Autistic mind getting stuck
How many autistic people reading this have been told that they need to ‘let something go’? Probably most of you, it not all. The problem is that the way an autistic mind works, means it latches on to certain things.
Sometimes this can be a brilliant thing, like the way Harry Potter is embedded in my mind and helps me get through the hard times. But it can also happen with negative thoughts. Most commonly, for me, is thoughts that don’t make sense.
It feels like a thought enters my mind and instantly gets rejected. It hits up against a wall in my mind and my mind doesn’t understand how to deal with it. I get constant and repeating thoughts of, ‘this doesn’t make sense’ and ‘I don’t understand’.
This thought keeps going and keeps going. It hits into the sides of my mind and causes distress. My mind gets stuck on it and can’t get passed it. I just want to pull it out of my mind and be free of the frustration of a thought I can’t place, a situation or moment I don’t understand and can’t process.
Given autism is a social and communication disability, the majority of times this occurs it is something that has been said to or about me. Someone will say something that just doesn’t make sense to me. For it to have a big effect it is likely that I thought something was one way, and then unexpectedly someone says something that questions that and doesn’t make sense to me.
While the thought I don’t understand bashes around my mind, everything is harder. My brain feels like an exposed live wire that is on the edge of holding it together. Sensory overload is right there, meltdowns are right there. Noises are louder, communication is harder, co-ordination is a nightmare. My mind is involved in a full-on fight and has no time to figure out other stuff that normally takes me a huge amount of mental energy.
It’s like the thought has my mind on the ground and is just beating it down. It can’t get up anywhere near enough to fight back against sensory overload or figuring out how to communicate. Which of course means that it is almost impossible for me to communicate to someone about what is happening.
This means a normal conversation can grip my mind, beat it down, and also make it impossible to let anyone know or seek help. So, I just have to try and get through the day while my mind is distressed, exhausted and desperate for the thought to leave.
Even if I could communicate it to someone, I have no doubt a non-autistic person would not (or at least would struggle to) understand. I can hear them telling me, ‘So, something doesn’t make sense, move on and let it go’. It’s not that easy. At no point am I choosing to grip this thought. It grips me. It takes over my mind and I can’t place it. Thoughts need a place and one like that doesn’t have one. It just wreaks havoc in my mind. The most likely outcome is a meltdown in which I work through the frustration and find some peace out the other side.
I would not choose to have to go through that. I wish I could just shrug off a thought I don’t understand and can’t place. I wish I didn’t hit a wall and have my mind bashed at because it just doesn’t make sense.
An extreme version of this is when I walked into work for a normal day, then my boss told me that redundancies had been made and lots of people were leaving. The company that I loved that I felt safe in, was pulled apart before me as people left the building. I had to be signed off work for two weeks because of the inability to process what was happening and the voice shouting ‘I don’t understand’. It just broke my mind. When I even tried to think about anything else I broke down crying. I heard my bosses’ words over and over again, relived the moment desperately trying to process and understand it.
On a day-to-day basis the trigger can be much smaller than redundancies at work! Anything that doesn’t make sense can get lodged in my mind.
You don’t have to really even understand what that would feel like. I could never do it justice in a blog. But you can believe us, accept it, and support us. If an autistic person suddenly starts struggling, just support us. Ask us later what is going on. I am incredibly lucky to have a partner that did do that. She knew I was struggling but she didn’t push me to explain.
Not everything has to make sense to show compassion. This is definitely a part of autism that ironically doesn’t make sense and is really hard to explain.
It is really scary to lose your mind to something you can’t control or beat in that moment. Please show the autistic people in your life patience and kindness.
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