Saturday, July 30, 2005

Something I've discovered: It is vital NOT to ignore things that irritate you!

` To warn you, a lot of this entry is for people who have the same problem - if they're interested because they find commonality and want to keep reading more about it, they can!

` Not only has ignoring irritating things gotten me into serious trouble, but it's forced me to stay at the edge of a nervous breakdown for most of my life! (This explains my low productivity, which I've reluctantly thought of as 'laziness'.) I only discovered a large part of what's been making my life a living hell about a week ago - not removing myself from things that irritate me (or removing them from me)!

` In the past, if something bothered me (i.e. being cold, wearing really irritating clothing, hearing a constant, really annoying sound), I just said to myself; 'Oh, I'll live with it. No big deal.' Well, a lot of those 'no big deals' have been keeping me in a very awkward and detrimental state of anxiety for... well, my whole life, pretty much.
` I didn't realize that freak, cold medicine-induced occurrences when I'd calm down and be able to think and even feel good are actually required for people to be in a 'normal' state of mind. No wonder they were so appreciated!

` What kept me from realizing this for so long is that one's stress quotient being lowered is not the same thing as eliminating it - my advice: Never confuse the two!

` Several months after my psychotic dad stole all of my personal possessions (besides most of my clothes), I noticed that my stress levels were not as high as when I actually lived with him. I thought that made everything just fine.
` Then, when I moved out of my mom's house and in with Phil, my stress levels actually got lower. The problem was, I didn't realize that I wasn't out of the stress - the mere fact that Phil isn't a very stressful person to live with fooled me into thinking once again that everything was fine. (For real this time.)

` Big mistake!!!

` It turns out that the programming from my childhood is responsible for the way I've always ignored the fact that things which irritate me really do cause an amazing amount of stress. Particularly responsible was the way my dad trivialized even my largest crises and problems and serious illnesses (which I had plenty of!) and screamed at me that I had "no reason" and "no right" to be upset at whatever it was I was upset at, complaining that it was all an act to trick him into feeling sorry for me.
` (Come to think of it, it took until I was seventeen before I realized that I couldn't remember him sympathizing with me once...)
` So what irritates me? It may surprise you, but my constant skin problems and wearing certain articles of clothing have always been about the worst sources of irritation because they're constant phenomena:
` Taking your clothes off is usually not a good option, and taking your skin off is only something I wish I could do when it's really dry and irritated.

` Even though my body's been pretty numb for almost two years now (from an unbelievable, traumatic event), I still can't wear shirts that are short-sleeved or shorts that are too high above the knee because the sleeves/pant legs ending where they do creates a point of focus of irritation strong enough to be seriously distracting.
` Also, wearing pants that are not low-cut, and/or shirts that don't fall to my hips causes me to have to scratch myself around the waist. It's a similar thing - something is touching me at that point and where it ends is just too much for my brain to handle.

` Does anyone else out there know what that's like?

` For me, it's almost like a prickling sensation and a general feeling of revulsion, like having a bunch of gnats biting me: I remember when I was a small child, trying on clothing at stores. I kept telling my mom 'these clothes have pins in them!' over and over, which she eventually would break down and yell at me for. Well, I couldn't figure out just why, but I did feel a 'sticking' sensation, and I wasn't fooled by the fact that I couldn't see anything!
` Why this happens, I don't know, but it still does.
I always thought it was really ridiculous, because it sounds so stupid! How could something like that have any large impact on someone's life, right? That's why I ignored it - I figured if I kept wearing the same things, I'd 'grow up' and 'get used to it.'

` Wrong! I really didn't think that being irritated by your clothing could cause a huge problem. But it really can!
So if you're a really stressed-out person, don't be afraid to wonder if far-fetched and ridiculous-sounding things are actually annoying you enough to cause some kind of emotional dysfunction, no matter what your other problems are. (I have countless ones myself!) The bottom line is: You need to get away from them!

` Similarly, I can't wear things that are both close-fitting and stretchy at the same time, or things made out of materials that are too soft (or fuzzy or itchy) and also lightweight at the same time.
` Very unpleasant - makes me very tense and my blood pressure and heart rate go right up.
` Does anybody else have that? It's like, the lighter something touches me, the more I want to pull away from it or itch that area. Wearing a very thin, featherweight and rough polyester shirt with short, ruffly sleeves that someone bought for me caused lots of anxiety, twitching, watery eyes and scratching. My full-body numbness actually seems to add to this problem, because I can feel even less.
` Less sensation = more irritation. I question how that can happen, but I don't question that it happens.
` Unfortunately, growing up, my dad insisted on buying 'light' and 'soft and 'stretchy' things for me because he had his own delusional and stereotyped ideas about what clothing really irritated me. He made a big deal to other people about how much I was a burden on him but he bought 'only the best' silk for me anyway, though the reason I liked it was because it's surprisingly heavy, loose, and importantly, non-stretchy.

