Thursday, 31 October 2013

Accessibility & Anxiety (& Autism)

As much as autism has been a factor in my life, I have had more troubles with anxiety in recent months.  I haven't had an autistic meltdown in what feels like a long time, but I have definitely experienced issues with anxiety in my recent past.

On the campus of my university, there are buildings I cannot go in to and restaurants I cannot make purchases from.  Or rather, there are buildings I am physically capable of going in to but buildings I simply cannot go in to because my anxiety won't let me.  I have places I won't walk alone - not scary places or anything like that, just certain hallways or stairwells or shortcuts that I cannot take without feelings of panic.  

Anxiety has kept me from doing things.  Anxiety has kept me from buying food I want to buy and has actually kept me from going to some of my classes, simply because I cannot go to certain places.  Anxiety is hard for me.  People throw the word anxiety around like you wouldn't imagine, and one of the biggest culprits of that is my roommate.  She's also one of my best friends, but I cannot stand it when she says she's "anxious" and "worrying" about these little things.  She says this so casually but after a while I just start panicking at the very idea of anxiety.  

I guess my Autistic-ness is most apparent when I express my anxiety.  For me, anxiety manifests in chewing fingers, flapping hands and arms, shaking head, pulling at my skin, disjointed speech, and repetition of words and/or phrases.  

Today, I cleaned my laptop while I was anxious.  I clean my laptop any time I take my laptop off my desk or out of my room, so this is not an unusual occurrence to me.  But anxious me?  

yooouuuuuu are not clean you are nnnnnot clllllleeean lyyysol lysol lysssssol lysol clean top top top top top top wet wetttttttttt clean wetttttttt lysol lyyyyyysol clean clean buttons buttttttons butttttttttttttttons butttttttttttttttons 

That's not an exact quotation of what I said.  I can't remember exactly what I said.  But thinking back -- this was probably an hour ago -- I know I was definitely muttering to myself something along those lines.  Self-talk is not abnormal for me.  Repeating words is not abnormal to me.  Drawing out certain syllables because they feel good on my tongue is not abnormal for me.  But all three together with the speech pattern I get in to when I'm having a "bad brain day" or "bad brain moment" can be frightening to people who don't always see my autism.  


This post started out just about anxiety and I guess I got talking about autism in the middle there.  That's all right with me though.  I have a multiple diagnoses.  Autism was my first diagnosis, but from there I've obtained a few more labels over the years, and when you have multiple conditions all in the same brain, sometimes they start to overlap a bit.  Case in point: When I'm anxious, I display more Autistic traits than I usually do.  

Anxiety is hard because I don't know how to stop being anxious.  I am at a point in my life where I can accept autism as my primary diagnosis and I can recognize that the way I do things is often different than others.  And that's fine with me.  That is out of my control.  That is my neurochemistry, and autism makes me who I am.  

Anxiety is harder to accept.  Anxiety is something everyone has -- even neurotypical individuals -- and anxiety is something you can have control over.  Anxiety is something you can harness and tame whereas autism is not.  Or, rather, this is how I have always been told.  

I feel bad when I can't stop my anxiety.  Something inside me tells me that I should be able to stop it, that I shouldn't really experiences these symptoms, that it's all in my head and that I have control over it, I just have to stop feeling those feelings. 

My problem right now is that I can't just stop being anxious.  And that's frustrating to me.  

On Brick Heck & Characteristics of the Autism Spectrum

One of my favorite shows on television right now is a little gem on ABC called The Middle.

It's a simple family comedy that genuinely makes me laugh.

Characters include the frazzled mom, the out-of-it dad, the over-it son, the over-enthusiastic daughter, and the younger son.

The youngest son is the favorite character of a lot of people I know who watch the show.  He is a quirky boy-turned-preteen who loves to read, has a lot of special interests, dislikes socialization, and repeats words to himself.  He is also loveable and quite adorable.  This is how the writers created this character of "Brick."



The show never references whether Brick has any diagnosis, but he definitely shows traits of stereotypical Asperger's Syndrome (or at the very least, he sure acts a lot like I do, or so people tell me).  On the show, Brick's parents make some comments about how he's different and he attends a social skills program for the first few years of the show, but other than that, Brick is just Brick.  Brick's behavior might be odd and definitely deviates from the behavior of the other children on the show, but nobody ever questions him.  We all just accept that Brick is Brick.

We see this on a lot of TV shows nowadays -- Autistic traits as part of a character who is never officially diagnosed on the spectrum.  Is this a trend?  Is autism the new popular thing?

And if so, why are real autistic individuals still so disadvantaged in the community?

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Please Be Respectful of My Mental Health

Dear Roommate Who Won't Stop Complaining,
Please stop.
Please.
Complaining is not good for my mental health.
Complaining stresses me out and makes me really anxious.
You are making me feel really uncomfortable.
You are making it really hard for me to focus.
I was supposed to have a really good day, but I'm having a really crappy day because of you.
I am anxious because you keep saying the word "anxiety."  Please stop doing that.  "Anxiety" is not a good word for me because - in people with legitimate anxiety disorders - it can cause actual anxiety.  Anxiety in real life is bad.
I have had legitimate mental health problems since I was a child.  I have been hospitalized multiple times.  I have seen countless psychiatrists and other doctors.  I've taken way too many medications over these twenty years.
I need to keep myself around positive people so that I do not relapse.
Please be positive for me.
You don't know my whole history, you only know bits and pieces of it.  That's because it's embarrassing.  And it really is embarrassing.  It is embarrassing how poorly I can function when things are not lined up properly for me.  I do not always feel comfortable sharing myself with people because I know if you knew everything, you probably would not want to be my friend.  But just trust that I need positive.  Just trust that I need good things around me.
I don't want to get sick again and I'm trying so hard to take care of myself.
Please be respectful of my mental health.
Sincerely,
Me

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

A Good & Bad Day

Today I had a good day.  Today I had a bad day.  The good part of the day is chronicled first.  The bad part of the day is chronicled second.

