Category Archives: Trigger

Transitions are rough

Historically speaking, Septembers have been rough for me. Moving from Summer to Fall has always signaled large transitions and I’m not the best at transitioning.

Yes, I literally teach a course in the subject.
No, I don’t like the actual act of transitioning.

There’s a blog post in the queue, but it was brought to my attention today is Suicide Awareness and Prevention day. That deserves a blog all on its own.

It was almost a year to the day where I was very very hopeless. Beaten down, no vision of the future, and feeling very depressed I wrote a note. At this point, I really thought no one would miss me. My so-called “friends” were treating me horribly based on my disability and this compounded my depression. There are times I wish not for my wiring to be different, but I wish for less difficulty with social interactions. I wish people would understand ME.

It was pretty much a perfect storm of trouble.

Luckily, there were people in my life who threw me a life preserver.

Last September, I chose homelessness over suicide and I’ve never regretted the choice.
————-
The biggest thing I’d like to tell younger Brigid is “people want to help you.” In those moments of darkness, it’s often difficult to see other people through our own fog. My concerns were of being a burden so it took people literally telling me, “you are worth being treated well” for me to understand they were being kind. Kindness was a foreign concept and one able to heal many wounds.

For those who struggle with depression and suicidal idealization, please know people want to help you. There are hot-lines staffed 24/7 so there are anonymous people to talk to and your friends, your true friends, will always be there for you.
Know you are worth the many conversations and reassurances.
Know you make the world a better place by your existance.
Understand the leaves will change and our situations will as well, hopefully for the better.
Know, you matter.

Give me my bag of skittles!

Sometimes a single skittle is awarded for for accomplishing a small task.

Last night I earned a bag of skittles.

I knew from my dreams last night would be coming and in a big way that knowledge helped prepared me. I went through, in my dreams, the scenarios where I was stabbed. Bleeding out on the floor, my final words were inspirational and poetic. The situations where I resorted to violence were met with acceptance and understanding of the consequences of my actions. I would be hauled away by the police, but met with compassionate looks by the officers who booked me. Earlier this week there was an elaborate fight sequence choreographed to a song from a mix tape my friend gave me which happened to be playing in the cd player in my car.

All of these random scenarios of chaos and violence and hurt prepared me for this night.
(Mainly, it was the months of therapy to properly deal with my abuse and the resulting trauma which prepared me for tonight. However, there was a significant amount of foreshadowing within my perseveration and nightmares.)

My abuser for the past several months stood mere feet away as I talked about my hopes and dreams with friends. My friends and I chatted about my dreams for the future over a drink, something I didn’t have months ago. (A view of the future is something people don’t always have when they are bullied down into submission. For months I was in a place where I didn’t want to think about what was going to happen once I got home, let alone in several months.) Things were doing exceptionally well for the circumstance, but I knew what was coming.

My fear was not so much contact from my abuser, as contact from One of the other parties. The One who watched me being abused. The One who researched Autism and held me as I cried on my couch as I wondered, “why won’t she understand me. What am I doing wrong?!” The One I felt a sisterly bond for the first time since College and The One I had supported when she felt the world was against her.

The One who’s last words to me all those months ago were, “You could have handled (her {The Abuser’s} treatment of you) better.”

The only contact I have had with The One in months (Since September really) was tonight. At the end of the night, after Waltzing around the room the evening, she came up to me. She was the one I was afraid of talking to for fear she would not understand the trauma I endured from her. Maybe, despite all her research and knowledge and degrees, she did not understand her neutrality will be remembered in the annals of my memory with the people who directly hurt me. For all the complicated issues, maybe she can not understand what she did.

Maybe that is why she chose the end of the night to hurriedly come up to me  to say anything to me.

In the many scenarios in my head I could have;

  • Resorted to violence.
  • Wept.
  • Run away. 
  • Screamed.
  • Cried. (A common theme)
  • Cursed her out using foul language.
  • Cursed her out using an ancient curse.
  • Teared up. (See a pattern?)
  • Screamed.
  • Asked her simply “Why?”
  • Asked her if she felt bad about her role in the chaos of my life.
  • Begin talking in French and walk away.
  • Run away. (Another popular motif)
  • Not say anything/ignore her.
  • Left and went into the bathroom and engaged in self-injurious behavior. (Far down on the list but considering how damaged, wrong, insignificant I was made to feel for months this was #1 most likely to occur.)
  • Hugh Jackman carries me away and I forget the life I lived as if it were a bad dream.

