|This is not me, but it sort of looks like me! This is how|
I feel when I am anxious.
To make a long story short, I was basically freaking out about leaving my parents... the same way I did last September when I was supposed to move, and the same way I did about 10 years ago when I was supposed to move away for college but ended up bailing.
I am sort of proud of myself for figuring out a way to cope. I realized that a lot of my anxiety was being provoked by my mom pushing me to make a clean sweep... she had said she wanted me to pack up my room and that after I left whatever I left behind would be sold or thrown away. I was already nervous about being homesick, and this made it feel so permanent and definite. So I began to have an anxiety attack.
A few days earlier, in equine therapy, I got to work with a little pony named Red Rover. He is a little shy, and when I went into his stall he sort of got startled and walked away from me, and kept facing the wall, as if he was hoping if he didn't look at me I'd go away. I thought if I got down low on the ground, he'd be less afraid, so I crouched down by the wall. He got curious right away, and came over to sniff me. He spent a lot of time just standing there by me and Julie (my human therapist) and being with us without making any real contact. A few times I tried putting out my hand, and he'd sniff me but didn't want me to touch him.
Julie told me to visualize myself brushing him and try to send him that message. I did, and I got the feeling that Red Rover was a little nervous but was going to give me a chance. He was still a little startled when I went up to him, but I went slowly and gave him space, and soon I was able to brush him. I brushed him gently and lovingly for a long time. Red Rover got very calm and leaned into me. I had asked him to give me a chance, while leaving him room to escape or refuse. He'd taken the chance even though he was nervous, and he'd ended up having a great experience being brushed and petted and loved.
I thought maybe what I needed was to do things on my own pace, without being forced to make a commitment. I talked on Facebook with my Auntie Em and asked her what she thought about me only committing to stay and work as a substitute in Oregon until the end of the school year, without any pressure to start looking for a place to live. I could work, join an autism support group that they have there, try to make some friends, and maybe go visit my brother and Sunny and Squeak once or twice, all while knowing that I could go back to Chicago in June. I'm not even going to make any plans or after June... I am just going to take small steps and work on getting out there for just a little while. My Auntie Em thought this was a good idea.
I also talked to my dad about it. To my surprise, he agreed that it was a good idea. He told me to just think of this as an extended trip, and remember I could come home if I wanted to.
I haven't talked about it with my mom yet. She is such a Type A personality, she likes things to be ALL THE WAY or NOTHING.
Anyways. As I was consulting the Internet today, I read about Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder. This is a real thing, although it is sort of rare... it is similar to childhood separation anxiety, where children freak out if they are separated from their parents. But it is when this same thing happens to adults on a frequent basis. They grow attached to someone, and they panic if they have to be away from the person. In worst cases, people cannot even go to work, because they are terrified to leave the side of the person or people they are attached to. For a lot of people, the person they attach to is their spouse or significant other. I don't have one of those, but I have, in the past, got extremely attached to friends and gone through similar anxiety issues when I had to be away from them.
I went onto this Facebook group I belong to for women with autism, and asked if anyone had ever heard of adult separation anxiety disorder, and whether they had it. Within five minutes I had ten replies from women with autism who said that they thought they had this, maybe not as a diagnosis but definitely all of the symptoms! Many of the people said it started out as anxiety separating from their parents (as adults, not as young children) and that after they got married their separation anxiety transferred to their husbands and even their children.
So at least now what I'm dealing with has a name... one more thing to add to my laundry list of issues. The bad news is, it doesn't have any specific treatment. It can be treated similarly to generalized anxiety disorder, and it can be treated similarly to treating childhood separation anxiety disorder, but really if you have it you will probably always be dealing with it. Which makes me feel more panicky. I don't want to have to feel like this on a regular basis for the rest of my life!