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Category Archives: Autism: Mental Health and Healing

Autism: Something to Help

The thing is, I have been super panicky for close to three weeks now.

I keep thinking: if I just get caught up on my blog posts; get the housework done; clean up the yard; get rid of the clutter; find some purpose… then I will calm down.

And I go to do… whatever, and I start of okay, but very quickly grow overwhelmed because, well… I am panicky. So I get a little bit done for the day, and can’t do anymore – which of course feeds my guilt.

So I look around, completely hating myself because other people (all around me) get these things done. And here I am – no job, no children, hardly any social life to speak of – maybe just among the least obligated people I know; and I am so overwhelmed, I am in shut down mode just about all the time.

I have crashed so frequently in the afternoons that my dogs now come to me early every afternoon begging for ‘nap time,’ because… I don’t remember the last time I didn’t go in my room for a nap – and even then the panic won’t let up enough for me to sleep most of the time. And when I have gotten to sleep in the afternoon, I just wake up feeling worse.

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In determination I walk over to my computer, completely convinced that I will get my blog posts written this time. I sit down, and am again overwhelmed by the anxiety, and instead go on a Netflix binge watch – because my mind won’t settle enough to think.

Trying…? Not the best solution to this. The harder I try, the more incompetent I feel, the more I panic. In fact, the panic grows the moment I try – before I have even failed yet.

So I ask myself what it will take to get through it this time.

For this is not the first unexplained severe anxiety episode I have experienced. Sometimes it lasts hours, sometimes it lasts months. While I am in it, my functioning is drastically reduced. I feel… scattered. I worry about my sanity. How long can one person’s mind endure such levels of fear before it breaks?

And I think that the hardest part is, I don’t even know why I am so anxious. I just want it to end.

Feeding into this anxiety is night after night of very vivid dreams in which I am trying to repair some situation in my past – and I wake up not quite oriented to the world I now find myself, saying, “yes, please let me do that.” And day by day the panic grows.

I suppose that since I am so badly effected by all anti-depressant/anti-psychotic/anti-whatever medications – not just with bad side effects, but the fact that they have the opposite effect on me to begin with – that I will just have to endure it. I just wish I could find something that would help.

 

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Autism: Fair Trade

The weeks go by, and still the sky is filled with smoke. There has been no rain. The fires continue to burn. Many days, I can’t even see the mountains or the lake from my house – yet the lake is only about 7-8 houses down the street. For much of the rest of the year, we have a wonderful view of both.

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Last year, it was the spring that was hot, and the rain came all summer. It was great!

This year there was so much rain in the spring we had mud slides and flooding. And then the rain stopped, and now there are fires.

The fires are close, but they’ve been closer other years. Because of that, every time summer comes around again, I consider what it would mean to us if it were our town on fire; our town being evacuated; our home burnt to the ground.

I consider those things, and do what I’ve always done – seek out the positives that might be brought about from that. I think maybe I could have been an optimist… if only I could block out reality.

The consolation from these thoughts is rarely equal to what I would be giving up – but they do help me to avoid meltdown (before I am alone, at least.) Like when I was dating my husband, and never knew if he would ask me to do something with him, or turn and walk away. I don’t handle the unexpected well – but didn’t want him to see that (as much as possible) so I would comfort myself with this:

“If he doesn’t take me out, I can go home and have a Pepsi.” Not exactly a great trade, but as I said, it did help. Of course it meant I always had to ensure I had pop in the fridge at home. It also meant really working to savour that pop until my mind was calm enough to move on – which also fed an addiction to Pepsi that I still frequently have to fight some 16 years later (even though I am rarely bothered when I stay home now.)

