Monday, 15 October 2012

Communication clashes and mental health

I think I know what I want to write about in this post, but have no idea how to start. This is a common feature in many conversations I have - with most people I talk to, they have to start the conversation, then I can reply or try to take it down a different route. This works well with my more talkative friends, but not so well with people who are reserved or don't start talking without prompting. This one-sidedness doesn't often give me too many problems nowadays though, but that's not what I wanted to write about.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a family member who I'd not seen for a few weeks about what had been happening in general since I'd last seen her. At one point while we were on a bus I mentioned an issue I'd had with something (I can't quite remember what it was now), and before I could explain how it was resolved she said "Oh, so you did this..." and talked about what she'd thought I'd done. I tried to explain that no it wasn't what I did, I'd done something different. "So you did it like that, then you did this..." she carried on. Then she said that I felt a certain way about it. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I really can't stand people assuming how I feel (maybe irrationally so). These assumptions of my actions and feelings resulted in me failing at holding in tears, and this person being hurt and upset that she'd made me cry. When we'd both calmed down a bit, she said that I clearly was having issues coping and with my mental health, and should look into getting more help.

So. My first reaction was to point out that most of the time I manage my emotions well and can cope, however I react like this when people put words in my mouth as it were. And that she's one of the few people who does this. We've had many discussions about how we're both the way we are, how we've both tried our hardest to change and adapt, how we must keep trying for each other's sakes. And I really do try to be 'normal' as it were - it's not as though I'd choose to cry on a bus. So this isn't the first time that we've talked and had tears and misunderstandings as a result, and I hugely doubt that it'll be the last, despite our best efforts. I recognise that she tries her hardest too - it can't be easy dealing with me when I'm in a state and show my traits, or for her to communicate on my level. I think that we both have different communication styles - mine to due Aspie-ness, hers due to culture - and we both do try to adapt to a common ground that others in the UK use. It's not an alien culture to either of us, but thinking about it it's not our 'mother' one, either. It makes things difficult, and I feel bad when we have clashes.

That wasn't the point I'd intended to make, but I'll leave it in.

Anyway, her comment made me think more about my mental health. I think I've said before that I have depression: recently this has been largely manageable, where I've gone for weeks without having a bad patch, and can recognise when I do have a particularly low mood and make sure that I try to prevent myself from getting worse. It's something I'm getting better at, particularly since I had CBT two years ago. I've had two rounds of online counselling and two of face-to-face counselling, on the whole these helped and when I felt that things went badly I went to see friends who'd help me feel better. When I struggle nowadays I often find a group of friends and feel better by being with them, or sometimes phone the Samaritans (just to clarify a misconception, I phone them for non-suicidal stuff). Other times I stay away from people but make sure that I'm somewhere safe like my room and do something like watch TV or take a bath. I choose things that won't frustrate me and that take time, since often my low moods require me to wait them out before I feel better.

Sometimes I think that my depression can be triggered by Aspie-related frustrations such as feeling misunderstood or having an unsuccessful conversation. On occasion I wonder if I'd have depression if I'd received more support for Asperger's when I was younger, since my social difficulties made me feel like a failure and affected my self-esteem a lot. The two aren't the same, as one person suggested to me once, but as I wrote before I do think that they're linked in my case at least.

What do I do then? I can't avoid events which trigger my depression or my Aspie traits or both. I am better at managing both conditions and like to think that I'm continuing to improve, but sometimes the difficulties do make it harder to cope. In winter my depression flares up more (not sure why - less daylight? Cold?) so at the moment I'm considering taking anti-depressant meds to help make the next few months a bit easier. It's not something I've done before and have been reluctant to try (main reason being withdrawal effects), on the other hand if it makes winter easier then maybe they're worth trying. I'm going away on a residential course (Mental Health and Human Rights diploma in India, am quite excited!) in just under a fortnight and will be back in mid-November, so I'll see if I still feel the same way then - I see no point in starting them now since I don't want my body to be in adjustment-period while on my course!

I sometimes consider writing a mental health blog on my depression and diploma course and training I've been involved in, then again I feel that I neglect this blog as it is. Maybe I'll integrate mental health stuff into this blog, since I don't know that I have much more to say on being an Aspie that I haven't already said. We'll see how things go.

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