Speaking verbally is something that I’ve always found to be very difficult, both physically and emotionally. It just doesn’t come naturally to me and that causes me to feel very anxious whilst talking. The feeling I get isn’t social insecurity or shyness. I never experience embarrassment in front of individual people or audiences. The closest thing that I can compare the feeling I get during times of unexpected one on one communication, is to feel so emotionally drained (and physically with a headache) that it gives me a similar sensation to a very sharp pain.
One of the most difficult parts of living my life (in addition to involuntarily reliving memories) is being constantly expected to verbally communicate. Many don’t understand how much anxiety it gives me to instantly have an unexpected one-on-one conversation. All forms of communication are an essential and unavoidable part of our world and I have learned (and am continuing to learn) ways in which I can adapt to this.
Though admittedly I still often say to my mother and therapists that I would much prefer a world where talking and conversation weren’t necessary. Still, I feel wrong by saying this because I fully understand that people who start conversations with me don’t at all mean to give me anxiety.
In truth, my family and therapists always assure me that most people use conversation as a way to emotionally connect with others and to make us all feel supported. However there are many other things that they’ve told me which I still don’t understand. It’s not even a case of me disagreeing with these facts. All it is, is that those facts haven’t entered my reasoning process, due to me not having the capacity to understand them. They seem like unfamiliar words spoken in an unknown language to me.
I’m hopeful (without pressuring myself too much) that sometime in my life I will eventually understand all of those things however, as I do indeed understand a lot more now than I did fifteen years ago.
Whether or not I ever fully understand all of the ways of communication, I am learning ways of doing mindfulness exercises to ease my anxieties in regards to having to talk. This is because the problem itself isn’t communication and conversation; it is in truth the anxiety that goes on within me that is the problem.
While I am at home adult colouring books (not basic children’s colouring books), artwork and activities involving Lego are very helpful. If ever a family member unexpectedly speaks to me whilst I’m in the middle of doing a task, I’m able to ground my anxiety back to a comfortable level by taking a stress break and doing one of those activities for up to twenty minutes.
For times when I’m outside of home it is of course very different. This is for two particular reasons. Firstly I can’t as easily access all of the calming games and activities that I have at home. The second reason is that people out in the community (and sometimes even support people with me) don’t understand my communication difficulties as much as the people close to me do. Thus it’s far more likely that I will be verbally approached, as well as being involved in a conversation with more words than I initially expected.
Yet the relatively recent invention of iPads has been very positive for me. I am able to use my iPad for mindfulness colouring while I’m out, and sandbox games including Minecraft are relaxing activities for me to do if ever I feel stressed in any place. I’m also very pleased that my lifelong favourite video game console (Nintendo- it’s newest console to date being Nintendo Switch) has given users the option of either playing games on a TV screen at home, or to use the handset anywhere else so that the same games can be played away from home.
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From my personal perspective, everybody has different genetic appearances. No two sets of eyes, mouths or any other physical features look 100% the same. This is even the case with siblings who are monozygotic. So, therefore, identifying facial expressions is just as difficult a task for me as choosing a grain of sand, and then trying to identify that after it has been randomly mixed amongst billions of others in a box is.