I’ve mentioned in my last two bigger posts that I’ve been watching the youtube channel invisible_i a lot lately. It’s for a reason. Today’s video is a regular Friday Q&A. In it, Katy talks about meltdowns. She’s talked about meltdowns before, but I didn’t really relate. I generally don’t have meltdowns, though I have had some in my life. What she talks about that I did relate to a lot this week is the opposite of a meltdown: a shutdown.
I realized that this happens to me on like a mini-level. I don’t think I have large scale shutdowns, but I have small shutdowns that hit me hard for a short amount of time and then something usually pulls me out of it. Usually, my wife or kids will pull me out of a shutdown before they’re even affected by it. All they really need to do is be present to pull me out of a shutdown, but since they are my whole life, the stress of life with two young children plus whatever else is bothering me, tends to put me in that shutdown in the first place. It’s nothing that they do, it’s just my own inability to manage my environment.
There are things that can make me shut down everywhere. I’ve posted about misophonia before, and that’s a big factor. Sounds that put me on edge and bring out that physical reaction definitely shut me down. It happens at work a lot because there are too many sounds that irritate me. They make me flip out, literally after a single sound. At work, there’s no support, so I end up having to put music in my ears and try to ignore it, but that’s where I shut down. I realize that I shut down a lot at work. I tend to recognize it after there’s an opportunity to get out of it, like someone will walk by or be near me at my desk, or even try to talk to me, and I’ll be silent or monosyllabic. I can recognize times in my life where I should be social and I’m instead completely shut down. It’s not because I hate people or don’t want to be social, but it’s usually because whatever is happening around me is too much to handle. I get overwhelmed in situations where there’s a lot of sound and interaction with people. I know it’s fun to like be at a place where there’s lots of people and then go to another place with lots of people because, you know, one of your friends is like, hey let’s go to this place, but after enduring X amount of time of sensory overload, I need to be somewhere quiet with the exact sounds that I want and can control.
Unfortunately, I have these shutdowns with my family as well. The work shutdowns are probably much easier just because I have to handle it completely on my own and nobody else is affected by it. Being at home, being overwhelmed by something, like maybe both kids are sad and screaming, my poor, amazing wife will usually take the brunt of that shutdown. My shutdowns at home aren’t the same as at work. I don’t put on headphones and crawl into bed. It’s more like, I need to be silent and not talked to so I can filter out all of the sounds and movement. So when I do get talked to, like my wife trying to tell me what we should do about these screaming kids, I’ll snap at her or ignore her. Or a combination of the two, like look at her and listen to what she’s saying, and then turn away and do something else. In those moments, I can’t force myself out. I need to focus on what is overwhelming me and let it filter out. Sadly, when there are two young kids, there are things that need to be done. I don’t have much time for myself to handle my mental state. I like to think my mind is quite adaptive though, and I’ve been able to use the fact that there are things that need to be done as a way of combating the shutdown. I’ll pick up the baby and carry her around while I do whatever is next for the night, like make dinner or put her to bed. But it’s hard for sure. I don’t like putting my wife into those positions where I seem to be completely disinterested in listening to her or don’t care about her or whatever. She’s completely incredible, I don’t think anyone could handle me daily like this, and I’m grateful that she understands me.
I do feel lucky that I was never viewed the way I’m viewing myself now, mental health-wise. Growing up, I don’t think there was any consideration that I might be different. I grew up coping with the way I respond to sounds, coping with the way I react to other people, and situations. Presently, I’m aware that often I overlook the term “thank you.” I will say thanks to like people I talk to for my job or cashiers at stores. But I don’t say it a lot outside of work and the service industry. When I do say it, it’s a concerted effort. But my whole life, I’ve had to put forth that effort, so I’m in my 30s now and it’s natural at this point. Though I am learning that a lot of the things I do to see normal or social or polite take a massive effort from me mentally because they’re not all hardwired into my brain. They’re learned from 34 years of life not realizing that I didn’t have these things built-in.
Anyway, Katy’s video today really got me thinking and I wanted to put my thoughts down. The more I think about what Katy talks about, the more I see Elliot as being this way. He has shutdowns too. Like when he leaves class in the beginning and when he leaves the party after Sammy kisses him. Interesting.