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Autism from the inside


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Autism, Alexithymia, Dissociative Disorders & Trauma

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Note – This is from a personal perspective

Overview

In secondary school their was an isolated incident of sexual abuse which I was subjected to, this happened in the changing rooms and I have documented about how I had to get closure on this incident myself.

Alexithymia and dissociative reactions are two strategies that have been put forward as coping mechanisms to alleviate painful emotions. Adult studies reveal an association between alexithymia and dissociation. In line with the coping hypothesis, it was predicted that the relationship between alexithymia and dissociative tendencies would be partly mediated by current levels of stress and past traumatic experiences. Dissociation may also be related to enhanced fantasizing, although alexithymia has traditionally been associated with an incapacity to fantasize

Jennifer G. Schnellmann PhD, ELS 2005

Alexithymia has a common overlap with some people on the autism spectrum, in which the person has problems identifying, wording and extracting inner emotional states, having a language processing disorder no doubt hindered my ability to express (word finding and word losing), visual agnosias of varying kinds and degrees which hindered my to get gestalt perception and mentalise and thus extract the information and process it accordingly.

But imagine that as an autie you get tolerated in a mainstream school of bullying, exclusion etc…. so you try your butt off to pass as ‘non autistic’ or at least mirror others…. but on your own out comes your autie self… and over YEARS the ‘acting normal’ self becomes an ‘alter’ and has its own abilities, its preferences, its dislikes, the things its invested in, the things its disinterested in (like all the ‘autistic’ stuff… because it would attract more bullying, exclusion, etc)….

Donna Williams 2012

Dissociation Disorder & Repressed Memories

Coming to terms with my dissociation is to understand where it came from so here is the a list of events that interacted and caused dissociation and dissociative personas which then in tern effect the association of the “core self” which then in turn had an impact on my psychological and emotional development.

  • I was traumatised by children and teachers using functional speech and language at primary school because I could not keep up with it on an interpretive level (this wasn’t done on purpose nor was this anyone’s fault or intention).
  • I was put into adult situations at primary school with no advocate or caregiver present (teachers arranging meetings about “negative” behaviour prior and after functional speech so dissociation, personas and exposure anxiety were triggered).
  • Having body and pain agnosias meant without clothes on and/or pressure points meant I could detach and dissociate quicker.
  • Having prosopagnosia secondary to simultagnosia meant I bonded with the “person in the mirror” in toilets and washrooms.
  • Secondary school involved the use of three personas all with splintering personality types, learning and communication styles and “tasks” both motivational and/or otherwise to “protect” on a subconscious level the “core self”.
  • Only became self aware of being “different” at 16 and later was using word “autism/autistic” at 18, however lacked a self-awareness of my challenges to others and didn’t consciously change and/or suffer from avoidant and/or social anxiety/phobia.
  • PTSD in adulthood and repressed memories of sexual abuse came in later adulthood through nightmares and flashbacks in a distorted and fragmented fashion due to visual perceptual and language processing disorders.
  • Outlets for Alexithymia and emotional regulation came up more prominently in adulthood through art, poetry and creative writing and aided my ability to mentalise.
  • Being Mercurial and Idiosyncratic meant I could create novel, inventive and “odd” ways of distancing myself from emotional difficulties and pain.
  • Being in the “system of sensing” for far longer and still retaining aspects of it meant I valued the world and would sense the energies around me beyond their set interpretive “meaning”.

Accepting What “Brought me to the Dance”

I have no doubt that I have been coloured by my experiences, they mold people, influence, guide them, help them and sadly sometimes destroy them.

I have come to realise the value in experiences regardless of these being positive or negative I still learn from them.

They’re my teachers my reflectors and I refuse to live a half life in which my destiny is to be defined by things that were out of my control and contextual to the knowledge (or lack of) at the time.

Paul Isaacs 2020


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A Tall Tail Of Somotisation Disorder

The Beginning

I started getting symptoms of this in late infancy around 11 years old this was related to mitigating factors both to do with neurological processing such as aphasia, alexithymia and visual agnosias, environmental factors bullying and emotional triggering.