In fact, some things become so frightening to me that the things my mind creates to get through are much bigger than a can of pop – and I fixate on the consolation to the point that people on the outside begin to believe that is what I want; when in fact ‘that’ is only masking the very real fear of what I have to lose:

  • my dog
  • my children
  • my confidence
  • my job
  • my house
  • my husband
  • my family

In my earlier days, those around me became so convinced that what I was fixated on was what I wanted, that they also convinced me it was true (though I fought and denied it for a time) and caused it to become a reality. I think that is what they call a self-fulfilling prophecy? Only the idea came from me – they just didn’t understand at all that it was hiding a fear rather than revealing a desire.

People around me are still convinced now that what they see is desire – and it still costs me. It still brings those fears into reality. And it is still not enough to cover the pain of the loss.

So the smoke fills the air and I think, “if our house burns down, at least the renovations will get done, and I won’t be overwhelmed by all the stuff we are storing, and the things that need cleaned, and…”

And for a moment it calms me. For a moment. I think of a fresh start, and it eases the burden. For a time, I might even be convinced this is what I want.

And then I remember the cost. I look at my animals, and remember that when my grandma’s house burnt down, her 5 cats were killed in the fire – and upon returning home and seeing the smoke, she burnt her hands trying to save them. I can’t lose my babies – especially not like that. So I pray, “Please Lord, if our house is going to burn, let us be warned so we can all get out on time.”

But then I look at the box of my dog’s ashes. And there are the pictures of my son from before we got our digital camera. And there are the dolls that sometimes seem so real to me. And there are boxes of artwork and schoolwork from my children. And there are my journals, and my books, and…

“Wait,” I cry, “I don’t want my house to burn!” And that is when I remember that my fixations are more likely to reveal my fears than my desires. Not what I want. Not what I want! Like trading a relationship for a Pepsi – because of course that is a fair trade!

 

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Autism: I Long For The End

How can my life be fixed?

How can I move forward when the past continues to cry out for redemption?

Broken as I am; standing on a fine line between sanity and insanity; how can anything good, or true, or righteous come out of my existence?

I dream of things that are wrong, or impossible… and when I wake, I still desire them in part.

Even in longing to belong to God, I still desire things which God has determined are not right for me. In the battle between flesh and spirit, the flesh frequently lays the stronger claim.

“Oh wretched (person) that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

I am filled with a restlessness and a discontent which nothing in this evil, broken world can satisfy; and I long for escape.

Where others find joy and connection, I see a world filled with pain and despair, and feel powerless to help at all. And evil as I know I am, this overpowering desire to ease the pain and suffering (which I have carried for all of my life) only breaks me further as I come to see that my presence, and my very best attempts only serve to cause more pain.

Who am I?

Why am I here?

Will I ever make it home?

What more will I cost others along the way in my weakened attempts to serve some greater purpose, and remove just a little bit of the hurt in this broken world?

Some days I long for the end, for… “the end is where we begin,” (Captain Jack Harkness – Torchwood)

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Autism: Getting Harder

For three days after we got home from camping I had energy. It was so nice.

I stripped and waxed my kitchen floor, removing at least thirteen years of paint and buildup. I had not done that before, but I did remember my mother doing it.

For years I thought I would either remove the linoleum (or is it vinyl?) floor in my kitchen, or just tile directly over top. No matter how much I washed and bleached it, the floor never looked clean. But the tiles were too expensive, the styles were not what I wanted (I really wanted blue and white tiles, but they mainly had blacks, whites, browns, and grey.)

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Then my mom was here, and we had to drive to another city for my appointment – one with larger building centres that might have the tile that I was looking for. They didn’t.

So I asked my mom about stripping and waxing, and she told me what I needed. We looked through that city, but could only find one industrial sized container of floor stripper. I quickly grew tired of looking. One day, however, we went in to the building centre near home, and there it was! Not huge. Not too expensive. Much better economically (as well as environmentally, I imagine) than removing and re-tiling the floor.

While she was here, she showed me what I was supposed to do on a small section of the floor under my stove. I later did under the fridge, but waited to do the rest of the floor after she left – after all, she had just spent seven years working almost like a slave cleaning (for free) for a relative. She needed a break, and I didn’t want her time here to be spent on projects for my house. Not at all. I just wanted to know what I was supposed to do, so one day when I was alone and had energy, I could do it.

