Friday, November 23, 2007

Asperger's and Depression - Part 4

Please note: This post has some deeper adult concepts in it and may be unsuitable for children.

Continuing the discussion on depression (how depressing)...

Difficulty reading other people's body language expressions and tone
I think that I have already covered this one in other posts but I'll just go over a few important points to be sure.

Conversation is a lot more than words. It includes hand gestures, body movements and facial expressions. It includes a variety of different vocal tones and it includes a lot of metaphors, colloquialisms, polite rephrasing and nonsense words and phrases. To interpret the full meaning of somebody's conversation you need to be able to read and process all of these cues at the same time. You also need to be able to understand how these cues inter-relate with each other.

Aspies are well known for being very "single process" orientated in conversation. It seems that although we do take everything in, we are unable to process it all simultaneously. Processing of conversation often continues long after the conversation has ended. For this reason, aspies often miss out on important clues which would otherwise change the meaning of a conversation. Often we cannot tell the difference between somebody been serious and somebody joking. It is possible that this is one of the reasons for the myth that aspies cannot understand jokes.

At best, aspies often return from conversations feeling unhappy with their performance. At worst, they can return very depressed. The depression can be related to misunderstandings as discussed in part 2 or it can stem from from the sadness/loneliness or disappointment in oneself due to inadequate social skills. Aspies are often misunderstood during conversation because we either haven't mastered social protocol (are too direct and are considered rude or tactless) or because we tend to assume that other people are mind readers and switch topics in mid-conversation without warning.

Being misunderstood all the time can be pretty depressing.

Unusual World View/Paradigm
Aspies see the world very differently from NTs. They will often take a longer term view of things but concentrate more on the past than on the future. This concentration is probably due to the long-term memory.

If an Aspie has a bad day or if an emotionally painful event is likely to reoccur (or is continuing longer than it should), the aspie may experience suicidal feelings. They may think "I would not have to worry about this if I was dead". Of course, this is subjective, it might just be something associated with me but my forum readings indicate that this is common amongst aspies in varying degrees.

It's unusual for me to go more than two or three days without considering my demise but unless my life actually does go to hell, I'm in no danger. The important thing to note is that I will often ponder death in relation to something as mundane as a computer program not working the way it is supposed to - thinking "I wouldn't have to finish this if I was dead".

How do you stop this becoming an issue? Counselling? Nope... I don't think so. Aspies need to be reassured that there are things to live for. In my case, my family is top. If something were to happen to them, my "rock" would disappear.

Sometimes it's the small things too, especially in childhood. For example; wanting to survive until the last Harry Potter book etc.. The problem with short term goals like this is that they end and you need to find another goal to replace them before they end. You're much better off with a long term goal.

Then there's religion. I'm grateful that I'm not deeply religious - sure I have beliefs etc, but my life isn't centered around religion. This is important because some religions, notably Christianity with the belief in Heaven could persuade Aspies that there is value in dying. Luckily, most religions which profess to an afterlife also treat suicide as a major sin. The exception of course, being martyrdom.

Put a religious aspie in a martyrdom situation (eg: in the middle of a bank robbery) and there's a good chance that they will take the initiative. Not just because of the current situation but also because of the long-term view.

Overwhelming Feelings and Thoughts
I've accidentally covered most of this under the last topic, so I'll only add a little. Depressing thoughts often creep up on the aspie for no obvious reason. I have no idea why this is.

The other time that feelings and thoughts creep up on the aspie are when they are emoting with things. Sure, I know that there's a myth out there that says that Aspies aren't emotional. That's crap. Aspies emote with everything, human and non-human, living and non-living. Just because we don't always show emotions (or show them in the same way as NT's) doesn't mean that they aren't there.

When our emotional targets are depressed, so are we.

Anxiety and Panic Attacks
I think everyone gets panic attacks at some point or another and I'm not sure how tied to Aspie traits they are. I certainly don't seem to get many but then I may be uncertain in my definitions as I do get overwhelming feelings when walking in crowded situations (I often walk through the carpark in shops rather than go back to the car via the shopping centre) and when I can't do as my aspie brain dictates.

For example; suppose I'm looking at DVDs in a shop and they're arranged alphabetically. I have someone standing next to me, so I can't move to the next set of shelves. Often, I can just move on to the shelf after that but sometimes I can't. Sometimes, even if I skip a bay of shelves, I have to go back. If the person is still in my way... I get overwhelming feelings.

How do I deal with this... well, I tend to imagine having a lightsaber and visualise myself bringing it down on the offender. Yes, it's childish, but it's better than imagining punching or having a gun (ie: a fictional weapon is safer). This buys me a minute or two of calm and hopefully the person in my way has felt my eyes boring into their back long enough to move away.

I don't know if that's the start of a panic attack or something else entirely. Like I said, I don't feel comfortable with the concepts. Unfortunately, I feel that I don't know enough about this topic to post with any confidence. If anyone has any useful experience, please comment. I'd love to hear from you.

From the aspies I know who have regular panic attacks, it seems that they get depressed because they're scared of having another attack. This leads to being scared to go out in public etc.

Conclusion
Well, this concludes the depression topic (Yay!!). Sorry it was so long (especially this post - I just wanted to get the topic finished).

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Aspies can understand jokes. Sometimes, they may be difficult to read behind the words.,, I think. But depends on the situation and people of Aspies, I think
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Anonymous said...

Aspies can understand jokes. Sometimes, they are not good at read behind the words.,, I think. But depends on the situation and people of Aspies, I think.

iconoclast said...

A truly religious, but depressed and suicidal Aspie should be afraid to seek martyrdom for the wrong reason (escape from life). The first person who will be thrown into the Hellfire is the "martyr" who gave his life for the wrong reason (fame, pride, revenge, etc.). True martyrdom is not insanity; it is purity of heart and sincerity of action. Insanity is insanity. I admit, though, it is hard to see the difference these days.

bludancer said...

thank you especially for the section on depression, and on "considering one's own demise." :) it's good to be reminded that this is often so transitory. (and i will often stick around just for a new computer game.) just spent time with my once-estranged family---have been "considering my own demise" for the last few hours. (one event to which many painful events are tied---that's my definition of family gatherings.) it's nice to know this isn't forever. i have just downloaded a new game. i think i'll play it now.

Bill Weir said...

WOW! THANK YOU for this- I can't help but cry when I see myself so clearly here. I think of how many whole years of my life I have spent "contemplating my demise" because i could see these things happening, understanding that I was not learning, etc. but not have a clue where they came from. It is very easy to see oneself as stupid for failing to understand such basic things which will make you rather depressed.

Kazarie said...

Thank you for this, my aspie son committed suicide at 14, 2 years ago, i can now understand a little better what he went though and why, I wished i could have helped him

Anonymous said...

One thing that helped me a lot with my suicidal thoughts was to correct myself after wishing I was dead. "No I don't wish I was dead, I wish I was happy"