When I was in elementary school, I had diagnosed myself with alexithymia. I had read about alexithymia in a book somewhere, and being young enough to think that actually adults cared, promptly ran to the school nurse to report my diagnosis. She laughed at me and said that was cute. I probably mispronounced the words in some adorable childlike way which belittled my efforts. But still, couldn’t she tell that I was very serious about this? I saw that nurse a lot, mostly to profess that I was too sick and needed to be sent home immediately. I think that was about the time that I decided that no one believed me and I should just keep things to myself.
Alexithymia is a disorder that makes it hard to identify and understand emotions. It is common with people on the Spectrum. I do not know as much about it as I would like to, but I do know my experiences with it.
When I was younger, I struggled so much with expressing myself. I got into arguments a lot (usually on accident) and I lost them all because I could never think of what to say fast enough or at all. I still struggle with that one, I have to be very careful not to turn every conversation into an argument. It happens a lot more than I would like to admit, but usually only around my close friends. Thankfully, they have developed a tolerance to my random arguing and know to just ignore me.
I could never really tell when someone was mad or deduce really anything about what they were feeling. I got into a lot of trouble for things like that. So I turned my brain onto that problem and did a lot of experimenting. I watched a lot of movies and studied the emotions of the people there. I watched a lot of drama movies and noted how they reacted and how they looked. I began to mimic those emotions and it worked. I began to watch other people closely for their reactions and began to spot their emotions. I have gotten really good at this habit now, when I focus on it.
But, I have still not gotten very far with identifying my own emotions.
I see emotions mainly as problems to be solved. If I am feeling angry, I will stop and figure out what made me angry and then fix that thing. If I am feeling happy, I will stop and figure out what made me happy and try to do more of that thing. Emotions are like a giant lifelong experiment to me. This gets me in a lot of trouble with other people though, because I do the same thing to them. When I see someone who is upset, I will usually be able to figure out pretty fast what caused it. For the regular shaped people, it’s usually something very simple and familiar (Oh no, your boyfriend didn’t call you? How tragic that must feel for you!). But I have gotten into a lot of arguments over that sort of thing because for some reason, people usually don’t want you to invade their personal lives and start to tell them how to make things better. For some reason, people seem to value their broken and messy personal relationships. I’ll save my views of relationships for another post (it’ll be a good one).
I think all this emotional experimenting began when I got interested in psychology in early middle school and read a lot of Sigmund Freud and Victor Frankl (you know, the usual things that 6th graders are into these days). I wanted to become a shrink one day and ask the famous “How does that make you feel?” question. I began to ask that question to myself constantly and went from there. Since then, I have been able to identify and catalog pretty much every emotion I have experienced. I can place them all in their proper places, and I like that. I understand them, and I understand how to use them to motivate myself. But really, I only have known or experienced a few emotions. I know anger, happiness, sadness, and love. And, of course, there are some weird combinations of those four. I always group things into a few simple categories because that makes much more sense to me. I like simpler taxonomies, like the binomial nomenclature system, rather than the full KPCOFGS (That’s a science reference for those playing along at home. They can’t all be math related, I like science too).
Anger is probably the most common one to feel, it’s my go to whenever something unexpected happens. Anger usually feels like a warm wind blowing through the body and a dull ache in the back of the head. Usually, time seems to slow down as if I am watching a movie on half-speed playback. Then I get a lump in my throat that starts to irritate me until I do something about it. When I am angry, nothing in the world matters, other people are not even remotely considered. True anger is very terrifying. I try to avoid it at all costs because it hurts me the most. I can almost always stop it before it gets to that point though.
Happiness feels like a soft mountain stream flowing in the shade of a sunny day. There is a gentle breeze flowing by, and some perfect clouds in the sky that look like happy little animals. There are many kinds of happiness. There is a happiness that comes from being around friends, and it feels very insular and protective, like we are on a private island that is protected from the rest of the world. The ‘friends happiness’ has a feeling almost of separation from others and I don’t like that aspect of it. There is a happiness that comes from animals, which is very different than then happiness that comes from people. ‘Animal happiness’ feels warm and comforting, like petting a dog’s fur or snuggling with an adorable animal. I get that feeling anytime I am around an animal that I like.
Sadness feels like a star falling from the sky that never quite manages to land. Sadness feels like you are completely left alone on a planet where everyone else has gone and moved on from you. There are definitely different levels of sadness. I can talk a lot more about sadness later.
Love feels like warm perfect sunshine pouring into your body. Love feels like a warm blanket beside a fire. Despite my sarcastic exterior, I am a very sappy romantic. I love being in love, it’s just not something I am too familiar with.
However, there’s a weird feeling I have been experiencing a lot the last few months. I believe it is called loneliness. It’s not something I am familiar with, or have ever really experienced prior to this year.
The feeling begins with a sensation of my heart sinking down towards my stomach, as if it was sliding down the esophagus. My brain begins spinning, almost like I am dizzy, but it feels like the inside of my brain is moving. Then, both the misplaced heart and the spinning brain begin to physically ache and hurt. Sometimes this lasts for a few seconds, sometimes for a few minutes.
Whenever I feel this feeling, all I can think to do is run away until I feel nothing anymore, because feeling nothing is so much better than feeling that way. If that is what loneliness feels like, then I can understand why people die from a broken heart. It terrifies me because I have no idea what it is or how to fix it or how to prevent it from happening ever again.
It always seems to happen after I see a picture of people laughing or smiling or doing something fun, or sometimes when I hear a story of something cool happening involving my friends. Sometimes, even just hearing people laughing can set it off. Sometimes, I’ll be lying in bed at night trying to fall asleep and I’ll get this feeling out of nowhere and can’t sleep for the rest of the night. It’s happened 3 times this week……
Anyways, that’s enough on emotions for now.