Monday, July 25, 2011

The Floaty Feeling

There's a certain feeling I get, that I've never heard anyone else talk about. So I finally decided to describe it as best I can, even though I don't really have words for it.

I call it the 'floaty feeling'. It's an unpleasant feeling, I feel like the world's not real, like I'm not connected to it. It's a bit like being overloaded, but it's different from that. It's not painful and things don't seem more intense - instead they seem less intense. It's also different from being dissociated, because I don't feel stuck, and the flavour of the feeling is different. (Told you it's hard to put in words.)

What causes this feeling is certain kinds of writing. Virtually all poetry does it. Some prose does too. Just now I got that feeling from reading Expecting Teryk by Dawn Prince-Hughes (around a third or so of autistic writers seem to write in the style that triggers the floaty feeling). Something about reading that stuff triggers some unpleasant, strange feeling in my head.

It's hard to describe exactly what kind of writing triggers this. It's sort of filled with a lot of emotional impressions and very little description and action. (Dawn Prince-Hughes' other book, Songs of a Gorilla Nation, didn't do this to me as much, though I caught hints of the floaty feeling there too.) But it's not just a matter of focusing on emotions without description or action. For example, writing like the kind I'm doing here is focused on emotions, but isn't the floaty kind of writing. It's the way they write, like everything is a metaphor, and words are used for their feel as much as their meaning. I really don't know how to describe it.

In the summer camp for young writers I attended, there were several kids who only wrote poetry and not prose. The majority wrote both. I was the only one who wrote prose but not poetry. I can't write poetry, can't even stand to read poetry or hear it read, because it's so intricately linked with the floaty feeling (I wrote a 'song without music' when asked to write a poem in that class). I also noticed that the writers who only wrote poetry, when forced (as a class assignment) to write prose, their prose usually triggered the floaty feeling in me.

I'd love to go into an fMRI and make myself read some floaty writing, just to see what my brain is doing when I get the floaty feeling. (Then I'd want to read something else right away, because that's the best way to get rid of that feeling.) Maybe I could get a chance someday. But for now, I'm just left with my struggle at describing it, and a nonverbal knowledge of exactly how it feels.


Blogger Kathryn Bjornstad-Kelly said...

I'm autistic. I also get the feeling you're talking about, often for no reason. I've started to suspect that I'm having seizures. Certain kinds of seizures don't cause external symptoms, but include a feeling of dissociation or not being real and difficulty describing the emotions being experienced. I've heard other autistic people describe the same thing so I suspect it might be related.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

I'm not autistic, though I share some of the executive functioning issues in common due to my attention deficit disorder (albeit in a somewhat more mild form), and certain other characteristics of autism occasionally resonate with me in some way even if I might not share the exact same trait or to the same degree. I do apparently have a cousin (more precisely, the children of a first cousin of mine) who are autistic, though I haven't met them, so maybe certain traits are in the genes even if not all of them are there.

I almost feel like I identify with what you mean by the "floaty feeling" though I have difficulty describing it myself, or identifying what tends to trigger it.

10:39 AM  

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