The “Illness Monster”
I’ve only just recovered from being unwell and already I’m feeling unwell again. It started with running a high temperature last night and having the nightmares I usually associate with being unwell. As a child I used to always dream of monsters when I was sick (hence the title of this section), but nowadays it’s usually some kind of scenario where I am accused of something I didn’t do and I’m then punished for it. I never even know what it is I’m supposed to have done. So today I have sore throat and a cough, my chest is sore and I have a big fat headache.
I’m beginning to think that this tendency I have to get a lot of minor illnesses really often is perhaps related to my autism. Because of the autism I feel strong anxiety most of the time when I’m dealing with other people. To me, being autistic feels like being blind but having to pretend that you can see. Obviously I’m not visually blind – I am socially blind – but there’s no white stick or other visible sign to other people that I have these issues which makes life a bit like walking in a minefield because I never know when I’m going to make a mis-step. When things go wrong socially I really get really panicked and upset because I can hardly manage normal social relationships let alone big problems when people get angry with me. My “go to” response is to withdraw as much as I can and then, when I have to be social, to pretend it’s not happening and carry on. Sometimes this works but often it just gets worse and worse until I end up really upset. Getting really upset (having a meltdown) correlates for me perfectly with getting sick 24 to 48 hours later.
I haven’t spoken to my doctor yet about this correlation but the more I think about it the more it seems to fit. If it is true (I’m thinking of it as a working hypothesis at the moment) then it might give me a way to prevent myself from getting sick so much – if I can manage my stress in better ways. I want to follow this up but talking about autism in the real world feels embarrassing (here on this blog I feel a bit more free). It would make a big difference to my life and my ability to work though if I could talk about it to my GP and learn how to get sick less. She is a really excellent GP so I’m sure she would listen and help – it’s just quite embarassing to talk about.
SO I woke up feeling unwell and then, through the post, I got some new paints! What a brilliant way to get cheered up! These are Gouache Paints which are just like watercolour but they are much more opaque. Apparently they’re really versatile in that you can paint with them in the same way you might use oils or acrylics, or with a lot more water added, you can paint with them like you would with watercolours. When I found out about them I had to have a go.
These are the ones I got – they were pretty cheap compared to W&N watercolours.
I began with some fun little monsters (since monsters were on my mind from being unwell). In these little mini-paintings I was just playing with the paint really – seeing what it could do and how I might be able to use them. (Each one is on A6 watercolour paper).
Despite feeling quite off-colour I enjoyed working with these paints immediately. I love the way you can lay down a strong flat colour easily. This is something I find almost impossible in watercolour. I also found the way the paint can be blended to be absolutely perfect. It was amazing and dead easy to do. For me working in gouache feels completely natural – – it’s almost effortless – I love it!!!
So now I feel both excited about the new paints and very frustrated because I don’t feel well enough to paint much at the moment. So I’m going to rest and ‘drink lots’ (a family saying my mother-in-law tells anyone in the family who gets sick) and hopefully I’ll feel up to a bit more painting tomorrow or the next day. 🙂
PS: to any other people with high functioning autism or aspergers out there – do you have any methods you use for reducing stress and coping when you’re about to meltdown? Also, do you ever find you get sick after having a meltdown? If you want to I would really appreciate any comments you could write on this. Thanks!