Tired and stressed

Hi guys, it’s been another of those crazily busy weeks. I’m running slightly odd hours  as I’m tutoring at lot more than I was. Like many people on the spectrum, aspects of self-employments suits me, to an extent. Indeed, I’ve been self-employed in several roles, DJ and promoter, enquiry agent and now tutoring ESL. What I don’t like, is the lack surety; the is no progression, if I want to earn more, I have to make myself available for more hours and hope that there is sufficient students for me to get allocated. It’s not certain, but it is only temporary.

Couple this with a couple of exams I have pending and yes, I’m currently a stressed bunny.

So, how do I deal with this stress. Primarily, I find myself stimming like mad. This can be ‘loud hands’ (flapping, clicking) over gesticulating, tapping things, clicking pens. I also pace… a lot, I rarely sit still for any length of time and pacing is part of my self-soothing behaviour. At times, I will even simply put on music and have a ‘lounge disco’.

So what is ‘stimming’?

In short it is any form of repeatative behaviour which a person does in order to feel more settled during times of stress. Personally, I tap, draw imaginary patterns with hands or feet, rock, pace and when really anxious and on the verge of meltdown, I tend to rub my head repeatedly. I probably have more, these are just the ones that I am aware of.

It’s a comfort thing and for those around us, it can be an indication that something is bothering us. Those who know me, are learning my stims and now ask if I’m OK and that is very much appreciated. Aside from a self-soothing action, it’s part of who I, and the larger community are. We are unique and all individuals, just wired a little different to the NT individuals.

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Losing one’s Mojo.

Amongst my obsessions, I have two things which I do which bring me great pleasure; obviously mountain biking and also running. Of late, I seem to have lost my running mojo. This is slightly frustrating as I’ve always enjoyed running (well, as much as any runner enjoys it, which generally involves some cursing!)

I admit that I returned to running whilst living in Switzerland and during the winter being unable to ride my bike and needing something which required less time than snow-shoeing. It might be that, simply doing the Bradford Parkrun each week had become stale – don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Parkrun and the organisers do a sterling job, but maybe I just got tired of running up ‘the Teeny-Tiny Hill’ which is so famous in Bradford’s Parkrun, three times every Saturday. Plus, it clashes with tutoring, so it’s now a non-starter for me.

I do need to find something to rekindle my motivation as, aside from enjoying the sport and competing, it’s excellent cross training for mountain biking. Maybe, I need to allow myself to do something spontaneous, like book a race, or go trail running…

Today, I intend to get out on the bike if only for a couple of hours. I’m far too insufferable without being able to spend time on my obsessions. Time and daylight are currently limiting me and I am grateful that the days will start getting longer once more.

How we might struggle with the abstract

Personally speaking, I and many others on the spectrum seem to struggle with abstract concepts; those strange grey areas in life, which are neither black nor white. Almost two decades ago, when I studied law, I could resolve this lack of clarity by simply determining that my role, as a law student, and subsequently as a lawyer, was one of translating what one person saw as monochrome into either black or white. The law, and  any ‘social science’ however, refuses to sit in either black or white boxes, continuing to occupy a multitude of untidy and disorganised boxes, shelves, files and sometimes it seemed to have got lost down the back of the sofa.

That’s one of the reasons I left legal practice after only a few years. Other things sat more readily into either one thing or another. I’ve always been fascinated with language and the use of words. It’s something that I’m reasonably clever with, even though the rules of the English language can be confusing and my French is only at a GCSE grade despite having lived in a French speaking region of Switzerland for three years. Hence, I kind of drifted into teaching English as a Foreign Language and was due to have started my PGCE last year and will do this year.

Anyway, I’ve digressed (a tendency of mine) today I had to be practical and follow diagrams on how to fix a buckle on a cycling shoe. One hour later and I got the parts dismantled, and reassembled. As a person who finds reading diagrams, or instructions damn near impossible, I was rather pleased with myself; my language had not been ‘too colourful’ and things had not be thrown. The proof is in the testing, had I managed to fix it?

No, I didn’t. I gave it a good try. I’d followed a series of diagrams for as much sense as I could make of them. For the want to not causing myself a meltdown, I have opted to put them down and approach the problem another day.

In the meantime, I am resolute that simple stimming is good for me and I’m sat doing so whilst getting my thoughts in order enough to type.

Blackandwhite

Being open

It’s always a difficult decision as to whether to disclose a condition or not. I know that many people fear the stigma which might occur as a result of being open about being on the Austistic Spectrum. This coupled with the fact that most NT people know little or nothing about the condition and a lack of knowledge leads to people being ignorant in every sense of the word.

However, for me, and this is a personal choice, I’ve chooses not to hide my Aspergers, rather to embrace it. The moment at which I accepted not being neurotypyical, the clearer my life started to become. Yes, I still have the same social symptoms and my obsessive nature hasn’t changed, but I know longer struggle to find why I don’t always quite ‘fit’. This has brought me clarity and happiness.

Anyway, this is a short post. I wish all of my friends and readers seasons greetings and I’ll see you in the New Year.

 

 

 

Ambient Noise and SPD

Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD, where certain senses are liable to be more sensitive than in a NT person. Last week, I discussed my own olfactory issues with urban fumes and how they make me feel claustrophobic and unwell.

