In the aftermath of my recent problem at work, where a colleague's behaviour towards me led to a total of 3 weeks sick leave with acute anxiety and stress, I have been trying to come to terms with these responses. What on earth was the matter with me? Why did something seemingly so trivial as an 'unfriending' and 'blocking' on social media (a colleague said 'Just ignore the stupid ****. She's always doing this to people.') lead me into a pit of despair? Why did it make me terrified of even seeing this woman again? Why did I feel pressured into a state of hypervigilance around her? Why, when she finally shouted at me over something (a situation I believe she deliberately stage-managed to wrong-foot me and give her the pretext she wanted to get at me directly), did I have a meltdown? Why, since that time, have I always been very anxious about even being in the same building as this woman - even though I might not see her all day? Why does just the sight of her make me shake? Why am I losing sleep over it all? Why can I not get her face out of my head? Why am I drinking more because of it? Why did it all make me feel suicidal? And why, just going out to do shopping now, am I filled with dread - as if I'm going to be attacked?
I found some of the answers in this short article, detailing some research being conducted at Tel Aviv University into autism and PTSD. It talks about the lower threshold we have in comparison to neurotypicals - most often linked to abuse, bullying and social ostracision that we have often encountered in our lives. For a neurotypical, a life-threatening situation, an explosion, sexual abuse - these can all be triggers for PTSD. For people like us, just someone's behaviour towards us can be enough. An offhand remark can do it. It makes sense. I can remember put-downs I've had from years and years ago - small things, that many would perhaps smart over for a while, then forget. I never forget them, though. I have flashbacks to those situations - remembering where they took place, what the person looked like... everything.
When I had my first meeting with the behavioural support team at work, I gave them all the context - starting way back in my first year at school. I led them all the way up to the recent 'unfriending', and I could tell that they thought - at first - that it probably wasn't much to get worked up over. But I think they understand better now.
As do I. I guess the only treatments are a combination of medication and talking therapy.
It's not often that I wish I was older, but I do now. Seven years older. So that I could retire and leave the working rat-race for good, with all its cliques and gossips and bullies.
At the intersection of autism and trauma
I’m pretty sure you’re right it’s ptsd. I was really surprised earlier this year when the psychologist I was seeing suggestedvtrying to treat me with EMDR to deal with the aftermath of repeated bullying etc. She explained that she thought it was complex trauma and EMDR might be worth a go. Have to say it seemed a little bit like black magic but it worked brilliantly with only 3 sessions. Maybe worth a go? The memories don’t go but that’s exactly what it feels like now. It’s a memory rather than triggering unwanted feelings. I’d definitely do it again if needed.
Thanks. I'm guessing that it's not something I'd be able to get a referral for through my GP, under the NHS.
I'd ask for sure. A former colleague of mine was traumatised by a 13 year marriage. She had seen social workers, psychologists, etc. She said 'I am soooo done talking, I just can't anymore and it is not helping either.' She did EMDR and I think after three sessions she was finished too. She didn't think much of it at the start, but it helped.
Not sure. Id reached the end of my tether with the nhs and went private in the end, but i think sometimes you can get it through them.