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Exploring the Shut Down

I have some very persistent finger stims, which do not seem to favour any particular emotion unless we assume that I am in a permanent state of either joy or anxiety. The latter is most likely, and I am medicated for anxiety which helps minimise the more obvious stims, not to mention the crippling feelings, but my fingers just won't stop. Since I also have a busy brain, I find typing essays or journal entries is something I like doing; it keeps both brain and fingers occupied. I have dabbled in fiction writing but my imagination has limits and apparently isn't good at actually concluding stories. The Never Ending Story has already been done.

Although I have processed and accepted many autistic traits, behaviours and experiences which make me who I am and which so significantly effect what I have experienced, I am currently stuck on developing my understanding of shut downs. When I say stuck, I think I mean stuck in focus more than I mean not understanding but it is still a growing understanding. Shutdowns are described differently by different people who experience them and I have been trying to match my own experiences to those of others in order to believe that they warrant the shutdown label. So far I have noticed that there are two categories of shutdown. One type is almost like a petit mal seisure, or at least it could look like one to an observer. In this type of shutdown, the affected person slumps, appears to sleep or nod off briefly, is unable to move or communicate. The other type is more of an inability to function normally though the individual may be able to move or speak, it will be slow, awkward and preferable not to perform those tasks. If what I experience are shut downs then I am definitely in the latter group.

I frequently experience my brain just going blank, and attempting to think or communicate is exceedingly difficult though I can manage speech if needed. My voice will be quiet, weak and pathetic sounding. I will spend more minutes thinking about whether or not I can or should or want to speak before I do finally utter something. I lose my natural intelligence and this is accompanied by embarrassment at my sudden stupidity and inability to do things appropriate to my general IQ level. I will note here that I do not know my IQ nor do I put much stock in IQ tests but I do assume an above average intelligence based on my schooling. If I am required to be functioning physically I may suddenly become very clumsy and have an accident where I hurt myself. I may feel like I am dragging myself zombie-like through required functions. I may feel some panic because although I have arranged my facial features so as to look like I am listening and comprehending I am not properly processing.

Often, when the very nature of existing as an adult in this world has taken a toll on me, despite my modified lifestyle, I spend a day in bed, maybe a couple of days, with similar defective functioning as I described above, capable of moving or speaking if I must but preferring not to and finding it difficult. I will not dress or shower or brush my teeth as those seem overwhelmingly difficult though I may make myself some tea and toast and crawl back into bed with it. If I had appointments or obligations that day I cancel them which takes away some of the stress and anxiety but does not change the fact that I will spend the day in bed. I may go through a few hours of curling up in a fetal position and feeling very cold. It seems I often wake up to this sort of experience but when I have it in response to something overwhelming and it is mid or late day when this response happens, then I will sleep for a few hours. Often, if this lasts for more than a day I get somewhat depressed and feel guilt.

So, this is my current awareness of the experiences I have which may be shutdowns. Since I have a diagnosis of CFS/ME and my immediate family expect me to crash with fatigue, I have always lumped these experiences into that fatigue response category. I had no other explanation for it but now there is more to explore and understand.


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Clueless in Canada
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