Rages and Paranoia

The past couple months I have been all over the place emotionally and mentally. I plan to go over all this with my psychiatrist when I see him later this month, but felt I would share here some of what I’ve been going through.

It is kind of weird because I have had several bouts of certain types of emotions/feelings that were overwhelming and lasted at least a few days to a week. For around a week last month, I had a real issue with rage. Not just anger, but pure rage. I hate it when I have these rages, because I normally end up taking it out on myself or my things because I don’t want to inflict it on anyone else but have to get it out somehow. Sometimes during these rages I destroy personal things that I later regret. I don’t cut or do anything physical that leaves real scars, but I do sometimes pinch myself or dig my nails into my skin as hard as I can, just to get the anger out and because acute physical pain can be a way to distract yourself from intense emotional pain.

A few weeks after the rage phase, I went through an odd type of paranoia. I just kept having nightmares every night, one after another. All of the nightmares were either about home intruders or something scary chasing me. The first night it started I had a full night of nightmares about home intruders. I became so paranoid I had to get up and double check all the locks in the house and make sure every door was closed and locked between the outside doors and my room. I was tempted to sleep with a knife nearby (which I actually have done in the past when I was afraid of something like this), but instead, I settled on sleeping with my phone next to me. I have never been a victim of a home invasion and currently live in a safe neighborhood, so this paranoia seems odd to me.

This past week I have actually had a positive upturn, where I have felt fairly happy and almost a little hopeful. These extremes of emotion I have felt recently do make me wonder if maybe the bipolar diagnosis is correct. I have never really understood why I had these rages and paranoia episodes, but if I am truly bipolar, that probably would explain it (although my PTSD could easily be a culprit as well I suppose). It is tempting once these episodes are over to make excuses for them or to try to convince myself they weren’t as bad as they really were, but that is being dishonest with myself and won’t help me learn to deal with these problems in a healthy way.

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Hallucinations in Childhood

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Something I’ve been thinking about recently is hallucinations. As an adult, I haven’t really had a history of hallucinations. The closest things I can think of are a few times I have been awoken from my sleep by my husband or my mother’s voice loudly calling my name, only to find they are either not even at home or they swear they didn’t call for me. It is easy to assume this might be just weird remnants of a dream though, so I don’t consider it definitely a hallucination. There have also been a few times I hear a weird, high-pitched whining noise that no one else seems to hear. This could just be my autistic sensitivity though, picking up on something others don’t. It isn’t tinnitus, I have that as well, so I know the difference.

However, as a child I do have at least one vivid memory of a hallucination, maybe two. The first happened when I was around 5 or so, and it happened in the middle of a church service at my grandfather’s house (he was a pastor that ran his own church). In the middle of the service, this huge bird suddenly appeared next to my grandfather as he talked. It was a beautiful, rainbow colored bird, and I could physically see it, so it wasn’t like an imaginary friend (which I also had). I was excited by its appearance and made a bit of a fuss trying to tell my mom about it, but it became clear soon that she couldn’t see it and apparently no one else did either. I got in trouble for yelling out, so ended up sitting there staring at this huge bird and wondering what the heck was going on and why no one else could see it. To this day, I have no idea what happened that day or why. I wish I remembered what was going on in my life at the time, to see if I was under acute stress at the time, but I really don’t know.

The other possible hallucination happened when I was 12. It was soon after my father died and I was having the worst panic attack of my life up until that point. I was sitting on the bed, trying to breathe, feeling terrified and alone, when suddenly a bright figure appeared at the end of the bed. At first I was terrified, but the being told me not to be afraid and I immediately felt a calm I had never felt before in my life. The panic attack was gone and the bright figure somehow communicated to me that I was safe and protected before leaving. I assumed at the time it was my guardian angel, but now that I am no longer religious and not sure what I believe in, I wonder if it could have possibly been a hallucination brought on by grief and terror. I honestly don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t mind having a guardian angel, but if I do, why didn’t they protect me or show up during even more dangerous moments of my life, moments when my life was actually in danger?

These two experiences as a child makes me wonder if they were hallucinations, and if they were, is it normal for children to have hallucinations and then grow out of them? Or is this just a warning that if I am pushed too far emotionally or mentally, that something may break inside me and I could lose touch with reality? Could I someday have another hallucination out of nowhere? That is a scary thought. Has anyone else out there also had experiences like this as a kid and apparently grown out of them?

*Art by Maranda Russell

Feeling Torn in Half…

Last night I had a really bad panic attack. The situation that triggered it is a complicated one that has me feeling rather torn in half. As I have probably mentioned before, my husband is a special education teacher. He is extremely devoted to his work and his students and loves what he does. This past Monday, he found out that one of his prior students, a girl who is now 19, needs a place to stay. My husband would like for us to take her in. I am really conflicted about it.

My husband and I used to do foster care, so I’m not unfamiliar with taking in strangers and looking after them, but the reason we had to quit foster care was my deteriorating health. That worries me about taking in a new, adult person who has both emotional and developmental issues. It also worries me because we recently downsized into a much, much smaller house and the autistic side of me is deeply worried about having no privacy or time alone which is essential to my well-being. Plus, I don’t know where we will move all the stuff that is now in the extra room.

