Saturday, September 20, 2014
Hi everybody. I don't want to jinx myself, but it's only been a few weeks since my last blog post! OK, I know, that one was basically just a link, but still, I'm getting a bit more disciplined with managing my tasks and my free-time, right?
I guess this is a good time to talk about some serious stuff. I have something to confess. Besides having Aspergers, I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and severe Clinical Depression. I guess I have been open in a vague, non-official way about my Anxiety issues over the years. In fact I knew I had an Anxiety and Panic Disorder long before I was ready to face and accept that I might be autistic too. But for years I was in denial about suffering from Depression, and I would venture to say that it's something I've been dealing with from childhood. I can remember feeling so down at various times in my life since my pre-teen years that I wished I had never been born, and felt like I was being punished for some unknown crime(s). These feelings can be very common in people who are on the autism spectrum because we feel, often from as soon as we are aware of other people, that we somehow don't fit in or understand things that seem to come simply for everybody else, things like the unwritten social rules, and the ability to both make, and enjoy superficial chit chat for example, as well as the fact that the majority of people we meet seem to misunderstand and misinterpret everything we say and do as well. In fact Depression is a common co-morbid condition for people on the autism spectrum to develop by adulthood.
Symptoms of Autism in Females
For years my mom has tried to get me to seek help for my depression because she herself finally sought help for hers, and has been mostly doing well now that it's been being treated for several years. She and I even almost stopped speaking to each other a few years ago because I was in such denial about it, even after a few months earlier confessing that I had made plans to end my life!
I can see why she was desperate and worried about me. I know I scared myself when I was in such a dark place that I had actually thought up tentative plans to go through with killing myself. Why? Because I actually don't want to kill myself. I have an irrational, normal human fear of death. In fact since early childhood, I would have panic attacks at the thought of being buried alive. But depression is a mental illness, and the disease literally fucks with your brain. That is the scary part. I don't want to die, but that my brain in a depressive episode could somehow convince me that ending my own life is the only logical solution to any problem, including ending my depression. It makes no sense if you aren't depressed or in a depressive episode, but that's how it works. Anyway, my anger and denial pulled my depression into another direction, and I used it to go back to dancing which was a good thing, and helps, but my depression had become so severe that for me it is not the only solution.
I was feeling OK, but never happy, for a year or so. Plus I was still using maladaptive, self destructive coping mechanisms to avoid my depression, and processing my own emotions, which because of being autistic I process sequentially and consciously, IE very slowly compared to the non-autistic population. Some of these very dysfunctional coping mechanisms were things like binge drinking and binge sexual activity either just online or in person with an on again/off again "friend." I also had stopped contacting my close friends in anyway except to comment or like posts by them on Facebook. I isolated myself. I spent hours binge watching Netflix and reading my Facebook news feeds when I wasn't at work or the dance studio.
In the meantime in spite of my income going down drastically and steadily over the last 5-6 years, some good things did change for me which should have helped me feel better had I not been depressed. Those things were first moving out of my parents' house into a shared house with housemates, and then a few months later into my first apartment in 5-6 years. Prior to that I had been homeless, living in a series of motels, hostels and friends' homes after an accident at work left me temporarily physically disabled and I was also evicted from my apartment because of a conflict over bedbugs with my landlords and the accident leaving me unable to fight them in court. After becoming unemployed, having my unemployment denied and then a job falling through, I had to move to Arizona to live with my parents. I have written about all that before so I won't go into it further.
Last year my income went down again and I had to cut back on taking dance lessons to once a month, with just one performance event, then it went down again and I had to stop taking lessons altogether. My last dance lesson was in March of 2014. The lessons were often both an intense workout which I need, and a kind of therapy session because I could trust my teachers implicitly with anything. In fact if I wanted to just dance and talk for 45 minutes, rather than work on developing a specific dance technique, I could. Then I lost it, although I had banked enough lesson time to still be able to attend group classes at the studio. That in itself probably saved my life.
So about 3 weeks ago, I again started having serious suicidal thoughts. My depression had steadily gotten worse over that last year, and I had begun to seriously consider asking my primary medical provider about medication options and seeking counselling. But I had started working a second job, and was keeping myself going with the thought that in a couple weeks I could go back to taking 1 lesson a month. Then a tooth broke, and I was shown the estimate for the cost of treatment, and it triggered my depression into overdrive. My extreme physical pain and my depression had my brain secreting neurotransmitters that were sending me the thought that the way to end all the seemingly never ending pain, was suicide, and that suicide in spite of being devastating to friends and family, would in the long run release them of the terrible burden of having to take care of me, and/or listen to my problems. My depression and my autism even often has me having thoughts that people who say they are my friends, are not really my friends etc. The good thing is that there was still a rational part of my brain working that was seriously frightened by these thoughts. I am normally a cheerful, and optimistic person. I don't want to die. It's scary to think that my own brain could betray me in this way, and one day I could go through with it, if I didn't get help.
The other thing that inspired me to get help, was the suicide by one of my idols since childhood, Robin Williams. I was devastated by his death. At first I felt numb. Then I cried off and on for several days about it. I took it as a sign though that I needed serious help. The very next day, I went into see my Nurse Practitioner with the full knowledge that she might have me committed for 72 hours, and that if that is what I needed, I was ready and willing. Instead as I had not made any concrete plans yet, she prescribed me a drug called Lexapro, which so far is working OK I think.
