For as long as I can recall, I’ve suffered from anxiety. Like Asperger’s Syndrome, anxiety disorders weren’t widely recognized or prevalent in society 35-40 years ago. My parents had no idea the mental torment I faced most days just walking out our front door; and I can still recall memories of my dad carrying me into my kindergarten class unaware that leaving me with those small inquisitive humans was the most terrifying abandonment my small chaotic mind could comprehend. How could they have known? I had no means or comprehension of how to verbalize my inner chaos, and they had no inkling, no tools, had no idea the questions to ask.
I survived kindergarten…barely. It did not bode well for the remainder of my school experience. I was labeled lazy and a loner by teachers; weird and quirky by my fellow classmates. Teachers didn’t understand my OCD tendencies or that any change, any influx of new information would cause my anxiety to spill over and affect everything in my day. How I would start writing a paper over and over and over because I didn’t like how my name looked on the sheet or I needed to cross out a word. Or if I couldn’t get assignments exactly right, my mind shut down and I’d turn in half –assed work because I didn’t care anymore; then spend sleepless nights filled with anxiety fearing the grade I would receive. My classmates didn’t understand my aversion to the hustle and bustle of school life and activities; or my need for solitary recovery. Every. Day. I simultaneously struggled and wrestled with loneliness. I longed to connect with my peers, but truly had no idea how to. I felt completely out of place and awkward trying to participate in social activities; and this social awkwardness typically resulted in a premature departure from the premises, or declining the invitation altogether. I much preferred the safety and solace of my bedroom and my books.
I did have a small group of acquaintances that accepted me and allowed me to connect and detach as I chose. Through that interaction, I was able to experiment with appropriate social interface and pushed the boundaries of my anxiety to a more acceptable level. I gained insight into which behavior was and was not accepted, and which situations caused the most stress for me. I’ve become somewhat of a chameleon, learning to adapt quickly to different social situations, but most of the time I still watch for and take my social queues from those around me and pattern myself accordingly.
I was sick a lot during my tenure in school. In hindsight, I believe most all of it was attributed to anxiety or an offshoot of anxiety. I unfortunately discovered after my schooling was completed that one of the best remedies to my anxiety and the chaos in my mind was writing it down. Every. Thing. I own notebooks upon notebooks of lists and information and journaling. I go through them periodically and destroy those that are no longer relevant, but I understand now that any pertinent information needs to be recorded outside of my crowded mind if I am going retain it. You will never find me without some sort of notebook accompanying me. It is my surrogate brain and a means to placate, to keep at bay the anxiety that is always edging forward threatening to suffocate me. It is ever present, but I keep trying to stretch my boundaries anyway. It is how I’ve learned to adapt, to survive with Asperger’s and anxiety.