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Throughout my life I have not been able to relate to people on a level where I feel connected, understood, or accepted, and even more painful . . . in a way I feel loved. There was always a missing piece, a sense of being different, excluded, isolated, and just not part of. I used to love rolling myself up in a rug and feel the tightness around me. I loved my grandmother’s heavy comforter. I could barely slip under it, and as I lied there with this heavy weight from the comforter on my chest, I felt safe. I was existing, floating, drifting in my own bubble and couldn’t get out. Sometimes it felt like everybody else was in a bubble and I couldn’t get in. Those moments I ‘knew’ everybody knew what was going on . . . and I didn’t. I experienced sexual abuse early and found no support. I feel that when your boundaries are broken it becomes hard to ‘sense’ who is safe and not. Who should I talk to? About what? What are they thinking . . . about me . . . am I prey, will I get hurt, and on and on and on. This uncertainty, this social blindness, lead to more ‘bad situations’ and left me more confused and ‘damaged.’ It was a painful existence, and I found my relief in Vodka. Checking Out of My Body As I started drinking at 13, my life drifted away, and the main focus became to stay numb. I became drift wood, aimlessly moving in time and space, bumping into situations which decided my next direction. Intimate relationships felt as if I ‘had to behave so he wouldn’t leave’. I never picked a boyfriend, he picked me. Suddenly I was somebody’s girlfriend and I didn’t even know how it happened, or how to get out of it. I didn’t know I could say ‘NO.” And much abuse followed. I have not felt the ‘love toward another’, that I hear about, until I met my current husband. We were friends for over a year, neighbors and drinking buddies, a platonic relationship as if we were siblings. He didn’t believe in beating women. I thought that was fascinating. He told me that we might as well get married, as if it was a practical idea since we liked to hang out with each other. I believe he has a ‘sling of neurodiversity’ too. We are celebrating 27 years in 2016. Before I experienced Somatic/Emotional Awakening I would sit in the kitchen with my family, knowing how much I loved them, knowing I was part of the family, I was the wife and the mother for god sake! And still, I could feel as if I was in my bubble light-years away from them, trying desperately to engage over dinner, that I cooked. I knew I was there, physically, but I could not feel part of, or that I belonged. Does this make me into an Autistic person, a person who is neurologically diverse, a trauma survivor, bipolar, or what? Although I haven’t been tested for autism looking back at my life it seems quite clear to me that I was having similar issues I hear from people on the autism spectrum who attended our workshops. Survival Mode I didn’t understand the world and saw everything as a threat, existing in survival mode, or as we call it “Defense Mode.” Now I work with Danny Raede to help others get out of Defense Mode and Come Alive! I sobered up at 32, married my current husband, and had a child at 10 months of sobriety. My world was a whirlwind of emotions. Our newborn daughter Kristina, my answer to everything, my new ‘higher power’, was 2 months old . . . when she had an operation, which left her brain dead. We had to turn off her life support, which left me raw, confused, and pretty messed up at one year of sobriety. I felt as if my skin was pulled off and everything around me was lemon juice. I became pregnant again. To protect my unborn child, I was thrown into therapy. I had an attention span of 10 seconds and the world was ‘after me.’ My social/emotional/psychological development was impaired due to early trauma, and I was diagnosed as an ‘eight-year old trauma victim.’ Charming! Why I believe I have autism What makes me believe I have Autism, or am neurologically different is after 26 years of sobriety, working the program with different sponsors, and also sponsoring others, I have still not been able to find, and/or connect with another human being to form a long lasting close friendship. My husband is my only close friend, and sometimes he is really tired of me. Much of what I say has a ‘bite’ to it, that I, of course, notice too late. I am too direct and ‘off the beat’ in conversations. Like I haven’t learned the dance and keep on stepping on peoples’ toes. I have had ‘friends,’ people I thought were friends, but later realized I had just been used as a glorified baby sitter. In my observation our social anxiety makes us behave ‘weird’ in society’s eyes. My own anxiety felt like a pressure in my chest, a stomach cramp, I had a million mosquitoes under my skin, constantly scratching, itching, picking on myself. I was so overwhelmed with sensations that I felt panicky at all times, as if I was locked in an emotional and mental straight jacket. I could only spend my attention on how