I think I’ve briefly mentioned before how draining I can find being around people, especially in new or unfamiliar settings, but I want to go into a little more detail here. I find virtually any situation where I am not in my comfort zone (my house) to be draining due to a combination of sensory issues (at home I have control over lighting, noise volume and temperature) and the stress and strain I feel just from being around other people. Even people I know well will eventually drain what I have come to think of as my ‘social battery’; because when I’m around them I spend so much energy trying to gauge their mood and reaction to whatever I do or say, in part (I think) because I fear that they will become dissatisfied with the friendship that I offer them, or they will become tried of me altogether.
This means that when there is a social event coming up, even if it’s one that I am planning and in control of, I have to be careful and take steps to ensure that I go into it with as much energy as I can and that I have an opportunity to recuperate and recharge afterwards.
If I cannot do both things, if for whatever reason I must choose only to be able to do only one, then I will pick the recharge time afterwards every time. And not only because in the past things have happened suddenly and at short notice which I have been able to tackle with unknown emergency reserves of energy.
It’s because as well as needing time to recharge I can also suffer they very real, very physical symptoms of a social hangover. Now I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t drink alcohol, so if you read on and think ‘she’s just describing what it feels like to have a few too many the night before’ rest assured that it is never the case.
The first symptom is a headache, which tends to show up during the social event and stick around for at least 12 hours once I get back to my comfort zone. It takes up residence in my skull, and is barely affected by painkillers, leaving my tired and irritable. Then there’s the bone-deep fatigue that seems to soak through every muscle and makes my limbs feel like lead. I have no appetite. And during the worst instances of a social hangover I have been known to struggle to string together a decent sentence.
The only thing that I have found that gets me through this is almost total isolation for at least 24 hours; when I emerge from my blanket fort afterwards, I am back to my usual self, and can go back pretending to be a regular person.
I don’t know if this blog post will help anyone else out there, or if it will at least make someone realise that they are not alone in suffering from social hangovers, but I wanted to put it out there.