It was so warm yesterday that I wore shorts outside and opened the windows in the house. I think the afternoon hit the upper 60s. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend much time outside because I had a lot of work to do in the morning and spent the entire afternoon working on taxes. In the evening, I browsed the library catalog for books and other resources that might be helpful as I transition to directing my own “therapy” work. I requested some books about depression, anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy, and trauma. My intention is to take this work seriously and approach it from an informed position. I really do what to “improve.”
I think it’s worthwhile to define, at least loosely, what that means and determine specific areas I’m hoping to address. After all, they say that you can’t improve what you don’t measure, and furthermore, I believe it’s difficult to measure what remains undefined. This “defining” entails ascribing names or categories to my intended areas of focus for which I seek change.
Although I’ve spent time thinking about what directing my own therapy will look like and envisioning a workable schedule that I’ll commit to. However, I haven’t delved too deeply into specifically deciding what I want to address within the realm of all my various areas of weakness or challenge. Within this litany of “deficiencies” I seek to improve, some I don’t feel skilled enough to effectively change, for example, some of the more serious PTSD issues.
With that in mind, I think I’d like to focus on controlling my mood and attitude. I’ve been focusing on this a lot over the past few months and have really noticed how much I can influence this in a positive way. I’m especially invested in striving to keep staying as mentally tough as I can when I feel sick or have pain instead of succumbing to a bad mood. I need to continue working controlling my anxiety and developing healthy coping mechanisms. I plan to do more research and practice with mindfulness techniques. My last main focus is social and communicative problems. I’m already doing social skills so I’m not necessarily referring to that. In that regard, I want to continue working on expressing myself and interpreting the intentions and words of other people. However, that’s already addressed outside of what I need to replace by stopping structured psychotherapy. Instead, when I mean by my social and communicative focus in my self-directed work is that I want to improve my relationships. Ben and I have come leaps and bounds in our emotional intimacy, communication, and compassion. I feel closer to him and we exist in near perpetual harmony compared to even a year or two ago. A lagging domain that we are still working on is physical intimacy, which was understandably stagnated and completely rocked after my attack. I’d like to work through some of the lingering anxieties and the panic that overtakes me in certain physical scenarios. I’m doing what feels like my best, but I imagine I can set some goals and try to progress my psychological recovery so that I’m more relaxed with touch.
Lastly, I see a need to find ways to spend more time with my family. Scheduling isn’t the only obstacle right now. I still find social in-person get-togethers to be unmanageably depleting from an energy standpoint. What should be affirming and emotionally restorative gatherings inexplicably fatigue me, and I don’t like that. I need to develop “social muscles” so that I can tolerate the in-person challenges of spending time with people without it being so draining. As it is now, a visit will wipe me out so much that I’m rendered useless for the rest of the day (I can’t work, can’t make it to appointments, etc.). This makes sense in certain stressful socially-demanding scenarios, but shouldn’t be the case for family. I’m not yet sure how I’ll lessen this undesirable response, but it’s something I’d like to look into. There’s not the bounty of autism-specific resources available that I’d like there to be, but I can also look to materials addressing introverted people, as my presentation can be likened to an introverted nature magnified many times over. There must be strategies or approaches that help extremely socially-avoidant people enjoy interactions with fewer negative side effects. I haven’t learned them yet but I want to discover them and try to implement them, hopefully identifying some that make it so that the benefits of hanging out exceed the depletion I feel afterward.
That short list seems like plenty of rather disparate areas of focus for now. I now feel more organized and prepared to discuss my plan with my therapist and start researching and designing my program of attack. These don’t seem like easy areas to address, but if they were, they probably wouldn’t be as unfinished as they are. In the next week, I’ll start formulating explicit goals for each of these areas of focus.