Posts Tagged ‘fear’


The black dog returned this weekend in one of its most violent and ferocious attacks for a long time. I sit here writing this as I feel the black dog going back to where he came from but not knowing if or when he will come back to attack me again.

It started Friday a day that now seems a long time ago. Friday a day with so many thoughts racing along the neural connections in my mind going too fast to process, smashing into each other at terrifying speed and taking my world into a cold, dark place I didn’t want to go to but had no choice as I was handcuffed to the back of the black dog and dragged along behind it for mile after mile of mental and physical torture.

All I could do was get a bottle of the sickly-sweet brown liquid that dulled the pain and destroyed my sense of reality, sent my world spinning and confused what was real and what was not in my mind. It tasted good, at first, as the black dog lapped it up and left me to enjoy life briefly albeit through an ever-thickening fog that clouded my vision and mind and sent me to a place I cannot remember.

Saturday comes and I pray for the planned night out to be cancelled so that I can stay at home, alone with the black dog and feed him the brown liquid he loves. But no-one cancels and I force myself to go out wondering how I will pull on my mask and get through the night.

Before the evening I had gone out for a run in an attempt to chase the black dog away, but this black dog is fast and strong and not only keeps up with me but fights me as well draining every ounce of energy from my body. My legs feel like two small trees struggling to stand up in the face of a devastating wind that wants to destroy everything in its path.

All strength and motivation have gone and even the simple action of putting one leg in front of the other hurts my muscles. I finish my run, but it finishes me too. I have nothing left yet I must go out and pretend everything is ok, everything is good, and I am in a good place not in the jaws of the black dog.
So out I go drinking pint after pint to satisfy the thirst of the black dog and eventually it allows me a brief respite from its attack but only after I have more of the sickly brown liquid at home. The fog is getting thicker now, and it is more difficult to see. Everything becomes a blur until the black dog consumes me for the night and I wake up the next morning aching and confused.

Now it’s Sunday and the thoughts the black dog wants me to think enter my mind. Why am I here? What is the point of living? I would be better off dead. I go for another run in the vain hope that the black dog will leave me alone now having had his fun, but he stays with me and once again I cannot run, my legs are heavy and weak, and I struggle to move lacking motivation and power.

I carry on fighting the black dog and go to the club to see my friends and play dominoes. My mind is foggy, struggling to string two thoughts together yet I mask my depression well, winning at dominoes and drinking till the black dog is happy and goes to sleep. I come home and once again drink more of the brown sickly liquid that has quickly become my best friend.

Oblivion comes once again and now it is Monday morning. I am lucky because I don’t have to go to work, but I need to do something and carry on fighting the black dog. My body is aching now from a weekend of abuse, I still feel weak but I force myself to go down Halifax and have a walk about as I know if I stop in the suicidal feelings that are now getting louder and louder may become too difficult to ignore.

I go down and walk around for a couple of hours treating myself to fish and chips and some window shopping. At home I have another microwave meal unable to find the strength to cook a proper meal and taking the only option I have left in my mind.

Evening comes and the black dog is consuming every part of my mind, body and soul. I want it to end and can think of only one way out, to end it all once and for all. I cannot let the black dog win and from somewhere deep inside my very being I find the strength to fight back and say no to the black dog. I want to write about it there and then, what it’s like to be in the eye of the storm when you’re in a fight with the black dog but I’m not ready just yet to write about it. I’m still feeling weak mentally and physically and need rest. I consume another bottle of the brown, sickly liquid hoping that it will be the last for a while.

I wake up early today, Tuesday morning unable to sleep, mouth dry from a lack of life-giving water. I go downstairs even though it is early and play some games on the computer hoping they will tire me out and allow me to sleep. I go back to bed at a time when I’m normally waking up and lie there wondering if I’ll be able to go to my meeting, wondering if I be up to it physically and mentally and eventually, I drift off to sleep.

I wake up again feeling so much better than I have all weekend. I can feel that the black dog has gone home back to where he lives, back to where he belongs. I feel well enough to go to my meeting, so I do, and I have a great time. I go for another walk around Halifax mainly to see my friend who owns a shop there. I come home and start to get jobs done, jobs I haven’t been able to do because of the black dog. I want to drink water not the brown sickly liquid, I cook a proper meal for the first time in days and I write this blog post my first in a long time.

