This week I have separated from my wife..................after being married for 28 years. We have one daughter aged 16.
I am 58 and had hoped that, by now, the many and painful feelings I’ve had to endure over many years would have disappeared or at least reduced.
This is not the case!
If anything they've become worse.
My main problems are:
Severe lack of confidence and self-doubt in all aspects of life.
Regular cycles of: feeling extremely low followed by a period of normality, and sometimes a feeling of elation, – an issue in itself in that the bad times seem insignificant during the good, until they return!
Inability to show genuine affection or intimacy.
Inability to understand or empathise with peoples feelings.
Inability to have a meaningful/serious conversation with anyone.
Majority of time in a general state of withdrawal.
The list could go on.
Add to this extreme Misophonia – to the point where I've used physical restraint against someone for eating something loudly, plus tinnitus, plus a number of unhelpful physical characteristics
- add all these together and you've got what often feels like a hopeless mess!
As a result I have struggled with various degrees of mental well-being for many years.
The first time I actually realised something was not right was when was 17 and working in London and ended up crying in the office toilet for no other reason than I felt different to everyone else. I believe that prior to this I existed in the state which I now call “naive optimism” which enabled me to get through the earlier years of my life.
It was not until I was 30, and having been in a relationship for two years and with plans to get married, that I felt so bad that I ended up in group therapy following a doctor-to-psychiatrist-to counseling referral. Even though I was in a relationship and had a good job I had been feeling particularly isolated and often depressed and felt the need to try and sort things out!
Although painful and unable to tell my partner, I started the group therapy hoping it would be the answer.
Before this time I had continued to operate in the state of “naive optimism” whereby I didn't really question why I felt the way I did but believed things would get better. This, coupled with alcohol and my main aim in life of financial security, kept me going. I also always wanted to believe that I was normal (even though I didn't feel it) and therefore ignored what I now realise were probably signs of having mental issues. I'm sure I'm not alone here and there must be many people who try to give the impression of fitting in and being normal wheres internally they are in complete turmoil!
It is worth adding that, due to my mother having mental issues throughout her life – from when she was a teenager – I had been involved in family group therapy sessions – at home when I was around 7 / 8 and also sessions in the mental institution my mother was in - but neither of these helped – in fact they probably added to the confusion!
Group therapy at the age of 30.
For two years I attended group therapy, telling my wife I was doing an accounts course! That's an example of how difficult it was to talk about anything. I wanted to get myself sorted but couldn't bring myself to admit I had a problem to anyone close to me. Unfortunately group therapy didn't help me one bit! In fact it probably made things worse in that I was allowed to, and preferred sessions most, when I didn't say anything. I stopped going the week before I got married – having not told the group I was getting married – for fear they would tell me its the wrong thing to do!
Roll on another seventeen years of “naive optimism” and alcohol and denial, including the first ten year with my wife having fertility treatment and the next seven with a child, and feeling I had not changed at all in that period.
I started a short period of seeing a councilor in my lunchtimes, as I didn't want anyone to know I was going to counseling, but they couldn't offer a medium to long-term lunchtime service so I stopped.
Another two years and this time I was able to build up the courage to tell my wife in advance, and on the basis of my inability to behave intimately, that I wanted to do therapy again. This time a self referral to a psychiatrist who suggested ant-depressants which my doctor refused to prescribe but instead referred me to a counseling service.
Two more years of counseling, and then pressure from the wife to stop, as it didn't seem to make any difference. So again pretty much two unproductive years other than to introduce me to the word mindfulness.
Another couple of years of much the same so at long last I decided to documents all of my negative thoughts, moods and feeling so I could keep a record of and try to analyse them. This was in November 2015 – but should have been done years earlier!
Many many pages of all the thoughts and feelings experienced on a daily basis. Patterns and repetitions emerging, but nothing seeming to help or make any difference to my general state of mind.
I started looking in to various mental disorder conditions and that is where I believe I may made some important discoveries.
Firstly I found, on-line, tests for aspergers syndrome – Autism Quotient Test developed by Simon Baron-Cohen from the Cambridge Autism Research Centre – which I believe is valid. The initial test ranked me in the high category of strong likelihood of Asperger syndrome. I conducted the test a further five times over a one year period and got a similar high score each time. I looked at all of the characteristics of someone with this condition and found that I matched at in at least 80-85% of the characteristics.
I also found on-line a test in respect of Bi-polar disorder. Each time I had previously seen the doctors, psychiatrists and councilors I had described to them the two week cycles of feeling very low, almost depressed, to feelings of elation. My score in this test was more than double the score at which there was a likelihood of potential Bi-polar disorder and the test had an overall accuracy of 80% in detecting Bipolar disorder. Again nearly all of the characteristics were easily identifiable to me.
My initial reaction to these pretty conclusive findings was, if I was seemingly easily able to produce these results from tests on the internet, why had these conditions never been mentioned to me when seeing the supposed mental health “professionals”! At this point I still do not know the answer to this question other than they did not consider my condition to be extreme enough!
My mothers family suffered an extreme catastrophe when she was a teenager when here farther killed her mother and younger sister. It was a particularly brutal murder and it obviously left psychological scare on the two remaining sisters.
To cut a long story short my mother ended up going in and out of mental institutions from when I was very young and after her receiving a great deal of treatment, including ECT, she never fully recovered and remained in a “withdrawn” state for the rest of her life.
My justification / belief was always that my mothers poor mental health, with her “strange” and abnormal behavior, caused me to be the way I was. This may have been the case to a degree because life was certainly not easy with a mother who was either not there or in a state of complete withdrawal. Much of the time I did not eve like her being around and was more comfortable when she was in her bedroom – which was much of the time.
As mentioned above and as a side note we did try family therapy with a councilor at home but that did not work. I think I was the one who refused to accept there was anything wrong!
So, I've now arrived at a place I probably should have been in all the time – i.e. on my own. Career-wise I've done far better than I probably should have done but I put this down to my “naive optimism”, drive for financial security and alcohol – i.e. I can act funny when I'm drunk!
I am bitterly disappointed with the mental health services for not even considering that I may have a 'condition' rather than just needing some counseling to help me cope. I have had to endure some extremely painful situations at home, at work and socially and wish I could have understood why I reacted in the ways I did!! I think I know every avoidance and coping method there is!
My next step is to seek medical advice again but this time insisting that both Asperger syndrome and Bi-polar disorder are considered. Although not yet officially diagnosed, based on what I now understand, I believe I almost certainly do have at least some form of Asperger syndrome
This is the first time I have used the National Autistic Society web-site. I wanted to share my experience with other users and hope to use it often in the coming years.
So much I could say to this. I, too, am 58. I identify with pretty much all that you've said. I've never used physical violence against anyone, but have felt myself coming close a few times. I don't like violence - which isn't to say that I don't understand your position. I think stuff can build up over a lifetime to the point where literally fighting back seems to be the only option.
I'd only say that talking has always been the thing that's helped me the most - especially with peers in mental health, substance misuse... and, latterly, autism.
Thanks Tom for sound advice. Need to stop hiding behind the `normal' image!