Hello I need help and advice.
I have an extremely vivid imagination, which has some positives, especially when it comes to my writing and art. However I feel like my imagination is doing more harm than good for me.
I imagine such awful and very scary worst case scenarios in my head and convince myself they are going to happen to me. It makes me distressed and very anxious and I worry myself so much I make myself physically ill. I constantly live in fear of something truly horrible happening to me. My parents are concerned about me and my constant obsessing and worrying is destroying my relationship with my boyfriend (we've been together nearly 2 years).
So far I have imagined that I will die from a deadly disease soon, I will get cancer and not know about it and then I will die a horrible death, that someone will murder me in the street, I will get kidnapped, I will get locked in someone's basement forever, I will get accused of a crime I haven't done and will have my name and photo blasted all over the media, I will go to prison, I will get burned alive, someone will throw acid at me in the street, I will be a victim of a horrific assault or accident and will be disfigured, I will get raped and contract HIV or herpes, I will live in poverty after Brexit.....all these crazy things. Neurotypical people have constantly told me these worries are absurd but I somehow have come to a conclusion as to why each of those things will happen to me in the future. I spend all day and night worrying and thinking about them - I don't sleep, I have bad eating patterns, my house is a mess, I don't look after myself and I never get anything done due to my constant obsessing and panicking and overthinking these horrific scenarios.
I am seeing a counsellor again next week for the first time in years. I just want these thoughts to end I am so so sick of feeling like this.
By my standards and the people I mix with, you sound pretty normal.
Really?? First time I've ever heard that in my life. Even fellow Aspies I know wouldn't consider me normal.
I am often shunned by the so called normal, well adjusted members of society. So I end up mixing with unusual people.
Such as a neighbour who has around 3 feet high rubbish in her house and walks along narrow passageways between it.
Family member who haven't bought new clothes for 30 years. She just tries to wear out her existing clothes.
Paranoid people who are obsessed that every one is talking about them. In reality no one cares .
I can totally relate to that. And after years of intensive hard work and introspection, I got rid of the dark thoughts, but all they did, is they went extreme in the opposite direction! Lol! My god, I thought the only person I can talk to is Einstein! I don’t want these minions under my feet! Lol! I thought I was going to build an empire!
But the good news is, the hard work paid off because it brought me to a place of middle ground. It’s made me more balanced and somehow more stable and it’s giving me the space to consider things more carefully instead of having a head full of never ending thoughts.
It’s like I live life in the slow lane now yet the slower I go, the more I achieve and the less clutter I have in my head and the clearer my focus gets. But it has its price. I’ve been on benefits now for two years, but I won’t put a foot towards work until I’m ready, which isolates me from a lot of people. But I’m willing to pay the price because this is my life we’re talking about. I did the whole trying to fit in business and it didn’t work for me, on any level, otherwise I wouldn’t end up in such burn outs. So this time, I’m finding out what does work for me. And to do that. I had to get rid of the constant thinking. It takes hard work, but it’s possible.
Hi, my partner does this all the time he used to get quite angry and aggressive as he had run so many scenarios in his head he had already decided what was happening (normally way off the mark) he used to worry about the silliest things like if I took longer than expected at the shop obviously something had happened to me or the kids not just a long que in the shop! He would think that I left or one of the kids was hit by a car
He is not diagnosed with asd but over the years we have come to strongly suspect it,
He has had to put alot of effort into stopping the thoughts and convincing himself he is just over thinking things he has dramatically improved but he will still plan every aspect of a conversation in advance considering all the replies he may get
This is just a case of needing inspiration for your thinking time.
Choosing negative scenarios is easy because you only have to look at news or films or books for inspiration. It's more effort to come up with positive scenarios.
I suffer from ultra-vivid dreams so what I do is write along list of 'nice' scenarios to direct my dreams and flesh them out somewhat so they are fresh in my mind to blot out any negative thoughts.
Maybe you might start your list with something like winning a nice amount on the lottery - where would you go, which cities would you visit, where would live? Which country and why? Where would you like to go for a holiday? What car would you have? How would you do your perfect Christmas? What would you really like to do for you birthday? The list is endless and full of nice thoughts to explore more.
It's quite easy then to fill your imagination space with nice, exciting, fantasy scenarios rather than negativity.
My mind is quite similar. I often worry I've got or will get a serious illness or get into trouble for a crime I didn't commit. I got a speeding ticket recently and went into mass panic that I would get 3 more and lose my license. I barely slept for a week worrying. I'm well aware the worries are irrational but it doesn't stop them. I do find if I keep my brain occupied I don't get the worries anywhere near as much unless a specific thing has happened. Completely sympathise. Its a horrible way to feel. It's night time that is difficult for me. Seeing a counsellor is a good step I think.
This is something I came across in my own counselling. I don't know if it fits your experience, but I'm gonna put it out there, just in case it sounds familiar:
A neurotypical (NT) mindset thinks in language-based, culturally associated symbolic webs. (i.e. if you say "table" they think of the word 'table', and all of the vague associations to a table, including it's social value etc).
Autistic individuals often think in linear and visual terms. (i.e. if you say "table" we simply conceptualise a complete visual image of a table).
Part of being autistic is being bombarded with the same influx of sensory data as NT's are, however we lack the same mechanisms to manage the wealth of incoming data in the same way. Thus, we can feel absolutely engulfed by a constant influx of sensory input, which can lead to exhaustion and overload.
This overload can also include increased (over) cognitions, as we attempt to (over) process all of the variables and data.
Now, it's been suggested to me that thinking in literal visual terms may not primarily be autism in itself, but an associated defence mechanism to try and better manage more of the incoming data via a more efficient means. After all, as the old saying goes "a picture paints a thousand words." So, our thinking in visual imagery is kinda a 'cognitive short hand'.
Now, due to our impaired social skills, communication difficulties and different sensory / cognitive processes, we often worry more (worry being considered in the classic CBT sense as anxiety about a future, hypothetical event - possibly because we're always trying to think our way through life, rather than having that wider, intuitive instinct that the NT's seem to have to guide them. Autistics also often use worrying as a means to rehearse and mentally practice future events, given our preference for familiar routines).
Consequently, when we worry, autistics actually see the focus of their worry in a more detailed, complete and encompassing picture - it's actually far more vivid and real to us in our mind's-eye than what a similar worry would be to a NT (i.e. an autistic worry is in much 'higher resolution' and far more literal).
As such, worry can possibly be a far more stressful event for an autistic individual, because it's experienced as more real, and therefore more of a threat.
What do you guys think? Does this feel right to you?
I definitely agree with what you said about rehearsing future events. I often go through loads of possible scenarios (usually the negative ones) especially if there is a particular event I'm unsure of coming up.
I sometimes do this with past events too though. Like they replay in my head of how they could have done better. Maybe I'm trying to learn from them? I don't really know.
It's interesting what you say about how we think when we hear a word like table. I'd never considered things like that before.
My worries have definitely got worse/more extreme in the last few years and I definitely think it's because I've got to an age where there are more demands, more uncertainties and definitely more to process.
A great explanation. When we believe our thoughts, we suffer and because we see them in visual form, in more detail, it stands to reason we will suffer more. Really good explanation. Thanks for that. I’m glad you put it out there.