Saturday, 25 June 2011

DON'T tell me not to worry!

So... my new counsellor made me really mad yesterday. She pointed out that my diagnosis (or not) of Aspergers is not the main issue, as I come across as normal, in comparison with the rest of the flawed public out there.

I think she doesn't want me to obsess over the Aspergers. She may well have a point - see all previous blog posts. But that's where I'm at right now, and telling me to get past it is kind of missing the point.

It's not willingly that I'm undergoing this big reassessment of my personal history, my daily behaviour, my adequacy as a parent (see next blog post). It's like a compulsion I suppose. I'm an analytical person anyway, that's just how my brain works. If something changes the entire way I have seen myself for my whole lifetime, then I'm going to have to spend some time working it all out. Let's call it a hobby! (read 'special interest')

I suppose I do have a sensitivity around the whole self-diagnosis thing, it's the first time I've told a professional about this. It's the first time that I've thought that getting a diagnosis might actually be useful. Her point was that I need to find ways to manage the real anxiety that I'm feeling, which is clearly true. Rather than ratchet up the anxiety worrying about my Aspergian nature. Let's face it, she doesn't know me very well yet.

Was there ever anything less useful than being told 'Don't worry'?

Stimming - Does it really work?

So... I have been reflecting on stimming, as I am trying to figure out what to do about my own troublesome stims.

I clench my teeth in time with my pulse. There. I said it. I've never told anybody that before. I may have mentioned the clenching thing to my dentist, who was not surprised, given the fact that I was seeing him with TMJ - a jaw problem, caused by nighttime grinding and daytime clenching.

It increases along with my anxiety, and I'm not sure what to do about it. I have seen people posting about how trying to prevent children from stimming only makes it worse, or drives it underground. I know that I had various stims as a child, some of which drove my mum crazy, and she banned me from doing them. Although looking back, some of them might have looked more like OCD than stimming, and that makes me wonder what the actual difference between the two. If we're all agreed that both OCD and stimming have anxiety as their cause, then maybe they are both different manifestations of the same thing?

I do see Lucas displaying particular behaviours when he's anxious, he walks along, and every other step he kicks his bottom with his right foot. He can do that for hours in the playground. He also sometimes tips his head over to the side and just leaves it there, and also makes a throaty noise when watching favourite TV programmes, or eating favourite food. Again, not sure whether we are in the realm of tics, stims or OCD here. Or whether it really matters what we call it!!

I went underground with my stims, which are all invisible now. There's the jaw-clenching/tooth-tapping one, then there's the one with my fingers, where I tap them against something in time with my pulse, but out of sight. The teeth one has definitely become unconscious, I have difficulty in stopping it now, although it causes me agonising jaw pain if I get too anxious. I have tried to decrease it by switching to my finger stim when I notice it, but I can't maintain that for long before I return to the unconscious teeth one.

When I consciously try to stop the teeth-tapping, I notice immediate sensations of rising anxiety, so I know that it is working to keep the anxiety suppressed. I guess the problem is that as the anxiety levels rise, so does the damage to my jaw as my body carries out its long-learned suppression technique.

Does it work? I think that the stimming channels my anxiety, and gives me an outlet, allowing a physical release of my anxious feelings. But I think that once it becomes systematic, and unconscious, it only serves to mask and disguise my anxiety levels, until they become intolerable. I suppose it's a type of coping mechanism, but I wouldn't characterise it as helpful.

Maybe it's like self-harming, a learned coping mechanism that can get out of control. As part of my Aspergian self-inventory, I need to decide if I really want to break the habit of a lifetime.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Marriage under pressure - dealing with autism

So... we've been going to the NAS Early Bird Plus course for the last few weeks, I just wanted to let people know how we're getting on.

Out of me and my husband, we have adopted opposite approaches to our kids being diagnosed. I have gone into research hyper-drive (natural aspie response!) and he has opted for the classic NT male 'let's ignore it and pretend it isn't happening' response. It's been a year now, and I try not to get angry with him, and I never beat him over the head with my research, but we are on very different pages. He's still a brilliant and intuitive Dad, and loves our two little conundrums to pieces! So I can't get mad with him too often (just sometimes).

We finally managed to get onto the Early Bird course, and I was so thrilled, as I thought this would be an opportunity for him to ingest some information about autism. I'm not so sure that's what happening though. I'm really enjoying it, getting to know Pippa's Teaching Assistant, (who is not allowed to talk to us at school, all communication has to go through the Teacher.) It's been an excellent opportunity to exchange our experiences of Pippa and Lucas, with other parents/TAs who have had similar experiences. And it's great to be given strategies to use in understanding our kids better, and how best to interact with them.

Some of the most basic advice, is to reduce/simplify language, and give them time to process language before expecting a response. Both of these are really useful, and I'm trying to put them into action on a daily basis now. I haven't noticed my husband using either yet, but I'm ever (idiotically) optimistic. He's still on defensive mode in the classes, 'there's nothing wrong with my kids' kind of attitude, although that's not what he's saying on the surface. I'm not interested in challenging his emotional shit around this, I have my own emotional shit to deal with (see previous post), and I can't be a counsellor for him.

We've been together nearly 20 years, and just having stayed together that long is a strength in itself, I guess you could call it inertia! That's part of the joy of marriage (irony). But it also means that our conversations can be very short and still cover massive amounts, we have verbal shortcuts, when talking about emotions, I have learned the hard way that he can't do long chats about feelings (his or mine), so I have to restrict myself to saying what I want to say, then shutting up (excellent marital tip). Then I give him a couple of days, then I ask him what he thinks, and listen to the answer. (more excellent marital advice! lol)

Anyway, it didn't start out as an essay on communication in marriage, but that's where I ended up! It suddenly occurs to me that I've been applying the Early Bird communication advice in my marriage for years. Hmmm, maybe he's not as NT as I thought. I would be the last one to know...

Need to get back to Aspienormal...

So...I'm back in counselling, spent an hour going through my mental health history, not such a pleasant experience. Especially the fact that it took a whole hour! She did seem impressed however that I had spent 2 years with a Jungian therapist. I guess there's hierarchies in counselling too. (Lol).

It's weird starting in that relationship thing again with a new counsellor. Let me see, this will be number 4. Number 3 was a total bust. Number 2 was great, but as I was pregnant at the time, didn't want me delving too deeply into very painful early history. Number 1 was my lovely Jungian therapist, who did a lot of hard work with me, particularly on my alexythemia.

Therapist number 4 seems nice so far, but I felt embarrassed at my extensive history, and myriad personal issues. It's not easy to open up so far so fast with a new person, it's a bit like being opened with a rusty can-opener.  Leaves jagged edges.

Back there again on Thursday, chance to have a bit of a more relaxed chat hopefully, talk about some more recent stuff. I do kind of like counselling, the feeling when you've finished that you've done some useful work. But it doesn't seem to come round fast enough, seems like a long wait between appointments. This time it's taken months to organise access to some free counselling, been trying to set this up since last October.

In the meantime the anxiety levels have been steadily rising, all the familiar symptoms, teeth-grinding at night, jaw-clenching during the day, no control over either. Meltdowns at home. Anxiety attacks just started last week. At least I know what they are now. Obsessive behaviours, TV watching etc, to hide from the stuff that's going on. Inability to switch off from work, or relax. Unwillingness to be around family, (maybe that's them as well as me!)

There has to come a time where you put yourself out there and really try to get yourself back on track. I need to be functioning at a vaguely normal level allowing for my Aspie nature.

My kids and my husband need me to be aspienormal again.