` Mainly, I do like smooth and heavy fabrics such as denim, faux suede and corduroy (though, technically, corduroy is both smooth and groovy). This includes a shirt I have made of stretchy and thin material, though it's very smooth, very heavy for its weight, and loose-fitting. Anything else is for all intents and purposes intolerable - in other words, I had better not even try to wear anything lightweight or 'clingy'!

` What's weird is that I knew this all my life - I just didn't attach this fact to my constant state of misery. It actually contributes a lot!
` For example, before I came to be aware of all of this, the first thing I started to rid my wardrobe of were tags: It took a while for me to notice that the reason why I couldn't concentrate on anything or do something with my hands was because literally every five seconds, I'd be absentmindedly digging at the acne at the back of my neck.

` This, I thought, was humorous first and concerning second.

It took even longer before I understood that there was a link between the scratching and whether or not I had a tag - or the cut-off sliver of one! - poking my acne, or if the tag had actually been removed properly by the seam.
` The time that I changed my shirt and realized I stopped feeling so prickly and sweating, my mind racing and my nails causing my acne to bleed, marked the first step in recognizing that clothing does affect me badly.

` So bear that in mind!

` My dad knew it did, and he did his best to try to 'train' me to stop reacting that way to clothing - like an animal, you know. (Just like he'd try to 'break my spirit like a wild horse.')
` I would burst into tears whenever he would threaten to send me off to a mental hospital where they'd supposedly 'desensitize' me by making me wear burlap. Mainly, he wasn't serious, he was just using my frustration as a tool to induce fear and panic in me.

` In reality, no 'desensitizing' effect is discernable in wearing anything that annoys me, especially if the effect is very strong. I realize today that if I wear something that doesn't agree with me, my anxiety is just going to rise as I continue to try to ignore it.
` And if, by habit, I try to ignore it, I won't realize where the anxiety is coming from! In fact, while Jonathan was here, I remember I was wearing a shirt with a drawstring around the bottom which went around my waist.
` I was agitated about something important I had to do over the phone, and then realized that I was about to have a nervous brekdown - I hung up the phone abruptly to avoid it. I grabbed at another drawstring around my neck and tugged it - which ripped my shirt straight down the middle! (I forgot there wasn't a hem around the collar to keep it from tearing!)
` I didn't ask, but I don't think Jonathan got a 'free show' from the fact that I wasn't also wearing a bra. My face was very red just the same because I couldn't believe I'd torn my clothing like that!

` This was really the first inkling that clothing could bother me as much as it did. I threw the shirt out - it was a really stupid-looking one anyway: A bright red tank-top with a hood.
` I was all embarrassed about such an outburst like that - why would just a little bit of stress cause me to get that angry? Well, I realized that I took it out on my shirt! I realized my shirt had been bothering me greatly all day and I hadn't realized it: So the situation I was in was actually caused a reaction from more than a little bit of stress - it was from a little bit more stress than I'd been in! Evidently, I was already in a lot of stress already.
` ...From the shirt!

` And that's how I started to come to realize that clothes - as well as allergies and persistent noises - are important to evaluate as to how much they really annoy you.
` I've spent all this time trying to ignore everything around me that bothered me - complaining doesn't seem to be a virtue, does it? - and at the same time I was shutting out anything I could have possibly enjoyed.

` Needless to say, I have a lot of catching up to do in 'the real world', including interacting with people without all that nervousness caused by stress. I've never had that before now, but being around people is so much easier! I'm really not so awkward!
` If I just stay calm, I'll be able to interact without being jittery and feeling like an idiot. And how can I stay calm? Keeping myself at a temperature between 55 and 80 degrees, close the windows if The Dog That Rarely Stops Yapping is At It Again (unless the two conflict), don't eat anything that causes a brain-frying, 'drunken irritability' allergy, and for gosh sakes, be careful what I wear!

