Today has been the worst day for a while in terms of trying (and failing) to manage anxiety.
The Christmas period was not easy, for very many reasons, some connected to my autism and some not. I thought it was going to be a good thing to get back into some kind of routine.
And it should have been, and would have been, except that things keep happening that are beyond my control.
And despite all the strategies I have developed over the past 18 months, today I couldn’t control it.
I should have picked up the signs at the pharmacist. I needed to go and pick up a prescription, and what should have been a 5 minute wait turned into a 30 minute wait. I could have coped with the sensory inputs for 5 minutes; I couldn’t for 30. I started to panic. I also couldn’t deal with someone who came in after me being served first. It didn’t seem fair, and I didn’t know what to do.
So then strangers were trying to calm me down; trying to give me options that I knew wouldn’t work, but I couldn’t explain to them why.
But I got out of there just about in one piece, without going into total meltdown.
Almost a success, really.
But then something more disruptive happened. And I just fell apart at work. Managed to get to a quiet meeting room before the real meltdown hit. At least it was a quiet one this time; just sobbing and stimming constantly for about 45 minutes.
Still exhausting. Still unnecessary. And that’s the most frustrating part.
I have strategies that work most of the time, but that doesn’t mean that people can keep pushing me. My limits are closer to the surface than the limits of most people without autism.
And I am left wondering: is it me? Am I hoping for or expecting too much?
The most dangerous time for me is 1 – 2 hours after a meltdown. The immediate emotion is spent, but if the cause isn’t addressed then the longer-term anxiety is still there. Anxiety and exhaustion are not a good combination. The anxiety provokes the impulse to do something to just make the hurt and confusion stop. Impulse control is difficult and energy-sapping for me at the best of times; exhaustion makes it practically impossible.
And this is where there is an increasingly unhelpful interaction with one of my obsessions. I’ve written about this before, but I love murder-mysteries. And there have been a lot of opportunities to indulge this interest over the Christmas period. So… methods of causing harm come quite easily to my mind.
That’s what happened today. Anxiety told me to make the confusion stop. My obsession provided the means. Exhaustion wouldn’t let me resist the impulse.
I have at least made my flat safe enough that it’s not easy to find foolproof ways to end a life. I may have ended up bruised, but the harm could have been a lot worse.
But if this keeps happening, the law of averages probably means that one day I will succeed, even if I don’t really want to, even if all I want is an end to the anxiety and confusion that has taken over my life.
I am scared about how much the actions of other people can provoke anxiety. And I don’t know what – or how much – is appropriate to share. I can’t control other people, and nor do I want to, but I sometimes wish that they were more logical and predictable.
I am scared that my strategies weren’t enough today. I don’t have any other strategies to use. I’ve become frightened to reach out to people, expecting rejection.
But there is a bright side. I’ve been looking for strategies online and I came across a really useful factsheet on supporting people with autism to manage stress and anxiety. I don’t know how I haven’t seen this before, but I somehow want to forward this to everyone I know. Because then they may actually get what it’s like. Then, people might actually understand how to help.
I’m not holding out much hope of that.