Contemplating Life & Death

I didn’t think I’d be writing here anymore. It sort of felt like I was done with this blog. Apparently not.

A couple of weeks ago one of my uncles passed away from a stroke. While I’ve been heavily affected by the loss on multiple levels, I’ve also found myself contemplating a lot, and been in a very weird, otherworldly headspace.

I have two aunts and one uncle left. Death is so strange. At my age, it seems inevitable that the older members of my family aren’t going to be around forever. That their time is growing shorter at a much quicker rate than when we’re younger and time seems to move extremely slowly. It feels like people are moving past and away from me, while I stay in this life and watch from the sidelines. I don’t know if any of this makes sense to anyone else.

While funerals have always been a confusing and weird event for me, I can also understand their value now. I hardly ever cried at funerals (the tears came during everyday living when I would think about the person and remember/realize they were gone). My thoughts were always that the person isn’t there anymore. That it’s just a body in a coffin. While I still know that, the fact that I couldn’t attend the last few funerals has messed me up even more. There’s no closure. It’s just words that people tell you. “They’re gone”. That body in the coffin seems to be a kind of closure, even if the thing that made that person a person is no longer there.

My uncle’s funeral wasn’t streamed live or recorded, so I wasn’t a part of it. What do I do now? I yo-yo between it not feeling real, and getting hit with the realization that it probably is. Probably?

Another thing. Many people feel comforted by the idea that their loved ones are looking down on them, or are with them in spirit. I don’t. Because I can’t get the thought out of my head that the person is well and truly gone. And, if they are still around in spirit, it’s not enough. It just makes me feel angry for some reason that I’ve yet to figure out. So to me, when a person is gone, they’re gone.

The memories are still there though. That’s one thing that doesn’t ever go away.

Safe and “Additional” Diagnosis

Just a relatively quick update, as I don’t have the mental energy right now for an in-depth post explaining everything. There’s way too much.

I’ve been back in the psychiatric clinic for the past two weeks. Didn’t want to come in initially, but my therapist thought it was necessary, and I ultimately agreed. I’m going to be discharged either on Thursday or Friday.

There’s something I haven’t mentioned before, as I haven’t been ready to talk to others about it, or even write about it. A while ago I came across a woman on the autism spectrum, and through identifying with her a lot, I started exploring it. So many things about myself, my life, made sense. I had always believed the stereotypes that comes along with autism, so it was never something I thought would apply to me until then.

I was terrified to bring it up with my therapist for many reasons, but I took the plunge anyway. I was very surprised when she told me that she had ASD as her differential diagnosis for a while already. She had never mentioned it to me before.

We spoke about it (specific symptoms/difficulties) now and then during a session in relation to something else that would come up, but never actually discussed it in any depth. And since it wasn’t something she specialized in, she also couldn’t do any official assessments. I was also wary about making it a “thing” in case I was wrong.

But then out of the blue, just before my admission, she brought up the possibility of getting an assessment while I’m in the clinic. She spoke to my dad before my admission and explained the purpose of the admission, the possibility of ASD, among other things. She was concerned about me, and thought that since I’m going to be living with them again as soon as I get my EU passport, he needs to understand some things. It went very well, and he was receptive and understanding. I was so surprised. He’s been different with me after that. In a good way. We’re having another “meeting” with him this week to discuss the results of my assessments.

I didn’t think anything would come of it actually, but true to her word, she arranged with a specialist to do an assessment with me. It was exhausting. Long. Overwhelming. I also had a sensory evaluation done (on a different day, thank god).

When the results came back and was discussed and explained, I felt so many emotions, I couldn’t even process them all. There was a mixture of heavy relief, intense sadness, my life flashing before my eyes. Memories. Even extreme anger. I’m still processing everything.

Primary diagnosis: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – a type previously called Aspergers
Secondary diagnosis: BPD

I strongly suspect my mom is also on the spectrum, as we’re so similar. When I had to ask her questions about my childhood, it brought back memories for her of her own childhood and life too with similar difficulties. She said I was a very different baby and child compared to her other two children, my half-sisters, and understands me better than she does them, even though I didn’t grow up with her. One of her brothers had been diagnosed with ASD as a child, so it seems it might run in her side of the family.

