It is 3am.

The number three may very well be haunting me since this is the third night I have not been able to sleep. Coincidentally, it’s also my third day on a 30mg dose of Adderall for a recent ADHD diagnosis…

I have never felt very connected to the sensations in me body. The drinks can’t be cold, they have to be freezing. The sex can’t be just passionate, it has to be hard. The edibles don’t hit until I’ve had over 50mg, and it’s been that way since the very first time I tried. I’m forever finding mysterious scrapes and bruises with no idea how they got there. In 2013, I quit smoking after 11 years of daily dedication with no trouble at all because it was snowing and I didn’t feel like walking to the store to get cigarettes. Hell, it’s also my third day of not being in bed after isolation for 10 days with COVID and I didn’t even realize I was having caffeine withdrawals. I mean, you get it… but all this to say I have no idea what could be causing this sudden bout of insomnia. My psychiatrist assured me I would notice the moment the meds kicked in and I am still waiting to experience what she’s talking about so I have no idea if they’d be keeping me awake. I also had a lot of coffee, sort of a celebration of my return to health. And my return to work. But I ALSO had a lot of cannabis this evening and last, which has historically had me pleasantly fighting for consciousness in front of the TV by 9:30 some nights, even after drinking nothing BUT coffee for the ENTIRE DAY. But not tonight. And not last night.

Part of me is pretty sure the adderall is the primary culprit, now, with some help. I am not a scientist and don’t know if this is a realistic expectation but I am hoping after a few days of this, my body will acclimate and I’ll find some new normal which hopefully will involve getting more than three hours of sleep a night. And there she is again, that magic number.

Whatever the reason, my brain won’t shut up so here I am, reflecting on… you guessed it: myself.

A close friend of mine once suggested I try a hormone panel when I was going through a major depressive episode. Thinking about hormones now, I am reminded that I’ve had several tests indicate I have low testosterone. Maybe my body is switching it out for more estrogen and it’s making me calmer and more rational—stay with me—or maybe, just maybe, after all of the hours I’ve poured into scrolling through video after video on TikTok, some of the vicarious insights gleaned from second-hand experience have finally started to sink into place…

In any case, the thing that has me wanting to get some release in the way of a little anonymous public pontification is that I’ve also been having these intrusive thoughts. But they’re not your typical intrusive thoughts. I actually kind of like them, (though I’d like them more if they would slow down and/or take a little break.) They are intrusive but they’re ideas and epiphanies and new realizations about myself and my relationships, dots being connected, puzzle pieces snapping into place.

I admitted a lot of feelings to my boyfriend earlier that I’d been scared to say out loud and now I feel like that teary babbling has somehow allowed me to trust him in a way I don’t think I was able to let myself before. And I found myself interested in him in a way I don’t think I have been yet, or at least in a very long time. Maybe it’s that the recent diagnosis and the meds and even this practice of thinking of myself as autistic (and documenting the thinking in a place where I can come back to it and where other people can see) have helped to effect closure to a very long period of intense self-centeredness. Now that less of my brain power is being spent on considering and analyzing and diagnosing and re-diagnosing MYSELF, perhaps I at last have space to be curious about the people who love me. Maybe the support my boyfriend has shown me in enduring all of my conceited rambling and rumination (and also my sister and other select friends and family) has actually… I don’t know… helped me internalize feeling supported and secure enough to not need as much from others and maybe I don’t have to feel guilty about that because life is give-and-take and now I don’t need to take as much so I can start contributing my share of giving.

I have been making lists, too. Not the chaotic kind I often make when my brain feels like a hurricane of thoughts and feelings and the only thing I can do is sort them all and transfer them from my head to a piece of paper I may never look at again. These lists feel like they are based on reality, like I am actually getting organized and not just play-acting organization to self-soothe.

Also, not only have I had a lot more inspiration to post videos to TikTok, I feel like what I’ve been posting has been the authentic me, like the scripting I do in my head has switched from rehearsal to practice, and when I’m sharing these thoughts back, I’m not just performing a well thought-out reenactment of an idea I had before and still believe… it’s more like I am speaking from my soul in real-time and referring back to my memories as guideposts if I lose my way.

