Credit for the title of the Blog post goes to Gwyneth Olwyn, who wrote this excellent piece on anxiety, though in that case it was more in the context of eating disorders, though applicable in a broader sense as well. I want to write about anxiety more generally, and about how it effects me.
Last night, I heard about a dog attack in a place nearby, in which a lady in her 60s was killed. At the time, I only had the barest of details and wrongly thought it had happened on a public road, where we sometimes walk our dog. This morning, I read further details that made me realise the situation was a bit different to how it had played out in my imagination. And yet, I’m still anxious. Because, even though, logically, I know such attacks are rare, and that what happened seems to have been a tragic accident, my emotional brain overrides my logical one. I am transported back to my childhood fear of dogs and caught in a loop of panic.
The same loop gets sparked off over seemingly tiny things. A meeting with a teacher, a phonecall to a business, a few guests coming over for a visit. My mind constantly panicking and jumping to conclusions and doomsday scenarios.
And no matter how much therapy I do, how much CBT, it’s not effective. Because CBT asks that we examine thoughts. And yes, the conclusions and scenarios can be examined and shown to be false. But a lot of the time, there are no clear thoughts. Just an overwhelming feeling of anxiety. And no logical thought can make a dent in it.
And so, what can I do? Rather than try and insert logic into it, I’ve found a technique that I suppose might have it’s roots in Mindfulness. I try and engage other senses and emotions. I put a few drops of a favourite scent, such a lime oil, on a tissue and inhale deeply. I immerse myself in a rubbish romcom or tv show. I look at pretty pictures of flowers or cats. I go for a walk in the rain.
In order to help myself, and my autistic friends, access some cheerful images and content, I have created a secondary Twitter account. You can find it at @SecretZebraClub but it’s a locked account and only for autistic people. That might not seem very fair to non-autistics but I’m trying to create a space that’s free of conflict, and that celebrates autistic people, so that’s the way it has to be for now.
Some say all autistic people are anxious. Whether that’s a feature of our neurotype, or due to the pressures and bullying we face from living in a neurotypical world, we need to find ways to calm our anxious brain. And accept that it’s one area we can’t always ‘logic’ our way out of!