While I was dragging groceries home late last week, the world suddenly dropped out from under me.

I've learnt to ignore this. A friend posted something on her private journal the other day, wondering about individual experiences and how on Earth other people could just not be hungry when food was so wonderful. I let her know that ignoring things that have gone wrong is a survival tactic when your autonomic nervous system has some form of oppositional-defiant disorder and is never in a state of comfortable equilibrium. If I stopped to tend everything that went awry, I'd do nothing but cry and put out fires. Nobody has a whole lot of patience for this, so you learn to triage and shut off the warning bells on things that aren't an immediate emergency.

In this case, as I was trudging, I was thinking of writing up another analytical blog post on body language, which I haven't done in a while, using as an example a particular YouTube video I'd recently run across. My initial reaction had been 'aww look, they're friends,' which I could logically back up with a lot of key indicators that could be listed and briefly explained -- the gold standard for those sorts of posts. But at that moment, I was seized with the idea that I'd gotten it all wrong. I couldn't possibly elucidate what I thought in public, what if I'd missed something, something huge? I was terrible at this. I'd make an utter fool of myself. I've already made a fool of myself by mentioning it to friends in passing. Clearly I was utterly deluded. No one would ever listen to me again.

No amount of running through the list of specific cues could re-set my convictions. Someone might be lying. While technically that is true, under normal circumstances I'm pretty successful at spotting it, and ticking through observable behavior will usually turn up specific points where whatever they're saying is contradicted by whatever they're doing. Nothing is 100% certain when dealing with squishy humans, but it's really rare when someone can ad lib a fake feeling long-term and not ever hit a wrong note.

I have a little homunculus in the back of my head whose job it is to monitor these things and alert me when something makes no sense. It was hired for the position about fifteen years ago, when I went off to college and realized that other people were not reduced to blubbering wrecks every time they talked to their parents on the phone. My mother has a penchant for saying things which, if repeated word for word to another human who is not aware of the context, sound at worst only slightly daffy, but when combined with the past twenty years of her screwball behavior, made me feel worthless and put me instantly on the defensive. I have occasionally gotten outside confirmation of this, like the time my then-roommates were accidentally around when my mother told me, "You look... good," in a tone that made made it obvious why I hated being around my family. But for the most part, she was good at doing it when there were no witnesses (or at least none who weren't complicit), so as to more easily gaslight me over it later.

While the generalized inability to goddamn do anything comes about when I'm stuck in a position where people are demanding I do a thing that, for whatever reason, I simply can't, precipitous drops in mood like the sudden conviction that I'm wrong about everything in the entire world halfway home from the Stop & Shop usually mean something is physically wrong with me. I have no idea why this happens, but it's consistent. I can tell when I'm coming down with a cold, because about twelve hours before my throat gets raw and I start snotting up, I'll develop a whacking great case of shoegazing teenager emo. The part of the migraine aura where everyone is incredibly irritating for no good reason trips a flag before the part where I hate ambient light, which I am often unaware of until I put my hands over my eyes and note that things hurt a lot less in the dark.

The homunculus is a great help when I'm tinkering with my brain chemicals, whether recreationally or with a specific purpose. "You've taken a lot of drugs," it will helpfully remind me, as I'm lying there experiencing whatever the aforementioned drugs are doing. "You're not having any weird heart palpitations or trouble breathing, so if you don't like what you're getting, you can just go to bed and everything will probably have worn off by morning." Sort of like Clippy, but 400% less annoying. The only time I've ever ignored that was when the medical establishment assured me that the side effects of the antidepressants would go away if I just stuck with it. They didn't, and it was a disaster, so now I give the homunculus ! dialog boxes priority.

I try to keep things the homunculus alerts on out of the blog. I realize most of you only tune in for the cute mental glitches, not the ones that make me miserable. I do a moderately good job. I often feel that one of my greatest successes in life is convincing most other people that I'm a functional human being. You get to be a fantastic actress when you practice every day for three and a half decades. It's a lot of smoke and mirrors, but damned if I'm not good at it.

In this case, what the alert seems to have been on is a blood sugar crash. L-DOPA + caffeine should be taken on an empty stomach, but if I don't eat something by about T+5:00, my mood takes a nose dive. I regret to report that I have definitely not discovered Cocaine Lite, because bumping does absolutely nothing. (L-DOPA is not very 'moreish', as the internet drug fiends say -- when it wears off, your first thought is not, 'I gotta get me some more pills'. I had to come up with the possibility through logic.) The reaction is clearly being rate-limited by something else, now that there's surfeit of the reactant I think I was deficient in before. My B6 should be fine, so either I'm running up against the upper limit of L-DOPA decarboxylase, or my receptors are temporarily saturating.

I don't want to be high, I just want to function, so hitting the ceiling before I hit euphoria is perfectly fine by me. It conspicuously does not happen when I manage to have a meal. Technically, it counts as an adverse effect, but when the fix for it is 'remember to eat things, numbskull' I can't help but wonder if it's more feature than bug.

I also wonder if this is what a caffeine crash is like for most people. If so, that does a lot to explain why it makes them so cranky. Caffeine alone just quietly stops working on me after the usual 4-6 hours. My head starts hurting in a desultory sort of fashion as the vasoconstrictor effects wear off, and I notice that I'm very tired, but it's not any kind of acute distress. I just get dumped back to where I was before I took anything.

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