#Alexithymia isn’t only a problem of not understanding our emotions

I’ve been thinking that maybe my challenges in life stem largely from alexithymia — the inability to understand how I’m feeling. I get confused a lot about whether I’m feeling happy or sad, and I often mistake exhaustion for depression. I’m not depressed. I’m just wiped out. Beat. I feel depressed — temporarily — but I’m not actually depressed.

Same thing with success and failure. I have a terrible time figuring out whether I’ve done something well or not. When in doubt, I tend to err on the side of caution and pessimism — which is really an error. Because I’m feeling down on myself over a supposed failure, when I’ve really succeeded.

Long story short, I have NO idea, most of the time, if I’ve done well for myself or not.

It’s a problem. And it makes it extremely difficult to actually gauge my abilities.

So, I’ve been training myself, for the past several years, to just “act the part” of a successful person, in those situations where I honestly have no idea whether I’ve done well or not. It’s really uncomfortable for me, but I do it anyway. Because the alternative is to succumb to despair — and also look bad in front of people who punish people who are vulnerable or whom they see in an unfavorable light.

I don’t like faking it, but I’ve got to do it. The alternative just won’t work.

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Just Under Your Radar

argument between fuzzy figuresI’ve been reading up on alexithymia – inability to identify and describe emotions in the self. There appears to be a number of possible explanations for causes, which seems to be a bit of a mystery. Research suggests a brain-based source of the issue, with reduced connectivity and blood flow correlating with alexithymia. Additionally, the condition has been characterized as “an extremely arrested and infantile psychic structure”. Hm. Not sure how I feel about that.

I think we need a better way of understanding alexithymia — especially from the viewpoint of those affected. Just because we can’t think of ways to describe what we’re feeling in the moment, doesn’t mean we can’t put words to it later, when we’ve had a chance to think about it. This seems like a worthy exercise, since the neurotypical world deals widely in “emotional currency” — relying on emotion to orient individuals to one another…

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3 thoughts on “#Alexithymia isn’t only a problem of not understanding our emotions

  1. xaspierudegirlx

    I often too can get confused about my emotions or if I am doing well or not. I kinda just assumed it came along with having Asperger Syndrome or one of the other associated diagnoses I have. I never looked into it, so I learned something new today. Much like you I am not sure what to think about it. Maybe I will do some more research myself, even if it doesn’t affect me or is the reason to feel the way I do, it’s always great to learn new things.

    As for faking it and just playing the part of a successful person. Faking it and acting seems to be all too common for those of us on the spectrum. It can get so tiring, but sometimes we have to do it because doing the opposite or being simply who we are results in negative affects.

    Take care and thanks for sharing this 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I never really thought alexithymia applied to me, but reading your comments above, and the original post, I think it does. I can especially relate to the stuff about confusing depression with tiredness and vice versa. I’ve had a hellish past week, and was convinced I was descending into one of my biggest major depressive episodes since university, but on reflection, I was overwhelmed by sensory stuff from looking after kids over the school holidays, thrown by lack of routine/structure because I was off work, and…oh yeah…my period came a couple of days ago.

    Can also relate to faking being the successful person. I’m increasingly doing this…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. VisualVox

      Yeah, with so much coming at us, how in heaven’s name can we ever parse it all out?

      I think part of the problem is how popularized mental health issues have become as an explanation for things. It’s certainly important to realize their impact and to accept them as parts of life to deal with, but at times, I suspect the lines get blurred, and our explanations go to the “official diagnosis”… especially when they really, really feel Big and Overwhelming. I’m sure I’m going to make someone out there really angry, by saying so, but I know with me there’s always the chance that my mental health is a direct reflection of my physical state — not an issue in and of itself.

      Liked by 2 people

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