Category Archives: Emotion

Choking on Words

There are many times we are victims of our emotions. As someone with mood disorders, I know first hand our bodies will occasionally act independently from our brains and mouths. Recently, I’ve been seriously struggling with my depression and crippling anxiety. My sleep pattern has been completely wrecked, I’ve been very unpredictably sad at random times, and my eating pattern is similar to The Very Hungry Caterpillar on Saturday when it eats everything in sight.
This past week, I’ve consciously stepped back from some things to get more control over myself. The biggest challenge for me has always been awareness and catching things before I get too overwhelmed or meltdown. My pattern for dealing with these bouts has gotten pretty defined into several steps.

Reflect- What has not been working for me?
            – What have I been wanting to do but have not actively made time to do?
            – How do I feel when I (insert activity here)

Remind- When are some times you have felt really happy?
            – What relationships matter to you?
            – When do you feel the most complete?

Resolve- What can I do today to make me happy?
             – What needs to change so I can avoid going into a mentally unhealthy place?
             – Make a clear plan to address the roadblocks.

At these times, it’s a struggle to clearly express myself. Words get muddled with letters drying up on my tongue. Fingers move over keys only to write words to sentences never thought of or half imagined. This explains part of the recent absence from this blog. The other part of my absence has been dealing with a lot of interpersonal issues and those things clouding my writing. Luckily, things are changing. Noticing my problems is the second most important step in changing them.

Accepting that things are a problem and resolving to change them is the most important step

This week I’ve been more in touch with my spirituality and this has helped me center myself by being in the present. I’ve been able to hang out with some wonderful people in person which allows me to be social in easy to handle environments. Planning for epic roadtrips and weddings has already begin which makes me very hopeful for the future.

My emotions will always come with me on these adventures as they can help to enhance the trips. However, wherever I go I’m going to be the one in the driver’s seat. My emotions can ride shotgun if they want and control the music, but not backseat driving is allowed.

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.
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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.

Lamps

I have to deal with a Lamp on a regular basis. Now, this is not really a lamp. Instead it is a person who I have the same amount of emotional connection to as I would to a lamp.

It’s a survival trait long since carried on since childhood.
I’ve getting very skilled at it.

Now Lamps generally exist in one place and sometimes they get in our way. Certain Lamps may emit a high pitch buzzing which you have to deal with, even though you wish the Lamp was silent like all other lamps. There is always going to be a Lamp around somewhere so it’s not worth upsetting yourself over their existence. Lamps do have a place in the world and are useful to some.

I point out Lamps to make it clear I am capable of emotional detachment. It’s just something I’ve always done and I know of others on the spectrum who are equally skilled at turning people into Lamps. Lamps are people who have had a direct negative impact on my mental and physical health. This is the golden rule for me to turn people into Lamps.

That being said, people don’t tend to understand it. I honestly don’t understand if other people just walk around the world the world with invisible bags of emotions weighing them down. Do people really continue to hold grudges from years ago based on perceived slights? Doesn’t that cause you to be more emotionally drained while never really affecting the other person in the slightest? How, and most importantly why, would you regulate your emotions to the point where you don’t even listen to your own emotional compass when interacting with someone who clearly disregards your well-being?

I don’t have the interest or energy to try to navigate those social/emotional obstacle courses.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”- Nelson Mandela

It genuinely confuses me when people invalidate my experiences by attributing my behaviors to some past emotional context. The ironic thing is this only ever happens when I provide solid facts which cannot be manipulated with emotions. Some facts, like rules, exist independently of an emotional context. Yes, the speed limit is still 35 MPH even when you are in a bad mood.

 Translation of very recent conversation;

Me, “Hey, it’s starting to rain.” (Calmly standing by as the skies open and buckets of water begin to drench everything not covered)
Them, “Why are you making this about your past emotional trauma?!” (As they stand out sopping wet in the rain.)
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Back from my adventures, it’s become glaringly obvious some people just don’t understand me. I have the emotional fortitude and skill, after months of hard work, to not live in the emotional past. The injustices and trauma from the past year have lost their fresh “sting” over the course of time. Part of it may be giving a presentation on Bullying at a national conference in front of a room full of both friends and strangers. Part of it is also just acknowledging life has its fair share of Lamps and we must do our best to navigate gracefully around all the power-cords.

(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.

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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.

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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.

When the wave breaks

There are days when it is an achievement to shower and get dressed.

There are days when eating or remembering to eat enough is a victory.

There are days when the safest place in the world is my bed with my stuffed animals.

Having depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) does not make a person weak. It means the weight we carry is just more invisible. It is a weight sometimes only we can see and sometimes other do not understand.

Some people won’t understand why my blood pressure spikes when I see a blue Volvo drive by.

Some people won’t understand why I can’t listen to My Chemical Romance’s song “Poison”.

Some people won’t understand why I get a debilitating migraine and sleep 14+ hours a day from around February 27th to March 6th.

