Just Take Me Back to Who I Was When I Was Younger

“Just take me back to who I was when I was younger” A Great Big World

I turned 30 this year, and I’ve started to notice that people my age are feeling old (in a bad way). And I think that’s pretty standard for your thirties. Your twenties are for making mistakes and finding yourself, and you get through that all of that and come into your thirties only to find that you’re *gasp* old.

It hits some people harder than other, I think. From my observations, people who had really positive teens and twenties have a harder time leaving them. I’m talking about the folks for who the phrase “high school is best years of your life” applies. And this isn’t a bad thing! I mean, who can judge someone for having a positive experience, right? All I’m saying is that I was definitely not one of those people.

My teens were filled with a chaotic home life, trouble with teachers, coming to terms with my queerness, and the beginning of the mental illness that would define my twenties. My twenties, as you might have guessed from the previous sentence, were filled with breakdowns. I had an Autistic Burnout which left me with a slew of sensory issues. I cycled from being incredibly productive, to not leaving the house for weeks (if this sounds familiar, I suggest you check out Bipolar Disorder). I spent two years in higher level care for an eating disorder, and also three psych hospital stays during that time.

I clawed my way out of my twenties, and now that I’m free, I’ve realized something. You couldn’t pay me to be young again. I like being my age, so many good things have happened over the last year or two that makes me so happy to be where I am in life.

The thing that changed my life was my Autism Diagnosis. Guys. Ladies and gentlemen, dudes and dudettes, knowing changes everything, and the number one thing that it changed was how I viewed myself. I had been told (and so I believed) that I was smart but lazy. Feeling that way about yourself does a number on your self esteem. So when I found out that I was not in fact broken, but Autistic, something changed. Not overnight, obviously, fast than I had expected. My diagnosis also gave me access to services like Occupational Therapy, where I’m learning strategies to help me function as my best self.

So here I am at 30, and how am I spending the first year of my decade? I’m in college, for the first time in many many years. I am active in my church, and I volunteer with an organization that serves children and adults with developmental disabilities. In a few weeks my wife and I celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, and our relationship is so strong (partially because we’re awesome, and partially because we’ve had a lot of therapy, individually and together. I’ve been working on my gender identity, and had top surgery to help me feel like I fit in my body. Due do a procedure and a new medication for my POTS, I am so far able to do more things (museums, the zoo!), and be so much more active (riding bikes, rock climbing!)

And that is just this year. For the first time in forever, I’m looking forward to what’s coming. And I’m not one of those blissfully optimistic types that assume everything will always be perfect. I have Autism, and sometimes, that sucks. I have mental illness, and sometime that sucks. I have a chronic illness, and that almost always sucks. But when these things are well controller, I can work around them. When I am a stable human being, I’m better prepared for issues that may come.

I definitely don’t want to go back to who I was when I was younger, but I do wish I could leave past me a note saying “don’t worry, it won’t always be like this.”

 

Self Love

Valentines Day is coming up, and while I very much enjoy celebrating romantic love (my wife, Jess and I usually mark the occasion by eating chocolate and playing video games), I also think that the holiday is an excellent excuse to celebrate self love too!

As I think that I’ve mentioned before, I’ve spent a lot of time in Eating Disorder Treatment, which is basically a nice way of saying a butt load of therapy. Like, therapy 3 times a day. And a lot of the therapeutic emphasis is on self care and self love and all of those other ‘self’ things. So yeah, I’ve sat through a lot of group therapy on these topics.

And it may seem like I’m a self love zealot- I know, I have been talking about it a lot lately. But there are definitely parts of the self care thing that I think are silly, or don’t work for me.

For example, a lot of people have a really hard time with shame, and they need to put in a lot of time and effort to let that go.

And while I totally understand how it works, I don’t really experience shame (I do experience guilt, but that’s a whole different post), and so doing exercises around shame are sort of boring for me.

Self care though? I’m totally behind. Treating your mind and your body with care and respect? I’m all for it. I know that when I’m tuned in to what I need, I have more more energy, less anxiety, and I’m more flexible and less sensory sensitive. Win win, right?

There are lots of ways to care for and love yourself, and I’m just going to share today some things that I do in my day to days life.

Stimming is definitely the most important part of my self care routine. This is something unique to us neurodivergant folks, and doesn’t get included in most articles about self care. For me, this sort of self care takes two forms.

The first one is making time for stimming and sensory needs in my daily routine. I start my day with my favorite sensory friendly food (Cheerios). I take the time to knit. I wear clothes that are comfortable, tagless, with flat seems, and I buy the only socks that I find tolerable in bulk. I end my days lying in bed with my weighted blanket and my glitter lamp casting blue shadows on my ceiling, and I ease into sleep.

