How depression made me love danger

Depression is common in people with Asperger syndrome. Part of it can be due to social issues and loneliness, and part of it could result from the way our brain is wired. I’ve always suffered from social anhedonia, but there are other kinds of anhedonia, and depression can take many forms. Here’s my story.

                                                   My childhood
Until I was nine, everything was magical. Watching the green leaves on trees after the rain or watching palms swaying would fill me with an emotion I thought was euphoria. The fascination and joy I had from petting dogs and feral cats was an intense feeling. Happiness was an everyday thing, a lasting sensation that came easily.

However, even then I’d get a melancholy feeling at the sight of the sun slipping toward the horizon. Sometimes I’d feel sadness without a reason, even when the sun was still high in the sky. I felt longing for something, but I didn’t know what it was, and slight emptiness.

                                  When the sunshine turns gray
When I was about nine, I started losing interest in things I used to love: animals, nature, and music. Everything seemed dull, flat.

I used to feed stray cats in the yard, and one of them had two kittens that had run away when I was ten and a half. One of them was my favorite kitten, orange and cute. I had grieved for half a year.

To compensate myself, I overate cinnamon rolls until my stomach hurt sometimes. From a skinny kid, I turned chubby. I needed to find joy in something.

The inability to find joy in anything persisted for many years. Even if I liked doing something, I’d get bored with it very quickly, as if my brain couldn’t hold on to the good feeling. I don’t know if it was anhedonia or not because I didn’t seek treatment.

                               Taking risks because of depression
When I was in my twenties, I was depressed without a reason most of the time, and still couldn’t find things I liked to do. I was low on money at the time and living in a dangerous neighborhood where the sound of gunshots was a rather familiar event.

I started seeking danger because it gave me the excitement I craved. I deliberately took night-shift jobs in fast food restaurants so I could come home at midnight, walking past drunks sleeping on the stairs that led from the train stop to the street, to the apartment building I was living in.

It gave me a rush of adrenaline that I’d craved. The streets were so dark and quiet, and the danger made them mysterious and exciting. I had enrolled in martial arts classes and had carried a knife in my pocket.

There were situations where I was circled by a bunch of guys who looked like gangsters, my back against the wall of a building. I snatched the knife out of my pocket and held it to the nearest guy’s throat. It always worked. They’d walked away. It never occurred to me someone could’ve just pulled a gun on my and shot me. I was just lucky.

I went on like this for a few years. I barely felt fear. It was like watching a horror movie, that feeling of detachment and unreality. Finally, I got over my danger phase.

I live in a better and safer neighborhood now, found a better job, and have learned to regain some of the feelings I used to have before I turned nine. I take long walks in the streets, the park, and on the beach. Everything’s so beautiful. I have three cats living in my house, and they’re my best companions.

Depression can be dangerous because it can make people do dangerous things. It can make people commit suicide. It can be genetic or situation-based, or both. When a person suffers from depression, it’s important to seek help and not just put up with it.

There are great books on depression. ‘Maniac’ a memorial by Terri Cheney, a successful Beverly Hills entertainment lawyer, describes her roller coaster journey with a huge amount of pills. ‘The Dark Side of Innocence’, also by Terri Cheney, about growing up bipolar, and ‘Touched With Fire’ by Redfield Jamison, about the connection between mania depression and the artistic temperament.

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Having Asperger and living abroad

Living abroad can have advantages and disadvantages for aspies. I’ve lived abroad for nine years, leaving Israel and moving to the USA. I thought it would help me with my aspie issues, but it only made things worse.

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                 Possible advantages of living abroad for aspies
People think your differences are caused by the fact that you’re a foreigner. You’re expected to struggle with social issues due to cultural differences. It makes people less judging.

               Possible disadvantages of living abroad for aspies
Change of routine is very stressing and difficult when you have Asperger. Living abroad, you have to get used to a different language, bus routines, dress code, and food. Even the streets look different. It’s a different way of life.

