Life: The mental state

Hi hello.

I’ve had this blog for over a year now and haven’t done with it what I’d like to have done with it. It is a mish mash of all things. I did some art, some writing, some movie rants,… Honestly truly, it’s a hot booboo mess.

My initial idea for the blog was to be a semi-diary, where I would explore issues I’ve had in a place where I would be more comfortable to do so than on a platform with more direct interactions.

But I chickened out because who deals with things, honestly.

However, 2019 en 2020 so far has been… Not good. And although I’m sure my friends would be willing to listen, I know that in the end I would downplay in just how dark of a state of mind I’m in currently to have them not worry about me.

I’ve always been an anxious and introverted person. I’ve dropped out of college because of this. Through some stuff and things I did end up getting a graduate’s degree and, after a couple of misfires, a long term job, a car and a small 1-bedroom appartment. I thought that once I would be able to live my life as my own, providing for myself etc. That I, would get my life on track.

I am aware anxiety doesn’t just evaporate, but it was manageable and I thought I was doing okay.

But as the year went on, things would go on to get worse and worse. I noticed that I was having trouble with memory, which led to me having trouble doing my job correctly. I just couldn’t seem to focus and remember things to the point that I was in constant fear that the things I thought to perceive and thought to have done a certain way would turn out to be an incorrect memory. Having a very vivid imagination makes this a whole lot worse. I can simply convince myself that something I imagined is the truth. But the other side of that coin is that I’m also very easily deceived. I can’t trust my own memory, so as easy it is to fabricate a memory, it’s as easy to convince me that a memory is fabricated. I spiralled and couldn’t ignore the problems anymore.

In the end I did book an appointment in the psychiatric hospital who referred me to a diagnostic center that specializes in ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ASD (Austism Spectrum Disorder). I went there for ADD. After a couple of consultations and tests, I am now diagnosed with ADD. I got prescribed the meds and I’m taking the meds.

Except that’s not all. The psychologist who interviewed me and relayed the information concerning my diagnosis also mentionned that she noticed a bunch of symptoms that could refer to me being on the autism spectrum.

To claim that this blindsighted me would be a lie. I published a post over a year ago concerning Newt Scamander as an autistic character in which I said that I didn’t think I myself was on the spectrum, but that I shared symptoms and therefore related somewhat.

My brother however is on the spectrum, a couple of my cousins are on the spectrum. It does seem to be a family thing.

The reason I never persued a diagnosis is simple: I had brought up the possibility to a psychologist I saw when I dropped out of college due to mental reasons. She made me take a very baseline test and the result was that if I was on the spectrum, the effect on my life would be so minimal that it wasn’t worth persuing. And I believed that.

In a way, I had known this entire time. Except I hadn’t known. I had noticed the symptoms and dismissed them, based on that basic test I took over 5 years ago.

The moment I was told that I might be on the spectrum, I wasn’t distraught over the diagnosis.

However, it makes me look at how I’ve lived my life in as something far more bleak.

The reason I sought help was because I felt exhausted constantly. I thought it was because of stress and anxiety caused by the ADD, but being confronted with an ASD diagnosis, I now realize that this might have a more serious connotation. Which is that I have been masking for the majority of my life and I was never taught how to deal with it correctly.

Masking is when an autistic person modifies their behaviour in public places to mask their autism to avoid stigma. Forcing oneself to hold eyecontact, for example. But also navigating through conversations and everyday interactions with people you see on a regular basis. Autistic people often “learn” what responses are appropriate through observing others and mimicing behaviours. When a person is in distress I will rely on past memories and conversations where I’ve witnessed similar topics and attempt to mimic them. This is still a risky thing to do, seeing as responses per situation also vary according to what the perceived relationship between the people inolved is. So to have a simple conversation there is a lot of thinking and assessing involved. It would be incorrect to say an autistic person doesn’t understand other people’s emotions. It is the processing of the adequate responses to their emotions where the difficulty lies.

That’s only a small part of what masking is about.

It’s measuring every action that you do to fit into society as seamlessly as possible. Now imagine doing this almost everyday for over twenty years.

I used to think that I was dealing with social incapabilities, being extremely introverted and shy.

Now it turns out I have been engaging in a coping mechanism that has shown to result in hightened stress, anxiety, depression and disturbing and dark thoughts that I now recognize to be suicide ideation.

I read that the life expectancy of people on the spectrum is around 50 and that the lead cause for this is suicide. My first thought was “I don’t think I can hold on for 24 more years”.

I wasn’t shocked in hearing that I might be on the Autistic spectrum. I guess I didn’t see it as that big of a deal if I’ve lived with it this long without it being diagnosed. But the realisation that I have been shoving down my entire personality and modifying my behaviour for as long as I can remember to fit a social standard for so long that it has led me to this… Stressed, anxious, depressed and convinced that the only way I’m worty anything is when I fit that standard… That’s terrifying to me.

I don’t know if this’ll get an update. Maybe when quarantine is over I’ll be more optimistic about my future.

Anyways..

Keep truckin.

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