512: The Whipping Girl

I am guilty of gluttony, and I don’t mean that double-scoop mint ice cream on a sugar cone, followed by cheesecake and chocolate bits.

Gluttony has changed meanings from its original origins. At its roots, gluttony was referred to as self-punishing, self-pity, and self-affliction associated with the act of harming oneself in hopes of making amends to a higher power, most prominently represented as the remorseful priest whipping his back in a brutal attempt to make amends to God. It was viewed as a sin because even as the action is perceived as a sacrifice and admission of wrongs to God, it is in actuality the highest from of ego-based self-focus. It sets one’s agony above everything else, and the person becomes the focus not God.

As an Aspie, I am gluttonous as I whip myself mentally, damaging my self-esteem whilst under the guise of ‘wanting to be better.’

I think many Aspies are glutton for punishment, not because we desire to be but because our brains are instinctually wired to over-analyze, pick apart, and find inherent flaws. Typically, and ideally, we would be suited best for work as engineers or solvers of planetary problems; yet, most of us don’t have something to occupy our minds continually that is directly related to problem solving for a company or the whole of the world. In actuality, most of us experience several hours of the day, if not more, in isolation, trapped in our thoughts revolving around problem solving that doesn’t do anyone any good.

My thinking is: when we don’t have a BIGGER solution to solve, we set about to solve ourselves or someone else.

My trouble starts when I focus on someone else and what he has said or done or when I focus on myself and what I have said or done, or a combination of the aforementioned (aka Double-Whammy).

Because my mind is a vast endless landscape—think bland canvas upon blank canvas in repetitive mirrors beckoning to be painted—I can create havoc if I focus on an individual, especially if that someone is out of sight. In my case, out of sight does not mean out of mind. In my case, out of sight means trapped inside the hamster wheel of my mind: looping.

My gluttony, (self-affliction/whipping the mind), happens when I set about to focus on someone else but I can’t find answers about someone else, I can’t find a solution, and/or I can’t reach an endpoint. Given the obvious fact that people are not stagnant beings, and are creatures constantly changing in emotions, outlook, opinions, and behaviors, (not to mention biologically, aka cells shedding, blood pumping, microorganisms, etc.), the quest to reach an end conclusion with any particular person is a ridiculous rendering to begin with. Even if an accurate, or semi-close-to-accurate conclusion about someone or self is reached by said Aspie, the answer will not stick. It’s an impossibility to know an outcome of anyone because we change. Unless the person happens to drop dead right at the moment of discovery and all conclusions are said and done. Morbid, but true, and the only likely scenario in which my over-thinking and resulting theorizing might feasibly match a singular moment in someone’s life. People aren’t objects. They aren’t things. They aren’t puzzles to be solved, but somehow my brain thinks they are.

I feel like a tracking device set down on earth that narrows in on some subject and then dissects and gathers information, and then takes the data and internalizes it and digests it and then attempts to reach conclusions, without noting that the subject at hand is both impossible to understand in completion and that I am not a robot or machine. I forget that. I truly forget that I can’t reach a conclusion with people which will lead to a predictable outcome. I mean, like rolling dice, there is always that chance that my choice will match what’s in front of me; but even then, eventually the dice will be rolled again. I can’t seem to get this fact to compute though: that no amount of thinking, and re-thinking, and re-working will relieve my crushing anxiety and solve the problem.

And that’s at the core of it all: Anxiety.

And I don’t know what comes first—the anxiety (generalized anxiety disorder) or the perceived problem. I know that my body is predisposition to respond to stress in a fight or flight manner (as a result of Post Traumatic Stress, and as a result of the way I am genetically structured with a joint mobility syndrome that affects my autonomic functioning). So at times it is the anxiety that comes first, like trigger-chemicals that put my body on high-alert, and then from there I search for the actual problem. I get scared first, and then I try to figure out why. It’s a fact-seeking mission. Danger! Danger! Will Robinson. I am the robot on high alert; I am Will; and I am Danger. That’s the way it goes.

From there, whether it is an actual trigger that comes first—aka something someone said or did, a thought, a symbol, image, etc.—or my body’s biochemical makeup (fight or flight), I dive bomb into an oblivious state of confusion. I become a master puzzle solver, a master puppeteer of self, too, as I set about to dig myself out of where I have been buried. On alert, I feel walloped, cornered, and frightened, and I set out to search for answers, with my little stick with the bundle at the end, a hobo with her knapsack thinking the travel will bring me to some destination that spells RELIEF. But the truth is, I ought not set out. I shouldn’t. I should just set up camp and stay where I am. I shouldn’t just tramp or jump train. But I do. I do. I do.