Coming home from a week of camping seemed to be the right time. I woke up on that Monday morning with energy.

I did have a lot of cleaning and laundry to do during that time, and that kept me pretty busy – but I was also being given an old (near 30 years old) dishwasher from my SIL as they were moving to a new home that week, and the new house came with a good dishwasher.

I wasn’t sure that I wanted it. My upstairs is pretty full, and my kitchen didn’t have the space for a portable dishwasher (our other one was built in, but the seal broke, and I was just using it for a draining rack.)

So I spent a lot of the Monday doing the laundry, cleaning the house, and organizing the kitchen and dining rooms to make room for the dishwasher. Suddenly the floor of the kitchen was clear, and so I took that opportunity to strip it. That was a lot of work, and it was all I could accomplish in a day. So I left it like that, but felt really good about having put in a full, busy day of work.

The next day was similar. There was still so much to do – but again, I put in a full, busy day, and felt really good. I waxed the floor that afternoon.

The third day was also very busy – for I was still organizing as well as cleaning. I had to push myself then, but I got a lot done, and I felt really good about it.

And then I crashed.

Bad.

For the last six days I have been in an unending full blown panic attack. There seems to be no cause, as I have no appointments, have had nowhere to go, have had nothing to plan for, haven’t even had visitors – but I am panicking.

I am panicking, and exhausted, and feeling restless, and hopeless, and unable to motivate myself at all. In fact trying to motivate myself only causes my panic and restlessness to grow.

I suppose that I should be thankful for the three good days I had – for I don’t often even have that. I am thankful for those days, only… I feel stronger the guilt of the hard days, which don’t allow me to be productive, and don’t allow me to ‘hold up my end,’ and don’t allow me to give either what other people give themselves, or what they expect of me.

I feel guilty because the hard days far outweigh the good, and because of that I can’t even keep up with the basics of living let alone moving forward to give of myself to others (through work, or volunteering, or even visiting, or…?)

I feel guilty because after nearly 41 years, I would have hoped I could have won this battle against myself to be able to do and be more than I had in the past. Yet with each year that passes, it only seems to be getting harder.

 

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Autism: Transitions are Hard

We had been there for a week, and it was time to go home.

Transitions are hard for me. Especially bigger transitions, like moving from comfort to discomfort. Okay, maybe that isn’t suggestive of a ‘bigger transition,’ but it sure feels that way to me.

I woke up knowing that we were leaving, and counting up all of the things that needed to be done. Very quickly I was becoming overwhelmed, and I hadn’t even opened my eyes.

“Never mind,” I thought to myself. “Block it out. You won’t have to do it alone.”

And that did help for a while.

We didn’t have a set time to be home, and though it was going to be a hot (and smoky from all the wildfires close by) ride home, we decided to wait until after lunch to leave. My husband and I planned to swim first – and my girls would have their ice packs in the crate with them as we travelled. Hopefully it wouldn’t be too unbearable.

We started packing up together, but then when I went down to start bringing things up from the ledge where our tent was set up, his cousin (second, I think) who was up with her friends started visiting him. I ended up having to bring everything up by myself after all.

And I had a bad back.

He knew that. It had been bothering me for many days. There were lots of reasons why my back hurt:

  • I had been picking my girls up out of their pen instead of using the door.
  • It had been a bad allergy season, and allergy medications leave me prone to back issues.
  • We were sleeping on the ground in a tent – and while we had foam mats, and a foamie to sleep on, I could still feel every bump and indentation below me, and had the bruises to prove it. I guess I am too old to sleep in a tent – but the campers were all taken.
  • I had been mainly sitting on benches without backs, and I really need the back support.

