521: No Harm Intended, and other aspects of this Aspie Girl

No Harm Intended

Anger:

When someone gets mad at me I feel like my world is coming to an end. I literally do. I have thoughts of ending my life, about how worthless I am, and about how I am not fit or made for this world.

Conflict confuses me. Anger scares me. And any type of disagreement makes me wonder why there is such a thing as discord. Particularly scary for me is the silent treatment, withdrawn emotion, or the ‘cold shoulder.’ It’s not the action or words that scares me, not even the person, it is the way my brain responds.

During conflict of any type, I go into hyper-speed and live through the worst-case scenarios, having flashes of all the feasible most horrific things that could happen as a result of the situation. I experience my thoughts as complete visuals—full on scenery, liken to vivid dreaming, with emotions, sensations, full color and sound. I experience multiple mini-scenarios in a matter of seconds. And I come out bewildered and exhausted, and barely able to focus. With all of this, I have this emptiness as well. When I am triggered by conflict, I want to make a plan and make a plan fast. If I have a plan, I think I will be okay. I will find my way out and survive. If I don’t have a plan, I find it hard to concentrate on anything else. In order to have a plan, I must first evaluate the situation, find feasible reasons why the event is happening, and then set about to find solutions. I get stuck at each step, push myself out and then loop through again. My entire worst fears surface. Without doubt, I know it is the end. It feels like a death of sorts.

I am not afraid of the fighting itself. But I am very terrified of how I will react. I know with certainty I am not a wimp or codependent. I stick up for myself and state my needs, set boundaries, and make choices to protect myself. I am not afraid of hearing about what is on the other person’s mind or even taking constructive (or not-so-constructive) criticism. I am not afraid to fight back verbally, if I feel threatened. It’s none of that; the fear all has to do with the inner workings of my mind and my response.

Authenticity:

I want to be myself entirely; so much so that the times I think I might not be behaving with authenticity, (e.g., using a tone that doesn’t reflect my inner thoughts and emotions), I beat myself up mentally. Inside there is some self-set standard of how to behave. If I am not true to myself there is a nudging inside that sits on me like the weight of a sandbag. How this heaviness exists and why it comes, I don’t know. How it determines right or wrong in relation to my inner ‘true’ being, I know not. With so much ‘not knowing’ going on it is amazing that this regulator of authentic self still exists. But it does.

In judging my authenticity I look at everything about my representation of self, including the way I walk, the way I talk, the manner in which I present myself, and each and every word I use. I do this repeatedly before I speak sometimes and always after I speak, wondering if what I am representing of self is self. I don’t know why this is so important to me—the act of over-analysis of self to find truth and authenticity—yet, I am psychologically locked in the same room as truth-seeking.

There are times I fight the being ‘real’ and want to turn it off, many times. There are times I want to tape my mouth shut and not speak. I can tell myself, even promise myself profusely, that I will not tell someone something. (This could be a simple fact, an aspect about myself, another or an event, a conclusion about an emotion, a revelation of sorts, or information that reveals an intimate aspect of a given situation.) But it doesn’t matter how I try to stop the train of what is words coming out of me. For despite my best attempts the locomotive comes, charging in with full force. And then I step back and think: “Here I go again.”

Truth:

I can’t live burdened and in that way I appear selfish. But the truth of the matter is I don’t want to be this way. There is another driver beyond me: a director. He is the one making the calls. Personally, this me, this person now that is consciously aware and writing, she would like to stop, she would like to remain silent, she would like to keep something to herself, but she cannot. She isn’t ‘allowed’ to be false or non-genuine. She isn’t allowed to house secrets.

She is sworn to this all-encompassing law of ‘the truth shall set you free.’ Only the truth is confusing. Only the truth can be convoluted and mixed up and come with a whole bunch of strings attached. The truth can be buried under an avalanche of ego-will and manipulation and selfish desire. The truth can be jaded by subjective perception and personal collected truths.

Yet, to be as authentic as possible, the truth itself must be unmasked, dug up and examined. Here in lies more work for my brain. For all at once, in conversation and outside conversation, I am examining self, looking for clues of dishonesty and non-representation of authentic being, while dissecting the elements that classify true truth.

As a result of this instinctual given necessity to walk through the world as a genuine representation of me, I can’t lie without deep regret and remorse; for the act of not being true feels like a direct affliction to my being, as if I wound myself in the process of falsehood. I have lied, usually in times I am trying to protect another, think I am protecting another, or confused, lost and overwhelmed. I have lied, and in the act felt wounded and wrong. I always regret and relive lies, in a perpetual purgatory, no matter how small or how well-intentioned I thought I was being.

