Mar 19, 2012 0 Share

Anxious About Anxiety

Illustration of anxious woman.

I've had some firsthand experience with anxiety over the past few weeks. Anxiety—as a frequent comorbid condition of ASD—may be very familiar to parents in the Autism Universe. My previous experience with anxiety had been primarily as a spectator. Watching Cameron obsess over an upcoming event has often left me scratching my head. Why does he keep asking me about the details over and over again? Why, after I told him we had cookie dough ice cream for his birthday celebration, does he have to dig through the freezer to see said ice cream before he believes me? 

Well, I am starting to understand Cameron's anxiety in a way I never have before. On top of hitting the height of the juggling act that chairing Cameron's school auction has become, in recent weeks I've also experienced the decline and death of my grandmother. Stressful times, for sure, but on the bright side, I now have a better understanding of what Cameron might experience when his anxiety rears its head. 

This anxiety I'm experiencing is something I feel in the pit of my stomach. I have the same sensation as if I was stuck in a horrific traffic jam on the way to the airport, and I'm going to miss my flight. It's the same feeling I get when I have that recurring nightmare about trying to get to a college final exam, and realizing I have forgotten to go to class the entire semester. So I walk around all day with this nervous energy gurgling in my gut. I have a hard time focusing because I have the constant feeling I should be somewhere else, and I'm late getting there. It's very distracting. But I'm fortunate in that I can recognize this anxiety. I understand that the current circumstances of my life have resulted in me feeling this way, and as these circumstances are temporary, so too is my anxiety. I'm fortunate in that my husband knows me well enough that he doesn't take it personally when I snap his head off for no reason. I have an arsenal of remedies at my disposal such as deep breathing, exercise, and maybe an extra adult beverage every now and then. 

When I compare my own anxiety to Cameron's, the primary difference is my ability to recognize the anxiety and the resulting actions around that recognition. I can rationalize what I'm experiencing in my gut. I've never asked that of Cameron, but is there a way I could help him recognize his anxiety? How in the world would I even begin to work with him on these concepts? Is there an app for that? (I've actually been told there is a relaxation app that does wonders for reducing anxiety.) In my mind, empathy is always a good thing. Anytime I can put myself in Cameron's shoes and better understand what makes him tick, I can better understand the type of support he needs. So maybe understanding what anxiety feels like will help me help Cameron. And that's one less thing to be anxious about.