My Story- Suicide and Depression

Five years old. That’s how old I was when I first thought about suicide. I was sitting in the car on the freeway and thought, “if I open this door and just fall out of the car, it will all be over.”

Twenty years later, I still have the same thoughts. “If I just turn the steering wheel, it will all be over.” “If I just use that knife or take that rope or walk off a cliff or loosen my seat belt on a rollercoaster, it will all be over.” I know it’s faulty reasoning. I could miraculously survive one of these methods of suicide, or if there is life after death, it may not be over. It just seems like such a good option sometimes. It seems like the only escape.

I don’t remember when I first felt depressed. Much of my childhood memories are flashes of pictures, glimpses of what may have happened with some vague feelings attached to them. I know that I cried a lot. I remember crying in bed nearly every day from elementary school through middle school. I remember the loneliness was so real that it felt like an extra layer of skin too tight for my body, suffocating me daily.

Therapy seemed useless. How can you cure loneliness? Drugs seemed useless for the same reason. In fact, no one even knew. So there was no way I would have gotten help anyway. I couldn’t tell anyone I wanted to die. Telling someone would make it real. I was afraid of it. I was afraid of the feelings, afraid of the thoughts, afraid that if anyone knew, it would give me a reason to follow through on those thoughts.

I wasn’t always depressed. In fact, I was usually pretty happy, at least with the people who would notice if something was wrong. That was part of the problem. Why would anyone believe I wanted to die when I smiled so much? I had no good reason for wanting to die except for being bullied and not having friends and not being able to communicate how I wanted to and stresses at home and difficulties in school. But I knew I had things good. There were lots of people who were worse off. At least I had a good family and freedoms and God. Life couldn’t be that bad. So I convinced myself to keep living, and I did, and I did a pretty good job of it until college when I started my first suicide attempt.

I practically begged to be heard. I blasted loud music in my room with lyrics about suicide. I wrote Facebook posts and notes stating how much I was hurting and how hopeless I felt. It wasn’t fair to my roommates to expect them to save me, but I didn’t know what else to do. I was drowning and had no where else to turn. I wanted someone to blatantly ask me if I was going to commit suicide because I had a plan and I needed help, but I needed someone to recognize how serious it was because I didn’t know what else to do.

I did end up going to a therapist, which helped minimally, and I attempted suicide again when I returned to school after summer break. It was a slow downward spiral with little hope of changing. Of course, with the periods of happiness and hypomania, it still didn’t really feel serious. I made it through college though and moved back home for a while.

The thing is, the suicidal thoughts never really went away. I took medicine, I went to therapy, I did everything you are supposed to do to feel okay, but I was still broken. I had one year of happiness. One year where I felt so happy that describing the feelings produced happy tears of gratitude and appreciation. There were still dark moments, but they were few and far between.

I became depressed again, plunging into the same cycle of suicidal thoughts and darkness of the mind. I finally found a therapist that helped. I finally had hope.

I have hope. I still think of suicide. I still get depressed. I don’t think people realize the extent of it. How can you take it seriously when you know I’ll never act on it? Or at least will likely never act on it? Even though the threat is minimal though, I sort of wish it was acknowledged more.

I don’t want people to worry, but I do want them to know. I just want positive thoughts, understanding, prayers. I mostly just want to know that I’m not alone, that I don’t have to do it alone. I have accepted depression. I have accepted that the suicidal thoughts will likely never go away. I just don’t want to do it alone. I don’t want to face this alone. You don’t have to understand, but please just let me know I’m not alone.

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My Story- The Other Side of Autism

In my last post, I described the social situations that led up to my autism diagnosis. This post will focus more on sensory differences, repetitive movements, and restricted interests.

“That’s not normal.” “Normal people don’t do that.” “Don’t be seen.” “Stop.” “Someone is looking.” “Disappear.” “Be like them.”

These thoughts and more, have flooded my mind over and over again for as long as I can remember. I have forced myself to fit in, stopped myself from doing things that seem strange to others, and carefully analyzed the world for signs of acceptance.

