0 Blogging About Autism: Autism Thought Patterns & Compulsions

Monday, 30 September 2019

Autism Thought Patterns & Compulsions

Types of Thoughts

Looping thoughts or Rumination
Looping thoughts are the same thought circling in my head over and over again with no relief from it at their worst these have made me not want to be here. I Sometimes pray to god to make them stop and yet I don’t even know if he exists but they send me into despair.

Repetitive Thoughts
These thoughts are ones of anxiety and they lead to me asking my fiancé every time we leave the house things like are the lights all off? Are the plugs all off? Is the cooker off? I need to ask because until I confront the anxiety and let myself think about it and recognise it; I cannot let the worry go. Sometimes it takes hours afterwards for the anxiety to leave me entirely. At nights I often have to get out of bed to check and recheck things. To ensure the cooker is off I feel over the switch because seeing it is not enough to convince my brain that the switch is really off.
Intrusive Thoughts & Paranoia
Sometimes I have walked out of a place I planned to go to because my problems with social cues make me so self-conscious and I have become overcome with fear that someone has taken me the wrong way. Sometimes I just get this feeling of dread in certain environments and my mind goes into flight mode. My heart races and I have to leave wherever that is as soon as possible because the anxiety is so intense, I feel like I will collapse.
If I can't find a logical reason for why someone has treated me a certain way or said something to me my thoughts always switch to paranoia. In this mode my mind is looping through worst case scenarios and replaying traumas. My mind can’t seem to accept that people can hurt you without hating you. My mind always goes to extremes in emotion extreme happiness or extreme sadness or anger but never in between. When I am extremely sad, I can’t imagine a way out due to problems in the area of imagination. When I am angry, I hurt myself or cut my hair or pluck my eyebrows so I have had to hide my scissors and tweezers. If I don’t do that, I slam something or kick something but I always hurt myself and turn the anger inwards. I very rarely feel happiness but when I do, I wish so hard that it will last but unfortunately for everyone emotions are ever changing.
Linking Thoughts
These are the thoughts that keep me stuck because my traumas all link in and when I am reminded of one, I am reminded of them all. There is a number of reasons as to why that occurs and it all is due to my thought patterns linking. One reason is that all of the traumas have similarities and they all have the same underlying causes. Undiagnosed autism and people taking advantage of my vulnerabilities and difficulties with social cues has been consistent throughout my life. In school I was mostly alone and people didn’t interact with me instead they whispered about me or stared at me. There were very few people who tried and I wanted so badly to connect with them but I just couldn’t because I see the world so differently. I was always on a different page or even in another world than the other pupils in the many schools I attended. I have felt abandonment with every trauma. When I was abused my family ganged up on me to silence me. When I made friends, they all got fed up of me at a certain point and then left blaming me on the bad things they did to me. The same thing occurred with abusive relationships too up until I met my fiancé and then thankfully, I had a good experience but there were so many bad ones.
Appearance, Fitting in and Understanding
Some of my thoughts are based on how people see me and how I see them and trying to make sense of both of these things. Some circle around whether they understand me or if I understanding them correctly. My thoughts also consist of wondering if my tone of voice is appropriate and whether or not I am physically displaying on the outside what I am feeling on the inside.
Some thoughts are about how my body is positioned and if I am holding something in the correct way an umbrella for example. I move it around multiple times and reposition it under my arms and in my hand and still can’t come to a conclusion. So, I just pick one but don’t ever lose that overwhelming doubt that I am holding or carrying it the wrong way.
I never know where to sit or stand and looking at what most people are doing does not help me to make a decision or remove the anxiety. I tend to follow the people I trust in making most of my decisions on how to act. Alternatively, I follow my inner voice which is always friendly and trying not to annoy or hurt people in any way. The inner voice leads to unhappiness for me because I sacrifice a lot of the things I want and don’t say or do things I want to do through fear of upsetting others or inconveniencing them in some way.
