Autism is seen either as a superpower or a tragedy. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between. I am happy with how my mind works, but there are some days where it can be a struggle. Struggle is good for life itself, but sometimes, the simplest things can be overwhelming when you’re an autistic person. Autistics can commonly get diagnosed with other conditions with some examples being depression, dyspraxia, or EDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome).
When I received my ASD diagnosis a few years ago, I was also diagnosed with GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder). I’ve always been a worrier and anxious over things such as sudden change or crowded, contained spaces, but I didn’t think of the autistic connections at the time. Extreme cases of anxiety are rare thankfully, but they do still occur.
- Anxiety is being scared to ask for something because your anxiety thinks the outcome will be bad, even though you know time and time again it won’t.
- Anxiety prevents you from thinking logically and stops you in your tracks.
- Anxiety makes you feel vulnerable.
- Anxiety can cause worse symptoms such as autistic shutdowns, or worse, meltdowns.
- Anxiety can make you avoidant.
- Anxiety makes stupid, paranoid scenarios that your brain believes to be true.
Beating the anxiety isn’t the end game. It’s a cycle. However, you can reduce the cycle by actually fighting it. This is easier said than done, but it’s something I have to go through everyday. Anxiety isn’t just being “scared” or “worried”. It’s something that can consume your mindset and body. Feeling light headed, shaky or even feeling like your heart/pulse is racing randomly isn’t something that’s just “in your head”. Talking to someone is a great idea. However, I understand how hard that can be. I struggle to talk about my emotions in general wherever it’s getting the words out or I’m scared that I’ll get judged. Self talk can be a good way for self care. Giving yourself the “pep-talk” can be useful. I talk to myself all the time so I have done this to remind myself that my anxiety isn’t always right. I actually prefer fighting my emotions rather than having nothing. When I’m absent with any worries, it feels empty. I like to have some chaos in my life to properly balance my brain. I like having a routine, and some topics that are considered stressful but can be fixed helps to give my brain a kick-start. Some sort of motivation.
I dislike showing my weaknesses. I tend to joke around to break silence or to hide my anxious mannerisms or moods.
Getting confused with (mostly) neurotypical people’s demands can trigger my anxiety. Everyday, I attempt to do things “right”, and when I don’t. I shutdown. I worry what I’ve done wrong. Occasionally, my brain produces involuntary flashbacks memories or old comments and tried to overwhelm my brain. Simple tasks are now complicated for me and I get more sensitive with my emotions than usual. I physically need to calm myself down, not doing so leads me into a meltdown. Thankfully this is rare.
I am not my diagnosis, I am myself. However, when I got diagnosed autistic. I became more aware of certain issues and it took me a few years to understand them more. Sometimes, I can see my anxiety coming but my body is on autopilot and I can’t control what’s happening.
My anxiety isn’t because of my autism, but I feel that it’s hard to deal with on top with my autistic traits. I feel that having autism gives you more pressure, especially in getting accepted with other people. Anxiety also gives me tunnel vision and I can’t focus on anything except for the “problem”. Most of the time, the “problem” is something silly.
One example of my anxiety playing games is when I was playing a tabletop game with friends. Most of the time I refuse because I’m anxious and scared of looking stupid. I’ve realised that fighting the anxiety is the best way forward or getting occasionally pushed by someone else. Anyway, I got given the rules to this table top game that was similar to DnD (Dungeons & Dragons). I felt overwhelmed by all the things I needed to know. It seemed very difficult. I just wanted to cry and panic. I was dreading for my turn to roll the die. It felt like the end of the world. I kept all my emotions to myself and if i was visibly struggling, I’d just laugh it off. 5-10 mins in the game and I’ve had a few rounds with some assistance. I felt more calmer. Help wasn’t a shameful thing and I understood the rules slowly. I look at the instructions again and they were so easy to understand. I was flabbergasted with my mind because, when I was irrational with the anxiety, the instructions felt more like a obstruction and seemed really difficult. This is one example of how anxiety clouds your mind and I have to relearn this every time.
A positive way to ease the anxiety is to have a quiet moment to yourself. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes. I find that bathrooms or quiet public toilets are the best place to hide and to recover. I sometimes do meditation which I feel can actually stay within the space of my thoughts. I’ve tried multiple types and find mindfulness is good for anxiety. Even if you can’t focus, just trying is better than nothing. Even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes. It’s useful. I used to join a group once a week and it allowed my brain to reset. Some weeks, i felt renewed and balanced. I can keep the fears at bay for a while. Other times my brain was vulnerable to overthinking afterwards as it was so empty. My brain also feels delicate as well. I just depends on the day I guess.
What does anxiety mean to you? What are your coping mechanisms?