Sometimes, after you’ve managed to leave a toxic or chronically stressful situation, a strange thing happens.
Everything seems… worse.
Or at least, it seems like you are a lot more sensitive to stress and toxicity in your environment.
Things that you would have shrugged off or barely noticed before seem larger.
It can feel like your ability to deal with things has gone away.
It can feel like you’re failing at getting better.
This is an illusion.
Imagine that you’re used to being at a crowded nightclub, bar, or restaurant, and how loud everyone had to talk in order to be heard. That is the toxic or chronically stressful situation you left.
Now imagine you’re sitting in a peaceful park with nobody around, just you and the person you’re talking to. And they are still talking with the same tone — and volume — that they used in the club.
Follow me? It’s not that your hearing is more sensitive in the park, it’s just that you’re getting used to not being overwhelmed with noise as the default. So the loudness of someone’s voice that you would not have noticed in the club is suddenly very noticeable. And smaller noises – someone playing music on their phone’s speaker a dozen meters away, for example – that you could not have heard in the club, you are able to hear clearly and be annoyed or distracted by it.
When you begin to recover from a bad situation, you are not only moving from the metaphorical club to the metaphorical park, but you’re also now paying attention to the amount of background noise as well.
That effect is not a sign that you are failing. It is a sign that you are getting better. You were desensitized to all that stress and toxicity. You did not notice it while it surrounded you.
But now? Now you notice it. Now you know better.
And that, friends, is a good thing.
Even if it doesn’t always seem that way at first glance.