There are times when I move from one thing, to another at a very rapid state without processing what I have learned or felt. When I do this for too many days I can feel drained. When I push past drained to the next level I end up in a state of Alexithymia, or Alexi as I call her, which is the absence of words to describe one’s emotions. When I don’t process events I render myself unable to understand, feel, or describe my emotions. It is as if my head and entire body are filled with cotton. I am not numb; numb is a self-directed effort, an active suppression. Alexi happens more subtly like waters rising on a river on a dark rainy night.
It is believed Alexi manifests itself in two ways, “primary alexithymia” which is a personality trait generally couples with other disorders like posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, anorexia nervosa or with any of those on the autism spectrum, to name a few. The trait of “primary alexithymia” is not situational, is generally unchanging over time and not something I will be addressing here. The other way Alexi presents herself is as “secondary alexithymia” which is a state triggered by a stressful situation.
I have come to understand that I can push myself into a ‘state’ of Alexi and did it again last week. It was a crazy busy week, lots of emotions, lots of intense stressful situations and come Saturday afternoon I was disconnected. I came home from running errands and playing with a friend lay down on the sofa and stared out the window watching the street not doing or thinking about anything for 90 minutes. I then closed my eyes, not the least bit sleepy, and did the same thing but laying there in a suspended state for another hour or more. I had hit the wall. I had no words, no thoughts, no anything but fluffy white cotton.
I used to watch a lot of doctor shows, I read too much junk on the Internet, I have a loose grasp on this passing fancy we call reality. So do I know this to be proper diagnoses? Of course it is! It might also be a lesson for me to really pay attention. This behavior is a passive way of pushing myself to a point of disconnection where I am moving through my life as a robot. I am performing tasks, having shallow interactions with those around me as I am unable to discern little about how I feel or gage appropriate emotional responses to others and situations. This is a slow build type of event and preventable. All I need to do is stop the get-it-done train and acknowledge my behavior has gone off the track. When I have become more invested in the results of my actions than with the moments of learning and the enjoyment derived from the process I am in cotton country.
We are a society who rewards people who get things done. I am not saying it is bad to get things done or to be efficient in the process of our tasks. What I am saying is the tasks are never finished; there are always more of them to do. If you rush through your days and weeks being driven by what is unfinished you become disconnected from yourself and those around you. If you are rushing through your life jamming those emotions to what is happening around you somewhere in a back corner of your head to deal with at a more convenient time I have news for you, there is never a more convenient time. Throw in some high stress and you may find yourself unable to communicate how you feel, distinguish how others are feeling and be further removed from your support system and your core. For me if a tidal wave of emotion feels like it will undermine me or my integrity of self that is a clue the waters are rising. There are other factors that had put me in the Alexi state, other than being overwhelmed and disconnected, but even the small digression I described above does not make for a happy or healthy life. Where I ended up last week was a reoccurrence of something that used to happen to me on a very regular basis. In changing my life I have not bumped up against Alexi in a long time. I had forgotten how often that disconnection occurred and how it even felt like a normal event. Just because something occurs on a regular basis does not make it healthy, look at Elizabeth Taylor and her revolving door marriages. These days I pay more attention to how I feel and what my body tells me at any given moment. My head can rationalize anything, it may be diminutive in size but it’s very clever. My body only speaks the truth. I use it as a type of tuning fork and doing that is what helps keep Alexi at bay. Alexi may visit on a rare occasion but she certainly doesn’t live here anymore.