I'm a mess... again...
Updated: Jul 21, 2019
There seems to be a pattern here. I go up, feeling relaxed and fine, I take on more than I probably should, and I crash...
It's so unfair though, because the 'taking on more than I should' part, is really in no comparison to what someone without autism/ADHD can do.
The moments I do okay, are the moments when I'm bubbly, excited and enjoying myself. Six days ago, my kids had a Monday off from school , so we took the opportunity to visit a theme park. It was quiet since most kids were in school, we all felt good, and really we had a wonderful day. I wore my headphones a lot, which really helped me keep calm and I even drove home for 1,5 hours! That's unheard of for me. Yes, I was pretty tired coming home, but I was still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as they say.
I had a terrible night though. I was wide awake for most of the night as my brain was still doing flip flops and dancing the Macarena. I couldn't stop they ongoing stream of mental images which had absolutely no meaning, but my brain kept digging them up. So, come Tuesday, I decided to work from home. I was absolutely scatter-brained all day, but managed to keep myself on track, well, somewhat. I had a phone meeting with someone in Spain, worked on a sales commission chart and crossed off a few things that were still left undone. I thought I had taken good care of myself, given that I had decided to work from home, but looking back, it took me a tremendous amount of effort to keep myself focussed and awake.
On Wednesday, I promised to take my neighbour, who doesn't have a drivers licence, for a quick shopping trip. We bought some clothes, had lunch and all was good. I started yawning a lot though. I had a reasonable good night sleep, but the crowds in the city center were quick to wear me down. Once I got back home, my eldest came back from school and played with her brother, while I tried to catch up on some more work.
Thursdays I was fine again. I worked at the office, had a couple of good meetings and I also had a doctor's appointment in the afternoon to fill out a form for my drivers licence (I need to get retested because of my autism). I had never been to this doctor's office before as I never needed to get retested before, and once I got there, the lady behind the counter informed me I couldn't pay with a debit card and needed cash money. However, the nearest ATM was a 10 minute drive away. This unexpected change of plans got me stressed. It got me unproportionally stressed. It was one of the drop proverbial drops that made my bucket overflow, except, I had no idea it was this full!
'Don't worry dear, see the doctor first, then drive to the ATM and come back with the money', the doctor's assistant said. It sounded so easy. It sounded like no big deal. But for some reason, it sounded absolutely distressing to me. Drive ten minutes to the ATM, get money and drive 10 minutes back, that would take a good 30 minutes out of my schedule! I didn't know where to look, I didn't know what to do, even sitting across from the doctor, I didn't know what to say.
My brain was completely pre-occupied with the steps I had to follow next, so pre-occupied even, that I suddenly went blank.
The doctor signed my papers, I walked out of his office, and I had no idea what to do next. I should drive somewhere, but where? And why? I couldn't remember. I must have looked like an idiot, because the doctor's assistant felt she needed to come to my aid, that angle! She made an exception by letting me wire the money when I got home and that would save me the trip forth and back to the ATM. Oh, the relief...!
I drove home but was unable to function properly for the rest of the day.
Friday is usually the day I go swimming with my neighbour. I was so exhausted from work, appointments and unintentional stress, and I was also behind on work. So, I canceled on swimming and spent the morning and the first part of the afternoon catching up on work. In the afternoon, I took my daughter to her swimming lessons and the day went by pretty uneventfully. Again, I thought I had taken good care of myself by canceling on swimming and working stress free from home. But, in the evening, I started getting restless and agitated again. I couldn't sit still, I was struggling with my breathing and even the sounds and lights coming from the tv were too much. I felt a tiny meltdown coming on, so I decided to go to bed early. Again, I was trying to take care of myself.
After a reasonable night's sleep, we decided to take the kids to the city fair. My autism really wanted to stay in, but my ADHD was campaigning inwardly to go out and do stuff. Add a couple of excited kids, and out the door we went. We tried our luck at the claw machine, bought a big lolly for both the kids, drank tea in a local cafe and went for a ride in one of the attractions. We had so much fun and spent about 1,5 hours there before we decided to go home. I had reached my maximum and it was better to lay low the rest of the day. Again, I tried to take of myself.
As it turned out, all the roads going home were blocked due to either construction or other events. We had to take an enormous detour in crowded traffic to get home. Again, the stress of this unplanned event got to me. I took some deep breaths, tried to focus on relaxing myself and tried to deter my thoughts by talking to my husband. I was trying to take care of myself, to manage myself, but again, my efforts were in vain. After a good 30 minutes in the car, I noticed my right arm was going numb. I could hardly move it, and if I did, it felt like moving it through a thick paste. It started feeling cold and I noticed a couldn't get a quick response out of it, which was worrisome, because I was the one driving.
