Two people are standing outside the loos in Starbucks in Preston. One of them hasn’t seen another human apart from their partner in quite some time. The other of them came around from a general aneasthetic 4 hours before. Prior to this moment, the conversation has covered quantum mechanics, the wool corridor that is still the Leeds Liverpool canal, sine waves of brain activity and function and where trashy novels intersect in those waves, and cancer. We’re waiting for the partner of one of them.
‘Humans eh’ says one to the other, piercing them with eye contact. ‘Completely unpredictable’ they pause for few seconds ‘until they’re not’
‘Yeah’ the other replies ‘Sheep’
‘They can be so fascinating, and yet so boring’
There is laughter and reflected back at me is the light. It’s important that light. It is, I think the thread through this post that I suspect will become very long indeed.
Wind back 12 months.
‘I don’t know who I am, who are you?’ is looping around and around and around in my head. I write it down on a post it note and post it to my Instagram. None of the answers that come back help. It doesn’t interupt the loop. Around and around it goes.
The therapist tries. To her credit, she accepts I am not stupid, just broken. I tell her I’ve done CBT and currently it’s like posting a paper origami boat into a tsunami and hoping it will help. My mind is a tsunami. It is sucking everything, absolutely everything into a massive wave and then that wave is crashing down over me. It feels as if pieces of my brain were literally being swept up, churned into a seething mess and then hurled down onto a stone beach where they smash into pieces.
I am in a constant state of terror. I don’t know if at the time but I’ve almost literally terrified myself to a stand still. I can’t walk. I can’t talk. I can’t verbalise or articulate or write or tweet. I am literally a piece of meat. The electrics have either gone out or there is a super cell stuck in there, stuck in my brain.
Underneath all of this, of course, is the bubbling narrative of failure. I failed. I let every one down. I was supposed to be kicking ass and instead I was quietly dying, all the systems going off line, giving up, giving in, all the fight sucked out of me by cognitive absence.
That sounds like depression doesn’t it? Doesn’t it just. It’s not. It’s far more complex than that. I, it turns out, am far more complex than that.
Depresssion sucks everything from you. And the state of this being is similar for most of those who suffer from it. @markoneinfour has kept me anchored without even knowing it. But the cause of the depression, I believe is different for everyone. Everyone has different triggers. Everyone suffers but everyone I think also suffers differently. I am thankful, so very thankful to my GP for understanding that sometimes she has needed to leave me alone, sometimes she has needed to let me come to her of my own accord and ask for pills, and sometimes she has said the wrong thing and I’ve backed away for a bit, needing time to think and work out and rationalise.
So why the terror, I suppose is the question. What triggered it? And I’m sure the easy answer would be GDS, would be travelling up and down the country every single weekend, living in two places at once. That answer would make a lot of people happy. But it’s not the truth.
When I was 12 years old my world changed. I got my first period. My mum didn’t talk to me about periods. She didn’t talk to me about anything. She managed to apologise earlier this year for not being able to cope with being a mum to two people. And that I’d beent the one without a mum, essentially, came as no surprise to either of us. The apology came as a massive shock. I suspect to both of us.
The point? I don’t ask for help. There has never been anyone to ask for help from and so I have essentially worked through my life with the same attention to detail and focus that I apply to everything. It makes me selfish. It makes me focussed. It makes me stupid and oblivious to the disintegration of my own state of mind. I am so close to the problem I can neither see it nor feel it.
Normally, my other half can spot when problems are happening and it’s a standing joke that he acts as my personal people interpretation module. I didn’t have that in London. Oh boy did I not. I should have worked it out when a colleague decided the only way to tell me how fucked off with me she was was to write me a letter telling me then reading it to my face. I should have worked it out when I couldn’t find anyone in the 200 people office, instead needing to gchat people to ask them where they were. I should have worked it out when the amount of meetings I had in the day inversely affected what time I needed to go to bed (9pm most nights). I should have worked it out when I lost my appetite. When I couldn’t sleep.
Some of those things sound like depression. But not all. Not all of them by any stretch of imagination. And the penny didn’t even drop when I took the ‘Reading the mind in the eyes’ test and got something like 8 out of 40 and I guessed those 8. And having to look at nothing but eyes for 20 minutes made me feel sick to my stomach and quite panicky. Not when a colleague sat me down and asked me if I didn’t realise I couldn’t deal with people sitting opposite me and interacting with them and felt much more comfortable sat next to people and even my hobby involved talking to people next to me – riding bikes.
It’s all so glaringly obvious to me in retrospect. Not to others though. ‘I am autistic’ I say and they say ‘no you aren’t, you can’t be’.
Well here’s the thing. I am. The 45/50 says I am. The trained qualified clinical psychologist says I am. But truth be told. Tony Attwood and his absolutely mind blowing explanations of how autism and especially Aspergers affects women rather differently than men told me I was.
I’ve been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Depression and Anxiety in the space of 6 months. ‘I don’t know who I am, who are you?’ still runs through my head. But alongside it runs something else, an understanding, an ability to cut myself some slack. The person who read me the letter didn’t understand why I was coming across one way when I was intending to come across in a completely different way. My boss didn’t understand. No one understood, least of all me. It turns out, in the end, that the prevailing theory is that I am allergic to people currently. If I spend any time with anyone but my other half, I pay for it. I am exhausted, often for days after. We think that this is because I am doing so much processing trying to fit in and not stick out as being different that I’ve worn out my brain a bit. While I was in London I was trying to do the following:
- Process the interaction scripts for 100+ people
- Remember the faces and names of ditto
- Get myself dressed and out of the house looking presentable (not smart or anything, just enough to raise too much comment)
- Eat properly when I can’t cook
- Sleep properly and enough to recover from exhausting days when sleep has always been an issue, insomnia being the least of the problems as it would suggest I’d gone to sleep in the first place
- Manage a workload that was at the high end of the scale
- Attend at least 3 meetings a day at one point, resulting in high intensity interaction for 3 hours every day
- Remember pretty fundamental processes like going to the loo, drinking enough in the heat etc