I really like the Aspie Teacher, and need to add her to my blogroll. I usually re-discover her blog when I’m playing on the autism hub and a new post comes up, and it’s always insightful and very helpful.
I’ve been thinking about perseveration since New Year’s Eve, when I read this post by her on the subject.
The idea that perseveration happens with emotions is one I had never considered, but is so true that I read it and immediately sent it to Kitty (“Yes. This!”). I tend to think about perseveration in the way I think most people do: obsessing about a special interest and having a hard time changing topics, fixed patterns of doing things that sometimes look a bit odd (like lining up toys rather than playing with them ‘correctly’ or having to eat one’s food in a certain order), echolalia. This post has really shattered those thoughts for me, made me acknowledge the depth of my tendencies towards perseveration–even when I seem completely normal, at ease.
There isn’t a time or age in my memory which I can point to and say I didn’t have perseverative behaviour and thoughts; some level of this is probably normal, because like with all things on the autism spectrum, it’s not the case that the behaviour itself is abnormal, just the severity. I have always tended to pick up a special interest, fixate havily upon it for a varying length of time, and then let it go. I think that the way that I played with my toys was probably a little odd–I remember that I enjoyed greatly dressing my dolls, but they didn’t tend to do much on the whole. I enjoyed setting up a scene, but not creating a story and then playing them through it. I read and reread the same books (and lots of new ones, too, but there are a handful of books I still reread when I feel stressed), many well below my age and reading level (the Baby Blue Cat is always soothing). I can’t remember a time when I did not repeat conversations (or rehearse conversations to come) in my head and sometimes outloud. But much more strongly than any physical types of perseveration, I emotionally perseverate.
What this means is that when I experience a strong emotion–the type most likely for me to notice I’m feeling (1)–I tend to get stuck in a pattern. I know my friends and family must be rolling their eyes, because it’s obvious, but I’d never thought of it in these terms and it’s actually really helpful and enlightening to me. Aspie Teacher describes it as a loop, like a broken record. I think it’s sort of like those toy trains with tracks in a circle. Once things reach a certain, unspecified level of feeling–once I’m on that track–I can’t stop going around it again and again without help. That help may be time, or the right input from someone else, or a distracting thing (though distracting isn’t a good long-term fix).
Perseverating makes you feel you’re trapped in your emotions, and they go on and on because no one else understands you enough to resolve the situation. Or you’ll think the situation is sort of resolved and then a few minutes later everything comes rushing back and you’re saying the same things all over again.
I fought with Stina and Dylan, about a week before Christmas. We’re okay now, as far as I know, but thinking about perseveration in this way has helped me work out why it happened in the first place. I have an unfortunate tendency to hold a grudge (which is really just long-term perseveration and an inability to forget?) and can’t always predict the small things that will suddenly become BIG THINGS and lead to this. The trigger was pretty stupid, and definitely not worth fighting over, but I got stuck in a thought pattern of being upset and every time I thought I was done, it all rushed back to me. Trying to explain to my mom and Kitty just felt like reliving it. I could not stop thinking about what was happening and my anxieties about the situation.
Venting online is kind of like winning a battle but losing the war – you may feel a temporary boost from the sympathy you get, but it won’t help you stop perseverating.
This is so true. But I would add that venting, really at all, is not very good for me. Explaining once is enough, because after that it just becomes part of the cycle of upset.
Knowing this now, I have some hope that I’ll be better able to catch this and stop it in the future. I also will be able to explain it to my therapist and hopefully make some sense so we can work on appropriate strategies.
My name is Ali, though sometimes it's Eliot.
I have many tumblrs, which you are welcome to also visit:
Fuck Yeah, Kate Miller-Heidke - the only active Kate fan site, which is baffling.
The Branden Rose - the only active Monster Blood Tattoo fansite, which is less baffling.
I also have a semi-successful etsy shop, which you should visit, below.
A brief history: