Anxietyby spectrumscribe, postcardsfromtheedgeofthespectrum.wordpress.com
November 30th -0001
I changed jobs a few months back and what I knew would be a significant challenge has been more of a battle and for much of the time!
I’ve been forced into confronting my severe ADHD and Aspergers on a daily basis and my journey thus far has been painful.
- The pressure and anxiety have, at times, has been crippling
- But I’m still on track
- In uncharted waters!
The prize for overcoming these battles is the dream that I have cherished since my youth.
But in order to cross the finish line I will need to reach far beyond the limits of my neurological impairments.
- This is going to draw on skills that in some cases I will be accessing for the first time
- As well as all of the mindfulness I can muster
To achieve this leaves me but one course of action.
I’m gonna to have to really suck it up
- finally confronting my neurological demons……
- and transcending my Aspergers and ADHD!
See you on the other side.
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13 Nov 2012
According to Dr. Russell Barkley, as many as 60% of Autistic people have ADHD.
I am one of them.
This set of short video clips, captures the essence of my experience of ADHD.
If you have been touched by ADHD in any way, I hope you find this post helpful.
ADHD and Autism contrasted
ADHD and comorbid disorders
The ADHD and ODD connection
ADHD diagnosis acceptance
ADHD and family awareness
ADHD is no gift
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04 Nov 2012
by spectrumscribe in Aspergers, Autism Tags: anti-depressants, Anxiety, Aspergers, Aspergers Syndrome, Autism, Autistic, CBT, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Depression, Major Depression, Mindfulness, panic attack, self soothe
The Oxford English Dictionary describes mindfulness as follows:
A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
I appear to have stumbled upon this during my recovery from Major Depression, since being diagnosed 9 weeks ago.
I discovered mindfulness during the week following my Depression diagnosis.
I described my initial revelations about my lifelong pattern of absorbing the negative emotions of others and my tendency to assume responsibility for the negative emotions of others in Aspergers and Emotions, which I published in September.
This was followed by an account of my diagnosis, my condition leading up to diagnosis and my subsequent recovery, with the help of prescription anti-depressant medication in Aspergers and depression
Mindfulness – keep it simple
There is no shortage of books on the subject of mindfulness, but to date I have not read any of them.
I described my technique for cultivating and maintaining mindfulness in a tweet a few days ago:
- Build in a pause
- Acknowledge anxiety, fear, panic etc BUT stay focused on your goal
- Keep calm and carry on
Mindfulness in action
My anti-depressant medication lifted the fog and allowed me to see clearly again.
- It has also resulted in a more healthy and meaningful connection with my feelings
When a situation now arises that would previously have had me imploding in a panic attack, I have found myself questioning the situation like a logic puzzle.
- How were you feeling before this happened?
- What is the essence of the situation that now presents itself?
- Is there any reason why my happy, confident and optimistic feelings should be neutralized by this new situation?
- In that case, deal with the situation analytically and continue, while nurturing the positive feelings
I have been enjoying considerable success with this technique WHEN I remember to control my impulses with reason and logic.
Sometimes I forget to do this, but I seem to be quickly noticing my forgetfulness, by being aware of my changing feelings when I am met by challenges.
The other day I found myself in a situation that would have sent me into a panic attack 2 months ago.
- I acknowledged the situation, analytically
- I prepared myself for what might be an emotional assault
- Even accepting that I might need to run for the Xanax bottle
- But my feelings were unshaken
- Not even a ripple of anxiety
Mindfulness does not eliminate stressful situations and encounters.
- In fact sometimes it’s quite an effort for me to ‘stick to the script’
But what I am finding is that mindfulness is getting easier to apply and is starting to become a habit.
Aspergers and mindfulness
I am actually finding my version of mindfulness quite natural and easy.
I find the process very Autistic!
