Dancing in the Grey – Life with my Asperger’s
© Rory Matier 2015
This chapter is in two parts.
Please Note this book was written in 2015.
The views within these chapters are mine and may not necessarily resonate with others on the spectrum – however bear in mind the quote by Dr. Stephen Shore .. “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
Chapter 16 – Ep 28
Hidden Chapters of Yesterday
In 1993 when l was thirty, l met my to be ex wife, l married her in 1994 and in 1996, l had a major mental breakdown. When we had been dating, l had only discussed a little of my previous life with her, l never talked of my darkness or my confusions, or of my family life or for that matter hardly referred to my parents that much.
There are times when l can close my mind down to my yesterdays and there are times when l can choose to not remember some things, moments in my life. Sadly there are other times when my brain can not shut down no matter how much l will it to. The breakdown opened up everything in detail for me and then exploded!
The diagnosis was acute depression, l was physically worn out and mentally my mind simply could not cope with everything all at once any more and it broke, l never knew who l truly was from one day to the next, l became not just depressed but horribly withdrawn – l steered clear of everything, people, family and life, but mostly society – the latter seemed to not have any appeal to it.
Making matters worse, my younger partner could not cope, did not wish to hear me speak and many a time simply ignored me and left me to my own destructive vices, self harm was a predominate interest with me during this time, and my body still bears the mutilations of those days and nights when l simply wanted to die.
She suffered at the thoughts of my dark mind, which whilst l never displayed any violence to her was always somewhere else, and was quite possibly not good company at all, never mind suitable marriage material for a young bride who wanted to start a family. A husband who flogged himself with blades in order to appease the demons would have been not just startling but down right horrifying and many a time she expected to come back to the house and find me dead and towards the end of the breakdown, this was something she prayed for to end her suffering.
At the time l could not make the doctors or various psyches see that it was not so much a depression, it was quite simply that l did not feel right, that l did not belong, that the only true peace l found was working with my animals and l hated people, l detested people and if not them l hated the society they belonged to.
My marriage became abusive, my wife became heinous in her treatment of me and she started to treat me lower than the dogs and cats we kept as pets, whether she meant to perform this way has always remained alien to me, was it the undiagnosed disorder which brought out the worst in her or was it just me?
Perhaps my strange and eccentric behaviour was similar to that of my Fathers’ from way back when my Mother was experiencing problems, perhaps my wife was going through the same as my Mother had done, but because l was never violent to her, she decided to become the aggressor to balance things out? My wife became an excellent executor in mental manipulations and an outward tormentor so that even her family and friends noticed it.
A darkness ruled my days, explosive outbursts and angers ruled all other times amidst so much confusion, and l seemed to have identity crisis after identify crisis – she wanted to have me sectioned and always used it as a weapon, or she after a few years simply never came home and stayed at her parents or with ‘friends’. When we were together she seemed to enjoy taunting me, egging me on towards anger.
And every day l battled with the inner conflicts, and tried to use humour as my get out of jail card, but every day for a good seven years l simply could never see the light to the end of the darkest tunnel l had ever walked.
Then one day l woke up, it was nearing Valentines day, and for some reason l felt different to all the other days, and realised that perhaps l had slain my demons, but by this time it was too late, my wife l knew would soon become my ex wife, as had my Father realised at some point in his life with my Mother.
I was thirty three when l broke down and nearing forty when l awoke again, during that time l had been involved in a marriage that l remember very few good times, but l know we had them. I had built up a hobby to a business and by the time l under went divorce l had a thriving international business, which in essence had been created at the cost of my marriage.
The sweet girl l had once married had become a brutal cold hearted woman with no patience for her husband, she had found another life and with a man who loved her more than l, and who in time would award her what she always wanted – children, they are still together to this day.
We separated in February 2007, we were divorced by 2008, she found her true happiness in that year, and l started another journey, l had just been diagnosed as Aspergic.