So much of my life makes so much more sense in light of all of this. I make more sense to myself now, and realized just how much masking I did throughout my life. No wonder I’m almost always exhausted and drained. My sensory report also confirmed so much. Feeling useless and stupid because I struggle/d with things that aren’t a big deal to most others… I’m not lazy, stupid, or pathetic. My brain just works differently and deals with certain things in different ways.

Vaccine and Life

On Thursday I went for my first dose of the Pfizer covid vaccine. It went better than I was expecting. I have no issues with needles, but I do get anxious and paranoid about side effects (same as whenever I take a new medication).

My arm was a bit painful that evening, but not enough to take anything for it (it was much better the next day). I also woke up with a cold sore. I’ve gotten them my whole life. I don’t get sick often, most of the time I just get a cold sore, then I know my immune system is fighting something, so need to take care of myself. So this side effect was normal for me and showed that the vaccine was doing it’s thing.

I never got a flu shot because I rarely get a cold or flu, so just didn’t see the need. But Covid is different. And I also want to do my part.

Like everyone else I’m so sick of this thing already. But more than that, I’m so tired of all the misinformation and conspiracy theories. Social media is overwhelming. That’s why I prefer to read my weekly science magazine, psychology, animal (especially dogs) and entrepreneurship articles.

Every now and then a family member or friend will send me a link to something that’s doing the rounds and ask me whether it’s fake news, a conspiracy theory, or accurate. If I don’t already know the answer, I’ll go do some research. Most of the time it’s a bunch of nonsense. But I’m glad the person actually asked me, and didn’t send it as an “this is true, be careful!”. I do get frustrated sometimes though, especially when that person has just as much time as I do, but can’t be bothered to do their own research. I don’t know everything. I might get it wrong (and sometimes “I don’t know” is the best answer I can give). But I guess that’s the price I pay for enjoying reading and researching and having everyone in my life know it.

I mentioned in my previous post that things felt different with my therapist. When I went to see her for our next session, we spoke about it. I had been wondering whether she’s maybe been feeling overwhelmed, so asked her. I told her that I’ve always seen her as this easy-going, “nothing fazes me” type of person, so it’s strange to think that she can feel that way, even though I know she’s also just human. Her life has changed a lot because of baby, and she’s also still finding her bearings. Parenthood is a new thing for her and things she thought she’d be able to do turned out to be different in reality.

She’s shown me pictures of baby (absolutely adorable), and it really deepens my connection to her when she shares something about him here and there. It’s helped my jealousy subside as well. After our discussion I still don’t feel 100% about our connection, but I’m choosing to see it as a sort of transition we’re working on together. That it’s not the connection that’s the problem, but the little changes that I need to adapt to. I’m also dealing with depression at the moment, so that affects everything as well.

Just wish I could hug and see my mom, sisters, step-brother, uncle and some other people in person. The distance is so hard.

Comfortably Numb

After a couple of weeks of intense emotions, I’m drained. As if we don’t have enough going on with Covid, South Africa has also been experiencing unrest due to political crap. All the personal stuff I’m dealing with has also been overwhelming.

But numbness set in when I woke up yesterday.

I can usually reach this state voluntarily by drinking. But since alcohol has been banned in this country again weeks ago, I’m grateful that my mind/brain has stepped in to take over that job.

So now I’m just going through the motions. Doing what needs to be done. Except with regards to my eating habits. Food has been an issue for a month now. I just don’t want to do it… too much of a mission. I have to force myself to eat when I realize I’m starting to feel sick or before having to take my meds, but I don’t enjoy the experience one bit. Meal replacement shakes have helped a lot during this phase. I’ve gone through these phases every now and then over the course of my life, so it’s not unusual.

I can’t control those things that are negatively affecting me. And I’m out of ideas on how to improve certain circumstances I find myself in. There comes a time when you realize that the only thing left to do is to let go. When this sense of not caring anymore sets in.

