Saturday, January 19, 2013

Keep Keeping on. : Aspienaut : WIRED differently

Keep Keeping on. : Aspienaut : WIRED differently

I was asked by a fellow aspie how I stay well when times get tough and I’m struggling, as many of us do, both on and off the spectrum.  It has been a really difficult time over the holidays and so I naturally started thinking about this question and decided to write this post.

Why do we suffer so?

I am going to explain why I struggle at times and I suspect that many can relate.  Being an aspie makes for a particular type of mind.  This type of mind, as I have spoken about many times, gives us some great insights and talents but it also comes at a cost.  I’m sure it will be no surprise to aspie’s and those who live with us that we struggle with human interaction.  We are more comfortable with objects than people and for very good reason.  People confuse us!  We struggle to understand their facial expressions, even the meanings of their words.  

We can also be very easily misunderstood.  I lack facial expressions and I’m often, even at the best of times, regarded as sullen and unhappy.  The tone of my voice doesn’t vary much.  I rarely share, other than my special interest at the time or many of my thoughts with others, or remember to ask their thoughts or interests.  I have very black and white thinking and so if I see someone regularly, they are in my life and I remember they exist.  As soon as they are no longer there I forget about them.  I forget to keep in touch.  I also struggle to remember that other people have different thoughts to mine, have minds of their own.  Add in sensory issues, obsessiveness, difficulties coping with change and much more besides and you soon end up with a mind that is prone to serious introspection, isolation and loneliness, which can then lead understandably to depression and anxiety.  That’s on top of having to manage an Autism Spectrum Condition.

I talk a lot on twitter about not suffering from asperger’s but from the ignorance of others.  You may question this given what I have just written but I still believe that it is often the reaction to and misunderstanding of the above that causes so much suffering.  All anyone wants is to feel that it is ok, truly ok to be who they are and be accepted.  People on the spectrum rarely feel like this because the very thing that allows this, is often your relationship and the understanding you receive from the people around you.

Now I have brought us all down, lets look at how we can stay well and get through those difficult times.  What I am going to describe is very personal to me and describes my own struggles and journey but I would hope others may find it helpful.

I have found medication helpful in managing severe recurrent depression and anxiety and have been on medication for 4 years.  I have also found Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and therapy in general helpful in times of crisis.  I found getting a formal diagnosis from a clinician I trust and respect very useful in order to understand myself better and to identify the areas I particularly struggle with.

I have only a few close friends but those friendships, although very challenging at times, are extremely important.  As are my social media friends and connections.

Ironically, it is my Aspieness that keeps me going.  My ability to focus on my interests and my need to learn and understand.  Even when I’m really struggling and I can’t think straight enough to write or read it is the desire to do so and the pleasure I know I’ll get from it that really helps.

Personal relationships are also valuable but after a marriage of 14yrs that failed and a recent relationship that has also ended I still find, despite the burning need for comfort and support, close personal relationships extremely hard to cope with and so for me at the moment it would seem I cope better living on my own.

For me, coping is about finding your Aspie strengths and developing them.  Coping with the cost of that, the best you can and asking for help when you need it.  I can’t over emphasize how important it is to ask for help.  People both on and off the spectrum shouldn’t accept being depressed and anxious as just part of their lives.  Yes, we are prone to such things but we often just need a little help to cope better.  Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help when you need it.  You are not alone. 

©Paul C Siebenthal Dec 2012.

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