On the other hand, I do feel deeply for this girl who has been through A LOT. My heart aches for anyone who already struggles with physical or mental disabilities and then has to add the weight of being abandoned or alone. She is living my worst nightmare in many ways and I can’t help but feel compassion for her. However, having never met her myself, I also worry about whether we would be a good fit or not. Often, that is something you just can’t tell until you live together, and if we do take her in, there is a good chance we would need to keep her at least a couple years until she graduates school and is moved into some form of independent living housing.

I feel so conflicted and anxious.

Matchbox 20 “Unwell” – Lyrics of My Life

If I had to choose a song to represent how I honestly feel about myself and my life most of the time these days, this song would definitely be near the top. It isn’t actually even my favorite Matchbox 20 song (which would be hard to narrow down anyhow, but would likely be something off their first or second album), but the lyrics hit home in a way that not a lot of songs do. I don’t hear voices (other than my own endlessly chattering inner monologues), but at this point, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if someday I started lol.

I think the saddest line in this entire song is “But soon enough, you’re gonna think of me and how I used to be…”, which also happens to be the line that hits home for me the hardest. A few years ago, this wasn’t me. Back then I had repressed so much that I was able to function at least, but when my sister committed suicide, it was like the floodgates opened and all the repressed memories came flooding in at the same time that all of my carefully crafted defenses came crashing down. My mental and physical health took a nosedive and has been sinking further and floundering since. Sometimes I’m almost angry at my sister for killing herself and thereby forcing me to face what I had always ran away from or purposefully pushed aside.

All Over the Place

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Lately I’ve been all over the place emotionally. I’ve especially been struggling with feelings of rage (I even stabbed an inflatable black cat to death), panic, and dread. Often I find myself laying in bed and these feelings come over me, settling like a heavy blanket around me, so that I feel like I can’t move or fight it off. During these times I truly believe that if it were possible to die from such misery, I would have been dead a hundred times over.

These storms of emotion definitely seem to be worse at night, when I try to go to bed, but even during the day I feel the remnants of these episodes wrap around me like tentacles. I’m honestly not sure what is causing it. Is it the PTSD? The bipolar? Autistic meltdowns? Is it a combination of my mental and physical conditions just wearing me down to an extent I can’t handle? Or am I just slowly slipping further into insanity?

* Art by Maranda Russell

Autism and Flirting

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Flirting makes me seriously uncomfortable. Why? Probably because I am autistic and can’t actually tell when most people are flirting, unless they say something blunt like “I want to do you” (which has happened to me, I guess I didn’t catch their subtler hints or something so they decided to just go for it…sadly, it didn’t work for them).

Anyhow, back to the subject of flirting, whenever a male stares at me for uncomfortable amounts of time or keeps flashing me smiles, I do wonder if they are flirting or if they are just being outgoing and friendly. I really don’t know the difference. It puts me in a rough spot, because as a happily married woman, if they are genuinely flirting, I don’t want to encourage their attention or make them think I’m interested in return, but I also don’t want to be rude or mean if they are just being friendly. I also don’t want to seem presumptuous by assuming someone is flirting with me if that is not their intention.

For me, this issue of being oblivious to what the opposite sex wants has been lifelong. Even before I was married, I never really thought anyone was interested in me unless someone told me they were. Even then, I often thought they were joking. Sometimes not taking it seriously or not recognizing flirting got me into some awkward situations, or made people think I was interested back simply because I was kind to them, which then meant I had to hurt their feelings and let them down, which I hated. I know this all may seem weird to non-autistic folks, but I wonder how many Aspies can relate to my experiences?

*Art by Maranda Russell

Bad Night

Tonight was a bad night. The pain, isolation, and despair came crashing down so hard and fast that I crawled off the couch and collapsed onto the carpet, on my side, in a loose fetal position and just wept. I gripped the beige carpet fibers in my fingers and pulled as the tears pooled below my cheek. I pinched myself. I aimlessly pummeled the floor. The anger exploded in that way it always does, boomeranging right back into myself. I considered my options. All the ways it could end. The option of reaching out for help. The feeling that grasping for that help would only inconvenience others. After all, my husband has to work tomorrow, he needs his sleep. I can’t take the car, who would bring it back to him?

Eventually, I made my way outside. Hoping the cold would numb it all. I walked on the icy, wet grass and then took a seat on the deck stairs. Soon my feet were frozen numb, and my body curled inward, instinctively seeking to conserve its heat, even as I wished that I could bear it long enough to freeze. Dark thoughts of black toes breaking off soon made hypothermia a less attractive ending. If only it were like a Jack London novel, a slow nodding off into warm, cozy whiteness.

Eventually, I found myself back where I started, on the couch, hoping to find comfort on electronic waves, here in the place where lost things seem to gather in today’s society. I soon stumbled across someone else crying and hugging a giant stuffed giraffe and it soothed the edges just a little. Now, I can only hope tomorrow is brighter.