- Analyzing the situation
- Monitoring my feelings
- Asking some logical questions
- Making a logical conclusion
- Acting on my logical conclusion
This is also the essence of Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
- Identifying negative/toxic/unhelpful thinking patterns
- Challenging those thoughts
- Modifying my thoughts
- Embracing and celebrating the empowerment and joyous impact on my feelings
The Aspergers/Mindfulness paradox
It is no small irony that the very condition that leads to anxiety and panic attacks, is also the basis of the remedy, at least in me. Giving me the capacity for that hitherto elusive ability to ‘self soothe’
Much like the maxim that opportunity is often found disguised as hard work.
Mindfulness – keep it simple
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27 Oct 2012
25th Postcard from the Edge of the Spectrum
I went to an Ivy League school and even in middle age, I can still bench 220 without really breaking a sweat.
But 2 months ago I was diagnosed with Major Depression.
Hidden in plain view
Major Depression doesn’t happen over night.
It creeps up on you slowly until you are on the edge, looking over!
In my case it was also camouflaged by my decades long experience of Dystymia.
- Dysthymia is a minor form of Major Depression
- A low level of despair (to quote Jim Carrey)
I was as unaware of Major Depression as I was of having Aspergers, which I discovered only in my 40s!
I estimate that I had been suffering with Major Depression for at least a year.
- Perhaps as much as 2 years
I had pretty much come to a complete standstill, unable to think, in a state of inertia.
- I had lost my way
- Lost my purpose and my interest in the World
- Lost hope, lost my joy
I was apathy personified.
I was descending into hell.
I finally realized that I was too far from the shore to swim back in.
So I made an appointment to see a Specialist.
- It didn’t take very long for her to arrive at the diagnosis
- But for the complete absence of suicidal thoughts I would have scored full diagnostic marks
I was a mess.
I have now been prescribed anti-depressant medication and was told that I will probably need a 6 month course.
- Seems this is the normal course duration, with this medication at least
- To restore my neurotransmitter balance
The healing paradox
My medication is taken at night as it has a powerful sedative effect, initially at least.
The morning after taking my first anti-depressant pill, I awoke to a strange feeling.
- I felt as if a great fog had lifted
- I felt happy, which was quite a novelty after more than a year of utter misery
- I was alert to the world around me
- I was BACK!
These feelings have continued, without setback and the drowsiness passed after the first week.
It seems clear that the first step towards healing was when I admitted to myself and my wife, that I was in a helpless state.
- Setting aside my ego allowed me to be receptive to healing and to help
- It also kick started my cognitive faculties
This also happens to be the first step to recovery for those who are addicted to alcohol and other substances.
Back in the saddle
My progress continued, at a rate that seemed to surprise my Doctor.
I was able to identify that my work was the main underlying cause of my depression!
- I explored what aspects of my work I enjoyed and those I did not
- What aspects of my work were unhelpful/destructive?
- I then set about analyzing what kind of work and corporate culture would be most suitable for me
- Leveraging my strengths, while mitigating/eliminating the burden of my weaknesses
I spent several days putting together an up to date resume before sending it out to carefully targeted companies.
I am now working with a new company where I get to fully employ my knowledge, skills and professional credentials but in a structure that makes it much easier for me to be organized and stay organized (my main weakness)
The underlying disorder
After a few weeks on anti-depressants, I found myself feeling much calmer and better able to concentrate.
So under the supervision of my Doctor:
- I have discontinued my ADHD medication
- I am no longer taking anxiety medication either
I had read that one of the causes of anxiety is depression.
- There are many other causes
So I wasn’t surprised that my general feeling of anxiety had lifted.
- What astonished me was the speed with which it lifted, without returning!
- It also seems that what I had been calling anxiety was actually panic attacks
- In addition to a general, lower level of anxiety of more or less permanent fight of flight mode!
- This was an utterly crippling condition to have to live with
I really don’t know how I managed to continue functioning for the year leading up to my diagnosis.
The question is not how could I have developed Major Depression or how could it go unnoticed for so long.