It doesn’t matter so much if people can’t understand why I struggle. The important thing is to realize I do struggle at times and it takes a tremendous amount of work to look like nothing is wrong. There are days when I’d rather spend my energy feeding myself and trying to do something I enjoy.

Sometimes I trap myself into thinking showing my true self is a sign of weakness. This is wrong and this is from years of conditioning from many different people.
I am a strong woman.
I became this strong by failing, by breaking and picking up the pieces after the dust settles.

My strength comes from pushing myself to paddle on in the rough waters and keep my head above the crashing waves. Going beneath the crest does not mean I’ve drowned. Sometimes the water is cool and is needed to wake me up.

I’m not drowning; I’m just going for a swim.

The Grieving Archeologist

This is the hardest week of the year for me. This is the week where as hard as I try, the creeping depression looms its head. Depression zaps my energy and steals time I would rather be spending working or hanging out with people. This also bites because this week always is always before my birthday and prevents me from looking forward to it. On March 2nd 2005, I sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury that stole my life from me. Not only did I have months of occupational therapy, physical therapy, medical issues, and no support from my school; I lost my memories.

Yes. Everything in my life before March 2nd in 2005 is now lumped as the scattered images in my head. School years, friends, major life events are all blurred together with no real details and only vague shapes of space where things may fit.

I lost it all.

When things first happened, people thought I was exaggerating. Even now, people don’t understand and can’t wrap their heads around the idea. I looked the same, but there were things I didn’t know or didn’t know that I didn’t know. Even know, I’m never going to know everything I’ve missed. I’ve spent the past few years relearning everyone other people learn in grade school about the world around them and I still have more to learn. It’s not like there is a checklist I could go through for memories and see if things are there. Some memories I glimpse scattered in dreams and others take a random trigger to get a peek at what once was.

There sits in my room, wherever that may be in the world, a small box. In this box there are notes and letters and photographs. When my family had to leave our last house, we couldn’t take everything. Most of my childhood drawings, photos, and childhood memories were left and destroyed in the house. In some ways it makes it easier to have my old life confined to the size of a shoebox.

This time of year I take out the box and try to look through things; searching for who I once was.

Like any good anthropologist, I look at the clues and try to make connections based on what is in-front of me and the resources at my disposal. I look at pictures of a little blonde girl playing with some friends and I don’t know who they are or where the picture was taken. Guess can be made, but finding the answers of names or places only gives small details of the story of her life. Was she happy that day? Were these her close friends? Why was she there that day with those people? These are just some of the eternally unanswered questions about the life I use to have.

My accident came 8 days before my 16th birthday and my birthday was spent in a full body CAT scan. When other people celebrate the life they have had on their birthday, I spent mine in unimaginable pain. This year I turn 25 years old, a quarter of a century, and I only remember the last 9 years. People tell me how young I am and my only response to them is “you have no idea.”

It is true, I still grieve for the life I’ll never remember. For years after my injury, I spent my time just trying to survive while hiding the emotional and physical pain I felt. It was only after asking those people who knew me both before and after the injury did I realize what was truly lost. My middle-school and high-school career was filled with anxiety and being bullied. I lived in a home more like a warzone where I was hostage to an abuser others denied existed. My self-esteem was crushed and I felt hopeless in my life many days.

 I can’t leave this post on a negative note, lest you think I dislike the life I have now.

I’ve been told after my injury, I became “Brigid” again. I once again became the strong blonde girl who didn’t let bullies hurt others, who cares about people she may never meet again, who stands up for what she believes in even if she stand alone, and I’ve found the happiness years of abuse from many people took away from me. It’s true I have remembered some of the worst things that happened to me, but it never feels like it was me living those moments. It was all just a girl who looked like me and shared my name. I’ve become stronger because I the things I’ve had to live through have helped make me this way when I didn’t let them break me.

This is the hardest post I’ve written and tears have been streaming down my face the whole time. Part of the reason I write so much now is an ingrown fear I’ll forget. I want a record of my life somewhere because I am missing 16 years of records. Thank you all for joining me on this journey and I am very hopeful of what is next for me. Not everyone gets a second chance to lead their life and I work hard to never feel like I’m wasting a second.

I’m Brigid 2.0: the new and improved version. (Now with 2 Birthday Cakes)

Resting, Relaxing, Relationships

This week I needed a break from my hectic schedule so I ran away for a few days. I ran away to New York to visit some friends and I did get caught in the storm on the way back.

Resting and relaxing is not something really in my nature. I jokingly blame my mother for this. We come from a family of hard workers. “Days off” are not really a common occurrence in my life and it’s only very recently I’m working on building them into my schedule. This break was very much needed because I could feel myself getting worn out.

Relaxing is important to everyone and leading the type of life I do, it’s even more important. If I get too stressed, my Lyme acts up and I will get very sick very quickly. I’m talking about not being able to swallow liquids or solids serious. 48 hours of that and then I’m needing to get my nutrients from tubes. Luckily, I have a Prius and can travel quite a bit on not a lot of gas.