I have always had issues with germs.
I have struggled with severe OCD since I was a kid and I've been taking Prozac for it since I was either 9 or 11 (can't remember).
Anyways, over the years, I've gotten better at touching things, but I still feel most comfortable when most everything is clean.  I struggled living with roommates for this very reason and I waited years to try living with others because I was afraid of how I would react to other people touching things and not cleaning them the way I would.
Today, my roommates and I had a cleaning party.  We ordered pizza and cleaned the apartment.  Today, I cleaned the living room surfaces, oven, kitchen countertops, microwave, bathroom floor, bathroom sink, bathroom counter, and toilet.  Today, I scrubbed and scrubbed and now I'm feeling a lot better about those areas.  I'm also glad that my three other roommates pitched in and now our floors are clean, our dishes are all done, and the whole place is vacuumed.  I don't really know what else has been done, but I know things have been done and that makes me feel good.

Also today, a good friend has been complaining a lot.  I hate complainers.  I really do.  I really struggle to deal with my own mental health when others around me -- others who geuninely are a lot better off than me -- are complaining and complaining and complaining and complaining for no apparent reason.  I know that anxiety is personal but when you take every little thing and choose to fixate on something just to get sympathy -- which is what I believe is going on here -- I get really upset.  Maybe I'm not seeing the whole picture.  Maybe I'm not understanding.  Maybe there is more going on here than superficial anxiety about a school situation.  But it looks like she is using the excuse of "anxiety" to get out of a mistake she made in school that might get her into some trouble.  As a person who has been struggling for years and who has been to doctor after doctor for treatment of my anxiety, I really don't like it when people take my diagnosis and throw it around like it's something so mundane.  Anxiety is crippling.  Anxiety is not something to justify constant complaining.  

Monday, 28 October 2013

Sad

Recently, I’ve been really “low.”  I’ve been feeling “down.”  I’ve been so stressed by such little things that have just been making me really upset and really frightened in the past few days and (actually) weeks.   I am a pretty anxious person to begin with, but these last few days have been a bit over the top crazy. 

Honestly, when I am uncomfortable, my discomfort is apparent to those around me.  I try to be civil and kind, but it is really hard for me to “go with the flow” without making a big deal about it.  I really and truly do despise change and I am very fearful of situations I feel I have no control over. 


It’s ironic that this is one of the best times of my life.  I am actually feeling incredibly good right now.  Life is good.  Everything is going my way.  I have a job that I enjoy.  I’ve been able to treadmill frequently.  I’ve been doing well in school – very well, actually.  I’ve been really well-organized and I’ve been getting everything done in ample time.  Actually, things are pretty low-stress right now.  They really should be, but for some reason I just can’t seem to be happy. 

I don't know what's wrong, but I know I've been getting in a lot of fights and arguments recently with people I very genuinely love and care about.  And the fights haven't been productive; they've been over little things that don't matter.  They've been fights over things I really don't even care about.   They've been fights over control.  

I don't know how to stop fighting with people.  

I don't know how to be kind when I'm feeling like this.  

I don't know how to make myself happy again.  

I am so thankful for so many things and it's so clear how much I have in my life, but I can barely even put it into words how frustrated I am with this whole situation.  

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Friendship Sadness

I got really depressed about my friendships today.

In the last few months, I feel as though I've really neglected my friends.  I didn't have many friends to begin with and now I feel like I really don't have any friends at all.

I live with three other young women, but we don't really spend that much quality together.  I don't often want to spend time with others - I really don't like the process of making friends - but I like having friends when I want to spend time with them.

It's hard to have friends when, like me, you hate making friends.

But I feel like I need to work on that.  I feel like I need to make some good friends and repair some old friendships that have dropped down to mere acquaintanceships.

I am sad.  I feel alone here.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

I Am Capable

Do not ever let anyone tell you that you are not capable of something just because you are Autistic.  

Today, I saw a young Autistic woman -- barely a year older than me -- discriminated against by community workers just because of her Autism diagnosis.  Let me assure you, this woman is kind, well-meaning, persistent, competent, intelligent, and CAPABLE.  This woman is no different than any other human, and yet the way these professionals spat the word "Autism" -- as if it was some terrible disease or something that made her "less" -- made her seem incredibly "other" even though she clearly was not.  

It disheartened me that these well-educated people are so uneducated about autism and what it means to be Autistic.  

All Autistics are different.  Some Autistics need more assistance than others.  But regardless, we are all human, we all deserve dignity, and we are all capable.  We are individuals with a diagnosis of a neurological condition, not an illness or disability.  We are not ill.  We are quite able.  

It scares me to know that people -- especially community workers who should really know better -- think Autism is this terrible and scary thing and don't even try to get to know Autistic individuals.  As it goes, "Autism isn't a tragedy; Ignorance is the tragedy."  Yeah, I'd agree that's true.  Ignorance is also incredibly frustrating.  

Please don't be ignorant.  Please don't believe that all Autistics are the same or that an Autism diagnosis precludes an individual from certain rights and responsibilities.  


(I think the illustration above is just kind of silly.  I found it on Google).  

I am capable.  

Autistics are capable.