Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Darkness of Emotional Overload

Traditionally, I write about how situations feel while I'm in the midst of them, as that feels the most raw. Today, however, I'm writing from a more observant perspective - as if I'm standing on the edge of a dense forest, looking into the thicket. I know that a forceful wind or a small misstep could thrust me into the darkness of the trees, where I'd then struggle to make my way out. This is the point at which emotional overload, as I call it, begins.

Contrary to what one might think, emotional overload doesn't require some massive occurrence. It doesn't actually require any occurrence, per se. It can be set off by a thought, or something you see - even if it doesn't involve you - or even something as seemingly innocuous as a song. The emotions involved don't all have to be negative. In fact, they don't even have to all be the same type of emotion. Happiness mixed with sadness mixed with confusion mixed with anxiety mixed with fear, for example, happens - sometimes frequently. Emotional Overload simply means that - you are experiencing so many emotions that you simply cannot manage to experience one more. Something, anything, triggers one more emotion, or increases the intensity of one that you're already feeling, and it becomes too much.

When you're battling emotional overload, or in danger of doing so, your mind and body feel at a constant tug of war. Not with each other, but with the world. With life. Often, you can't pinpoint what you're actually feeling, because it's as if you're feeling everything. Every possible emotion at once. You feel as if you're literally sucking in emotion as you would oxygen. What's worse is that you're acutely aware of the precipice on which you stand. You know that if one tiny things throws you for a loop, if one person says something to upset you, that you may well fall into that emotional abyss. Which creates more anxiety.  You sit there silently begging the world and everyone in it to not upset you, to not sling a curve ball at you because you cannot handle it right now. It puts you further on edge, anticipating such a situation. Because that's what anxiety does. It creates the worst possible scenario, no matter how unlikely it actually may be. It makes that scenario so real that your brain works overtime trying to solve an issue that doesn't even exist yet.

What's worse is that all the while this is happening, you are fully aware of what will occur if you are pushed past that breaking point. How it affects us each is slightly different, but we are all acutely aware of what it does to us. I know that I will break down. I will become a crying mess, unable to speak, to barely be able to sit up straight, unable to think. I will shake violently, as if the emotion is trying to force its way out of my body. I will question my life, and the point of it. I will feel as if I cannot possibly scale this mountain that's in front of me, this mound made up of every tiny task or situation that requires my brain, my body, my emotions. I cannot get through the mess of my brain to make even the tiniest decision. I will question my sanity, because even while this is occurring, beyond my control, I feel that I should be able to handle it. I know that really, they are mostly small tasks or situations or difficulties. They are small inconveniences or at worst general life trouble that. But now, they are impossible, and feel as if they will always be that way. Life seems too much too handle.

I know this will happen not from exaggeration but from experience. I know this will happen not because I can't put things in perspective or need to calm down or am ungrateful or think I have it so much worse than others. None of that could be further from the truth. I know this because this is what happens when you battle anxiety and panic and depression and mood cycling. This is what they do to you. It is part of the illness. It's part that you hate, that you despise, for how it makes you feel about yourself, despite not having control of it. That's anxiety and depression's worst trick - convincing you that it's your fault.

Emotional overload isn't a technical term. It's not a specifically defined symptom of any mental health condition that I know of.  Not one used directly to diagnose. Nor is it the same as the type of "emotional overload" that people toss around in the way they toss around OCD and ADD and bipolar as "everyday" words. It is, sort of, a way of life with a mental health condition. It is something you know, just as you know what it feels like to be hungry or thirsty or tired. It's something that you may objectively think you can prepare for, but that when it occurs, results in a horrendous struggle. For me, it is the culmination of all of my symptoms, all of my illnesses combined. And I do not wish it on anyone. 

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