Serious Questions

My therapist brought up several issues that I have been contemplating for the past week.

What caused my 2009 depression?

I never considered anything more specific than everything. A killer flu in February. E’s march depression. My son might have autism. My son might not t have autism and is only a 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 felt angry with her for waiting till the last minute to tell me how miserable she had been during her stay. I was gobsmacked!  To me, her visit was wonderful and we had a lovely time. I assumed she enjoyed her time with Tyoma and helping out. Now, I realize that I had totally misread her during her stay. I needed to be told implicitly how she felt.

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 be. Unworthiness gushed up my throat like bile and tearing out my trachea seemed better than the ugly awful feelings of dread that followed me.

So what caused my 2009 depression? “Everything” seemed too vague. I crashed badly three weeks before Tyoma’s diagnosis. But the autism thing wasn’t such a big deal. Both Egor and I had already decided that the diagnosis would be PDD-NOS (autism spectrum) because it was the best fit for the data we had. This was confirmed by the unofficial opinion of Cheri, the only professional I had related to since I came to NH.

Was it coincidental that my death ruminations started in the fall around the time Cheri’s  husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer?  Hmmmm. Was it coincidental that I totally crashed when she had to quit work to be with her dying husband in late spring?  I don’t think so.  She was the only one who had both professional and personal confidence in Tyoma 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. So much awfulness in the media. The scarlet letter was not for adultery, but 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 that if the doctor had asked him, he would say, “Yes. I do lack self confidence.”  Wow.  You think you know someone.

I was shocked by his answer and thought about myself.  Ultimately, I see a difference between uncertainty of the self and drawing a blank in certain circumstances. When I have specific rules, I know what to do and I follow procedure.  Under stress, I can’t process well—too many things barge into my mind and I cannot split my attention; I cannot shut out 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.  This is not a lack of self confidence.  This seems more like 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 that I don’t really seem to share the same feelings as others.  I don’t know how to express this except to say that I have three settings: joyous, anxious, and bored.  Certainly there is a “normal” setting, which is somewhere between joyous and anxious, but overall, I have chunks of feelings rather than a smooth continuum.

I worry over 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 really 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 seems to be the master template for both Tyoma and me.

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