Desperately Seeking Safety

Desperately Seeking Safety

I don’t feel safe. What was my safe place has been invaded, violated, desecrated. It can be hard for someone who isn’t autistic to understand how vital it is to have somewhere to drop your guard, relax, decompress in the sure and certain knowledge that nobody can get to you, nobody can harm you.

When that refuge is taken from you, you feel as if you have lost a vital part of yourself. The part that kept everything else in order. And you start to unravel as the stress and fear builds with nowhere to go to relieve it.

That is where I am now: I’m sure I’m not quite in my right mind because I’m not able to think things through rationally. I’m acting too impulsively and I worry that I will make some decisions that are detrimental, even harmful to me.

My instinct is to run away. I don’t know where I’d be headed: I just have this animal urge to be somewhere — anywhere — else. What’s left of my reason raises objections: where will I find shelter, what about the stuff I leave behind?

I’ve been asking for help and it has been offered. Accepting it is another matter: it is so hard to admit that there is something I’m not able to do for myself. To throw myself on the charity of others and trust that they will catch me, pick me up.

I have a plan of sorts. On Monday I will get in touch with my doctor, arrange an appointment to see her and ask for help. Counseling or therapy, whatever would best help me deal with my overwhelming emotional state. My fear, my sadness, my anger.

Because it is hampering my ability to function, to live. And I want to live. But most of all I need security. A place of safety where I can just sit and calmly exist.

16 thoughts on “Desperately Seeking Safety

  1. Yes. I know.

    Not to put a dampener on things but there is a likelihood that your doctor won’t see how huge your need is. Your understanding that you might do something rash. That you might be capable of screwing up your own life. If you’re anything like me, you’ll fall back on scripts to make yourself get understood and that will make you sound far too coherent.

    Is there any way that you can make someone listen NOW? Pay them if you have to. I hired a job coach. It was her job to listen. I paid her.

    And you need a safe place.

    On that note, maybe your instinct isn’t that far off. At the risk of sounding like a nutjob and encouraging you to do bad things: maybe you should run away. Get a sleeping bag, pack a thermos, dress in your warmest clothes, and go sleep in the forest for a night or something. At the very least that will give you some peace and quiet, and it might help to get your issues taken seriously. Keep yourself safe, only do something like that if you also know how to get back, but it might be an idea. Running away in a controlled, thought-out way. I know people will tell me I’m encouraging you but we’ve both had a lifetime of not trusting our gut feeling, or learning that what we want to do is wrong. And saying THAT is wrong.

    You have the right to do whatever it takes to avert meltdown.

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  2. I have not followed your blog long and closely enough and it’s always hard to judge from the outside and especially over the internet. But I have to say, you do sound like someone in an abusive relationship, autism or not. When the balance in a couple is disturbed so that during conflict, you become unable to express yourself, fear her anger and are seriously hurt by teasing… That is not “normal” fighting. Although a couple can always have relationship problems, conflicts or fights, if you feel unsafe, “on your guard” and are already dreading the next time, it is not a healthy human relationship.
    Abusive relationships can have phases of intense and passionate love in between each circle, but if you do feel there is a pattern, no matter what causes it or how regular it occurs…you need to either get into some sort of couple counseling to clearly redefine boundaries – and stick to them to save the marriage (bothhave to want this and equally contribute) or you must get out. If someone offered you to stay at their place or whatever, talk to your wife about it and maybe get some distance.
    Make a plan, write down clearly how you feel and what bothers you. Look at what you do also. Some secrets are OK in a relationship. Keeping things from your partner that are important to you, is not. Trust is immensely important. Why are you secretive?
    It indicates that you do Not want to share things with her because you fear her reaction or you know you are going beyond her boundaries..
    If that’s the case, maybe you guys need to go separate ways. Maybe you just need to refocus on what matters most to you. But you will both be unhappy going on like this.
    But do not get caught into the trap of excusing her or your behaviour because of having or being confronted with autism. That would indeed explain communication problems. But not the anxiety and fear you are talking about here.

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      1. Didn’t realise I wrote so much. Let me say that I have been inside and close to abusive relationships of all kinds, and although they were all very different the markers to me are fear, anxiety and loss of trust on both sides. I do not believe I am autistic myself but I can relate to many social problems through my PTSD (although who who knows, my sons autism comes from my side, so might have ‘autism light’) . my current relationship is not all roses (my husband is bi-polar, we have had a streak of bad luck and we are constantly broke) but I know I feel safe at all times. We both have a bit if an online life, but we do trust each other, talk about it and it feels right. I have known different, I would never want to live like that again.

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        1. Thank you for taking the time to make such a well thought out response.

          You are correct about me having lost trust in my wife: in that respect the relationship is broken. It’s also intriguing that you use the word “abusive” because that’s exactly the word I used when speaking to a close friend nearly a year ago. I’ve gotten the space I need now, and the support of my friends: I’m feeling more optimistic.