not to explode; there was no extra attentions, awareness, about others. I could be talking with someone and biting my nails, or picking on a scab during the conversation, anything to distract me from feeling . . . anything. My body was filled with sensations and "shakings." I was so uncomfortable that it felt I had to ‘hold on’ to myself. It felt like living on an earthquake, holding on to something so I didn’t fall. My body was filled with sensations of "shakings." I was overly concerned about what you thought of me, every second. My brain had a million thoughts, and I never knew which one would come through my mouth. With the behavior I exhibited (I can see it now) people were uncomfortable around me and sure didn’t want more of me than what they had to go through to be socially correct. Due to people being socially correct and polite, I could never pick up they actually didn’t want to get to know me more. I didn’t even see my husband as someone to support me. I was born in Sweden and conditioned to take care of myself. Now, with my awkwardness that became a struggle, and in the US there were only bartending and house cleaning available for someone like me. It has taken me 25 years of training, education, and practice to become who I am. Had my husband not lived next door, and had he not been as lonely as I was, I doubt we would ever have become a couple. Women on the spectrum have more difficulty Unless we’re blessed with access, education and support as we go through the gauntlet of life, and unless we are truly great at what we do, we will not succeed in the workforce. The politics and cut-throat mentality is above the head of an Autistic person. I do not know that an autistic person can ‘play the game’ as well, and to be a woman on top of it is just two strikes against us. Our other choice is to find someone who can support us: A sad alternative. I believe men may have a better shot at getting careers and jobs. They are encourage to do science and math in school, they can be rude, odd, laud, introverted, still there is more room for them to be different, they are just ‘boys,’ eccentric, or special. A man may be lonely because of his awkward behaviors, but if he has a skill and can charge for it, he can be successful. It is said that there are plenty of Asperger’s in engineering, computers, attorneys, doctor, and musicians. We women even marry men like that, sometimes settling for less emotionally, just to not be alone, just to have a husband, just to be ‘safe’. It’s a strange world. On the other hand, we women do not have the opportunities to be rude, odd, laud, or introverted without being judged and ‘cast away’. For some reason, if we women are scratching at all on the edge of social norms, we’re doomed . . . forever! We have to move away, start over, and hope for more acceptance somewhere else. I moved 6000 miles, but unfortunately took myself with me, and just repeated my story, over and over, and over again. Connecting the brain with the body Emotional and Somatic Balancing Techniques are ways to learn how to connect our brain with our body. In my world Autism is a “Bad Skype Connection,” It’s all there, there is just some disconnected parts that make our vision, and interpretation blurry. When we cannot see what’s going on around us we get scared, retreat into defense mode, bite before we get hurt, and obsessively focus on figuring out ‘what’s wrong,’ with us, with you, with people, places, and situations. Emotional and Somatic Balancing Techniques are ways to help a person connect with their body and feel the awesomeness of feeling centered. There is a wonderful sense of safety in the body, if we can connect and move into the present moment. Every human has this ability; we have just been conditioned out of connection with self. And for Autistic people I wonder if we ever had the opportunity to be connected at all. Therefore, it’s extra important for people on the spectrum to re-connect and find their homeostasis, their center, their peace. It’s there, just hidden. Everything for Autistics is amplified I believe we, on the spectrum, feel more than the average person, more intensely, more physically in our skin and fascia tissues that everything is amplified; like living inside a loudspeaker, full of needles. It’s loud and prickly. This creates tension and pain in our bodies, it becomes too much, and we ‘leave,’ numb out, check out with various addictive behavior patterns. We become so preoccupied with our self, just to survive the silly routines of a day. We hide in our brain with opinions and explanations for everything, and no ability for intuition to lead us. We train and practice behaviors that will keep us safe, and we become ridged and almost robotic. Coming out of a fog When I woke up to my body and realized I could connect, it felt like I came up for air. I have been swimming in confusion for years, and got a breath of air and a glimpse of how it could be. By then my girls were 13 and 14. What a loss of precious time and bonding. I had robbed them of