You know within the pages of this book, you will have seen reference to the likes of melt downs, tantrums and mind explosions. What do these mean? Well, they are another form of the dark side to this disorder – far beyond a normal anger outburst
My Mother wanted her husband to attend A.M.T – Anger Management Therapy because of his outbursts, she also tried to take me along, but they refused to see me, based on the fact that it was probably in their eyes ‘growing up pains’.
My Father’s anger was ferocious, incredibly violent, very, very dark and frightening to behold! If he ever ‘snapped’, you had to literally run for cover. He exploded many a time before my eyes, and once cracked a rib of mine when he kicked me when l was lying on the floor doing homework on a Sunday because l had said ‘No thanks’ to visiting his Sister down in Kent. I received the punishment because l stupidly thought l had a choice in the decision when asked ‘if’ l had wanted to go? I was 15, and perfectly capable of staying at home, my Sister would be going as was, so l would be fine.
But my Father always wanted to portray the ‘perfect’ family; it was after all – his form of control over all of us. I had to say to my teachers l had fallen downstairs and that is why l could not actively participate in sports for several weeks. On the journey down from Surrey to Kent l had been in immense discomfort, actually pain. My right side was badly bruised for weeks, and breathing was difficult. I learned to never say no to him that day and that l was without choices in our family.
My Mother received far worse and if you can for one moment push aside seven miscarriages in a short period of years due to violence and stress, then what she received in additional punishment was far worse. My Father knew how to hide the hitting and l am sure if any readers are aware of violent partners and siblings then they will know what this means. If you don’t, it means that the face is the part you ‘don’t hit’, that way – nothing is visible. So thickened and split lips and black eyes are simply unacceptable! But any other part of her body was open game and with my Mother l do believe it was that way.
We used to walk on eggshells as a family, so very fearful of the smallest err that may have induced an explosion! You could see that instant when the anger just took him to somewhere else and he started to lash out. A bit like that scene from Titanic when the stern sinks under the water and it is at the moment just as you hit the water that you release and kick upwards for dear life! It was like that in many ways. You try and keep your distance, try to be as small as possible, invisible and hidden, you don’t want to be seen at that breaking point – because that is when the devil incarnation appears! He would smash out, lash, kick, scream like a caged animal in pain and then charge forwards! Perhaps the reader can see why he chooses to forget these years?
It was not back then that l did not have explosions of a similar nature l did, just not quite to the same damaging degree as him. Mine were somewhat different but as l got older they changed with me, they evolved to sit with my personality of the day. In my teen years however it was just an anger explosion, a venting, a major swearing session with me running around like a headless chicken many a time. Years on and l would also experience the ‘red mist’ angers. When l would lose my mind to the explosion, and engage in violence towards to both my inner and physical self. When furniture was not safe, when my pets hid from me in terror and the days when l reduced my wife to tears for fear of both her safety and my life. I never caused harm to anyone but me, but it was still frightening to behold.
Suzanne has asked what they were like, and it is a fair question:
Imagine if you can, an anger rising, not just an ordinary anger, but something akin to that of maybe a hurricane, tornado or even – yes even a tsunami in fact think of any of those three, and further imagine that as great as they are, you are but a tiny speck of air within or a small water droplet contained and as such you can see the enormous power you have but in many ways have no control over.
When you are so desperate to escape, but perhaps an event, a person, a time, a place or a face triggers you, but doesn’t just stop there, seemingly time stands still and at that moment you are the Hulk, you have turned green and with that change your adrenaline has pumped you up to elephantine proportions. You are desperately trying to control what is now a rage bubbling over in your mind, you can not control anything, your normal thinking pattern so logically straight is now erratic and spasmodic. It’s twitching all over the place and your brain feels like it is on fire, you are starting to sweat profusely but inside, and slowly a red mist fills your eye sockets until there is nothing but emptiness!