I become lost then, on an endless destination, wanting to forge through the muck of data—some thick ivy-laden forest—to reach the other side in order to feel relief. I want nothing else but to end the anxiety. And my mind thinks if I think enough I will end the anxiety. It thinks: I got this. It says: Let me take over. It shouts: Just rethink it one more time! And I go round in this circle, nonstop, grabbing onto any semblance of information, any speck of hope for absolution. I just want to stop the pain inside of me, this nervous panicky feeling that resembles being abandoned, kicked out of my only home, and left naked on the floor of a monster’s adobe, all at once. I want to run and run through my mind’s files to find the answer, to bring anecdote, relief. Only I can’t. I can’t!

And still I find myself doing this—tramping, train, forest, file-finding—whatever. Just moving and moving and forging and forging. I get so tangled up in thought that the immobility sets in, and from there any tiny task seems impossible. Forget doing the dishes or leaving the house, the prospect of bending over and retrieving a piece of rubbish from the carpet seems as difficult as climbing Mt. Everest. I can’t bend. I can’t move. I can’t function. I shutdown, literally, like a computer on overload, overheated, and with her memory overstocked.

That’s it. I am done for. And from there I start to wonder what is wrong with me. I begin to brutally beat myself up. The whipping begins. It’s not so much: WHY can’t I solve this. It’s more so: WHY am I trying to solve this? WHY can’t I shut off my mind. WHAT is wrong with me. I AM flawed. I AM wrong. I NEED help. And there is NO ONE that can help me. The whipping continues on from there. I am good for nothing. How can I go on like this? How do I turn off my brain? And then the really redundant thoughts set in, that most humans suffer through, the ones based on childhood trauma and drama, all the negative messages we collective like to lick at like old wounds that won’t heal. I become that dog—lick lick lick—needing a cone over and about my head so something can save me from hurting me. But there’s no cone. Just me and my brain, my glorious brain.

Everything eventually leads to gluttony. Unless something stops me midstream, like an unexpected event or calling, something that catches my eye or heart, then I am okay, leaped out of the cyclic pain by a momentary distraction. The only thing is that my monster mind is still lurking in the background, that part of me that likes to munch at data and delete any sign of sanity.

I have yet to find a way to make any of this stop. Sure, I am getting closer as I delve into deeper and deeper analysis, bringing along a fleet of fellow Aspies with me that nod their heads and delirious gorgeous hearts in recognition. But it seems the deeper I dig the more grand the journey becomes—like opening up a jar and finding a universe inside. I just can’t seem to get to the end of me. And then I remember it’s my mind again, taking what it perceives as solvable and spinning the endless webs into oblivion.

511: Aspergers Hell

I share the same camp with a mind that goes out of control in its quest to search. It is like my mind goes bungy jumping without my permission. It sees an avenue of escape and jumps. Boing! And I am left somewhere in between the launch pad and the landing ground, midstream in the air, flailing, and screaming for rescue. My mind literally pours into multiple dimensions of jumping thoughts. The Energizer bunny overdosed on caffeine skydiving without a parachute.

And what does my mind pour? Everything. All the data I have collected from being. Everything I have taken note of during my waking and sleeping hours: each person, each face, each smell, each droplet taken in by the senses, and even the liquid data beyond the common senses. Everything I have ever learned, seen, contemplated, deduced—all brought to the same over-crowded table for dinner, and each wanting a turn at conversation. It’s loud. It’s annoying. And it’s uninvited company.

I am sensitive to my world like none can understand, unless born into the view I see; unless transmitted in completion into the suit I wear, and forced to walk as I walk.

Being on the spectrum which includes neurological differences leads to challenges that the typical person just doesn’t seem to grasp. And how could he? I mean for the most part we, as a collective, we look ‘normal.’ In fact, many of us are quite successful at one endeavor or another, high-achievers and/or proficient in a vocation or skill. In fact, many of us are quite charming despite our peculiarities. And most of us aren’t ‘handicapped’ on the outside at all. Most of our disabilities, if not all, beyond our clumsiness, are entirely invisible.

The typical person usually doesn’t understand how the multiple traits of Aspergers, sometimes reaching a hundred in totality, quickly add up. While it is true one singular trait taken out of the pool, such as dysgraphia or dyslexia, might be manageable with effort, when one takes into account the multiple traits all combined and compacting one person, one can more easily theorize how overwhelming the condition can be.

