As a kid I used to read books about any animal I was considering for a pet. I distinctly remember that whether it was about rats or cats, there was always a passage on the importance of providing the animal a private place where they could go to be alone and undisturbed. To provide that and to respect it; not reaching in and forcing them to socialize against their will when they were in their space. I reflect on that often, now, because I feel like one of those animals.

I've been told some people think by speaking, rather than consecutively and in reverse order. I need to think before I speak, and frequently have difficulty finding the right words. I love debate and was once encouraged to pursue it academically, but was prevented due to my inability to think fast, much less speak as much, thoughtfully. I don't know why I have this problem, or how to characterize it, but it's real.

Over the last several decades of my life I've learned to navigate social situations admirably well. I have learned to care less about the right word or how something sounds, having realized that as long as it comes close to what people expect in the context, it will likely pass muster. Socialization still exhausts me, but through necessity I have greatly improved my social stamina and skill. And yet…

If I don't have an opportunity to retreat to a safe space to give my brain a break, I start to come apart at the seams. It sounds like hyperbole, but I feel like I am seriously losing my mind. Like some sort of lab rat in an over-stimulation experiment.

If I am doing something that requires any particular intellectual capacity, like reading or writing, and someone walks in? I'm suddenly diminished to idiocy, comprehending nothing read or composing nothing coherent. Often I'm diverted into some empty repetitive motion, just to cover up the fact that I've been completely derailed. Basically I have crush-syndrome for everyone, regardless to my feelings. My brain detects another human being in the vicinity and involuntarily diverts a not-unsubstantial piece of processing power to monitoring that presence, precluding other priorities.

Maybe you know what it's like to be at work when there's nothing to do? I once worked at a mail and copy shop, for example, where there were long periods without customers but our employer was adamant that we be standing at attention behind the counter just in case someone walked in. You desperately want to occupy yourself – read a book or look at your phone or pick up a piece of paper and start writing. But every time you do, a coworker or a customer walks in and instantly your attention is shattered. Maybe you get a word in here or there, but the constant awareness of that inevitable disruption undermines your ability to effectively concentrate.

Read:  Read like a writer

I think a lot of people understand this feeling. But then they go home and they carve out a space for themselves and they get down to work. But I go home and the situation is unchanged. A few years ago, I returned to college after a hiatus. I had to leave my job in order to do so, in part because the school was out of town but also because I couldn't get the school-work done in time if I worked simultaneously.

So when I graduated, I ended up living with my parents, again, in spite of now being in my late thirties. They live in a very rural area, and I've been stuck here for a year now, living on my parents' terms and good graces. It is as though I've been thrust back in time; suddenly I have exactly as many rights as I did as a teenager. I have no authority, and zero control over any aspect of my environment, and I'm obligated to be on my best behavior at all times to make clear that I'm grateful for my good fortune. My parents are both retired and always home. One gets up before me and one goes to bed after me. I can never relax.

Even as I've composed this post, I've struggled over the course of an hour to string words together over the sound of voices in the background. Or the door opening unannounced to my "bedroom", which is also my father's office, and being helpless to object to the sudden invasion.

So, I live in a perpetual state of vigilance, alert to every sound and the constant possibility of disruption. My mental clarity is chronically fractured, and it feels like a physical sensation. And all I can think is that I should be able to power through, like people do. That anyone would tell me that I simply don't want it enough, that I'm not trying hard enough. But I want it more than anything. I feel like I'm losing my sanity to have neither my peace of mind nor my reason for being. Every day I drive to work I wonder if this day will be my last and these ambitions will come to nothing.

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I am not looking for advice. I've been following other's trials here, looking for parallels, and trying to put this problem into words for a long time. I understand that I can do nothing until I change my situation. I just wonder if this makes a seed of sense to anyone else, or really is just a matter of incompetence in my calling. So many people go to coffee shops or libraries, and the like, to be undisturbed. But I can't think around other people. And there is always someone around.

Source: reddit post


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