Monday, 3 September 2012

Zoomed-in shutdown

A few days ago I had another 'Aspie-attack' (what I sometimes refer to my shutdowns as) when in a shop. When I was growing up I'd often get these when shopping with somebody else and they wanted to buy something that I didn't - I'm not sure why this triggers me. Nowadays I often shop alone so the issue rarely comes up, and when Mum goes shopping I usually wait in the car with a book or the radio. Anyway, this time I was with a few friends (Mark-Clare-Steve) in Brussels: we'd just backpacked across Germany for two weeks (it was such great fun!), and this was our last day before heading home. On our way to the station with a few hours' spare, we stopped off at Lidl for cheapish European goods: at some point in the shop I felt overwhelmed by the others buying things that I wouldn't want (rationally I know they're not charging me for them), and started shutting down.

I've already written a post on shutdowns: this was similar but had the extra element of anxiety. The intense stimuli (whatever my eyes landed upon, e.g. lampposts and street signs) seemed threatening - at the time (and now) I had no idea why, and started repeating phrases to myself to try and calm myself down. You know how sometimes in documentaries the camera zooms in on certain parts of a scene while the narrator gives an overview, e.g. when describing a city the camera gives a panoramic view and then zooms in on certain shop signs or notable features? Once I'd recovered, I thought about how the stimuli can appear like that - as though my eyes zoom in on them and they take up my 'screen'. When we left the shop it took me another half hour to recover - at one point we stopped off at another shop, I had enough awareness and ability to speak (sometimes shutdowns render me mute, it's really frustrating) to say that I'd stay outside and wait. Every so often in daily life I actively think about being conscious, and become more self-aware: coming out of an Aspie-attack is a bit like that, where suddenly I'm aware of being 'me' again. That said, I can choose to think about being conscious, while I can't snap myself out of an Aspie-attack. I'm wondering if it's like my depression in a way: I can't end the bad spell, but can try things that stop me feeling worse, or at least keep me safe until the spell ends. Then again, things that might stop me feeling worse include rocking or other Aspie behaviours, which I can't do while in public. Hmm, might think on this while I'm calm.

The backpacking itself was amazing - two nights in Brussels, then over the border for two nights in Mosbach, then to Garmisch by the Alps, then Munich, Ingolstadt, Kaufering, Nuremberg, Wurzberg, Cologne, then a final night in Brussels again. We camped most nights except in Mosbach and Kaufering where we stayed with friends of Clare's. In a way I'm pleasantly surprised that I didn't feel my traits until the last day, given the constant changes and uncertainties, then again I had the travellers' mindset of 'Let's go with the flow and see what happens!' I got back home on Friday evening: I now appreciate my mattress and pillow more than I did before!

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