Category Archives: Health and Wellness

It’s My Meltdown and I’ll Cry if I Want To, Cry if I Want To!

By: JD Author, Reporter-Journalist

Stress is like spice –

In the right proportion it enhances the flavor of a dish.

Too little produces a bland, dull meal; too much may choke you.”

~Donald Tubesing

 

Some days I get overloaded, and like a volcano, the pressure in my mind blows!  Sometimes I scream and swear like a lunatic in a room by myself, scaring my poor furry pets just on the other side of the door; other times I collapse onto the floor in uncontrollable tears, feeling helpless and hopeless.  Either way, I seem to lose perspective.  I have had many an overload in public places and have had to excuse myself and retreat to a restroom to “let go’.   In extreme situations, I have faked being ill, just to retreat hastily to my car and scream, beating the steering wheel and cursing myself and the world for the things I cannot control. A few times people have noticed, judged and I felt their glares.  In my mind, I am screaming at them.

This is my meltdown, you will never understand!

crying-chick

It was 1:45 pm, while sitting in the Orthopedic surgeon’s office waiting to see the doctor for my 1:30 appointment. I had my noise cancelling headphones plugged into my iPhone, listening to a white noise app that helps drown out the millions of noises my brain seems to obsess over and not turn off.  Then it happened…… I had forgotten to change the batteries in my headphones!

Damn them noises all to hell!

There I sat in a lobby full of whispering people, the sound of feet shuffling, heels on tile, vents rattling, keyboards being plucked on.. all these noises, and they were getting louder, and I couldn’t block them out.  It’s hard to explain to someone who has never experienced a sensory disorder, but it resembles a threat that keeps drawing closer and closer, and you must retreat before that threat harms you.  I left my seat in the waiting room and fled to the bathroom in a rapid panic, that left the receptionist baffled, and staring as I did so.

I locked the stall door and was never so thankful for the fancy tall wooden doors with locks that the facility had.  Falling to the floor, with my hands over my ears to try to hide the noise, I cried.  The whole time I was telling myself;

Just breathe…in, out…in, out, it’s just noise, it won’t hurt me…

I heard the main bathroom door open, and a voice call my name and ask if I was okayI choked down a tear and said “yes, I just feel a little sick to my stomach”, knowing it was a lie, but that little lie seemed to be effective in the past.  She tapped on the door and said “I am your nurse practitioner, and I understand”.  I opened the door and she sat down next to me on the floor, and held my hand. I explained to her about my batteries dying in my headphones, and that I used it as a way of coping, she said “ I can remedy that, as she reached for my headphones and told me she would be right back.

She returned with the headphones with a new battery and a package of extra AAA batteries for me to keep in my handbag in case it ever happened again.  We then left the bathroom and she took me through a different hallway back to a room to wait for my doctor.  Explaining that she has a sister with ASD, and knows that some days, things just hit us the wrong way, and some days we can block everything out and “appear” normal.  I felt a little better, and she gave me a bottle of water so I could down one of the anti-anxiety meds I had for moments when I want to just fall apart.

Lately I haven’t had as many moments of anger and rage that I need to let out.  It seems lately it is just the opposite.  I have meltdowns triggered by sensory malfunctions, or even comments I take wrong.  I do understand that we all have a joking or cynical side, yet as of late, my processing and filtering mechanism makes me see them as an attack or literal, leading to that glorious meltdown that leaves me mentally caphut!

When my meltdown is over, I feel totally confused and exhausted. Then the self-loathing sets in.  It’s not like I am crazy, although some days I feel like I am.  I never really know when it is going to happen, but I dread them.  Sometimes it can be the smallest thing that sends me spiraling into the emotional abys of a personal hell.  My meltdowns seem to have a mind of their own.  This week I have been a disaster.  I have had a meltdown almost twice every day and the week is only half over.

I shared some of my feelings and episodes of irrational reactions with my doctor last month and he changed around some of my medications. I have also made it a point to try an avoid some “triggers” that add to my anxiety.

My Doctor also expressed that since meltdowns can be so intense and severe, it’s important that I start talking about them to loved ones and to other people I know.  Now that’s a joke!  I had to remind him just how my family is.  I did mention briefly my diagnosis to my mother, who is a retired Psychologist and she said that it is impossible for the diagnosis to be correct.  She emphatically refused to accept it, and that her diagnosis was correct.  That of course did not surprise me, considering she is NEVER wrong, and God-forbid anyone argue her integrity in knowing how to exactly diagnose someone!  That is why I skipped sharing the diagnosis and just continue to let them assume I am mentally ill, as my psyc-schooled family had already labeled me over the years, and engrained into their ideology of me.

