A personal look into autism and anxiety
I’m sitting down in the middle of the first floor dorm hallway as I type this, listening to whatever Son Lux song YouTube throws at me starting with “Alternate World (Alternate Age).” There’s chatter in the background of an open dorm and a bunch of Beaver freshmen engineer majors talking amongst themselves. I take a two-seconds-too-long glance to see what’s going on. I find a spot somewhere in the hallway. There’s laughter, a door is shut. Oops.
There’s no real good place to sit down and think, really think, about how to address this. To figure out how to explain my thought process. To try and explain how I’m wired. So maybe I just start with a basic timeline of my life.
Last school year, “Life on the Spectrum” gave me so much positive feedback in ways that I couldn’t imagine. People were sending the article to their friends and family who had autism, and the response letter I received for my opinion piece was extremely flattering. I wasn’t alone.
But more than that, I feel like there’s another thing that needs to be brought up that’s the other half of the coin, if you will. My autism doesn’t exist without anxiety. But despite being prescribed a steady 40mg Prozac diet, this anxiety via autism is never going to go away.
Tony Attwood, an Asperger’s expert, says that current research reveals that 65% of Autistic individuals have another disorder alongside their Autism (called “Comorbid Disorder”), which isn’t surprising seeing how freaking complex and diverse Autism is. (Hence the longhand name of ASD or, “Autism SPECTRUM Disorder.”)
Atwood said back in 2006 that “social phobia, or social anxiety disorder, would be expected to be relatively common for those with Asperger Syndrome, especially in the teenage and adult years when they are more acutely aware of their confusion in social situations, of making social mistakes, and possibly suffering ridicule.”
And believe me, I’ve come to the conclusion that my life is going to be spent as an eternal student of social orders, learning how to maneuver my way around life so as to try and minimize as much of my pariah as I can. Which, in reality, isn’t me being a freak. To quote Bernadette from the Big Bang Theory, who beautifully summarized the way the brain processes information with ASD:
“Sheldon doesn’t know when he’s being mean because the part of his brain that should know is getting a wedgie from the rest of his brain.”
As for anxiety, that’s a whole different story.
Anxiety disorder is, by definition, “a state of apprehension and psychic tension occurring in some forms of mental disorder. The branch of Anxiety that I feel hits home the closest is General Anxiety Disorder, something defined by WebMD as, “excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, even if there’s little or nothing to provoke the anxiety.”
But the thing is, autism-caused anxiety still feels radically different than generalized anxiety.
It’s not just random fears, or a sudden spike in my adrenaline that get me. It’s literally life itself.
I am going to try and explain this in the best way possible, but it’s not entirely possible to explain how my body operates when it’s shutting down. Especially considering that it’s all situational.
The fact is, life is naturally stressful, but for me it’s especially stressful. I’m slowly ─ tediously ─ finding a middle ground that allows me to play the “Morgan” card while playing the fancy adult human who has her shit together card.
And more than anything, I need answers and solutions. My counselor at my latest appointment told me to resort to writing. Maybe it’s my pensieve ─ a means of trying to getting my thoughts out there, and maybe getting a little bit of help in return.
I also am going to take my pill, regardless of what I think about it’s legitimacy.
But more than anything, I need to talk. I need to make sure this stuff gets out there. For Autism being such a popular disorder with 1 out of 64 people being on the Spectrum, it needs to be talked about. I can’t be kept silent, so why not use my big fat mouth for advocacy? (Believe me, there’s way too many misconceptions that can lead to plenty of fun misdiagnoses, and don’t get me STARTED on the “vaccines cause autism” bullshit.)
I may have this stupid narrator subconsciously talking to me the background 24/7, but maybe she can be used for good for once.
Editorial by Morgan Connelly