None of these things happened, however much I wish the last one to have happened.

Instead, I looked her in the eyes and simply said, “Goodbye.”

She was leaving for the night as the club was closing and I don’t know if she fully registered the significance of what I said. If she happens to be reading this, it means closure. It means Goodbye in the sincerest form. It hurts to let go of a 10+ year friendship, but not as much as I expected it to. No longer will I look out in a crowd while performing searching for your face, wondering if you decided to catch the show tonight even though you RSVPed no on Facebook. I won’t be afraid to attend events I want to go to because they matter to me, even though I know you will be there.

The opposite of love is not hate; it is apathy.
No tears were shed as I realized the pain I experience in 2014 is finally over. I have ended the relationships that needed to end and I have closure.
I can finally bury my dead bodies.

I earned all the *$&%ing Skittles last night.

It is not okay to kill your child

“Well, I can understand…”

“Well, she was under a lot of stress…”

“We can’t judge…”

“We can’t know…”

If you read my letter to Alex, you know it really affects me when parents murder their Autistic children. What also contributes to the issue is people who come to the defense of the murderer. I will say that even though I did not birth him, I still acted as my brother’s parent growing up. He may have been an unholy handful at times but I’d sooner kill myself than him.

The discussions that are not happening are about the other options for the parents besides the extreme. Extended family visits are an option and, in some states, abandoning your child is also an option. In situations where there is another parent, say to them “I’m going to a motel for a weekend to sleep and read by myself or I may kill our child.”

This is not happening to deaf children.
This is not happening to diabetic children.
This is not happening to children born with degenerative medical conditions.

It is autistic kids who continue to be murdered.

(Don’t) Panic

I don’t have many memories of when I was younger.

They all tend to blur together in a random mess of connections. It’s interesting because sometimes memories will be triggered by a specific sense. The smell of Florida is one that always stays in my mind. My mother, father, and little brother would vacation down there in the winter. We staying with my grandfather in his retirement village. We drove down from Chicago some years and I think in there lies some of the reason why I love to travel by car. One time, I managed to back all my barbie gear and can almost remember how things looked out on the porch when everything was assembled. I can almost remember the book I was reading that dropped in the water, or it got dropped in a pool, or it somehow got wet. 

I almost remember which book.

So when I did my Midwest/Southern road trip: Escapism Is Cheaper than Therapy, I only briefly passed through Florida. I say briefly because it takes about ten hours on I10 to cross the top of the state. That was the only time I really paid for a hotel/motel. I needed to rest. That’s when the smell triggered me back to my childhood. I remember an ice cream stand in the shape of an ice cream and a mini golf course.

———————
When I was younger, my parents and doctors thought I had a heart defect. I don’t know how long, but I know I wore a electrodes attached to a bulky electrical box. Once I week we would connect this box to our telephone and it would transmit things to the doctors at the other end of the line. This was in Chicago and since my father knew so many medical people, I remember these guys had a fancy office.

It turns out it was not a defect, but panic attacks.

My panic attacks are very well defined and they have become even more refined as I get older. They still mimic some of the same characteristics, however there are new more devastating results.

When I was in College, I started experiencing some very bad health problems my freshman year. This was after have a very difficult transition to College because I was still physically recovering from my Traumatic Brain Injury and taking tons of medication to control, in part, anxiety. The worsening health problems came from Lyme disease which I had contracted but never experience a ‘target mark’ so it went undiagnosed for years. As an autoimmune disease, Lyme really can be devastating when I have a bad habit of getting myself so stressed out that I become physically ill.

I miss 279 days of my high-school career due to medical issues. I still managed to get on the honor roll a few times, much to the dismay of several people who did not take my medical issues seriously. I’d love to one day receive an apology for how I was treated by some, but it does no good to stay fully in the past. I’d like to say I’ve forgiven many of them who said horrible things to/about me, however the truth is simply I’ve forgotten about them. The only benefit to some of my TBI is I’ve been able to forget some of the bullying I’ve endured, at least most of the time. Being a survivor of many types of abuse, being treated certain ways can induce a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Panic Attack.