It’s not just my notes app that is feeling more organized. It’s my brain. I still have the chatter static of the nonstop internal monologue and it happens at light speed. But it feels more… I don’t know. Rational? Mature? Coherent? And I did smoke some weed earlier so I was talking A LOT but where I would typically struggle with losing my train of thought and finding my way back, this particular batch of word vomit felt—to me, at least—to have a direction, and when I lost my way it was simple enough to retrace my steps and quickly see where I went off course to pick up the thread again. I mean, even with specific words. I really like words and their ability through connotation and stuff to communicate with intention and specificity. The problem is I always have a precise word I want to say and can only think of every single other word I know. But today I found I was able to relax a little and just let it come to me, which it did. When I let it.

It’s like my head used to be filled with all these crumpled up papers and some were important and some were garbage and some weren’t even mine and I woke up this morning (or yesterday morning, technically) to find that all the papers had been ironed out and neatly sorted and stacked into different piles, freeing up a wealth of space where there used to be only clutter. My head feels clear for the first time… ever?

I just wish I could sleep.

Now that all of this is “on the page,” if you will, I am pretty sure it is the adderall. I had also taken a few days off in between the old and new doses so maybe it’s a bit of a shock to my system? In any case, I have decaf for tomorrow morning and some bananas and granola bars to keep the coffee company in my poor belly for a change, which will hopefully give the meds a little cushion for a softer landing going forward. (I have also felt VERY nauseated at the start of the last three days.)

I know it’s trial and error and, while I’m exhausted, I’m also immensely grateful to feel like I’m finally getting some traction. And now that this is all out, maybe I’ll be able to sleep before work in a few hours.

Just another meltdown.

I get stressed out about parking.

I start thinking about parking at least a half mile from my destination, depending on where that might be. If it’s somewhere I’ve never been before, I might start stressing about where I’m going to park as soon as I make plans to go there. Even if I’m going home, I am stressed about where I’m going to put my car because there is a place where I like to park but I live in a city and sometimes other people park there.

I don’t know why this is so stressful. It seems like other people are not that concerned. They just decide to go places. They drive there. And then they park. I imagine they don’t think about it much beyond that. That’s my assumption, anyway, based on the fact that I don’t really see anyone else melting down the way I do.

I like going to places with parking lots. That’s easy. I do not like driving deeper into the city where there is mainly street parking. I don’t like having to drive while also scanning the sides of the street for empty spaces while also trying not to annoy the people driving behind me by driving too slowly while also trying to stay in the immediate vicinity of where I’m going. I don’t like pulling over with no warning when I finally see an available spot. I don’t like parallel parking in public with people around who probably aren’t but could potentially be watching and mocking. I don’t know why their opinions of my parking would even matter. Where others would continue to persevere or maybe widen their search area or maybe… honestly I’m not sure what they do, but it stresses me out so much that I will just turn around and go home if it becomes too difficult, and I have done that.

And then when I go home, there’s always the stress over someone possibly being in my space. It’s not technically “my” space but it’s right in front of my house and that’s where I usually go. I start checking as soon as I turn onto my street to see if someone is in my spot. It’s toward the end of the street so, if there’s a long line of cars, it’s sometimes difficult to tell. But as soon as I see for sure, I am either relieved or, if someone is there, immediately filled with rage. It feels like the entirety of the universe is conspiring to convince me I am powerless, I have no agency, I am worthless, I don’t matter. It’s a lot of feelings over a parking space and I hate that I am affected this way but when I see a car in my spot, no amount of soothing self-talk can take away the sting of rage tears I feel burning behind my eyes. Rationally, I know that whoever is parked in my spot does not know me or my car or my feelings, and still it feels like a targeted attack to me, like someone went out of their way to inconvenience me as a personal affront. One particular car has been in my space a lot recently and I even went so far as to ram their car with mine. It wasn’t hard enough to leave a mark but it felt good. And then it felt bad.

Part of the stress at home is the feeling that, if someone takes my space, I then have to take someone else’s space, and, for whatever reason, thinking about how upset I am and them imagining someone else being that upset with me causes me more anxiety than how upset I am for just myself. Sometimes I drive around the block a couple of times and hope that they leave but if I have to park somewhere else, it’s on my mind well after I put the car in Park and exit the vehicle. Sometimes it’s like a low hum of anxiety that runs underneath everything else until I get back in the car and am able to park elsewhere. I look at my car out the window to see if I notice anyone noticing where I’ve parked or gesturing……..

