crossroads…

crossroads

I don’t think that any one particularly likes change. I laughably tried to convince myself for years that I was a go with the flow kind of gal….but I’m not. I’m galaxies away from it actually, and I haven’t blogged in a long time as a result.

As with any upheaval to my predictable ordinary life; the dust, stirred and agitated in my mind needed to settle in with the new normal I created. I’ve often instigated change in my life, consciously pushing myself out of my comfortable spaces as a way to adapt and blend in with the ever changing fast paced world around me. It is tangible concrete evidence I can use to proclaim “See? I adapted! I’m normal!” I conveniently forget the toll it takes.

In truth, my bravado and sometimes blasé choices result in months of uncontrollable paralyzing anxiety and seemingly endless days of squelching the incoming tide of a panic attack. The disquiet that alteration to my life generates is a constant companion lying in wait, just under the surface waiting to strike when my resolve to push onward and upward lapses for even a moment. It is a constant conflict; forcing acceptance to change knowing the anxiety and chaos that will inevitably rear its ugly head for me to battle. My inner voice whispering calm soothing platitudes over and over to control the paranoia and inner paralysis anxiety ushers in.

Time has proven to me that I will survive, regardless. A little bruised and worse for wear but nonetheless, I will survive. So I keep pushing through the white noise in my mind until some semblance of normalcy and routine returns because I know in due course, it will. And it has. I finally feel settled, expressive, unforced; which allows for space and time to write again.

As I mulled and sorted through the random thoughts that flitted through my mind, I came to the conclusion that I’ve reached a crossroads of sorts. I began this blog as an outlet to process my grief. I did not anticipate my own self-discovery; or the depth of insight and understanding that I would gain into my father’s life.

Even though he is gone, I feel closer to him now. The knowledge I’ve reaped about him, about me, is invaluable to me; and I feel as though I am only scratching the surface. His Asperger’s enlightened me to my own presence on the spectrum. My quirks and idiosyncrasies mimic his in so many ways. Different, yet the same. I am encouraged to push on, to delve deeper, and to learn more. This syndrome is ever presenting in my life, but it is no longer the elephant in the room to be avoided; and as I gain increased understanding about myself, I discover more about him and that keeps his legacy alive with me. And so this blog re-calibrates to a slightly altered course, adjusting to follow a new path of discovery.

wallowing…

tedalone

I am in a funk. I have been for a couple months now. It’s infinitely frustrating as I cannot adequately express the jumbled and fragmented thoughts piling up on top of each other inside my head trying desperately to escape. I sat at my computer numerous times and typed out the nonsense, the snippets of incomplete thoughts and observations absent of purpose or direction. I feel anxious. Nothing is placating or loosening the knot in my stomach and so please forgive the ramblings, but I desperately need to clear out the chaos.

Unfortunately, this isn’t unfamiliar territory. Every year, it seems, I subconsciously reserve this time to allow a penetrating sense of frustration, dread, and anxiety to seep into my psyche and play havoc with my mind. It’s been a repeat performance for as long as I can remember, and I’ve had no explanation. The record player needle gets stuck on a scratch in the record and plays the same chords over and over and over until it is gently jostled out of it. I become introspective and challenge my authenticity, my choices…my life…

This year the reflection is a bit different, but the frustration, anxiety and dread has still arrived, uninvited, at the doorstep of my mind. Asperger’s provided many answers and insights to the queries that went unanswered for countless years. So many of my irrational emotions and behaviors that were so confusing and frustrating to me are all neatly categorized and explained in detail under this diagnosis…but…they don’t magically disappear because I now know the origin. The amount of my life that is affected and touched by Autism Spectrum Disorder still dumbfounds me. It’s everywhere, in every nook and cranny. Everything that is inherently me is also Asperger’s. And quite frankly, sometimes it is a huge wad of suck. I can’t turn it off when I want to. I can’t make it stop. It’s always there, yes, to provide knowledge and enlightenment; but also frustration and unwanted anxiety and meltdowns and feeling like I am in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight. The feeling of inadequacy, of not quite measuring up, is always lying in wait just below the surface whenever I feel like I just kind of suck at this whole “life” thing. It’s a daily challenge. Hourly. I know I am different. I know why I am different. It’s not always an easy pill to swallow. I struggle with authenticity. Being authentic and true to who I am is so important to me now after years of adapting to what I thought I was supposed to be; but I also need to interact in and with society and being true to who I am confuses people. I get labeled quirky or weird and get pushed into invisible corners. I hate getting pushed into corners. I hate the confusion that I encounter when I feel like I’m being crystal clear or the judgement thrown my way when my filter isn’t working properly. I must check the mask and recalibrate. I hate the mask, the façade I must wear to survive in my everyday life.

