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Autism: What Are You Afraid Of?

03 Jul

As always, I was early for the appointment. I am always early. I have to be. As the minutes tick by before my appointments, or my shift at a job, or the start of school, or… my panic grows. By about thirty minutes before I have to be anywhere, I am in a full blown panic attack, where the only relief comes from ‘getting it over with.’

So, like having to go swimming in a cold lake, I eventually have to just ‘jump in.’

August Vacation 2016 015

That doesn’t mean that when I get there I will be ready to do anything – talk, or work, or… Being early does help me in that once there I am no longer panicking about being late, or the car not starting, or forgetting to go (not that I ever do, but the fear is still there) or…

It does help in transitioning me into the new environment. Transitions are hard. I need to give myself a lot of time for them. Without that extra time, I feel as if I have been shocked, and nothing beyond that moment goes or feels right – whether that is a half hour appointment, or an 8 hour shift at work, or…

So I was early, and she was late. That is usually the case. Doctors are busy, and appointments go over, and they have to write things down, or do whatever it is they do to complete one appointment before moving on to the next.

For this appointment, I have been struggling in anticipation… no, dread, for the past six months. And as the day approached, and the moment got closer, that panic only increased.

10am came and went, and I knew my distress was noticeable. When I am coming to a full panic attack, I cross my arms, and grab my shoulders with my hands. I guess a weighted blanket would help in that moment, but… it would look silly, and that would make me more anxious. I wish I didn’t care about what other people think – life would be so much easier – but I do care. I care a lot.

It was 10:15 before she came to get me.

She asked me how I was, and I couldn’t answer. I don’t like that question anyway. It is too open ended. Too difficult. Not the right place (walking down a public hallway) to express anything other than ‘fine’ which anyone looking at me in that moment could see was a lie.

It isn’t that I purposely didn’t answer, but I couldn’t. When my anxiety is that high, there is a block in my ability to communicate, and it is very hard (impossible even, at times) to work around.

She asked me two more open ended questions that I was unable to answer (“How have you been?” and “What have you been doing?”) before she came to one that I could speak for, “Have you been meeting with (your therapist)?”

“Why are you so panicky when you come in here?” she asked me. “What are you so afraid of?”

Well… I try to be clear in the words I am using, but what I am saying is so frequently misinterpreted, and my words get twisted, and… you have so much power over me. What if you decide I can work, and I get taken off of disability – but like always, I fall apart, or fail, or crash, or can’t get started… then everyone looks at me like I wasn’t trying, and I try to express how hard I was trying, and they look at me like a failure, and I am filled with shame because I couldn’t do what you said I should be able to do – so they believe you, because you are the professional, and I must just be lazy or something, and…

“Because I try to talk, and I think I am being clear, and then people don’t understand what I am saying,” I answered.

“Well, I think you are being clear,” she answered.

And therein lies the problem… I think I am being clear, and they think I am being clear – but when they speak their interpretation of what I have been saying, I find they didn’t understand at all. So I try to correct them, but they hold to their original interpretation – and everything falls apart from there.

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