Sometimes I take breaks, withdraw, from people, from going out,withdraw into my own world which is a place of refuge. I do not sit staring at the wall. When withdrawn from the outside world I look very busy. I am busy. I am occupying my brain with learning new things because believe it or not, that is a form of respite for a busy brain like mine. My brain is normally busy taking in everything around me intuitively, processing it, filing it somewhere, pondering it and making connections, filling in gaps even if temporarily. I need to understanding things. It's am intense craving sort of need.
When I give my brain a rest, I occupy it with facts. When I withdraw I am fact gathering. Of course, I cannot help making connections and having epiphanies while I gather the facts, but somehow it's all a little more soothing and self directed than what everyday experiences feel like. I will dive into a subject that fascinates me, such as colour, or more broadly, some aspect of psychology or philosophy. I seek to learn everything I can about this current topic of focus. I read endlessly and I make notes. Almost frantically at times.
It looks like this...
This is a strangely busy and seemingly not relaxing activity and perhaps not what any of my friends might imagine I am doing when they notice I have withdrawn. It is not the same as a crash due to the CFS/ME where I am just in bed and can't function. This one is not a feature of my medical issues but a feature of my personality. I realise I have done this all of my life. It is why I would love to be a university student forever. It brings mental peace. Some people take their body for a jog to relieve stress. I have to take my brain for a jog.
Social interaction does not give me facts to rest with, it gives me information about people, about the world that my brain uses in a non-restful way. More like those images we see of frantic stockbrokers in the trading rooms. Information about people and the world is steadily coming in at me and I am processing, making decisions, filing information, making connections, taking in more information than I could ever begin to describe to anyone, and often more than I am aware of at the moment. I am only aware of being bombarded. I know more about other people than they often know about themselves, because I have taken in so much, but I also know more about them than I know about myself. In order to better understand myself I have to slow down and direct my brain to a singular focus. I cannot empty it easily. If I empty it, as in meditation or a meditative task, it will just automatically go back to sorting through the files of everything I've taken in, continuing to process, make connections, devise systems of understanding. I have no control over this; all I can do is employ methods of interrupting it.
It's not sensory input, that is quite different. I am often less aware of sensory information than I should be. I am that person who walks through a doorway but hits the frame as she goes. I am that person who is literally in her own head and not physically present. This is why sensory information can sometimes hit me really hard and feel like too much. I am not accustomed to dealing with it. I don't deal with it well if it is overstimulating or startling. If I make myself focus on more sensory things, I can also give my mind a break. This is where I find myself loving painting, gardening, and even weight training although the CFS/ME makes a bodybuilding hobby an impossibility. I have tried.
So something like studying, focus on one specific topic, diving deeply into it, making notes and learning new facts is a brain vacation of sorts. Of course, I cannot stop myself from aha moments, from sudden clear understanding of something I had only had a vague and intuitive sense of before, but the aha moments are fine. They are restful in a sense too. There is some sort of closure. It's the endless intuiting that is draining. It's the frustration of knowing I know something and can trust my intuition but not be able to explain to someone exactly how I know, that I need a break from. I can explain how I came to know something that I've studied and studying something can help me make sense of everything I have intuited. I am not creative when I am in this phase. I can't be. That is almost shut down and it used to distress me. I didn't know who I was if I was not creating. I understand it better now. I can always feel when the creative part of me is gearing up and that too brings a sense of relief.
I have to shut people out sometimes. They are sources of too much input for me. Overload hits me and I have to withdraw. But I think some if not many people would be surprised at what recharging looks like for me. I suspect to some it would even look like mental illness. Manic, or something like what a delusional person might engage in. It's not. It's just me. It's just how my brain functions. I've opened a window to it here, in case it might help anyone else who is like me and fears they are weird.
And now, I have to do something about my hunger, my headache and the fact that my feet are cold. I have been registering these things for about an hour now but too focused on writing this to address them. No wonder I struggle a bit with self care.
Deep breath, make a plan: scrambled eggs, tea and painkillers, thick socks-I can do it.
Note: due to extreme need to deal with these sensory issues I am posting this unedited. Sorry. I've used up all my energy and there is none left for editing.