This post is in honor of National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Mental Health Month. They intend to break down the stigmas associated with mental illness and Quirks Who Care supports that mission!
When I’m talking to you I’m never completely focused on what you’re saying. It’s not that I don’t care. I love the people in my life and want to learn about their lives, their struggles, their passions.
But my mind wanders. Where does it go?
Too many places for anyone’s comfort.
Am I making too much eye contact? How long have I been looking at their eyes? Is this creepy? Are we both thinking about this?
Ok, it’s time to look away. But where do I look? If I look at a different part of their body, they’ll think I’m noticing something about them or even….interested?! Though, how could I possibly know what they would think? I’m starting to recognize how little we can predict another person’s thought processes and emotions.
Ok I can look in the distance instead! Oh eep, they thought I noticed something there and looked where my eyes were too.
Eye contact is hard. But it’s not all I think about. Where else does my mind wander?
How am I supposed to be responding? What’s appropriate to ask? Am I supposed to ask follow up questions or will they tell me what they want me to know? How will they know I’m interested to hear whatever they’re willing to tell me if I don’t match each of their statements with a question?
Wait, am I asking too many questions? Did they just allude to a private issue and I took it upon myself to try to dig deeper? Or if I don’t ask more questions they’ll think I’m uncomfortable or unwilling to discuss!
Do my follow up questions even address the point they’re trying to make? Did they have a point they were trying to get to? Am I just saying something to fill the silence?
Oh here we go, here’s another moral failing of mine! I say something just because it’s silent. Fill the silence because eye contact is even more awkward when no one is speaking.
So I must change my behavior! Abort abort! Behave as a normal human does.
Wait, what am I doing? My policy is self acceptance, right? Why am I changing my behavior to be more normal?
But surely that’s a slippery slope! Fine, do everything that comes naturally to you. You’re going to go all the way back to middle school where you didn’t know how to communicate with people and had no friends.
Oh my Flying Spaghetti Monster how long have I been thinking and not paying attention? They’re still talking so maybe it’s ok. But wait, what’s that facial expression? Is that a reaction to something in their story? Or do they know I haven’t been paying attention?
No, no don’t think I don’t care. I care so much! I want to know what you care about, what drives you, what keeps you awake at night.
If I had to guess, it’s probably not the number of milliseconds our eyes were locked.