This is exhausting. I am exhausted. I am wondering if I am on the autism spectrum and feeling like I am but also feeling like I am not allowed to say that of myself because it diminishes the experiences of people who are actually autistic. Part of why I am writing this is the fantasy that some authority somewhere will read this as evidence and validate my suspicions. It feels awful to say that, like I’m admitting to something shameful and disgusting. I should not need validation from anyone. In fact, if I got validation at this point, I would probably argue against it because I fear that all I’ve been doing is reenacting harmful stereotypes based on a limited population. But part of why I’m writing this (and also keeping it a secret from almost everyone I know) is that I don’t fit the stereotype of what many neurotypical people think of as autism. Most of the meltdowns I describe happen internally. I feel like I am so full of emotion that I am going to burst sometimes, but I am scared of what will happen or how I’ll be perceived if I let myself lean into those experiences. Even in my most intimate relationships where I can be a little more vulnerable, I am so insecure about every single flare up. Every time I’m upset about something and shout, or groan, or swear, or stomp my feet, or throw something, or slam something, I think that my boyfriend is about to break up with me. I think that only children behave this way. I think I should have more control over my body and my emotions.

This is getting rambly but I think the main point I’m trying to make is that I am never fully comfortable. I am never fully myself. My reactions aren’t always right-sized, and I get stressed out about parking.

I don’t like playing Legos in front of my boyfriend.

He stood over the dining room table surveying my various solid-colored stacks of Lego blocks for a moment and then asked, “what are you doing?”

“I’m organizing them,” I said, hoping that would be enough of an explanation, even though I knew from his tone that he thought how I was going about organizing them was strange.

My birthday was a month and a half ago and he’d gotten me a set and a half of Legos that I had, until today, not touched. I almost wrote “I haven’t given them a second thought,” but I know that’s not technically true. I’ve been thinking about them a lot. And I have been choosing not to introduce Legos into my life for the exact reason I didn’t want to talk to him any more about them. I knew what itch they were going to scratch.

“Okay…” he said, trailing off to imply he found my answer inadequate. I hate when people do this. It’s always because you answered the question they actually asked and not the question they assumed you’d know they also wanted the answer to. I don’t think it’s fair to just expect me know what you want from me, even if I have some educated guesses. So I didn’t say anything. “The question is…” he continued, “why…?”

I had been separating all of the blocks into little piles by color. Then I was going through each color and organizing them by type, stacking the ones that match onto each other so my piles became separate little towers of varying shapes and sizes. Then I started to organize them by shape and size again, taking just the towers of traditional blocks and plugging them into a base by color. His ‘why’ could have meant any number of things so I thought for a minute. He could have been asking about my ultimate plan, which is as-yet to be determine. He may have been asking about my immediate plan, which is detailed and spans the course of several days. I didn’t really want to go into all that. He might have been asking about the motivation to even come up with such a plan, which was also kind of a long explanation of how I’ve been feeling mentally exhausted from this new job and how I feel a need to do something with my body, with my hands, where the rules are inherent and I don’t have to really think too much. But the overlap between that specific need and this specific activity seemed also simple and straightforward so I just answered “because I like it.” I even thought for a minute about how, after all this thinking and analyzing, the short answer I came up with felt like the most honest I could be. What it all comes down to is this makes me happy. It does beg the question, this same question that’s always hanging around the periphery, of why this type of activity makes me happy, but honestly, all the thinking and analyzing and fucking explaining takes away from the actual doing so I just went back to organizing my Legos.

“Alright,” he continued, clearly still not satisfied. “So… Ok, what are you going to do after it’s all organized?”

