Let’s face it. It’s pretty much hit or miss with us Aspies. We have to be in an in between state in the first place to be able to utilize any tools for psychological and emotional relief. We absolutely cannot be at one extreme or the other, in mindset or mood, when we set out to help ourselves. I mean the last, very last thing I need, when I feel like crap, is some perky fellow Aspie alien telling me that ‘Everything will be okay.’ Or some other well-meaning bystander reading off an invisible list she has collected in her brain about things that work for her.
When I am done, I am done. And there’s just no retrieving me until the crash is over. And if I am super happy, the other side of the Aspie pendulum—that elation we reach when we think to ourselves, ‘Hey, I feel kind of normal in my head. Hooray. Let’s party—then I don’t want a stupid list. I just want to be happy.
In the perfect world I could pull out a list and assist myself at any point in time. But this is not the perfect world. Still, it’s nice to have a go-to place that might help me some of the time; typically during that “I’ve-almost-lost-it-but-not-yet” teetering psychological/emotional point.
With that said, I dare not review this list (and you dare not) at my lowest point, because it only serves to make me feel entirely useless and hopeless, like I can’t even follow a list of suggestions.
So there’s that.
Just mentioning this incase you happen to be an Aspie, and happen to know what I mean. Kind of like my friendly (but not too friendly) warning label: Attention Aspie brains, proceed with caution. Only refer to this list if, and only if, you like yourself a little still, and aren’t entirely bombarded with thoughts and hating the world. If you happen to be beyond the tipping point proceed with caution and ignore, ignore, ignore.
Okay, that about does it for my lengthy introduction to a list of things that sometimes, might work, maybe for the Aspie when trying to avoid meltdown, confusion, or oblivion in the form of plummeting, free-falling thoughts.
I want to swear right now.
Not sure why.
1. Change the diet! That’s right, drop something that you already know, from your extensive readings and research, that isn’t good for you. For me it’s the bloating brain caused by gluten-overload, or too much sugar, or not enough of some supplement, mineral or another. This is usually my last resort. I know, I know, this ‘should’ (nasty uninvited ‘sh’ word) be my first approach to remedy. However, let’s be honest, being an Aspie has few advantages some days. And sometimes the only thing getting me through is Ben and Jerry’s Chunky something or another. Still, when I start to literally lose it in nonstop thoughts, my saving grace is to CHANGE something about my eating habits.
2. When I am about to lose it, I sometimes, if I am lucky, will ask myself what is way out of proportion in my life. Whether the answer be over-planning, over-thinking, over-doing, or clinging to one person or project, I will then try to look the situation over and bring some balance. Maybe the entire house doesn’t need to be cleaned in the time it takes the sun to reach the back of the house to the side of the house. And maybe I haven’t been resting, refueling, or letting go. Maybe it’s the opposite. Perhaps I have too much time on my hands and would do myself good to make some plans and get out of my house (and my head.)
3. Another effective question is: What self-inflicted rules have I established and rigidly enforced that are causing me undo stress and pressure? Ah-ha! This is a biggy. I do this all the time. I can’t stop it. I make strict rules for myself about eating or finances (or just about anything, e.g., chores, cooking, shopping) or about how I will respond to a person or situation; and then I follow them with loyal obedience, like I am a slave to my own inventions. I have done this forever and a day, part of my Aspie brainpower, I suppose. The downfall is I get trapped in this rigidness for days, sometimes weeks, until I realize I am the ONLY one who decided to do this, bought into doing this, and gosh darn it believes I have to do this! It’s okay to eat a piece of chocolate. Really, no one will hit your knuckles with a ruler. There is no overseer, beyond me!
