You’ve been around my entire life, but I’ve never seen you
until now. Everybody else saw you and christened you
crazy, nerdy, or retarded through their own lenses… But I christen you
different, with a middle name of
(from my poem, “An Open Letter to Asperger Syndrome”)
Most of you who have been following me for the last few months probably know that I was a self-diagnosed, self-identified Aspie. Earlier this year, my counselor and I had discussed the very real possibility that I had an autism spectrum disorder. I proposed Asperger Syndrome for several reasons: 1) because I was verbal before age 3 and never lost verbal ability (most with classic autism either lose verbal ability or don’t have it before age 3 or so), and 2) other symptoms, such as obsessive and narrow interests and difficulty with social cues and interaction, also fit me. My counselor agreed, and thus began my journey to an official diagnosis.
I know how you
move into me. You come
in tides, squeezing through every pore
like nightfall that doesn’t know how to stay put. You don’t know
how you rip apart my senses, bleeding glorias as you
pass though me in double osmosis.
(From my poem, “Touch”)
If you’re reading this post and are on the autism spectrum, you’re already aware (in some cases painfully) of how sensitive our nervous systems are. This sensitivity affects many aspects of our lives, from difficulty tolerating sensory stimuli to impaired ability in handling stress, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts. I’m going to deal with the sensitive (no pun intended) subject of using medication (such as SSRIs, other classes of antidepressants, and other kinds of medication that affect mood and brain chemicals) in this post.
From what I’ve observed thus far, this topic has been debated from multiple viewpoints, even outside the autism community. Just Google the subject of antidepressants and autism and I’m sure you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of results. Certainly many of us have heard about overuse of these medications and horror stories about side effects, ineffectiveness of medications, or symptoms worsening – or we may have gone through these experiences ourselves. And of course, there is always the question of who benefits by the medication: there are stories of medical professionals pushing such medications to the parents of children on the autism spectrum in order to make their behavior more “tolerable”. And of course for us adults, there’s also the question of something being for our “own good”.
The raw, the unwrapped, the ripped open wires
inside me call for brand new Hiroshimas.
From DNA, and the world climbing onto my back
I have gone tone deaf to everyone.
(From my poem, “Meltdown”)
In last week’s post, I talked about why we with Asperger Syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders have more difficulty dealing with stress and anxiety. To recap, some of the reasons include low frustration tolerance, unpredictability, monotropism (the tendency to see and focus upon only one part of the picture instead of the whole), and problems reading non-verbal cues. These difficulties can turn an already uncertain and stressful world into a downright frightening one for us. But we are not defeated – there are ways that we can help ourselves cope. I’d like to share a few of those with you in today’s post.
Understand that I am
already peeled open like cables, like
you can see the Morse code walking through me
in light-up footsteps.
(from my poem “Touch”)
By now, you may already understand that the nervous systems of people on the autism spectrum are more sensitive than the average neurotypical – because of this, everything affects us more, from emotion to stimuli. I touched on this in my last post, which discussed empathy and the Asperger person. Consequently, stress affects our nervous systems more and we encounter a very common ailment in our lives: anxiety.
I don’t mean literally. Yes, I know all about the birds and the bees. What I mean to tell you is how I came to the realization that I have Asperger Syndrome.
The very beginning of the story starts about a year ago. I had been struggling with outbursts, panic attacks, and temper tantrums on and off throughout my life. Somehow, I managed to get to age 26 with only a few major incidents (and this is even through an unstable childhood, plus physical, emotional, and sexual abuse throughout my teenage years — but that’s a whole ‘nother story). By this time, I had already met and been with my fiance for about two years. But some major events in our life began causing a great deal of stress on both of us. This is when the panics attacks and meltdowns began. Continue reading