By Travis Breeding
What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time I was beginning a journey of transformation. Part of having autism meant that I had this intense fixation and obsession of a getting a girlfriend. This could have been considered a special interest. My special interest fixation was unhealthy for me and caused me a great deal of pain. I am proud to say I have beat that fixation.
In the past year I have went from sitting around my house moping about my intense fixation to connect with people to beginning to enjoy life again. This was not easy and took a magnitude of faith to take some giant leaps. I had that faith. I made the leaps. About two years ago I started practicing mindfulness. I even meditate daily. It is peaceful. It calms my mind. Before I started mindfulness, my mind was racing all day with unhealthy fixations. We know people with autism fixate, I felt as if I was dying from my fixation. It had complete control over my life.
There are so many seconds throughout a day to fixate on and when the brain runs wild and tries to fixate on each one all at once it hinders one’s ability to concentrate and complete basic daily living tasks. This made me angry and hateful. I wanted better for myself. I got better for myself.
I concentrate hard on blocking out all the contingencies that are going on in life and only focusing on myself in the present moment. When we focus on what happened in the past or what we think might happen in the future, it prevents us from doing the most basic simple task that we have in front of us in life. It prevents us from living.
Last year, in close communication with my doctor we introduced Prozac to my cocktail of medications that I have been on. Let me preface this by saying, when I mention a cocktail of medications, I really mean a cocktail.
I imagine I have been on over twenty different drugs throughout my journey with autism. A year or so ago, it was decided I would try a clean slate. We wiped out the entire cocktail of medications, cleaned out my system, and started a new.
The first drug we tried upon restarting was Prozac. Along with starting new medications, I was also seeing a new doctor. Sometimes a fresh start, a new set of eyes, and a different perspective is all it takes to awaken the soul. My soul is now certainly alive and well.
Prozac is known for improving the fixating behaviors in autism. I am not saying medication is for everyone. But the Prozac is working for me. I am glad I tried it.
If used wisely medication along with other tools like mindfulness, cognitive behavior therapy, and meditation are quite useful. Under the watchful eye of an educated professional the right medications can make all the difference for some.
It took a few weeks for me before I noticed a difference in my moods and behaviors. I fixated on not understanding how to connect with people. I wanted a girlfriend. I wanted to learn how to date. I fixated on learning how to date in a certain way that I had found on the internet that I was sure would help me with autism.
I became obsessed with the concept of having this dating coach. The obsession became a fixation and soon it was uncontrollable. I could not understand why my insurance and other autism professionals could not see that the key to elping me with autism lade right in front of us. It was surely a dating coach.
This consumed me and was all I could think of for years. When insurance did not provide what I thought I needed, I became depressed and suicidal. Then I had finally had enough and said I am going to implement action steps to take control of my life. So, I did.
I had to work hard to clear my mind of what I thought I needed and accept what other people said I needed. I started practicing mindfulness which is simply thinking about the present moment and blocking out any unwanted thoughts about your past or future.
Along with mindfulness, I tried using cognitive behavior therapy to replace all these negative thinking patterns with more positive ones. This was a long process and is something that requires maintenance every day.
Once I had my mind clearer and was being mindful to stay in the present moment it was like I was present at my doctors’ appointments for the first time in years. Now we could start talking about things that had value and meaning, because my brain was not so focused on all the negative junk that I let consume me. I was in the moment. I was present and contributing to the conversation but more importantly, I was listening to my doctor.
Being mindful not only allows me to clear my mind and be in the present but it allows me to listen and comprehend what others are saying. I don’t hear all these negative voices in my head because I am present in the moment and hear the eality of the moment.
The combination of mindfulness, cognitive behavior therapy, and Prozac has changed my life. It has completely changed the context of my fixation. My fixation for years was moping around feeling sorry for myself and feeling depressed ecause I was autistic. It seemed my fixation was on all the things I thought I could not do because I was autistic and now today my fixation is on all the awesome things I can do and am going to do because I am autistic.
I am on a journey of transformation from fixating on negatives that destroyed me to positives that are creating my internal happiness. It has been life changing for me.
Travis Breeding lives in Huntington, Indiana. He graduated from Huntington North High School in 2004. Travis has a sister and resides with his family and a new niece that is part of his family. Travis was diagnosed with autism in October of 2007. He has a dual diagnosis of autism and schizophrenia. He shares his journey of how he learned to celebrate autism to help others live more meaningful lives. You can find Travis on Facebook.