Why I struggle in social situations

Yesterday we went to the annual friends’ Christmas meal. It was the best attended yet and the addition of more children (babies) added to that number. It was great to see everyone and although I didn’t get to speak to everyone it was great to catch up with those I did. Some we only see during such group gatherings but others we see at other times too.

This occasion is also a good way for me to reflect on my progress as I also went to the one last year. If you follow this blog you’ll know that this time last year I rarely left the house and when I did it was an assault to my senses emotionally and physically. I had no idea what was wrong with me as according to the blood tests there was nothing wrong with me. Last year I went knowing that it was going to be difficult. My husband drove as we knew by then that driving itself fatigued me. I didn’t know how I would feel during and after the meal though; just that I would feel worse somehow and need to rest.

I remember it being loud, as it is with big groups of people in an already crowded restaurant. I remember my energy levels going in dips and troughs. I remember buzzing afterwards and being unable to relax mentally for hours. However I don’t remember much else symptom wise.

This year I knew I could just about manage it at a push. We knew that if I said we need to leave then we would leave. I took my Energy Remedies to Roll, my stronger prescription painkillers and I wore layers. I should have taken my NC headphones or some earplugs (which I’ve never done but I will next time!). I never expected the noise to be quite, well, that loud.

After 5 minutes I knew that these next few hours were going to push me in ways I hadn’t yet experienced in terms of having lots of people to socialise with, very little space and the noise. Unless you’re hard of hearing and getting used to hearing aids or you have an autoimmune disease for which fatigue is a symptom, you won’t truly understand the extent to which noise is an assault on the body. It was almost deafening and I felt its affect almost instantly as my ears began to ache, which usually they hadn’t ached for a few days. I told myself to push through and try to ignore it whilst also making conversation. At one point my husband suggested I go outside… Stand in the cold for 10 minutes. Nah. OK, how about the toilet. They smell. Nope. He tried and I was being stubborn.

I lasted longer than I thought. We agreed to leave then we got talking to different people which was fine. The adrenaline gave another little burst. Then I started to feel dizzy and nauseous. So I got the coats and told him I’m feeling dizzy. We said our goodbyes and left. That was the sign I’d pushed myself too far.

This year I knew what I needed to do to feel better. In the car home we chatted a little and then stopped so I could ‘rest’. Hard when you forget your headphones and the road noise is another constant assault on the ears. I closed my eyes because the lights from oncoming cars were too bright. Once home I used my Relaxation Remedies to Roll, had a herbal tea made for me and lay down on my bed and focused on my breathing for 10 minutes. That was enough to make me feel a little more ‘normal’, to decrease the ear ache and reduce the brain fog. Then I went to bed! If I had gone straight to bed it would have taken me ages to get to sleep as my body would have experienced neural hypersensitivity. It’s where you can’t switch off despite feeling super tired.

I still don’t know how I’m going to feel later today, tomorrow or in 2 days time because it can take that long for my body to react to such an event. Currently I feel as though I haven’t slept but that’s normal. I just took longer to get out of bed once I woke to gather the energy to get up.

Yet if I don’t do these things I won’t improve and I won’t be happy. Happiness is important particularly with an autoimmune disease. Negativity feeds into the physical symptoms and it becomes a vicious circle. It’s about making necessary adjustments before, during and after to help us make the most out of the social event.

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