Noise can also have a similar effect upon me. I’ll give you an example; I’m doing a part time course on a Monday morning. I generally enjoy the course, despite my being surrounded by people I don’t know and only one or two of which I’ve managed to make friends with, I find the subject fascinating. Ambient noise, however can be more than a little intrusive. Two students on the course in particular cause me issues: why? Well, it’s simply because they seem incapable or not talking, very loudly throughout the entire lesson. This is distracting, because I can hear, everything as an annoying distraction – I cannot determine words, but I can hear people writing, shuffling, moving and then idiots who are constantly need to discuss their own things, all of this, whilst trying to digest what the lecturer is telling us and whilst trying to make my own lecture notes.

The net result of this is simply fed to me as a background hum, which I find incredibly taxing to try and filter out. Sometimes, it’s easier to filter than other times, but it’s tiring all the same. It was the first time that I have been on the verge of a meltdown in the lesson yesterday and this was narrowly averted by the person who sits next to me grabbing my arm and squeezing whilst I’m sat stimming.

Does this mean that my hearing is overtly good? No, I lose a lot of audible information because of background. SPD is more about being prone to sensory overload than having exceptional sensitive receptors. Often in a car I lose huge chunks of conversation, but there is a far too many external factors all competing and my ND brain cannot process everything at the same time.

Do other people find the same or similar issues? I would be happy to hear from others.

Sensory Issues – Smells

Not everyone on the autistic spectrum suffers from Sensory Processing Disorder, again I reiterate the statement that ‘One size does not fit all’. However, this is my personal tale of  how my sense of smell can affect me. I will deal with other sensory issues later on.

I decided to discuss this sensory issue today because, whilst going for a walk this morning, my sense of smell overwhelmed me. Now, anyone’s sense of smell can be evocative, certain smells bringing back memories or emotions, enhancing tastes or environment. For example, I had some lecturers who advised revising for exams with specific fragrances, which could be worn on exam day.

However, for me personally, I wear cologne and notice fragrances on a person – some to such an extent that it can be incredibly distracting – literally some scents can cause me to momentarily lose my chain of thought. I suppose that I notice some smells differently. This morning, I was walking at a busier time of day and the smell of traffic fumes was overwhelming; it’s something I’ve found to be intolerable for as long as I can recall. Growing up during the 1970s, with 4 Star leaded fuels and no emission regulations yes it’s more understandable that was unpleasant, but in modern motoring with far more environmental considerations in relation to vehicles, should it still be as severe?

This happened as a result of about three or four cars and a bus waiting in the queue at traffic lights this morning. It’s hardly like I was in rush hour in London or Beijing (both of which I have been), for me, this particular smell is overwhelming. At the time, I feel physically quite sick in my stomach and I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. It’s one of those moments where if I could block my nostrils and mouth I probably would try to.

Another situation which I feel this same way is when candles are blown out. Now, I like subtle lighting for some things and I have ‘Smart Lighting’ set up at home, which helps. But the smell of a candle being extinguished is enough to cause me a lot of distress; in the past, people who have lit candles at home, have to ask me to leave the room for a period upon blowing out candles. Again, the feeling of being unable to breathe, nausea and that my skin no longer fits me sweeps over me like a tidal wave.

So, this how my olfactory sensory processing affects me. I would be interested in hearing from others who suffer from SPD.

Nose

Talking about obsessions

One of the key attributes for anyone on the autistic spectrum is obsessions or obsessive behaviour. Indeed, I have had countless obsessions. I have currently whittled them down to one main obsession; which sometimes feeds other from it.

As the title of this journal suggests, it’s mountain biking. I’m going to backtrack a few years by way of what one of my law lecturers referred to as “providing colour and texture”.

I used to run and cycle, a lot. my obsessive nature meant that I struggled with rest and recovery days, so I never really allowed my body to recover. Consequently I caused a serious injury to my knees. The result of this was that I had several surgical interventions and spent two decades on crutches. When I moved to Switzerland, I saw a guy who discovered that the patella was actually misplaced, as were the muscles. He rectified this and I walked out of the clinic; the crutches are probably still in my ex-wife’s garage. At pretty much that moment, I determined that I would return to cycling, but no longer having any interest in road cycling, I determined to try mountain biking.

My obsessive nature means that I have to be the best I can at anything, or I lose interest and find another thing. Therefore, from starting mountain biking in March of that year and buying  my first bike, I replaced that first bike about 6 months later and had started to enter cross-country races inside of that time. Cross – Country racing is an endurance sport, so it appeals to my need for commitment, fitness and the fact that I’m naturally gifted with a reasonable threshold for pain and endurance sports suit me more than short bursts activities, such as sprinting or weight lifting. Another factor in cycling, is that it tends to appeal to a person’s ‘inner geek’, it’s possible to spend a great deal of effort and time in considering any potential purchase or event. The internet has made this all the more available; in respect of races, I can review footage of previous events, view topographical maps and countless other ways in which to prepare myself. Kit, when I can and do buy anything, it’s a highly considered decision and one that can take weeks of research. These factors may be relevant for many others, I can think of several people on the spectrum who are just as passionate about the sport as me.

The negative point of having obsessions, for an autistic person is that the interest can become all consuming. The positive is that doing the thing which we love is likely to bring a great deal of happiness to our lives. Indeed, I rapidly become insufferable and highly depressed without having an obsession.

The issue is always in finding the balance.