The Community Chalice

I have social anxiety. 

Not the disorder or anything that official. It’s just any time I do something social, then I have anxiety. 

I think that some of this comes from my childhood. As a child, I missed nothing. Though people tried to keep their pain from me, they could not see it was pointless. The same went for judgements, inferences, the way adults spoke in undertones about other people. 

I understood it all, but without the filter, the lens of maturity. 

Now, even as an adult, I hear their whispers each time I walk into a room. 

Did you see that she isn’t wearing makeup? How did she gain so much weight? I hear she tried to commit suicide. Well, I heard it was because her son is mentally retarded. No, I think it was because of their finances. You know, they once went through foreclosure. 

I’m a juicy piece of gossip, for sure. The truth is that those conversations may or may not be happening. Maybe they are just other people’s thoughts or maybe they are just my thoughts about other people’s thoughts. 

Here’s the thing. 

Its hard enough to manage my own thoughts, let alone trying to figure out those of other people. I’ll take the cup that is mine and pass on the communal chalice. 

My thoughts. 

I don’t have to believe them. I can step away from them and discern what is beneficial and what is not. 

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll discover a way forward that doesn’t include recalling all of my past failures and faux pas. Maybe I’ll have the courage to embrace new thoughts. Thoughts of how I am loved, how my story has meaning and purpose, how my vulnerability can set others free. 

Candidly,

Ash

Waiting to Exhale

I think sometimes life is like tugging on a rope. So many things to do, so many places to be – responsibility. 

I grip the rope too hard. All of the freaking time, I grip too hard. The rope burns my hands, scarring them for days to come. How do I pull without holding so hard?

I think the key is breathing while doing. Breathing at each interlude. Breathing in the heat of the moment. 

Exhale. A word said to me over and over in therapy. I hold my  breath and it only makes the tension worse. Breathe in strength. Breathe out exhaustion, frustration, ire. 

Breathe out. 

That is the key. 

Candidly, 

Ash

Letting Go…

Evan paces constantly, picking up items and throwing them down in random spots. He doesn’t play. He just moves from one spot to the next bringing items back and forth. Along the way, he’ll fidget with them, trying to feel the textures.

At least, that is what it looks like he is doing.

Anymore, I’ve stopped wondering if there is more too it. Anymore, I am just weary of the constant movement. Just. Sit. Still. Please.

It’s frustrating – to watch him do nothing but this pacing. It reminds me that he’s abnormal, different, other. I have tried in the past to be fascinated with his otherness, to see his differences with rose-colored glasses. Then, an awareness came to me – I’m looking for something that isn’t there.

Cognitive delay.

I have fought with people over this. I have insisted he knows everything we say, that he is smart. Then, I watch as my husband asks him to pick up a toy and he picks up a blanket. I watch as he paces and I wonder how long have I been clinging to something that isn’t there.

I think the difficulty of autism is the unknown. It truly is possible that Evan is smart. It truly is possible that he has cognitive delay. Depending on the definition of smart, he might have or be both.

Then, I realize as I watch him pace that I am doing the same thing as him. Re-walking the same threads of thought, a pacing of the mind.

But I don’t have to.

I am the consciousness that listens to my thoughts – and lets them go. I let go of the unknown. I let go of whether he is or isn’t smart, whether he knows what i am saying.

As I let go, I am set free.

If only he could be too.

Candidly,

Ash

The Sound of Anxiety

Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax. 

This has been my mantra of late. Anything that helps my foot stop tapping incessantly is kosher. Seriously, I’ll be sitting and reading to relax and my foot taps. It drives me nuts! 

I swear its like my leg has been possessed by some march written in cut time. Think “76 Trombones led the big parade…” from the music man. Except faster. 

I try anything to distract from the tapping, which means I’ve been doing lots of cleaning. (Yet, we are still being invaded by bugs seeking homes for the winter.) The incessant tapping has led to incessant doing and I feel no better. 

The funny thing is when I stop my toe from tapping my thigh and calf will begin clinching to the beat. 

 The beat is anxiety. 

It’s a crazed jazz mashup with a sousaphone march. This is how anxiety feels. 

