After a terror of a nightmare I returned to sleep only briefly before waking at five to one cat spitting up because she again drank from dirty dishes in the sink, a stomach that kept me on the toilet for twenty minutes, and the other cat leaping over me in bed to attack a mystery something on the wall. Today seems not too great so far.
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.”
Breakfast might have been a cinnamon knot, but lunch and dinner both were salads.
It did not cool down sufficiently overnight and I got my windows closed about ninety minutes too late this morning and it’s going to be 100° again and today is going to be a bad day. I’m not saying it will be 100° inside; it won’t. But neither will it successfully remain only around 70° inside.
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.
It hit 95º outside by 3:00pm but so far, thanks to windows-open all night with a fan pulling in cool air until I shut everything down this morning, my apartment is holding at 70º. That will rise, but it looks like maybe I won’t hit 85º in here after all.
Proof of one last outing before the two-day heatwave sends us into the upper 90s, on a trip to Grocery Outlet for gelato. Processed in Lightroom using the Curve > Flat and B&W > B&W Flat presets, respectively.
The coming heatwave means that I had to push my SNAP benefits in order to get hot-weather food (read: salad fixings), but fortunately I’ve more easily been able to create funds buffers during stay-at-home social distancing. Still, I hate tapping out the EBT card before the end of the cycle.
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.
This blog might need a new Unsupported Use Case tag, as I’m always running into new ways in which I myself or things that I do can’t seem to have needs met. Today’s ridiculousness: for my Kobo, I really just need a lightweight, thin, rubberized case akin to my Spigen case for the iPhone 11. I’ve never really dropped my ereaders, and I’ve never scratched the display, despite typically not even using a case at all. The problem is that being a more cheaply-made device than the Kindle Paperwhite, the Kobo Clara HD should have something on it, as unlike the Paperwhite it’s not got a very secure grip to it in and of itself. Of course, no one makes Kobo covers that are akin to my preferred kind of iPhone case. Sometimes my google-fu is poor; if anyone spots a Kobo cover that takes this design approach, please let me know.
Awoke not long after five in the morning from maybe the most prosaic nightmare I’ve ever had. I was on a group trip to other countries, and during one outing I was falling behind the group walking up a long inclined urban road or path. Another of the group was straggling, too, but they went one way while I went another way, and then I even lost sight of them. Wandering aimlessly trying to find a way to help myself, I had no contact information for anyone on me, no smartphone, no bags. I ended up on a walking path above a highway, trying to find my way in what now had become night to what looked like a shopping mall, thinking maybe everyone had gone there. By the time I found my way down and away from the highway, it was just some sort of warehouse or factory, but I followed back alleys toward what seemed like more retail and office buildings, hoping to find the American consulate. On the way I had to cross an urban skyway between buildings, packed with people whose movements made the enclosed bridge sway, prompting a panic attack. Finally, I found the consulate and explained my situation. One agent started to say, “I don’t mean to be rude—” but I interrupted with, “So why do it.” The other agent said I’d be responsible for my own expenses. I said that I understood, I just needed help figuring out who to contact about finding my group. I woke up.
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.