Still from an outsider’s view, we really ought not have too much to complain about. I mean everyone suffers. But that’s exactly the point! We suffer like all humans but the suffering is accentuated and multiplied at every level. We are experiencing life at hyper-speed in hyper-sensory overload. And we take in life to the tenth-degree compared to the average person. We also take in other people’s crap! We feel their pain and their suffering. In truth, sometimes we can’t tell if we are feeling our own stuff or someone else’s pain. And if that weren’t confusing enough, we feel profound empathy for the suffering all around us.

But not OUR OWN suffering. We beat ourselves up about our own suffering because we believe we should know better, be stronger, be wiser, and have control. We hate that we are sad. We hate that we are depressed. We hate that we are again in a place of discomfort.

But the most extreme confusion is not knowing when to stop the thoughts. We can’t tell which thoughts are actually doing us some degree of ‘good’ and which of our thoughts are merely a result of our minds dive-bombing off a bridge. And to top that, we can’t even tell what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad.’ Everything seems to be able to prove its own point and hold its own ground. Except us of course. As we are in a constant free fall.

Yet, from an outsider’s view, we complain too often; we are self-focused; we pity ourselves; and let us not forget that we take life too seriously.

The key word in all this being: outsider.

If we wore our traits on the outside, things might look a bit different to the outsider. If all the challenges were dangling off our bodies, perhaps blinking words or metaphors. If all the pictures in our minds were on display, if all the thoughts trumpeting, if all the pain made concrete that was brought on from sensory overload, if all the mixed emotions could stampede in parade fashion, if all the questions could be bull-horned in an amphitheater, if each and every one of the close to one hundred traits could be corralled and put on display, maybe, just maybe, the outsider could grasp the enormity of what we experience in simply being.

For us life itself is a challenge. Forget the other stuff, e.g., Maslow’s hierarchy, relationships, health, and finances. For us the challenge is just being alive another day—just opening our eyes and getting out of bed. Give us an hour and we’ve lived a day. Give us a day and we’ve lived over a year. We are exhausted, and yet we carry on. We are terrified, yet we smile. We are confused, yet we forge through. We are lonely, yet we offer support.

We are—and some days that in and of itself is enough to make us not want to be.

I have a runaway brain. I have a machine inside of me that knows how to twist reality, so I never am quite certain of my own emotional state. I know fear. I know love. And the rest is a jumbled mess that seems illusion.

My mental and emotional state play teeter-totter all day long. I have no bearings. I have no idea how I will respond to the next over abundance of stimuli or the next trigger. I have no clue what pattern my brain will choose to latch onto next, what puzzle it will try to solve, or how it will manifest some data as proof of why I should be fearful. I am watching myself constantly, and knowing my brain is its own entity, and knowing I have a heightened awareness to everything and everyone I will come into contact with, and everything and everyone I will think about.

Having Aspergers is like jumping into a river and not only feeling the cold stinging water, but feeling everything that leads to the water’s arrival and knowing everything that might feasibly come after the arrival. It’s time travel in thought, all at once, why boggled down with emotions that make no sense. Life is complicated by the simple act of thought, and to not think seems mostly an impossibility, without the aid of extreme measures, strength, and endurance. Every ounce of energy might be used up on just controlling and stopping thoughts. And then depleted, every ounce of resistance is wiped clean, and we are left infantile.

Next the self-blame rolls in for not having had been enough—strong enough, normal enough, in control enough. We twist the thoughts into a labyrinth-mess. We pity ourselves for pitying ourselves. We become our enemy in hopes of becoming something other than self. We fake confidence or we hide out. We try to escape who we are. We try on different personas and personalities. We try on different skill sets and activities. We change interests. And all the while we watch ourselves in confusion.

And then someone says: Everyone suffers. Stop pitying yourself.

And I think, shit, I see his point. But how the hell do I stop wanting to not be in hell?

 

Samantha Craft, M.Ed. (aka Marcelle Ciampi) is the mother of three boys, one adult son who is on the autism spectrum. She is the lead job recruiter for ULTRA Testing, an autism educator, the author of the blog and book Everyday Aspergers, Selection Committee Chair at the ANCA World Autism Festival and is active in autism groups locally and globally. Samantha serves as a guest speaker, workshop presenter, curriculum developer, neurodiversity recruitment specialist, and more. She is working on her second book Autism in a Briefcase, written to provide insight to employers and agencies about the neurodiverse talent pool. A former schoolteacher and advocate for children with special needs, she appreciates the skills and talents of autistics. Diagnosed with Aspergers in 2012, she enjoys the arts, writing, movies, travel, and connecting with others. (More people know Sam by Sam because it’s her community pen name.)

