Eating in front of fellow students at school causes me great discomfort. Although I have done so a few times, I usually end up in tears. Fear of judgement overwhelms me. Thus, I attempt to find quiet places to be alone as often as possible. In these safe havens, I still stress about food but my anxiety decreases. Occasionally, someone will stumble upon me and stare, confused by the girl munching on a Clif Bar. However, I normally am left undisturbed.
Suddenly, I realized that I am using a coping skill to manage eating. Although this hiding seems cowardly, it actually helps me to function. Sure, I could attempt to interact more with other students or eat in front of them. However, right now, my introverted side craves silence. Each day, people and senses bombard me. Although I long to be normal, I need to take things slow and not push myself too hard or fast.
So, I came to the conclusion that one can use hiding as a helpful coping skill. Many people disregard fleeing situations as cowardly. However, knowing your limits and respecting them is truly wise. Thus, you can take a break from the rest of the world in a healthy way.
That does not mean, though, that you should do so whenever you feel frightened or upset. Before you turn to hiding honestly ask yourself if it is the right thing to do. Are you isolating because of depression? Would interacting with others help you in the long run? Will you be safe? Without being too critical of yourself, analyzing the situation helps you to focus on what will be most beneficial for you and your loved ones.
If you decided to hide away for awhile, first tell someone you trust about where you are going. Honestly, I often forget or skip this step. For some reason, it frightens me. Also, I like the idea of no one finding me. However, this not only keeps you safer but also can be helpful if you honestly need someone to sit or talk with you. Many times, I longed for sympathetic company but isolated myself instead. Opening up to another person might seem silly but often helps you stay safe and causes others less worry.
Next, decide what type of space you want to hide in. Sometimes, bright open spaces lift my mood while other days dark small corners with little sensory input help me feel less overwhelmed. Relaxing in nature can bring tranquility while snuggling under a blanket in one’s bed is comforting. There are many different options. One day, you might choose a quiet seat in a library while another you might be drawn to a dark closet.
Wherever you go, there are places that you can find to get away from others. Some searching and experimenting might be involved. There are numerous parts of campus that I have burrowed into in an attempt to be alone. Although many locations failed, I now know several safe places that work. During your searching, always ask before entering somewhere private. Luckily, I have never been kicked out of hiding place but I know that would be very mortifying.
Writing about this coping skill, I felt rather silly. After all, most people who struggle with Aspergers, social anxiety, depression and eating disorders already know how to hide. However, I hope that this post gives ideas about how to make this a coping skill rather than the symptom of isolating. Taking a break from the world is fine and even wise if we come back refreshed and healthier.