Finding Ourselves on the Autism Spectrum

It appears I haven’t written a blog post in two months.  I’m not really surprised.  I’ve absorbed a bunch of new duties into my daily schedule, and it has required a lot of extra time on top of that to adjust.  I have managed to visit the occasional blog here and there and even to leave a few comments.  Gradually I’ve been trying to work my way back into things.  I’ve had ideas for several blog posts in the past couple of months that quickly disappeared when some new pressing issue needed my attention.  My kids will be on summer break from school soon, and since that will improve some things and make some more challenging, I really have no idea yet what my schedule will look like or whether I’ll have the time or inclination to write anything.  When I get too overwhelmed, I tend to withdraw and not want to communicate with anyone, and that’s been happening a lot lately, too.  Old habits die hard.  But since I already wrote an extremely long comment in response to this post at Alienhippy’s blog

I thought I’d take a shot at expanding it into a post of my own and see what happens from there.

I was just coming out of another shut down yesterday.  I’ve been experiencing this off and on a lot lately, probably because so many things have been pushing me way beyond anything resembling my comfort zone, which isn’t that large to begin with.  My son was having a shut down of his own yesterday after overloading on what were a very productive couple of days for him  (we have officially survived the biggest part of his Eagle Project – yay! :)), and needing to deal with his difficulty on top of everything I was already experiencing was a bit much.  I was kind of expecting it, but I still wasn’t really prepared.  And it kept coming in waves.  I’d think I’d helped him past something, and then a new anxiety would take its place.  I didn’t know what he needed and just kept trying all the different tools in my toolbox to see what might help in some small way.  I don’t think any one thing actually did the trick, but the combination seemed to eventually move things forward.  It’s like that with me many times, too. Thankfully, we’re both doing better now, but I still feel a bit discouraged knowing this isn’t something we’re likely to ever really get past.

For some reason, I think I feel guilty when I shut down, like I should be able to do better after all these years.  Mostly it seems to come from who I am and what I feel not being compatible with what’s expected of me and of others.  I need more down time, more time to process things, more stim time, more explanation of things, more help, etc., than what’s considered acceptable.  I don’t seem to know what I’m supposed to know or to be able to handle what I’m supposed to be able to handle.  If I’m honest, I usually don’t genuinely feel bad about myself.  It’s more that I’d like the rest of the world to adjust please, because I don’t fit here, and neither does my son, and I happen to know we’re both good people who are honestly doing our best.  I’d like for our best to be good enough, because it’s really all we’ve got.

Being confronted with too many demands on my time, my mind, or my sensory system tends to make me shut down, and being shut down seems to drain every bit of my energy.  It becomes a chore just to wash a dish or walk up the stairs, and talking to people is even worse.  I hide my issues as best as I can, maybe because I don’t want to be evaluated and found wanting any further than I already have been.  I try to sneak off to be alone and fixate on whatever I feel will help me at that moment, and when I can’t because of circumstances or unhelpful people, I become anxious and irritable and have trouble thinking.  When I do come out of that state, it feels a bit like a flood of energy, although I seem to be very low energy in comparison with other people, so that flood doesn’t last too long.  Sometimes I think of it like I’m riding a wave and try to use that energy to get a lot done, because I know I won’t have it later.

More and more these days, I am learning to accept who and how I am, and this allows me to do what I need to do to help myself much sooner.  I know that I have to meet my needs, because no one else will. I need to do whatever I need to do and to indulge whatever obsession I’ve currently got going in order to feel OK again, and it’s better for everyone around me if I just go ahead and do that.  The longer I wait, the worse things get, and I end up behaving in ways I regret and taking much longer to recover.

I tend to shut down less if I keep spending time focusing on spiritual things, and often that’s what brings me back around if I’m not too far gone.  But there are times when I let things go too far, and I have to indulge some other needs before I can approach anything with deeper meaning.  I think those are the times when I start to feel guilty, because I feel like I should have caught it sooner.  Then I have to practice forgiveness of myself and others in order to start over.  I really expected to be much more spiritually evolved by this point in my life. 🙂  Every day just seems to be the same struggle over and over – some feeling more successful than others, but none really fundamentally changing me or my situation.

