In Autism: Vacation=Stress

Here's how weird Arizona is. This is the view from my bedroom window. Yeah. that's a 14 ft stag.
This is the view from my bedroom window. Yeah. that’s a 14 ft stag.

So I am in Arizona with Eli. He is working and I am on a vacation, of sorts. It’s nice that I don’t have to take care of the kids or cook. I am pretty stressy because of the strange people in the house. There’s now, like 7 strangers in this giant house. But there are always 3 strangers in my regular house and these strangers are better behaved. =) The unusual surroundings are tripping me out big time.

I go on vacation periodically and it’s usually stressful from the activity and weird surroundings. But I usually have my favorite comfort object (That Weird Kid from the Gas Station) with me constantly which totally out weighs all that. Now he’s working most of the day and I really can’t sit out there with him. So I’m sitting in front of the tv in our room most of the day. It’s a very nice room and we do have cable, but it’s still different. And the food is different. So I’ve got all the usual stress symptoms that I always have daily from my in-laws being in our house, plus stressy new surroundings, plus probably lots of allergy responses taxing the system.

It’s kind of interesting to me as my life has gotten so much more stressful over the last year or so. When I first started reading about autism, for Joseph, I read Temple Grandin’s book. When I read about how she thinks in pictures, I thought, “Hey, that’s how I think, too.” That was kind of the first thing. Then I read about autistic selective mutism and I realized that was a much better description of what we all thought was a painful level of shyness I had when I was a kid. It kept going from there, as it does for lots of autism parents who realize they are also autistic parents. But I thought I really only had “shadowy traits” even after numerous online tests and much research, because most of my “symptoms” were not that bothersome. I thought a few times about how low-functioning I was when my first marriage was falling apart and I wondered if maybe I am not as high functioning as I think. Maybe I just had had the incredible luxury of being able to tailor my life to my own needs and had been doing it unconsciously for years. I know Joseph is functions far better than he might otherwise because he is so well-accommodated.

Turns out I was righter than I knew. (I also didn’t know that “righter” was a word, but my spell check is not reacting. Go figure.) I have spent the last year with the brain in some form of headache or fatigue almost every day because of our less than pleasant houseguests. I spend almost every night and some of many days with a tight chest and pounding heart. There are many days when I barely get done the things I absolutely must get done. I find myself needing to compensate in ways that I have never had to before (planned isolating, stimming, constant buffering with either the tv or my darling husband). The last couple days in Arizona are giving me more insight into what it feels like when my system is overwhelmed, overloaded, overtaxed.

I almost got physically ill in the airport from the bright lights and some lady’s perfume. That continued on the plane from all the scents being recirculated around the cabin and the cold air blowing on me from the circulation system. Then, today and yesterday, I seem to have lost the ability to maintain my own body temperature. I am usually comfortable at 65 to 68 degrees. At about 69 or 70, it starts to feel uncomfortable and at 72 I am too hot. Both today and yesterday, I have sat in a house with the air conditioner set at 72 and the outside temp somewhere around 75 and I was wanting to open the window to let in the warm and then get under the covers. I was almost shivering, I was so cold. I have basically felt like I have a fever or the flu, except without the actual fever. Headachey, weak, lightheaded at times. Like my hands are shaking but they’re not actually. My skin is crawling and tingly almost all the time. I’m having a hard time carrying on a conversation about anything but what is going on right in front of me and the only thing I can think of to write about are my own symptoms.

I think I used up all my brain function doing my Bible study homework today, which took twice as long as it should. I had a lot of ideas for posts today, but I can’t actually coagulate them into actual writing.

These last two years have really revealed to me that my idol is my own competence. I really feel like my autistic brain makes many things about following Jesus easier rather than harder. Lately, God has been using that autistic brain to tear down that idol of my own competence. If I am not that girl that can overcome any obstacle or deficiency just by thinking about it, who am I? How can I think my way out of the problem when the problem is that my brain is overwhelmed and can’t think? I don’t know, but I know that this week I still have to come up with a lesson plan based on Exodus 35-40. Then I have to go to a meeting at a church I’ve never been to and with people I’ve never met. I have never been in this situation, especially not at this level of dysfunctionality. I don’t know what will happen. People are counting on me, so I know I have to at least try.

So who am I if I can’t think my way out of any problem? I am a child of the  Risen King and the only way to get through this is by letting him lead me. Or carry me, if need be. I know that I am only here because of God’s calling and God’s empowering me for that calling. I know that God wants me to go there, so I know he will go there with me. And, whatever happens, that will all still be true.

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