Sense of Self
I am extremely self-aware and yet I can’t make sense of myself for example in primary school a teacher asked everyone with long hair to stand up. I had long hair according to her but I couldn’t stand up for three reasons. One of those reasons is that I was wondering how long actually counts as long? The second reason is that I was trying to compare mine to other girls' hair in my class but failing to successfully imagine the difference between the length of my hair and theirs.
If I had a picture to look at showing my hair in comparison to others all on one page perhaps, I could have completed this task because I would have had a visual cue. My brain struggles with imagining things and needs to look at images to process information.
The third reason is that my processing of other people's words face to face is extremely difficult. I am still stuck in so many thoughts whilst people speak to me, they really have no idea how many thoughts are simultaneously running through my mind whilst they think I am engaging in conversation with them.
I am not choosing to not be present my brain just takes me places I don’t want to be and it does it very often. I get so frustrated at struggling to do things people take for granted every day and I do seem to take it out on myself. There seems to be limited coping mechanisms available to me. Some people take their frustrations out on others but I have been hurt and abused by others most of my life. I would never want to hurt another human being so ultimately it is me that suffers for other people's poor treatment of or insensitivity towards me.
It is not in me to look at someone and put them down for their appearance or to judge what they are wearing. I am perplexed at how easily this seems to come to a lot of NT people. I never join in on this type of conversation and I feel exhausted emotionally after I have been around it. I am super critical of myself but never see faults in other people.
A simple task like getting myself dressed and tidy is excruciatingly difficult for me. I spend so long at it and I never learn it and develop a routine that I can just fall into. I feel like I have to relearn it every single day. I have to refer to a picture of when I had my makeup done by someone else and then attempt to transfer from that picture to my face. It is like my mind has so many irrelevant thoughts running through it that it can’t complete tasks. The imagination part of my brain is on a permanent holiday but the copy one isn’t and so that is what I rely on.
Shutting it Off
I can’t shut off those thoughts but I so wish that I could and I have tried all sorts of ways to do it. I tried different meditations in an effort to still my mind but as soon as I try to my mind loops over traumas which began in childhood and that cycle of trauma that continued on occurring throughout my life. I tried a visualisation that guides you to imagine a relative that has passed away. You are supposed to imagine them standing before you and holding a basket. You are instructed to give them all of your troubles and imagine them taking them away but it did not work. for me. I have a disability that effects my imagination so I don’t really know why I was surprised by this.
The need for something to be logical mixed with lack of imagination means this is impossible. My only option is shut down and that leads to me being unable to function at all. I compare shutdown to the feeling I have when standing in front of the sea. It is the one time where my mind seems to go not just still but silent and I feel a momentary relief from the torture of a mind that is constantly switched on and alert.
I get a break from a brain that is constantly scanning the environment for threats and that is overwhelmed by every single sound. I get a moment where my mind is not obsessing over certain parts of the pavement as it walks down a street and trying desperately to not walk over that grating or trying to make sense of just how much distance is between a step and the ground.
I always end up looking at car number plates and reading them for no reason at all but the compulsion is there to do it. Trying to speak to my fiancé at the same time and be aware enough of my body that I don’t trip over or bang into anyone. I feel very detached from my body and I often get physically hurt because of this detachment I bang into things or close my fingers in things. I feel like my brain takes everything in visually because it is so afraid and overwhelmed every time I step outside the door. It is trying to keep busy so as to not be focusing on the unpleasant things
Imitating Normal
I would not be copying just anybody's actions because I would worry that I would copy the wrong person. I have no point of reference really for what is normal and it is a very scary feeling to experience of a daily basis. I constantly feel like an alien that has been beamed down from a spaceship and left to try to work out a world I am not made for.
I try my best to nod and smile and blink sometimes so I am not constantly staring. I force myself to look people in the eye because I have saw that it is important to them. I have met many liars who didn’t make much eye contact and I associate eye contact with honesty and communicating that I care about what people are saying to me.
