My anxiety has been terrible lately. It’s been almost three years since I weaned myself off prescription medicines and made lifestyle changes to take control of my agita, but lately, I am starting to feel more and more paralyzed by those familiar feelings of weight on my chest, shortness of breath, clenched jaw, difficulty sleeping and often, waking in a cold sweat from fearful dreams… and an inability to concentrate.
Yes, I’m fully in the grips of anxiety and starting to wonder if I should start the frustrating and humiliating process of seeking out a doctor to begin prescribing my medicine again. You know that process… [insert long, rambling description of entire painful process from start to finish, here]. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t appeal to me.
I’m not anti-medication. I’ve spent most of my life, since the age of sixteen- on some sort of medication for anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD, or insomnia. The last three years have been the first time in my entire teen and adult life that I’ve actually been off every single prescription medication, other than hydrocortisone, which I have to take for adrenal insufficiency. It feels good and even empowering to be off all medications. I feel like I am finally myself again (whoever that is!), not disconnected from my thoughts, my spirit and my body. Medications always made me feel like my body and my mind were no longer interconnecting in an agreeable manner. They seemed to distract me from underlying issues, or just act as a band-aid to allow me to get through hard times and not feel the full force of the swirling vortex around me. I think I prefer to maintain an aware connection, though.
A friend suggested that I try L-Theanine to see if it helps my anxiety levels, so I ordered some yesterday. I’m eager to see if it has any effect, because I’d really like to take something natural. L-Theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that has a chemical structure very similar to glutamate, a naturally occurring amino acid in the body that helps transmit nerve impulses in the brain. So I shall try the L-Theanine, and continue trying to be proactive in my work to make sure I don’t get overwhelmed and stretched too thin.
Work has been really hard on me lately. It’s gotten a lot busier (which is awesome), but due to a whole scourge of problems I’ve had each month with a software program I purchased to manage my customer’s monthly subscriptions, I’ve ended up tacking on about 40 extra hours of administration time to each month- handling the software, the signups, the failed payments, the emails and messages going out to customers to try to resolve confusion and payment issues, and the nonstop requirement for me to be online on social media- to handle all of the stuff happening in real time. It’s been killing me, pretty much. Yesterday, when this month’s payments and renewal orders were set to go through- almost all of them failed. I ended up having to make some difficult choices about the software, and try to quickly figure out what to do next.
My helper, who handles customer service for me, was at work at her real job all day… so it left me on my own. And it was in all honesty, an absolutely terrible day. But I managed to get through it without completely melting down thanks, in completion- to my ability to hyper focus. I put myself into a trance-like state for ten hours straight. I didn’t move from my chair to eat, or drink, or… anything. And I got the job done, but now I am dealing with the aftermath. I’m exhausted, shaky, and I feel like I’m on the edge of Autistic meltdown. No, not a temper tantrum. An Autistic meltdown is a neurological reaction to stress, which if not stopped, then manifests physically. My meltdowns begin with a tingly, electric feeling in my limbs, and the sensation that my nerves “hurt”.
I’ve been feeling this way since yesterday afternoon, and it didn’t go away with a night of sleep. So this morning I made the decision to shut my shop down on Sunday morning, for a few days. I made an announcement about it, but I feel like I can no longer be Autistically out in relation to my work. The mere mention that I’m on the Autism spectrum seems to send some people into an offended tizzy. This past week, there was a “safe space for negative reviews” on one of the indie cosmetic forums, and the comments people made attacking my personality were really painful to read. I welcome constructive criticism of my products, because then I can improve them. But I will never understand why people think it’s alright to make fun of the Autistic person who is sincerely trying their best. A few weeks ago, I thought I was happily helping a customer on Twitter- giving her a link to an eyeshadow primer she might want to try, and explaining the scientific basis for why certain products work better than others with certain eyeshadows. I thought it was a great interaction. I was so wrong. She wrote on the negative review thread that I was passive aggressive, snarky and unhappy. Then she posted that I never shared her blog reviews (even though I had shared one 5 days prior). I was flabbergasted. I thought she and I had a nice conversation. Her words really hurt me, because they confused me, and I felt like she was being unnecessarily cruel and dramatizing our exchange (which is public- right on my work Twitter!)
But, what transpired with her just served to remind me that I am not in an Autistic safe space when I am online. I continually question my decision to be ‘out” about being Autistic, because I was truly naive to think that people would be accepting of it, or even remotely want to understand more about adult Autism. They don’t. They see it as an excuse, something that makes them uncomfortable, and they feel like it is “TMI”. People think Autism is a mental illness. I can’t say to my customer base, “Hey everyone, I have to close the shop down because yesterday took it’s toll on me, and I’m very worried I’m going to have an Autistic meltdown”. It would be great if I could, but it would not be well-received. People would say I was making excuses, and holding myself to a low standard due to my Autism. If there are customers who are accepting of it, I don’t hear their voices. I wish I could. For the most part I hear the voices of people who refuse to see my disability and how it affects my life, because they don’t want to even slightly shift their perception. I have an invisible disability to them. They don’t live with me and see me on a daily basis, so they have no clue how much I struggle. I make a lot of accommodations for myself in my work, because it’s the only way I can function. I don’t see the special arrangements I make for my neurology any different than someone in a wheelchair needing a ramp leading into their house. I make virtual ramps for my neurology to be able to tolerate a day in the life.
I long for acceptance, and feeling like I’m alright just the way I am. I am tired of being judged, made fun of, and consistently reminded that I’m broken and that some people think I shouldn’t be allowed to even speak for myself. I’m tired of it. I’m extremely tired of it, and it’s been building and building, for weeks. I am so sick of being made fun of. People say, “Haters gonna hate” but it isn’t really about haters. it’s about bigger concepts, such as ableism, and the constant struggles that adult autistics face on every single day of their lives.
Anyway, I’m completely fried, my nerves are tingling and buzzing, and I feel like I’m walking on a tightrope. So I went for a walk in the woods behind the house this morning, and captured some of the early morning sun in my garden, and on the first budding signs of Spring. And the expressions on the stop-motion images of my dogs? Priceless. C and I laughed so hard that it hurt, when we viewed those on my computer. I felt a little better after the walk and the laughter, but it’s not enough. I need a long and uninterrupted period of time in which I’m not being bombarded with sensory and environmental stimuli. I need to withdraw, which is what I told my customers this morning on my private Facebook group. I did not mention Autism. I am afraid to. I am afraid of being attacked and made fun of for what I am, for who I am. I just want to be myself. My silly, nail-biting, hair-twirling, quirky self… without fear of retribution.