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.