Learning new social codes can be especially difficult and frustrating for an aspie. That’s the toughest part of living abroad for aspies, in my opinion.

                                      My personal experience
When I was twenty two, I left Israel for the USA. I didn’t know I had Asperger. I just knew I felt different from everyone else, that I had no sense of belonging. I was made to feel like a freak.

My parents had taken me to the USA for a year on a sabbatical when I was nineteen. I had contact only with my parents’ friends, and they seemed polite and friendly. They weren’t so demanding and judgmental. They were able to accept someone who’s a bit different. So I thought that’s the way it is abroad, that my problems will disappear if I travel. I’d be able to communicate and make friends, maybe even get married and have kids.

Of course, my problems not only didn’t disappear, they got worse. The new social codes were like Morse code. I tried to make friends with people, and they always got angry at things I said, never explained why. I dated guys who sweet talked me, thinking we actually had something going, but they lost interest so fast.

Problems don’t disappear just because you change location, and people soon realize there’s something more than just being a foreigner behind your inability to understand social rules.

I came back, settled down back home, and learned to accept myself the way I am. If other people don’t accept me, that’s their problem.

Do you think aspies can benefit from living abroad? Have you ever lived abroad? Please share your experience.

‘Life After My Saucepans’ describes what it’s like to live abroad in a strange and different country. Scuba diver Lindsay moves to the Dominican republic and marries a Dominican man. Caught in the midst of a political corruption, she’s shot in her own home. Hiding in a remote place in the mountains and living with two stepsons, a bunch of cats and dogs, and a swarm of mosquitoes. Click to view.

Why do aspies ask straight forward questions

Neurotypicals can sometimes find questions asked by aspies too pointblank. They may find the aspie’s direct questions annoying and confusing. Why is it that people on the spectrum ask such direct questions?

                              We have no other way of knowing
When I was in my twenties, I took a walk on the beach, and an elder gentleman had offered me a candy. I wondered if he was coming on to me or just being nice. I thought about simply asking but thought better of it and just accepted the candy. He walked away then, so he was just trying to be nice, after all.

I used to ask people questions like these. Once, a man had started talking to me in the laundromat, and I asked if he was trying to come on to me, and he said yes! I wasn’t interested, though. I need time to know a person before I agree to have anything to do with him. A very long time.

I used to ask people things like, “Did I do something wrong?” and “Are you angry because of what I did/said?” I didn’t know how else I’d get the information I needed, and I’d feel guilty if I’d hurt someone’s feelings. I’d feel like an idiot if I’d said or did the wrong things.

                            Aspies are straightforward by nature
Aspie questions are as direct as the people asking them. Aspies are honest and blunt, so are our questions.

I really don’t know how to beat around the bush, neither do I want to. I just want to get the information I need.

               We don’t realize when the other person gets annoyed
We don’t know what questions we’re not supposed to ask. We may not know beforehand whether or not these questions will upset the person we’re talking to, and we don’t know when the other person gets upset, so we just go on pursuing a subject that ticks off the other person.

I’d once asked a woman who’d told me she’s pregnant how old she was. I added I’m surprised she can still get pregnant, seeing she’s got gray streaks in her hair. I’m glad she didn’t get mad, but my friend, who’d witnessed this annoying aspie question, had told me I shouldn’t ask personal questions.

What’s the worst question you’ve ever asked someone? Share your experience.

‘Rubbernecker’, written by Belinda Bauer, is an Asperger-style murder mystery. Patrick Fort is an aspie medical student whose special interest is where the soul goes after death, sparked by the death of his father. A story with astonishing twists and turns. Click to view.

Asperger and social phobia

Social phobia is very common in people with Asperger syndrome. It can be crippling. I was afraid to walk into a restaurant and offer a hamburger because I’d have to talk to the cashier.