He wanted my plan. He wanted to know that I’m going to organize each type of block by color and put them in rainbow order. He wanted to know that, tomorrow, I’m going to use a pdf of an inventory of all the types of Legos and a chart of all the colors to put together a database of all possible Lego parts and colors. He wanted to know that I’m going to go through all of the Legos after I’ve organized them and create an inventory of all my Legos. He wanted to know that I’m going to buy individual blocks until I have even numbers of all the colors in the different type of blocks. And probably that wouldn’t be enough because he’d then want to know why I was going to do all of that, some answer other than ‘I like it,’ and the answer is I don’t fucking know. It makes me happy. It flashes the lights in my brain. It checks the boxes. It scratches the itch I knew it was going to scratch when I’ve been thinking about whether or not I want to do this whole fucking thing for months and then he made the decision for me. They were in the house. I just had to dive in. But if he wanted to know why all that was…

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t know.” I looked at him for a minute and then said, “I feel like you’re making fun of me.”

“I’m not making fun of you!” he assured me. He thought for a minute and then said “I’m going to let you do your thing.”

I know he wouldn’t intentionally mock me but I figured if I told him that it felt that way, he’d stop asking. And I needed him to stop asking because he’s not going to understand, no matter what questions he asks or how he phrases them. This is not going to make sense to him. And it’s exhausting. There’s no question he can ask that will help him understand why I’m not playing with the Legos the way he would play with the Legos. So maybe I should just play with them in private next time.

I think capitalism is not for me.

I happened to notice this past Sunday that I was free from the “Sunday scaries.” I’ve always experienced: that common anxiety toward the end of the weekend that comes so often with the coming week. Even during periods of my life where work didn’t feel like trauma and pain, where I actually enjoyed showing up somewhere, where I liked seeing the people I saw every day, even then, Sunday evenings have always come with a certain tension, an inability to relax and enjoy myself because of all the tasks I had coming to me in the morning, either real or imagined. On one hand, it’s a little confusing because I don’t feel that same anxiety on any other four weeknights that precede the other workdays. But part of me wonders if it’s just a function of difficulty with transitions in general playing out in the transition of weekend to weekday.

This past Sunday, I looked at my partner and said, “I am actually excited to go to work tomorrow,” and it was the truth. I feel like I’ve finally found a job at a company that values me for who I am and what I’m capable of without me having to “flex” into something else or struggle to be something I am not, which has been my experience throughout my career. The past week and a half have come with a lot of promise and hope, starting a new job that feels like I’ve finally found “the one.” What’s more promising is the people I’m meeting are transparent about their challenges. Even during the interview process, it seemed like they were more nervous about luring me in under false pretenses and really wanted me to know the volume of work I was signing up for by taking this job. It’s a stark contrast from previous roles where the optics were of utmost importance. What the thing was did not matter as much as what the thing looked like and how it was communicated and how it was received, where it seems like here, we are mostly just concerned about the “thing”, what it is, how it functions. It’s ok if it’s a little ugly or unfinished or misunderstood because we can deal with all that later. It feels more tangible to me.

So tell me why I am miserable today for no discernible reason. I feel physically exhausted. I woke up this morning with a sore back, but I’ve woken up that way every morning for the past month or so. I got about as much sleep as I always get. I had too much junk food last night and my body just feels uncomfortable on multiple levels. And while I’m still excited about work and the culture here and the chance to make my own decisions and do the things I want to do and how I want to do them, there’s some creeping doubt telling me I can’t do this.

I can kind of picture how I want things to go. I can conjure an image in my head of what this job might look like a year or two down the road but I have no clear vision of how to get there. I don’t think I can do this. I have been too anxious to go down to where the rest of my team sits and visit with them today because I don’t have anything to say and I’m not sure I can stomach another awkward moment of just standing around staring out the window, not sure if I should be saying something else or walking away. And if I were to walk away, do I say something before I go or do I just leave? I also don’t know if they’re busy and I’m intruding or bothering them. I can’t stop thinking about all the times so far I’ve just stood there for way too long and then eventually walked away awkwardly. They must thing I’m really odd. And I don’t want them to think I’m odd so I won’t go there. But I’m not quite sure what to do with myself and this lack of a clear direction is making me feel useless. I was sitting at my desk almost in tears but I was distracted by IT installing some software on my computer before I could fully break down.

What is wrong with me?

I wanted this job. I want to do this job. I think I can do this job. Most days I want to do this job. Today I just want to sleep.

I think it ebbs and flows.