In addition to outright lies, I can’t tell a partial truth without partaking in deep reflection of why I did such a (terrible) thing. I concentrate on the elements I left out of the telling, the whys of why I only told half a truth, justifying and then punishing the act. And I do the same if I leave out a detail of a story. For instance, in recollecting my day to someone the times events occurred must be exact. To say even a minute less or more, or a time a few minutes off, seems wrong. The details must reflect the truth of what I recall as much as possible, not too complex or too long-winded, and not ever leading someone in the wrong direction.

Reviewing Speech:

After I say something, like a sentence or two, to another, I go into review mode, a whole audience stepping in to decipher if what I said was 1) true 2) based on the best of my recollection 3) reflected from a state of wanting nothing in return but to be heard 4) lacking selfish motivation, manipulation, or covering up of any sort 5) not said to win someone over or gain sympathy 6) not missing parts that would take away from the true meaning or events.

While I am in review mode, there is a background interpreter 1) reliving the past events through a pictorial overview 2) rewriting a script of how I could have said something in a more authentic or kinder/loving way 3) watching myself go back in time and correcting what was said to better amplify truth 4) justifying said actions and suggestions through connecting back to previous learnings.

Need I say this all gets rather exhausting?

Linear Dialogues:

My linear dialogues are parallel and happen at the exact same moment. I am endowed with the capacity to triple- or quadruple-think. That is to say I can process several thoughts along separate lines at the same instant. So while one process is happening, so is another. And there is a finite goal to this reasoning, in which the lines of thought are straight and contain their own predetermined want of outcome and motivation for completion. I am along for the ride like a passenger traveling on three trains simultaneously.

Someone Observing:

The linear thinking on multiple parallel levels happens continually, in all conversations, and even in quiet moments of stillness when I am reflecting back to previous events. I also do this with my thoughts and behaviors when I am alone, sorting through this maze of how to be, as if there is a higher power checking in on me for my authenticity, or another person standing in a far corner observing me and evaluating. It is more natural, in fact, to move through the day with an imaginary overseer watching, then to move in the absence of no one but self. In some ways I don’t know how to exist without thinking I am observed. I am not paranoid. I don’t think someone is actually there. I don’t think I have to behave for them. I only feel I can’t watch myself, or be myself, or move without first seeing myself through someone else’s eyes. It’s always been this way. I am a participant in a game of hide-and-seek, not hunted, just found—again and again.

No Intention to Do Ill Will:

To some I might seem selfish or manipulative or purposeful in my intention to harm. But to me this is impossible. I simply cannot cause harm on purpose without great detriment to self.

I have tried to be angry on purpose and it doesn’t work. I have tried because in watching others it seems easier to live in denial, deflection, blame, rage, finger-pointing and the like. To be able to not fall into an abyss of self-evaluation, self-blame, and over-awareness, seems key. But I have surmised that I am only me when I am authentic, and in so being authentic and in so knowing the whys of how I act and how I feel, I cannot place blame on someone without denying a part of myself that knows I am always partially responsible.

I can’t hold grudges. My anger only comes when I am confused and overwhelmed or dreadfully scared. And so when another person is mad at me, if she or he accuses me and confronts me for being selfish, or purposely deceitful, or callous, or any a number of things that I avoid at all costs, I don’t understand.

I don’t understand how they can see me that way. I don’t understand how they don’t know I am constantly seeking to be my best. I don’t understand how they could ever, ever think I would harm on purpose.

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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

498: Call Me Aspie: The first part of a thousand-page manual

I have Aspergers, and I tend to:

1. Fixate on a certain problem or puzzle, and process this for weeks, if not months, until some part of me reaches a solution. During this time, I may seem frantic, melancholic, elated, discouraged, confused, shattered, and exhausted. As soon as I have a sense of closure, I might feel bewildered and ashamed of my behavior. There will be a brief reprieve, until my brain latches on to another puzzle to solve.
2. Over-process certain events and happenings, particularly exact words used and sentences used by others, as I try to determine the underlying facts and supposed truth. This will reveal itself in multiple questions and inquiry on my part; sometimes the same questions over and over; the repetitive nature is involuntary and necessary, as it brings some relief to the messages circling in my mind. In such cases, it is best for me to confront a person right away and ask a brief question than to burden myself for a day, becoming incapacitated and virtually numb from all the over-thinking about feasible meanings and outcomes. The over-processing can and does burden other people, and leave them questioning their own ability to have patience. I will apologize and mean it, but will not be able to stop the over-processing, even as I am hyper-aware of my behavior and possible consequences based on my actions. Telling me to not over-think is not helpful and not feasible.
3. Lots of giggles. I will appear more childlike than most, and find humor in things that most adults won’t. I find the beauty and fun in many occurrences and statements, and can act a bit immature at times, focusing on little events that make me chuckle. I also will giggle nervously or crack a joke in an attempt to relieve tension and discomfort, even as it might appear nothing was said or done to cause unease. In times of nervousness, particularly when getting to know someone, I will make inappropriate comments, lacking the ability o filter my thoughts and having a desperate compulsive desire to share. On the other hand, others quite enjoy my company, and my smile can be contagious and enlightening. Cherishing the little things does have its benefits; and some will find this behavior refreshing.
4. Over-share. I will share more than most. It is part of who I am. It is difficult for me to determine what is appropriate to share, what is too much to share, and what is enough to share. I like to talk about myself, because I want to be seen and understood. I like to listen about other people, too. But if I am nervous or uncomfortable or preoccupied, these states of being will pull me away from the ability to focus on another. I have to be 100% there to listen to another; and if I cannot be, the attempt to be there seems a waste of time. It is better for me to get everything out and then return to my friend and support them fully when I am able, then to ‘pretend’ to be listening when I am on overload with thoughts. Initially, I might monopolize a conversation or become dumbfounded and not know what to say or how to relate. I survive, in conversation, by analyzing the other participant, and trying to match my style of communication with that person’s style. If I cannot see the person, such as on the phone, I might become nervous and uncomfortable, wondering how the person is reacting to my responses. This is not about people pleasing. But it is about adapting self, so that I do not drive people away with my tendency to over-expose self and trust fully.
5. Be Emotional. I am triggered a lot. Little things trigger me. A simple word, an expression, a reference, a link to a website, a song, a memory, etc. Because I am easily triggered, I might be very content and happy one minute and then turn morose and in deep reflection the next. These states are generally temporary and I can evaluate the trigger quickly. Once the trigger is noted, I have the capacity to take steps to analyze how to pull myself out of deep contemplation and to alter my state of mind. In other words, with practice and self-awareness, I can quite readily pull myself out of a ‘dark’ emotional state. If the trigger is extreme, I will need to talk and process the event to bring relief. Often a hug or human touch might help from certain people whom I deem safe; other times human touch is the last thing I want and any form of human contact, even attention, will actually cause me to retreat and pull away.
6. Be extremely loyal and honest. I have high integrity. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I don’t take anything lightly. I have the ability to have fun and be light-hearted and to forget about my intensity, but my integrity and sense of being the best person I can be never falters. I carry extreme guilt if I try to deceive another and can rarely hold anything inside, particularly events that seem to demonstrate a semblance of betrayal or untruth. This inability to hide things can hurt another person without intention. Some things are perhaps better withheld. But secrets and lies eat away at my soul, and I can concentrate little if I feel I am not being transparent and authentic in my dealings with others. In some cases if I kept my mouth shut, I would feasibly come out ahead, with more gained than lost. Opening my mouth is risky, and can often lead to a loss. Regardless, I was born to speak my truth, and have yet to find a way to make this stop.
7. Love deeply and forever. Once I love someone, I always love someone. Once a friend, always a friend. I can pick up with a person I haven’t spoken with for years, and the reunion feels like yesterday. I don’t care why a friendship ended, if someone wants to come back into my life, my door is always open. I have learned to take some measures to guard my heart against those that might cause harm to me, but for the most part, I will love a loved one for always. There is little anyone can do to make me dislike him or her or to make me remove him or her from my life. I love easily and fully, and love to give. Receiving is sometimes difficult and feels uncomfortable to me, but I understand that the ability to receive is a gift to the giver, and work on this act often.
8. Get upset when others are emotional. Even as I am an emotional being and cannot stop myself from expressing my feelings, others’ emotions frighten me. It seems hypocritical, but the reality is I am not comfortable with emotions. I tend to overreact to simple displays of emotions, such as slight frustration, fleeting anger, or momentary confrontation on another’s part. While I long for passion and emotional connection, I also run from outward displays of feeling. I feel guarded, in a sense, to the deepest source of love inside of me that is afraid of being harmed or invaded. I would rather feel numb and dead at times than have to figure out what someone meant by their tone of voice, words, or actions. I will literally freak out from the slightest alteration in someone’s tone of voice or mannerism, if the upset appears to be directed towards me.
9. Second-guess my own statements and how I express myself. I re-explain myself and overcompensate for mistakes I might have made. I like myself. I like my mind. I am for the most part comfortable in my skin, despite my challenges, but I fear that I have come across the wrong way and represented myself in error. It is of upmost importance to me to clarify and to check for understanding; this action of revisiting a discussion to add clarification is a natural and instinctual part of my nature, as much as flight is to the eagle. I cannot suppress the behavior, even as I watch myself going through the process and doubting the effectiveness of said actions.
10. Dream and Imagine. I spend more time inside my head than outside of my head. Based on my intense ability and natural tendency to fantasize, I often create realistic scenarios in my head of what could or might be. I go down a thousand different avenues of feasible scenarios of a given situation. Over-analyzing each aspect and evaluating the possible outcomes. This is almost done at a subconscious-level, and continues practically nonstop until my mind has reached a conclusion that brings about some form of comfort. Uneasiness of mind is found in the ridding of possibilities, unknowns, and a state of limbo. If something is open-ended, my mind attaches to the concept of the unknown like one Velcro strip to another. I cling there, in this hyper-state of awareness, attempting, without much effort or detectable impulse, but tons of energy, to factor in each and every variable, in order to attempt to make sense of what seems to be the foundation below me slipping. I float here, in a dream state of possible happenings inevitably until closure is reached. During this time my ramblings, processing, and evaluation after evaluation is often processed aloud or in written form. These bombardments of thoughts manifested into visual or auditory form can cause feelings of discomfort to some. Yet, this is how I function.