having an emotionally present and loving mother. That’s a price we paid for my Autism. After a few sessions I felt as if I had come out of a fog. I could see other people, I could feel without hurting. I have had many sessions due to all my issues. After 16 years of sobriety, therapy, breath work and anger management I still was crazy, screaming at my children and husband, with no friend or colleges. At 16 years of recovery I stumbled over the book “Awaken The Tiger” by Dr. Peter Levine, and woke up to Somatic Experiencing. It saved my life. It saved my marriage. It saved my relationship with my two girls. When I work with people we let the body tell the story. We discuss conditions and situations and stay close to the body-sensations that arise. If we let the body learn how to relax, we can get free of the tension and pain. It’s just not enough to talk about it. I teach different exercises and modules dependent on the client. If there is also an addiction present, we deal with that a little differently. Stop. Drop. Check One technique I have developed is the Stop. Drop. Check. Stop – and scan your environment, Ask “Am I safe?” If not, create a safe space. Drop – and exhale into your body, as if you’re letting go of your breath. Bring your attention inward. Surrender, not to the outward surrounding, but to yourself, internally. Check – Ask “How am I feeling in my body?” With the next exhale – go deeper. You will feel and recognize your sensations, give them a little space, and it will shift. It will always shift. There will be a little ‘aha’ and you will have more space to make a decision about what to do next. Then – and only then, do you respond in a way that is best for YOU! This way you will learn how to allow any emotions, comfortable or/and uncomfortable. And you learn how to drop below your emotions and tap into your intuition in the moment. That’s were your true answer lies. And that's where you find the response that is best for YOU. *** For over 25 years, Eva Angvert Harren, has masterfully developed and taught her BEAM LiFE step-by-step body-centered awareness approach to people who wanted to move beyond their limiting beliefs about themselves and their possibilities. Eva Angvert Harren specializes in a Body Centered approach to Healing and Complete Wellness. She helps you “Reclaim, Restore, and Recover” your body-mind to Be Reaction Free! Eva is a Certified Integral Coach, www.newventureswest.com, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) www.traumahealing.com, and a Certified TIPI Specialist, www.emotionregulationtipi.com. For more information about Eva, go to www.BeamLifeCoaching.com or call: 510-825-7574.
Are the holidays something you dread? Maybe it’s too many people, high expectation placed upon you or even worse low expectations? You’re not alone. I can tell you that I approach holidays from a very different place now that I know better. What do I mean by know better? I mean listening to my own body and being honest about the capacity I have for celebrations, as well as listening to my twins Lillian & Chloe. Before I understood what Asperger’s/Autism was, I took my daughters behavior personally. I thought Lillian’s refusal to go to Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma & Grandpa’s was a direct defiant behavior. When she had a meltdown at the dinner, I thought she was trying to make the day about her and get her way to make us go home. I was wrong! Lillian’s refusal to go to Thanksgiving dinner was because she knew she would be in a good amount of discomfort. She may not have realized why but she knew it would happen and when it did, she just needed to leave. The noise of everyone socializing, the smells of all the food, and the expectation that she needed to participate in these conversations was too much. So yes, she screamed to make it stop and for me to take her to a safe place. I did not hear or see this at the time and for that I have apologized profusely. Today we talk about the events that are coming up and build a strategy to make it possible for Lillian and Chloe to be there. I am now okay if being there is not an option. Each event is different some examples of what we plan for could be a clear exit strategy. Whether this means I or my husband leaves with them or now that they are old enough to Uber home themselves. We see if there might be a quiet room where they could just chill for a little while if they start to have too much stimuli. We have found sometimes when they just remove themselves from the chaos for a little while they are able to return for a bit more time. Just knowing that there is a plan and that I will listen to Lillian & Chloe has made a world of difference. Lillian & Chloe were not trying to make the holidays about themselves, in fact it is most likely the opposite. They did not want to bring attention to the difficult time they were having. As parents we need to listen to our children. They are telling you what they need even when they don’t have the words. Written by Gail Carrier, Founder of OurTism