Many people on the Autism Spectrum live with anxiety on a daily basis. More so than normal anxiety and to the point where some even take medication for an anxiety disorder.
So what is Anxiety? Anxiety is defined by a fear or worry feeling about something that interrupts with daily activities.
With that said, I can assume most people deal with anxiety at some point in their lives, including me. Even though I do not have what you would classify as an anxiety disorder, it has been bad quite a few times in my life.
My anxiety started at a young age, when it was not as easy as it is now to communicate what I was feeling. This led me to unknowingly starting to self-medicate with tobacco before I was eighteen and then when I got to college led to alcohol abuse. I luckily had great family members and friends to help me realize the problem with alcohol before it got really bad. Until then I knew what was making me anxious but really did not think it mattered. The two biggest triggers for my anxiety are change, so like things I can not change or things that change very suddenly and drastic, and large gatherings of people where I know little to no one there. An example of a change that is sudden and drastic would be like me walking for graduation last Spring and then getting an email three weeks later saying I did not graduate when I had set things in motion for my life that I thought were dependent on that. As I write this I can feel my anxiety increase so slightly, since I am still dealing with this issue that has cost me time and money. So what does my anxiety feel like?
It is very hard to describe what one of my anxiety attacks feel like, but I am going to give it a shot. To me it feels like an re occurrence of a childhood night terror that I use to have. My mouth stays shut as I am trying to weave through this feeling, so I tend to try to be alone whenever this is happening just so someone will not ask me a question. I am also always looking for my tobacco and a second self stimulatory thing. Doing what ever I can to get re-centered/back to earth. Since tobacco and alcohol are negative ways to deal with anxiety, I would recommend some of the other things I try to do before it gets to an attack like level.
The thing that things to help the most for me is exercise. I try to do it as frequent as possible but as everyone knows life can take over, especially when the gym is not always the most anxiety free place for me. I also try to keep some free time to play some video games or watch tv shows or movies, all that can keep me out of reality for a bit and able to just relax. There is another way I think some people, on the Spectrum or not, can help reduce anxiety.
This way is trying to lessen how stressed one can get from a certain activity or situation. This is known as the General Adaptation Syndrome. Described by Hans Seyles in 1939. He explains that whenever the body or mind encounters a stressor, there is a initial response which is usually a fight or flight type response. After a short period the body/mind adapts to that stressor. Then after a longer period of time the initial stressor causes less stress when encountered. I will give tow examples, one bad and one good, of how this works. So say a person goes running for a minute straight with no exercise background or anything. The stressor is the act of running for a long time compared to what the body is use to. The body then after running for a few weeks starts to adapt to this stress, to where running a minute starts to become easier. Then after a few months, the body will barely register the fact that it has run for a minute. Thus the first example. The second one, I will use a person who is anorexic. This person will initially stop eating much, if anything at all. This stress of less food for the body to get nutrients from will cause that person to be tired and upset. After a day or two the body then will start hording whatever is brought in for every sing;e resource it has, to try to combat the loss of nutrients. Depending on how much this person consumes daily, the long term reaction would be shutting down areas of the body to preserve the most vital ones. So see this theory can work both ways and can help to reduce stress. If this can be done properly to reduce the amount and types of triggers of anxiety. Then anxiety attacks can be reduced as well.
Have to state this again, but I am not a licensed psychologist or physician, so please talk to them before trying to reduce stress in your life.
"Silent Running" is a book based on a family's journey in life, written from a mothers/wife's perspective, while dealing with many obstacles, most notably raising twin boys born with severe Autism. I cannot write to how well it was written or put together, since I do not have any expertise doing so. I can, however, speak about the usefulness of the story as it relates to: others on the Autism Spectrum; parents with kids on the Autism Spectrum; and how it can help nuerotypical people more aware of the daily life of a family that has a member/members on the Autism Spectrum.
The writer of this book made it apparent to me that people living on the Autism Spectrum, that have the ability and understanding, should read this book. I say this because, I believe not too many people living on the Spectrum are aware of the daily difficulties it took from their own family to get them to where they are in life. Not to say they do not care or anything like that, but most times people on the Spectrum live in their own heads and become oblivious to those closest to them. This book paints a great picture of what some parents go through in their daily lives to help their unique kids succeed in life. Knowing those challenges and obstacles that parents go through made me appreciate all that my parents did for me growing up even more than I already had for them. This is a definite must for those on the Autism Spectrum to read.
I would recommend this book to parents as well. It gives great insight into how a person on the Autism Spectrum can become a happy adult with a purpose in life. This is shown through the numerous pictures of Alex and Jamie in the center of the book, always looking happy after a race or determined during one, as the author also mentions numerous times. This happiness and purpose can seem far away for young parents of kids on the Autism Spectrum. But when you read about this family and how much they loved their kids and how determined they were to just improve their kids quality of life, it is not hard to see that with a lot of hard work and determination that even the most severe cases that an outcome of having a purpose in life and enjoying it can happen. The only downside I would inform to parents reading this, is that all families are different and that doing just what the Schneider’s did may not work with every family and may not be plausible. The reason it may not be plausible is that not every family is going to be as fortunate to receive the support that the Schneider’s received, since some families can tend to shun others in their family if it is even brought up something neurological is different in a kid in the family. Besides that point, which Mrs. Schneider cannot fix or change, this is a must read for parents with kids on the Autism Spectrum, especially those young parents who might know nothing about what is ahead of them.
Lastly, is this a book neurotypical individuals should read as it pertains to becoming more aware of Autism Spectrum Disorders? I would say a resounding “Yes!”. This book not only shows some of the good that can come with Autism but also some of the bad. Since working with kids on the Spectrum, I relived some of the thoughts I had when one of the boys in the book lashed out at someone and the author described the feeling perfectly. The many little milestones definitely outweigh the lashing out and make the work worthwhile, just as it came across in the book. Another reason why I think this would be a good book for neurotypical folk is that unlike many newsfeed or news channel feel good stories, this book so you how far an individual has to go from diagnosis to their incredible feat. That alone should be highlighted, because I think many people see those stories and do not really understand why they are such a big deal even if they know a little of the diagnosis. Like I said earlier, this is a must read for neurotypical folk to gain more awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorders.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, even though it was my first reading for fun book in a couple of years. I want to end by thanking all the Schneider’s (Robyn, Allan, Alex, and Jaime) for sharing their story to the world and especially to me. I hope the best for all of yall in any future endeavors.
Mark Fleming- Person on the Autism Spectrum