Snapshot: Anxiety, depression, stimulatory behavior & negative thought traps.
On November 1st my husband and I took some friends out hiking at some nearby waterfalls. While we were out enjoying the beauty of nature someone smashed out a window in our car and stole my laptop, some electronics and photography gear that belonged to our friends, and some personal belongings stuffed into a backpack nearby.
It’s hard enough being stolen from. It’s hard enough having your vehicle vandalized. It’s definitely hard enough having your friends and loved ones affected directly as well; it’s violating, it’s hurtful, it’s depressing, it’s infuriating. But to make it just that much more of a slap in the face, they had to steal my outlet, my tool–and furthermore a purchase I’d been saving for over the last year and a half that would open many doors for my artistic/expressive needs; a purchase I’d just made barely a week before.
If I was a painter it’d be like they stole all of my brushes, paints, and canvas in one fell swoop.
Theft is theft. It hurts everybody in relatively the same baseline ways and I’m no different in this regard. However I can’t deny that I’m definitely having a unique experience (read: autistic reaction) to this event. Allow me to preface my experience with an explanation as to why that laptop is more than just an expensive piece of electronics for me:
I am currently in recovery from autistic burnout (something I will discuss in more detail in a future post) and psychological burnout from having a really intense work-induced panic attack back in August.
“Autistic burnout is a state of physical and mental fatigue, heightened stress, and diminished capacity to manage life skills, sensory input, and/or social interactions, which comes from years of being severely overtaxed by the strain of trying to live up to demands that are out of sync with our needs.”Dora Raymaker, PhD
My pathway to recovery involves heavy-but-slow processing through artistic means–I would say I may even get more healing from my creativity than I do from the weekly therapy I’m in (no offense to my therapist–she’s amazing, it’s just I process very slowly and art is something I can do that allows me to process at my pace whereas therapy forces me to try and process in an hour and half). One of the consequences of my burnout is that I sleep–a lot–and it takes me an hour or more every day to reconnect with my body and get out of bed. I don’t wake up morose or sad, I’m just depleted of mental & physical energy and so I wake in a “molasses state” and mental willpower is but a hoarse whisper.
Enter the current interests: blogging and digital artwork
Laying in bed for an hour every day, even if needed, wasn’t helping my anxiety any because I wake with a strong desire to dive into my interests, which bring me great joy and emotional release, but my body doesn’t want to respond and get out of bed and this can be very frustrating. I also don’t like feeling unproductive and it goes against my morning routine to sleep/be in bed past 8am, but I’m trying to allow myself to recover as I need right now, which means allowing myself that slow wake time while working on ways to slowly reduce it. But laying there, pining to get on creating while struggling to kick into gear, was becoming a depressing irritation regardless of my self-compassion and I knew there was a way I could fix it that I had been avoiding: finally buy the convertible (touchscreen) laptop I’d been saving for so that I could at least create while waiting for my body and mind to be ready to get out of bed. Plus in so doing I had a feeling I might rouse faster and be ready for my day more quickly if I could actually tap into my interests and boost my happy brain chemicals first thing..
You see…I had been saving bonus money from my current job since I started nearly two years ago. I hadn’t yet purchased it mainly because I struggle to make expensive purchases even when I’ve been saving for them; being that my husband and I are in an aggressive debt pay-off endeavor right now it’s extra hard to justify buying anything that feels “extra”. Further, I too often choose money over mental wellness when I have room for–and especially need–care for my mental wellness. This is rooted in intense money anxiety from growing up poor and witnessing countless, aggressive fights between my parents over money problems. So when I finally overcame all of that baggage (a whole two weeks ago) and decided to customize and purchase a convertible laptop that would open all of the creative doors that had been closed to me, it was kind of a big deal. That laptop represented freedom. It represented growth. It represented self-love because I saved up for it and gifted it to myself for all of my hard work and as a golden tool in helping me explore my autism since the computer was my platform for creativity and connection. So it was special in that it was an extension of me, a conduit of connection, and my most versatile artistic medium.
Experiencing the feels…
All of that was taken when my laptop was stolen–at least that’s what it feels like. They didn’t just take the thing, they took all of that time and effort spent working for those bonuses that I saved while spitting on all the time and effort of psychological work it took to overcome money anxiety enough to buy a golden tool for myself. They set me back to where I was before and therefore stole my progress. They stole my artwork and writing projects that were saved locally on the hard drive, as I’d had it such a short time (only a week) and was so excited to create that I began creating before bothering to finish setting up all of my cloud drives and Microsoft tools.
This causes me loss-related anxiety. It’s a struggle to sit at this desktop PC, with all of its physical discomforts, anyway, and write in my blog that I should be writing in from a more comfortable, less over-stimulating position on my laptop. It’s hard not to think about the theft and re-live all of the emotions again, followed by the inevitable partial shut down I go through while they scramble through my brain and then slowly pass, leaving the mental carnage behind. Creating is a major challenge: I stim like crazy while I sit here, trying to keep my insides feeling calm and connected because my cells otherwise feel like they all want to explode out of my body. I’ve never been good at sitting still at desks and it’s only a matter of time before the causes of the incessant stimming wear me out and I’m too drained to continue, too depleted to focus or care. This inhibition to my productivity was solved in the purchase of the laptop. It directly contributed to a reduction in anxiety, depression, and increase in overall wellness through reduction of daily over-stimulation while doing something I enjoy. Now back to square one.