On top of that, I get really bad (scary) pains in my chest and arm when carrying things up and down hills – and when we arrived, he had also left me to carry everything down (I am sure he was doing something – probably watching my dogs or something as I asked him to, or unloading the food up above – but I needed his help and he wasn’t there.)

So I was upset. Of course I was upset.

“It wasn’t right that you left me to bring everything up by myself,” I told him.

He said he had been getting things in the top rack – but that was before I was bringing things up from the tent; while I was still packing things up above. The whole time I was bringing things up, he was talking to his cousin (who had offered to help, but ‘we were okay,’ and we were until they stopped him from working to visit, and I was left to do it alone.) Every time I came back up the hill, there he was, in the same place, talking.

And my back was hurting. And my chest and arm were in pain. And I was overheated, and exhausted, and overwhelmed. And melting down. He wasn’t there, and I needed him to be. My husband is a serving kind of person. He is there to help, well… always. It is what he does. So when I needed the help, and it was his work too, I counted on him being there. I expected his help. And so when he was distracted, and I had to do it all alone? It was all just too much for me.

I needed him there before I even began because transitions? Transitions are hard.

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Autism: Please, Not Again!

So we did go camping. I had a lot of anxiety over this through the year as I couldn’t figure out a way (that I could afford) to keep ‘my girls’ safe during the trip – and to keep others safe from them. It isn’t that they are aggressive dogs, but they are defensive, and that often looks the same; for Clara especially.

Clara is my baby. She loves to cuddle. She loves to be held. She curls up in the crook of my arm like a newborn baby as I walk, or rock, or talk to her. She is tiny. She is cute. And maybe, people think, this is why she doesn’t behave well with ‘others’ around. Yet for as long as I have had her, I have never allowed her to jump at people, nip at people, behave in negative ways. She does get in trouble for such things – and she is smart enough to know what I mean; I can see it in her eyes. But she still does it, so I warn people away.

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Clara not wanting to leave ‘bed’ to visit while camping.  July 2017

Clara doesn’t like different. She doesn’t like new. It took me three weeks, and many liver treats to fully win her over. Thirteen months since we got her, my husband still hasn’t made it that far. He can give her treats. He can hold her leash while she is wearing it, maybe. He can be in the same room. He can even talk to her. But that is about as far as it goes. My son doesn’t even get that much. We are happy if she doesn’t bark at him when he comes up the stairs.

Clara is ‘my girl,’ and she has decided that as far as people are concerned, I am enough for her.

Maybe she wasn’t socialized well when she was young (she was nearly 3 years old when I got her, and came from a house with many other dogs.) Maybe something happened before I got her that frightened her (they did try to adopt her to another home before mine, but took her back after 10 days for she wouldn’t come out of the corner where she was hiding.)

Whatever the reason, she doesn’t allow people close to her.

“She might nip,” I tell them. (Please give her space.) So far she hasn’t hurt anyone. She has scared and surprised many when she suddenly lunged at them. I don’t know that she would hurt anyone – but I also am not convinced she wouldn’t. So… please stay away.

I love my girl. She is comforting, and caring, and loving, and absolutely the one I needed to help me through and past – even if I didn’t know that when she first came to me. But she is a one person dog – and (much like myself) it will take more than your confidence that you are ‘good with dogs’ to gain her trust. In fact, nice as you probably are, it is unlikely she will ever give that trust to you.

Molly is much more laid back. Much calmer. But it is rare that Clara will give the chance to get close to her. So Molly likely wouldn’t nip – but Clara would do it for her. Best to leave her alone, too. We are her ‘pack’ I suppose, and she would quite possibly give her life to defend us (all 6.5 lbs of her.)

But she is cute – and that cuteness is almost an overwhelming temptation for dog loving children who don’t understand that not all dogs can be won over by kindness.

Such was the case with my niece’s 4 year old daughter who was up camping the same time we were. We all warned her, but she had no fear. She knew that she wouldn’t hurt ‘anyone,’ and was convinced that she would be able to get Clara to see that. After all, she was able to sit and pet Molly while my husband held Clara’s leash out of reach.

