Alexithymia during an emotional breakdown…?

Yep, it’s happening now.

Life sometimes has a way of piling up behind–and on top of–me.

The old familiar sensation creeps up on me.  Something I can’t describe jiggles loose from deep inside a cavern I can’t localize.

After the jiggling comes the welling up.  It swells inside, and finally overflows, washing over me bidirectionally–simultaneously from the top down and the bottom up.

The first tears sting the most.  Good lord, do they burn.  I can’t wipe them away fast enough.

My only desire is to be alone, except for the select occasions in which I prefer to bathe in the company of my partner.  Increasingly, I’m self-reliant, taking care of internal affairs on my own, but sometimes it’s good to have a spotter-partner at the gym of Life.

My aloneness is the only thought I’m sure of; everything else is a mystery.

Why do I feel like shedding tears just now?  What exactly is it that insisted upon welling up inside me in so pronounced an entrance?

The interesting reality is, I can’t tell.

Sometimes I probe myself.  Tonight is one of those nights.

Is it the fact that the interesting neurological symptoms that seemed to leave no lasting mark on my friend was actually a stroke in progress?

Is it the large, looming exam I have coming up in two weeks that I’m feeling the rising panic hiding just around the corner?

Is it loneliness?

Is it an imbalance among the foundational facets of my life as of late?  (I’m sensitive that way; unless I have struck a palatable balance between the major areas of life, such as work, partnership, activities, etc, I can get pretty insidiously unhappy.)

The wrinkle is, despite the tears, this may not even be due to pain, fear, or any other negative emotion.

The bigger wrinkle is, I can’t even tell.  I feel no particular, specific emotion.  I can’t even pin it down to the four basics – happy, sad, angry, or scared.  Really–I can’t even get that far.  Even the elementary category eludes me.  I can’t even pin down a parent-category, much less a hair-splitting subcategory.

Is it the beauty in the waning twilight, which chose to tinge the clean blue with hints of teal and green just before fading to pitch-black?

Is it the fact that a beautiful friend has just given their vehicle to my partner, who, despite legal blindness is staring at the palpable possibility of being able to get a driver’s license for the first time in his life?

So many possibilities.

It’s easier to tell what it’s not.  At least, I think so.  Maybe I can start there instead, and arrive at clearer-cut answers by working backwards.

I can securely say that it’s not coming from conflict at the office.  Not from coworkers, not from clientele.

I can solidly eliminate any worry about my immediate family.  (Extended family is another story.)

I’m certain that it doesn’t involve my marriage/partnership, or my partner himself, in any way.  We’re pretty stable at this point.

There are no medications in the picture, nor did I get exposed to gluten, which, in my form of Celiac Disease, actually affects my brain more than it ever did my abdomen.  And over seven years into a gluten-free diet, the original near-vertical learning curve has flattened out pretty well.

So, what are we looking at?

I still can’t tell.  I don’t know why I’m crying.  No idea, no clue.

I do know that this particular release isn’t flavored with any of the emotions that sometimes come as a bundled package.  I can tell you that this time, I feel neutral.

I think.

Or do I?

My brain is no puzzle piece, but my heart is a riddle.  My brain asks me semi-aggravating questions like “what’s the sound of one hand clapping?”, but my heart says, “what’s the sound of one Aspie feeling?” and although it already knows the answer, my brain doesn’t, and my brain is what counts, and my heart keeps mum.

I can’t even Phone a Friend.  Not figuratively (to keep with the “help!  I’m stuck!” half-joke), nor literally (what would I say?  “Um, I’m feeling something, but I don’t know what”.  Yeah, that would be an interesting conversation).

Sometimes, the sky, no matter how pretty and infinite it is, doesn’t have the answers; in cases like these, looking up at it doesn’t do any good.  Sometimes it does; this time is not one of them.

Sometimes I have to turn inward.  Soul-searching time.

When was the last time I didn’t feel like this?  Maybe I can identify a triggering event.  Most of the time, I can pinpoint a particular turning point, before which I was fine, and after which I was not.

Not this time.  The feeling, whatever it is, sort of crept up in stages.  When did it start?  It happened so gradually that I’m not sure I can tell.

Part of it has been happening for months.  Another part has only been there a few weeks.  And there’s a third part, of course–the part that surfaced today.

OK, good.  So what was transpiring during that time that might have taken its toll on me?

The longer ago the triggering event and the longer the feeling’s presence within me, the harder it is for me to trace and pick out the source.  But I’ll try.

I know two people who are terminally ill; I found out about the second one about five months ago.  There were also some trolls and bullies back then.

