Ok, so I have a rather sizable issue with anxiety. For the most part I can deal with it on the surface so no one knows. I can lead when I want nothing more than to follow at my own pace. I can stand and fight when all I want to do is run and hide. You do what you have to and you learn how to cope.
Thing is, when you pack too much scary shit into that little pocket you have in your head for holding this stuff at bay, at some point the seams are going to burst.
I think ASD has a lot to do with how unmaneagable I find my anxiety. I’m still clueless more than half the time about exactly why my heart is racing, or why I feel faint; though it is usually before and after specific events like for example meeting other mums from my kids nursery, or going out for the messages, or visiting the doctor etc etc. And with regard to my fellow mums… I know they are all lovely, and I know they don’t expect anything of anyone, but at the same time I also know that when it comes to knowing what I should and shouldn’t be doing and saying, I panic. I just hate social situations. I mean don’t get me wrong, I will endure them because it’s what society expects, and I’ve learned the hard way that you need to conform at least a little to be even partially accepted by the masses, but it doesn’t mean I enjoy it even though I say I’ve had a great time when asked. It’s far easier to say “Yeah” when someone asks if you enjoyed yourself than saying “No, I wanted to hide in the corner and be invisible the whole time,” and then having to explain that. It’s just easier to lie.
And there lies one of the great ironies of high functioning ASD don’t you think? Some of the most honest people in the world have learned to be the most adept liars.
(Blergh! I left my tea sitting too long. Tastes like dishwater now need to make another. Hang on… Ok… Much better… Continue!)
So anxiety… aye, I have that. Wish I didn’t.
At present I am unable to settle or sleep, my mind will not switch off. I’m hyper-sensitive to everything, taste, touch, smell, how loud things are, how bright they are etc etc. I’m having panic attacks at the drop of a hat – sometimes due to obvious triggers, sometimes not; but they are always distressing. Recently they have been so bad that there have been a few times I thought I must surely be having a heartattack. Why else would it be so damn painful? But of course that’s just the anxiety casually strengthening the panic attack. Gee thanks brain, I totally needed that. I regularly suffer palpatations, tinitus, stiff neck and trembling due to panic attacks. But it’s the added deep seated pain across my shoulderblades, shoulders, neck and across my chest that really frightens me. When that’s in play I just want to die, half the time it feels like that’s what’s happening and I just want to find the smallest, quietest, darkest place possible and curl up there until it stops, and often it will last a long time. There was a day last week where I woke up with the pain and it continued throughout the day until about 2am the following morning. Gads that was a tough day
I find that I seem to have started attaching anxiety to physical things in order to help me catagorise it. There’s just too much of it to go around so it’s almost like I have been looking for places to put it and then avoid those things or places in order to keep myself a little bit of calm. Problem with doing this is that it breeds more anxiety while allowing the original anxiety to remain unresolved and continue to build which in turn makes you anxious about the fact that you are anxious and anxious about being unable to deal with your anxiety and then even more anxious about telling anyone about it because (and this is the kicker) you have social anxiety and talking to people makes you anxious.
Isn’t mental ilness fun?!
Thing with anxiety is that it also likes to creep up on you even when you’re having a good day. I remember when It was still term time and I found out I was going to need to go speak to my course convenor (lovely lovely woman by the way – but another of the things that is a HUGE trigger for anxiety in me is authority figures for many many reasons, but cutting it to the basic answer – bullying and Aberdeen stuff). Anyways I had been having an ok day up until that point and had been feeling pretty comfortable in my own skin and then… You know that way where you can physically feel all the blood draining from your face and other extremities, that cold slow motion trickle you can quite literally feel taking it’s journey to your core leaving only the wooziness that either you manage to find a way to cope with or you full on crash to the ground passed out. Thankfully on this occasion it was woozy nauseating dizziness and I managed to maintain myself, just. Not sure how noticable that was to the others around me, wasn’t really paying attention to much other than keeping my breathing even and not falling over. I do remember asking for the Student President to come with me though. I owe him a lot, he went above and beyond to help me out. But yeah, that one hit me hard.
The thing is it’s hard to explain just how hard having anxiety really is. because people who don’t suffer from it may try to understand, but will never truely grasp just how crippling it can be.
A few notes for partners of people who suffer from anxiety;
- No, we don’t always know why we are upset
- Yes, the fact we don’t know why will upset us more
- No, a lot of the time we don’t know what you can do to make it beter for us
- Yes, the fact that you want to make us more comfortable in the first place does help a little
- No, we don’t want you to treat us with kid gloves on
- Yes, sometimes we just need you to give us a little more space to work through things on our own
- Yes, sometimes we need you to hug us as tight as possible so we feel safe
- We are always ashamed and upset when we snap at you for not knowing which of these things we want, even though we may not be able to show it
- No, we don’t appreciate you trying to joke to lighten the mood
- Yes, we do appreciate positive distraction techniques to help calm us down
- No, we don’t want pity, but we do hope for understanding and compassion
- Yes, we appreciate that you can look past the anxiety and see the person behind it because it makes us feel found when we are lost.