The Self-Injurious Aspie
My apologies for my absence. If you had my schedule, you’d understand. As like many aspies out there, sometimes it’s very hard for me to translate my thoughts into words, and this was one of those weeks.
As for the title of this post, I just want to clarify that I won’t presume to speak for other people, especially those on the low-functioning end of the spectrum, but I can speak from my own experiences.
The self-injury aspect that is often present in autism is perhaps one of the more confusing/disturbing aspects of autism for most parents and caretakers. As an aspie myself, I must say that I’ve frequently agreed with them.
It wasn’t until I got diagnosed that I started to be able to put words to some of my experiences in my life, and this quality is surely no different.
When I first started along this path (I started late for most on the spectrum), I was a mere 11 years old. At the time, it was more about the question of existence. Did I exist? I couldn’t tell. It felt as though I were in a dream constantly–or rather, a nightmare–and could not wake up.
That’s how it started. And it went on like that for a few years, and then gradually I just stopped.
Later, when it occurred again, it was for another purpose.
I get these sensations in my body that are not exactly painful, but not exactly pleasant either.
The way that I described it to my psychiatrist was that it feels as though someone is screaming in my head and under my skin. Imagine the sound of someone screaming, and imagine how it would feel if it went for a few hours. At first, you might be annoyed a bit, but you can put up with it somewhat. But the longer it goes on, the more you want to shut it up. And after several hours, you really want to just make it stop.
Now here’s the next bit. Imagine that you had to keep doing what you do during the day while this is going on; imagine you have to go to school, go to work, whatever–the whole time while hearing this screaming–but no one else can hear it. Sometimes it gets worse, sometimes it gets better, hell sometimes, while doing things you enjoy, like band or something, you can’t even hear it at all. But it always comes back.
Now, imagine that while you can hear this sound, someone keeps rubbing the rough edge of a nail filing board–or maybe sandpaper–down your spine and arms and legs. And it feels like someone dumped a few pieces of sand in your shoes and clothes; you can feel it, but you can’t get to it.
Okay, so what do we have now?
- Unending screaming (think Nazguls here; I stuck a video at the bottom of the post of the scream; only a couple of seconds long though. Too bad)
- Sandpaper/filing board rubbing over your skin.
- Small pieces of sand in your shorts, shoes, whatever.
Next, you start to realize that everyone is staring at you, and not just in your mind. They really are all staring at you most, if not all, of the time. And every time you speak, either people don’t understand you, or they laugh/get angry with what you say.
You have stomachaches a lot due to being so tense all of the time. And just for the fun of it, every time the lights are on, you can feel a low grade vibration in the air working its way into the middle of your back and the bottom of your stomach, that feels sort of like rumble heavy machinery making its way towards you + oh say, a weed whacker.
Now try to act “normal.”
Fun isn’t it?
Most of the time, you can’t trust your own perceptions of anything, because according to everyone else, that’s not what’s really happening. But it sure does feel like that to you.
So, according to everyone around you, nothing you feel is real, everything you do is wrong, and your biggest problem is that you’re not trying hard enough/you’re too sensitive to everything. That’s according to everyone else. Oh and you’re annoying, because you’re always asking “stupid” questions to concepts that everyone else already knows the answers too.
That’s the point that I was at the first time I self-injured.
There’s a point or two (or three) beyond this point though. It’s the point where your hands won’t stop shaking, and you feel like you’re inside a vortex (which you should listen to btw), and there’s something inside your body that won’t stop shaking, no matter what you do, that makes you feel like you might throw up if it doesn’t stop soon, and what you really need to do is just go to sleep or go sit somewhere dark, quiet and closed in where you can relax–only either no one will leave you alone, or it just doesn’t help at all. And maybe you’re in for a panic attack, or at least some hyperventilating/fast heart rate. And it just won’t stop and the things which were described earlier in this post are still happening on top of everything else.
Plus, if feels like you might just dissolve into hysterical tears at any moment, only, either you can’t, or when you do, you just laugh hysterically while crying, which makes you feel even more out of control.
Somewhere in here, you start to feel that maybe you really are insane and there’s nothing that you can do to stop it, and maybe if you just scream for awhile it’ll make you feel better.
And you start hitting yourself or biting yourself as a way (for me anyway, this is how it worked) to give yourself a release and something to focus on to get a great deal of the mindless terror out (that isn’t really real anyway, because it’s all in your head). Or you hit yourself as punishment for going crazy. Or you hurt yourself as a way to ground yourself, to somehow match the feelings going on in your body, as though if you can hit an equilibrium somehow, then it’ll all stop.
Not forever, and sometimes not very long, but long enough to breathe for a moment, to be still, to say something that is real. Hell, you can see the results.
But of course there’s a price; the injury itself is part of the price, but the feeling that you’ve failed, that you’ve given into something that is also beyond your control, is the other part. Or, you might not yet feel that regret, you might still be into the “fear of what others will think,” stage, which is just as bad. That stage doesn’t really go away, but at some point, at least for me, you start to realize that your losing control to gain control is just another weakness of yours, another fault, another thing to wrap up into the core of your soul for later.
I haven’t self-injured in more than 2 years.
But I still get all of the aforementioned. It’s not as bad anymore since I’m on anti-anxiety meds and anti-depressants, but I still get there–at least part of the way.
This past week, one of my meds ran out and I spent 3 days without it before I could get it refilled. I was reminded of the full effects of everything. Of course, it’s not something you really forget, but rather something that lessens with the meds. For me, the meds are like being able to wear earplugs and sunglasses out in the world, and when I’m off of them, everything is suddenly much brighter and much louder–and worse than it was when I wasn’t on meds, because back then, I was semi-used to it.
Makes you wonder what normal really is. My normal as a teen is my bad now. My normal now is still most people’s bad. That’s why I try to make jokes at everything. There’s a point in your life where you can either scream along, or you can laugh. I choose to laugh.
I’m not afraid in this moment. That’s all I can say.
~ by lastcrazyhorn on March 2, 2008.
Posted in anxiety, aspies, autism, bullying, children, communication, concentration, disabilities, education, humor, mood disorders, music, pain, philosophy, senses, special interests, stress
Tags: aspies, autism, crying, depression, fear, high school, hysterical laughter, nazgul scream, self-injuring behaviors, self-injury, sensory processing disorder, terror