Sorrow Found me When I was Young
I want to take you on a journey. Imagine if you will that you’re in a video game. It’s a sandbox game – so it’s open world. Allows you to have a very immersive experience and you have tons of side quests and a main goal. The main goal is to get to level 40, and complete side quests to expand your charisma, cunning, and funds.
Your character comes with an energy bar, and you never get to expand that energy bar, it will ALWAYS be the same. The further you get in the levels, the more energy you will be using. Everything you do in the game costs energy. Whenever you have to use one of your tools, or cast a spell you lose an even greater percentage of energy . In order to recharge your energy you need to sleep and rest. Depending on the quests you do and the tools used, your energy could take days to recharge.
Even with your energy being depleted you are expected to carry on in the game. It will slow you down, it makes things harder to do; but you have to keep pushing forward. The difficulty level will never adjust no matter how much you are lacking energy. Several times during one day in the game you have to take time to check all your stats to make sure they’re where they need to be, that you’re level and doing okay. This too, takes energy.
You finally get to the end of level 39. You are exhausted. You just want the game to be over, and you think it ends at level 40. Then, you defeat the final boss and you cut to a screen telling you that, SURPRISE, the game is not over. You must continue on. Indefinitely.
How does this make you feel?
Frustrated? Exhausted? Not wanting to keep going?
Well, I am staring down the barrel of level 40 in a few days and I wish I lived a neurotypical existence unmarred by mental illness and trauma that would allow me to celebrate 40 with a big festive bash. To follow the getting older trope of fussing over wrinkles, and grey hair. Rather than dealing with the ever creeping feeling of dread, anger, and grief that expands and grows and seems a bit heavier each morning as the time ticks closer to my 40th birthday.
I got the spoiler that tells me that the game isn’t ending at 40 like I thought it would. This has resulted in an overwhelming crisis of knowing the one thing that’s given me comfort since I was 7, that I desperately believed with my whole heart, isn’t going to happen. That I’m trapped here for an indefinite amount of time. I cannot begin to tell you how devastating that is for me. For the last few years I have been trying to force myself to believe that life beyond 40 was inevitable; but I don’t think I actually believed it.
Even now, with less than a week till my birthday I am hoping that there is some grand intervention. That the fates are all “ha ha! Made you look”. That the game will indeed be over.
I am trying to force myself to accept the reality of what the game will look like after level 40; but the thought of it is so overwhelmingly awful that I have previously refused to allow myself to dwell on it.
The game that is life, for me, is exhausting and I’m just so tired of being here. Everything I do, everywhere I go has to be calculated and processed. I have to make sure I am using my social filters and appropriately responding to people. I have to make sure that people don’t get too over exposed to my weirdness or I’ll lose friends.
I have to listen to the bullshit refrain of “there is no such thing as normal” directed towards me time and time again. This is as tedious to me as people who say “money doesn’t buy happiness”. It’s awfully nice for neurotypical people to look at neurodivergent people and tell us that there is no such thing as normal; when they themselves will never have to experience the reality of what it is like to not BE normal.
To have to develop social filters, to be mindful of everything you’re doing so you can make sure you’re colouring inside the lines that social conventions have drawn. To know that even when you find people who you think accept you for being “quirky” and “weird” , it’s only to a specific point. Because if you go over the line of what they see as normal and acceptable they will snap you back to reality so fast.
The most recent example that has really hurt my soul is at my job. I love my job, I love my coworkers, they are wonderful amazing people. I am so fortunate. However, I recently learned that their acceptance of my “quirks” only extends to a certain point. To the constraints of normality and not beyond.
I was encouraged to decorate my office space, to make it mine, to make it cozy for me. So I tried to. I got some fabric that I checked with neurotypical people to make sure it was office appropriate, and I covered the dreary grey divider in my office. I was going to put up pictures of my cats that mean so much to me that my friend drew, and some other motivational drawings. I was feeling so excited at how comfortable my office was. What I thought people were encouraging me to be.
Only to have a co-worker I told my plans to give me the side eye. Letting me know that they most definitely did not approve but were trying to be supportive. Then my manager let me know that she did not like the changes I had made. That it would not be appropriate if someone else had to use my desk space.
I took it all down. It looks normal now. Not an ounce of me exists in that space so that I can make sure it’s comfortable for the imaginary person who may need to use my office space. My office has become a constant reminder to me of just how important it is to be socially acceptable, and palatable.
I have spent almost 40 years of my life doing my best to be normal, to mimic neurotypical people as best as I can, and I fail at it every, single, day. And I hate myself for it, every, single, day.
I think the worst part of this whole thing is that I am not alone. I am surrounded by people who love me and want me to be okay. Who tell me they’re glad I am here – and I have to smile and say thank you. Even though I most desperately do not want to be here.
I hate making people worry.
I do my best to keep my feelings to myself, because I know that confronting death makes people uncomfortable. No one knows what to say to someone who is struggling with suicidal ideations because the thought of death and loss is terrifying to them. Whereas to people like myself, it’s freeing. I am not looking for pity, or sad refrains. I just want people to understand that reality looks differently for many people. That it’s okay to sit in the discomfort of knowing someone has feelings that are hard for you to process.
Now before you commit me to a grippy sock vacay, please know that I am not any danger to myself. I have made pinky promises and one of those is that I will stay here, and I take my pinky promises very seriously.
Rather, I am going to do what Dr M taught me to do. I am giving myself a definite amount of time to grieve. To mourn for that little girl who thought life was so unbearable that she made up an age so that she had something to look forward to. I am going to mourn for the adult woman who carries trauma like an invisible roadmap of scars on her being. Who is tired; but keeps trying to find purpose.
Once that time that I have given myself is over, I am going to force myself to get on with life. Because I have to. If there is one thing I have learned in my very long journey to some semblance of mental wellness is that the darkness is a shadow; but it isn’t you. You can’t let it be.
If I am going to be here, making it the best I can is the goal. I need to keep adding to my tool box. I need to keep taking comfort in the relationships with people who love me for my whole being, and see my quirks and uniqueness as a win rather than a loss. I am going to bask in the soft warmth of my cats and their life steadying purrs. I am going to relish in the joy bubble days.
When the darkness comes as it always does, I will always have a wonderful husband, dear friends & family and silly cats to push through and show me the light. I will keep playing the game. I know that it will eventually end. I know that one day I will get to leave. I will always hope it’s sooner rather than later; but I’m going to keep persisting & levelling up until it does.
Anna StenningMarch 21, 2022 at 6:40 am
I like your blog and can relate to many of your experiences in my own way (cats more than hippos). I am interested in finding out more about your aphantasia blog if you’d be willing. Anna