Tears of the Ocean #WordlessWednesday

 

Keiko Matsui

 

 

Aspergers and depression – the silent predator!

 

25th Postcard from the Edge of the Spectrum

I went to an Ivy League school and even in middle age, I can still bench 220 without really breaking a sweat.

But 2 months ago I was diagnosed with Major Depression.

 

Hidden in plain view

Major Depression doesn’t happen over night.

It creeps up on you slowly until you are on the edge, looking over!

In my case it was also camouflaged by my decades long experience of Dystymia.

  • Dysthymia is a minor form of Major Depression
  • A low level of despair (to quote Jim Carrey)

I was as unaware of Major Depression as I was of having Aspergers, which I discovered only in my 40s!

I estimate that I had been suffering with Major Depression for at least a year.

  • Perhaps as much as 2 years

I had pretty much come to a complete standstill, unable to think, in a state of inertia.

  • I had lost my way
  • Lost my purpose and my interest in the World
  • Lost hope, lost my joy

I was apathy personified.

I was descending into hell.

Powerless

I finally realized that I was too far from the shore to swim back in.

So I made an appointment to see a Specialist.

  • It didn’t take very long for her to arrive at the diagnosis
  • But for the complete absence of suicidal thoughts I would have scored full diagnostic marks

I was a mess.

I have now been prescribed anti-depressant medication and was told that I will probably need a 6 month course.

  • Seems this is the normal course duration, with this medication at least
  • To restore my neurotransmitter balance

The healing paradox

My medication is taken at night as it has a powerful sedative effect, initially at least.

The morning after taking my first anti-depressant pill, I awoke to a strange feeling.

  • I felt as if a great fog had lifted
  • I felt happy, which was quite a novelty after more than a year of utter misery
  • I was alert to the world around me
  • I was BACK!

These feelings have continued, without setback and the drowsiness passed after the first week.

It seems clear that the first step towards healing was when I admitted to myself and my wife, that I was in a helpless state.

  • Setting aside my ego allowed me to be receptive to healing and to help
  • It also kick started my cognitive faculties

This also happens to be the first step to recovery for those who are addicted to alcohol and other substances.

Back in the saddle

My progress continued, at a rate that seemed to surprise my Doctor.

I was able to identify that my work was the main underlying cause of my depression!

  • I explored what aspects of my work I enjoyed and those I did not
  • What aspects of my work were unhelpful/destructive?
  • I then set about analyzing what kind of work and corporate culture would be most suitable for me
  • Leveraging my strengths, while mitigating/eliminating the burden of my weaknesses

I spent several days putting together an up to date resume before sending it out to carefully targeted companies.

I am now working with a new company where I get to fully employ my knowledge, skills and professional credentials but in a structure that makes it much easier for me to be organized and stay organized (my main weakness)

The underlying disorder

After a few weeks on anti-depressants, I found myself feeling much calmer and better able to concentrate.

So under the supervision of my Doctor:

  • I have discontinued my ADHD medication
  • I am no longer taking anxiety medication either

I had read that one of the causes of anxiety is depression.

  • There are many other causes

So I wasn’t surprised that my general feeling of anxiety had lifted.

  • What astonished me was the speed with which it lifted, without returning!
  • It also seems that what I had been calling anxiety was actually panic attacks
  • In addition to a general, lower level of anxiety of more or less permanent fight of flight mode!
  • This was an utterly crippling condition to have to live with

The Question

I really don’t know how I managed to continue functioning for the year leading up to my diagnosis.

The question is not how could I have developed Major Depression or how could it go unnoticed for so long.

  • The real question is how did I survive for so long without professional help?
  • Or perhaps, as with my teen years, how did I survive at all?

A friend who had wrestled with his own demons, as a former combat soldier, told me what keeps him going.

‘I always want to see what’s on the other side of the next breath’

That’s a very simple statement but powerful statement and one that I can relate to very well.

Reboot

Somehow I managed to push my reset button.

  • It began with ACKNOWLEDGING my depression
  • Which meant I was open to healing
  • I believed in my Doctor and believed in my medicine
  • I started believing in myself again 🙂
  • I have also begun a Cognitive training program
    • To help improve my concentration among other things and
    • To develop healthier thinking patterns

Epilogue

I have written this to help others who are suffering with depression.

