As I have mentioned before, I have alexithymia – sometimes rather endearingly nicknamed ‘Alex’ by people who have it. ‘Alex’ is an inability to connect with one’s emotions. So you can be sad or angry or happy and have no way of actually identifying what the feeling is. For me, all I usually manage is ‘I feel good’, ‘I feel nothing’ and ‘I feel bad’. This has meant that in the past I have become very unwell with mental illness due to ignoring anxiety or depression and not noticing quite how difficult things had become. I have never identified emotions by myself and it has usually required interventions form various mental health professionals to point out just how depressed or anxious I was.
Over the past few weeks I have noticed some mental health discomfort. I was quite irritable for some weeks and I felt a lack of motivation. My forehead was tight and my eyes felt weird. I have had this in the past and I usually just call it ‘unwell.’ If ‘unwell’ comes with attached delusions and hallucinations, I call it ‘psychosis’ because that is what doctors have taught me those things indicate. Mostly however, the whole thing is just a mass of unidentifiable feelings and experiences that make no sense to me.
Yesterday something new happened. I understood what the ‘unwell’ feelings I was having were: anxiety. Quite considerable overwhelming, daunting anxiety. Wow! And once I unlocked the anxiety ‘code’ it let the floodgates open and I could feel the physical sensation of anxiety. While this is not very pleasant I think it represents a huge breakthrough, for while I can feel the emotion I can address it. People had been telling me for months that I was working too hard, taking on too much and potentially threatening my mental health and I largely dismissed their concerns, being unable to understand what they meant. I felt OK so i didn’t need to change my working habits. Now I understand what they were getting at. I have identified the biggest stressor – email and social media. Every time I check my email, I am either anxious that there will be something there I don;t want to deal with or excited that something good will be there. As a psychologist once told me there is a fine line between anxiety and excitement – they are very similar chemical processes in the brain but one is associated with positive feelings and the other negative. So if I am not careful, my excitement can easily turn to stress. The other issues – probably the biggest – is social media. I love my social media family but not everyone I encounter on other pages or groups is friendly and I worry that people will write awful things about me or get n some kind of disrespectful argument with me (I have inherited my family’s hatred of confrontation and tend to avoid it at all costs). So I worked out that I need to limit times checking social media and emails and to be in a space where I feel confident to do that.
I think I will be OK and I should point out how lovely friends have been to me over the past few weeks while I was making this amazing discovery. I have many strong and effective weapons in my arsenal against mental health nasties: good friends, a loving family, self-esteem, a positive attitude and a black cat. I can do this and I think I am one step further along the road to self-awareness and wisdom. And I’m always happy to share tips I gather along the journey. Now I’m going to go and listen to myself interview Professor Tony Attwood on my radio show – we talked about mental health and anxiety. Here’s the link if you want to listen too http://www.blogtalkradio.com/positivelyautistic/2015/08/22/positively-autistic–jeanettes-autism-show
Anxiety doesn’t stand a chance against cuddles from Mr Kitty