So I’m struggling with intense emotional consequences, a drastic increase in stimulatory behaviors that are taking over much of my days, and a major setback in healing from my autistic burnout. My focus and executive functioning are already in extreme peril from said burnout, waking only for my interests and now in a depressive slumber again. It’s hard not to feel completely morose over that–the lights have switched off upstairs and I can’t create in the dark.
Enter the negative thought-traps
It’s hard to stay afloat because I keep sinking below the surface of the sea of negative thought traps. The very first thing that crossed my mind when I walked up to the car and noticed the rear passenger window was missing (nope, not missing–just in pieces all over the ground and all over the interior) was that it was my fault. I instantly blamed myself for even bringing my laptop in the first place, then further leaving it in the car fully knowing the risk (in fact, I even had a weird gut feeling that day that I shouldn’t leave it behind in the car but…I did, anyway, which only served to inflame my self-directed anger even more). “I shouldn’t have brought it!” I kept wailing; “I’m so sorry, you guys, this is my fault. They were going right for it–if I hadn’t brought it, hadn’t left it in the car, they wouldn’t have broken in to get it and none of your stuff would have been taken, either. This is on me!” Thankfully my partner and my friends were not having any of that nonsense, reminding me that people make their own choices and that person/those people chose to violate us and steal our belongings when they could have chosen not to. While I understand that they behaved according to their own will and ethics (or lack thereof) I still struggle with accepting that I didn’t “create the situation” in which we got robbed, violated, and our vehicle vandalized. Every day thus far I’ve gone through the mental gymnastics, the tumbling through that maze of self-blame and mis-directed aggression (“you deserve to have your laptop stolen for being dumb enough to bring it a second time when you were well aware of the risk the first time”). Eventually I stick the landing (“no one deserves to be stolen from and we shouldn’t have to worry about these things”) but the routine is exhausting.
I am not to blame. I am not worthy of my hate, but I am worthy of love and compassion. But damnit why didn’t I make the perfect call in that situation and have total control over every aspect of my life at every given moment? How dare I not be omniscient and omnipresent! Tall order. Welcome to my life.
In the face of facts (it’s gone, I’m broke, life must move forward) I’m doing what I can to try and recover our losses and get back my artistic outlet. I don’t like asking for help, never have, and I especially don’t like asking for money and therefore never do, not even from my parents. As such it wasn’t an easy decision and it comes from a genuinely humbled place of existence, but I’ve had to create a GoFundMe account and ask for financial assistance from our community. I’m not a person putting her hand out and begging for spare change–a person with needs but nothing to give in return. My art and writing might be therapeutic for me but it helps others as well, and it connects me to my local creative community (and them to me) in a way that allows me to contribute to local art culture overall and I believe in the broad value of art to humanity. Importantly that feeling of connectedness to humanity, as an autistic woman who’s always felt “alien” and therefore disconnected from her kind, is vastly important to me.
Having something to offer back makes me feel better about having to ask, but I still feel the sting of embarrassment about it all–that it happened, that I can’t afford to replace the stolen items myself, that I have to ask for help. But I know people will help if they can, if they want, and it’s not an obligation but it generally makes people feel good to help others, it spreads positivity. I try my best to do that–to bring positivity into peoples’ lives. On my quest for help a man reached out to me on social media to inquire about the incident. When I looked at his profile I found that he had his own GoFundMe running so I opened it to read about his cause. This man, an avid adventurer and motocross rider, had an accident during one of his rides and broke his back, rendering himself a paraplegic who can no longer do the things he once enjoyed. His current cause is to raise enough money for stem cell therapy to hopefully help him regain the use of his legs while he continues intense physical therapy and adjusting to life in a wheelchair. I don’t know this man but he’s a fellow human who’s also in need and, really, his needs are much bigger than mine, so I donated to his cause even while I need money for mine. I didn’t save the world but damn did it feel good to do something for someone that I know will have a positive impact some day if it’s not already. The world can be a bleak Hell sometimes; helping lift each other up makes a Heaven on earth.
It’s hard to want to create right now–the energy and focus aren’t really there as you’ve read–but I want to keep making art and wellness campaigns for my community. While certain projects are on hold and production is slower now without the convertible laptop, I’ll continue to work at pulling myself out of bed every day and maintaining my drive to create enjoyable, thoughtful content for my followers and community. In the meanwhile, if you, the reader, wouldn’t mind taking a moment to share our GoFundMe campaign (and perhaps donate if you are able and willing) we would greatly, ENDLESSLY appreciate your gift of kindness and compassion.