I start to think about what I can do to make things better, the little things like going out to the cinema or to see a show that might just make a difference to my wellbeing and keep the black dog locked up in his kennel where he belongs. I am starting to feel stronger mentally and physically. Not strong enough to run but strong enough to write this and think of the future with a positive outlook, a future that I want to be a part of. After the black dog there is hope.


i do not want

to go there

fear is sending

my mind into spasms

but i must confront

the old to be able

to embrace the new

 


This is an article I have written about my experiences with Mental Health Services and Learning Disabilities in England. The article is going to be used to help healthcare professionals in their training for people on the autistic spectrum. All comments are welcome.

The Autistic Impressionist

Andrew Smith

Sunday, 20 September 2015

I was at a meeting recently with some healthcare professionals from various backgrounds, but all with an interest in autism. The meeting is held every three months at Halifax, West Yorkshire. It is always interesting to hear the views and opinions of the professionals that attend with regards to developments in local and central government policy that affect both the professionals and people on the autistic spectrum.

One of the topics that came up was the diagnosis of autism and Asperger’s Syndrome and which local services a person with high functioning autism or Asperger’s Syndrome comes under. For myself and many others this was a choice between Learning Disabilities (LD) or Mental Health (MH). This is a topic that is often discussed because it affects nearly everybody who is involved with is on the autistic spectrum.

I recounted the story of when I was visited in my home by LD and MH services as they tried to determine which service I fell under and who would pay for any services I may require. This was of course far more important than anything else that may or may not decide I needed. What seemed to surprise some of the professionals at the meeting was the extraordinary lengths I went to, to ensure my house and myself were clean and well presented. What they didn’t and couldn’t know was how this also took over my life in the lead up to the meeting.

The advice I had been given by some support workers at a local autism charity was to present myself and my home environment in as natural and normal a way as possible for the meeting. This was to ensure that the professionals visiting me got an honest impression of how I lived and coped. This is to ensure that I or anybody else in the same position gets the right amount of support based on their circumstances and not based on false impressions.

However having Asperger’s Syndrome and quite possibly a touch of OCD as well this was something I just could not do. I had to tidy my house and prepare it as if it was a royal visit! And this was my problem. Despite knowing that this would go against all the advice I had been given and create the wrong impression, I still could not bring myself to leave my house as it was. The feeling to tidy up was intensely overwhelming and all consuming.

In the weeks and days leading up to the meeting getting and keeping my house tidy was all that occupied my every waking moment. There was nothing else on my mind, nor anything else I wanted to do. I had always been brought up to believe that you could live in whatever squalor you chose to do, but if you had people coming to visit you your house had to be a palace. And being on the autistic spectrum I took this literally and to extremes.

This was what, on reflection made my behaviour different to that of a neurotypical person. A neurotypical person would know when to stop and would not let the situation take over their lives in the way I did or at the very least have far more control over the situation than I did. In addition they would I believe take the advice of the charity and leave their home as it was.

But I am not neurotypical and I didn’t know when to stop cleaning. In the weeks leading up to the meeting I kept thinking that although things were clean they would get dirty again. But then I thought that unless I cleaned them they would be dirty on the day of the visit wouldn’t they? This cycle of thinking, cleaning and reflecting dominated my life over this period of time.

All these thoughts were going round and round my mind 24/7 in the days and weeks leading up to the meeting and they took over my life and overwhelmed my daily existence. However looking back I believe I needn’t have worried as much as I did. Nobody seemed that bothered by how clean or unclean my house was.

All they were bothered about was me and I hadn’t prepared myself for that either mentally or appearance wise. Again I got the impression that this didn’t really matter too much at the end of the day to anybody there. In the end Mental Health was selected as the service that would have responsibility for me and I had more in-depth meetings with people afterwards.

What I hope this story illustrates is how the desire to put on a false impression for people can takeover and overwhelm a person’s life to such an extent that is their life and the sole reason for existence. They may give the impression of being tidy, clean and in control but in reality they are untidy, dirty and have no control.

But the desire to create the right impression is all that matters to them and they will go to any lengths and endure all forms of mental and physical torture to do so.

What this also illustrates is the constant fear many people on the spectrum live in of being judged by others. This has an effect on an individual’s personality and impacts on their identity as a human being living in a social world they have tremendous difficulty understanding. As a result some people and especially people on the spectrum will do even more to be accepted and judged in a positive way even if this is detrimental to their actual situation and health.

I will add that this is my own personal experience and others on the spectrum may react to the same situation very differently and exhibit very different behavioural traits.

© Andrew Smith 2015