Today is a good day to connect dots. Dot-connecting brings calm and contentment, weaving together various loose ends that might otherwise hang out helplessly, waving in the air.
Historically, I have often struggled with where to start. And here lies another liberation brought to me by my autism spectrum discovery: when in doubt, start there, with the autism.
OK, so I’ll start there, mapping it in the center of virtual paper and drawing lines between connections, that fan out. I’m autistic. Right there in the center of the virtual blank doodle-space.
Being autistic has come bundled with a certain amount of alexithymia. Alexithymia is represented by a second dot, and a connecting line can immediately be drawn between the two. Alexithymia, for those new to this term, can be defined as a struggle with identifying and expressing or communicating one’s emotions.
The irony here, for me, is that all these years (nearly four decades!), I didn’t even know that that term even applied to me. I always figured I knew what I was feeling, and could communicate it rather…neurotypically. All this time, I must have been subconsciously shrugging off that which I could not readily define.
It was only after discovering the possibility that I might be on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum last year and researching the topic to remote ends of the earth, that I acquired a new arsenal of concepts and the accompanying vocabulary. Alexithymia was included in the lexicon, and for the first time, I gave thought to the idea that I might be alexithymic, too. After all, every other speck of autistic traits had me nodding vigorously in the affirmative, so why not this one, too?
So now we have autism in the middle of the virtual page and a connecting line drawn to alexithymia, somewhere less centric, but still quite in the foreground.
Alexithymia muddies my waters. From there, the dots become much less clear and slam-dunk. It could probably be a central node of its own in my mind’s doodle-space.
Keep doodling, says the Inner Critic, although she is in a gentle and sympathetic mood today, an anomaly for which I’m appreciative. What else comes into play here?
I have a list of things that I think I can rule out. These concepts, however, are subject to alexithymic meddling, so there’s always a nagging question about whether or not they can be trusted. But since alexithymia is a universal constant in my world, I must continue on, taking it into account, but not second-guessing myself too harshly.
I don’t feel like crying. That’s a good thing.
I don’t even feel like I’m down.
I don’t feel overwhelmed.
I don’t feel angry.
I don’t feel like my nervous system is frayed or fried.
I don’t feel physically fatigued.
I’m no longer distracted by physical pain.
Those are all good things.
From there, however, the fog rolls in.
Do I feel helpless or hopeless? Sometimes I can tell right away, but not this time.
Surprisingly, another ready answer pops into my head: apathy. Another one: boredom. And another: restlessness. And yet another: a sort of soul-fatigue. Or maybe it’s not quite so metaphysical; maybe it’s a simple mental or emotional fatigue. That’s the part I can’t tell.
I can also tell what’s missing: my usual passion for my work. Excitement. Fulfillment. Curiosity. Desire. For any one of those to be missing (let alone all of them) is incredibly unusual for me.
But then I look back to try to determine where I veered off track.
I don’t have to look very far.
In the past 6 weeks alone, I’ve been through several yins and yangs.
I think it kicked off with the brain-tank that occurred unexpectedly when I began my health improvement journey and stopped kretek use cold turkey. I felt like my brain fell asleep.
At the same time, though, I began engaging in physical exercise and taking several excellent supplements. My blood began to re-oxygenate. I donated some blood to save the life of someone who needed blood and to thin my own blood out.
Right after that, I encountered a bout of physical pain that would take more than a month to resolve.
In through there, I also traveled halfway across the US, which equates to over 1,000 miles and 2 time zones. Carrying heavy luggage. Getting used to a new place, even if it was just for a few days. Being surrounded by hundreds of people. Trying to modulate myself and prevent overwhelm. It was an amazing conference! But I think the timing was wrong.
The physical pain only worsened when I got home. I had to take more than two weeks off work. I couldn’t find a comfortable position to sit or sleep in. As painful as it was, I paced the apartment and office restlessly, not knowing what else to do with myself. And of course, my attempts to establish a physical exercise routine came to a halt.
I ended up resorting to narcotics, prescription and herbal (separately, of course, and all legal) for the pain, which knocked me out–to sleep, from driving, from thinking, from living. For several weeks, I couldn’t drive, work, think, or much else. Obviously, I had to stop all other supplements; I didn’t want to run into any nasty drug interactions, nor did I really feel like swallowing a bunch of pills and water when I was already feeling the narcotic side effect of nausea.
Between the pain and the narcotic fog, everything was a blur.
In through there, we had a death in the family, and several of my friends hit hard times. Luckily by then, I had found the option of vaporized nicotine, which brought my brain back (somewhat) online.
And I got the news that I would very likely eventually need neurosurgery on my neck, although the timeframe and the outcome are anybody’s guess. And I have no health insurance at all.
Each of these factors, events, and such, could all be considered “nodes” on my virtual doodle-sheet, linked to the alexithymia with bidirectional arrows.
Things are better now. As I mentioned, the pain is gone, I’m at peace with my aunt’s passing, I’m driving again, I’ve figured out how to finance my neck surgery should it come to pass, and so on.
But my brain went flat in the process. Or rather, the heart that fuels my brain. I can’t call it an emotional numbness, nor is it an abyss, but it’s definitely an executive function issue, centering mostly on the aspect of motivation. And then there’s that emotional desire, that endless curiosity, that has flatlined.
Back to the virtual doodle-sheet. All of those emotions are likely floating around the periphery, with bidirectional arrows connecting each of them to any of the events and factors I described further above.
I know that this is temporary. Everything is, given enough time.
I can’t say how much I love and appreciate all of the suggestions that have come forth. Given my dissection above, it’s probably no wonder that I feel this way (even if I don’t exactly know what I actually feel) right now.
It’s not bad, necessarily. At least, it doesn’t feel that way. I never can tell. I think I just need a reset, a recharge, and then probably a gentle self-prodding into action.
My first line of self-therapy is to take the wonderful advice offered by the equally-wonderful lovelies who offered them in response to my last post.
At the same time, I’ll employ my usual toolbox of acupuncture, music, and brain exercises.
If I still need a little boost, then I’ll call in the Big Guns: the really cool PhD psychologist who specializes in adults on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, the one who did my evaluation last November. He also offers ongoing coaching and therapy as needed.
Alrighty then; current situation decoded (at least, I think so!), alexithymia and all. Game plan in place. 🙂