Then there are my close personal friends, who I cherish dearly and shared some of my world, heart and soul with recently.  They seem compassionate, yet I am skeptical.  Perhaps it is because I have experienced their judgment of overweight, racially different, and financially challenged people enough that I wonder just how they see me.  People tend to judge what they do not understand, just as much as I judge myself.  How can I trust someone to truly understand and love me as a close friend and not appear crazy to them, when they seem to have some snide and judgmental comment they throw out at everyone that is a tiny bit different than them? It’s unfortunate, but true.

I try to explain just how the irrational anxiety is to people and why I prefer to not go out with friends unless totally drugged up on some wicked meds, but they seem to not understand the effect it has on me.  They see it as I am psycho, or that I have simple social anxiety.  What they see is one thing, what I feel and see is another.  How do I explain what is really going on?

I have a confidant who once explained it well when he said:

Picture in your head that you’re being held against your will by an unknown assailant. It happens daily, sometimes many times a day, sometimes once a day. Sometimes he comes to you at night. He holds a gun to your head, with only one bullet. He spins the cartridge, and pulls the trigger. You melt in sweat and panic. The shot fires, the bullet is not in the chamber. But it could be, the next time….  That’s the type of fear that comes with anxiety triggered with ASD.

Anxiety can be a cruel hostage taker, it robs me of my joy in  living.

Dealing with all my other medical issues as well as ASD has been hard.  It is even harder when the constant changes in treatments and balancing my emotional state has been a mountain I am having difficulty climbing.  I still feel like a scientific experiment, a guinea pig for the medical community to investigate.

It is hard to explain, but I try my best.  I have meltdowns, episodes of sheer happiness and then the episodes for which I cannot find a name for them. In the same way that I experience pure unadulterated happiness, I also experience a very pure form of anger. It starts in my brain and terminates in my hands. It’s reflexive. White hot anger. Irrational and short-lived but existent.  The best way to explain it is; I have a friend over to hang out and work on some crafting project were both interested in doing, and we happen to bump into one another in my shop and I impulsively, irrationally get the urge to punch them. The crazy thing is, I am not mad at them at all.  I’m not mad at anyone. I’m experiencing the emotional equivalent of touching my hand to a hot stove. My trigger, leads to a physical impulse to react. There’s no cognitive processing involved in my actions. I’m not thinking. I’m reacting. Through good behavioral therapy and medication, I am learning to control the reactions in my brain that happen.

This feeling, this need to react, is almost always triggered by a physical experience and only happens when I’m at the precipice of my limit for sensory stimulation. I’ve learned over the years to control the physical impulse. When the trigger hits, I feel a spike of intense negative energy surge from head down my spine, and I find whatever inanimate object is readily available and grasp it in my hand, and breathe slowly and focus on controlling my urge to lash out.  It soon subsides.

If I didn’t hold on tight and ride out the uncontrollable physical impulse I have, I would lash out at whatever was nearby.  I would resort to punching a wall, throwing or breaking some object to expunge the energy and impulse to be destructive with my hands.  It is hard to explain this feeling or share exactly what it is and why frequently must just take a step back and just breathe and refocus.  It sure keeps people from wanting to be around me.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not an angry or violent person.  I just have moments where I must try and regulate the things in my brain that ADS brought upon me that I have accepted and am learning to control.  To me, the anger is a physical expression of the violation of my personal space and me.  If I deprive myself of the right to express anger as my brain sees fit, I am depriving myself the right to set boundaries and provide a place I need mentally to feel safe.

I have set goals for myself this week, while trying to accomplish working without lashing out at anyone, running to some isolated place to cry or plain flipping out in public.  I have done better than last week!  For years, I hid it all well and no one really knew what was going on inside my mind.  Most of us Aspies have learned such good acting skills that even those we love never truly notice.  I know the many times I excused myself to a restroom with a look of urgency was taken as bad gastric stress.  The walks I took to “think”, and the “resting in my room” were my ways of avoiding exposure to a world I live in, and struggle to control.

