I want everything deleted. I want to backup everything to an external drive and delete everything. I want to delete my social accounts. I want to delete my blog. I want to wipe and fresh-install my laptop. I want to stop reading everything but books, because all the other possible reading decisions make me too nervous. I want to unfollow everything in my feed reader. I want to unsubscribe to everything in my newsletter app. I want to want to write nothing online except occasional homepage updates. Maybe I’d include a single “status” line to hold whatever I would have tweeted, but it gets overwritten with each new status and there’s be no archive. I want to just post photos to an iCloud album I can share with you, although that cuts out everyone not using Apple, I guess. I want to want to not worry if I’m missing out on something someone else said. I want to want to be inaccessible by feed. I want to want to not want to read any feeds. I want all that confusion to go away. I want to know how to get out of an internet that’s failing my brain but not anguish over feeling left out. I want there to be a way to go away from all of this but still have some idea of what’s happening. I want not what we have. But I don’t know how to want it enough to get rid of it all.
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.
There’s an organizational problem to solve in my fridge before my produce delivery today and when I tried to attack it my brain was flooded by incapacity and a kind of psychic claustrophobia.
“Anxiety chest” has plagued me all day, since I pushed myself to do a grocery errand in the hot sun despite my sensory sensitivities; it never let up once I got home. At one point I surrendered and went to curl up in bed, but it remained in place when I woke up. Ever since, any decision I had to make, or wanted to make, no matter how small (e.g. trying to find a movie to watch) has only reemphasized the feeling. My anxiety meds are a one-a-day thing, so no extra help there.
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?
Exhausted and on-edge from a full night of dreams waking me every couple of hours to a sinkhole of fear and anxiety hollowing out my chest; one I often could feel straight through to my back.
I’m thinking that two and a half years of regularly tracking my mood throughout the day is enough. It’s become as pointlessly habitual as Foursquare/Swarm checkins had become. I’m not learning anything, really, that I wouldn’t be aware of just from living itself without the incessant noting of each change in mood or activity. At this point, honestly, it’s just become another thing to which I have to devote my limited psychic resources, which seems at best unnecessary waste and at worst self-defeating.
Well, they won. By 1:00pm I was back in bed and asleep with the AirPods’ noise cancellation turned on, and I slept straight through until 4:30pm, and now I feel like I have a hangover, which likely will last until I go back to bed at the end of the day.
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.
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.
Still psychologically brittle from yesterday. I’ve lost count at the number of times today I’ve screamed at something at the top of my lungs.
In what thankfully became the end of it, I took a deep breath and girded myself for another call to Xfinity. After fifteen minutes of the first guy repeatedly refusing to listen to what I was telling him and transfer me to the escalation queue or specialist, he finally did that. The new guy tried a couple of new things, and then decided we should just roll me back to my original gateway, have me send back the new one I never asked for, and forget about it entirely. So that’s what we did. My nerves, however, remain very tightly wound on a spring-loaded hair of a trigger. For my troubles I receive a whopping $15 account credit.
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.