Honest to goodness, Anxiety to Asperger’s: a year of change
It’s a year since I wrote this difficult post about anxiety.
It changed my life. It showed me that it pays to be honest about your struggles and to think about why they exist. It eventually led to my Asperger’s assessment and a whole new way of thinking about myself and my life.
I have changed so much in twelve months. I don’t even look like that anymore. And the inside of me looks different too. It’s been a tough year mentally, and I’ve had some pretty bad times, but mostly it’s been very positive. The turmoil in my brain has, at times, been inexplicable. I’ve wanted to explode with frustration, to cry like a child when I look back at my life, to go back in time and change events – and in particular some painful interactions with other people, but I’m glad I’ve gone though it and it is gradually becoming less difficult. It’s hard to admit that – guess what? – there ain’t no quick fix. I’m stuck with this and these patterns in my life, but how much better to know what I’m dealing with than to keep expecting life to be easier and to keep expecting the impossible from myself. I know who I am now and I know how to make life a different version of easier – and a different version of difficult too for that matter. I’m learning to focus on a “different not less” tag and not a faulty tag. I’m learning where it’s important to make an effort and where it’s important to go easy on myself. Processing something as important as “you are not who you thought you were” is not something that can happen overnight and I think I will spend the rest of my life dealing with it. But it’s something I wanted to do and it’s something that has come with far more rewards than drawbacks. I think the most difficult thing has been dealing with preconceived ideas about autism and a feeling that people think I am broken, weak or inferior somehow. The stereotypes and lack of support and understanding make life more difficult than the actual condition itself. In itself my own personal version of autism is not a problem. Fitting myself around other people’s ideas and ways is the difficult part. Having a reason for that gives me new paths and helps me say goodbye to tired old rubbish. I have a better anxiety radar these days and I am learning – slowly! – to keep an eye on that radar. I can’t shrink my amygdala and rid myself of anxiety but I have spent a year getting better at recognising triggers.
So that’s me: Problems are BIG, worries are HUGE, conflict is ENORMOUS. I am UBER-sensitive and I notice things that other people don’t, and I have to decide what’s worth my energy, attention and upset and what’s not. I know I will keep getting this wrong because it’s constant hard work and I get tired and I make mistakes.
Life has been tinged with sadness recently as I’ve come to realise that a lot of my life that I thought I was in control of and was about me making decisions was not how I thought it was. I was led by my conviction that I felt different but there was no good reason for it and so things must have been going wrong because I wasn’t trying hard enough. I see how my social exhaustion and my fear of life, of the unknown and of my own failure got in the way of me being all the things I dreamt of as a child. I never went out into the world and found myself, I never became the primary or nursery school teacher I so wanted to be, and I never learnt to be more forceful with people and control the way my life went when I was younger. In short, I let people push me around and I didn’t realise it was happening. I guess people didn’t even know they were pushing me around because they had all the right skills to say “No” and assumed I did too. Occasionally I’ve found myself wishing recently that I could smash up my past and rebuild it.
But when I say “tinged” with sadness, I really do mean it. I am working more on the present than the past because that’s the only thing I can have some control over. What I have is good and it’s all the better for knowing that that big old amygdala was causing some big thinking and making things look more significant than they are (hmmmm… that’s complicated because when things feel enormously significant to the point of controlling your life then they are significant, but that’s for another blog post!)
Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me through this and not treated me like any more of a weirdo than I already was! And thanks to Elli for reading it (the original post that is) and giving me cause to think about myself a bit harder than I had previously been prepared to.