Part of my complete health overhaul has been getting myself in a place where I can remove extraneous anxiety from my life. I have the skills now to know how to remove myself from situations which will induce a panic attack. It’s taken me a bit of time to spot some of my triggers and it is still a work in progress.

My biggest problem lately has been my stress load. It has been getting very stressful in my life and this has compromised my health. I’ve been having non-epileptic seizures recently, which I have not had since the end of September. My lyme disease has acted up because I’ve been so stressed and this is causing me to be tired, thirsty, nauseous, not hungry, as well as increasingly difficult to swallow. My anxiety also is directly connected to my sensory system causing everything to be hyperactive. This means I can hear things from far away, see very well in virtually any condition, smell things stronger or lingering odors, tastes are stronger or sometimes taste completely different, and every spot on my body has a painful sharp needle feeling similar to when a body part has fallen asleep resulting in one limb being paralyzed for an indeterminate amount of time.

This is my life now.

This is crippling and debilitating feeling. It is on these days when the world swallows me whole that I get the most messed up feeling of optimism. I have no idea where it came from except my mother takes credit. It is on these darkest days when I know the good days will mean so much more. I know those days are filled with laughter and happiness. Those are waiting for me on the other side of this cloud.

I’ve known what it’s like to get lost in this anxiety cloud. I know all too well what toll this is as it’s one a pay every few months. Normally, it’s just a weekend break or something and I pick up the pieces and move on.

This time it’s different?

I’m not use to letting people see the vulnerable side of me. Sometimes when I show the breaking, people run away. I break loudly and ‘suddenly’ all because some straw finally broke the camel’s back. I’m pretty sure this is an autism thing, too. The world gets too loud for us and instead of people helping us quiet it down their voices get louder, too. The anxiety causes me to distance myself from some people out of….self-preservation. Some people it takes a lot out of me to interact with them. Those are the people who move and think very quickly while I’m still lost in the corner. The speed at which they move and talk actually increases my anxiety.

I remember in college interacting with people and it triggering me at times when it seemed like their words fit seamlessly together or moved too quickly. Unfortunately, I hung out with debaters, performers, and campus leaders. These are all pretty loud groups and often I would end up overwhelmed.

It’s been said multiple times by multiple people; nobody is ever neutral to me. People either enjoy my company and like me or else they find me frustrating and rude. It’s in large part because I don’t know how to interact with people in every situation and sometimes I say things which come out just ‘wrong’. I’m still actively trying to work on the interaction part, but as I’ve mentioned earlier it is a work in progress.

———————————
Last night I remembered somethings.
I was triggered back to younger days in different paces. These were memories from when I was much younger and but even more recent. The seemingly random pieces of memories, a view of an elevator or a feeling of the carpet in-between my fingers, again share a sensory trigger.
This trigger is the same panic attack long thought of as a false memory or a bad dream. Trying to convince myself it was only a story I once read, I know this feeling too well in my body.

Even as I move around to new states and grow up, this lump in my chest still feels like home.

This is living with anxiety.

Let the floods come in

There’s a snap that happens. Maybe it’s just me, but I doubt it’s only me. My snaps just ring silently under the skin until they leak out.
This is the peak when overwhelmed greets anxious.
It’s these times when I wonder how something so loud can be so silent.
These are the days where the last stone finally slips out of place and the floods race in.
————————
This snap is very familiar to me and I’ve experienced it since I was a child. It’s the snap of anxiety when it finally takes your breath away. As a former friend once said, it can reduce me to “a crying ball of useless-ness on the floor“. Yeah, I’ll forever remember those words as a warning to stay away from a person who I once considered a dear friend.

As much as I try to manage my anxiety, yesterday was the breaking point.

I’d been seeing my warning signs written on the walls, but I had been trying to ignore them. I’ve been too forgetful. I’d walk into rooms and not even know why I was there and forgetting important things. My appetite has been non-existent while leaving me with a nausea feeling. Bruises have once again randomly appeared because I have not been paying enough attention to my body and I don’t always realize something is wrong physically. And then there’s the emotions which just cap off the everything.

My overwhelm sessions don’t scare me any more because I know what they mean now.

Some people come home from a stressful day and they take a hot bath or have a drink to unwind. I don’t do that. I just keep going. I process my stress and anxiety internally so it affects me physically. This leads to the number one thing I’ve heard for my entire life and I heard it again yesterday.

