I’m going to try and explain this better. We’ll see how spectacularly I fail.
I appreciate that people call/text to check on me. I do genuinely appreciate it. I appreciate that people notice me enough to care about my presence. That doesn’t change the fact that it can feel like pressure. Pressure is not always a bad thing. I have pretty severe mental illness. I have to work very consciously on not staying home and hiding from life. Knowing that people like me enough to reach out to me when I am bailing on social events is a positive thing.
That doesn’t change the fact that self-care is very hard for me. I tend to think that just about anyone else’s needs are more important than mine. If people want to see me it is incredibly rare for me to say no. I need to have people need me. I need to have people like me. That is part of being part of a community and I want that so badly.
But when four people message me in an hour saying, “Why aren’t you coming?” it can feel like pressure. Pressure isn’t always bad. Noticing that it feels like pressure is important for me in particular.
Subtle small pressures build on me and I end up screaming and freaking out. I have to manage my emotional/physical load and that’s complicated.
For example, my ladies and I are negotiating for a trip (sounds like Hawaii is the current front runner on places to go) and we were giggling about the possibility of a bikini clad babes on the beach picture. I said I might be willing to buy a bikini and wear it for the picture and then I was putting my Islamic bathing suit back on. My friend… more or less tactfully expressed confusion as to why I feel the need to wear a modest suit.
I explained that it really isn’t about the modesty. I don’t like sun block. Putting sun block on my skin causes me emotional problems. I can feel it the whole time and I feel angry and frustrated. If irritation is on a scale of 1-10 and I start out the day feeling a 2 if I put sun block on I will instantly be at an 8. I will feel violent and angry and hostile. Nail polish makes me feel the same way. Having my pores feel clogged is just….. I’m not ok. I have sensory issues and I just cannot cope with having things on my skin. So I dress like a nice Islamic lady when I’m going to the pool.
She could understand that perspective. But it has to be explained or it really isn’t obvious why I care so much about the modest swimsuit thing. I’m not actually what you might call “modest”. If I’m going to places with hot springs I’m cranky if I must wear a bathing suit. I prefer being in water nekkid. But I don’t stay in hot springs that long and when I get out I get fully dressed so I don’t have to put sun block on. I’m kind of weird.
I’m perfectly happy to wear a skimpy bathing suit in front of people. I’m not ashamed. I like my body. (I actually do. My body has been very good to me.) But I have sensitivity issues and I’m trying my best to learn to cope with them in a way that makes me more socially appropriate.
It is a little odd socially that I wear modest swimsuits. People ask me questions about it a lot. It is clearly “weird”. (I don’t cover my hair so I am obviously not doing it for religious reasons so… why?) If I wanted to “fit in” better I should wear a more “normal” swim suit. Then people wouldn’t look at me funny and ask me “why do you want to do that?” But I am capable of being a nice person if I just accommodate my weird sensory issues. So you have to pick some kinds of weird in order to fit in with other metrics.
I need to be part of a community. I feel deeply grateful that the home schoolers have so cheerfully embraced me. Other communities have tried and I was more resistant. The pressure I feel from the home schoolers feels positive and life affirming. They want me to be part of their lives. They want my kids to be friends with their kids. They want me to not feel invisible. They want me to know that I am a noticeable part of their life–my absence is notable. That’s good. I’m not writing about it because I want to make people feel bad.
But I need to figure out how to balance the fact that sometimes I need to stay home with the fact that people like me and want to see me. That doesn’t mean anyone is doing anything wrong. It means I’m still working on my social skills and boundaries.
I consciously put similar pressure on people in my life. Especially those who suffer from mental illness. I try to make sure I reach out every so often and remind them that they still matter to me. I think it is important. I think it is positive. I don’t think people should withdraw such pressure. I think that loving people involves some pressure sometimes. Having relationships involves feeling the weight of the presence of the people in your life. That’s not bad.
But I am not particularly tactful in my process of learning to be. Having relationships is complicated and hard. Skills learned with a particular person may or may not be transferable to the next person. That is hard. You have to just keep trying things.