This post is dedicated to Lisa, Alyce, Jennifer, David, and Ryan… fellow Aspies who never give up on me. Thank you. ❤

464: Triggers lead to Exhaustion

Triggers and ASD

Anything can trigger me; and it doesn’t matter the amount of self-studies, coursework, readings, spiritual meditation, or self-calming techniques that I incorporate.

I sometimes feel like the energy of something or someone actually jumps out at me; as if I am that electron that moves position inside vast space based on the stimuli (observer) that is in close proximity to me. I continue to feel less like a form and more liken to fluctuating matter.

Once I am triggered by an object, action, word, or person, the anxiety kicks in. My body responds in discomfort. Once I recognize the anxiety through bodily sensations, I can search back and find when the trigger started. Then I am able to pinpoint the stimuli which represents the trigger. At this point, I logically dissect what has affected my equilibrium.

This process of backtracking takes anywhere from a few moments to over an hour. This morning the trigger was a photograph of myself, from the winter of 2013, when I was five pounds lighter. Subconsciously, I held onto the thought of having gained weight, and somewhere in my brain I spun this data on the back burner of reasoning. My body responded with increased heart-rate, a sense of fight/flight, and nervousness. I then looped without complete awareness on being too fat and too ugly to be loved.

These are old messages sill stuck in my filter of self-acceptance and self-love. Once I identified the trigger (the photo), I was able to trace my anxiety back, to self-talk myself down from the negative messages, and to begin to reconstruct a more beneficial view of myself.

The issue at hand, for most aspies, is this triggering happens during waking hours continually, and the process of disintanglement becomes exhaustive.

The fact that the triggers affect us is a direct result of our neurological firing. We are born to make connections at high-speed; so quickly in fact, that the processing occurs without our constant recognition. I am tired, because ultimately, I have a bullet-train mind that takes off with me flailing in the air whilst gripping the caboose.

I believe, beyond the sensory processing of our environment, e.g., noises, textures, scents, bodily sensations, tastes in mouth, etc., that the constant processing of triggers leads to the need to retreat into isolation for a season, be it hours or days, perhaps even weeks. At first, I thought I was primarily being fatigued through various physical ailments (hyper-joint mobility syndrome/EDS), the sensory integration challenges, the need to be as honest as feasibly possible by choosing actions that represent the true self, and the constant evaluation and searching for adequate social skills (tone of voice, proximity, flow of conversation, exact verbiage, etc.)

