Alexithymia, Interoception and The Murky Emotional Stew
My mother used to cook a dish made by stewing lamb chops with vegetables until it all became a grayish-brown slop. The ingredients were indistinguishable, their color and flavor long gone.
I hated it. My heart would sink when I learned that was to be the evening meal. The most I could hope for was masking it with bread and butter.
Sometimes my emotional life feels like that slop. My mood is murky and featureless and I can’t identify what contributed to it. I’m filled with dread and doom but I have no idea why.
There’s no precipitating event. More likely there’s an objectively minor event — a throwaway comment, observation, something in the news. I overlook it at the time and may not understand the significance of until much later — if at all.
I can almost hear the cogs turning in my brain as they plunge me into darkness. It is surprising but at the same time inevitable because this has been my life for as long as I can remember. Here it is again, the sinking.
My emotions live in a foreign country
It is only now, on the other side of 50 that I am starting to deconstruct the stew that is my emotional life.
Until my Dad died last year, I had no idea just how inscrutable the grieving process could be. I knew it had stages and was non-linear but I thought it would basically involve grief-like feelings.
Instead, what I felt most of the time was restlessness, agitation and confusion. What I was feeling was a distortion of my inner state rather than a true representation of it.
It’s not the first time my emotions have not matched my expectation of what I should be feeling. Plenty of times I’ve felt empty, numb and indifferent in situations where I should be feeling enjoyment and contentment.
I don’t feel the joys or the sorrows that everyone else seems to tap into with such ease. Instead, I feel an emptiness as though I’m hovering above life unable to fully inhabit it.