Firstly, I'll just mention that a couple weeks ago I developed really bad joint pain. Shortly afterwards I had a bad asthma attack and ended up in emergency. They gave me a temporary prescription that helped me breathe but made it very hard to sleep, and now I'm on an inhaler which also helps me breathe with less (but still some) insomnia. And the day before yesterday I developed some kind of pain in my right arm that really interferes with typing, but seems to be gone for the moment (I hope). All that interferes a lot with blogging. [Note: Actually, it appears the earlier medication may have been slow to get out of my system, because the insomnia has steadily decreased until now I'm sleeping about as well as I usually do (which is mild difficulty falling asleep).]
Anyway, I've been getting counseling lately, with a psychologist who specializes in sexual abuse but knows very little about autism. Fortunately, she knows it, unlike many autism 'experts', so she's teachable.
Anyway, the second-last session I had, she was trying to give me a piece of advice which I could tell didn't apply to the kind of mind I have, but whenever I tried to explain, her reply made it clear to me that she was misinterpreting my response in the framework of an NT mind. The situation was this:
Many sources will say that in attacks of self-hate, you need to identify the thoughts that are triggering that feeling. I've also heard that if you can replace 'I feel' with 'I think' and have a sentence that makes sense, then it's not a feeling, it's a thought.
I don't know if this is true for NTs, but it's not true for me. But I can't really explain how it isn't true. Attacks of self-hate are triggering by a brief flash of a feeling, sometimes loosely linked with a picture. The feeling is of people watching me and judging me. But I don't think "People are watching me and judging me". It's like I feel the 'essence' of eyes staring at me in a judging, disapproving way. I very often have feelings like this, which are emotions combined with a kind of tactile 'essences' sometimes accompanied by visual images. There are no words to it unless I try to articulate how I'm feeling, and thereby place words on it. It's like saying 'I see a cat' in response to visual and tactile fur, raspy tongue, vertically-slitted pupils in green or yellow eyes, pink nose, etc moving in a cat-like pattern. The experience of interacting with a cat is not words, you simply put words on it.
So I was trying to describe this to the counselor, and not being very successful. And it was especially frustrating because I knew she was trying to help - I couldn't just think 'she's against me' and stop trying to explain. And I didn't really understand it myself (I still don't, but my understanding of it has shifted into relatively greater clarity while I was thinking about other things).
So she was giving me advice, and I just started staring at the ground and thinking 'If I don't say anything, she'll stop talking eventually.' I was trying to block it out. But this time, rather than just shutting off any positive relationship with her like I tend to do whenever I have problems with someone, as soon as she finished talking I told her what had happened. And so she dropped the issue for awhile, and we got it to some degree of resolution. We talked instead about my self-injury, and I decided to try to stop hurting myself. (And except for one meltdown - described below - and a few very fast unthinking hits on my head, I haven't hurt myself since.)
Later that day, I had a meltdown where I was screaming at my parents to 'listen to me' and trying to explain how I felt while working around my rigid mental rules of psychological self-defense that trap me during meltdowns. As usual, the result wasn't making much sense, particularly because we were all upset. I kept telling them they didn't care about me because if they cared about me they'd listen to what I was saying and their replies - making it clear they didn't understand - were proof they weren't listening.
And suddenly I realized that I'm very triggered by not being understood. Since only 1 out of 100 people is autistic and there is extreme variation in autism, this is particularly unfortunate. But that's probably a big part of why this is a big issue for me - all my life, and especially in school, I've been misunderstood and misinterpreted. In school they used it as a form of emotional abuse, but even caring, well-meaning people who've known me all my life find it hard to understand how I think. And a big part of the problem is that the vocabulary for describing mental states has been designed by NTs for describing NT minds, and so every word is basically an analogy for what's going on in my mind, rather than The Word for it.
I think I'll try to become a researcher into autistic emotions when I'm older, if I can. Michelle Dawson's articles about autistic thought describe my mind much better than the other research into autistic cognition (most of which only makes sense to me if I try to imagine observing myself with no understanding of how I think). If I could do the same for autistic emotions, that would be a big help. And trauma in autism in particular. I just wish the research I'm planning to do had already been done, so I could benefit from it.
Labels: asthma, autism, joint problems, normal parents, PTSD, school trauma, sexual abuse, steroids