Having just gotten back a response from my initial inquiry to a potential new psychoconsultant, I now have a copy of what I’d submitted through their online form, which I said I’d have included here had I thought to save it.

How can we help?

I am a midlife-diagnosed adult autistic (with anxiety/OCD co-morbidities) looking not for “treating” my autism (that’s not a thing), but for the helpfulness of regular “check-ins” with someone, as well as to hone and refine (and potentially develop) accommodations, mitigations, and self-advocacy. It’s important to me to find someone who understands that the socially-performative aspects of therapy in and of themselves are problematic for an autistic brain. Bonus points, therefore, if it’s possible to do outdoor walk-and-talk therapy. I’m especially interested in someone who is responsive to the idea that in many ways the autistic brain, esp. with sensory sensitivities, effectively is being subjected to mini-traumas (feel free to ask about my blogging about this).

I’ve found it difficult to condense everything I think a potential psychoconsultant should know up front before attempting to have a conversation with me. It’s still too long for what should be an elevator pitch, and yet the shortest I’ve yet managed.

Today during one of my intermittent checks of the web for psychoconsultants who are (1) local enough, (2) covered by my insurance, and (3) potentially applicable to a midlife-diagnosed adult autistic with Opinions About Autism And Psychotherapy, I found a place that’s a fifteen-minute bus ride away. Only one of the relevant people on staff currently is taking new clients; I sent an intake inquiry. I forgot to save a copy of what I sent them via their online form, otherwise I’d include it here. I don’t suppose browsers somewhere temporarily save web forms you’ve submitted?

The newsletter of Spectrum News this morning re-linked two older articles about kids who “lost” their autism diagnosis having all sorts of developmental, learning, psychological, or psychiatric issues “to the researchers’ surprise”. One of the articles is about research I’ve mentioned before, and I just wanted to underscore here what I said there, which is that if you’re “surprised” at a result, you should be asking why — and the crucial why here would be asking whether or not the “early intervention” treatments to which these kids were subjected in fact might be responsible for all of these other problems they have after they “lose” the diagnostic label of autistic. By which I mean: perhaps they are still in fact autistic and you’ve simply trained them to suppress it, leading to all the other things you’re “surprised” by afterward.

‪New, weird stim I somehow picked up in the last couple of months: bending an arm up at the elbow in such a way as to tuck my hand into my armpit, the hand itself bent in on itself at the wrist, so that my armpit is exerting pressure on the wrist joint.‬ Typically just one arm, while my other hand is holding my phone, or my Kobo, or the TV remote, or whatever.

Popping up in On This Day today is this post about research suggesting that autistic brains aren’t capable, or are less capable than neurotypical brains, of habituation, potentially helping explain autistics’ sensory overload and hypervigilance, and potentially ruling out exposure therapy for autistics. This is a good starter post if you want to know what I think about my brain, as it’s one of those posts where I draw several previous posts together in a sort of unified, “Aha! See, I told you.”

It cost a bit more in terms of money, but in order to save costs in terms of psychic resources, the salad fixings I bought for the heatwave included a package of peppers and onions that had been pre-cut for grilling, which meant no prep for cutting; just cutting. I’ve come to hate the process of salad-making, because I find it exhausting. Anything I can do to shave off some of the effort means that things like actually thinking about salad as a wya to survive the heatwave don’t fizzle out into not having the energy then to make a salad at all.

Steep increase today in construction-related noise right outside my windows (it also reflects back at me from the fence on the other side of my apartment), My muscles are tense, my nerves are on edge, my shoulders are hunched, my breathing is off, my heart-rate is up. And because we’re still in a global pandemic, there’s nowhere I can go to just sit somewhere else all day. I just have to take it.

Trauma Without Memory?

Jacob Stern’s harrowing look for The Atlantic at the mental health aftermath of California wildfires had me thinking again about autism and trauma, which came to mind a bit ago when I was being struck by all those realizations about having autobiographical memory deficiencies.