Why am I coming out more and blogging about my experiences?  Because I am tired of keeping it in.  Tired of feeling unaccepted by others, because I couldn’t even accept myself.  I want to smile more out of genuine happiness instead of trained behavior to meet an anticipated or expected norm.  Because I am trying to understand myself.  For over 5 decades I just accepted and hid “ME” from even myself.  Time to just be me.  Sure, I have had so many family members walk away.  I have had almost every friend I had bail on me.  Luckily, I have about three friends who truly know me or are wanting to get to know the real me and don’t talk about me behind my back and feel I am just psychotic.

This has become such a hard journey over the past few years.  So many wrong Psych diagnosis’s, treatments, therapies and meds and I have accepted who I am.  I just wish more of the people who claim they love me, would accept ALL of me, without expectation, or restraint.  I am an ASPIE, I can accept it, why can’t people let me not hide who I am and what the REAL me is like?  Perhaps it is because My world contains so many people that judge a book by their cover?  Perhaps I need more people like me, more people who don’t look condescending at others, that give me the insecure feeling that they look at me the same way, when I am not around?  Sigh… Anyway I have rambled again enough about my journey to my diagnosis’s in the mental health department, perhaps tomorrow I will complain and explain the neurosurgeons end of my brain health that doesn’t involve how my marbles shuffle.

©Copyright protected 2017: NWU Local 1981

©IAPP Author/Journalist Press ID # 1007490467

Gone Before Grown

By: JD Author, Reporter-Journalist

“Sadly enough, the most painful goodbyes are the ones that are left unsaid and never explained.”
― Jonathan Harnisch

 

 

When we think of the loss of a teenager, the first thing that comes to mind is “what horrible disease is taking so many of our precious youth from us”?  As of July 2016, the American Association of Pediatrics has established that suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens in America, rising above homicide.   Which is up from 2006, where it was listed as the third leading cause.

Research has shown that there are many risk factors for suicide. Things such as, but not limited to; a family history of depression related suicide, a history of sexual abuse, mood and mental disorders, sexual orientation acceptance or transgender identification, as well as alcohol and drug abuse, to name a few.  An important additional risk factor that has become rampant over the last several years is bullying.

As we look at the many factors that play a role in the lives of adolescents and the need to feel accepted among their peers, we can see why helping to build their self-esteem and confidence is a vital part of helping them to cope with what is troubling them emotionally.

Bullying is at a record high and adolescents are influenced to “fit” into a social acceptance category based on the medias version of what should be the “norm”, is at an all-time high.

Remember back in the day, when you were a teenager and wanted to feel like you fit in?  We had bullies back in the 60’s and 70’s, but if our parents found out we picked on someone who was different, boy were we in trouble!  We didn’t have to all be the perfect size, wear the fanciest designer jeans, sport the athlete endorsed sneakers, be attracted to only the opposite sex, for our friends to like us.  If we were raised properly, we knew we were not all alike.  When we were caught bullying someone, there were repercussions.

Don’t take me wrong, there were bullies among teens back then too, it was just a lot harder to get away with it.  We didn’t have cell phones to send messages and pictures to people or post to social media, we had to actually write notes, call on a house phone and hope our parents didn’t hear us, or do it face to face and hope word didn’t spread we were being jerks.  I am sure many suicides were contributed to this meanness as well.  Suicide was not spoken of by families, because it was looked on as a sign of “mental illness, or “their family has issues” and how dare anyone know that our family were not just like the television sitcoms like Leave it to Beaver.

In current times, television shows are geared towards youth audiences that depict teens in their social settings, being popular and having the latest and newest clothing, electronics, cool friends and being top in the sport of their choice. They depict girls with perfect figures, dating the great looking jocks, and their parents drove fancy cars when they dropped them off at the mall to spent their large allowances. In all reality, that world only exists for the 1% of teens that feel entitled and usually are the ones bullying the most.  Leaving the teen that does not have that lifestyle feeling a sense of poor self-worth.  They feel others see them as inadequate, depressed and worthless.

There are many groups and organizations reaching out to educate teens on how to recognize bullying, and speaking out when they see someone being bullied, yet it seems as if it is not enough.  We need to reach parents too.  Research has shown that, most teens who bully, have in one way or another “learned” that bullying is acceptable through mixed messages from their own parental figures.  Some teens see their parents being overly aggressive towards others, even mocking those of lesser financial standing or social status, and carry through in their own actions by learning from that bad example.  Some have even been bullied themselves and as a coping mechanism to feel better about themselves, will bully others as a mechanism of lashing out.

