Not my most catchy title I’m afraid. I try to avoid writing about really specific personal situations on my blog. I have done this before and have probably exposed myself too much. But the above is something I’ve been pondering this weekend as it seems to often be the cause of my downfall and I wanted to try and express it in words to see how others feel about this sort of situation.
I recently wrote a distraction plan, it’s a large A4 document filled with things I can do if I am upset or struggling. Some of them probably seem very obvious, such as a the chore based ones, but actually at times it’s been helpful as when I can feel stress building I may not be able to think fast and having a written list of things to try can be helpful. People often criticize crisis teams for suggesting someone takes a bath when they are in crisis. For me taking a bath is very relaxing, it switches off my emotions and I feel ‘held’. Water has always done this for me, it’s one of the reasons I love outdoor swimming – just me and the water, no complications. Admittedly if I was in a full blown crisis I’d probably not consider a bath, but in those initial rumbles it can be enough to diffuse a situation.
On Friday I had a difficult day and came home upset. What I really wanted to do was to get in the bath to diffuse how I was feeling. I needed to make a phone call before I could do this, which I tried to do. The person didn’t answer but sent me a text saying they would call me ‘shortly’. I felt I needed to speak to them so I didn’t worry about the particular problem all weekend, so I didn’t want to get in the bath until I’d spoken to them. It took much longer than I expected to receive the call. To me the phrase ‘shortly’ means something will happen in a short space of time. I couldn’t bath, I couldn’t eat, I was frozen to the spot waiting for the call which was going to happen ‘shortly’. It did eventually happen, but by then I was more wound up. Part of my routine on a Thursday is to do a food shop, time was running out so I had to forgo the bath and do the shop. By the time I got home something small triggered a complete emotional meltdown and I spent the rest of the evening in distress and crying. The distress bled into the following day which meant I was unable to follow through with my plans which I had made.
Another example I wanted to write about was something which has been rumbling on all week. I have an agreement with health services that I will receive an emailed copy of my notes when they are written up after appointments. This isn’t because I am pedant, it’s because sometimes although I am talking as if I understand something I can sometimes come away with a different understanding, which can be confusing and upsetting and can lead to misunderstandings. I understand things better in writing, than when they are said face to face, as in writing I can focus my entire attention, where as face to face I have 101 thoughts buzzing round in my head (‘I can hear that clock ticking’ ‘she’s wearing different shoes’ ‘How much time do we have left, is it about to run out?’ ‘What was it I wanted to say to her’ ‘Why is she using this technique on me, I can spot the pattern, it feels fake’ etc). When I have a set routine in place it can cause me to obsess. If someone usually take 3 days to send through notes I start checking my email obsessively when that time elapses. The thought becomes so overwhelming it can feel hard to move on to other things until it’s dealt with. When I attended a post diagnostic group after having my Aspergers diagnosis I asked for advice about dealing with this type of expectation. It was suggested to check with the person that they mean what they say – for example, if someone says they will do something within 24 hours checking with them that they mean this and giving them the opportunity to provide a more realistic time scale. I’ve also had it suggested to me to try and see it from the other person’s point of view. They intended to do what they said they would, but there is likely to be people more in need than me, demanding their time,which has meant that they’ve run out of time to do what they said they would for me. Without that clear explanation from them though I can only feel upset that an agreement has been broken, I can’t sit with the random possible situations which could have taken place, despite repeating them over and over. When I did build up the courage to chase it up and ask if I would get them next week it was confirmed that I would, with an apology and a ‘thanks for understanding’. But I don’t understand, I am still finding this difficult to sit with now.
The above is an example of the things which crop up regularly, in the workplace it can be fraught with this type of situation. People often say to me that I am lucky to be ‘so self aware, to have such insight’. I am able to study and see the patterns in my behavior, but seem unable to change or cope with things that upset me the most. I believe that people feel that I am over-reacting, that I am being particular and obsessive, this is all probably true, but it reinforces the negative view I have of myself and can often be the cause of a downward spiral. Each time I become upset by something not happening when it should I seem to get stuck in the same obsessive loop, when it finally passes I look back and feel embarrassed by my reaction. It’s like having a patch of ice on the front of your drive, slipping over on it, but continuing the take the same route every day and falling over time and time again.
I am interested to hear the thoughts of other #actuallyautistic individuals on this subject and also coping strategies which you use to get past the feelings of distress.