Monday, 27 November 2017

The unreasonable effectiveness of tabasco shots

A few years back a therapist of mine came with a suggestion that sounds weird: to break out of the more debilitating anxiety attacks — drink a spoonful of tabasco.
She had been using this with self-harm patients, as a way to get the release that comes with cutting, without actually causing yourself harm.

Since then, I have been drinking tabasco whenever my mood crashes out too hard to handle. And it is effective.

Surprisingly effective.

Bizarrely effective.

Exemplia gratia: yesterday, after a full but very pleasant day, a bunch of things conspired against me. A panhandler intimidated me. Then various things kept my edge high, and eventually S brought up a high priority family task and suggested I do it today. I teach all day today, and don't have much in the way of slack, and ended up working up a real panic about how to fit this additional thing in, and about whether delaying until Tuesday would work.

All in all, as I went to brush my teeth, I went from quiet, sad, upset, on the verge of crashing to sitting on the bathroom floor, rocking and crying quietly. Once I finished brushing, I asked S (I had to try twice for her to hear me, each time taking a real effort to get any sound out at all) to fetch me some tabasco.

To really, really show how effective it was, let me paint the scene before and after in even more detail:

Before: I'm sitting on the bathroom floor. Rocking back and forth. Crying. Not able to get any words out. Standing up is completely out of the question. I panic, hard, when S tries to ask me which of our hot sauces I want. It's an effort to even reach up and accept the spoon S has filled with hot sauce.

After: I have barely even swallowed the spoonful of tabasco when my crying stops, a wry smile slowly creeps in. I stand right up, step over to the sink and rinse out my toothbrush, then go to bed.

It doesn't even take a second, but swallowing a spoonful of tabasco will stop — dead in its tracks — my ongoing paralyzing anxiety attacks, return me back to a reasonably good humor and quite capable of taking care of myself and functioning in my surroundings. I have yet to find anything, at all, that is quite as effective at managing my moods: the one obstacle I face is to remember that this is in my toolbox when I need it.

1 comment:

  1. A Facebook friend who studies psychologt wrote an explanation — framed for autists [I have some suspicions, though no dx…]

    «ah yes i know this! so with autism in general one of our issues is basically that we have "too much" neural activity, our brains are SUPER extra ultra mega active in ways that typical brains typically aren't and a melt down happens when that too much gets so out of control we literally can't function anymore, but here's the thing, not all sensations are created equal and it's possible to basically short out the system and do a sort of "hard reset" (to borrow computer language) so what ends up happening is that if you get a sensation that all by itself is really "loud" (not necessarily a sound, i just use the word loud bc that's like the easiest option, basically a sensation that is incredibly intense, jarring, etc) it will sort of hijack all the brain's perception stuff and all those other sensations that were causing the meltdown won't be creating excessive neural activity anymore bc those systems are focusing on the new super "loud" input and that can help, so, like tobasco is definitely a great option for this! that's involving multiple sensory systems (smell, taste, pain, possibly something else too) and you can definitely get a reset that way and just sort of calm everything down

    the pain part is sort of important and that's one of the reasons the self-harm is so common for autistic people bc when we experience pain our brains and bodies release a lot of calming chemicals and hormones which sort of has a protective effect, the original sensation sort of stops the overload in it's tracks and redirects everything and then the response to the sensation (in this case all the cool calming stuff) helps to keep things chilled out for a little while, it IS possible to get this effect without the pain part (a lot of different kinds of stimming work in a similar way) but the effect won't be as intense, tobasco is definitely a safe way to get this effect without doing actual harm so great job on finding something that works so well!»


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