Suicide among teens is not just a result of bullying.  Some teens lack self-esteem, because of size, stature or deformities, and have not learned coping mechanisms or means to accept themselves for who they are.  Parents can be a key player in helping their teen learn to accept themselves for the beautiful people they are inside, but not all efforts are successful.

We as adults need to be aware and pay attention to teens in our lives.  Look for changes in behavior, changes in friends and if our teens or teens we are around tend to be more withdrawn, we need to do what we can to understand what is going on in their lives.  We need to take the time to understand them without being overly invasive, and supportively listen.  When necessary, seek intervention.

Here are a few great tell-tale signs I found online that will help you as a parent, relative or youth worker recognize when a teen needs help coping, or intervention, before they get to the point of feeling there is no hope and that suicide is the only answer to their problems.  Also listed are tell-tale signs that your teen or a teen you know may be bullying someone else, which could result in that teen committing suicide.  It would be sad to know if we turned a blind eye to our teen if we allowed them to bully someone else to the point they took their own life, and we did nothing.  Culpability would be ours for doing nothing to prevent it.

The following are some factors that may put your teen at risk for the dangerous behaviors or feeling inadequate and hopeless:

Previous victim of sexual abuse, physical abuse: Victims of abuse often have low self-esteem and self-worth, making them more susceptible to troubled behavior in their teen and adult years.

History of violence or anger: It is not uncommon for a violent child to grow into a violent teen. If your child has a history of aggression or anger, watch them closely to see how they handle themselves in stressful situations as they grow older.

Stressful home life: Divorce, financial problems or violence in the home are all factors that put a teen at risk for rebellious or “troubled” behavior.

Substance abuse: Use of drugs and alcohol heighten the risk of every behavior listed above. Even if your teen is “just experimenting,” it’s best to treat these as serious warning signs and be vigilant in working to curb these activities.

The following are some troubled teen warning signs and risk factors that indicate you may have a troubled youth in need of some extra help or perhaps some may be signs you have a bully in the making:

Extreme moods: Teens are going to be moody—their bodies and hormones are changing and this is natural. But extreme fits of anger, long bouts of sadness, seeming hatred towards family members and a consistently disrespectful attitude are perhaps warning signs that something deeper is going on. Pay attention to your teen’s mood swings to try to determine what some of their “triggers” are. If the extreme moods continue for months in the absence of logical triggers, it may be time to explore the possibility of a mental health disorder or more complex behavioral problem.

Unexplained large sums of money: Is your unemployed or minimum wage-earning teen showing up at home with expensive jewelry, new gadgets or fancy clothes you’ve never seen? Unexplained money, coupled with a withdrawn and defiant teen, can often be the sign of a more serious issue like bullying money out of others. Teens living this lifestyle may also seem to lose money or valuables very quickly, as they trade it for drugs, to cope with their inner pain or are in unsafe situations where they have things stolen.

Unhealthy obsession with new friend group: When your child enters middle school and high school they will inevitably meet new friends. This is good. But is your teen changing their behavior, appearance, or values to fit in with a new group of friends? This could be a sign of unhealthy or dangerous friendships, especially if the group your child is trying to fit in with seems to have questionable values.

Self-Harm: Are there signs that your teen is cutting, burning or in any way mutilating themselves physically? If so, get help now. This is a common precursor of violent or suicidal behavior. This is not a warning sign that should be taken lightly!

Consistent dishonesty: Lying once to go to a party is one thing, but consistently lying about where they have been and who they have been with may be a sign that your teen is headed down a dangerous path. Clearly there is a reason they don’t want you as the parent to know where they’ve been. When you catch them in a lie, try to get to the bottom of what they were trying to hide

No remorse for actions: This is a big one. All teens will make mistakes—some small, some big. But how do they react when they are caught? A teen that shows no remorse or guilt for their mistakes has crossed a dangerous line. If your teen is blatantly defying the rules you have laid out and doesn’t seem to care if they get caught, these are serious warning signs. It is time to seek help.

To change the suicide rate among teens, we as adults need to become more proactive and start paying attention.

 

References available upon request.

 

©Copyright protected 2016: NWU Local 1981

©IAPP Author/Journalist   Press ID # 1007490467