Alas, such was not to be the case.

I was sitting on a camp chair. Clara was on the ground resting. Her leash was wrapped around the arm of the chair to shorten it (there were a lot of people up at the time) and I was holding the end, also wrapped around my hand. The girl came from behind us. We didn’t know she was coming until she was there – but Clara was aware. She barked, and jumped at her before I could pull her back.

Away the girl left, in tears and badly frightened.

I took my girls, and left too; I needed alone time. Perhaps they didn’t see the tears I cried that day, or feel the fear in my heart. Perhaps they didn’t know how badly triggered I was in that moment, or how afraid of what would be done to ‘my girl.’ Perhaps they thought I didn’t care… Or maybe they saw all of it. Maybe they knew what it reminded me of. Maybe they saw me then, too – for that happened only feet away that time so long ago – and yet not long at all.

I talked with her father later that day.

“Has Clara ever nipped you,” he asked me.

“Once when I first got her,” I answered, “but so far it has just been scary, and she hasn’t hurt anyone. I don’t know if…”

“She didn’t hurt her,” he said. “She was just scared.”

But had we been there with another person – the one who was there that other time – the one who… but I can’t talk about that now. Had she been there… had it been her child… it wouldn’t have mattered that Clara “just scared her,” she would have had my dog put down.

My children stolen. My ‘baby’ murdered. I don’t think I could bare it again. I don’t think I could live – no, not even live – through such pain again.

Not again.

 

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Autism: Crates and Pens

Well, there we were; three days before my husband’s vacation started, and I was feeling particularly bad. Though I was thankful at first he understood why I thought I couldn’t go – I was also emotionally struggling with the fact that he didn’t seem to care, and didn’t seem to be trying to find a solution. Suddenly I really did want to go (mainly because I had found out his sister wouldn’t likely be able to come into town to visit; and we don’t see her often since she lives kind of far; and she has health issues; and…)

I had spent most of the morning picking cherries off our backyard cherry tree. It is north of our carport, in probably the worst possible location for it. It is loaded with cherries, but they tend to be quite wormy. After harvesting, I took them inside, and spent most of the afternoon cutting and pitting them, and removing worms. Gross.

And then the phone rang.

It was my husband. He works at the thrift store, and right before he phoned, a large metal dog crate had been dropped off. “It is 4′ x 2.5’” he told me. Did I want it?

Now, that isn’t huge, but my dogs are small. A crate with a roof meant that I could take my dogs camping, and still keep them safe from eagles, osprey, and owls that might like to eat them. It would also keep them from chasing all the people, bikes, cars, dogs, cows! And other animals they saw – so keeping them and others safe.

The phone call was brief, yet it changed all of my plans – and I was very happy!

Yet I still wasn’t sure my husband wanted me to go with him. “So we can come with you?” I asked when he brought it home. Yet his response (while admittedly it might have meant nothing of the sort) didn’t confirm to me that he was thrilled with the prospect.

Still I carried on packing.

That evening, neighbours came by. I had the crate set up (to ensure I could) and they offered the use of their hex pen as well. The hex pen was the same height as the crate (3′) and had 8 2′ sections with a door in one. Perfect!

I guess that my husband saw my excitement at that point in the idea of being able to go up to the lake – and whether it was something he wanted, or didn’t, he did accept it then.

Still I worried. I don’t want to be where I am not wanted, yet… I really do want my husband to want me there. I really do want my husband to love me. And as I packed, I was not convinced. I suppose I should be one way or another – but my husband and I were… thrown onto different wavelengths when our children were moved. I guess that is the best way to describe it. Sometimes I really believe he wants me around. The rest? I guess I am convinced he wishes we never met. I suppose it is the same for him.

We did end up going camping. We did end up having a good time. And for the most part? He seemed happy to have us there with him.

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