Autism: Moments of… Strength?

01 Jun

Though my anxiety has been high for several days, despite having few places to go; though my sleep has been bad for nearly a month straight, and I am walking through my days filled with exhaustion; though my depression has been eating away at me, and leaving me feeling hopeless and alone – the day had gone pretty well.

It wasn’t any special day. Just a normal Monday filled with errands. I had planned on doing my ‘stuff’ on Thursday – the start of the bag sale at the thrift store – but the van has been acting up, and I am not one to ask for help if needed. The fear of being stranded was too much for me, so I went along with him.

I suppose that isn’t as helpful for him as it is for me. Yes, he was pleased that I wouldn’t be taking the van on Thursday – it made sense, plus he uses it during his work day, too. However, I am not a fast shopper. I need to see everything. I can’t just walk in with a list, go for those items, and leave. Not me. I have to see. So I walk down each and every isle, looking at each item, and comparing prices in my head to other stores.

If there is clothing, or other fabric, I have to touch it. It isn’t like there is an option in that for me. It is a compulsion, and I feel the ache if I don’t reach out and touch.

And then, because I am more often overwhelmed and avoidant for sensory issues, while I am cringing and wanting to run from the crowd my mind won’t think fast, and so I move slower. Not exactly the best way to get errands done – and not exactly the most pleasant way to spend your only true day off. Sorry.

For me, though, knowing I wouldn’t have to go out again on Thursday relieved some of the anxiety. So I was feeling pretty good. And when I am feeling good, I talk. Most of the time, I don’t talk. But in moments like those, it is like the brakes have stopped working, and all must come out.

“I am thinking I might volunteer at the thrift store in September,” I said. “I like sorting. I think I would be good at that, but I don’t want to start before the fall.” My husband agreed with me. “You would be really good at sorting,” he replied, and we spoke of it some more.

Idiot! Stupid, stupid girl! My mind is really hard on me sometimes. When I got home, I remembered all of those reasons (the ones that usually come to me when I am out in crowds) that I can’t work, and that even volunteering is likely bad for my mental health, came back to me:

  • public bathrooms (how could I have forgotten that one? That is a big issue for me.)
  • food (I can’t eat with other people – the smells of their foods, my fears over them, eggs and such… eating in public… all huge issues for me. And unlike my last job, where I was often alone, the thrift store is a very busy place, always filled with people. Even packing my own lunch to bring is very, very hard.)
  • crowds (again!!! I can’t work with people around me, and I absolutely can’t work in open spaces. If someone is behind me, or even could be behind me, I freeze up. I can’t handle having people around me all the time – or even often – and there are always people around there.)
  • leaving home (it is one thing if I have chosen to go out, but another altogether if I am committed to it.)

Panic. The challenge with speaking in my ‘good’ moments, is that they don’t last. While what I say in those moments is always true, those moments don’t last. Maybe for a few minutes. Maybe for a few hours. And then I crash, and the truth is that while those moments might be a glimpse into who I would be if I were well – that is not who I am the rest of the time. And the rest of the time makes up about 90% of my life.

I would be good at sorting – but until I can get past the rest of this ‘stuff’, I can’t go out and participate in life like that. I can’t. And I really regret speaking in that moment of… strength… because now I have to back out, and it makes me look like a liar. It makes me seem undependable.

I have to remember not to talk when I feel good.

Easter 2016


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