Living abroad independently with (at least) a disorder (or condition, honestly I don’t mind however you call it, it’s just a descriptive word without having to host any negative meaning) turns our vulnerability into risk.
Not Recognising You Need Help
One of the risks is not recognising that you need help, especially in times of emergency. Something that any person is vulnerable to – health risk. I am not even talking about mental and psychological assistance. I am referring to the raw basics – physical health. When help is not a straightforward one, it poses more challenges.
Jumping Through Loops
I had a minor medical emergency when I just moved to Perth. Fortunately my student insurance (OSHC – Overseas Students Health Cover) covers the fee for after-hours doctor’s visit – and fortunately they have such a service! It was quite straightforward, just phone the hotline and a doctor would be dispatched to your location – the waiting time depends on your emergency. Throughout the excruciating experience, my housemate didn’t even know I had an emergency. I am really not great in expressing need for help.
I had a more than minor medical emergency recently while in Denmark, but I was not ready to jump through the loops. There were seemingly more barriers such as language barrier – most Danes speak English, but when I phoned the doctor’s office or any services, they spoke in Danish and I haven’t learnt enough Danish to understand the automated message on the phone – instruction about my condition, and possibly having to meet at a location for medical intervention etc.
All these tasks can be overwhelming to perform on my own. Believe it or not, the most deterring factor is the possibility to meet at a location if I needed to go to the hospital. Only people with dyscalculia can understand the stress of having to navigate direction from point A to point B; it is especially stressful when I am completely confused of what is happening to me, and when I also have to manage an emotional crisis.
Choosing the Easiest Way
The word is “paralysing”. I realised that I am incapable of performing all these tasks on my own. I chose to stay put. It may sound willful, but it is not about that. It is simply because I cannot process beyond that. Dyscalculia is grossly under-studied especially compared to dyslexia – we would always talk about these in the same vein because they belong to the same class of disorder, learning disorder, whereby one affects the numeral module and the latter affects language and phonological module.
My brain is constantly compensating for the inability to process spatial orientation; spatial orientation primarily requires the numeral comprehension to chart the distance and markers to rotate an object in our head, the same numeral representation that helps to gauge distance and speed. I suspect that the deficit in numeral module incapacitates the brain to recognize places because it fails to predict the changing images with the moving distances. For example, when I walk to the bathroom, I recognise that there are wardrobes on the right side before I turn to the bathroom. When I come out of the bathroom, my brain fails to compute that the wardrobe should now be on my left and I would have a view of my bedroom. I can do this now, but it’s not an involuntary task, if I lose focus for a second, I would be disorientated because it takes time for me to ‘rationalise’ why the wardrobe is on my left and not on my right. So, what happens to my brain is that whenever I need to go a place, my brain preempts the route, even to the bathroom that I have been to many times now. If something changes, I might not find my way immediately.
So, in time of crisis, I must be relieved of the task to finding a location, because with everything that is going on, my brain is incapable of compensating for the deficit.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still able to grasp the logic of emergency and a possible danger, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I will do the “right” thing. The right thing to me then, is not to bite off more than I can chew.
I will blog about depersonalisation, derealisation, and anxiety disorder in the next post, but keeping this in mind, it has everything to do with my decision-making pertaining to my health risk. I would do absolutely anything to avoid entering into the anxiety zone; let’s say, death is not the scariest thing, anxiety is.
Embarking on this journey, I was, still am, hoping to motivate and encourage introverted (and people on the autism spectrum) people to take the chance and have a leap of faith in taking an adventure of a lifetime. I know many introverts who really love to travel, alone, but there are just so many deterring factors that hold them back. I love traveling, but I am “cursed” (just a matter of expression, do not overreact, I repeat, do not overreact!) with conditions that make traveling more challenging.
I desire to just pack light and take my bicycle and just explore into the undiscovered places. I can’t, because I have not learnt how to bike; I have no control of fear when I start to feel that I am lost; my backyard can look like an unexplored place because I don’t recognise it. I am also easily tired because my brain works very hard to balance the level of sensory input vs level of anxiety caused by fear of getting lost.
This has been an arduous journey, it truly has been. With a two-pronged motivations, I summoned all the courage and future courage to dive deep into this turbulous ocean. I had my last bit of heart completely shattered, but unless I am physically dead, I endeavor to finish what I have started.
This is achievable, it may not be an easy one, but my experience can only contribute an anecdotal account, you may get to write a different story. The important thing is to start learning to get the right help when you need to.
People Do Care and People Do Want to Help
Needless to illuminate, I am probably one of the weirdest people, hence the “Quirky Missy”. My sister lived across my building, she could come to me in 5 minutes, I’d never asked her for help in times of emergencies. I texted her about medical conditions, as she is a certified clinic assistant, but I had always managed my own medical crises.
When abroad, I was stuck in an extremely stressful situation for months, and no one really knew about it. Some friends maintain contacts regularly and I was quite “myself” in sharing my thoughts and psychological analyses on various topics and all. The problem was that they had not asked the “right” question. They didn’t think there was a problem since I was still posting lots of photos of food that I cooked and all. Then two very dear friends asked about my living arrangement on separate occasions and I told them in a very nonchalant fashion and they were beyond shocked. Although they were oceans apart, they tried to make connections with affiliates and people they know who might be able to help me. I wasn’t even asking for help; I was struggling, and perhaps drowning, and I still didn’t know how to ask for help.
I got the help that I didn’t know I needed. Sometimes, we only know how to get help from one person; one person whom we trust, but that person may not always be available to help. Then, we stop looking.
This is a common problem for people on the spectrum. We feel disconnected with people and the world. We may care immensely for other people, but we don’t think people care the same way about us. We think everyone is too busy with their lives, and they probably are, but perhaps some of them genuinely care about us. We just have to reach out; yet we fear of rejections, because rejections were always in our life menu.
To accomplish this “traveling” goal, we have to establish a network of friends who may be able to help us even when we don’t know we need the help. I have been very fortunate thus far, even when there was no help available, I survived the emergencies. We must not take our “luck” for granted, there would be times when we run out of luck.
Child in an Adult Body
I am a child in an adult body. I may not always make the finest and wisest decision because when my conditions call for, I descend to the coping capability level of a young child. It is not by choice, it is an involuntary transformation that I would not be able to defend myself later. We must be able to recognise our vulnerability before it turns into a risk.