` Long-Winded Example: I did a lot of this earlier today: I had just managed to drift off to sleep when my cell phone rang. Before, I would have scrambled to half-coherantly answer it and apologize for almost not answering it in time. I've recently learned that if I don't answer when I'm not very awake or not feeling well, I can avoid making people worried about how ill or incoherant I sound.
` Phil, however, who had been napping for quite a while, sprang up and answered my phone. It was his mom, as I'd figured - I talk to her about every day, sometimes more than once, so it's not usually worth making myself miserable trying to stay awake while talking on the phone.
` Because my nap was so short, I was feeling too refreshed to go back to sleep. I figured I'd write in my blog. Unfortunately, I found EdgeWalker asleep on the floor in the office, and I wasn't terribly keen to wake him up by starting to type.

` There are three computers in the living room, though Phil was on the phone in there. Now, before, I would have just tried to go back to sleep, but this time, I asked him to go into the bedroom so I'd be able to concentrate on thinking up words to type rather than not thinking at all and winding up typing down what he was saying.
` He seemed quite confused about the whole thing and asked me what was wrong, but luckily, he did as I asked.
` The next thing that bothered me was The Dog That Rarely Stops Yapping. (I theorize it only stops when its voice starts to get hoarse.) I could hear it because six of our windows - the ones that came with screens - were open. Two of them are misaligned for some reason and require special treatment to open and close. Luckily, I managed to shut all of them, although the loud banging sound when one of them suddenly fell shut caused Phil to come out of the bedroom and wonder what was wrong.

` So here I am. Phil actually went out to fly his kite before sunset. The only thing that's irritating me right now is my ever-present headache and my muscle tension from sitting still too long. And the droning sound from... it must be EdgeWalker's PC - Phil's new one is quieter than a laptop!

` I'm not sure what I can do except go back to bed. Or take some cold or allergy medicine.

` That's another thing: Believe it or not, but taking Benadryl has always caused my mind to clear (not the other way around!) because the intense stress that I considered to be normal for everyone to function in suddenly became much less pronounced.
` I liked it a lot, and for a while made sure I ate soy products every day (which I am allergic to and cause a great deal of stress and histamine reactions) just to have the excuse to take it! I also would eat things that made my nose run so that I could take Robitussin, though I'd take either anyway if it was important that I be able to think.
` I would have these internal struggles with myself, trying to rationalize my actions. I'd think: "But I'll be able to calm down enough to do something important! My mind seems so much sharper... and I actually stop feeling bad!"
` And I'd counter: "You only think it clears your mind because it makes you feel that way! It actually is just making you all drugged up. No wonder you feel much better, too - your muscle tension is so low! That's no way for someone to live their lives!"

` Actually it is - just without the dizziness and slowed responses. And I'm glad to say I have discovered a better treatment:

` Get rid of things that bother me! Don't really complain either, just get rid of them!
` (I was having trouble doing this until recently, when I suddenly became bold enough not to go over doing things with other people and just do stuff on my own. Now, getting rid of annoyances doesn't invoke the idea of polling other people their opinions on it!)

` Having low muscle tension and feeling 'pretty good' isn't wrong! It's required! But if you can't relax or take pleasure in things, depression and/or stress from things you may not be aware that are really bothering you might be what's keeping you from acheiving that.

` Even smells can put me on edge and, in fact, make me want to leap into a rage and murder everyone in cold blood before I realize what I'm doing.
` Don't believe me? I don't want to myself.
` Among these 'smells' is the mildew that occasionally grows in my clothing if it doesn't get dried right away - another good reason to choose carefully what I wear, especially since it seems to 'burn' or 'freeze' my skin. I thought to myself; 'It's just a smell! How could it really do that? Oh, I can just overcome it, mind over matter and all! It's not real...'
` EdgeWalker, however, pointed out that it could be my allergy to mold. Great - more 'drunken, irritability' allergies can be caused by just inhaling stuff!
` Same thing happened very markedly for half a week at my mom's house - there was this extremely thick, 'cheap perfume smell' that seemed to come from nowhere at night that made me very burp a lot for some reason, and my eyes would water and I'd start feeling like I was in the middle of an argument with someone while covered in fleas.
` I pointed it out to my mom just before she was going to bed one night and she discovered that the snake plant was blooming - as it did every ten years - and I immediately ordered the plant to be moved onto the porch because it was intolerable!
` The few times I've had to put on makeup, it's made me extremely agitated, my skin would seem to burn, my nose would run, and I'd always try sitting in front of a fan or something because it was like the makeup smelled horrible, especially the lipstick because it was right under my nose!
` I also noticed that when I was in close proximity with my mom, I'd suddenly get mad at her, but I didn't know why. When we were in a car together the problem was the worst - I'd get pissed off for no apparent reason, start fanning myself, going 'Phew! You stink!' and hanging my head out the window. Unless she wasn't wearing makeup...
` Strangely, this makeup - which is also what I've used - is 'hypo-allergenic' so could that really have been an allergic reaction?
` (My mom has all kinds of 'allergies', to things like Lysol and cigarette smoke, and an allergist told her that they weren't really allergies, they were something else, but he didn't elaborate.)

