The Mountain Range I Travel

I’ve been thinking about autism a lot lately – how its talked about, it’s symbols. Specifically, the puzzle piece comes to mind.

I remember when the puzzle pieces seemed meaningful. I remember when I thought this disease was like a puzzle.

In a lot of ways, the analogy fits. Everything we have tried to help ease the effects of autism claimed to be the missing piece – the one piece that would make the puzzle whole.

I’ve come to learn that autism isn’t like a puzzle and there is no missing piece. Autism is most like a series of mountains. You climb up one side only to slide at light speed down the other side.

Into the valley.

People, guides, come into your life for one mountain, but not another. No technique, no skill seems to work twice. Every hurtle is a mountain. There is no runner’s form to prepare you for each coming uphill battle.

Perhaps the only way to survive is to adopt a posture of serenity and responsiveness. I imagine myself centering after each bump in the road, not engaging with the battle, but stepping outside of it.

The truth is that I have the ability to press pause while the battle rages. I can climb the hill and overlook the scene. I don’t engage in every fight like it is my life on the line or at least I try.

Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe not.

It’s the way I’ve found to cope – to carry this grief. There is no missing piece for which to quest. This isn’t a puzzle that can be solved.

This is the mountain range I travel.

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

The Fiction Surrounding Addiction

I remember in fifth grade learning about addiction. Instantly it was villainized. Unfortunately, the majority of D.A.R.E. programs simply inspire anxiety and fear. Don’t get me wrong, I’d prefer my kid not get addicted to drugs.

I also don’t want them to live in constant fear of being one of the statistics or horror stories their guidance counselor showed them.

Somewhere there is balance, I believe.

Interestingly enough, D.A.R.E. was not my first experience with addiction.

Watching my mom drink Diet Coke was.

Today, I sooooo get my mom. I’m addicted to Mountain Dew. How do I know this? The moment things go wrong, the moment stress supercedes my ability to cope? I stop for a 32 ounce.

Now, there are much worse things to which I could be addicted. There are worse coping mechanisms.

That doesn’t make my addiction any less harmful. Other addictions might be more harmful. It doesn’t change that I am addicted and it hurts me.

Comparison is the Thief of Compassion

There is a quote from someone somewhere that goes like this…

Comparison is the thief of joy.”

I would venture to say its also the thief of compassion. Comparison allows me to lie to myself about the problems I have. Its easier to ignore my problems when I can say they are not as bad as someone else’s. In reverse, I also can destroy myself comparing how awful my problem is.

More than all of this though, it’s really easy for me to think I’m better than someone else simply because my addiction is legal.

The fiction surrounding addiction is this:

It can’t happen to me.

Now that is a myth. It can happen to anyone and chances are many of us would be able to say we are addicted to something or another. When you boil it down, addiction isn’t this giant, scary thing.

Addiction is a coping mechanism gone awry.

This is what I know for sure…

I am very fortunate that the worst thing my mother did was drink a Diet Coke when she felt tired, in pain or stressed. Had it been something else – something like heroin?My life would be very different.

Addiction definitely comes down to choices, but it also comes down to how pain and stress were handled in our homes as children.

The choices made in my home when I was a child have made all the difference.

Candidly,

Ash

 

 

My Brain Off Drugs

I have an alarm set on my phone in two different apps to remind me to take my medication. I have routines to try and keep on track. Yet, my system failed me yesterday. Today, at 2:00 PM I discovered yesterdays pills in  my skirt pocket.

We were running all over the place for Evan. He had a neurology appointment and a pre-op appointment for his dental surgery. My regular schedule was scratched. Systems fail. Safeguards go off duty. It happens.

I use a journal to track trends in my mood, behavior and thoughts. It helps me to refer back to other times when I’ve missed medication. I’m able to prepare for what is coming or at least able to tell myself it will pass in approximately 72 Hours.

The Last Time I Missed My Meds…

One of my particular medications is quite dose-dependent. I’m not sure that is an official  way of describing it or anything. I just mean that when I miss even one dose, then everything goes to shit.

Late Afternoon on Day Missed – I start having enormous, incapacitating anxiety. I literally have to distract myself from reality in order to cope. Usually, I immerse myself in a book, while also playing games on my phone. I do the two things at once. The multi-tasking helps to keep my brain from catastrophizing everything in existence.

Day After Missed Medication – I’m hypomanic. Everything is wonderful. I accomplish all of the things. I consider starting a new career, business or non-profit (I’ve learned NOT to do this the hard way). I call people just because I want to talk to them. I decide to clean the house top to bottom at 11:30 that night. I go full steam until 4:00 AM, when suddenly I feel like I’m completely alone in the world, everything is awful. Suicidal thoughts come to mind so frequently that now I HAVE to sleep in order to not harm myself.

Two Days After Missed Medication – I am now completely catatonic. I awake to thoughts of self-harm. I don’t want to eat. I go back to sleep. I sleep 14 hours that day, because I cannot cope with the vicious thoughts bursting through my mind.

Three Days After Missed Medication – I only missed one day so things start to even out here. The last two days I took my medication on time so I’m stabilizing. I still can’t do much of anything. And this is why….

Thinking of Hurting Yourself…..Hurts

Maybe it is just me. Maybe I respond to thoughts of hurting myself more dramatically than others. Actually, I’m willing to strike maybe from those sentences. I’m super sensitive to my internal state. I’ve read that this is part of my personality (INFP). I’m willing to venture a therapist would have some recommendations on how to cope better. Right now, I’m still sans therapist (though I have an appointment in two weeks).

For me, thinking of harming myself, contemplating suicide – these are just thoughts. I don’t have to believe them. I don’t. I know they are lying to me or at the very least false notions. When these thoughts come a couple of times a day, I’m able to use this strategy/idea to calm my emotional reaction to the thoughts.

When I’m off my meds? There is no time. Literally, thoughts, images of cutting myself and other awfulness are so frequent that I can’t focus on anything else. Sleep is my only reprieve. I’ve learned HOW to go to sleep by deep breathing and repeating one phrase over and over.

{Breathe in.} All I have to do is sleep. {Breathe out.} All I have to do is sleep.

So I sleep.

When I wake if the thoughts are still galloping like a warhorse, then I put myself back to sleep. Eventually, I wake up and the thoughts are slow and I’m able to say to myself, “These are just thoughts. I don’t have to believe them.” Then, I go and reward myself for staying alive by drinking mountain dew or eating a donut. Honestly, its the only thing that can motivate me to get out of bed.

This is my brain off drugs.

I wonder if other people experience this too.

Candidly,

Ash