Gratification

Feeling gratified… Feeling like you have achieved something meaningful, feeling pleased with – or proud of – yourself and maybe give yourself a treat. I have heard that our biology is supposed to reward us when we experience good things and I can see it happening in my own partner when he feels he has achieved something or done something that satisfies him. But somehow my biology does not work like that…

Or rather it doesn’t work like that with most things – things that seem to bring excitement, happiness and gratification to other people, quite often just fills me with unease and sometimes dull emptiness. When I have finished a job I don’t ‘feel it’. Somehow my body doesn’t know that I have finished a job, no matter how much I tell myself: ‘its done, you did it and you did well’. No flipping response…

September has really confronted me with this frustrating conundrum. My partner and I have been delivering at least 7 workshops this past month in very different settings – an activist gathering, a recovery camp, a well-being weekend for young mentors with sight loss and to a group of Mental Health Nurse students. I have felt incredibly privileged and inspired. But I have also felt very, very overwhelmed.

On top of this, I and my co-conspirator Mike have been working our a**** off to finish a translation. Its been an ongoing project this year but we had to get it finished before October. And today I did the last bit of editing and handed the book (Children Hearing Voices) over to the group in Denmark that is working towards getting it published. I have SO been looking forward to this day. The translation has been hanging over me for so many months and there have been many days where I have struggled through fatigue and fuzzy head to get the work done. I have experimented with ways to both relax and stimulate myself enough to be able to work. And now, today, its done. Done.

But I just feel a bit dazed.

No rush of excitement or them endorphin’s other people talk about. No serotonin or dopamine or whatever else is supposed to be shooting around in my brain… No satisfaction. No relief.

I remember the first time I finished a translation of a book¬† (Highly Sensitive People in an Insensitive World). Months of work finished. Didn’t feel a thing. Not even the relief I thought I would feel. It wasn’t till long after the book was published that a sense of gratification started creeping in – I am talking over 18 months later. And it wasn’t a powerful feeling, something I could get high on. Rather it was like a quiet confidence in my own abilities.

I get the same when I give talks. I don’t get high – I get drained and my satisfaction doesn’t come from it being over or from positive feedback from others. My sense of satisfaction comes days or weeks later – when I have had time to process what I have done, gone over the details, felt into my body and weighed all the things I did and what happened and I have decided how I did. Then I might begin to feel like I have done something worthwhile.

As I keep searching for ways to combine my talents with my passions I learn a lot about myself. I try and remind myself in advance that I won’t feel a sense of achievement so that I don’t get too confused – I tend to keep expecting myself to respond differently than I do. I also try and remind myself that rushes of adrenaline does not make me feel good and focused – it makes my allergies intensify, my body nauseated and everything in my head all jumbled up. To be focused I need calm and predictability.

In recent years I have come to realise, that if I want that excited sense of gratification I need plants around me. Growing plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables is my place of gratification – delayed gratification and sometimes uncertain because there are so many factors I cannot control when dealing with plants.

But there is nothing quite like the feeling of walking around the house or the garden to have a chat with the plants. Or harvest all the produce they are offering. Or look out the window and see the courageous nasturtium and unknown white lily-like flowers in my pots shining bright despite the stormy, wet weather.

Another way to work with my lacking sense of gratification is to treat myself. At which I am very good. I believe that by treating my body and my senses to good things – food, aesthetically beautiful things, loving touch and hugs or comfortable environments – I am telling my body that I am worthy of love, safety, beauty and harmony. Its like a wordless dialogue with my body – a body that keeps responding to the world as if it is a nightmarish hellhole. And I just keep telling it that there is more to life than all the overwhelm, fear and difficulties.

Threat levels…

I enjoyed the British threat levels hashtag that was trending a while ago. And because there was a little truth in a lot of the statements, I started thinking about my own threat levels and how frustrated I get with it.

It was such a relief to chuckle about those little things but it also made me think that this might somewhat explain why I feel at home in England. The social anxiety, political correctness, the tensions and the propriety obsession. I only feel like the odd one out some of the time ūüėČ

Anxiety is more or less a constant companion for me. So any extra added anxiety or stress is tricky for me. I have noticed how other people can seem to enjoy getting stressed, worked up or scared e.g. watching scary films or having to rush for something or getting in to a debate. Like they get a bit high on the adrenaline. I really, really don’t. When I experience heightened threat levels I feel quite ill and it takes me a long time to recover – or get back to my normal uncomfortable but familiar level of anxiety.

Anyway I want to try and look at my threat level triggers and taking a bit of a humorous stance with them. Even though that might not come across in my writing.