             Why is social phobia common in people with Asperger
We find social cues challenging, and as a result, we don’t always know when we say something wrong. We don’t understand sarcasm, so we end up being laughed at and ridiculed.

Many aspies find it difficult to understand instructions or to express themselves. This can cause embarrassment.

Many aspies have been victims of bullying once too many. This can lower self-esteem and self-confidence.

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                            Effects of social phobia in everyday life
Aspies suffering from social phobia struggle with job interviews, with being introduced to new people at work, with working with customers. I was discouraged from learning martial arts for many years because I was afraid I wouldn’t understand instructions and make a fool of myself.

As a child, I was so shy, I was too embarrassed to laugh in public when someone said something funny. Too shy to talk to new people, and even people I knew. At recess, I was so tense because I thought everyone was looking at me. Every second stretched so slowly because I was so nervous.

                                 How to get over social anxiety
I’ve gotten over my aspie social anxiety when I had no choice but to go to job interviews, and then I worked as a cashier in fast food restaurants and had to deal with people.

I had pretended they were robots, and I was saying what I was told to say like reading from a script. I’m still shy, but I have much more self-confidence around people now.

Getting over aspie or neurotypical social anxiety isn’t easy. It should be done slowly, in stages. First, you get in the restaurant with someone you know well and smile at the cashier while the other person orders. Next step, you say hello. Then you place the order. After that, you might try going in alone.

‘Overcoming Shyness’ is an easy to read, practical guide that helps readers use their imagination to help them understand and know themselves. The book explains body language and how to start and hold a conversation. To learn more and view, click here.

How to communicate with an aspie

Many aspies do want to communicate, but some don’t know how. Some forms of communication can seem suffocating to an aspie.

The best way to communicate with an aspie is in as small a group as possible. Many aspies prefer talking to one person at a time. I do.

Many aspies prefer communication online, such as email and forums, because these give you time to think before responding, and because it’s not committing. I can comment on someone’s blog without starting a long conversation. Then I can comment again on another post. This gives me time to get to know the other person slowly. I need time. I need to get used to a new person.

There are other forms of communication without words. Just doing simple things together like going to the supermarket. Touch is also a form of communication, so is music because is portrays emotions.

I used to play with my nieces when they were small as a form of communication. Communicating with animals is also easy because they simply let you rub their stomach or scratch their ears.

The last thing I want is for someone to try to communicate with me in a loud environment. I get anxious and uncomfortable when someone asks me to a party.

Talking on the phone only confuses me because I don’t know when to hang up. I’m afraid if I hang up first, I’ll be considered rude and hurt someone’s feelings, but if I don’t hang up, I might appear clingy and keep the other person on the line when he doesn’t want to.

Face to face communication is also tricky. I don’t know how I’m supposed to act or when to walk away.

Many aspies like to communicate but find it difficult. It’s not that aspies don’t want to communicate with others. We just want people to communicate with us in a way that wouldn’t be intimidating or confusing.

‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ is a book with a unique aspie character, Lisbeth Salander, a pierced and tattooed genius hacker, who helps a journalist trying to uncover the disappearance of a woman from one of the wealthiest Swedish families decades ago. It’s a combination of love story, family saga, corruption, and mystery by Stieg Larsson. A sensational #1 seller that had played a major motion pictures in theaters in 2010. You can read customers’ reviews and the first pages here.

Asperger and poverty

Not all aspies live in poverty. Many aspies find high-paying careers as computer programmers and professors. Having Asperger syndrome doesn’t necessarily mean living in poverty. However, many aspies work in low-paying jobs. Why is that?

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                                       Difficulty in communicating
Although having Asperger might actually advance a career in some fields, working with people can be a challenge, as can job interview in general.

                                                         No support
Many aspies have few friends, or none. No one to crash with or loan money from. But getting on disability just because one has Asperger syndrome isn’t easy. All the help people with visible disability can get, such as living in homes, SSI checks, and other programs are often not available to aspies. This can result in people with Asperger syndrome living in poverty.

