maybe it will help someone. And I feel a bit lighter as I wrote about it. Again, thanks for reading. 🙂
Ugh, wanted to write post with Misha, as it is his birthday today, or rather was, because it’s already past midnight here, wanted to pick a song of the day and write other stuff, but seems like it’ll have to wait.