For as long as I can remember I have generally preferred to be alone. I don't like being lonely, that's something entirely different. Or, more to the point, I have some emotional disease that prevents me from being in a crowd.
Here's what happens. Say I go dancing at a club with my wife and friends which does happen from time to time. When I get there I like the noise and the closeness and the crowd and the energy and I get an adrenaline pump. But then after a while, maybe an hour or even less, my brain begins to shut down. My hearing slowly begins to get muddy and sound loses its crispness. My vision field starts to narrow and darken like I'm looking down a hallway and someone is slowly turning the light knob from full on to full off. My arms get heavy and my coordination slowly goes away. Eventually I reach complete shut down and I have to retreat somewhere and sort of take a nap. I don't pass out. I just quit interacting with my environment. It's like a NASA rocket launch only in reverse. At 100 I am fully functional and having fun and by the time the countdown hits zero I'm basically in a waking coma.
As a teen I always wanted to be included in the group, but I had trouble staying in the group. I hated going to parties or meetings or study groups or cub scouts. The shutdown process would make me awkward and I would have to compensate by being loud or extreme or annoying in some way. Sort of like slapping yourself to stay awake. It just comes off as being weird to other kids. I sought out friends who were ungrouped. It was easier for me that way. I was on all sorts of ball teams and they all made me really uncomfortable. Even as part of a team I would separate myself to the edges. In college it prevented me from using study groups or help sessions. Some classes even closed in on me from time to time. It's hard to pay attention when all you want to do is run away and breathe. I liked frat parties but couldn't belong. The few groups that I did join made me feel like I was still always on the outside looking in because I was always preparing for the inevitable shutdown. I never wanted to get married and have kids. The idea of a toddler in my space full time is terrifying. I have a wonderful wife and have gotten to help her children grow into wonderful young adults but it was difficult at times. I would have to moderate my behaviors to accommodate teen activities. And I still have it today and every day I live.
Once I recognized I had this condition I began studying how I had modified my behaviors to deal with it. Some of the behavior isn't fun. I avoid going out in groups. Most people just think I'm a party pooper. I can't even stay long enough to poop. Some of my best friends went out for a birthday at a dance club and I just had to give lame excuses. Interestingly enough we went to dinner early in the day and that is just fine. I'm sure they are just confused. I can't go to family Thanksgiving dinners. I can't go with my wife to visit her family who live nearby. They always go and stay all day. I can't. I can go but I have to leave. I try to explain but they just think I don't like them. I don't blame them. I'm going to Oklahoma to visit my family and do some other things but mostly I will drive around in the car by myself because I can't stay in their homes and I don't have anywhere else to go. I would love to meet some of my old highschool acquaintances at the local indian casino but it's just an imaginary idea that I know I can't actually do. Line them all up individually and I can party all night long, just don't put them all in one room. I can be in crowded rooms if there is some order to it like a movie theater or a broadway show or a training class or a business meeting. Being in a restaurant can go from good to bad. I generally eat at 11am or 2pm for lunch because I can't be in the noon crowd and eat comfortably.
There are some interesting side notes to the condition. I can, and like to be, in front of a crowd. I have been a baseball player, lead singer in a band, motorcycle racer, car racer, golfer, etc. As long as I'm in front of the crowd I'm fine. If I'm in the crowd I shut down. My wife says that I have to be the parade leader or I won't be in the parade at all. Now we know why. Now that I think about it I would often morph into class clown or the guy who shocks everyone with outlandish sexual jokes and that kind of stuff when I was a teen. It was a coping mechanism, a way to separate myself from the crowd. Then I was on a pedestal and not part of the crowd and for some reason that is ok. I've always like to be the boss. I like to lead, not to follow. It separates me. Now I feel like a calf at a cutting horse competition. MOOOO. I guess there always the second option of hiding in a dark corner but that has not generally been my modus operandi given a choice between the two. I help my wife who teaches colorguard. I drive the equipment truck to shows. There are lots of teens. They all seem to like me well enough. But I sit in the truck all day because outside of my truck is teen chaos as far as I can see.
I thought about this some before but never in this depth. Heather, my daughter, opened the issue with her blog and it really got my thoughts racing. I won't sleep tonite. I have discussed my issues with loud noises and chaos in earlier posts and about having to run away for days at a time to be alone. I'm not sure what's behind this condition. I don't know if it is a mechanism to deal with some trauma I can't remember or if I have a missing chromosome or if I just one day veered left instead of right and her I am.
I do know that some days I am sad and bitter and grumpy and my inability to be social is the root cause. I'm dreading something I have to do in the future or I am lamenting something stupid that has just happened in the past because of my inability to hang out in a crowd.
I started this post all interested and curious. Now I'm just sad and feel broken and feel like I have lost out on a lot of happiness in my years all because of this stupid problem. I'm going to go run away and hide for a while.