At this point you think your mind has stopped and l have no reason to think it hasn’t, l am blind, l am beyond comprehension, l am verging on the pivot of madness, on the very brink of the insanity abyss.
You wake up to carnage, furniture broken, your hands bloodied where you have punched walls, your arms lacerated where you have through hatred of what and who you are torn yourself with whatever came to hand – a broken glass or cup, a knife or a Stanley blade.
I have never hit a partner or my pets, but l caused untold damage to my body, mentally and physically. Emotionally, you are drained, it is like waking up after a heavy nights drinking or taking one too many sleeping tablets, in addition to that you are exhausted. My arms today with them slowly tanning display to the viewer an array of misery from many a passing yesterday when l wanted to stop the numbness, when l needed to wake up and take control of my mind again. I wear them as a badge of pride, one may think – how can you think like that? How can you be proud of those?
Because they are my survival scars – that is how.
My advice to partners or even parents watching this is not to try and stop it, you can’t, our strength is phenomenal, we can feel no pain except mental. You can hit us, shake us, get in our path, but you will not stop us until we like all the other natural disasters mentioned lose our energy, move on or like me – simply find a way of waking up.
As a youngster l used to have many of the ‘typical’ stims, rocking, making funny noises, facial tics, flapping hands, pacing, biting nails etc. and if they were not so very pronounced, in many ways it may not have been perceived as a problem. Many people forget that most people stim on a fairly regular basis in the Neurotypical world as is – biting nails, twirling hair and even tapping pens and pencils or finger drumming as examples are forms of stimming.
Stimming is a form of repetitive self stimulating behaviour, and as pointed out whilst not specifically an Autistic trait although it is there, the difference is the type of stim and to a certain degree l should imagine the frequency of the stim.
When young, my parents would often scold me for my stimming, l recall these times with a certain clarity – that l was acting odd, or making people notice me, or that l was embarrassing them, that normal people did not act this way, and that l had to stop – as l became older the stimming was still present and to this day l have secret stims and visible stims, and of course l still bear the scars of years of extremely aggressive stimming.
If anxious these days l am incurable fidget, when talking l use my hands in an open air fashion, gestulating or using visual gestures l think it may be termed as, l still pace when using the telephone or my mobile phone and am known to rock backwards and forwards at times, long gone are the facial tics and the strange noises and the hand down the front of my trousers.
I am still a nail biter, but also damaged certain digits on my hands through biting and chewing the skin, to the point that they became swollen and scarred and many years ago, they used to crack when exposed to water and cold. And l am still a stimmer both consciously and unawares until l catch myself. Plucking my eyebrows when thinking is one form to the point of comedy because l am so unawares to this, until l look at myself in the mirror and realise that one brow is sort of only half hairy.
These stims are forgivable perhaps but some stims are not – the aggressive ones – the ones where you go out of your way to self harm, to place yourself into dangerous waters with no concern for your health and wellbeing.
I first started consciously self harming in my mid twenties and the last time l self harmed repeatedly was four years ago in 2011, l have not performed the act since, l hope l am never in the position again to have to.
During self harming, it was not for attention, although when married my ex wife did by chance see both the wounds and occasionally me engrossed in the art of cutting, oblivious to everything else around me, just slicing my arms and legs. For many years l had a dreadful fear of slicing my throat, but then for many years l so wanted to end my life. I used to wear high necked tee shirts and jumpers, and at one point had a protective bandage around my throat, for the fear was that great. I never used to wear short sleeved shirts or shorts during the summer months for fear that people would see my bloodied scars and report me to the doctors who would undoubtedly wish to discuss these with me. I used to lie to those who chanced upon my scars and tell them l fell through a greenhouse.
It was no one’s frigging business was my philosophy, l did not run up to people and shout ‘hey, look what l have done, ooh look at it bleed!’ It was a very private affair, not for attention just for me, and why?