I feel like I don’t know myself. I don’t know what I like to do or what makes me happy. It hasn’t mattered up until this point. It wasn’t about me; it was about everyone else. Flapping is not acceptable; having a meltdown is not acceptable; refusing to try new things is not acceptable; reacting to loud noises is not acceptable; escaping uncomfortable situations is not acceptable; enjoying or seeking out certain sensory experiences is not acceptable. Acceptable- that has been the thorn of my existence, triggering the ultimate thought, “I am not acceptable.”

How did it come to this? How did I get to the point where I was afraid to do anything for fear of doing something wrong? How did I become so scared of being different that I felt like it would be better for everyone if I wasn’t alive at all? How did autism collide with depression and suicidal thoughts, resulting in fear, hiding, cowering behind a cover of normalcy?

Things have gotten better. Fear isn’t as strong as it once was. Suicidal thoughts aren’t as prevalent. But, I have yet to accept my differences.

There are so many groups, websites, and people promoting autism acceptance. They say to be yourself, to flap, to sensory stimulate, to do what comes naturally. I don’t believe it. As much as I try to believe that autism acceptance is possible, my rational brain rejects the idea. How could people possibly accept what they have told me for so long to hide? I am not strong enough to endure the criticism of allowing myself to appear autistic.

I have not done what I could have or possibly should have done to promote this blog. I convince myself that it is because I simply don’t have the time, but the truth is that a large, well-known blog attracts controversy. People will do anything they can to destroy any hope that threatens their perception of perfection. I have experienced this in my life and it has brought me into hiding. I hide my sensory, behavioral, kinetic differences in order to preserve them from being attacked, to preserve me from letting them die.

So I do not flap in public, but I flap openly in my room. I am also starting to do so more at work and church and school when I happen to find myself alone and the chances of being seen are relatively low. I do not rock in public, but I find a quiet, solitary place to release and calm down. I do not chew on pens or furiously scratch ink onto notebooks; instead I calmly draw little pictures, take pens apart and reassemble them, and silently trace little designs with my fingers. I do not twist my hands or do complex body movements to relieve tension; instead I crack my fingers, stretch, shift in my chair, and attempt to distract myself.

Is there such a thing as being free or is freedom learning to live within the structural, social, cultural, religious, and legal constructs of the world? I don’t know if this is freedom, coping, or hiding. I don’t know if this is ideal, disheartening, or simply necessary. I don’t know if it makes me happy or sad, frustrated or satisfied, anxious or relieved. I do know that it’s not likely to change soon.

I am not likely to suddenly start flapping in public or allowing my textural interests to show or talking about my specific topical interests for more than a few seconds or allowing my body to do complex twisting movements. I am not likely to allow myself to show that I am autistic. But, the thoughts of hiding my differences and forcing normalcy are becoming kinder. I am becoming kinder with myself, more understanding of my weaknesses, and more accepting of my sensory needs outside of the public view.

SensoryBlogHopNew

Welcome to the Sensory Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from sensory bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about what it’s like to have Sensory Processing Disorder and to raise a sensory kiddo!

Want to join in on next month’s Sensory Blog Hop? Click here!

My Story- Autism

It is difficult to tell my story with autism because I’m not exactly sure what autism means for me or how much of my life it has affected. I felt like a pretty normal kid until third grade. I had a good group of friends that I would spend time with at recess or during lunch. I was in speech therapy because I had a hard time saying the letter “R”. I didn’t feel like therapy made me any different than anyone else though. I went with a few other students and we played games. It just felt like a break from class for a while.

In second grade, I started hanging out with a certain boy in my class. Typical, elementary school crushes, we would sit on the swings at recess and talk. I hardly spent any time with my group of friends because I would be with my seven-year-old crush. The next year, he moved away and I assumed that I could go back to my group of friends and nothing would have changed. Of course, I was wrong. A lot changes in a year. My friends had new friends, a new leader of the group, and new things they liked to do to pass the time.

I no longer felt like I fit in, and set off on my own to find other friends. The thing is, I had no idea how to make friends, how to talk to people, how to recognize facial expressions or know if someone liked me and wanted me around. My first group of friends evolved around the sister of my brother’s best friend. She had been to my house before and so it was natural to gravitate towards her at school. When I left her and that group of friends, I had no leads. I had no one to gravitate to, and not being able to say the letter “R” made it difficult to avoid teasing or misunderstanding.