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  3. I have been thinking along the same lines as suburp, although I am very hesitant to use the word ‘abusive’. I think this is because I (wrongly) associate abusive with deliberately doing things you know are wrong or hurtful. (as in: I hesitate to say my parents were abusive, because they have mental issues of their own)

    But I was getting the idea from your blogs (but, as suburp, have not been reading that long) that your wife does not seem to understand some of your needs and/or cannot deal with them. And you don’t feel that your home is a safe place anymore. No matter how you call it, this is not good.
    I would agree with autisticook’s suggestion of running away, if I didn’t think it was scary as hell, myself. I am not sure if it meets the criteria of ‘safe place’. Did any of the offers for help include a place to stay for a while? I don’t suppose your financial situation allows for a hotel/hostel? I am not sure if those places could feel safe for you?
    I also agree with suburp’s suggestion of couple counselling, if you want to stay together. You’re not the only one who is dealing with this situation. Preferably from a counselor who is really familiar with autism in adults, and doesn’t just blame everything on you being autistic.
    Take care.

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    1. Oh your comment actually reminded me of a blog I came across months ago, by a therapist who does couples’ counseling, and who sort of accidentally got into specialising in NT-Aspie relationships when she noticed her usual approach wasn’t all that successful with those couples. Her blog has some excellent insights in what the strengths and weaknesses of such relationships are, and some really helpful tips. Hopefully this can help! http://www.aspiestrategy.com/

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    2. And yes that means I second the idea of only entering into counselling with someone who understands autistic adults and doesn’t tell you “to just be more emotionally open and trusting.”

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  4. :/ Hope you’ll be okay soon. That safe space is really, really, *reeeeeeeally* important. I can really relate to the urge to run away from everything too – I’ve also just been through a messy, drawn-out break-up, and although I wasn’t living with him, he lived nearby and the whole thing made me want to get as far away from everything as possible. I don’t think I could ever *really* just run away, though, I haven’t got the guts 😛

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  5. Going home to a feeling of unsafety is the one thing that made cognitive behavioral therapy feel less than helpful to me, but in a way that seemed more honest than the “talk therapy” counselors’ listening style, since their less pedantic mode of interacting with a patient implies they are receptive to expressed needs that go beyond the need to be listened to for an hour once a week for a while. I liked the way you described CBT as a challenging treatment plan in your entry on what it requires and what the work is like for the patient, I think you described the potential benefits and the path to obtaining them very well, but it’s the sort of therapy that announces the limits of the helping professional’s interest in helping you and reminds you to take their office hours literally instead of hoping that additional help is available on request, and that they are listening to find out what else you need somehow.

    Maybe hearing yourself talk to a counselor can help you realize that you also need things not offered in counseling, but there are hardly any resources for ongoing interpersonal violence that are really there – just some emergency shelters with waiting lists, and questionable first aid services for physical injuries, and non-existent acknowledgement or redress for verbal threats to bring physical harm or other forms of bullying. Eventually talking to a helping professional about that sort of problem seems to leave the professional counselor in a mood to start fishing for evidence that you’re blowing things out of proportion and need to focus on self-help and stop expecting other people to solve your problems for you.

    And then you’re back to where you started, maybe a little more self-aware about what the drivers of your everyday problems are if you had to hear yourself say it and notice how far from “pragmatic outreach” the expressed concern of others tends to be when they’ve heard you spell it out in adequate detail. Which can mean being more acutely aware of a depressing situation, and more inclined to label your state of mind “despair” – not a very encouraging milestone in personal growth, to go from vague distress to conspicuous helplessness to cope with whatever elephant in the living room you had been forgetting to point out to yourself while struggling with the problems it creates.

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    1. Hi. Thanks for your response. I don’t have experience of therapy or counseling outside of the CBT I received for some of my anxiety issues, primarily social interaction and making phone calls, which makes it difficult to judge how effective it might be in combating my stress and depression. However I believe the root cause of my problems to be the broken relationship between myself and my wife, so it is on this that I must focus initially. To that end I have an appointment with my doctor tomorrow where I will discuss the options available and choose what path I feel will be most beneficial.

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      1. I hope your next appointment goes well, and leads to some helpful insights.

        For myself, I found CBT really is helpful for identifying what sorts of common denominators help explain some of the more confusing signs of excessive stress that lead to seeking mental health professionals’ feedback on what “feels wrong” about everyday life, when you feel confused about what’s wrong too often to ignore the availability of talk therapy, CBT or similar services. Unlike psychiatry, CBT is good about keeping the conversation focused on concrete experiences instead of “mentalizing” every perception that you find distressing and worth talking about – even if you have a mental health diagnosis, a CBT professional will listen without using your diagnostic label to “explain away” everything you have to say about how things are going lately,

        But feeling unsafe at home is one thing doctors tend to be useless at addressing concretely. They are surprisingly well-rehearsed at coming up with official excuses for underreporting interpersonal violence or failing to refer victims of domestic violence to appropriate services like social workers who can give referrals to housing assistance resources or, if necessary, the police – to address assault threats or a history of violence producing injuries, the sort of thing you would like to think public sector service providers would prefer not to ignore.

        This can be disappointing, and make the individual patient feel like their own problems are being downplayed by the helping profession by way of comparison to the more pressing needs of others – there is a tacit inference that some kinds of instrumental support are being rationed, when a doctor addressing what you know to be a straightforward complaint tells you he has nothing to offer, except a hotline and an apologetic shrug. Doctors get very evasive when they have to deliver what they expect will be considered bad news to a patient, and can accidentally make you feel worse and hesitant to follow-up on that sort of referral, if they are embarrassed that your problems are technically outside the purview of psychological expertise (i.e., it’s not your imagination).

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