I try in so many ways to show people how much I care and reciprocate any warm words or actions they use towards me. I know I have deficits that can make me seem uncaring or even robotic perhaps. When in reality I think as much about others as I do about myself. I think about how my problems with communication might upset or confuse them. I feel so much guilt for not being able to get rid of my impairments. It never occurs to me that I have a developmental disability even though I do. The truth is because I look normal, I forget I am disabled as much as others do. I don’t escape the negative effects of my disability I just treat myself as harshly and as though I did not have one. Some people have been very hard on me and not in the slightest bit understanding. I have learned to be hard on myself by how other have treated me all of my life.
Inflexible Thinking Causes Problems with Problem Solving
Staring at a shelf full of products of the same kind and walking out of the shop without what I went in for because the exact one I always get is not there. When this happens, I try to imagine a different type but that does not work because it takes so long for my brain to even except that the one, I had was effective. Trying to imagine using another product will in most cases lead to a meltdown. In meltdown mode I am close to tears but hide it in public and I try desperately to just make a decision but the harder I try the more I get upset and frustrated. After this shutdown comes and if I am out somewhere with my fiancé the rest of the day has dark clouds looming over and I can’t pick my mind up and be positive again. I want to be flexible but my brain is not letting me the combination of problems with imagination, processing speeds and inflexible thinking is a life altering one. It makes even the simplest of tasks become impossible. Inflexibility in thought often leaves me stuck and frustrated.
Transitioning from One Task to the Next
This is an incredibly frustrating part of autism for me and it makes me so angry at myself because I am always having to fight my brain to do even the littlest of things. When I have some spoons of energy I can but when they are depleted, I am not emotionally able to knock down that invisible wall. Even just moving from showering to getting out of the shower sometimes takes my fiancé to come in and say to me ok it's time to come out.
I think in these moments my brain is in shutdown but the scary part is that they happen so frequently that I feel like my brain must shut itself down an awful lot. On a day when I was going with the bridesmaids to try on something with my wedding dress my sister put pressure on me to call the other bridesmaid. I absolutely love the other bridesmaid and I would not ever avoid speaking to her but on that day my spoons were so depleted I could not make a phone call and my sister got so angry at me and I felt she was a little bit nasty even.
Many NTs get frustrated at us for our inability to do things that come easily for them but they can’t seem to accept that someone could have a brain that causes them problems because they are lucky enough to not be in that situation. It took me to be crying and shaking before she backed off and I wasn’t being difficult I just couldn’t complete that call. There are a number of reasons but all of them are ones that are inner. A lot of autism is inner and that is what people need to understand. You aren’t always going to see it but just because you don’t see someone suffering it doesn’t mean that they aren’t.
At that moment I knew my bridesmaid is pregnant and I remembered how terrified and afraid I was when I was pregnant. I didn’t want to put any pressure on her and started to imagine all of the worst-case scenarios if I did. I knew she was coming because she had confirmed she would be there by text and that was enough for me. I felt my sister got almost menacing and yet most of the time she is lovely but it seems some sort of primal instinct to mock someone for being weaker than you or less able than you kicks in with even the people whom it really shouldn’t.
I also could not complete the call because phone calls with anyone are extremely stressful. For me to successfully make a call, I usually have to write down a plan for what needs to be said. Otherwise I end up losing my train of thought constantly and this leads to annoyance for the person at the other end of the line or I altogether forget what I was going to say in the first place. This is incredibly damaging to my self-esteem every time and it reminds me that I am struggling to do yet another thing that most humans can do pretty easily. I know that is why they get angry because they just don’t understand but I wish they would quit making assumptions and actually try to understand the reasoning behind it.
Though Patterns Lead to Compulsions
Someone I spoke to on twitter had suggested this would be an interesting topic to cover and I agree with him. He was trying to better understand his need to wash his hands before and after he eats. He also was wondering why other people do not place as much importance on these behaviours or just don’t do their hands quite as much. To him it seems absurd that this wouldn’t just come natural to everybody. He said people tell him that he worries too much and try to disengage from this conversation.
