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Forcing Conformity Is Pretty Rude, You Know

, , , , , , | Related | September 22, 2022

I’ve been having a pretty tough year mental-health-wise, and thanks to a plan made by my family long in advance, I’m currently experiencing a month of said year in a completely unfamiliar country without any access to my safety net. I’m handling everything as well as I can, but two weeks of daily panic attacks will really wear you out. At this point, I’m completely dependent on my sensory aids to function, including my headphones, which have caused many problems in the past from my mother (who is a therapist, and aware of my anxiety disorder) considering me wearing them “rude”. 

I’m already pretty exhausted by the events of this particular day when she pulls me aside on our group walk to get lunch.

Mom: “This is a fancy restaurant, so you can’t wear your headphones.”

I haven’t been informed of this rule before, and it seems strange, to say the least — what about people using hearing aids or translation apps?

Me: “Will they kick me out?”

Mom: “No, but it’s rude! We’re going to go and have conversations, not wear headphones or look at our phones.”

Me: “Right, but wearing my headphones is what makes me able to have conversations.”

Mom just sighs angrily and stares at a nearby building, marking the conversation over.

Wanting to avoid any more fights, I remove my headphones at the door and stow them in my bag. Unfortunately, between the lasting stress of having an argument and intrinsic anxiety about 1) eating, 2) in public, 3) using a foreign language, and 4) surrounded by people who are mad at me, soon I’m having a panic attack without access to any of my coping mechanisms.

I’m making a valiant effort to keep from causing a scene by hyperventilating or crying, which means closing my eyes and putting all of my focus on my breathing. Needless to say, this barely leaves any room for social interaction. I can’t handle any eye contact, and I’m communicating in nods and short whispers.

A question is directed to me about a place I went, and I can barely formulate a sentence.

Me: “Um, I— I saw the, um, I went to— i-it was called, it was the, uh—”

My mom interrupts me, sounding annoyed.

Mom: “[My Name], you can wear your headphones if it’ll make you talk. I thought that you’d participate in the conversation.” 

I scrambled to dig the headphones out of my bag, and I could FEEL the serotonin flooding my brain as I put them back on. I was finally able to put my thoughts in order and finish the sentence, and I spent the rest of the meal speaking and having as good of a time as I could while riding off the rest of the panic attack.

I still don’t know how a TRAINED PSYCHOLOGIST could think that banning my coping mechanisms would somehow magically make me neurotypical!

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