This seemed to come out of no where. One minute you were fine and the next you were crying.”

THIS is anxiety on the spectrum. It’s not just that there is a difficulty separating ourselves from anxiety, we literally get stuck in an anxiety loop. It’s a real thing and terribly ironic that I had to grade an assignment on it this morning.

I’ve stopped looking at my crashes as a negative thing or as if there is something wrong with me. The jerk who thought he could make me feel worse about my own mental health issues underestimated me. I am vulnerable, but not useless. I am fragile, but not delicate. I am strong and I am also weak. Unfortunately, I need to reach my crash point when enough things aren’t working in my life. For me, this is just a sign to rebuild and make things stronger.

I’ve been slipping into ‘unhealthy’ the past few months and it’s time for a bit of a reboot. I’m not ashamed of my struggles because I know other people face them. When I posted the poetry/reality at the top of the page, 3 of the 4 people who responded with messages are on the spectrum. This type of anxiety and meltdown is something we know all too well.

Slut-Shaming on the Spectrum

In popular culture, women are presented in two distinct ways. They are presented as sexual objects and we condemn the women who embrace their sexuality as sluts. We also tell women they should remain chaste and modest or else they will get pregnant and their lives will be over. For women on the Autism spectrum, these juxtaposed stereotypes pose even more problems.

I’ve mentioned the concept of schemas before, or the way we organize ideas into different categories. People on the Autism Spectrum function well by placing things into schemas, even when things are way more complicated than just slapping a label on something to figure it out. The concept of what a woman should be is something many females struggle with and even more so women on the spectrum. We get concerned with choosing the “right” option and this creates a lot of anxiety. In the world of glossy magazine covers, we are bombarded with how we ‘should’ look and how we ‘should’ behave.

In my opinion, one of the most personal choices anyone can make is in relation to the expression of their sexuality. Some women choose to wear revealing clothing or make-out with their partner in the street, that is how they choose to embrace their sexuality. Others keep their expression behind closed doors with the lights off. Some people are raised with religious guidelines or have family values instilled in them as to how they should behave in regards to sexuality.

A problem I’ve seen in my professional and personal life is when parents or guardians don’t want a person to explore their sexuality for a number of reasons. This may be a personal reason or because they don’t want their children to explore what many consider to be ‘intimate relationships’. I’m very much in favor of having open communication and educating people on what healthy relationships should look like. There are situations where a person may not have the ability to consent to intimate relationships with another person, but they should not be left in the dark about their own sexuality.

It’s a difficult talk to have with anyone, but it is a conversation that needs to happen also to protect the individual from being taken advantage of. It is a scary reality, but there are predators out there who do take advantage of others. Education on ‘good touch’ or ‘bad touch’ is important to help people know they should tolerate and when they need to let someone know something wrong is happening.

 ******
More that 90% of people diagnosed with a developmental disability, this includes Autism, will experience some form of sexual abuse in their life. 49% will experience 10 or more incidents of sexual abuse.  
– Valenti-Heim, D.; Schwartz, L. The Sexual Abuse Interview for Those with Developmental Disabilities.

******

This being said, there are people with all types of ability levels who are in healthy relationships. These may be not be the conventional hetero-normative one man and one woman, but the relationship may make the person happy. There may be people who have intimate relationships we don’t understand or that may go against our beliefs in relation to age, gender, or any number of other variables.

That’s not our business.

To voice our opinions of what a person does with their sexuality it to slut-shame them. I’ve seen it happen very recently to a young woman was told she should not have a boyfriend until she has resolved all her mental health issues and she should break up with him because there are stressers in her life. There will always be stressful things happening in our lives. I’m currently experiencing some seasonal stressers, but I do my best to deal with things in a healthy manner for my overall mental health. I’m sure some of the people reading this right now are experiencing stress. Sexuality is not a reward to being a good person or not having a stressful life; sexuality is part of the human experience.

I can’t judge someone for how they choose to express their express their sexuality because I’m not them. There are so many mixed and contradictory messages out there, all we can do is help educate people on what healthy relationships should look like and not judge people for how they choose to express their sexuality. As long as a person is in a healthy and happy relationship, why should anyone else be affected by it? Sexuality is not a one size fits all box, it’s custom made.