So, I’m diagnosed! I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
What It Means to Be Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder
By Eva Angvert Harren, Core Coach and Educator
So, I’m diagnosed! Crap!! I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I would have been diagnosed as Asperger’s three years ago, but as of 2014 they call it all ASD.
It wasn’t a shock. I had been searching for what was wrong with me as long as I could remember. So when the verdict came, I felt a sharp pain in my chest, my stomach turned, my throat closed, I felt panicky, my eyes welled up, and then it clicked. I knew it! I had expected it. I almost wanted it!
Now, I could stop asking, “What’s wrong with me?” Still, I cried. Damn it! I knew there was something wrong with me. Now I knew what it was. It still didn’t feel good.
“There isn’t really anything wrong with you,” he said. You’re just different. Not wrong. That is always easy for “non-different” people to say.
“I’ve been different my whole life, and all I’ve ever wanted was to be normal! Instead I got the verdict…ASD. That’s not normal! That’s just different with a label.
As long as I can remember I just wanted to know what was going on, so I could know how to get included in the chatter, the laughs, the parties, the stuff that “they” seemed to have so much fun doing.
When I had children, I wanted to be like the other parents around the sandbox, at the pool and the parties. They talked and laughed and planned parties and coffee dates. I wasn’t invited. I never knew why; I just knew it was because something about me wasn’t right because, somehow, I was different and not fun to hang out with.
Well, now I guess I can speak with more “authority” on what it means to be “on the spectrum”, socially blind, and having no clue about what’s going on around me. I know firsthand what it is like to be absolutely isolated in the middle of a crowd full of people you “know”.
Still, you’re supposed to be a good friend, a good worker, a good wife, and raise your children to feel good about themselves. How do you do that? What if you don’t feel good about you? What if…you don’t know what to feel good about?
What if you’re so insecure that, when you think you feel good about something and someone disagrees with your view of it, you change your mind? Just because you don’t know…how to feel…about anything!
Well, that is the story of my life. And before I was introduced to Dr. Levine’s module of trauma healing he calls “Somatic Experiencing”, I was at the end of my rope. With a great husband and two awesome daughters, I wanted “it” to end. I didn’t want to kill myself. I was too chicken. And I did think about the girls without a mother. That would just be too selfish.
I just wanted “it” to end – the pain in my stomach, the pressure in my chest, the ITCHING under my skin, the anxiety, depression, and absolute cluelessness about how to “be” …right. Then…I learned how to connect with my Self, and everything changed.
I learned about Somatic Experiencing, added some other training, including Tipi and touch work. I implemented it all into my coaching and created the BEAM LiFE Process.
This is an Integral Core Coaching approach to “Getting Unstuck and Reaction Free”. The goal is to end reactive (compulsive, repetitive, negative) behaviors by releasing the triggers and pain that repeatedly ignite reactive behaviors and develop skills to respond by choice.
In the BEAM LiFE world, “Autism Spectrum Disorder” is just a bad Skype connection. “It” is all there; “it” just needs to be connected and re-connected. So…we have some behaviors, some traits that are not beneficial as we try to connect with others and society at large.
I have let go of the “why that is” and focus on “how” I can polish my edges and thrive…not just function, but thrive.
I call this the 4-Step BEAM Process:
Balance – Body, Behavior, Boundaries
Energy – Emotions, Effect, Engagement
Attitude – Authenticity, Attunement, Action
Motion – Mindfulness, Meaning, Maintenance
This is a process that helps people work through and release the anxiety, anger, and addictive behaviors that keep them in their isolation, their dis-connected situation, in their bubble. This process will help you to become free…to BE…that awesome person you are.
To be able to connect with others, I believe we have to have some kind of balance in our own lives so that we do not feel overwhelmed. When we are overwhelmed, we tend to retreat into survival mode and just function to get things done.
This mode doesn’t leave room for spontaneity, curiosity, or connection. And if we are not curious about life, about others, about how to connect, we won’t…be spontaneous or curious or connect with others.
Often the pain of loneliness becomes the motivator to change, and the desire to connect becomes the driving force behind the willingness to change behaviors, take a risk, and connect. And to be able to connect with others, we have to connect with ourselves first. This means we start with the body.
