Trapped inside emotion – an Aspie perspective on dealing with emotions

Emotions are confusing things for me. Big terrifying balls of confusion, even the happy ones. They feel like they are consuming me, and combine a particularly powerful one with external stimuli and I would really like to crawl out of my skin. When I get stuck inside an emotion, I become trapped in a cycle that I have to battle my way out of. It’s confusing and overwhelming and even the slightest wrong touch can become too much for me to handle. The wrong fabric which may send me into a meltdown on a good day can be sheer and utter torture when the emotion takes hold.

I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall when I try to explain how I feel. I’m good with words, I know I am. When I sit and I write, I can escape the complexity of my issues with ease. But when it comes to explaining my feelings and emotions it feels like I’m consistently banging my head against the bars of a jail cell. I can see the other person, I am trying to reach out, but the bars…. the bars hold me back. And so I become trapped. In the past I’ve done things with that frustration, things I’m not proud of. Always to myself. And I’ve learnt not to do that. It’s taken an awful lot of retraining my brain and it’s still something I battle with when the emotions become too much. I’m trying to learn how best to communicate my emotions and that can lead to misunderstandings and arguments. Which in turn cause me to shut down. I get to the point where I don’t even know why I’m trying, when it feels like no one will understand.

Then we add to the fact that my emotional well being is impacted on the emotions of those I’m close to. I mean seriously impacted. People say that Aspies and Autists don’t understand that others are emotional beings. That’s not entirely true. It would be true to say that some Aspies and Autists don’t. Some feel the emotions coming off of others in waves. It gets to the point where I can’t separate my emotions from those of those around me and I become trapped in a different kind of cycle, where I’m trying to focus and can’t. It makes the world louder, and brighter, and far more painful to navigate and though I try to stop myself, I snap and find it extremely difficult to hear anything but the thrum of the emotions vibrating through me. So yes, I find it difficult to read others emotionally (not all the time, but frequently), because I lose the ability to tell whose emotion is whose.

I feel it throughout every cell in my body. It pulsates and it runs like water, causing my skin to itch and my vision to blur when it gets too much. It stops me from hearing things I should and reduces my rational abilities. It can be a contributing factor in sensory overload, or vice versa. An NT (neurotypical) friend once described emotional overload as if her head was splitting in two.When it becomes too much for me, I feel like my body is simultaneously fighting to break apart and stay together. It’s one of the things that leads to stimming, and has on occasion led to bloody arms (one of my stims, which I’ve been trying to train myself out of, is scratching my skin on my arms). Physical pain somehow has a calming effect on the emotional pain…. but it’s not a healthy answer and I know that. It’s taken a considerable amount of practice and reminders to rub instead of scratch. And I’ve found that rubbing my clothed legs and my newly shaved head has a similar effect.

Taking some time out for myself can help. Sketching, walking, disconnecting from the world. And I did that for a few hours today. I made homemade soup too, and there’s enough left for the next couple of days. It tasted pretty damn good actually. Distraction can be a key thing to stop emotion overloading me, but then so can complete and utter stillness. It depends on the emotions and the level at which they’ve built up. I wish that I could explain it better, but the truth is, unless you too are trapped by emotion, it’s difficult to get it across. And it’s only now as an adult that I’m slowly learning the skills that most learn in childhood. I’m still tripping and falling as I learn, like a child first learning to walk.

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