510: Bipolar or Aspergers?

Sometimes people on the spectrum have a co-morbid diagnosis of bipolar. In other words experts inform a person with ASD that he or she has both bipolar disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. While in some cases this is likely true and substantiated by symptoms and behaviors, in other instances people on the spectrum receive an inaccurate bipolar diagnosis. Often a ‘rapid-cycling’ version is diagnosed. I won’t pretend to be an expert about bipolar because I am not, and I don’t experience the condition myself, but I can abstract the differences between Aspergers and bipolar based on some readings and interactions with people with rapid cycling and/or manic/depressive episodes.

For me, there are some distinct differences between bipolar and ASD.

(The rest of this post is available in the book Everyday Aspergers.)

Sam’s book Everyday Aspergers is now available internationally on Amazon.

More information can be found at her company: myspectrumsuite.com

509: There Needs to be A Name

There needs to be a name
There needs to be a name for what happens
Because always with happiness
Comes this shadow
Some dark figure behind closed doors

When happy rings
I open
I envelop
I take in the colors, the smells, and desires
I become that which is: calm, giddy, and hope-filled
The world mine, for a moment
Free
Anxiety lifted
Somewhat ‘normal’
And yet…
And yet…
And yet…

The Shadow
There—waiting, watching, wanting
To devour

I am these two: Split
Yes, split
I am momentarily happy, and I am perpetually sad
Half sees the other as weak, dismal, and pathetic
Half sees the other as over-bearing, tiring and exhaustive
Melancholic one, concurs
Happy sweeps up the messes and sets things straight

Some other piece, long forgotten
Wants nothing more
Than to crawl into a space of no halves
No me’s
Where there is emptiness
Tranquility
And the absence of extremes

Somewhere between
Over-exertion
And under-confidence
I wobble, this lonelier non-version
Frightened by the chime of happiness

~ Everyday Aspergers

508: Mind the Mind: Asperger’s Introspection

I am not a seeker of drama. I do not care for discourse or feelings of unsettlement. The unknown is my least favorite happenstance. However, I do tend to over-analyze and try to solve situations, be it relationships, locations, events, health, or even emotions themselves. I am finding the more I become as the nature about me and let things take their course, the more I am able to remain calm in what I perceive as a storm. As it is, I see everything as a storm.

In retrospect, in looking back at my life, the decades spun open, I see myself fighting battle after battle. I see myself, or saw myself, as victim for most of the stretch of my existence. Until recently, when another door to my mind open, and I realized with a slow-drip reasoning that I had chosen to make each of these events important. I’d attached this necessity and conquering-eyes to situations that might have passed by on their own without much forethought or planning. Instead, my mind attached and twisted and upturned every corner, in hopes of solving. I am the puzzle seeker in all ways.

In knowing this about myself, in recent days, I am practicing the act of not exploding events in my mind. I am acutely aware of my actions. I recognize I take a flat, one-dimensional ‘problem’ and I tilt it into multiple theories of causation. I take what is simple and I complicate the matter. Not on purpose, and not with intention to add complexity, only as a byproduct of my innate ability to solve. I try and try and try, through multiple outlets of reason and swaying, say even convincing, to find the right avenue—the direction to answer. This is how I am. This is how I live: in the constant pursuit of end mark.

I have asked myself why, as I swing past the molecular thoughts colliding one upon the other, bouncing and ricocheting in a delightful parade of rainbows. Everywhere is this thought, this thinking, these endless loops that think onto themselves, alive and burning with passion. Here I watch, and I stop myself enough to wonder, even as the light show continues onward. The ultimate answer to my behavior remains in the unease brought on by the thought of unknowns, by the thought of remaining uncertain, by the actual way in which the world works, some endless cycle within itself producing life, as me as mere puppet to reality. And in this pond of not knowing, circumvented with the hunger of wanting to know, I sit and harbor feasible outlet after feasible outlet. A thinker thinking her way into a space of no time, lost in contemplation, an act that becomes a bandage to facing the truth. That being that there is no control, even as I am one that longs for order.