So here is the ESMD* threat levels colourcoded overview:

Red alerts (things that make my body feel full of terror. Stress levels out the roof)

  • Waking up in the morning and realising I won’t be able to sleep any longer.
  • Bus or train arriving and it’s packed and i am having to quickly decide whether to get on or wait for the next.
  • Feeling like a tiny spider/aphid/fly is crawling around on my skin no matter how much I try to wipe it away.
  • The phone ringing! Here’s how it goes: withheld or unknown number I feel a little relief as I think I am less obliged to respond. Known caller – total panic and I spend so long trying to decide what to do that it goes to voicemail.
  • Voicemail icon showing up on my phone – do have to listen to it straight away? If I wait the icon just springs at me every time I look at the phone. I use the phone as a time piece – I start calculating whether I’ll need to look at the time any more that day. I put the phone away and for the millionth time start thinking about getting a pocket watch.
  • Looking in the fridge and cupboards and not seeing anything I want to eat. I decide not to eat – panic avoided for a couple of hours…
  • Getting dressed and having limited time to get ready and everything I try on just feels wrong and uncomfortable. Usually my hair then starts acting up too and my hands and arms start hurting trying to sort it out. Eventually go out the door ready to have a tantrum.
  • People getting angry with each other and saying rude things and I cant not hear it.
  • Penalty kicks in football. Or even worse: penalty shoot outs!
  • Packing for travelling.
  • Getting angry about something and not knowing what to do.
  • Something (read any thing) not going according to how I see it in my head.
  • Unpredictability.
  • Uncertainty.

Orange alerts (things that make me feel nauseated and slightly panicky. Stress levels elavated)

  • Whatching a knockout in a boxing match or a bad tackle in a football game.
  • A good book finishing.
  • My partner coming home earlier than expected. No matter how much I have been looking forward to seeing him. Luckily this rarely happens because he texts me advance so I know I have to make the transition from being on my own to being with him. I am just pure grumpyness if I haven’t had a chance to prepare myself. I am only a little bit grumpy and not for long when I have had time to prepare.
  • Being asked to make a spontaneous decision. Or just being asked to make a decision.
  • Feeling responsible.
  • In sports: The underdog looking like they are going to win but then something changes and they loose. I usually have to stop watching (beginning to think I just shouldn’t watch sports…)
  • A plant dying because I forgot to water it or its got some disease I can’t help it with.
  • Slugs eating little seedlings.
  • Food going off and I am having to throw it out.
  • Somebody knocking on the door.
  • Forgetting something. Usually after having reminded myself of it twenty times because I know I can’t cope with forgetting it.
  • Being around intoxicated people. A little bit easier if intoxicated myself but then of course even mild intoxication is like russian roulette (headaches, brain fog etc) so if I have anything remotely important planned next day it is not an option.

Yellow alerts (things that make me feel restless and uncomfortable. This is actually my everyday state… Thought it was normal till I was 24 and started doing bodywork, see¬†blog on bodywork)

  • Opening my email inbox.
  • Finding my phone after having left it somewhere where I cant hear or see it for hours.
  • Encountering a friendly, chatty person and not remembering how I am supposed to respond because I hadn’t prepared myself for being sociable.
  • Enjoying myself with a friend and beginning to feel overstimulated and then getting annoyed with myself because I want to keep hanging out but I know I’ll be grumpy once I come down from being high on social interactions.
  • Waking up briefly for the 5th time in the night and feeling like I’m not sleeping properly.
  • My morning or evening rituals being interrupted by things like: being to tired to do them, having to get out the door a certain time to catch a bus and be somewhere, my hair being so tangled it takes more than 2 minutes to sort out, my skin being so dry and itchy/painful I have to put moisturiser several times after I have lied down to sleep.
  • Feeling ready to sleep after having been up and awake for 2 hours. You know that afternoon dip? Well, mine happens around 11am.
  • Trying to have a nap during the day but giving up after lying there for an hour.
  • Knowing full well that sugar and coffeine will not give me a boost of energy but trying anyway and then feeling sorry for myself when it doesn’t work.
  • Getting annoyed with people talking about having a coffee buzz or a sugar high (oh just go away will you).
  • Feeling guilty for getting annoyed with other people.
  • Not having interacted with anyone but my partner for a week and when I notice it I am not sure what to feel about it.
  • Feeling something and not knowing why.
  • Being told to: ‘just come around’ or ‘give me a call’ and then never doing it. Then being told again and starting to worry about how to explain that it’s not that I don’t want to, I just forget, because most of the time I’m fairly satisfied in my own company. Not that I don’t want to come around or have a chat but if it’s not planned, more often than not I just don’t remember.
  • People bumping in to me. Especially if it’s in a queue and I cant get away and they keep bumping in to me. I have this trick of stepping slightly out of the queue.
  • Bumping into people. It does happen!
  • Walking towards people on the street and they don’t move out of the way before last second and then they’d brush against me if I didn’t do massive avoidance manuevres.
  • People taking me seriously when I am joking.
  • Feeling unsure whether it’s okay to write ‘I ¬†enjoyed the British threat levels hashtag trending’ without honouring the painful context it occured in.
  • Beginning to think too much about what I write or say…

*ESMD – Elisabeth Svanholmer Most Days

Sort of related:

I found this read below a while back and it made a lot of sense to me and resonates with my personal experience so I thought other people might find it helpful as well.