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  • Kristy Forbes

The fight and flight experience



For those of us with a PDA profile of autism, we experience fight and flight consistently, particularly as children.

The most difficult aspect of being in an elevated state of stress is that our tell tale signs are often masked by what appears to be confidence, humour, silliness and outrageous behaviour.

I often explain to parents of children with PDA that there are two types of anxiety for us.

Generalised anxiety which is more obvious; the type of anxiety many people experience such as nervousness, apprehension moving into new and unfamiliar settings and changes AND there is the added stress of the internal resistance that comes with what our brain perceives as demands.

Whilst we are disappointing and frustrating others with our inability to comply or to complete tasks, we are heavily burdened with our own internalised frustration and angst of not being able to do the very things we too, want more than anything to be able to do.

Our fight, flight, freeze and fawn is a neurobiological process that we have no choice or control over.

PDA is a disability. An invisible disability.

As children, our self worth can be so detrimentally impacted by the feedback (mostly negative) we receive from those who do not understand us, or who refuse to understand us. . It is common for us to be chronically exhausted. . Not surprising, given that our bodies are constantly flooded with cortisol, the stress hormone and adrenaline. . As teens, we often end up hiding in our rooms, largely invested in our screens. . Those screens provide us with regulation and sometimes, the only social connections we have access to. . Our parents are bullied, shamed, guilt tripped and gaslit and bombarded with the heavy task of removing the very things that regulate us and have us feeling calm, simply due to ableism-society's belief that neuronormative standards are priority and applicable to everyone. . And even when the information is provided that our brains work differently (this is no secret), we are treated as though we CAN be different. . The insanity and denial attached to a person KNOWING a person's brain operates differently; that they have a disability and still burdening families and autistic individuals with the task of being someone they're not is very real. . It is no different to placing a wheelchair user at the bottom of a set of stairs (or anywhere for that matter) and telling them they CAN walk or that they must continuously practice and strive toward that goal. . So much pressure and disapproval is placed on the autistic population as children, then we wonder why there are so many autistic adults battling mental illness, suicidal idealogy, battles with the work force or education, drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, chronic illness and autoimmune disease. . People do well when they are supported to do well. . This doesn't equate to therapies to change them. . It equates to understanding and accepting who a person is, how their entire being functions and responds to stressors, and exploring means to regulate and soothe their central and peripheral nervous systems so that their being does not have to be in constant fight, flight, freeze or fawn. . . . Kristy Forbes inTune Pathways


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