During meltdowns, breakdown and the daily stresses of life, for me it was initially a way of coping, of waking up again, of quieting the mind to clear the noise, to stop a countless and endless stream of images flashing in and out of my head, to try and deal with emotions that l could not deal with by myself. A form of brutal escape, when music at the highest volume could not help blot out the images or the noises, the confusion …
I can imagine that for some people the very thought of causing injury to themselves is beyond comprehension, but perhaps they have never had or experienced a mind that never stops running, continuous in its quest for stimulation, or a brain that feels like it is overheating and maybe, they have never had a sort of silent screaming in their head. An overwhelming of the senses alerting them to sometimes the tiniest sounds, the faintest of scents and a sliver of a touch.
Some people say they suffer from stress, l do not deny that they do, but l do find myself at times looking at them and digesting what their stress is like? Was it like mine when l could simply could not cope, was it like a squeezing pressure on their bodies, when every nerve is tingling as if alight? Do they feel like a cat on a hot tin roof? Would they become unbearably and unimaginably fidgety?
Would their stress only become relieved with a sharpened blade slicing through their skin, would they feel relieved that they could slice and dice parts of their body, and feel no pain, but experience a great deal of relief? At times it got so much that l would use anything to hand to cut, and if l could not slice, l would punch walls, punch, punch, PUNCH! Just so l could feel that emotion click back into place.
Would their stress reduce their thinking to nothing? Would they suddenly panic because they thought their minds had stopped working, and they would be left with a void of emptiness between their ears?
Probably not, and if so, then were they really suffering from stress or just a bad fucking day? Because in my world there is one hell of a difference – l can cope with just a bad day, but l can not cope when stress explodes in my head!
I can not explain this any further, and to those who simply could never understand the whys and what for’s about it all, then it hopefully will never arise for you, and you will never have to feel the need to wake up from yourself – but to those who do understand …
Today the man, who writes this end chapter in April 2015, is a different man to yesterday, he is a man who has lived like many by trial and error, and who despite great odds stacked against him, got through it all. Now with everything l now know, l simply want to get on with my life and start to enjoy it again, the demons are laid to rest.
Finally l know who l am and am now happy with it and the Dancing in the Grey.
Finally l fit into my life!
Almost everyone has an addiction to something sweet,
I am no different, except mine is not something that l eat!
Chocolate is something consumed when one is down!
Mine is more personal, and makes others frown!
But it awards me an immense inner satisfaction,
For when l am miserable, it gifts me gratification!
There are many styles of my candy, it has to be said,
Personally mine is motivated by the hungering in my head!
Some prefer the listlessness awarded by the booze,
Or the highs inspired by a drug-induced snooze!
Others get their kicks from smelling their flesh burn,
Hitting objects, scratching themselves without concern!
But for me, l like to feel my emotional tormenting spin,
Carving delightful slices is my ultimate sin,
Wearing upon my body the badges of achievement!
Don’t get me wrong, it’s personal to me, not your merriment!
Scarring my soul in such a way, is unforgivable,
But with this suffering my damage is still livable,
Mentally, each slice of the cake consumed is a lesson,
To walk warily next time on the way to the delicatessen!
Dark horrors constant within my mind, never far away,
Lurking within shadows, preparing to strike any day!
Mood swings that can change at the flick of a switch,
Usually as a result of my life nose-diving in a ditch!
Contending with a continual attack of nightly terror,
Struggling daily with a life that has seen its’ fair share of error!
Maintaining a healthy and stable mind, is indeed an art!
Like a finely tuned restaurant menu of a la carte,
Mindlessly l acknowledge that life is not easy,
And conceding that despite my candy making others queasy!
l have traveled far to reach the end of the darkest tunnel,
At times squeezing through, like a rock through a funnel!
One can succeed if they choose to, and see the light,
But it’s not easy, and does come with a hell of a fight!
Life is for the time being well worth the effort,
And delightful slicing is currently no longer my mental escort!
© Rory Matier 2011
Chapter 17 – Final episode Tomorrow – 29 – Epilogue