I remember sitting in the vehicle next to her when she asked the question: “are you tired?” Surprised that she noticed, I responded with a “yes” and “how did you know?” It had been a long day and while I tried to ‘put out’ around people, long days always got the best of me.
Gently, she told me the truth: I went silent and withdrew, gave answers that were vague and distant, lost expression in my voice and shut down. So strange to hear, because I was unaware of it.
Her observation led me to observe myself more and I began to recognize my awkwardness. Often when visiting with others I’d suddenly (and without explanation) feel very out of place.
It was as if my brain shut down but was with it enough to know that I was out of it. Usually an easy conversationalist and good at asking questions, I suddenly turned into a weird, slow thinker and was unable to process and digest that words that were flowing my way. I couldn’t think of questions to ask and comments were few and far between.
This was before I began any treatments.
As healing began in my body, I hit another hurdle: I had forgotten how to relate and ask questions. Somehow, due to a deprivation of conversation, a stranger appeared, and that stranger embarrassed me!
Words been stopped up for 2 years and suddenly, like a torrent, they were back. Talk, talk and talk. I didn’t realize it until a sister visited for several days and pointed it out: I hadn’t asked her one question the entire visit. Once again, I started to observe myself and was almost sickened by the person I’d become (which says something about the person I thought I had to be).
Normally, I was the one asking questions and listening. Who was I anymore? I didn’t know!
I considered shutting down this desire to talk. The person I had become was so embarrassing! But somehow, it seemed I ought to play the part of a “fool” and let it flow. I sensed it was part of the healing process, of returning to normal. I let ideals of self go and talked. I also began moving toward change, tried to ask 1-3 questions per conversation. It was a step in the right direction.
Perhaps I was starved to have someone take interest in my life again, to know and understand? Or was it because the past 2 years of life had revolved around myself: research, treatments, dietary changes, making certain I got enough sleep, clean food, had a low key environment. I had to study this new person, get to know triggers, cause-and-effects, the way her body processed food, emotions, social life, etc.
I have now studied her for 5 years. I know her (fairly) well. And her focus has begun to shift; slowly and surely, I’ve begun taking interest in others’ lives again. As life returned to “normality,” the girl I knew began popping her head through the fog. And things are improving.
Oh, its not perfect. When I began teaching private music lessons again, I struggled with insecurities. I lived in fear of those moments when words didn’t connect and I received that blank stare…it was humbling and a reminder. I still struggle with talking in groups when tired, feel insecure when trying to explain specifics to others, those times when words don’t connect or make sense…its only a reminder of my weakness and limitations. My reality can make me want to hide away! Yet I recognize it: I have to live in my reality.
As Henry Cloud says: “Character = the ability to meet the demands of reality.”
I’m not normal. Too often I wish for people to think of me so. But I’m not. And that is ok.
Can you relate? If you are in the heart of ‘social awkwardness’, know it won’t last forever! Its a journey to walk out, but walk you can! It will be slow (as is everything with chronic illness) but it can be a sure thing.