Psycho-Somatic Trauma Based Response to Negative Environment Experiences?

I would get sensations of my body “melting”, headaches, stomachaches, tingling in limbs, face and lips and by the time secondary school came and chronic bullying persisted in the first two weeks the pain would start again as stated above.

In particular, the pattern of shrinking was observed in two parts of the brain called the putamen and the caudate, a change oddly reminiscent of adults who have experienced early life stress, such as childhood maltreatment.

These sensations would cause me to have intestinal discomfort ranging from chronic constipation to nausea.

I would go to the school reception during lunch break sometimes on a almost daily basis saying either about a stomachache and/or headache. I would sit in floods of tears wanting to go home this went on for approximately 18 months as my nervous system was also being pushed as panic attacks usually followed before and/or after an episode of pain.

This meant that obsessive-compulsive disorder manifested in persistent hand-washing, counting, checking and reassurance around illness and disease began which last from the ages of 12 to 15.

Psychological Pain Presenting as Physical Pain?

What is Somatic Symptom Disorder

People with somatic symptom disorder experience real physical symptoms — they are not imagined. These symptoms can vary in intensity from mild to severe and often include breathlessness, exhaustion, or weakness, though pain is the most commonly reported symptom. Doctors may be unable to pinpoint a medical reason, or there may be a clear and diagnosable medical cause. However, people with somatic symptom disorder are likely to experience the symptoms of their illness more severely than is common.

 

Fast forward to this year and very recently I woke up in tremendous pain it started with an “itching” sensation in my lower arms and legs, then they felt like they were on fire, I got up and moved my legs persistently for 40 mins trying to “release” the sensation

I went to the GP this week who confirmed somatisation disorder secondary to an anxiety disorder, PTSD, depression and hypercondriasis which makes sense.

Pain would be triggered by talking about illness in any context,so for example people on the bus sat behind me and in the GP waiting room for example the described pain would migrate and move from my lower back, to my upper back from upper limbs to my lower limbs my body would begin to shake and adrenaline fired through my body, my stomach muscles would cramp up and it would gurgle.

I went for a walk two nights ago and my feet went “numb” this caused great distress and panic as I walked home however bursting into tears was a great release for me.

Conclusion

Now most of pain has subsided but what does psycho-somatic pain represent? For me I feel it is unprocessed emotions, recent environmental distress and need for my body and brain to calm down.

Paul Isaacs 2019


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When The Clouds Move In

In the universe of the social media what does one put when someone is so low and depressed? Is it a false currency to type your feelings? Is it not correct to extract your thoughts onto a wider medium? Is it merely seen as a chance to get some sort of gratification or social supply from the amount of reactions and comments that come under your status?

I am depressed at the moment and the depression doesn’t seem to give me time to get grounded, its saps my energy, tailors my perceptions, distorts my mood and thought processes yet I still come out with a smile, a false sense of connecting, being in a room full of people and the walls come crashing in as the bleaked aloneness comes towards your words become ash, people become shadows and you wish to run away from the vessel you live in from day to day.

I have never since my teens felt such a state of melancholy, despair or detachment from the world around, pessimism rises from its tomb, nihilism jabs at my mind and hopelessness dominates as I plunder into the void once again. Maybe if I spoke up more about such feelings I would be privy to a listening ear? Maybe if I shed more tears I would get a sense of comfort from a friend? I know not what the future holds none of us do but at this moment in time the darkness follows me everywhere the omnipresence suffocates my soul and creativity.

Maybe all I want is for someone to see me as a human being, not a catalogue of facts about autism, maybe I would like someone to recognise my challenges and difficulties as I am made to understand theirs? Maybe I just want my perspective to acknowledged and validated regardless of it being right or wrong.

I do not like living a “half-life” between the void and the false pretence of happiness in my current state. If people think I am seeking a hollow sense of attention so be it but writing for me does extract the cusp of the matters, so I say to you if you feel down, low, depressed or otherwise please tell someone it may not sort out the root of the problem but it could be the start of doing so.