As a child I stimmed. I prepared. My childhood games were not games, they were preparation. Everything, from playtime to alone time, was set in its place. Everything was organized and every move stemmed from a place of needing order. As I grew older, I didn’t change inside; my need for order and detail remained. The stimming transformed into thoughts fashioned into recognizable systems and order. I became that one that believed she must remain the leader of her world, in order to survive the turmoil that seemed me. Everywhere was chaos and everywhere something that could be organized back to original form of order. I became, with every year, a person who depended more and more on her thoughts in hopes of discovering a neutral zone set outside the disorder. I willfully became lost in thinking in an attempt to reorganize my disruptive world.

I am still here, doing this—seeking out the dark corners of my mind in hopes of escaping the disorder. This is what it comes down to. This is the endpoint of my behavior. And it is this observation itself that makes keen sense to me now. I am the watchtower, viewing my own cyclic hibernation. I am steering my way into self, thinking if I am the constant seeker, I shall hide enough from what is in front of me. For even the anguish of over thinking, even the painstaking ways in which I torture myself with thought upon thought, becomes reasonable when compared to the unknowns which remain out there. In truth, I see this place named world as my ever-encroaching enemy.

In deduction, I abstract a causation, a hauntingly clear causation, that in which I have made myself mad in the interior to avoid the fear of the exterior. I have made myself a prisoner of thought to escape the overbearing burden of becoming a prisoner of life. But in so doing, I have made myself twice the captive. Piercing first myself with fear, and, then again, causing casualty by the intrepid thoughts that follow thoughts. I think that I am the mind-keeper and that in some way, with enough effort, I shall eject myself far from the happenings of this world. But, with close inspection, I find myself further in the grasp of pain, pinching myself asleep with these same intrepid ways, in hopes of running further from the place I stand. I am that one who seeks escape through invisible avenues.

In knowing these thoughts today, those that collect themselves into a pool of recognition, and those thoughts, too, that dictate the way in which I live out my day, I have concluded fully and openly that the only way in which to save myself is to ironically stop trying to save myself. For the moment I open the door, which leads to the way of over-seeking and continual searching for causation and answer, is the same moment I doom myself to prison. In theory, if I stop the thoughts that teach me to employ them for refuge, then I also stop the thoughts that simultaneously torture me. In thinking this through, inevitably, it is only in my power to stop the cyclic thoughts that I have full control. All else is illusion upon illusion. In thinking I can find answer through torturous thinking, I have pronounced to a part of myself that I am worth nothing but the dungeons I continue to fortify and dig day after day, night into night. In actuality, I am that beyond thought.

So it is in this way, in this endless theorizing, I both succumb to my thoughts and myself, and recognize that in order to live, I must mind the mind. And with this recognition proclaim aloud that in order to be I must learn to loosen the grasp of control upon my mind, freeing the agonizing quest to find answers. And instead, with vested interest, forbade myself to enter that which is both madman’s labyrinth and predicated spoils set before one’s self as false salve and salvation.

**************************

“Last night I had a major breakthrough. I explained this in a very complex way, on my newest blog post. However, to put it mildly, and in layman terms, I realized that I over-think things naturally, and because of this, and my intelligence, I try to solve, or at minimum piece together puzzles of my life, whether it be my health, relationships, my emotions, vocations, situations, or the like.

I turn everything in my life into something solvable and complex. Last night. I decided to just let my body be sick. I was in a lot of pain, and had many symptoms for four days, including a triggering of my heart/bloodpressure syndrome. I released, not with intention, or with desire, just with a knowing I had to do so in order to move onward, without getting trapped in thought after thought.

I was literally reaching the point of insanity with so many unknowns and changes in my life. I awoke this morning more alive, less victim, and more awaken to my own heart. I feel like in the process of releasing, I also opened a canal-like-channel that allowed some of the poisons in my body to purge themselves through and out.

I am learning that my thoughts are sometimes my very worst enemy, even as they dress themselves in solutions. “If I only sit with them long enough they will prove a theory, or way out!” < but that’s not true.

The longer I sit with my thoughts, the more confused, forlorn, and lost I get. I have been thinking all this time my mind’s way of thinking was my hero and savior, but in truth, letting go and not thinking is what ‘cures’ me in the long run, or essentially returns me to a state of balance and equilibrium. It’s hard to turn me off, to turn of this engine of intense thinking. I think. I think. I think. But I know now, the best release is in turning off.

I play a game in my mind, now: I catch myself in full swing moving through a maze of thought, and I stop cold. NO. NO. NO. There aren’t any answers there. There aren’t. It is truly in the silence, I find solace.”

~ Samantha Craft, Everyday Aspergers