Struggling

“I’ve been struggling.”

This is not a common phrase you hear in most conversations. In general, people keep the fact that they’ve been struggling to themselves or maybe one or two close friends or family members. We just don’t like to admit that we’re having a hard time because we’re supposed to have it all together.

However, this phrase has become more common to hear in my conversations. I have reached a point in my life where I need to admit that I’ve been struggling. I need to tell someone because I realize that I can’t do this alone.

At work I have needed to admit I’ve been struggling quite a few times over the last year or so. In my previous job, I discussed with my boss how I had been struggling. I explained to him how I felt so that he could understand when I didn’t do everything 100% like I used to do and so that if a situation arose at work, he would know how to handle it. In my new job, I have needed to admit that I’m struggling to keep up because I don’t know how to do everything quite yet and I’m not as fast as someone else might be.

With my friends, I talk about my struggles fairly openly because I need them to know when I’m not okay. I need someone to be there when the struggling becomes too much to bear. I have been pleasantly surprised that some of my friends have also been open with me when they are struggling.

This life can be hard. It can be so difficult that I wonder what I’m doing here or if it’s even worth it. But I think these conversations are necessary. I think they are good steps towards an environment of open communication and trust. So I hope that we can all say we’ve been struggling to someone when we have a hard day or just don’t know what to do, because we all struggle at some point. We just have to decide if we want to do it alone or if we’re willing to let someone help us in the journey.

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Why I Break Down

I’m a pretty easy going person. If someone asks to do something at the last minute, I will usually say yes. The problem is that I don’t really have an accurate sense of time. I don’t think about how long things take, I just think about what I have planned for the day. And I don’t panic until what I have planned is getting to the point where I might not be able to do it. When my schedule fails is when my mind fails to process the situation. The world closes in and I want to disappear, and life becomes so overwhelming that I don’t know how to even start to deal with it again.

This is why I panic.

I remember in middle school when I was first diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. We had an IEP and the adults in the room decided that I should be given more time to finish homework assignments as needed. I remember resenting this decision a little bit. After all, I was fully capable of doing everything my classmates were doing. Why should I be treated differently?

I now realize the reasoning. It’s not that I couldn’t do it. It’s that I panic. I don’t notice time going by until it’s too late. I don’t notice that I have worked on a tiny portion of my project until an hour before the assignment is due, and I haven’t even completed half of it.

The thing is, I get lost in the details. I get lost in the joy of creating, the beauty of being, the fun of doing. I get lost because I love it. I love life. I love learning. I love people. I love looking at the wheels of cars as they roll by and the shapes that make up buildings. I get lost in the little things that no one really notices. I get lost in simply being.

And it’s great. It’s wonderful. I love it and I love life. The problem is that you can’t do that kind of thing in this world. This world has demands and requirements and obligations. And as soon as I come out of being lost in the beauty, I get overwhelmed by the demands.

On the hard days, you might find me curled up in my car after work, trying to distract myself from all the noise and light and heat and pressure of the world. You might find me walking around with ear plugs in because it makes one less thing to deal with. You might find me rubbing my hands or arms in an attempt to relieve the tension inside of me.

No, it’s not that I can’t handle the world. It’s that other people don’t know the world. They don’t see the things I notice. They don’t experience sights and sounds like they are part of them. They don’t get lost in the beauty. It’s not that I can’t handle the world, it’s that no one can. No one can take it all in.

The thing is, most people don’t try. Most people filter it out automatically. They filter out what they feel is unnecessary to only focus on what they feel is important. But to me, to my mind, it is all important. And how do you handle the world when everything is important?

You get lost in it until it becomes so much that you break down.

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!

How Autism Contributes to Depression

I have been lonely for as long as I can remember. I didn’t know how to communicate with people that I wanted to spend time with them, and I didn’t know how to just go and talk to someone. Most of my conversations with my parents were on car rides because that was the only way I knew how to initiate a conversation, when I knew I would be with someone for a designated amount of time and they wouldn’t have anywhere else to go or anything else to do. One of my best friends was probably made because of that exact situation. I would give her rides from work and we would talk on the car ride. We would also talk at my desk when we finished our work and didn’t have anything else to do.