My last day of adventuring ended up with me leaving Vermont yesterday. I bid farewell to one of my best friends and knew I’d be seeing him again soon. Through the winter storm advisory, my little prius ventured back to Maine. The glow of spending good times with my friends helped to keep me safe as the snow drifted around me. The people I hung out with are some of my closest friends. They know some of my deep dark secrets and still want to be friends with me. That means a lot since some of my baggage does not say “Handle with care” as much as “Danger: Contents under pressure” or “Warning: Flammable”.

I’ll be the first to say I’m not the best at interpersonal relationships. It was the observations of one of my best friends that really drove the point home to me. Talking about yet another person who I once was close friends with who now dislikes me, she pointed out the theme of my life.

“You know Brigid, that happens a lot to you. Some of your closest friends once really disliked you and people who you once were best friends with now dislike you. People either like you or they don’t. There’s no real middle ground.”

I’ve heard this a lot. Like A LOT. Something about this really sunk into me this time. This past year I’ve distanced myself from some people who are working on their own baggage and the place they are in right now is toxic to me. Or the more accurate thing is to say the more I learned about them the more I decided I didn’t want to be close to them.

How do you deal with that?

I’m quick to socialize and quick to trust some people, but the more I learned about some people the more I learn they can’t be close to me. I can’t be friends with people who are not patient, who are emotionally volatile, or who won’t communicate about serious emotional issues with me. Those people are best kept at arms length from me because I care too much. I care about people who don’t hesitate to wound me or who really don’t care about me.

That being said, I am learning more and more who I do want to be involved in my life. It’s important to realize now everyone will like me, but there are people who love me for my flaws. The love of my friends and family helps when the world feels too heavy. We all have those days when things pile up on us like the snow accumulating outside my windows. But the snow must end and summer is just around the corner. Things take awhile, but I can rest soundly knowing my friends can help dig me out if I need a hang.

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“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” ― Dita Von Teese

Green Eyed Purple People Eater

An Emotion is (usually) a reaction to a specific event. We tie our emotions to things the same way we tether balloons to the wrists of children so they do not become lost. For those on the Autism Spectrum, the amygdala in our brain processes emotions differently. From a structural point of view our brain is hardwired to deal with emotions differently.

Emotional competency involves understanding the physical effect our emotions have on our body and what we can do to understand our, as well as others, emotions. Cognitive behavioral therapies are sometimes used to help teach children about emotions using stories to help illustrate the points. It’s not that we are trying to be oblivious, we honestly don’t understand a lot of the emotions other people spend so much time focusing on. For many of us, it is easier to temporarily ignore the uncomfortable emotion and try to understand it at a later point when we can analyse it.

For my graduate class I chose to write a paper on Emotional Regulation and will be immersing myself in the topic for the next few months. So I get to pour over dozens of scientific articles about the study of emotions, how we react to emotions, and how we can have a healthier relationship with our emotions. I am specifically focusing on the Autism community, but again this is one of those important things EVERYONE could benefit from learning more about. Needless to say, I’m totally psyched to be able to dork out for hours on end researching and pouring over all the information.

This brings me to my biggest confusion.

Almost all emotions serve a purpose. Happiness to cherish the moments of bliss. Sadness reminds us of our loss in many different forms. Anger and the process of anger is a very undervalued emotion which causes more problems than you can shake a stick at.

Jealously is… different.

In this day and age, we combine the terms envy and jealousy. This further complicates the matter because envy is a defined emotion and jealousy is not. Seriously, Scientists cannot agree on any one definition of jealousy. Jealousy is a complex combination of emotions like anger, insecurities, and disgust amongst many other emotions. The complex and intangible nature of jealousy hurts my head.

Some scientists separate envy as wanting what another has and jealousy as a fear of losing what you have. Envy does have the power to motivate people if they channel their envy to a productive use. If you are envious of a fit person enjoying life and that motivates you to become more fit, that is a positive use of envy. Jealousy has destructive power rooted in a protection or hoarding mentality of wanting to keep your shinies all to yourself.

As a Autistic person, I download emotions in my own special way. I do my best to understand my own emotions and I have actively worked to trying to understand other people’s emotions. Body language, facial expressions, word choices, and many other things are affected by our emotions. It wasn’t until I started to try to figure out jealousy that I became aware of the global lack of understanding of Jealousy.

We paint pictures, write songs, and do our best to make sense of a senseless emotion. Some scientists think there may be an evolutionary root to jealousy connected with the desire to pass on our genetics. I think jealousy is a word we assign to emotions when we don’t want to deal with the real issue. Abandonment, insecurities, heartache, and every other painful emotions that makes us feel worthless. Jealousy is rooted in the fear we are not worthy.

But we are worth it.

You are worth good things happening to you. You deserve the best and can work towards being your own personal best. Just because someone else has a bright light shining, it does not take away the strength of your light. Your light is still bright and brighter because you know how things were before the light. Don’t worry, the light does not go away. Your light never has to go away unless you want it to.
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      “Jealousy is a tiger that tears not only its prey but also its own raging heart”- Unknown