How do you know if you’re connected with yourself? It’s a feeling. It’s a knowing, an internal awareness. As you read this, are you aware of your body? Do you feel how your body is touching what you’re sitting on? Do you feel it internally?
We’ll start with the body connection.
Practice #1 for the Brain/Body Connection (The BodyMind)
Morning-Midday-Evening for 30 days
Set a timer to 10 minutes and sit; just sit.
- Bring your attention to the wall furthest away and rest your eyes on that wall for a minute.
- Then bring your attention to something much closer, such as a piece of furniture, and rest your eyes there for a minute.
- Next, bring your attention to your hands and rest there for a minute. Notice how you can direct your attention to different locations.
- Now, knowing that, rest your eyes on something, or close your eyes altogether and bring your attention to your nostril; notice the sensation of your breath.
- Now, direct your attention inward.
- Notice…you can feel your breath, your lungs, and if you can tell how deep you’re breathing. As you’re paying attention to your breathing, notice how you can even give your breath your attention.
- What is coming up for you? Sensations, Emotions, Thoughts? Can you allow it all to be there and just “watch” it?
- Now spend five minutes there and explore your internal landscape. As you follow your breath, you can allow any feelings to emerge because you know…it’s only a feeling. And then you relax and see where your breath will take you next.
This exercise will give you “the space” you need to “find yourself” and release any resistance to connecting with yourself.
You are now starting to connect with your body. Sit for 10 minutes, Morning – Midday – Evening, and take notes on your progress. Each Saturday read your notes and see if you find a pattern.
If so, see which behaviors are toxic and which are nurturing to the person you want to be. Make two columns and write down your answers; own them and be willing to truly feel into them.
TOXIC vs. NURTURING
Next, when you discover that you are exhibiting one of those behaviors, notice how you feel in your body, and really allow those feelings to be.
In the world of BEAM LiFE your “mind” is an integrated version of brain and body. After 30 days of “sitting”, you will notice that you’re thinking differently, that you have gained a greater awareness of you and your world and maybe also a new perspective.
To reflect on your day and your behaviors is a great way to “see” if there are behaviors that you may want to change. If something seems glaringly wrong or embarrassing, by all means, focus on that.
In my experience these kinds of behavioral patterns will surface in the sitting practice.
What I do is to start with just sitting…without an agenda…and actually bring my attention to sensations in the body.
The “weird” thing is that those sensations seem to bring my attention to what I need to focus on…and “up pops a memory” from today, last week, or years ago, a behavior, a situation, or what have you. And I realize… “Wow, I shouldn’t have done that!” or “Why did I do that?” Then, I don’t get stuck on the “why” but just bring my attention to the sensations.
Then I “see my part”; I feeeeeel the embarrassment of seeing my behavior…REGARDLESS of how others behave…and in that moment I become willing to feeeel the sensations that triggered that behavior…and the wave of emotions that comes with the realization of what I’ve done (sometimes again and again and again, a repetitive behavior I just don’t seem to be able to stop).
This doesn’t have to be anything horrible. Often it is a repetitive behavior that rears its ugly head again and again in a particular situation. My most frequently repeated behavior is often a “pit-bull grip” on something I just HAVE TO KNOW! I become very demanding and exhausting to “deal with”.
I have lost friends and business opportunities because of my “demanding nature”, and in the moment, I think I am just asking a question 🙂
It isn’t until I can feeeeel what triggers this behavior…which in my case is often fear…and become able to allow those feelings and sensations that I can change the behavior. The sitting practice makes this possible.
So, the magic comes when you realize that you can stand the feelings from the trigger without reacting to them. You just let the feelings pass through your body like a wave of discomfort without being a “puppet reacting on the strings of the past”.
And then…You’re FREE! Reaction Free! To be that awesome person you truly are…YOU! 🙂
If you are interested in learning more about getting unstuck from life-limiting habits or my BEAM LiFE program, connect with me on my website at: www.evaangvert.com or email me at: Eva@BeamLifeCoaching.com.