I understand now another true facet of the exhaustion. While I am processing the direct environment about me, and trying my best to function and present myself in a beneficial manner, I am simultaneously struggling both consciously and subconsciously with the various filaments of triggers that have latched onto the factory in the back of my thought process and have remained there, continually spiraling and looping, until a part of me recognizes the presence and takes measures to spit out the residue.

459: Aspergers: The Marathon

Sometimes I forget the complexities of my own Aspergers. I forget how much goes on underneath the obvious and observed. I forget the complexities and complications. Forget that just to navigate a single day is to run a marathon.

Here is a list of significant challenges associated with individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome. (This is based on my experience with myself and son; as is the case with all people, we are each unique, and experiences differ.)

Completely confused by small changes to a familiar situation or environment

Feels threatened by hugs

Overwhelmed by bright colors

Frightened by loud noises

Voices can be painful

Capacity to hear may be better than to see

Lethargic and tire easily, moving from one position to another requires a great deal of energy

Poor sense of self, of body in space, and underestimate how to safely move and navigate environment

Will stick to strict routines and avoid playing with others

Aversions and oversensitivity to certain texture, sounds, colors, people, scents, tastes

Oversensitive to bright lights and sounds, like the humming of the fridge, certain light bulbs, and electric currents that other people may not notice

Difficulty sitting still and getting comfortable

Low tolerance for constant repeated noise or loud noise

Overwhelmed around a lot of people, especially new people

Unable to focus when distracted with visuals, such as clutter of pictures on a work page and/or decoration in a room

May do the following to avoid performing a task or listening: throw a tantrum, refuse with defiance, hide from the situation (under jacket hood, beneath a desk), complain of fatigue, make a rude comment

Short attention span

Difficult maintaining balanced level of emotional arousal, either too low or too high

Impulsive behavior is often a result of a perception of someone’s high-expectations

Doesn’t anticipate the consequence of her actions

Multi-tasking is overwhelming

Weak visual-spatial planning, e.g. bump into walls, objects, and other people

Mentally cannot organize new situations and becomes frightened

Hard to perceive problems

Meltdowns/Tantrums from sensory overload

Constant insecurity about what possibly might happen and how others may or may not behave

Uncertain how to behave in new situations

High anxiety

Risk of self-injury and depression

Feels under pressure to perform and behave

Doesn’t anticipate the consequences of her actions

Every day experiences seem random and unpredictable

Can be violent towards others emotionally or physically, and not perceive own behavior or strength

Difficult judging appropriate behavior

May take risks without knowing how to evaluate danger of the situation

Fears and phobias

Obsessive thoughts

Can have internal pressure to escape a given situation, but lacks the ability to formulate a plan to relieve pressure (no escape route)

Irritated by sensations on skin, such as itchy scalp and arms

Makes repetitive noises, e.g. a vocal sound, tapping, scraping, nail clicking

Bores easily

Doesn’t understand why she is bored by interests others find intriguing, such as common structured play

Sensitive to sensations, such as hunger, a full bladder, dry skin, taste in mouth

Frustrated by inability to perform a given task and/or excel

Preoccupied with details

Meltdowns and outbursts

Over-stimulation

Feelings of insecurity, anxiety and fear

Feelings may be manifested in physical ailments and actual body pain

Overwhelmed

Difficulty grasping humor and seeing the a different perspective or point of view

May choose one word from a discussion and base his/her individual response on the one identified element, instead of the main point of topic

Focuses on the details of one specific part of conversation, over and over, in the mind

Verbal impulsivity and nervousness, as well as a need to fit in, may lead to interruptions, babbling and hurried speech

Lacks ability some times to determine appropriate moment for closure during conversing, and instead speaks incessantly

May recognize he is talking too much but cannot stop his impulsivity to continue to talk

Grooming and hygiene issues, as well as difficulty evaluating own appearance, presentation and attire

Gullible, unable to always understand the punch line of a joke or hidden meaning of a statement, and easily persuaded by others

Difficulty with nonverbal body language, inappropriate body proximity and facial expression

Fluctuating tone, rhythm, volume, and pitch of voice

Timing of speech and delivery varies

Short attention span

Prefers familiarity in people and surroundings

Difficulty recognizing what behavior is expected in a new situation or event when compared to another past experience—may run, scream, jump instead of sitting

Nervous habits and repetitive behavior

mar

After two days of high-functioning behavior, aka navigating the social arena, I shall be in bed hugging my Mac laptop.

(Much of this article was taken from a past list I compiled, which has strategies for helping children in the educational environment. The link is Working with Children.)