I know though that it’s not that I don’t care. It’s that I can’t feel it. Void of the emotion that makes us human. Anger and sadness at injustices taking place. Fear. Love. But being alive is hard, so it’s a necessary state sometimes.

Getting Back Into It

The hardest part of writing is knowing where or how to start.

This has been one of my biggest challenges. Not only in writing new blog posts, but business emails, text messages, and social media updates as well.

It’s not that I don’t know what I need to say, or what I want to write about. It’s in organizing those thoughts in a coherent and logical way, and then finding the words to begin.

I’ve been having a particularly hard time with this lately, which is why I haven’t posted here in a while. My brain power has been going toward business emails, proposals and calls, which has taken a lot out of me mentally. One day when I can afford it, I’m going to hire someone to do those aspects that I struggle with. But for now, I’m on my own.

So, yes, I have two new clients (thanks to my therapist), and two more potential ones lined up. All of them psychologists—my ideal market. It’s been great to have work again and that sense of purpose.

I also got an unexpected cash deposit from an old pension fund I was a member of in my first “real” job many moons ago. It’s a long story, but I’m glad I got it now and not when I was supposed to earlier in my life. I would have wasted it back then as a lot of us do when we’re younger. It came at the perfect time and was very much needed.

Therapy has been going well. My therapist came back the day after I wrote my previous post, just like she said she would. She’s technically still on maternity leave, but working a little here and there. The first day back I got to go to the practice. I was anxious and wary. The first while I couldn’t even look at her, and didn’t want to take my mask off, even though that’s the first thing I usually do when sitting down (I hate wearing those things—but they’re great for hiding behind). The thought of taking my mask off felt like I would be getting undressed in front of her. Eventually, I started feeling more comfortable and my walls slowly came down.

It was a good session, and I’m glad I got to see her in person the first time back. She had come in about 5 minutes after I had arrived, and left to go home after me. So I was the only person she saw that day. I think that fact helped me feel closer to her again, and like I do actually matter to her. Since then we’ve had two in-person sessions, and the rest has been online.

There have been a few frustrating and sad things happening in my life too, but I’m just grateful that some good has come as well.

The past three days have been difficult. I think I pushed myself too far, and over-did things. I tend to jump into work in an almost manic way. Not giving myself much time to rest or relax. So I burn out. There was also so many other things to do and places to go. A lot of anxiety. It’s only now settling down.

My startle response and sensory system had gone haywire the day before yesterday. The smallest thing made me jump. Even those things that are a regular occurrence, such as the fridge making it’s “settling” sound every now and then. Everything was too bright, too loud, too rough or too soft. I’d hear the lady next door talking to her daughter, or the man speaking on his phone, and I’d be both irritated and fearful (every slight voice level above what it’s been and I felt the same fear at the anticipation of a fight).

So now I’m in a mental place where I can’t do any of my work. Even forming words to reply to voice notes or talk to anyone out loud just isn’t happening. Spent most of yesterday sleeping. I’m in shutdown mode. Good thing it’s weekend so I have an excuse to stay in bed and not do anything.

I need to learn how to balance things better, and protect myself from reaching this point.

Maybe I’ll get there one day.

I Am (Alive)

I don’t want to be alive in a world where our sexuality, gender, religion, race, disABILITY, is a source of division rather than curiosity and acceptance.

Where wars are never ending and threats of war constantly hang over us like the clouds in a dark sky.

I don’t want to be alive in a world where fear and uncertainty, hatred and greed, replace security, belonging, and love.

Where instead of embracing and working in harmony with the natural world, we destroy and turn against it, wondering “why?” when it turns on us too.

But I am.

I am alive in that world.

And it’s hard.

It’s hard to be alive in a world where little makes sense. Where the beauty of a sunset illuminating and colouring the landscape below it, is just as real as the blood of innocent lives tragically taken.

This world is also filled with beauty and grace. With hope and joy.

Focus on this good, they say.

But the good and the bad are equally real.

You can’t have one without the other. That’s the world we live in.

We’re alive. And we have to play our part in helping to make a difference. To being a beacon of light among an endless sea of darkness and despair.

We’re all human. We ultimately all come from the same place.

The difference is what each of us do with our humanity.