Psychologists sometimes say that trauma gets burned into the mind, like the imprint of a branding iron, and in a way it does. In truth, though, trauma is not so much a scorch mark as a flame, flaring up and dying down, inconstant. It burns in the mind. And just as some materials burn more readily than others, so too do some minds.

Part of this is genetic. Another part is cognitive. But a growing body of research has also linked vulnerability with prior exposure. “When traumas accumulate over time,” says the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, “they may be associated with more severe and complex psychological reactions.” For an alcoholic or a battered partner or a victim of sexual abuse, this means a heightened risk of serious mental-health problems. And if another disaster strikes—say, a pandemic—the risk rises higher still.

It got me thinking about how much worse would be the mini-traumas (I’m trying to find the language to describe what I try to get at when I talk about autism and trauma in a way that doesn’t seem like I’m trying to complete with what I keep wanting to call real trauma) my autistic brain experiences if I wasn’t memory deficient, aphantasically incapable of retrospective visualization.

What I mean is that the little traumas suffered by my particular autistic brain aren’t attached to actual stored memories of the traumatic stimuli themselves. Rather, it’s like my, for example, sensory pathways are ridden with potholes caused by such stimuli. When new stimuli has to travel those same pathways, well, it’s much like you don’t need ever before to have driven down a road in order to suffer the bumps and bruises of its potholes. For all intents and purposes, my not having any true experiential memory of things is akin to not having driven that road before (even though, technically and actually, I have).

So I can’t imagine having to suffer not just the potholes themselves but the sense-memory of the trauma that put them there in the first place.

It was in my mind mainly because I was trying to understand how these mini-traumas the autistic brain is beset by could really cause a kind of accumulation of bad feeling, and how new stimuli could “recall” earlier such traumas if the memory parts of that same brain can’t actually recall those earlier traumas.

For some reason this Atlantic piece, for entirely indirect and just sort of quasi-associational reasons, made me realize that trauma effectively causes stimulus pathway damage, whether or not you actually can remember that damage being done.

Not to oversell it but legitimately I cannot overstate the degree to which the Scott Pilgrim table read this morning enabled me to close the door on the exasperating weekend; it completely interrupted and transformed the potential tenor and the tone of the day, and enabled me to focus on a number of other things, including even being able to hop on an Xfinity chat to make sure they had a note in my account about why I’d sent back the new gateway and not the old one, which if you now my autistic self and you know how emotionally bruised I felt on Saturday is no small thing.

Status: I’ve now been more than twenty-four hours without Internet because the new gateway Xfinity sent me that I didn’t ask for but I guess they require now only coughs errors during setup and therefore does not function and none of the “Comcast Cares” reps have been of any help whatsoever, when they bother to talk to me at all rather than go silent in Twitter DMs for anywhere from two to fourteen hours at a stretch, or after half an hour of phone “support” brush me off with a “if it’s not working in thirty minutes call back”. Meanwhile, of course, their system also now won’t recognize my old gateway, so I can’t even just put that back in. And at this point, with no service — in both meanings of the word — and no recourse, I am rapidly falling now into the danger zone when it comes to my anxiety and the cognitive rigidity and emotional dysregulation that can come from being autistic and I am flailing to find a foothold to keep from dropping into a full autistic meltdown. I feel almost exactly like I do when I wake up in the morning and literally my eyes will not open.

The terrifically open C. M. Condo has a good, incisive look at the mental bruisings actually-autistic people can take — if not inflict upon ourselves — from just trying to navigate the world, and how this can spiral into beating ourselves up.

This failure now looks utterly predictable and I am bouncing back and forth between berating myself for having the meltdown in front of the teenagers and berating myself for not seeing it coming. I could have leaned on my sister more and I didn’t. I saw myself running low and pretended that running low was not inevitably followed by running out. I figured I just needed to hang on through whatever happened and I would be OK.