Thinking about it, I still don’t know how to initiate conversations with people outside of those parameters- a defined period of time, a setting where we are required to be in the same general area during that time, and a specific task or event that requires our focus on the moment. People are often surprised by how naturally I start and continue conversations in these situations, but they are just about the only situations where this is possible.

Here is where depression comes in. I used to think that my depression was a direct result of my loneliness. I felt that if I could make friends and be able to spend time with them, I would no longer be depressed. I have now realized that my depression is not just from loneliness. I am prone to thoughts of depression. I am vulnerable to thoughts of suicide and self hatred even when I am not lonely. However, my lack of communication skills always contributes to the severity of my depression.

I have two best friends. They are both completely amazing and I would do anything in the world for them. They help me through my depression on a daily basis. However, my need for their love and approval, and my lack of the adequate skills I need to interpret their actions and communicate my needs, often contributes to thoughts of suicide, depression, and self harm. One of my best friends has been my friend for about 7 years. I don’t worry about losing her because I know that she will always need me at least as much as I need her. I have a problem communicating my needs with her though. I do not know how to tell her that situations are too overwhelming for me and that I need an escape. The biggest issue I have with my other friend is that I do not know how to read her signals. I do not know how to tell if she enjoys being friends with me, or if she wants to talk or wants some space, or if I am too much for her at a particular moment or not enough at another moment.

This is where depression and autism entwine and run away with each other. Depression tells me that since I can’t read someone’s signals, that must mean that they think the worst of me. Autism tells me that I lack communication skills to remedy the situation so I might as well consign myself to a state of depression because this will never get better. Depression tells me that since I cannot adequately communicate, I am a worthless human being and no one would ever really want to be my friend unless I do amazing things for them all the time. And since I suffer with major depression, there are times when I cannot do anything for other people because I am struggling so much myself. And these thoughts all cycle in my head. Depression feeds off of lack of communication skills, which I don’t feel I can improve because autism makes communicating harder, and then depression feeds off of my hopelessness, which leads to increases thoughts of worthlessness, which leads to greater isolation and self doubt, which increases my desires to die, which deepens my depression.

I know that the only way to reconcile these thoughts is to untangle depression from autism, to look at each one separately and see how they contribute to each other. The only way to sort out my thoughts is by communicating them with people to find what is true and what is only a reality in my head because I’m looking at things through the lens of depression. It really is okay that I can’t be in crowds for very long without needing to have a break at some point. It is okay that I carry ear plugs around with me everywhere I go. It is okay that I’m not sure how to communicate my feelings and I stumble on my words when I try to speak without taking the time to construct the conversation in my head first. Depression wants me to see these things as unforgivable faults that can never be understood by others.

The truth is, that my friends already see it. They know that when I walk quickly through a crowd, it is not because I don’t want to walk with them. It is because I need a break from the sensory input that has been too much for me for longer than I was able to express. They know that I try to do more than I’m capable of because I care too much to let autism stop me from trying. They know that when I lash out at them, it is because I have been trying to stay calm on my own for too long and I finally reached my breaking point. But most of all, they know I love them more than I am capable of expressing. And that is the one thing that depression can’t touch. That love, that amazing, wonderful love that I have for them and they have for me, will always get me past the thoughts of depression and inadequacy. And I know that despite the autism, despite the depression, despite how hard things get, I will always have a reason to keep on trying and keep on living and keep on keeping on.

Hello Darkness my Old Friend

To say I have been depressed for the last few months would be an understatement. To say I have been overwhelmed and stressed to the point of exhaustion would clarify a little more, but would still not give a full picture of how much I have been struggling. The fact is I have been drowning. You forget what it is like to breathe sometimes when life is so crazy that you don’t have time to focus on anything. I have been in a whirlwind of demands and emotions. I have been spinning in a sea of anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, desires for self harm, and overall stress. The loneliness surrounding me has felt like walking around in a plastic bag, trying to gasp for air that wasn’t there.

