Friday, September 12, 2014

The Ever Anxious Mind

Last week I wrote about the target that appears to be on those on the autism spectrum and the potential long lasting effects of this. To compound this, and I've experienced this in a way, is the fact that my brain is an ever anxious mind. I am always on alert so to speak. What does this mean? I'm overly in-tune with my environment. "What was that noise? Is that person angry? Is that person going to yell? Am I in trouble?"

Those questions are things that go through my mind on a routine basis. Over and over and over and if you've had a traumatic experience, then the brain has more evidence that bad things happen. Case in point:

I go back almost a decade for this story and a bowling league I was on. After the three games one of my teammates complained about the way another bowler's daughter was behaving to which the daughter's dad took deep offense to it, and perhaps a few beers added to the response, but the response was dramatic. There was instant yelling and talk of, "Do you want to talk about this in the parking lot? Do you? I'll smash your head..." and the talk went downhill from there but eventually this guy started talking going after other members of the team. It took a second because I felt like an invisible observer, but then I realized, "Wait a sec, I'm a teammate!" and I froze.

The argument went on and on and at one point in time they were chest to chest, which looked odd as the size differential was massive and my teammate was half the size, but the yelling, slurs, and obscenities continued and I was paralyzed. Thankfully, and mercifully, the spouses got into the mix and the event ended and I think they even shook hands, but for me, I was stuck in that moment of supreme fear. I drove home from the bowling alley, and by this point in time it was midnight, and when I got home I woke my dad shaking. Shaking? Yes, I was shaking in fear. Absolute fear. I had never been so close to an event like that and not only was I fearing the idle threats (they were not idle to me) but here's the thing; using the concept of "Film Theory" in my book Finding Kansas, this set a new snapshot that major, random acts of potential violence can happen at a moment's notice.

When this event happened I had been writing for a month and eventually I wrote something along these lines, "I don't understand people. Why are they so loud? Why do they use such vulgar language? Why are they so mean? This being so other people are not worth knowing." Of everything I've ever written the ending of that sentence sticks out to me the most, and I know this is a bold statement, but having such an anxious mind a new precedent had been set and if this had happened once it could happen again and since it hurt me so bad I became afraid of the pain that could be.

What am I getting at? Going back to my Target: Autism post, the lasting effects of major events such as bullying, or violence isn't something that just vanishes. The above story stayed with me and the next time I bowled I stood at my front door staring out into the wild, that is the world, wondering, "is it worth it? Why should I leave the safety of this house? Why? Why? Why?" I did, and it took all the tenacity that I had, but others might not do this. The ever anxious mind just doesn't turn off. While news stories, and viral Facebook stories will talk about bullying in a tidy 30 second package what isn't shown is what happens after. What isn't shown, or can be shown in any way is the lingering fear, anxiety, shame, and potential self-hate that lasts.

There is positive in this in that more places are wanting autism/Asperger's awareness and understanding. The more places reached the more people might just understand that autism isn't something that lasts for a 30 second news bit. What might have seemed small could have life-long ramifications and this is why we have to go all out in getting to as many people as possible. To slow down, to yield, to think that "we've done enough" would be a great sin because one event; just one bully experience could destroy a life and that's why we have to keep going full speed with an unyielding vigor because just one experience is one too many.

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