                                                    My experience
Moving from one fast food job to another due to bullying, I’d never kept a job for more than a few months during nine years or so. I’ve lived in an apartment the size of a closet, with dozens of cockroaches climbing the walls and ceiling.

There were times when I’ve eaten cereal without milk because I ran out of money, and milk. There was only leftover cereal and white bread without butter. I made do with this until my next paycheck. Bought all my clothes in thrift stores and kept them until they practically fell apart. I lived in poverty like many aspies, and still do to some extent up to this day.

The neighborhood was bad. Drug dealers practically leaning on the building’s door. Gunshots could be heard every few weeks in the summers. In fact, my window had a little hole in it that may or may not have been a bullet hole.

However, when I was about thirty two, my parents have bought me an apartment. I no longer have to pay rent, the apartment is in a middle-class, low-crime neighborhood, and I’ve stayed on the same job now for over three years. There’s no bullying, and the supervisors and coworkers are great.

My supervisor keeps telling me I’m one of their best workers. Because of that, I got more hours and several raises in my salary. I do surveys over the phone and don’t make much more than minimum wage, but I’m doing better financially than I ever did in my life.

There are ways for aspies to stop living in poverty.
What’s your story? Please share.

‘The girl in the spider’s web’ is a book with two wonderful aspie character, August and Lisbeth Salander. Micheal, an adventurous reporter who gets a call from a hacker with vital national information, asks Lisbeth for help. It’s a suspense novel about spies and cyber crime. To read reviews and the first pages of the book, click here.

Are autistic people afraid of noise

Autistic people fear and hate noise. The noise an autistic person hears is perceived much louder because of our super sensitivities. Many aspies suffer from phonophobia, and it has an impact on everyday life.

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I was afraid of the vacuum cleaner as a child. I used to run away and hide when my mother would get it out. I wanted to get over my fear, so I dragged the damn thing by the hose toward the door, and when my mother asked what in the world I thought I was doing, I told her I was taking it out for a walk, like it was a dog.
It never occurred to me that other kids might be afraid of the vacuum cleaner because it sucks things in and disappear them.

I was working as a helper in kindergarten, and the teacher took the little kids on a trip to an orange factory. The noise was overwhelming. The moving lines roared, oranges thudded as they slammed into cardboard boxes, boxes were slammed on the floor, and workers screeched instructions to each other to be heard over the commotion.

My aspie phonophobia kicked in. I was very nervous, but the small children didn’t seem bothered by it. I felt like a coward, a grown woman of eighteen scared of what four year olds weren’t.

I was terrified of the noise in the factories I used to work in. As a child, my parents had taken me to crowded, noisy events. I was depressed hours before, and when I finally got there, cold sweat poured down my back, my heart was racing. I’d almost jumped out of my skin at every sound. I could hardly breath.

Maybe my aspie fear of noise is rather mild because I’ve grown up in the third floor of a seven-story building, right above a main road that was perpetually jammed during rush hour. I’ve grown up with the daily sounds of wheels on asphalt, screeching of tires, drivers leaning on their horns and shouting at each other, high-heels clicking on the sidewalk, talking, screaming, laughter. It was aspie hell.

I now live in the first floor apartment of a three story building, and my neighbors upstairs drag and drop furniture on the floor. People stomp by in the yard and talk loudly. Every sound explodes in my oversensitive aspie ears, because of my noise-unfriendly autistic perception. I got a white noise machine and earplugs. If I ever get enough money, I’ll gladly move to a home somewhere in a small town, where there’s some distance between houses. Here the buildings are so close together, it makes me feel suffocated. A home without neighbors is probably aspie heaven.

I recommend the white noise machine I have at home. You can control the noise level, and there are different fan noise to choose from. Works for me. Sound can go pretty high. This is an Amazon affiliate link. Click to view.

Click to view these ultra soft earplugs.