Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind

“If I was you, I would kill myself”


Believe it or not, those words (slightly paraphrased) were said to me by a counsellor I was seeing. That was five years ago. The reason I was seeing the counsellor is irrelevant to this story suffice to say that it was related to a matter that seriously affected my relationship to those nearest and dearest to me.

I had just completed describing my everyday life to her when she uttered those words. It wasn’t something she blurted out, but was a slow and careful statement made after a moment of silence. I wasn’t shocked by her statement, but I remember thinking that it was was an inappropriate comment for a counsellor to say to a client. I didn’t understand then, and still don’t understand now, why anyone in my situation would want to contemplate suicide, but I when I have discussed the inappropriateness of her comment with others, many have tended to agree with her.

So what is it about my life that others think should make it unbearable?

For as long as I can remember I have had headaches. I’ve also had periods when I become totally disoriented and confused. There would be occasions when, for example coming home from school, I would discover I was somewhere I didn’t recognise and didn’t have a clue how I got there. There would be times when I couldn’t comprehend what people were saying even though I understood each of the words they used. Sometimes I would forget the meaning of specific words. Sometimes a word I wanted to utter was replaced by something totally different. Sometime my sensitivity to light and sound became unbearable. Often these cognitive problems coincided with the headaches, but not always. Not knowing any different, I thought this was normal.

As I entered puberty, the headaches become more frequent and often were accompanied by bouts of nausea and vomiting. These were diagnosed as migraines. These migraine attacks would  occur somewhere between  once every few days to once or twice a month. I was still plagued by the cognitive problems but less frequently than the headaches, and not realising that they were not normal, I never mentioned them to anyone. I was assured that I would “grow out” of the migraines, and by the time I was twenty, the migraine attacks were down to about one every two or three weeks.

This state of affairs remained until I was in my thirties when the migraines slowly increased in frequency. It was also beginning to dawn on me that there were significant events that I had no memory of, and couldn’t be explained away as forgetfulness. There were times were I felt a distinct disconnect between my mind and my body – almost like I was simply an observer of another being. I also noticed that sometimes I would forget how to do simple things such as tying my shoelaces, or, if I did remember how, I couldn’t get my fingers to cooperate. I became sufficiently concerned about these issues that I finally mentioned it to my doctor when I turned forty.

A series of tests revealed nothing untoward, and I suspect the medical profession thought I was making it all up. I almost convinced myself that it was “all in my mind” and perhaps I should seek the help of a psychiatrist. I didn’t. The migraines continued to increase in frequency and intensity through my forties, as did the cognitive problems. I found I often missed door openings and collided painfully with the door frame or find that the fifteen minute drive from work to home would take an hour and a half.

I had just turned fifty when it was decided I could no longer work full time, and I had my first EEG and brain MRI. The EEG was “inconclusive”. The MRI revealed an unusual occurrence of white matter, but was “considered not to be relevant” to my symptoms. Shortly after this I was picked up by the police as I was apparently staggering around town as if I was intoxicated. It seems they thought I might be having a stroke and when I came to I found myself in the unpleasant noisy and brightly lit environment of the Emergency department of a nearby hospital.

This was the first of many occurrences where I have ended up in hospital with stroke-like symptoms. Despite multiple MRIs, EEGs, CT scans, x-rays, blood tests, spinal taps and psychiatric examinations, no definitive explanation has been found. The closest they have come to a diagnosis is “it’s possibly atypical migraine”.

At sixty I was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. This possibly gives an explanation as to why I don’t feel as distressed about my condition as others think I should be. And while I can intellectualise why perhaps others might find my life is distressing, I just can’t feel it.

Now I’m in my mid-sixties, and my headaches, cognitive skills and motor skills fluctuate on a daily basis. Some days I’m almost in a vegetative state, on other days I feel like I’m a kid again. Some days I worry about the stress I undoubtedly impose on my family.

But on the whole, I am happy. I can still admire the beauty of a sunrise, experience the thrill of a thunderstorm, delight in the squeals of joy from small children. When I’m able, I can still enjoy taking part in a deep philosophical discussion, or feeling the breeze on my face on a long walk.

Yes, life is good.


Author: Barry

A post war baby boomer from Aotearoa New Zealand who has lived with migraines for as long as I can remember and was diagnosed as being autistic aged sixty. I blog because in real life I'm somewhat backwards about coming forward with my opinions.

7 thoughts on ““If I was you, I would kill myself”

  1. Wow. It is actually inspiring that you, in your mid-sixties, can say that life is good, given all that you’ve had to deal with since you were a child. You should write a novel about your life and what you’ve been through. I bet it would be a fascinating story.

  2. I’ve never thought that my life could be considered fascinating enough to be written about, even if fictionalised in a novel. Having said that, I realise that much of what I thought was an idyllic childhood was due to my naivety at the time. I’m still learning much about myself and the world around me and I am still often awed by what I discover.

    But to write about it, I’m not sure if I have the necessary skills or patience to achieve that.

  3. That’s amazing what you have dealt with in your life Barry. Your writing shows no signs at all of any issues. You are intelligent, thoughtful, fully consistent and cohesive on your thought processes. I always find your points of view well thought out and interesting. I don’t always agree, but i am sure that is true of your perspective on my thoughts as well. Just a sign that you (and I) don’t just spout the common wisdom, but can and do think for ourselves.

    • Thanks, Paul.

      BTW, what you mean by “Your writing shows no signs at all of any issues”? I’m not aware of any issues that could or should affect my writing.

      • “Now I’m in my mid-sixties, and my headaches, cognitive skills and motor skills fluctuate on a daily basis. Some days I’m almost in a vegetative state, on other days I feel like I’m a kid again” I assume that you write when you are feeling well. I have noticed that when someone is writing while in pain they sometimes read disjointed or their thoughts are not as internally consistent (i.e. they know waht they are saying but don’t commit it all to words). My point being that the words don’t always line up, even though the writer is perfectly aware of their thoughts. That happens to me sometimes, so I’m careful that I only write when I’m feeling well. In no way did I intend my comment as derogatory wrt to your thinking. If it sounded that way, I apologize.

        • No I didn’t feel that you were being derogatory. I’ve just never thought of myself as having “issues”, so I was genuinely curious. In my case pain isn’t a major issue. It’s cognitive, executive and motor skills that desert me. I simply do what I can when I can. But believe, me, I’ve made some terrible faux pas on other community sites over the years due to migraine induced “brain fog”.

  4. I agree with Paul – your writing is so sound, rock solid. Maybe because you’re someone who is always on the side of the truth, there is something calming about it – it shows no signs of any accompanying trouble. But my mother and one of my brothers suffered/ have suffered migraines all their lives, and the reason was always a puzzle. I’ve never read a convincing explanation of migraines, maybe because they are still not understood.

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