` To continue, there was also this stupid Estee Lauder lotion some insane person gave me, which Phil thickly coated my back with just before I had to take the cat to the vet, so I didn't have time to wash it off. I kept telling him that one layer was enough - seven was six times too many! I almost slapped him while I was freaking out from it, though I felt guilty despite the fact that I felt like I had sunburn!
` The entire time I was at the vet's office, I fanned myself and said; 'Phew! I stink!' because the scent emanating from my drenched shirt filled the room and it was making my eyes burn and my nose run. Poor Katie had to put up with it too...
` Not only that, but the lavender oil Phil himself gave me made me go crazy when I got some of it on me. Same with this spray of some type that is supposedly 'scientifically proven' to help people sleep. It didn't smell that bad so I sprayed some on my bed - and spent the next week sitting on the living room floor all night biting my wrists before I realized why I couldn't sleep and washed my sheets.
` Similarly, the Realm for Women he bought me got on my bedroom door and I was way too agitated to get to sleep for a while until I washed it. I felt pretty guilty because he kept whimpering; 'Oh, you don't like it!', even though that wasn't true! It smelled okay but it made me sweat and cry a lot and I couldn't tell anyone why - how can a smell make you agitated? I just couldn't believe it!!

` It goes on: When I moved out here, Phil had an air-freshener in the bathroom, which he'd secretly try to use behind my back. I'd come out of the bathroom and be blinded by anger and throbbing sinuses, and have no idea why until he told me - eventually, I caught on.
` Some of his scented candles have a similar effect, though they're usually not strong enough to cause a problem. Luckily the way I respond to these things have finally convinced him - no more scents allowed around me!

` But that's not to say at least one scent can't have a therapeutic effect on me. While Realm For Women (as well as a bunch of cologne Phil's had over the years) just makes me want to kill people, Realm For Men has the opposite effect: I calm down and feel 'pretty good' when I inhale it - so do some other people I know. I'm almost shocked at this 'unreal, wallflower' reaction in retrospect.
` That's why Phil thought that Realm For Women would have a similar effect, but they are clearly two different things.

` Well, I've surely yammered on enough about the most obscure-seeming things that greatly annoy me the most. Hopefully, anyone with this type of problem who's read any part of this entry will find it useful to pointing out similar things about themselves.
` That's how I learn about anything - by example. By living here with us, EdgeWalker has shown me to avoid annoyances just by not being 'nice' about things and grinning and bearing it the way Phil might. He noticeably gets rid of annoyances - for example, when Butters is aggravating his allergies, and/or biting him, he just shuts her in the office.

` Importantly, this whole thing of realizing that things annoy me and how my reactions are not my fault makes me realize that I don't blow up at people! It's not me who naturally goes along and bites off people's heads outta nowhere! There's a reason for it!
` If something's causing me to undergo inexplicable duress, I can't just turn off those feelings like a switch! (My dad used to insist that I could with my allergies, and then scream and rant at me for failing to do so.) I am not those feelings! That is why I can't control them! What I can usually control is what is causing them and separating myself from it! If it's an object, the principle is simple.
` For some people, it could even be a thought, which means they have to stop thinking about it in order to 'cool off'. Getting away from something that reminds them of that thought may also help.

` After all, knowing what your feelings are on things is very important - when I mistook terror for 'paranoia' (since when am I paranoid, anyway?), I failed to run away from a very serious situation and paid dearly when I was tortured and then locked up for weeks! (It's a very insane story for another time, but asking Phil for advice instead of following my feelings was clearly something I needed to do in this case!) Another good reason to avoid things you plain don't like instead of laughing at yourself!

` I bet if this entry helps just one person recognize something that greatly annoys (or terrifies) them that maybe seems ridiculous - and realize they're not crazy - it would probably make their life a lot better. That's the point of all this rambling, so I hope it does.


Surrounded by Bad Karma At Home said...

Could you be allergic to synthetics that are used to make the clothing? Or, maybe, the dyes in them? Just wondering.

See - I not only read your blog, but I even posted something! WOW!

S E E Quine said...

Good question- I do seem to have the same kind of strong reaction to NEW clothing... hmmm.