The difference between a NT brain and an autistic one is that the NT can often disengage from these type of thought patterns quite easily. They might be more suspectable to them on a day when they are more emotionally fragile but the autistic person cannot disengage and is always stuck in these types of thoughts. Is that because we are more emotionally fragile? I kind of thing it might be and I think the fact that our brains have been said to be lit up in more areas than NT brains is a good way to look at it. Our brains are switched on in so many parts that we don’t even need to use.
I also have an obsession with handwashes but more so because I find the experience pleasing in a sensory manner. I love the feeling of warm water on my hands and the scent of nicely fragranced handwashes filling my senses combined with that. I once went into a restaurant bathroom and they had so many different handwashes I had to try them all and smell them all too.
I have compulsions around taking chances and have had to take the reins on that one but it took me a long time to get there because for a while gambling was a problem for me. Not because I wanted to be rich but because I love the different coloured scratch cards and the designs and the excitement, I still buy scratch cards occasionally but since receiving diagnosis and the support that followed, I have been able to realise that I need a lot longer than most people need to make a good and balanced decision.
I give myself extra time for any big or risky decisions to ensure that it is what I really want to do. On a particularly stressful day when my spoons of energy are low, I fall into the trap of buying one even if I don’t actually want to. I hate alcohol but if I see a brightly coloured drink, I would buy It because I am mesmerised by the colours alone. I feel that autistic people often get a a lot of the wrong signals. It appears that our brain thinks bad things are good and good things are actually bad in some instances. When I have been in less than safe situations, I have felt an odd calmness but when I have been in very safe situations, I have felt imminent danger.
My favourite mode of transport is on a train and yet no mode of transport is easy for me. I could never complete any of the journeys I have taken on the train alone. My fiancé is always with me and I have to eat on a train to give myself something to distract myself from all of the worst-case scenarios. Pleasant sensory experiences like eating are really all consuming for me for the time that I am eating I can disconnect but this is the reason I use to be almost 20 stone. I am 9 stone 2 in weight now but I have had to do without one of the only things that actually calms me down because if I eat as much as I feel afraid or anxious, I would probably end up more than my original weight.
I tend to make any day I will be on a train a cheat day which I allow myself occasionally once or twice a week. I also get on trains because my granda loved trains and I love my granda when I miss him, I want to be on a train. On our honeymoon we will be travelling alone for the first time together to America. This will be my longest flight ever and the thought patterns I endure keep my trapped in fear. I don’t know how I will cope we have asked for help at the airport through people that assist disabled people with navigating them. I am very afraid because even just a bus ride for both my fiancé and I ended up in an awful day with us both exhausted and crying because we were worried about not being able to get back home.
Even though we had tried to plan it disabilities make even the best of plans much more stressful and fill you with so much uncertainty. With a brain like mine I can’t imagine good outcomes and my fiancé has panic attacks and can’t cope with changes in routine. My fiancé has deafness and global developmental delay. I also have GDD and we both help each other to cope a lot. Thought patterns make even what should be exciting and fun rather not and we are hoping for the best on our honeymoon.
My Aim is to Raise Awareness
I feel that because NT people cannot see autism, they just expect you to be like them and they often assume it is a case of mind over matter. They don’t always see that with autism there is complex problems going on inside our heads. They cannot understand that our thought patterns are different and our energy to exert control over them is compromised because different parts of our brain seem to be wired to focus on the wrong things. If I was NT perhaps, I might not understand myself and I think this will be a challenge to really make a difference.
I seek to raise awareness and to one day help more NTs to understand us because it is so lonely to live in a world where the majority don’t. I want to bridge that lonely gap and so I will keep writing as much as I can to hopefully touch as many hearts as I can. When it comes to autism if you see someone in your school with it or in a shop on a regular basis don’t assume you know how much or how little they are impacted by it because the truth is you won’t.
We don’t seek attention and I actually hate being in the spotlight. It was nerve wrecking for me to start writing about my experiences but I am desperate for the world to be a lot less lonely than it currently is for people like me. I live in terror of one day not being able to control my emotions and prevent a meltdown in public as an adult. I try so hard to contain them but nobody sees how I am impacted days, weeks, months afterwards and often they don’t even know I am.

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