Welcome to a post I’ve debated writing for a while now. One that scares me to go into even now as I type these words, hoping that possibly I’ll chicken out before actually getting to the ‘juicy bits’ that are personal revelations.
Indoor sports games hurt me.
Basketball, volleyball, soccer–anything in a loud, echoey chamber. With relentless pounding and crashing and visuals forcing their way into my eyes and sounds assaulting my skin and the smells of everyone in the room, crowding around me. By the end, I’m exhausted.
See, I have sensory processing issues and intense synesthesia, including mirror-touch. Diagnosed ADD, probably tied to the physical things. Growing up around different sorts of physical/mental/psychological issues, I never really thought anything different of myself. I just figured out ways to cope. Listening to music on headphones to shut out other noise. Wearing layers of loose clothing in crowds. Monitoring myself and avoiding situations that cause sensory stress (hands shaking is a sign). Exercising to try and process the emotions I feel from being hurt, emotions that have no target because the pain isn’t anyone’s fault. No one is trying to hurt me. But my body doesn’t know that. It still goes into fight or flight mode whenever I’m in trigger situations.
I remember the first time I saw the movie Daredevil. I was envious of his coffin-like sensory deprivation sleep chamber. I was relieved that a movie actually understood a bit of what I experienced.
When I tell people about my conditions, a lot of times they want to know the color of their voice (more of a gradient spectrum, because voices are multi-tonal) or whether or not I can smell if something is off (admittedly, a useful trick around the house).
But they’re less interested in my reasons for missing school sports games (I love my students, but after a long day of teaching, trying to cope with all of that extra stimuli literally beats me up. Forget grading papers. Forget talking to anyone. I have no spoons left). They’re less interested in knowing why I wear long sleeves a lot in loud, public gatherings, even in hot summer (protective cloth barrier).
The Big Irony: I’m an extrovert. I need to interact with people. I wish I could push myself to do it more than I can. I enjoy the internet a lot because I can have company without all of the physical exhaustion.
With all those differences, plus mutiple food allergies, it’s easy to feel like an Other. It’s easy to feel isolated or to isolate myself because I don’t want to appear weak or helpless.
It’s easy to feel like a hidden monster and to harbor resentment for those differences.
One line Julia Busko and I try to draw in the Blood Mercy series is the difference between physical or mental conditions and choosing to take monstrous actions. To show how people can be segregated based on physical or psychological conditions. And to show people having to fight their own temptations and struggles as they cope with those issues. How people have to fight the urge to feel victimized, to feel the self-righteous urge to strike back, or worse, to want to dominate those who are privileged just by being normal.
Privileged by not having voices in their heads. Privileged by being able to tolerate certain noises or certain fabrics. Privileged by being able to carry a drivers license or being able to turn down foods based on personal preference, instead turning down foods because the slightest crumb could kill them.
It’s so tempting to want to curl up and reject the world. Or to get mad. Really mad. To strike out against others who just don’t understand. To feel insecure, as if people might judge you for not being able to eat ‘normal’ foods or go to ‘normal’ events.
All rational, reasonable responses. But that doesn’t make them right. Anger and frustration justify striking back. But love and humility and reconciliation are the true answers. God is good, life is worth living, and no matter what the struggles are, it is still worth it to keep going, even if you’re different or denied things others have.
We all have limitations. We all have weaknesses. We all have our issues. Even if it isn’t physical or psychological, we have people or situations in our lives that make us feel marginalized or alienated. We have experiences that scar us and mark us for life. We have things we’re denied through no fault of our own.
And I’m praying that everyone who reads this post has moments of clarity and purpose and rest. That you know that you are loved and valued and precious. That there is a silver lining to everything: perhaps increased humility, empathy, or the random ability to track dead mice in your apartment (true story).
And that even at the worst of times, when you feel like a monster, there is always hope.