Deciding what parts of me I am comfortable sharing with the world outside my doorstep, and being true to who I really am is a balancing act that requires constant tweaking and keeps my mind in chaos. At any given moment I am trying to figure out what is expected of me, compensating for the areas I know I lack in cognitively and socially, and adapting appropriately to the situation without feeling threatened by everything and everyone around me. It is exhausting and I’ve thrown myself some pretty epic pity parties; but at the end of the day, it is me. It is who I am. Ultimately, this knowledge has resulted in less harsh and less demeaning inner dialogue. As I did with my father, I am learning to measure my behaviors and experiences not against societal norms or against those who truly do not understand and pass along ignorant and unsolicited observations; but against the barometer of what I now know. It is hard. I’ll be the first to admit that I do not always rise to the occasion and bestow the grace I should. Accepting that I have Asperger’s was easy for me. Living my life every day with this knowledge has proven to be the unexpected challenge.

routines…

routine

My predicable happy little life was turned upside down a couple weeks ago. It was nothing earth shattering, just some car trouble, but as with most disruptions in my routine, I was traumatized. This is one area in my life that I am so grateful for an explanation to shed light on my reactions to the seemingly simple wrinkles in my day to day. I never understood why the anxiety and panic seep into my conscious blocking out rational thought.  It often gets so distracting that I am forced to mentally remove myself from the situation all together and escape through sleep or TV or succumb to a massive panic attack. Very inconvenient…and annoying, but I couldn’t explain it. The WHY. In the deep recesses of my mind resides a tiny rational voice that tries to shout over the turmoil and mayhem that this will pass. It will be OK; and my world would (and does) eventually return to my predictable routine, but in that moment of perceived crisis, the white noise in my mind crescendos and escalates quickly to unhealthy levels. In truth, there are few things in life I loathe more than car problems, but my car not working is not really the issue. It is the disruption of my painstakingly and thoughtfully crafted routines. One of the countless reasons I adore my husband so is his ability to stay calm, countering my erratic outbursts and meltdowns, and gently talking me off the ledge when I start to spiral. My previous partners’ tendencies to get caught up in my frenzy would only exacerbate the matter, but this wonderful man brings me back down to earth and gently challenges my internal anarchy. He speaks to the chaos in my mind and quiets my demons. He is the first person in my life to do so, and the effect is a bit intoxicating, but I know when my anxiety inevitably rears its ugly head, I’m not fighting it alone.

Whenever my life gets disrupted, my response typically involves focusing all energies into creating a routine so I can cope with the change. The faster I create a routine, the better I can adapt. This has affected every area in my life, and I’ve noticed it especially with my employment choices throughout the years. The jobs that were the most taxing and difficult for me did not have set schedules or parameters and allowed for many disruptions into routine. I never lasted long. The stress of unpredictability would thrust me into “survival mode” and affect both my health and my ability to do my job effectively and efficiently. I can adapt to any number of challenging and stressful situations in the workplace devoid of the typical and usual reactions, but those situations need to be within certain expected parameters. If they are not, I cannot adapt quickly or easily.

Travelling and vacations also present a unique set of hurdles for me. Where most anticipate getting away with excitement and eagerness; I always experience a sense of dread and trepidation and stress mixed in with the anticipation. I did adapt, however. As long as I allow an appropriate amount of time for mental preparation before and decompression after, I am able to enjoy time away. It is a bit exhausting, but cannot be overlooked, and it doesn’t matter if the trip is a weekend getaway or leaving the country. Because I don’t travel with any sort of frequency, there is no routine I can adhere to. If the mental preparation/decompression isn’t there, I feel “off” and am easily triggered, which doesn’t make me pleasant company. I have traveled throughout my life, and I have experienced wonderfully fantastic life altering vacations; but as much as the thought of travelling to new places is exciting and exhilarating, my reality is vastly different. Vacations just drain me and sap my mental energy differently than the average person. I am a tad envious of those who can pack up and go anywhere on a moment’s notice, even just for the weekend, but I understand now why I can’t easily do this and the potential consequences if I do.

I am my father’s daughter. He vehemently disliked disruptions of his own carefully crafted routines, and while my previous reaction was always in judgement, I cannot hide now from the truth glaring back at me, and the explanation so obviously right in front of me. He too needed time to mentally prepare for my mother’s wonderfully spontaneous tendencies to pick up and go. As years passed I believe he became more comfortable with letting my mother go out on her own to satisfy her wanderlust. He was perfectly content to stay behind. I didn’t get it. It even angered me a bit. Didn’t he want to spend time with her? With us? Many memories flood back of family trips…and dad’s meltdowns. They seemed comical at the time as we sat in the car ready to go in stunned silence, while he ranted on about a lost pencil he needed for the trip, or his sunglasses, or his keys, or a favorite hat. I understand now. How overwhelming it must have been for him! I don’t know if he was afforded time for mental preparation, but it frequently seemed as if he was on the verge of a meltdown; and he was easily triggered by items we perceived as trivial. I suspect now, for him, they held great significance as they were the pieces of his routine he needed to provide him with stability and predictability. The irony is that I possess those same idiosyncrasies, those same types of meltdowns if I do not have the items that provide me with peace and routine when travelling. Truly, the apple does not fall far from the tree; and once again, glimmers of light and understanding are revealed about this man I loved.