It’s hard for me to watch my son go through this, because he has much less coping ability at this point.  Then again, he also has me, and much of the time I do seem able to help.  He also has a lot of great supports at school and at Boy Scouts and among our friends.  I sometimes wish I’d had more of the helps that he has when I was growing up, but then again, I managed, and I grew into someone who can help myself and help him.  So one way or another. we’re both doing  OK.


Comments on: "Shutting down and bouncing back" (12)

  1. Hi Diane,

    I think many of us are experiencing these shutdowns at the same time. It seems several of us are writing about it and working through our issues with it. I think it has helped me a lot to embrace the way my brain is wired by reading your post along with others.

    It is awesome that you are able to help your son and that you are willing to keep trying things to find what will help in the moment or for the long term. You both are OK! And I am seeing that I am too!! 🙂

    I am glad you were able to write this post. I think our shutdowns are a habit that will not change. I think that they will get a lot easier to accept once we have acknowledged that we have got to do what we have got to do, to be better with everyone. Reading other people going through this is truly helpful and freeing.

    • HI, Angel.

      Sorry to be so long in responding. Every time I think life is as demanding as it can be, something new comes up to claim my attention. You are very encouraging, and reading what you share of your thoughts and experiences helps me gain insight into my own and to not feel alone. You are definitely OK. 🙂 Thank you for stopping in to read and comment.


  2. I think many people shut down when the world demands too much..I know that I do. It sounds as if your son is doing tremendously well. 🙂 I think that our kids-take their cues from us..if we accept ourselves-they see that..and learn from it. It is a wonderful example for them.

    • Hi, Kathleen.

      It’s nice of you to stop by to comment. I agree about what our kids pick up from us. Your comment is a good reminder that it’s so important to accept and take care of ourselves, not only for us, but for the kids who are learning from us. My son is doing very well. For every bump we hit, there’s another area in which he’s showing progress. Now if we can just get through this last week of finals … 🙂


  3. Man, I *hate* the ones that come in waves. {{{Hugs}}} to you.

    I’ve noticed, though, that since I’ve been able to accept mine for what they really are and in full knowledge of what causes them and why, they’re easier. To be able to say that I’m not a weak or immature person, I have real and serious neurological issues, and I know these periods won’t last forever, and I know what I need to do to take care of myself, all lessen their duration and severity.

    Naps are good. Laughter is good.

    • Hi, Chavisory.

      Thanks very much. I absolutely agree that the process goes much better when we acknowledge what’s happening and take care of ourselves instead of feeling guilty for something we didn’t cause and don’t control.

      The waves definitely suck. I usually start pretty strong but wear down as things keep coming. I need time in between to recharge.

      I’m completely with you on the naps and the laughter. I lose all perspective when I don’t get enough of either. (Chocolate has fine restorative properties, too, but it comes with unfortunate side-effects involving weight and blood sugar. :))

      I really appreciate the encouragement. Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  4. Hello Diane,
    Good to see you back. I have also been in a shutdown lately. It was amazing to read your description as it fits so well with what I have been experiencing and feeling. I’m coming out of the overload/shutdown too. It does feel good to be in better spirits.
    Thanks for writing this. It helped me feel less isolated and alone.

    • Hi, Bruce.

      It’s good to hear from you. I’m sorry you’ve been having your own shutdown issues lately, and I’m glad you are feeling better now. I’m very glad we can share these things with each other and help each other through to happier moments. It’s a comfort not to feel so alone.


  5. Diane,
    I hope you and your son are both feeling better. I agree with Angel that things seem to be affecting multiple bloggers at the same time. I hope everyone is back to their own version of normal soon. I miss interacting with my blogging friends. I do know about summer being busier as it has certainly always seemed that way here too.

    • Hi, Sue.

      Thanks for taking time to comment. I know you have a lot to deal with right now, and I hope things continue to improve for you. We are in a decent place at the moment – just have to get through this last few days of school and finals. Then we’ll start into whole new issues involving a new summer schedule … 🙂

  6. I can relate to this. I shut down periodically, too. I think it’s a natural coping mechanism when things get to be too much. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

    • Hi, Patty.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. This certainly feels very natural to me. I think what bothers me is how often and how easily it gets activated. I seem to have the same response to a day that’s just a bit too busy or contains too much conflict as I do to a genuine crisis.

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