I was just sitting on the bench in my backyard watching my dog nap in the sun. He likes to lie on his side in the grass with his paws stretched out in front of him and sometimes he’s so still that insects will land on him and he doesn’t react, making me call out to him just to make sure he is still alive. But today it’s really hot and he is panting and it made me think maybe he is ready to be groomed. He also gets incredibly itchy during the summer and I thought to myself, I should call around to different groomers to see if they have an available appointment for a little haircut and some kind of skin treatment.

I should “call around,” I thought to myself.

I have no idea how people find quality service providers of any kind. I used to take him to a groomer right down the street that I met through an old roommate. They also did dog-walking and it was really convenient because they would walk him while I was at work and sometimes just take him back to the groomer, give him a bath and a haircut, and bring him home. Then they got a new location and stopped offering grooming services.

Let me back up for a second. This whole grooming process is often fraught for me because I go through phases where self-care is difficult for me… really care of any kind, including washing and brushing my dog. So he gets matted and it’s uncomfortable for him and I feel so guilty that he’s uncomfortable but I fall into this terror fantasy that if I take him to the groomer, they will be upset with me for letting him go this long and they won’t give him back to me because I don’t take care of him. So I don’t call but he gets worse and so I finally have to call because it’s so bad and my feeling of compassion for my poor pet and the need to get him relief outweighs the feelings of guilt and shame and fear so then I take him in and they are judging me and it reinforces the fear and guilt and shame and I start the whole cycle all over again about 10 weeks later.

A while back, I brought my dog to the same location I always brought him, which is still a dog groomer, but it was a different person and different company altogether since the person I knew had gotten a new location. But this groomer is not as nice. In fact, they’re brash and judgmental and I don’t like their manner at all so I few months ago when my dog was started to get a bit overgrown and slightly matted, I decided to break out of the cycle and find a groomer I actually like.

I guess it bears mentioning here that I was kind of going through a phase of dumping providers after finally realizing I deserve to receive medical care from individuals who saw me as a person and treated me with dignity and respect. So I cancelled the appointment I had with the dental hygienist I actually like because the dentist there always chides me for not wearing my night guard, chastises me for not flossing enough, as they’re wont to do in general anyway, but also he is in the habit of minimizing or doubting my pain. For example I once cracked a tooth and called right away to see if there was anything they could do to help because it was really painful and when I was in the dentist’s chair a couple hours later, he said, “you came in for this?” I said “it really hurts,” and he rolled his eyes and said “okay,” and then repaired it without giving me any novocaine.

I had a psychiatrist that I liked as a person except she would ask me a lot about my drug and alcohol use. I sought help for depression and anxiety, initially. Once I asked her about adhd and she asked, rather confrontationally, “why do you think you have that?” as though she didn’t believe me and it was a ridiculous thing to ask about. I also mentioned to her once how a therapist had told me in the past that he was pretty sure I had Asperger’s and she just said “I doubt that.” After the last appointment I had with her, I was looking online at my medical record for a medication list, I think, and I found my “problems list” and after each appointment, my psychiatrists notes indicated: alcohol use disorder, cannabis use disorder, cannabis use disorder, alcohol abuse, cannabis abuse, alcohol use disorder, etc. So I cancelled my next appointment with her.

Did I make a new dentist appointment? Absolutely not. Psychiatrist? Likewise. I didn’t know how to find either of these things. I know I can go on my insurance company’s website and browse their network but how do you pick a provider out of a list of names? Based on location? Is it based on their web presence? I have no idea. So I just went without.

And that is exactly what happened with the groomer. So in an attempt to avoid this cycle of him getting overgrown and matted by finding him a quality groomer that would work with me on setting up a schedule so I could just have him getting taken care of regularly without having to think about it each time, I ended up not being able to find another groomer and letting him get overgrown and uncomfortable and I ended up bringing him to the same place that I didn’t like just because it’s where I’ve gone in the past and I know them. And they were rude to me and they added an extra charge for his dematting, which they hadn’t done previously.

