To say that 2014 was a bad year for me is a bit of an understatement. Losing my dad to cancer was a blow I still haven’t recovered from. I know I’ll never “get over” it, but I just haven’t been myself in the haze of my grief. And I realize now that I didn’t start grieving when he died in June. I’d started actively grieving last January. Consciously, I still believed he would recover, that he would beat the odds, that mantle cell lymphoma would not be the death sentence that all of the research said it was.
But my subconscious knew, and my behavior became more erratic, more out of control. I was an emotional wreck. I was needy and made bad decisions. And I missed a lot of time with my dad, knowing he was too sick for visits, but assuming we’d have time to play catch up when he got better. I never got to do the “interviews” he wanted to do with me so we could get his mantle cell lymphoma blog up and running. The blog never happened. And I wish I’d just gone to sit with him even though he didn’t want us to see him “that way.”
After he died, my brain did something completely different than the series of meltdowns I’d been having out of anxiety over his failing health. It went numb after my tears had run dry. Not just in the emotional sense, but cognitively. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t focus. Being left alone with my thoughts was generally a bad idea, because then I could end up having a panic attack that escalated into a full meltdown where the tears would pour out and I was completely inconsolable. The novel I’d started writing got abandoned because I simply couldn’t get words down. Client work was difficult, but it didn’t really suffer. Once I sat myself down and forced myself to work, editing nonfiction was a fairly straightforward task. It was trying to do anything remotely creative that was nigh on impossible.
And so I busied my days with audiobooks that kept my mind occupied while I did things on my computer that didn’t require too much thought whenever I wasn’t working. I devoured at least 100 books last year this way. This is still how I pass my days to keep my sanity. I cannot process my feelings even when guided by my psychiatrist, so I have to protect myself from wandering down bad mental pathways when I’m alone.
Asperger’s and Grief
I’d never really considered exactly how Asperger’s makes my thought processes different than most people’s…just that it does. Then someone on reddit linked this post entitled Autistic Grief is Not Like NT Grief and some pieces clicked together. Pieces clicking together is actually part of it. Though I’ve used the phrase “my brain is just wired differently,” I now have better words to describe it. I don’t just “get” things the way NT people do. I’m always putting pieces together, analyzing sensory data alongside internal data.
Here’s an example: When I got my learner’s permit, my parents had a terrible time trying to teach me how to drive. My mom was exasperated because I had to sit and think about which way to hit the directional signal to get the correct light to blink. It didn’t come naturally to me, and I couldn’t just remember it after the first time she told me. It took not just practice, like all new drivers need anyway, but conscious rehearsal and mental reminders every time I got behind the wheel. I didn’t get my driver’s license for two years, after I used my graduation money to buy driving lessons because my parents stressed me out too much and their Oldsmobile was a boat I’d never be able to parallel park. It wasn’t until after I had my license that I finally “got” which way I had to hit the stick to use my directional properly. Muscle memory finally won out over my analytical brain.
So I think maybe this helps explain why I’m having such a hard time with thinking. There’s too much data and not enough processing power – like if I tried to run two instances of World of Warcraft, Sim City, and Spore at the same time on my three-year-old laptop. My creative thinking was the first thing to go. (I tried to pick up writing my novel again for NaNoWriMo – and I did – but I couldn’t force myself to keep going after November. It had been a struggle to reach those 50,000 words in the first place.) So my novel has sat there, still unfinished. My blog has been mostly ignored. My work gets done, but I have to force myself to do it. As long as it gets done, though, and my clients are happy with it, it doesn’t matter what measures I have to take with myself to do it.
When I’m not working, I’m making sets on Polyvore, or playing World of Warcraft, or working more on my family tree on Ancestry – things like that. At least I’m trying to turn Polyvore into something valuable I can offer as an additional benefit to brands who want to work with me.
But I’m still just doing busy work. Closing myself off, which unfortunately includes (excludes?) family and friends. I don’t want to talk about how I feel because I don’t have the words. It’s frustrating for me not to have the words, since I usually have too many words. But I’ve been shying away for any human contact, and I know that’s not good.
Back to Me?
I don’t know how to dig myself out of this. I don’t see myself making any emotional breakthroughs in therapy any time soon. Too many pieces to put together, and I’m not ready to try. But I want to get back to a more functional level somehow. I want to enjoy creative writing again. I do have ideas, but I can’t get them out. I want to enjoy my family and friends more. I want to enjoy anything more. Depression and grief tend to mute all feelings, even the good ones, when you feel the numbness instead of the pain. Not that I haven’t laughed and had good times, but nothing that’s been deeply joyful.
I know that’s “normal” when you lose someone close to you, in my case, a parent. But people get back to more normalcy at different rates, and I know I’m predisposed to recover more slowly. Slow recovery has been the story of my life, both mentally and physically, for most of my adult life.
Let’s hope I can get back to bring me soon.
No tag for this post.