Serious Questions

My therapist brought up several issues for me to contemplate this week.

What caused my 2009 depression?

I considered nothing more specific than everything. A killer flu in February. E’s march depression. My son might be autistic. My son might not t be autistic and is only a misunderstood genius.  My son might be an autistic misunderstood genius. E’s mother visits and resultant turmoil.  My mother visits and we quarrel bitterly with me before she leaves.

My fight with mom stung the most.  I seethed when she waited until the last minute to tell me she had been miserable during her stay. I was gobsmacked!  To me, the visit was terrific, and we had a lovely time. I assumed she enjoyed her time with Liev and helping out. Now, I realize that I misread her. I needed her to tell me how she felt. I missed every clue.

This conflict was one more thing in a series of difficulties.  At night, my ruminations over death and dying burgeoned, becoming so intense and inescapable that I would only sleep for a few hours, only to wake—sad, anxious, and unrefreshed. I wanted not to be. Unworthiness gushed up my throat like bile, scalding my trachea. Nothingness seemed better than the awful ugly feelings of dread that pressed on me.

So, what caused my 2009 depression? “Everything,” perhaps? I crashed three weeks before Liev’s official diagnosis. But the autism thing wasn’t such a big deal. Both Egor and I decided that the diagnosis would be PDD-NOS (autism spectrum) because it was the best fit for the or experience. The unofficial opinion of Cheri confirmed this, the only professional I related to since I came to NH.

Was it coincidental that my death musings started in the fall around the time Cheri’s husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer?  Hmmm. Was it coincidental that I crashed when she quit work to be with her dying husband in late spring?  I don’t think so.  She was the only one with both professional and personal confidence in Liev being well. Diagnosis, schmiagnosis. Her son had Asperger’s and she did not treat it like the end of the world. I needed to hear this. With so much awfulness in the media about autism, the scarlet letter was not “A” for adultery, but “A” for autism. Without her support, I crumpled.

Lack of Self Confidence

When my therapist suggested that I might lack self-confidence, it irritated me.  I might be concerned or confused over having Asperger’s, but I never considered confidence as a problem.  I mentioned this to my husband, who said if the doctor had asked him, he would say, “Yes. I do lack self-confidence.”  Wow.  You think you know someone.

Shocked by his answer, I thought about myself.  Ultimately, I see a difference between the uncertainty of the self and drawing a blank in certain circumstances. When specific rules exist, I can follow procedure.  Under stress, I can’t process well—too many things barge into my mind and I cannot split my attention; I cannot ignore the irrelevant.  What I need is a plan—to recognize what is going on and do something specific until I can sort everything out. Thus, under stress, I either become very rigid or I shut down.  My crash is not a lack of self-confidence; it is a neurological difference.

Feelings Are an Issue

Another shocker, but relevant.  My ideal self-image is more Mr. Spock than Dr. McCoy.  I see order and beauty in logic and chaos and confusion in emotion.  Evaluating myself over the past six months has shown me I don’t experience emotions the same as others.  How do I express this, except to say I have three settings: joyful, anxious, and bored.  There is a “normal” setting, which is somewhere between joyful and anxious, but overall, I experience chunks of feelings rather than a smooth continuum.

I worry about bipolar, especially since we have histories of bipolar on both sides of my family. I read about bipolar I and II and monitored myself for symptoms, but I don’t feel this is an issue. I can pinpoint events that lead to extreme happiness, boredom and anxiety. Once I regulate myself, I even out.  I’ve become more aware of this as I raise my son because his problems are identical. I also have a lifetime of knowledge about my dad, who is the master template for both Liev and me.


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