Mental wounds still screaming
Driving me insane
I’m going off the rails on a crazy train
— Ozzy Osbourne, “Crazy Train”
I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about conspiracy theories. Or, more accurately, I’m fed up with conspiracy theories.
My fiancé and I have been discussing these theories against the backdrop of world events for the last several years. On our dining room table there is a stack of books a couple of feet tall that I’ve been meaning to read about conspiracy theories and related subjects such as the premillennial dispensationalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation and the fundamentalist Christian worldview. To be quite honest, I’m mildly fascinated with conspiracy theorists and I’m trying to understand how they think: if I’d had the time to read these books lately, conspiracy theories would have become another special interest by now.
- Head in the Clouds by Wings of Dust
How many times have you been told that you don’t pay attention enough, aren’t aware enough of your surroundings, or even worse, that you have your “head in the clouds” all the time? I heard this quite often, especially as a teenager and coming from my absolutely favorite aunt (NOT!). If you remember my post from a while back that talked about EMSs (early maladaptive schemas) and negative core beliefs, you’ll remember that sometimes we form these beliefs based on negative feedback from significant figures in our childhood – parents, relatives (well-meaning or not) and the like. So as a result of her negative comments, I developed a sort of hypervigilance which basically required me to pay attention to everything in my environment. Literally.
You can imagine that for someone on the autism spectrum, this would be downright tiring. And it was. I was constantly scanning my environment for details, dangers, etc., especially when I would move from one environment to the next. It would take me a while to get comfortable when I arrived into a new room, got out of the car and went into the house, and so forth (you don’t want to even know how taxing it is to try to notice EVERYTHING – including passing scenery – when you’re in a moving vehicle as a passenger). When I was in my early twenties, I dispensed of this habit: unfortunately, some events in my mid-twenties reactivated a healthy (again, NOT!) dose of post-traumatic stress disorder that I had mostly gotten rid of with help from my fiancé – the same PTSD I’ve mentioned that I am battling right now. And with the PTSD came the hypervigilance and the environment scanning. The only good thing that has resulted from this is my tendency to store visual details, which I can access later for my writing.
I recognized near the end of last week that this practice was downright exhausting and no longer worth my time, so I decided to stop completely. I decided that I was only going to pay attention to what was important, or what caught my notice. And couple of days later, this new approach paid off. Continue reading
In my ongoing research, I recently found an article from the Workplace Bullying Institute about self-defeating stigmas held by adults bullied in the workplace. While reading the article, I began to think about my own experiences with workplace bullying and recognized some of my own shame about it.
Then, I thought about autistic adults and workplace bullying as a whole. According to a 2010 survey by the WBI, 35% of workers have experienced bullying firsthand. With estimates of autistic children being bullied as high as 90%, it’s not hard to imagine that many autistic adults have been bullied as both children and adults. And if what the WBI call a “silent epidemic” is distressing to neurotypical employees, you can imagine what kind of pain and distress it might cause for an autistic employee.
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.