I checked my face in the rear-view mirror. My smile was still even, my thoughts were clear, I spoke clearly, and my right leg was feeling fine, so that ruled out anything serious.
I turned to my husband. 'I think I'm having a dissociation', I said. He looked at me with a puzzled face. 'A what?' I explained to him that I could barely feel my right arm and that it might be wise if we switched places. Dissociations happen to me when I am stressed. I don't know why my body does this, but for some reason any part of my body can go 'offline' for any length of time without me having any control over it. During the rest of the drive home, the numbness slowly disappeared and by the time I got home, I felt fine again. Still, the whole event left me feeling unsettled.
Some of my daughter's friends came over to play and I brought them back home around 5 pm. We had pizza and after I put the kids to bed, I decided to draw a bath for myself and relax a little.
I washed my hair, played a game on my iPad and then I noticed my heart was pounding. It was beating so fast, I started feeling uncomfortable and a little out of breath. I thought it might be the warm water which was lowering my blood pressure and making my heart beat faster to keep the blood flowing. So, I got out of the bathtub. I got dressed and went down stairs, still feeling short of breath but expecting it to pass soon. I flicked on the tv and tried to distract myself, but my heart rate would not got down. I measured it at 95 beats per minute. I started feeling afraid, which led to chest pains, which led to more anxiety. I know I'm only making it worse by getting stressed, but the thought of maybe having to go to hospital to get checked out, spooked me more than the thought of something being wrong with my heart. I really, really, did not want to get out of my comfort zone that night.
I took some herbal, calming medicine, had an argument with my husband who kept pointing out I was making things worse by getting so worked up, and went to bed. I fell asleep at the speed of light but woke up just a few hours later, unable to go back to sleep again. My heart rate had calmed down after some sleep and physically, I was feeling fine, but mentally... oh the darkness.
When my kids came down at 7 am, I went on autopilot. I smiled them, hugged them, kissed them, made them breakfast, but inside, I wanted to die. If there was a pill that would have painlessly put me to sleep forever, I'd take it. I'm so done with this shit.
After I got the kids settled, I went back to bed. A traumatic memory popped into my head. A few months ago, my daughter of five needed anaesthesia to fix soms dental problems and pull some teeth. I held her as they put a needle in her veins and I held her as she fell asleep. I did everything the doctor ordered me to do and I knew she would be fine and looked after, but inside, I was slowly dying. In my bed that morning, I felt I was slowly dying again. Tears were streaming down my face. This happened months ago, and everything went fine and she's happy and healthy, why am I so upset?
Then the memory switched to me being with her in the recovery room with me daughter after the dental procedure. I hate heart monitors. I absolutely resent the beeping sounds they make. As a kid, you're told a heart beat is a steady rhythm, but in reality, that's absolutely not true. Heart beats vary, they fluctuate, depending on someone's breathing, or state, and they sometimes trip, leading to palpitations. And sitting there, in the recovery room, listening to the fluctuations on my daughters heart beat, it drove me absolutely insane. The nurse was puzzled, because I kept asking her if my daughter's heart beat was alright and she kept reassuring me. The doctor said I should probably get some air and as I got up, all the blood drew away from my face and I nearly collapsed as I was walking down the hallway. As I was laying in my bed, I could feel the intense stress again.
Ok, so this is not working out. I should distract myself from thoughts like this. I turned on my phone, scrolled through some apps and the first thing I saw was a news bulletin. I usually avoid those, but sometimes you've read them before you even realise. Before I knew it, I was confronted with the news that in a nearby parking garage, a man got shot after an argument with someone else over a parking ticket.
That does it. I'm never leaving the house again. it's not safe. It's never safe. It will never be safe.
How do I protect my family from trauma? How do I protect myself from stress? How do I take care of me when everything I do turns out not to be enough?
I didn't know, and I still don't know. All my life I've been on this rollercoaster. A boyfriend from the past once told me I drive a Ferrari while everyone else gets stuck in a Toyota. The thing is, my Ferrari keeps breaking down. Whenever I feel well and not overwhelmed, I can move mountains and go a 100 miles per hour.. But then, things become too much and I break down. What I'm describing here sounds like bi-polar disorder, with the difference that I will show no real emotions. My affect is mostly flat, so it's hard for people to see on the outside what's going on inside. Also, I don't experience any outspoken emotions myself. The only things I notice, are physical things like fatigue, aches, hallucinations and discomforts.
It's next to impossible for me to determine when things become too much. And these last few years, it seems like everything is too much. It's also pretty impossible for me to determine what I need. Nothing seems to bring any relief.
I can draw a thousand relaxing, lavender-scented baths, but instead of recuperating, I keep feeling like I'm drowning.