Maybe certain platforms of social media are getting empty and beginning to resemble a swirling vortex, around and around which you move, but never really get anywhere except sucked in.  But that can’t be the truth, because there are still so many people for whom I care deeply and with whom I love to interact.  There are others, however, whom I found out the hard way, that I don’t.  Maybe I’m being stretched too thin, trying to be too many things to too many people.  (If you’re reading this, you’re not among those people; I’m not referring to you in any way when I say this stuff.)

Maybe my concern for several loved ones who are terminally-or-otherwise-chronically ill and a few other friends and family members is overwhelming to me.  Maybe trying to make sense of their situation and its significance is taxing my last brain battery-pack.  Maybe ensuring that everyone else is fairing OK is depleting my own energy account, fraying my system and dripping me dry.

Or maybe emotions can fall under that “shades of gray” dome, and maybe this is one of those instances in which I live up to the stereotypical playbook after all, finding it difficult to mould the non-black-and-white into something recognizable and concrete.

This happens every so often.  I sit in a stairwell or a slice of curbside underneath the sprawling Live Oak trees on the grounds of our apartment complex, look up at the sky through those trees, and do “absurd” things like attempt to distinguish between four elementary emotional categories.

I sift through available emotions like files on a hard drive, using the proverbial “preview”function to try the emotion on for size, and see if it fits.

Happiness?  No, that doesn’t seem right.

Sadness?  Maybe.

Anger?  Nope.

Anxiety or fear?  Yeah, that’s probably a front-runner right now.  I’ll tag that one for the “short list”.

OK, what else?  Irritability?  Nah.

Disgust?  Negative.

Grief?  Yep, that seems to fit, too.  .

Guilt?  Regret?  For once, no.

Overwhelm?  Another front-runner, although I’m not sure how it ranks next to the other two.

And so on…

Sometimes I use existing songs to describe how I’m feeling.  Their melodies, harmonies, instrumentation, tempo, style, lyrics, and other attributes are phenomenal at capturing nebulous emotions more precisely, completely, and vividly.  Given music’s additional dimensions, there’s much greater potential for accuracy.  It’s kind of like Feelings Pictionary for Aspies.

The tears have long evaporated, leaving a mild, tolerable salty residue on my face that ever-so-mildly restricts the minutest of facial muscle movements, such as the involvement of the cheeks in the activity of eye-blinking.  And still I’m not all that much closer to teasing out the driving force of those tears, the engine behind the jigging loose, welling up, and washing over.  I have a few ideas, but nothing I’d bet anything substantial on.

Sometimes that happens, too – the emotions are expressed and released without actually being felt in the process.  According to conventional thinking, it’s an unspoken given that the experience of one’s emotions themselves and the expression thereof would occur simultaneously–such a given, in fact, that the idea that any other possible alternative exists never enters the average mind.

In fact, if the question were ever raised, brace yourself for the indignant “Of course an emotion would be felt and experienced as it’s being expressed!” from the vast majority of the world.  “How could it not?”

Score one more for neurotypical reciprocal theory of mind deficit.

Because the striking reality is, the two–the expression of an emotion and the experience of that emotion–can indeed be separated, disconnected.  Perhaps by minutes, perhaps by days, or possibly even longer.  To express an emotion, I don’t necessarily have to experience it or feel it consciously myself; if I am actually feeling it as I’m expressing it, then I’m not aware of it.  But because of the processing delays that densely dot my life on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, I wouldn’t be surprised if the experience of an emotion lags behind my act of expressing it…

…or maybe the Cosmos was nice to me and let me off the hook once, allowing me to bypass having to feel the emotion by simply expressing it in a particular way.

If that’s the case, bring it on.  Jiggle, well up, and wash away. 🙂


An excellent, comprehensive definition of Alexithymia can be found here.

🙂

 

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14 Comments

  1. Beautiful. It’s taken me a very long time to understand that my daughter truly does not know how she feels when she feels something. I used to believe that maybe she just felt things so very intensely that naming it was too emotionally fraught, and would force her to feel it even more intensely. Now I’m starting to realize that no, she truly can’t name it.

    Please forgive this question if it’s insensitive or even irrelevant, but I’m curious to know: if, perhaps, during a crying spell, does it help you to feel better if you stop and try to examine it, or does it make you feel worse because it’s a really challenging exercise? (I’m just thinking of strategies that my daughter might be able to use when she feels … something.)

    Whatever the reasons for your emotions, it sounds to me as though something was bothering you and creating unhappy tears. For whatever that is, I’m sorry for the situations that caused it. I agree, too, with your summation that tears wash things away. I hope you feel better. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you dear! ❤️. Oh yes, I do feel so much better after one of these spells – almost always (99% of the time, literally) 😊😊

      You raise an excellent question – is it helpful to try to think about it or does it make one feel worse? Awesome thought! I would say that for me, it depends 😉💜. Sometimes it can demystify the (confusing) situation (helpful), and sometimes it can indeed make me feel it more intensely.