Depression is especially common among those with Aspergers Syndrome.

No one is immune and depression is nothing to be ashamed of, any more than catching a cold is anything to be ashamed of!

If you have the strength to endure depression, you have the strength to take the first step toward recovery.

I would urge you to take that step and get some help, even if it’s just telling a friend or loved one about how you are feeling.

 

The Stand Up Kid

 

Gratitude from the edge of the Spectrum

 

I have been reflecting on my first 5 months of blogging and tweeting about my journey with Aspergers.

My experience is quite different to what I had anticipated!

Friendships

I have connected with and become friends with far more people than I expected.

  • Their friendship, kindness and generosity has been a real blessing
  • Their openness and honesty is refreshing
  • They demonstrate a consistently high level of humor, kindness and intellect
  • All of which is quite different to my experience in the real world
  • For this I am grateful

Poetry

As I mentioned in my Literal thinking post, I was clueless about poetry in High school.

But I found myself instantly drawn to the micropoetry that was being retweeted into my Twitter timeline.

  • In true Aspie style, I googled and read widely about Japanese micropoetry
  • I even managed to find an academic paper on juxtapose!
  • At which point poetry actually made sense for the first time in my life

I started tweeting my own micro poems and was astonished to see them being retweeted!

  • Poets now represent a significant portion of my Twitter followers and those I follow
  • I now find myself composing poetry whenever I am out walking, especially when I am alone

I have also made some wonderful connections with Authors and film makers.

  • People who really inspire me.

 

It seems that kindness, compassion, poetry, prose, humor and intellect in general know no neurological boundaries.

For all of this I am very grateful.

My story

I created this blog to help others on they journey with Autism.

  • To set out a few lamps so others might see their path a little more clearly
  • Maybe feel a little less alone
  • Perhaps feel a little more hopeful

I also realized that my writing project would likely also be very cathartic and healing for me.

  • It has been and then some

 

But what I wasn’t expecting was the sadness, grief and at times despair that I felt as I reviewed my journey with Aspergers, particularly my childhood journey.

I did experience a sense of grief over my lost childhood when I first discovered I had Aspergers, just a few years ago.

  • I experienced this again as I started writing here
  • But this time there was a new aspect to my grieving

I was grieving the time I had ‘lost’ as an adult, with my family and in my career.

  • What if I’d known about Aspergers 15 years ago, 10 years ago, even 5 years ago?
  • What difference might it have made?
  • What if, what if, what if….?

Acceptance and Gratitude

The fact is that I have to live with and play the cards that I have been dealt.

  • I can’t go back and it does me no good to mourn or even count my lost opportunities
  • The cards that I have been dealt are actually very good cards!
  • Some aspects of Aspergers and ADHD are my Achilles heel
  • But in the scheme of things, they are a frustrating inconvenience that I can mostly work with (and sometimes around)
  • That said, working with and around Aspergers and ADHD is sometimes a monumental effort 🙂

I really do have so very much to be thankful for.

 

So I am no longer stumbling through life in quite the same socially confused daze that I used to.

Now when I do stumble, as still happens regularly, at least I can recognize it for what it is.

Before my Aspergers discovery, it didn’t even occur to me that I was in a socially confused daze!

  • I just thought I was somehow ‘different’
  • One of those people that just doesn’t have any friends but is otherwise ‘OK’

I now have most of the answers and a growing set of coping resources.

  • All I need now is the willingness to put forth the effort, sometmies quite a lot of effort
  • To be more focused and organized and then….
  • See how high I can fly 🙂

So I am grateful to have discovered my Aspergers, albeit late in life.

  • Others are far less fortunate

I am grateful for the friendship and support that I have discovered in the social-media Autism community.

  • I am grateful for the coping tools I am discovering that make my life more fulfilling
  • I am grateful that with an intellectual vocation, middle age and Aspergers do not rob me of economic opportunity
    • I believe that Asperger’s actually allows me to excel in my work
  • I am grateful for my health
  • I am grateful to have a wife who (most of the time) has the patience of Job

So rather than seeing a cup that is half empty, I am seeing a cup that is actually overflowing.

For this, I am so very grateful.

 

Thank you all for your friendship, kindness and encouragement.

 

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