I have checked out of life.

Before the last couple months, I never understood people who said that when they were depressed, they just stayed in bed. I am an expectation follower. I do what people expect no matter how hard it is, how uncomfortable, how much it hurts me, or how much I despise it. I cannot just not go to work because that is what is expected of me. I cannot just stop doing what I am expected to do, no matter how much I am struggling or how much I am hurting. The last month was a little different though. I realized that people don’t expect much from single people. You can pretty much just go to work or school and that is all people expect of you. I usually enjoy doing other things, but this time I did not care to do anything. I did not do any of the things I usually do. I avoided home and my family. I stayed out late and did absolutely nothing most of the time. I left church as soon as possible and arrived as late as possible. I did not go to activities or talk to most of my friends. I did not try to cook or buy groceries. I don’t even remember half of the last month because I was so out of it.

Suicide seemed so enticing. I thought about self harm nearly every day and succumbed to the thoughts more than once.  The darkness won out more often than it ever has before. And for once, I was not scared of suicide because I just figured it was a matter of time, and if it came down to it, I would not be opposed to embracing the darkness for one final time. I felt like a zombie going through the motions of life, and it didn’t matter if I lived or died because I felt like I was emotionally dead already.

The good news is that I’m getting better. I feel like I can breathe again. I feel like I can talk again. I feel like I may have more of a grip on life. It is a slow process. You don’t just come out of depression like that and simply go on with life. But slowly, steadily, I am working towards recovery. I am learning to breathe again. I am learning to see again. I am learning to be myself again. And it will get better. It always does.

Losing my Grip

I haven’t been okay for a while. I feel like I’m drowning. My dreams are disturbing and my waking thoughts are not much better. I lose hold of reality though I try to cling to the things I want to feel real.

I took a couple days off work to try to get back to a semblance of normal. It helped, but I still feel like I’m sliding down a mountainside, trying to find a grip in loose dirt.

I have panicked. I have broken. I have completely freaked out. My brother was telling me something the other day, and I yelled at him and then kept screaming because I just couldn’t stop.

All I keep thinking is that I’m not okay. I’m not okay, and I don’t know when I will ever be okay again.

My family is visiting. I love them, but I can’t handle it. I can’t handle the stress of everyone being here. I have always been the one expected to hold it all together, but now I am falling apart.

I’m trying to cling to a reality that doesn’t feel like it exists. I’m trying to get a grip on life that feels like it’s slipping through my fingers. I’m trying to do anything to be okay again.

Is this normal? It doesn’t feel normal… I feel like something is wrong with me, and I don’t know how to fix it. I just keep hoping for a better tomorrow because I’m doing everything else I can think of to be okay.

2 Truths and a Lie

Truth- I sat in a class where we talked about substance abuse and drugs and alcohol and tobacco, and for the first time in my life, I thought maybe I should try that.

Truth- I posted on Facebook that I have been struggling with an eating disorder and drowning in depression, posting more and more about suicide because it sounds so good sometimes.

Lie- My friend asked how I was and I said okay, over and over again.

Why is it so hard to say the truth and easy to buy into the lies?

What if I’m not Okay

Today I went to church, even though I really didn’t want to. I got out of bed and ate something I didn’t want to eat and went to church. People at church asked me how I was and I kept saying I’m okay, but it was a lie. I’m not okay. I’m nothing close to okay, and I’m not sure when I’ll be okay again.

My doctor put me on an anxiety/ antidepressant medicine. I don’t know if it’s helping. The health issues have been worse, which doesn’t help my mental and emotional state.

I have this friend that works with me. I’m basically like her boss, but outside of work, we’re friends. She knows I think of suicide and other things. It just made me wonder, what if you knew your boss thought about suicide? How would you handle that? How would you treat them?

In all reality, I’m getting better. My depression isn’t as bad as it has been in previous years, and suicide is only a thought instead of the urge it used to be. I’m doing pretty good. But, I’m still not okay. And I’m really not sure when I will be okay again.