It’s a pretty simple story and seems to have little to do with autism, which is exactly why it took until seventh grade to receive a diagnosis. People said I was shy; they blamed it on my speech impediment; they said I was lazy or that school was just hard. I don’t even think my family understood. How could I explain something so simple and yet so difficult? In my seven year old vocabulary and social skills, how could I explain that I was still the same person, that nothing had changed about me; it was the situation that changed and I didn’t know how to handle it.

Once I was diagnosed, nothing really changed. I had some accommodations for school work and we focused more on social skills in my speech therapy sessions. It was still incredibly difficult, but I just kept going. That was all I could really do, all I can really do.

Now that I  know more about autism, I am beginning to explore what it means. I’m beginning to explore the differences in social reading, emotional reciprocity, and giving of social cues. I’m not good at it, but I am pretty good at faking it. I guess and then search for clues that I was right or wrong and make a course correction. I think we are all like that. We all don’t fully understand each other, no matter how well we can read social cues. For me, it’s just been more of an emotional and psychological journey.

What I am learning more about and learning to embrace more is the “restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior”- the sensory side of autism, the special interests, stereotyped movements. In my intellectual, black-and-white mindset, it’s not easy to accept these sides of autism. My mind tells me they are wrong, abnormal, different, unacceptable, unforgivable, unlovable. I’m just starting to get past those thoughts, but it’s difficult. It’s difficult to rewrite years of observation, experimentation, and self-experienced research. But that journey is a story for a different day.

My Story- Introduction

Have you ever been so different that you just wished you were the same?

That has been the story of my life. When it comes to being different, I have experienced quite a lot of differences in my life. Racial differences, political affiliation, religion, gender stereotypes, disability, speech deficits, intelligence, poverty or lack of government benefits have all been part of the thoroughfare of differences that marked my young life.

No matter where I have been or what I have done, I was always different. I was the exception to every rule, the outlier, the odd one out. And I knew it. I have always known it and will likely always feel it. Not that I can’t blend in, I just know things others don’t know, I have experiences others don’t have, and no matter what group I am in that will always be the case. I know that’s a truth for everyone, but sometimes your differences don’t matter as much as other times. In some groups your differences don’t matter as much as in other groups; I have yet to find the group where my differences don’t seem to matter.

At some point, you learn to accept your differences and live with them. I am close to that point, but I’m still working on it. Growing up, I just had so many differences that I would give them all up to just be the same. I would have given up my intelligence, talents, athletic ability, anything good about myself just to fit in. I wouldn’t do that anymore, but when you are bullied, lonely, teased, and simply ignored as a kid, you’d do anything to be normal.

However, it is only through my differences that I have learned to be myself. When you are so different that you can’t even blend in by conformity, you learn to be who you are and not buckle under pressure because acting like everyone else will never allow you to fit in anyway. Through my differences, I have also learned compassion, sympathy, understanding, courage, perseverance, and ultimately love (which I am still working on learning every day.)

So, welcome to my life. I hope as you read about the different stories that have made me, me, that you will find hope, inspiration, and connection. I have never before shared the many stories that have made me who I am. As I write, I will be discovering along with you the person that created autismthoughts, underthesurfacepoetry, and servingaservicemission.

Day, Month, Year

Yesterday was Autistics Speaking day and National Author’s day. This month is National Novel Writing month. For someone like me who hardly remembers to celebrate anything, it’s also simply November or the month that hosts Thanksgiving. And since Thanksgiving is this month, it’s only logical that it should be National Thankfulness month.

Anyway, to get to the point… I have been thinking a lot lately about my story- my life story, my story with autism, my story with depression, etc. I’m not sure where I classify myself in terms of being an autistic blogger. I hardly consider myself to be a blogger, much less an autistic blogger. I’m simply a not-so-normal normal person living a relatively uneventful life, who just happens to write through a couple blogs. But all of this classification and days, months, and years of different celebrations and notifications has gotten me thinking that maybe it’s time to write out and tell my story.

I’m not sure how long it will take me or when I will start posting it, but over the next few weeks, I will start writing my story and begin posting it piece by piece until it’s all written out and told online. Hopefully one day I will also have the opportunity to tell it in person, but that is a story for another day.