4. Rethink it without rethinking it. This is a tough one. You see a tiny touch of cognitive reasoning works, but only a touch. This is vital to keep in mind. Just a tiny, tiny, tiny bit. Like adding salt to cookies. Just a pinch. Otherwise the whole batch of the mind is entirely spoiled. It’s beneficial, at times, for me to allow myself to remind myself that my thinking is out of control, and that I am being a bit irrational and catastrophizing, and that my thoughts might feasibly lead towards self-abuse. And then to maybe spend a minute, or one or two sentences, explaining why my thoughts are damaging to me. In example: ‘You know just because she isn’t available does NOT mean your friendship is over, and doesn’t negate the entire last year of companionship. And, she does care about you, and you have plenty of proof of that. So let’s let it go. Okay?’—but then I need to stop there. Otherwise the actual self-talk is a trigger for over thinking and a free-for-all for my brain. ‘Oh, Look! A possible challenge or problem. Let’s dissect it until it’s solved.’ That’s when I need to come in with a giant halt of the hand and scream: ‘NO, we are NOT going there!” You see it’s good for me to give myself a short little pep talk. However, it’s super bad for me to allow a short little pep talk to be the opened door that leads to obsessive, spinning out of control no-end and no-point solution hounding. (See previous post: The Whipping Girl).
5. Remove the trigger. A trigger can be anything, really. You name it and my mind can turn it into a trigger, if it’s not already a pre-established trigger to begin with. And by trigger, I mean anything that potentially sends me plummeting into a loop of endless thoughts or emotions which I cannot control (even with all my might, and incredible genius ability.) What I do in regards to managing triggers is to prepare and slightly analyze the triggers. I think (not too much) about what is triggering me and how I can avoid or remove that trigger. For me, a trigger could be, and has been, notifications (or lack of notifications) on my phone or computer, the actual bell sound or whatever sound, for notification triggers me. Yes, I am like that salivating dog! Gosh darn it. What I have learned to do to help myself is to remove the trigger, in this case my phone or computer, from the room. I simply (with sometimes agonizing resistance, which is eventually overruled by extreme will power) will have to shut down my electronics to help my sanity. My solution might only last thirty minutes or a few seconds, but in those moments I know I am protecting myself, and that alone makes me feel empowered and good. If the trigger is a person, I give myself permission to not talk to them, if I can, or to wait until I am feeling in a strong state of mind. And if a trigger is unavoidable, whether a situation, event, or person, then I accept the likely trigger-hood of the matter and prepare myself like I would for any catastrophe. I ask myself: What is likely to happen? How will I respond? How can I take care of myself? What has worked in the past? And, this is vital: It’s okay if I go into shutdown. It’s okay.
6. Something else to keep in mind: “Oh, Yeah! I have Aspergers.” This is a tough one. I often forget to give myself a break. I forget that my mind sometimes, (well kind of a lot of the time), doesn’t work like my fellow neighbors. I forget I might scream at noise because it feels like stinging nettle in my brain. I forget that I might not be able to let go of something because my mind is Velcro, basically. And I forget that I will have mood swings prompted by things that seem out of my control and are likely unpredictable and unexpected. I forget the world scares the hell out of me, and that just the action and effort of getting out of bed and showering is a triumph in itself. I forget I can only hold it together for so long, and then I need a huge break, and time to refuel.
7. Enjoy the little moments. I am learning to ignore and not feed the voice in my head that says: ‘Yes, you are happy, but it won’t last.’ I am realizing happiness doesn’t last for any human on earth. Everyone has good moments and bad moments. I just happen to be Aspie and feel the world at an extreme intensity. So while it is a true fact that my happiness and relief of anxiety for the moment, though wonderful, will not last, this truth is okay. I have to wrap myself around that fact like a brand name saran wrap (the generics generally don’t work). It’s OKAY. I have to just allow the happiness to exist, without over-analyzing the peace of mind, and without buying into the fear-based thoughts. Sometimes, many moments indeed, I must allow the party of dismal pessimistic thoughts that dingle-berry in the background (giggling) to completely live. Because, as soon as I fight them off, I am disengaging from my own happiness. So, like in the movie ‘A Beautiful Mind,’ when Nash allows his fellow self-manifested friends to carry on but choses not to interact with them, I allow my negating doomsday thoughts to be there, while I choose not to engage them further. They are like trappings you know—gooey sap dressed up as enticing honey. It’s best not to wade there, if given choice.