Black holes

When I was around 20 I had possibly my worst autistic melt down on record. I have had meltdowns last longer, but in severity, we have a clear winner! Only at the time I didn’t know I was autistic, so, well that made it worse. And a few minutes ago I remembered it, and thought it might be time for a little processing.

I had planned to go to do some role play with a friend, and his friends. I hadn’t been in a few months, so was a bit nervous, but all geared up for the Saturday all day session. The day before I spoke to my friend, and I said what character I would be playing and he told me I couldn’t play that sort of character. I said I would find another, and I guess the phone call ended amicably enough, however, looking back with the knowledge I have now, that was the beginning of the meltdown.

I was in my family home alone, and I guess I started to cry almost immediately after the phone call ended, and I began to pace. Logical things no longer seemed logical, I was losing my ability to process. I pride myself on being an academic intelligent sort, and not being able to think clearly, with intense panic and anxiety spiking high, I was not in any sort of good place. This lasted for around two hours. I thought it would last forever.

I can honestly say that although I can forgive myself for the actions I then took, I will likely never fully forgive myself for taking them. In a spiral of grief, devastation, sobbing, in a space of absence of thought, I took some sleeping tablets. Some would be a quantity between 12 and 20. They were likely prescribed for me, it was a time of much medication.

This was the only thing I could irrationally do to remove myself from the head space. I had utterly no desire to die, I just needed not to feel so wretched.

As soon as I took them, practicality kicked in. I phoned a friend, she came over, ambulance was called, processes external to me were all in motion. Curiously the tablets did utterly nothing to me, the only issue was they were out of date, so the poisons unit had to be called. My boyfriend arrived, the hospital wanted to keep me in over night, but I declined, saying I was fine. As I was, utterly fine.

I couldn’t explain the devastating drop, but knew that it was over. I spoke to psychiatrists after who said I seemed perfectly happy. I was happy, barring low grade anxiety. I started taking antidepressants which didn’t seem to have any effect, and life continued much the same as before. But every so often, these inexplicable crashes would happen, and although I didn’t take any more extreme actions to change the flow of them, I had utterly no idea why.

I have had times where I have violently sobbed for days. Times when I have become uncharacteristically shouty for no logical reason. And even now, when it happens, never if, it is terrifying. However now I have a plan! When it begins I can recognise it. I usually cry, but now I know to phone someone stat. I use the code word ‘chicken nuggets’ with my best friend and he knows this is the code red. The reason this word was decided on I have no idea, but as am vegan, am guessing large amounts of irony was involved. I then issue instructions of ‘talk at me’ and he yabs on about his day. My mum, brother and one other friend are all amazing at this too. I need to reconnect with the world outside my head, and listening to someone describing the crackers they were currently eating, the issues at their work, or anything that is not remotely to do work me is a godsend. It let’s the cogs in my head wind down, reset. These people will always have my unending gratitude.

I have always felt that being friends with me must be really hard work. My anxiety is harder than bear average (not bear arms, they belong to bears) and sometimes a texture of material, a smell or a place will cause an unexpected reaction (also hyper sensory.. but that is a whole other thing!). And sometimes I won’t be able to process this. Then I need the help of others and this can be problematic.

I try to live a quiet life for the most part, but I also want to do things and see people. And new ups anxiety. Interestingly I was diagnosed with adhd last year, and the convergence of the two conditions I find sort of funny. Adhd leaves me incredibly unmotivated unless something is urgent, exciting or new, and asd trips anxiety hard on all these things. More irony.

Today I had a meltdown much like this one, but within minutes of recognising that it was happening, I was on the phone listening to my brother talk about his lunch time crackers. I am still exhausted after, and the exhaustion will last into tomorrow. My focus is shot, and my eyes will still leak, but the intensity of that terrible feeling has passed.

Sometimes I know exactly what has caused it. Other times, like today, I don’t. There was no specific trigger. Diagnosis has likely been one of the most important moments of my adult life.

Map Point: Can I accept that there are sometimes no reasons?

There are fish in the sea… and octopuses

No one sees the same world. I recently read something about how everyone perceives each person differently, creating their own image. And even you see yourself in different ways, trying to reach an authentic sense of self. And sometimes wondering if such a feat is possible.

After my ASD diagnosis last year, I read a good deal about autism. One of the key things that stuck in my mind was the rate of diagnosis between men and women (around a four to one ratio). So as such I signed up with universities that were conducting ASD research, as clearly more is needed! This week I got to wear a funky little cap whilst watching my brain waves appear on a screen. (I recommend this in its entirety.. I got to watch what my brain does when I blink!), but what struck me more through this process was how I regard others, and then conversely, how others regard me.

In this instance, I was person number 130 and the other person was a person completing her PhD. She regards me as a conduit to continuing her work, and I regard her as providing me with an excellent morning’s entertainment, complete with a hair washing interlude, EEG’s are messy!

But then we started talking, she was very concerned about a possible cancer scare and we started talking about waiting times and healthcare. Then I spoke about the delights of the place I live, as it is also her favourite place in the area. It is too easy to see people in fixed roles. That person in my doctor, that person is my mechanic.. It goes on. It seems too easy, however, to only see them as this singularly dimensional being, and if I want people to see me as complete and multifaceted, then perhaps it is time for me to extend that same courtesy to others as well.

We are never just one thing.

Map Point. Do I fear authenticity?

Pebble on the beach

Today was an average sort of day. I woke up feeling less tired than I have been this week, but not so fully energised that I woke up before my alarm. I engaged in my usual domesticity and went to work. On my way home I could feel my eyes welling up with tears, and I had no idea why.

They were not ‘almost tears of happy’. These I get quite a lot. A line in a play, a sentence in a book, the way the sun hits the glass and the rainbows and reflections that it makes. Some kind words from a friend. The world can be an awe happy place. But not this afternoon. This afternoon I was tumbling fast, whilst sitting in a cafe, eating cake that likely (definitely) had dairy in it (this sometimes poisons me a little) and drinking a cup of ginger and lemon infused tea.

It is a feeling that I recognise easily, logically I know that it will pass, but whilst it is present, this maelstrom engulfs every smallest piece of me. This would be the time where I could crack my head into a wall until I turn the wall to dust. But I don’t, I just feel terror after terror wash over me. I feel like an errant stone, laying ambiguously on a beach, waiting to be reclaimed by the waves.

I can talk, chat and smile whilst I feel this way, I may laugh and gesture easily, seeming softly at ease in my surroundings which I am. My surroundings are my familiar, reminding me that it is me who is changed and not them. I phone people up and have somewhat inane conversations just to keep holding on, to know that I do have connection. And then this first crash passes, and I slip into non.

From non comes tiredness, and a strong desire to sleep. I know that this too will pass. And then comes hunger, really big, hugely exciting hunger. I eat quickly to start (knowing that my brain will not register how full my stomach is for the first fifteen minutes) and then I pace myself until satiation arrives. And then I return.

Now I have energy, genuine light in my world, and I wonder what triggers these mad hours, these hours where I feel so incredibly distant from myself. I prod possible causes, have I eaten enough, slept well enough, am I putting myself under too much stress, is this an asd meltdown? Many questions all with easy answers, but as a cumulative whole? I don’t think that is so easy for me to understand. When do things get too much that suddenly all things become a problem? It would be incredibly useful to have an app on my body, reminding me that I need to recharge before I need a reboot. But until such technology exists I will continue to be secure in the knowledge, that whatever my mental state, I have many good people in my life. I am loved.

Map Point. Do I know when I should ask for help?