Prior to starting this blog, and sort of overlapping it a bit, I’ve made several attempts to keep a daily journal. The ‘daily’ part tends to be my downfall each time; I miss a few days, and then get frustrated and abandon the effort because I didn’t meet the goal I had set for myself.
The blog actually has been more of a success for me, not because I am any more likely to post on a daily basis, but because if I don’t post at all for a while, I feel guilty for worrying the people I do tend to interact with on a regular basis and I’ll at least put up a “better make sure no one thinks I am dead” post here or there – though the quality of those posts tends to leave something to be desired at times. This helps keep me engaged and makes it easier to jump back in even after a long absence.
I actually have two different journaling apps on my phone, and I was sifting through them a few days ago, trying to see if I had made note of when I started one of my medications. I sort of got sucked in reading a few of the entries I’d posted around the time I was diagnosed with narcolepsy and dealing with the fallout from the medication, and what really struck me was how many of my posts talked about dealing with crippling anxiety.
It made me realize that don’t have a lot of really over-the-top anxiety nowadays. Yes, I have had incidents that made me anxious, and I existing in a state only slightly below complete meltdown for weeks when we were selling and buying a house simultaneously (which I think would freak out anyone) but for the most part, I am pretty calm.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but mostly what I deal with is fatigue and frustration at the limitations my health issues impose upon me. What changed? I think that it’s not that any of the issues I was dealing with have gotten better, but rather that that I understand myself so much better; I am thus able to much more effectively manage my environment – and my reactions to things I can’t control – as a result.
I no longer force myself to engage socially just to fit in, or mask my innate differences – If I know something is going to cause me sensory overload, and it’s something I can avoid, I do so. If I can’t avoid it, I at least do everything I can to mitigate the overload, and take time to withdraw and rest as soon as I can afterwards.
Structure and a stable routine makes me happy and helps me conserve energy, and I will no longer be pressured or guilted into trying something different (that I emphatically don’t want to take part in) just because someone says “but you’ll like it once you try it!”
I don’t mean that I am entirely rigid…Try a new restaurant? Sure, maybe I will like it once I try it, I’ll gamble as long as it’s not really noisy and crowded. Go to a Karaoke bar? Um, yeah… that’s not gonna happen. Finding out about my Asperger’s was a gift. It has allowed me to take care of myself a lot better.
Other diagnoses that have piled on since then (dysautonomia/POTS, hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, probable Mast Cell Activation syndrome) are less benign, but finally having this information took an incredible burden of stress off me! So much of my anxiety was related to my incessant search for answers, the worry over not knowing what to expect, fear of the unknown, and frustration at not being believed.
The inability to make the healthcare professionals I was dealing with understand that just because they didn’t know what was wrong, didn’t mean there wasn’t anything wrong, (and dealing with all the unwanted interaction and red tape) damn near rendered me literally unable to function. It shouldn’t have taken as long as it did to get answers, and I shouldn’t have had to figure all of it out on my own, but when I got validation that I was right, it was such a relief to finally know.
Anyway, I won’t say that I don’t still get anxious at all, or haven’t had some pretty bad episodes (the dog pee meltdown wasn’t at all funny at the time but kind of is in retrospect) but I hadn’t realized until I read some of those old journal entries, (some of which I’m going to clean up a bit and post here when I get a chance) as well as some of the earlier posts on this blog, just how much things have improved. It’s progress that has been so gradual that it’s only recognizable when viewed from the perspective of distance, and it makes me glad that even though I sometimes suck at it, I have kept writing.
Featured Image: A couple of turtles taking advantage of a nice early spring day. Image tweaked for sharpness and clarity due to the distance the picture had to be taken from so as not to disturb the turtles.