I think the hardest part of anxiety is that it doesn’t really stop. Sure, there are times when I’m overly anxious about a circumstance or event. Then, there are also times when I’m twitching for no reason at all. My brain seems to think we are being chased by a bear or something. 

There is no bear! No catastrophe. 

Just the grating of radio static. Anxiety is noise when there is no sound. It’s desperately waiting for the world to end, but then discovering that the world will go on and on for thousands of years. Meanwhile, you are still waiting. 

Still tapping your foot to music that isn’t there.

 

Candidly,

Ash

Sepia-toned Rainbows

I worry that my medication affects my ability to write. It has me so stable that I don’t feel those highs and lows anymore. I miss them. I never thought I would miss those vicious swings, but I do.

The rational part of me says this stability is a good thing. I really can’t argue with her. She points out things like functioning well and making good decisions. She tries to remind me that I wanted to die so badly that a lot of times I needed someone with me. She has lots of good points.

Then there is the side of me that feels things. I don’t want to call it the irrational side, because I don’t think feeling is irrational. She says to observe my life and see if I notice the beautiful things just as much as the difficult things. I don’t. I see glasses half empty all around. She says to pause and see if you can sit in silence doing nothing. I can’t. She says to whisper sweet nothings and play with the children. I can’t.

I believe this is the point where maybe someone who is bi-polar considers going off the medication or cutting back.

It’s so hard to live life in sepia tones when you’ve been full spectrum for so long.

Perhaps this is the hard part of being diagnosed at 34 years old. I have lived a good amount of life in the struggle and in the beautiful. What if stable isn’t what I want? What if I want the ups and downs?

What if I can’t have them?

Candidly,

Ash

Around the Spiral Stair

Someone wise says that life is like a spiral staircase. We just keep coming around to the same problems, but each time we are closer to the destination.

That feels very real to me today.

Rhese was referred for speech services today. They truly do not think it is autism like Evan. Yet, we are playing catch up once again.

I remember when Evan was referred for speech. He had no words and he was much younger than Rhese is now. If you told me then that he would never speak, I would not have believed it. I was optimistic and felt like the therapy would help.

I feel that way again.

Except.

I’m also feeling the foreboding that is natural with doing something a second time. I feel like I should be worried. Perhaps, deep down, I am underneath. Perhaps I was worried deep down, underneath with Evan. Perhaps all of the optimism is just a sham. A way of coping? No. A way of not feeling? Probably.

How do I crawl beneath my façade? How do I find what’s really inside?

Inside I worry that Rhese has ADHD so badly that he is missing things already. I worry that maybe he won’t start kindergarten like a normal boy. I worry that he will be categorized as the ‘rambunctious’ or ‘bad’ boy. I worry.

I am sad.

I am sad that I have to worry again at all. That, for just this once, I could have smooth sailing. I’ve done all the worrying a soul can do.

And so all I have is low-grade fever of sadness and the words of The Beatles song to comfort me….

Let it be.

Candidly,

Ash

New Paths to Comfort

Last night, my daughter just wanted a treat after dance, because it had been a hard practice. I totally get it, but right now, in my life, comfort cannot be taken from food. So we talked it out and had lots of hugs and I sang her songs.

Everything was kosher.

Lately, I struggle to find comfort. A soft blanket, pretty candles, a clean home – these were once things I found comforting. I just don’t anymore.

This is probably going to sound stupid, but I really long for a comfy couch. Our couches literally have holes in them and I’m tired of their awfulness. I don’t even want to sit on them.

We also have ants, despite the cleanish home that I’ve been pouring myself into. There is nothing like sitting on a couch and having an ant crawl on you.

Yet, I think some of this is symbolic. I can’t find comfort, not because of an icky couch, but because sitting is no longer comforting. Perhaps what I really need besides the cozy is an afternoon in the sun doing yoga. Maybe the ants represent the way worry crawls on me and ruins my zen. Maybe I need time in guided meditation away from the creepy crawly thoughts.

Most of all, I recognize these feelings, because I felt them long ago when I was not depressed. I didn’t care for them then so I squashed them.

I had better take care of them now.

*Side note: Yoga in the sun did help. I also poured myself into making the couch nice, which worked. Turns out the ants were following the scent of food Evan had deposited deep down in the couch. Facepalm. Though I still find worry crawls on me….**

Candidly,

Ash