Sunday, 13 May 2012

Asperger's and Anxiety

Both my daughter and I have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  Many of us on the spectrum have a lot of anxiety due to many things, but especially not knowing what to say or do in different situations. 

I think the only thing I don't like about having Asperger’s is the constant anxiety.  I even wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety attacks when not on medication.  Currently I take three medications: BuSpar, Welbutrin, and Ativan as needed, which is at times every day and sometimes not at all for days.  These three seem to have the least side effects for me as opposed to the SSRI’s etc. which had many side effects; the worst for me being weight gain and dry mouth.  The meds were for anxiety and depression but you get more depressed because of the major side effects.  I could always tell when I forgot to take my Effexor because I got electric jolts in my body.  I had to be weaned off of it very slowly because of the withdrawal.

One of the problems with parenting with Asperger’s is that I have to be careful not to pass on my fears and anxieties to my daughter.  I hide it very well from people, and though it is tougher at home, I work very hard not to pass on my anxieties to my daughter.  I don't think she realizes how much anxiety I have. When I am anxious at home, it may come out as irritability or indecision.  At those times, I think she may just see me as a grumpy mother but I prefer that to passing my fears onto her.

I have many strange fears such as worrying there is a shark in the pool although I can clearly see there isn't and can't be because of chlorine.  I'm also afraid that I will get sucked into the drain and  I'm even afraid to be out with the dogs at night in the backyard by the pool, but I'm not sure what worries me.  Those types of fears make no sense.  I made sure to never tell my daughter why I didn't like going in the water.  My problem is that she won't go in the pool unless someone else is in there also.  She told me it is because there might be a shark.  She doesn’t know why she is afraid there might be a shark in the pool and I have told her that it is not possible for one to make it from the ocean to our pool.  Even if it did, it wouldn’t survive because of the chlorine. She has never seen movies like Jaws but she does know those movies exist and she also knows sharks can be dangerous and that they live in water (albeit salt water).  If there are no other kids to go in our pool with her at home, then I have to hide my fear and accompany her but I have to wear water shoes (you never know what gross things are on the bottom!).

Other fears I have make more sense (to someone on the spectrum anyway!).   Making phone calls for any reason is hard.  It doesn't matter if it is talking to family, making appointments, or asking questions.  They are all hard.  I put them off as long as possible.  Some days I am brave and get a few calls done in one day!  The calls are hard because you have to know when to talk, what to say, what responses to give, and you have to process with the other person is saying quickly. 

I don't answer the phone often.  We have call display so I only answer doctors’ offices and anyone who helps us like Kerry's Place.  It's easier than having to call them back.  My daughter knows nothing of these phone problems because I don't tell her I have to make a call until I do it, but it is hard when she wants me to call another parent because I can't usually get out of that one.  It is easier if I have someone's e-mail address but I still have to think of what to say and what responses to give.  It has taken a very long time for my daughter to use the phone herself.  She usually talks to one or two friends on the speakerphone while they play online games.

Two other fears that I have are bugs and thunder and lightning.  I can't call anyone to squash bugs in the house anymore because I can't let on I'm scared too.   I have to be the brave mother and kill the spiders on the ceiling and not screech if they fall on me.

I am better with thunder and lightning now as long as I'm in the house and it's not too bad.  We got stuck at the barn one day recently and it started to storm with lots of thunder and lightning.  I had to be the brave one and tell her we would be fine and when to run to the car and then from the car to the house.

Another big source of anxiety is leaving the house to even go on a walk.  You don't know who you're going to see, if anyone.  What do you say or do?  What happens if you are somewhere and you see someone you know but they haven't spotted you?  Do you to try to be brave and go say hi or do you try to leave the area because you don't know what to do?  It is easier if I have my daughter or someone else with me because I just focus on them.  Being a parent has forced me to confront my own comfort levels on a regular basis:  I've had to go several places that I would not have normally gone because she wanted or needed to-- I can’t very well tell her no because I'm scared.
My daughter has many of the same anxieties that I have.  However, we have always worked on hers with professionals and in social groups, so hopefully when she is an adult her anxieties will be less pervasive than mine and she will know how to properly deal with them instead of avoiding things and becoming depressed.