In Which I Reflect On What I’ve Done

Today was a very mixed day.

I accomplished a ton of stuff around the house (you guys, I even ironed things!) and then completely lost the plot.

My frustration tolerance has been through the floor the past couple of days (Hormones! Declining sunlight! Sleep deprivation! Yay!), and I hope today was its nadir, because I’d be totally good with being over this.

To be entirely fair to myself, I did succeed in holding it together for longer than I might have: it took the combination of a huge spill (spills are a meltdown trigger I’m having trouble shifting), a loudly-ringing phone, and a cascade of other Things Going Wrong All At Once to finally drive me over the edge into a fridge kicking, door-slamming meltdown.

To be entirely honest with myself, though, I might have headed that whole episode off at the pass if I had listened to the signals in my head that were saying, “Hey, maybe it’s time to sit down and chillax before you lose it,” instead of being all like “NO I JUST NEED TO FINISH THIS ONE THING … AND THIS ONE … and this one …”

It probably also would’ve helped if I’d realized I was in Low Blood Sugar Land. Oy vey.

Denis happened to be just getting up from a nap at the same time that I hit Hormonal-Bipolar-Aspie-ADHD Defcon 5. After, when I was busy being all mad at myself because in those moments I feel like All The Work I Have Done Is For Naught, he came into the room, asked me what was up (I had the presence of mind to not be like, “NothingEverythingIsFine”), hugged me and said he gets it; that it’s okay to be screaming mad at the world sometimes — and that it might be a better strategy to actually scream at the world, even.

And I was all like, “Um. Oh.”

Because, to be honest, that never occurred to me. I mean, that actually, like, Using My Words (Loudly) might be a possible response to frustration of that calibre (which is, for me at least, a very physical, visceral experience).

In short: I recognize that other people use their words when frustrating crap happens; I also can do this up to a point — it just never occurred to me that maybe other people do experience explosive frustration* like I do, but have maybe actually figured out how to respond to it verbally, or at least vocally.

Which is interesting.

I had a long talk with El Roberto about this a while ago. We are both very high-functioning in many ways (and not so much in other ways) but I go thermonuclear way more easily than he does. In fact, I didn’t even realize it was a thing that ever happens to him until back in May — and I’ve known him for ages.

This may be because of the whole hyperactivity component, which he doesn’t have, and which means I’m just generally a lot more keyed-up than he is. It may also be a function of the fact that he grew up in a house in which verbal expression of emotions was valued, whereas I didn’t. Like, he is more able to talk about feelings and yell when he’s frustrated than I am.

Regardless, I have historically coped with most “loud” emotions fairly non-verbally — in part because of my upbringing (which brooked no yelling, least of all incoherent yelling), and in part because strong emotions make it much harder for me to access my language circuits, so to speak — it’s like they shunt system resources away from my language co-processor.

It never occurred to me, though, that these could be active parts of my embarrassing tendency to be a grown-ass person who occasionally gets in fights with the fridge without actually being drunk.

Yelling incoherently isn’t currently in my behavioral repertoire at all (not even when startled or frightened) — but it seems like a step up from kicking the fridge, to be honest (also less likely to injure my feet — foot injuries are like the Ballet Bogeyman).

It’s also a behavior that’s less likely to be perceived by normal people (not people like me, for whom yelling and sudden loud noises are really pretty terrifying) as scary and anti-social. Though my fridge-kicking frenzies are in reality more akin to a freaked-out horse kicking whatever’s in front of (or behind) it, I am definitely aware that they can seem a lot like the threatening behaviors of jerks.

The difference lies in intent — controlling jerks intend for their physical explosions to imply threat. In my case, there is no threat intended. There’s really nothing intended, at those points; I’m largely beyond higher-order stuff like that in those moments — but it’s not hard to see how a threat could be perceived.

Anyway, most people apparently find someone yelling, “AAAAGH!  I’M SO FRUSTRATED! BLARGH! GARGLESNARP!” or whatever much less frightening than someone slamming a door or kicking the fridge or throwing all the hangers on the floor (which did not happen today, but almost did, which probably should have been the clue that the laundry could wait). I don’t, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try to adjust my behavior.

I am wondering if I could learn to yell when I’m melting down instead of slamming doors, etc.

It could be difficult for a couple of reasons — one, I have done a ton of work on this and meltdowns of this calibre aren’t that common anymore for me (Yay!), which will make it harder to do the actual behavioral work in question; two, it never occurred to me that this was even possible because (believe it or not) language is hard for me. But I might be able to start by just learning to make vocal sounds, even if they’re non-verbal and incoherent.

It would be nice not to worry about causing Denis (or anyone else, I hope) to feel unsafe.

Anyway, it’s something I’ll be trying to figure out.

For now, though, I’m going to try to figure out how to get to sleep. Advanced Class tomorrow, then opera.

À bientôt!

*Seriously, this reaction is fight-or-flight, survival-mode stuff. Ugh.

Come to think of it, maybe I could also try the “flight” option? (Another thing my upbringing didn’t really allow for.)

Like, instead of kicking the fridge and slamming the door, maybe I could just run down the stairs and then run around in the basement until my limbic system stops blaring its klaxons? Hm. Not that I have too much volitional thought happening in those moments, but maybe I could somehow rewire myself so flight, rather than fight, is the default response.

About asher

Me in a nutshell: Standard uptight ballet boy. Trapeze junkie. Half-baked choreographer. Budding researcher. Transit cyclist. Terrible homemaker. Neuro-atypical. Fabulous. Married to a very patient man. Bachelor of Science in Psychology (2015). Proto-foodie, but lazy about it. Cat owner ... or, should I say, cat own-ee? ... dog lover. Equestrian.

Posted on 2015/11/20, in adhd, bipolar, life, life management and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. A good thing about being prone to full blown psychosis is that it’s forced me to learn to monitor my developing mental states and (try) to make space for the more extreme ones to play out in. Some days I just accept I’ve got to stay in a safe space and defer attempts to ‘achieve’ anything. Then, often as not, I can just sit back and enjoy the ride instead of fighting to go somewhere it just ain’t taking me. Whether or not you’ve actually swallowed a psychedelic, the trick to avoiding bum trips is always to relax and go with the flow.

    Funny you mention a spill setting you off.

    A couple of years back I was at a manic peak that I knew from experience would probably phase into psychosis. I’d cancelled everything for a few days to ride it out and made sure I had everything I was likely to need on hand in my home so I wouldn’t have to try to ‘do’ anything while I was out of my head. Because I’d been hypomanic or manic for over a fortnight my eating habits were already shot and I was trying to maintain nutrition with a self-enforced daily fruit smoothie (banana, strawberry and passionfruit, since you asked). But now my mania and overall body (not mind) fatigue were starting to hit my co-ordination pretty hard and I spilled the smoothie across the dining table.

    After a momentary flash of frustration I suddenly got the idea/obsession I had to wipe up the mess in a particular ritualised way. When I did so the psychosis broke over me like a warm, comforting wave. It was a very nice one that lasted just under a day. I had a fascinating conversation with the voices that came through the radio and my screen saver taught me some profound truths about myself.

    Loony is just life. Be where and when you are. Laundry can wait.

    But yeah, when you think you’ve finally mastered your loony it’ll remind you who’s really boss. That’s life too.

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