Since I was young I’ve always been able to get away with drinking relatively little at parties in order to have a good time.
Well, that was of course until the demons of depression crept up and decided that no more socializing was the only way forward.
That’s not to say that before I was hit with this bout of depression I was ever a social butterfly. In fact, I suppose the opposite might be true. I quite enjoy my own company. I’d rather go to the cinema than a club and I’d rather have an evening in than an evening in town. I like being on my own for great lengths of time because it allows my mind to race in a thousand different directions. Tugging on threads of part conversations and plots to the next things I want to write. I could spend hours at a time lying on my back on the floor, nothing but the ceiling above me and the story in my head. Daydreaming, imagining, fantasising, whatever you want to call it – it’s always been a favourite hobby of mine.
Still I did socialise, I went out, I enjoyed parties. I enjoyed the pub every so often. I even enjoyed going out with my boyfriend and some of his work mates. It’s only in the past two years or so that my anxiety has gotten to a point where I get so worked up that I can’t even make it to those functions. When I was forced to go, the shaking and the sweating and the nervousness would get the better of me so much that I just sat in a corner and wished to be invisible for most of the evening.
So yes, I’d always been able to get away with drinking a little but feeling drunk.
I used to say that I could get drunk on the atmosphere. That’s the only way I could describe it, the only way I could describe the drunk feeling that crept up my spine and inched it’s way up my skull, bringing with it a wave of familiar goosebumps. Bringing with it a sheen of sweat and clammy hands and nervous energy that transformed into over excitement and at times confidence.
Now I know that this probably wasn’t a case of being drunk on atmosphere but likely because of anxiety or maybe adrenaline? Was it an anxiety attack that I just couldn’t find the words for? I mean they never felt necessarily unpleasant but the sensation was entirely similar to that after a flight or fight situation so adrenaline must have been beating around my system right?
This high, whatever it was, however you want to describe it- it was a high of sorts. Feeling invincible and loved and happy. This high, I always knew it came with a low though, I was always waiting for it to hit. Always.
It’s probably weird of me to say that I prefer this to being drunk. Being drunk is numbing and horrible and it always makes me feel out of control. This however, whatever this is always makes me feel entirely in control. Like the worlds biggest sugar rush, my mind becomes all at once focused and a mess of constant thoughts, leaping from one idea to the next. I’d take that to being drunk any day.
The low usually hit (and I speak in past tense because it’s been so long since I’ve been in a social situation where this flight or fight style response kicked in and I didn’t run that I can only speak in past tense.) around mid way through the evening. It would never be a soul crushing low that made me want to throw myself into a river though. It would always be a low that would make me sit and take stock of the world.
At house parties when I was at college. It usually involved sitting on back doorsteps and gazing up at the stars willing for the Doctor in his beat up old phone box to come down and take me away from this. I felt sure, in these quiet and still moments beneath the stars in the middle of the night (as I’m sure many teenagers do), that I was destined for more than just this. Not for fame or war or politics but for lands that only seemed to exist in books and films and on the television set.
This low as we’ll call it, brought into crystal clear view how different I felt from everyone else. I used to watch sometimes the parties through the glass of windows or doors and think how apt it felt. How I always felt a little like I was on the outside looking in. Just an observer skirting the edges of these social circles. I didn’t feel like I belonged, but then I don’t think I ever have or did.
A calm settled over me, as though I was realising some great truth and as though I could take this new way of thinking forward. I usually felt enlightened or lighter and unburdened. The tremors usually started after that and more sweaty palms came. A need to do something, to disappear. That’s when thoughts would swirl around my head about wandering the streets alone at 4am, about disappearing into the wilderness. Nobody would mind, or care. It would fine and I would be free.
I never really did take off on my own though.
It didn’t just happen at night either. It happened on days out too, any social events with a large group of people that were ‘friends’. I had these starting moments fueled by excitable energy which tailed off into moments of realising how different I was from everyone and that I was probably only invited because someone felt sorry for me.
Hours, or even the day after my head would ache. I’d feel exhausted and shaky. I wasn’t hung over, water didn’t help and I hadn’t really drunk enough to feel hungover. More so than that though, how do you get a hangover when you haven’t even had a drink? I would feel exhausted but not in a way that my body craved sleep because of the lack of it the night before. My limbs would feel heavy and isolation seemed so warm and inviting and the perfect antidote. In fact isolation would help. Being on my own and losing myself in something I loved made me feel so much better.
Even now after a day of laughing and socialising with my workmates my hands are clammy, I can feel my insides trembling and the start of a headache. I’m sweating as though I’m in a fight or flight situation and I’ll probably feel rotten in about half an hour.
How do you explain to someone you get a hangover from socialising? (Mostly with those you don’t already know or don’t know well enough.)
The answer is you don’t. You just say it’s a hangover or a headache and you carry on as normal. Because what kind of crazy person gets a hangover from socialising?