I want to state that I am not pushing drugs on others or saying that if you are depressed you should try medication. I am saying that for me, treating my own depression over the years with meditation, physical activity, herbal remedies and self destructive behavior, including denial and self harm, did not work for me. I am also not promoting a particular drug. In fact just because I seem to be doing alright on a particular drug does not mean that you should rush out and demand that your physician prescribe Lexapro for you. Every brain is different. The drug or drugs that help me, might not help you at all or might even harm you. And you might not need to take any medications at all. So in advance, please do not tell me I should get off the drugs or that all pharmaceutical remedies are bad. For me, the pills I take daily are saving my life. I know this to be true. But am I saying that is true for everybody. No. What is right for you is a discussion you need to have with your medical care providers and/or your therapist/counselor.
Signs and Symptoms that someone is Suicidal
Guardian article on Robin Williams' Suicide and Depression
Because of what I already knew about depression, and through my research I knew I had to immediately tell close friends and family that I was severely depressed, and had had recent thoughts of committing suicide so they could watch me closely, check on me frequently and call 911 if I started even joking about it or if I started behaving in ways that were odd compared or worrying compared to how I normally behave. I even opened up to a teacher and friend who I only opened up to about having Aspergers (which I pretty much tell everyone at some point as I am a self advocacy advocate). This is a person who I want to think highly of me and who I want to trust me enough to advise me on my non-profit dance project. But I did it. I also opened up on social media because I have this drive to help others, and Depression is a very common and very misunderstood mental illness that is wrongly stigmatized. I wanted to show that having Clinical Depression does not make weak. In fact that being open about it makes me stronger. Just like being autistic and open about it makes me and others stronger. I have a vision of removing all stigma from being disabled or perceived as disabled no matter what that is whether it's autism or anxiety or depression or PTSD or physical issues like being in a wheel chair or an amputee or deaf etc.
The drug I am on seems to be starting to work. At first I had pretty tough side effects from the Lexapro, including severe nausea and feeling like an apathetic stoned out zombie with extreme drowsiness, then that evolved into light sleeping type of insomnia where I'd sleep for 1-2 hour stretches and wake up wide awake and nauseated. But all of this was preferable to dying by my own hand. Now I am not aware of any side effects. I think clearly. I am less anxious and less depressed. Last week for the first time, I actually didn't have the desire to watch Netflix past being done with my coffee, and ran errands before going to the dance studio. I even was not so self centered anymore. (I can always appear a bit self absorbed because of my autistic emotional and sensory processing taking a lot of time and energy). I actually for the first time in years thought of doing something to thank a friend for listening to me, and to cheer him up, and make him laugh as well as others laugh. I used to be a person who would buy or do things for my friends and family spontaneously and thought out all of the time if I would think of something they would enjoy or see something that they would like that would make them smile. I had lost that desire due to my depression years ago.
Yesterday for the first time in a long time I felt inspired to start taking better care of my living space. I was inspired to buy a new comforter in a color and style that I like, and while in the store, I got inspired to make future plans for decorating my apartment little by little as my meager budget allows. I bought a mop/sweeper and a vacuum cleaner. I started setting up ways of paying my parents back money I owe them, and of banking funds towards future lessons little by little with the dance studio.
I still need to take the next step of looking for a therapist who can help me with my anxiety and depression, as well as who can evaluate me officially for autism. At the moment my focus has been getting stable and getting my dental trauma healed. Over the past 3 and a half weeks I have been to the dentist every week. First to evaluate the broken tooth, then to have it extracted, and a temporary bridge put in, and lately to have the bridge adjusted as it kept causing me extreme pain. I'm feeling pretty good again today and for the first time this week, I will be going to classes at the dance studio.
Those are my personal current events. But I want to jump to the public autism world and touch on a few other things that have been going on in the autism world recently. The first issues are all related to bullying and violence towards autistic teens. Recently there have been several incidents of autistic teens being brutally bullied by NT peers who they were tricked into thinking were their friends and who were then beaten while the incidence was being filmed or in the most public case, the boy who was convinced he was participating in the "Ice Bucket Challenge," but who instead had a bucket of urine, feces and cigarette butts dumped on his head, also filmed and posted. These kinds of things make me angry because in the days of increased awareness of autism and other disabilities, there is no excuse for this type of behavior to occur at all. Secondly in 2014 it should never take a public outcry for authorities to prosecute these assaults to the full extent of the law. It's troubling to me that society in general seems to see it as ok to assault autistic people or people with disabilities. But there is something that even further enrages me, and that is a current of sympathy for parents who murder their autistic children, and the continued publicity for people to blame the victims and sympathize with the murders by organizations like Autism $peaks and by shows like Dr. Phil.
Ice Bucket Prank Prosecution Progress
Brutal beating of Autistic Teen
ASAN Statement on Dr Phil episode featuring K Stapleton
The second thing I want to mention is something positive, so I will end with it, and that is a documentary streaming for free, and commercial free on Hulu.com called, "Too Sane For This World." This film is an illuminating and brilliant portrait of 12 autistic adults, their struggles and more importantly their gifts. I applaud the filmmakers for including a wide array of individuals that really shows how diverse and different we are all from each other. I could relate to this film in more ways than I can count. I can not stress strongly enough how important it is for everybody to watch this film, these types of positive documentaries about autism, and to share them with others.
Too Sane For This World Trailer
View Too Sane For This World on Hulu here