Monday, May 23, 2011

Pick Your Metaphor

The four boys from Liverpool in their Sea of Holes.

Yes, I know that I typed just yesterday that my posts would be getting fewer and farther between and here I am today back again "just like a bloody great opera star always making her Positively Final Appearance" (I think that's from Fawlty Towers, but I could be wrong), but this is actually pretty big.

Call it a lightbulb or a road map. Call it anything you like.

I was reading last night about cognitive behavioural therapy as a means of helping control anxiety, and although I could understand the principle all right, it wasn't really connecting with me on an emotional level (which is how I need things to connect if I'm ever really going to fully comprehend them) until the author, who is a diagnosed Aspie, came out with a metaphor of his own.

Imagine if you had a smoke alarm that was going off all the time, even when there was no smoke.

That one dropped into my emotional understanding like a ten ton weight! Suddenly the constant morning anxieties I have had, especially in the last six or seven years of my life when I became responsible for absolutely everything, are comprehensible to me. I thought once again, as I have thought so often recently, Oh my god, that's me!

Friends and readers of this blog will know that I am emphatically not a morning person, never have been, never will be, and that it sometimes goes a lot deeper than that. Now I understand why.

My smoke alarm is going off. It's not overstating things to say that mornings are an assault on my senses at a time when I have not had a chance to gather myself and prepare for the onslaught.

I've learned to wake before the alarm rings, because it shatters me.

Even something as simple as taking a shower when I first get up can sometimes have me weeping and begging for mercy. The water beating on me, sometimes too cold, sometimes too hot, the necessary scrubbing, it all feels like I'm being worked over by two big orderlies. Now, I don't have a problem taking a shower in the afternoon or evening, or even a couple of hours after I've gotten up. But first thing in the morning it is a shock to the system, and as I go through my morning chores and think about the day to come it sometimes feels like shock after shock is being piled on, jolting through me when I am not adequately prepared to receive or cope with that input. In fact, I'm in a state of hypersensitivity.

Within an hour or sometimes 90 minutes, it starts to get better: I have been able to gather myself, calm down, my senses begin to dull somewhat.

This is THE REASON why I drank heavily in the mornings from the moment I got out of bed: it was my way of numbing my senses to a dull roar, to a point where I could cope with the onslaught of that damn smoke alarm going off constantly in my head!

See, I told you it was big.

This morning was better than normal, but, as usual for me, I started feeling a deep sense of panic and anxiety during the short drive to work. I started moaning. Then, for the very first time, I was able to think to myself: It's that damn smoke alarm going off again.

Look around you. Is there any smoke?

No. No smoke. No smoke at all.

I took a couple of deep breaths. The panic didn't go completely away, and I expect that it never will -- but the alarm turned off (or at least was reset for the next time) and I was able -- my god, as they say -- to feel like I was in control of it, not the other way 'round.

[Insert metaphor here]

-- Freder.

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