I don’t know how much I’m comfortable with sharing yet… But big changes are occurring in my life. One is good, the other I see as a negative…
I’m still unsure how to go about talking about this, but I will try.
Several days ago, before getting physically ill, I had what is called a “shut down”. I’ve had these before, but I had gotten very good at hiding them. If I was at work, I’d make an excuse to go to the bathroom and hide there for a bit. If I was at home around others… Same. But then one day I had nowhere to hide, no escape, nowhere to run. It happened in front of people for the first time ever in my adult life.
What is a shutdown?
A shut down is when you get so overwhelmed by everything around you that your brain finally says “enough” and kind of switches off. That’s the best way I can describe it. It sounds funny, but it’s anything but fun.
So, what happened to me?
It had been planned in advance that two men were to come and work on the electric wiring in the house. They were to add two new outlets, one for washer and another for the dryer. However, as that day neared I was already highly stressed due to other factors. I asked to reschedule and was under the impression that they would reschedule, so I let my guard down a bit and relaxed slightly. Then they showed up and pushed in anyway. Into my home, into my territory, into what was supposed to be my safe place. My friend, Betsey’s Dad, was here and he hung a curtain quickly in the living room doorway. I thought this would help. I have no doors, so a zebra striped shower curtain would have to serve as a visual block.
Now I’m very angry because I’m overwhelmed with stress. I felt it creeping up my spine… Anxiety attack. I wanted to scream. They were in the other room, in my home, moving my things around… You just don’t do that. My home wasn’t safe anymore according to my overloaded brain. I was trapped in the living room with my fiance, my ex, and our daughter. I was going to run to the bathroom, but because of where the men were working, the bathroom wasn’t available. This raised my anxiety more, and all the sensory blockades that I took years building and holding up finally failed… Every little noise in the house was on loudspeaker in my brain, the light in the room was overpowering to my eyes, and looking at my computer screen made me want to scream because of the brightness.
I HAD TO ESCAPE!!!
I couldn’t take it! Everything hitting me at once! I grabbed my daughter’s red puppy blanket and slung it over my head. I was going to make a run for it to my roommate’s bathroom upstairs. Because now on top of everything else I had to pee so bad it hurt!
Then it happened…
I had Betsey’s blanket on my head, standing in the doorway, my nose less than an inch away from the zebra-striped curtain… Frozen. Hypnotized by the pattern of the black stripes on the white background. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t function. All’s I could do was stand there and study those stripes totally hypnotized. I have no idea how long I stood there. Far too long… Probably ten minutes or more. Totally shut down, unable to do anything, unable to even speak.
When I “came to” I darted up to my roommate’s bathroom, and then got stuck there for a time as well.
I felt so ashamed and embarrassed…
I tell people all the time to never be ashamed or embarrassed of who they are as a whole. Advice that I need to learn to follow. See… I’ve never had to face people before… I had always hidden it. I sat in my roommate’s bathroom as I gathered back my wits, and realized that I couldn’t make some stupid excuse or story to those that had just witnessed what I had gone through.
At any workplace, I would happily tell them that I was puking or had diarrhea rather than admit to having a mental breakdown of any sort. I even recall one time that my boss would just not let me go… I lied and said I pooped my pants… That’s how desperate I was to get away from the sensory overload… I’d rather be seen as physically sick than admit to a mental deficiency.
I thought I had gotten over this, but it appears I haven’t. I was so ashamed and embarrassed that I didn’t want to leave my roommate’s bathroom. Now I also had these emotions to contend with.
I finally pulled myself together and went back downstairs.
The workers left. I was extremely exhausted from what happened. The day went on and ended, and the next began…
That’s when he said it…
My ex, who is also my friend and my daughter’s Daddy, told me something I had never wanted to hear.
“Nikki, I’m not trying to be mean or anything… But you should file for disability.”
I think I was silent for a few minutes as my brain absorbed that suggestion. Normally I would have gotten defensive, but this time I couldn’t. I couldn’t defend myself because he saw it happen. After I thought about it, all’s I could do was swallow my pride and admit he was right. Later I talked to my fiance about it and he also agrees.
I’m swallowing a lot of my pride just in publicly writing about this.
One of the things that popped into my head were… “But I had jobs before just fine…”
Right… “Just fine”… Who was I kidding? I got into trouble all the time for too many bathroom breaks, forgetting simple tasks, and saying really stupid things sometimes because of my lack of filter and total social awkwardness… Things I didn’t want to admit to, things I got defensive about… But now I have to finally take a step back and look at with a critical eye. Even if that means admitting that I cannot do things that “normal” people can.
So here I am… Swallowing my pride and filing for disability. Finally admitting I can’t function in the workplace…
I feel like shit. I feel so useless!!!
Why? Because I feel like this is me throwing in the towel for the rest of my life. I feel like I can never be successful or achieve my dreams.
But it isn’t true… Even though I have to admit I can’t work in a normal work environment, I will still figure out how to achieve my goals and dreams. I will stay in college, I won’t give up. I will find a way to work from home… But until then, I must file for disability so that I have an income to support my little girl.
I won’t give up. Betsey is watching me.
Despite the odds, I will find a way to succeed. Not for me anymore, but for my daughter. I want to set a good example for her. I want to provide for her. I want her to get the most out of life and become successful. I want her to be happy and have a good life.
I want her to see that when everyone is telling you that it is impossible, that there is always a way to make it possible with hard work and dedication.
To some people of my past…
There you have it… So many times I have heard that I am “lazy”, that I “don’t care”, or that I am a “slacker.” I finally stopped defending myself against those terms because I didn’t want to admit to the above. I would rather get termed everything negative than to admit a mental handicap… Well… Now you know why. I didn’t do something because I couldn’t. You know how horribly hard that is to admit?? That you can’t do things that everyone else finds simple??
As far as the good change that I mentioned earlier…
Well, you’ll have to stay tuned for that… Because I can’t say anything about that publicly yet!