Paul Isaacs 2019


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There Are Two Types of “Social Emotional Agnosia” in Autism

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“Typical” Social Emotional Agnosia

Social emotional agnosia is the inability to see and/or perceive body language, facial expression and tone of voice, this mean that the person is only “seeing” factual information this rides along side an secondary factors such as a language processing disorder, alexithymia, mood, compulsive and anxiety disorders for example.

This tends to be found in people with a diagnosis of Asperger’ syndrome and is related the right hemisphere for the brain up to 30% also have faceblindness and sensory hypersensitivities.

“Perceptual” Social Emotional Agnosia

If we think of visual information up to 70% of is visual so what if a person simultagnosia? The inability to perceive more than one thing in their visual field rendering the ability to take in “social” information difficult, perceiving faces, objects and surroundings as “pieces”. What if the person has a receptive aphasia, auditory verbal agnosia and cannot retain information secondary to oral apraxia, verbal agnosias, exposure anxiety , mood, compulsive and anxiety disorders for example.

This tends to be found in people with a diagnosis of Autism and is related to the left hemisphere of the brain and the occiptal lobes and sensory perceptual disorders.

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Image result for shoes paired

You can have two pairs of shoes that “look” the same but once you look inside them you realise they are different in terms of “mechanics” that would mean differing styles of learning, communication and mentalising will come into play.

Paul Isaacs 2018


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The Joy Of Happiness

 

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Happiness is the value not of the behind nor forward but of those little things between that move in a constant.

Cherished things are found there which no worldly goods to buy, they have no thought, no intellectualism and sometimes no words but the feeling is very much at the forefront. A likeable wistful motion that is captured in the roaming snapshot of time.

A valued place that can have a thousand wordless words, a million bountiful experiences. Is wrong to like the shimmer on a rain dropped petal? A sparkle in the water, a popping colour amongst  muteness and a cheery sounding bird calling out to its friends.

Maybe if human beings talked more the moment we wouldn’t be drenched the atrocities of the past and uncertainties of the future. I loving world is not much to ask and it’s above all free.

Paul Isaacs 2018


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Autism, Shy Bladder Syndrome and Body Agnosias

Image result for shy bladder

 

Parcopresis, also termed psychogenic fecal retention, is the inability to defecate without a certain level of privacy. The level of privacy involved varies from sufferer to sufferer. The condition has also been termed shy bowel. This is to be distinguished from the embarrassment that many people experience with defecation in that it produces a physical inability, albeit of psychological origin.

 

Environmental Origins and Processing Event

When I was eight years old and was going to the toilet at primary school in came two students were playing out side the toilets and preceded to kick the door in unison until it forced opened they looked upon me a laughed it took me a long to the process the event due to visual perceptual and language processing disorders.

Reactionary PTSD

This has has a dramatic impact albeit subconsciously on going to the toilet in public forums I cannot defecate until I am in places of familiarity leaving a level of bodily tension.

Body Disconnection & Delayed Perception/Processing

Visual analysis of faces and nonfacial body stimuli brings about neural activity in different cortical areas. Moreover, processing body form and body action relies on distinct neural substrates. Although brain lesion studies show specific face processing deficits, neuropsychological evidence for defective recognition of nonfacial body parts is lacking. By combining psychophysics studies with lesion-mapping techniques, we found that lesions of ventromedial, occipitotemporal areas induce face and body recognition deficits while lesions involving extrastriate body area seem causatively associated with impaired recognition of body but not of face and object stimuli. We also found that body form and body action recognition deficits can be double dissociated and are causatively associated with lesions to extrastriate body area and ventral premotor cortex, respectively. Our study reports two category-specific visual deficits, called body form and body action agnosia, and highlights their neural underpinnings.