- The real question is how did I survive for so long without professional help?
- Or perhaps, as with my teen years, how did I survive at all?
A friend who had wrestled with his own demons, as a former combat soldier, told me what keeps him going.
‘I always want to see what’s on the other side of the next breath’
That’s a very simple statement but powerful statement and one that I can relate to very well.
Somehow I managed to push my reset button.
- It began with ACKNOWLEDGING my depression
- Which meant I was open to healing
- I believed in my Doctor and believed in my medicine
- I started believing in myself again
- I have also begun a Cognitive training program
- To help improve my concentration among other things and
- To develop healthier thinking patterns
I have written this to help others who are suffering with depression.
Depression is especially common among those with Aspergers Syndrome.
No one is immune and depression is nothing to be ashamed of, any more than catching a cold is anything to be ashamed of!
If you have the strength to endure depression, you have the strength to take the first step toward recovery.
I would urge you to take that step and get some help, even if it’s just telling a friend or loved one about how you are feeling.
The Stand Up Kid
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28 Sep 2012
I recall 8th Grade being my most torturous year in High School.
I would usually walk the few miles to school as I enjoyed the private time and it also gave me time to prepare for the horror of another day of confinement as well as the anxiety at the hands of my tormentors.
The dread built up slowly during my walk to school and became terror as I turned the corner and saw the school building.
As I have mentioned before, my memory of High school has a lot of gaps, in part because it was almost completely devoid of any positive social interaction
- I have been told by those who do have happy memories of High school, that it is time spent with friends that is often the most memorable
Yet my memories of 8th Grade are more vivid than any other High School year!
- I can recall the layout of the Home room, the color of the desks, the chalk boards and the smell of the timber framed building
Although immature for my age, typical for an Autistic kid, I had sufficient emotional awareness to realize that I had been utterly socially rejected by everyone in Grade 8.
I knew that I was despised, even hated by some, but I didn’t understand why. What had I done ‘wrong’? Was it my hair, was I too tall, too skinny, too clever?
Was I just ugly!?
I remember living out that school year in utter despair.
Although I never considered suicide as an option, it had occurred to me, as a thought experiment, that the pain of High School would perhaps stop if I was no longer alive.
But my survival instinct and curiosity always kept me waiting to see what was on the other side of the next breath.
There was also one brief part of every school day that I enjoyed, was alive to and enthusiastic about.
The Class register!
This was my lifeline. Once a day, every day, our Home room teacher would call out the class roll during registration.
I would sit at my desk in anticipation, barely able to contain my excitement in the certain knowledge that my name would be called out.
I had memorized the class register and would mentally recite, in time with our Home room teacher, the names of all the other children until, the sweetest sound of the school day;
- I cannot properly describe the joy that I felt, hearing my name during roll-call every morning
- Because it was usually the only time during the school day when I would hear it spoken with any measure of civility
It was my one and only friendly greeting of the day, every morning.
It acknowledged that I was there.
It was proof that:
Socially the school day went rapidly down hill from there, every single day.
But once a day, for a brief moment, I ‘belonged’ to something, anything, even if it was just administrative record keeping and an entry in a book.
- For that brief moment I was not a reject, not invisible, not an object
- I was Human, I was afforded dignity, I was acknowledged and I was an equal
Some Autistic people have unusual memories for facts and details and I am one of them.
I have remarkable recall for the tiniest of details from decades ago and yet I am regularly unable to find my keys or my wallet at home!
Although 8th Grade is now more than 30 years ago, I can still recite my Home room class register of over 30 names as easily as I can recite the alphabet.
I am unable to do this for any other Grade, just Grade 8, which I think is an indication of how much of a lifeline that early morning, Grade 8 class roll-call was for me.
That daily early morning High school ritual, in which I heard the sweet sound of my name, has remained locked in my long term memory.
It is my eternal reminder that in the depths of my utter despair in High school -
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