Last I checked,
I wasn’t born with apologies – though some would demand
that I wear them for the apocalypses in my DNA.
(From my poem, “Dear Earthling”)
After a bit of a hiatus, I am coming back to you with a post about something that has profoundly affected me for a long time, although I didn’t realize it until earlier this year. To put it another way, I live at the intersection of AS and PTSD.
Now, what do I mean when I say this? For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that I’ve spoken of my childhood and teenage years, which included physical, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse, as well as neglect – most of which happened between ages twelve and eighteen.
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”.
There’s definitely, definitely, definitely no logic
To human behaviour
But yet so, yet so irresistible
And there’s no map
And a compass wouldn’t help at all
(Bjork, “Human Behaviour”)
In the last three parts of this series on stress and anxiety, I discussed causes and coping strategies which apply to people with Asperger’s in general. For the next few weeks, I will focus on specific stressors which tend to mostly affect Aspie women. I am speaking generally, of course, and offer this information with the understanding that each woman’s situation is unique. In addition to some external research, I will also be speaking from personal experience, offering examples of some of the challenges I have faced as a woman with Asperger Syndrome.
looking for the X somewhere off the map where
underneath is buried treasure, a skin that you could
trade your own for and put on so that they would
find a way to love you again. Fifteen years later, you are still
looking. You don’t know that you are
stuck with yourself, and that no such treasure
(from my poem, “Scapegoat”)
If you’ve been following along for the last couple of weeks, you know that I’ve been talking about stress and anxiety, and how they affect individuals with Asperger Syndrome. I’ve discussed some of the reasons that we have more difficulty handling stress and anxiety, as well as some helpful coping strategies. This week, I’ll be throwing cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness into the mix as two more things that can help Aspies overcome anxiety and effectively deal with stress.
The text I’ve been working from is Asperger Syndrome and Anxiety: A Successful Guide to Stress Management by Dr. Nick Dubin. While slowly reading this book, I’ve been processing the material intellectually and using it as a lens through which to reexamine both my past and my present. What really hit home was when I read his discussion of EMSs and how they impact people with Asperger’s.
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.