Dipartimento di Psicologia e Antropologia Culturale, Università di Verona, Verona, Ital

I have had a level of body agnosia and pain agnosia in my life which have caused, social emotional disconnect, alexithymia, language processing disorder and so forth. This can also cause problems with understanding and perceiving “pain”, “discomfort” and my case “being full”. Staying over a friends house made me realise the problems that still resonate eating food and then forcing your bowels not to move then caused an unfamiliar “sensation” which I was able to then realise was “nausea” in the pub.

The second the delayed response was in the home when my body moving without understanding why or where climbing up the stairs I projected vomit but had no understanding of what, why or how. A wave of exposure anxiety came over me I had to stop myself from self-harming wanting to hit my head and arms. I said sorry repeatedly for the mess which was made however they were very understanding and caring.

Conclusion

I luckily have a sense of humour and hold these things with a level of comedic reality and I was lucky to have like minded people in my company. 😉

Paul Isaacs 2017

 

 


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Autism and Asperger’s Different Trajectories and Different Presentations?

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Today I was doing autism training and in the team was lovely and inquisitive man with Asperger’s Syndrome as the session went on he shared some of his experiences from not picking up verbal cues, being literal and having sensory integration disorder as well as issues with emotional regulation and possible alexithymia.

It amazes me still that people think that “Autism” and “Asperger’s Syndrome” are still considered to some to be the “same thing” when is clear that even if on the surface some of the issues may be similar many of underlying components are very different. If I use both the gentlemen in question and myself as examples so here goes.

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  • The gentleman seemed to display a level of Social Emotional Agnosia which meant he struggles with non-verbal cues, tone of voice and facial expression he acknowledged that he use past experiences to build up a format of how to understand someone
  • He didn’t have Prosopagnosia (30% of people with social emotional agnosia do so)
  • He was literal in processing of verbal language and seemed to have less impaired visual-verbal processing
  • Possible Alexithymia which is “knowingness of your own emotional states”
  • Seemed to mentalise in a more logical, literal and pragmatic manner which suggests the use of the “left brain” person.

With Myself

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  • I have a mixture of Simultagnosia (Object Blindness) and Semantic Agnosia (Meaning Blindness) which means my visual field is fragmented, distorted and incoming visual information does not have any meaning, context or reasoning
  • I have Prosopagnosia (Faceblindness) as an extending of the already existing issues around visual perception meaning I “recognise people” primarily by patterns of movement and voice
  • I have a level of Receptive and Expressive Aphasia (Meaning Deafness) which even in its current residual form means I “lose” the ability to keep up with interpretive verbal information and struggle with visual-verbal processing
  • I have less literal, logical and pragmatic style of thinking or organised thoughts I am very much a “right brain” person.

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I was asked what I thought the main different feature was between Autism and Asperger’s. I think you’ll maybe find in reading through the site on brain hemisphere specialisation that there are many Aspies who may be better at left brain stuff and many Auties who may be more right brain but not nearly recognised for the abilities they do have as much as they are recognised for the left-brain abilities they don’t have. Whilst most people have a balance of both abilities, being extremely one side or the other clearly means the abilities of that other side are far less practiced. Processing incoming information in a non-Autie manner usually involves using a good balance of the two. So feel free to try the test yourself.

Donna Williams

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Different Trajectories

Maybe its is because I spent large part of my infanthood exploring through my senses and/or through patterning, theming and feeling struggling to get a sense of what “interpretive information” is and what it means? To be around such information and how to connect all the dots within in my mind. However I appreciated and acknowledged the validity of it in my previous blog post.

I flourish in areas of typing, writing poetry and creativity I love wordplay, sounds, pitches and the seemingly infinite kaleidoscope colours, shapes, textures and shines they “talk to me” as much as next person.

Things Foundly Remembered

I saw your face with my hands

A voice a distant echo but foundly acknowledged

The smell of the wise tree in the garden the leaves did dance

A new place everywhere to be eagerly explored upwards and onwards

Flomping along the globblyness unstuck and unshackled my hands are free

Looking at the gloaming and silvering shape what plotunes and envelopes my soul

I thank you old friends you are me and I am likewise swashing around in the ink clouds

Paul Isaacs 2017