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Anxiety is for life with Autism

July 20, 2019

Anxiety is something that I live and breathe as an autistic person.
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It stops some of us from functioning, from being able to participate in life in the ways we want to.
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Our brains are hypersensitive and work overtime to protect and preserve our fragile, hyper receptive, deep thinking, deep feeling beings.
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And I honour that.
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But boy oh boy it takes a toll.
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Long term, prolonged anxiety can contribute to chronic health conditions and autistic burnout.
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It can also traumatise us.
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So finding a balance is very, very challenging.
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Over the long term, I have had enough experiences to provide evidence that if I feel the fear and do it anyway, I won’t die.
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But my physical being still tells me that I will.
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Rationalising anxiety does NOT make it go away for me.
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In fact, every single time I publish writing, stand on a stage, travel somewhere new to present on autism, meet new people, upload a video speaking, run a webinar and now, develop a program to deliver to families..
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I suffer.
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I REALLY suffer.
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I get dizzy, I shake, I have to push my voice out, I have to shut down the fears around what others will think, my autoimmune conditions flare up, I can be short and snappy and even visit a plethora of emotions.
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And that’s just a starter.
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Oh man, anxiety.
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I didn’t even know I experienced anxiety until I was 24, because it was just my normal.
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That feeling in the pit of my stomach, in my chest, the cold and clammy skin..
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I’ve never not lived this way.
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And here’s the most difficult part..
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I learnt in my late twenties that if I wanted to get anywhere in life, if I wanted the life I dreamt of, I had to acknowledge and accept the anxiety and find a way to do things anyway.
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Enrolling for university meant having a panic attack and being carted off to a private, quiet room at the University whilst I hyperventilated.
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Sitting in the car outside uni, negotiating with my anxiety - “Let’s just go in there and if we still feel like we’re going to die by morning tea break, we can leave then.”
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Sitting on a plane, my greatest fear, having a complete stranger rub my back and talk me through the basics of flight physics whilst I, yet again, hyperventilated into a paper bag.
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My anxiety told me that it was so much better and easier and more comfortable to just not do it.
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Just not do anything.
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And anxiety has offspring.
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Fear of failure, imposter syndrome, fear of being exposed for the unstable person I really am, fear of rejection, demand avoidance, there are so many offspring.
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Anxiety really knows how to breed.
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And the bittersweet reality for me is that I don’t have a choice anymore..
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I’m programmed, wired to feel it all, no matter how debilitating and to just do it all anyway.
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It’s really wonderful and it really, really sucks.
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Because it means I spend a great deal of time burnt out.
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I’ve learnt how to connect with my anxiety and make friends with it.
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It’s not always as kind and accepting as I am towards it, but that’s okay.
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We manage.
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