So now me thinking I should just call around is just asinine. I caught myself thinking this and imagined myself just cold-calling a groomer to ask some quick questions and perhaps make an appointment I just felt pride at finally taking care of my pup the way he deserves to be treated. I felt hopeful that maybe they might be able to find him some relief and he can get a little bit cooler and maybe less itchy. I didn’t feel anxious about calling or talking to someone. I didn’t feel scared about being judged or sounding stupid for asking questions. Sometimes I get in these phases where I feel like I am expected just to know the “rules” of places, like where you walk in, whether you need to make an appointment, how far in advance you need to make appointments, where you go to pay, where you order, how you order, etc., like all the things you need to know to get a service from somewhere. I feel the pressure to just know those things because everyone else just seems to always know those things but today I thought to myself the best way to learn those things is just to ask the people who know and it didn’t fill me with dread.

Then that made me think about all the times in the past when this line of thinking would absolutely fill me with dread and my immediate thought was, well, I must have been faking. I must have been faking. There’s no way that I could have felt those things authentically then if I am not feeling them now. Or if I wasn’t faking then maybe all those thoughts are just symptoms of my depression and I’m just trying to get attention and feel special by thinking they could be related to possible asd, adhd, or both.

I really need to catch myself when I am doing this binary thinking. Just because it’s not hard for me now doesn’t mean it wasn’t actually difficult then. I was in a different place. Depression can account for part of the difficulty without it being the only contributing factor. My mental health is such a delicate balance of so many factors. Maybe I have more fortitude to put into proactively caring for myself and my pet now because I don’t have the added pressure of an un-supportive work environment and because I spent the week driving into work at a new job that values and supports me, that trusts me to make decisions, where there’s a clear separation of work and home and I can leave the pressure of all the STUFF I need to get DONE at work and not think about it when I’m at home. Like it’s all connected and it doesn’t help me to beat up my past self for not being able to do certain things. In fact, I have immense gratitude for my past self because they got me to where I am at present.

Writing all of this out is really helping me to process 🙂

If I could just clean up.

Everything always feels so familiar. Sometimes I wonder about this feeling and question its authenticity. Though maybe I do have memories here… I live within half a mile of the location I was born, a few streets down from where I lived through kindergarten. Maybe a part of me remembers these streets and sights from back then. Or maybe I am stoned and just feel stoned and this familiar triggered feeling that I associate with shame and trauma is all in my head.

But it happens a lot.

I did ECT for 12 weeks almost a year ago. Sometimes I wonder if maybe that knocked some things loose. I don’t know anything about the brain. Maybe I should have looked more deeply into what I was getting myself into before I committed to it but I won’t judge my past self for being desperate to feel better.

But everything feels so familiar. It feels like trauma.

Sometimes I think it’s from the decade I spent getting blackout drunk with my friends all over the city. As I mentioned, I don’t quite know how the brain works but I wonder if the memories are all still up there but just inaccessible. I actually think that the alcohol blocks the ability to even record the memory so I don’t know how valid my theory is that my memories are in some file cabinet that’s hiding in the back somewhere, like if I could just take a day off—or maybe a week or so—to clean up and go through everything, I know I could move things around and find a filing cabinet hiding in the back somewhere. Or like a pile of papers I just didn’t notice before. Maybe it is like that.

I don’t know why.

I have therapy tomorrow. This always stresses me out. I journal and write notes and spend hours just trying to analyze my world, my behavior, my feelings, my motivations—when I have them—just to have an idea of how to express what’s been going on so I can get help that actually helps. I feel like I have had to become so articulate and I still struggle to find the right words to describe exactly how I am feeling.

I also have my second appointment with a new psychiatrist tomorrow. Meeting with my therapist beforehand is helpful so he can coach me on how best to approach the discussion and which things are important to bring up. I don’t know. I wish there a better way to communicate the insides of my brain. I have always felt a little detached from myself and my motivations. When I try to describe what’s been going on, I often feel like I am guessing. Like, this is what happened, this was my reaction, so it makes sense that I was feeling X or Y but I think the truth is I don’t really know. I am not in touch with myself to really understand what is going on so I try to observe and speculate, like an observer of my own experience.

My partner is upset right now because I admitted earlier that I’d been smoking cigarettes. He asked me why and I listed a few reasons but the truth is, I don’t actually know. It’s disgusting. It doesn’t taste good. It doesn’t smell good. But it makes me feel something. How many destructive things in my life have I adopted just to feel something, even if it was a feeling I didn’t particularly enjoy? At least it feels different.