      I’ve found that personally, the most important points are…

      1) to ensure that I’m not putting so much energy into trying to figure it out that the release itself is prematurely halted, dissipated, or derailed.

      2) that I’m not too hard on myself or get too critical of myself if I can’t immediately come up with an answer.

      If the exercise of thinking makes the feeling more intense, then for me, that’s ok, because I’ll cry harder or longer, and the release will be that much more complete. It’s not something I strive for, as I’ve found it best to let it happen as it happens, kind of like an unfolding process for a flower, in which I like to provide a conducive environment, but I wouldn’t manually force the petals open faster than they would have opened on their own 😊

      For me, forcing and stifling are the only two concepts that are off-limits to me; I just let things run their course 😊

      You sound like an incredible and amazing mum! (have I told you that? 😉💙). If it were my daughter in this situation, I would do exactly what you’re doing; provide a nurturing and judgment-free environment that is emotionally open and free, and (very) gently probe to see if she can identify a particular emotion. Or, perhaps when she’s not having one of these spells, talk gently with her about it and encourage her to ask herself the simple question of what might have led to this (and it’s often more than one thing, or it may have been something in the past that she might not have realized that she’s feeling that way about!), but encourage her not to get *too* bogged down in the details; the most important priority is that she release her feelings even if she can’t describe them 😊

      Wow, thank you for posing that question, and thank you for being such an awesome mum to your daughter! My “Happy Mother’s Day” post, although almost a year old, sounds like it definitely applies to you 💖🌟💖

      Liked by 3 people

      1. ❤ Thank you, also, for your encouragement, again! The trick for my daughter is to get her to release emotions … appropriately. In ways that aren't self-destructive. We're working on it. 🙂 And I'm grateful to you and other bloggers who are providing me such invaluable perspective! Even if it turns out that my daughter isn't AS, the knowledge you're sharing is SO helpful!! I appreciate it more than you know! ❤

        Liked by 2 people

        1. That’s awesome!! So happy to help in any way 😊💖

          Your daughter sounds really cool, and I’m not just saying that 😘. Of course, she’s probably a chip off the “old” block 😉💖

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Been here many times. I honestly think this may be why I so frequently go quiet, or, at least, a part of it. Feelings are so woven inside of me in such mysterious ways that trying to be around people who want to talk AND attempting to sort my emotions at the same time is impossible. Usually, I have to steal away on my own and just let my thoughts roam wild. Upon examination, there are typically several situations or fears converging all at once. On my own, I can allow the feelings to more or less break free and the tears roll. Many times, they can be cleansing, something I wasn’t even aware that I needed. Hugs, friend. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow, thank you luv 😘💙💜

      “Feelings are so woven inside of me…”

      Beautifully put 😊💖

      “Many times, they can be cleansing, something I wasn’t even aware that I needed.”

      Omg yes, this!! 👏🏼👏🏼. You nailed it exactly 💓💓

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Gosh I really experience this too. If I were in your shoes I would be overwhelmed. Beacsue things are happening which are out of your control and are happening at a time whereby you have an arranged exam – of which you have a build-up (which would be causing me lots of anxiety in itself!). The stuff with your friend is something that’s not in your control either and the fact that you are self-analysing and not being able to come up with a swift hypothesis is, in itself adding to the mass overwhelming state, which for me would exacerbate anxiety and stress. Make time to sleep more (I process things in my sleep) sleep really is my answer to most things atm. I used to the myself up in knots when I wasn’t able to come up with answers, etc, and was making myself very ill – until I discovered about the whole aspergers thing. This is the only thing that has lessened the immense pressure I put upon myself, massively. Letting things go (which is hard), admitting to myself that I have cognitive ‘issues’, has been amazing for me. It’s my way of filtering, if you like. I’m sorry fir the way I’ve worded this comment. I’m very tired and haven’t been able to find the best words for what I wanted to relay in my comment to you. I hope you get my gist beautiful Laina. But Yeah, in summary, I think you’re being overwhelmed which is creating unease and anxiety. Take care my friend 😘💞

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No worries, dear one! I hear your caring through your words, and I very much appreciate it 😊

      I can absolutely relate to what you said, too! ❤️ I process things in my sleep, too 😊 I’ve had intermittent insomnia for seven years; but for the past five or six of those years, if I don’t get much sleep one night, I’ll make up for it the next 😉💞

      Maybe someday I’ll be able to sleep regularly again! Definitely working toward that goal 😊😘❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You can definitely see your expertise in the work you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to say how they believe. At all times follow your heart.

    Liked by 2 people

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