The second is certainly more challenging, but it’s also just as important. I call it sensory-on-the-go. And it’s a big deal because following my home routine is easy, really but dealing with the real world is hard. It’s really hard! You have to be able to sense what you need before you need it, because at least for me, by the time I realize that I need intervention, I’m not in a very good position to do it for myself. So on-the-go self care requires pre-planning, and, if you’re lucky, a buddy. So I don’t leave the house without a sensory emergency kit, and I check in with myself regularly, so meltdowns don’t take me by surprise. They still happen, but somehow it’s (a little) better if I know they’re coming.

I’m a total introvert, so this type of self care seems like the opposite of what would work, but I’ve learned that I need to connect with people. If given the choice, I’d go days without talking to anyone except my cats, and if you’d asked, I would say that this is the ideal situation, and that I was very happy indeed. And don’t get me wrong, I definitely need quiet me time, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I really benefit from interacting with people. So I volunteer, and I play music with people, I interact at church, and I connect to my awesome internet community. And while there are days when I don’t want to talk to anyway (not even the cats), that’s fine, because I know that my connections will be there waiting for me when I come back.

There are dozens of other things I do to take care of myself, and if I listed them all, this post would be 26 paragraphs long, and you’d probably have gotten bored 19 paragraphs ago. So here are a just a few more things that I think are worth mentioning, and then I promise that I’m done.

Hot hot hot showers. I hate being wet, so I sit on the floor of the tub and let the steam come rise up around me. I also like talking to myself in the shower, which is apparently a thing?

Bookstores. There’s nothing more calming than being surrounded by books. Especially if they’re used, cheap, and smell good.

Watching movies I’ve seen over and over again. Being able to predict every line and every song makes me feel safe. Props to Moana, Into the Woods, and Sondheim! The Birthday Special.

I feel really grateful for my time in treatment because it let me think critically about how I treat myself. Learning about who I am and what I need has let me practice self care, which in turn has led to self love.

I hope you guys are able to send some love to yourself this week, because Valentines is about all types of love, including self love. Happy Early Valentines Day!

 

My Fade Out

I dissociated today in therapy.

This is something that I’ve dealt with since childhood, although there’s no evidence to explain why. The problem with fading out so early in life, is that even if something did happen to cause it, I can’t remember what it is.

What happens to me is what therapists tend to call Profound Dissociative Amnesia, which sounds a lot more complicated than it is. It just means that when my brain decides that I can’t handle something (usually related to strong emotions), it just takes my  consciousness out of the picture.

While it’s very kind that my brain is looking of for me, it can cause a lot of problems.

Like not remembering most of my childhood.

Or ruining friendships in high school. Or coming to realizing that I’m driving around and I’m totally lost (this was before the days of GPS).

But this is about today.

I’m in the process of ending a toxic friendship. After months of trying to get them to respect boundaries, to not verbally attack me, and to not use me as their emotional garbage can

I‘m done. 

They asked for closure, and I think that’s fair, so I met with my therapist to plan out how to approach it. After talking about setting boundaries and making rules about behavior, my therapist started comparing my friendship to an abusive relationship.

And I was gone.

I came to with her asking me questions in a tone of voice I’d never heard her use before. She got me ice to hold in my hands, and grilled me on who I was, where I was, and when it was. Everything was fuzzy, like when you suddenly get woken up from a dead sleep. After I figured out the logistics of who and where and when, I knew one thing.

I was so embarrassed.

Which seems to be a theme lately. I’m embarrassed about meltdowns, embarrassed about dissociation, basically I’m embarrassed that I have non-standard coping mechanisms.

I wish it didn’t happen. It says so much about who I am and what I fear. Like today, triggers often come as a surprise to me, out of nowhere, and now my therapist knows.

I’m self aware to the point of dysfunction, and I hate not knowing what I’m feeling, or why I’m feeling it. I try to avoid talking to my therapist about things that I haven’t figured out, because the idea of someone realizing something about me, before me, terrifies me.

I do realize that’s what therapy is usually for, but I still anxious and scared about having to talk about the dissociation, and what the fact that I dissociated when I did means.

For now, I’m exhausted. I’m still fuzzy around the edges, and to be honest, I’m still fixated on what happened. I try not to ruminate about what happens when my brain exiles my consciousness, but I can’t help but wonder what happened while I was gone.

I don’t like when this happens. I don’t like feeling helpless, and I hate feeling like I’m being defined by my disorder. What do I do if this keeps happening?

Don’t worry. That’s a rhetorical question.