Can’t wait…

Most of the time, I run one post a week. However, in the spirit of the title I feel it suitable to not have this written in advance and then use the system to auto-publish it later, which is my normal method.

It was mentioned to me about how certain aspects of my behaviour are indicative of ADHD as a co-existing condition. I’m unsure, but it’s certainly worthy of investigation at some point. I’ve always considered myself as restless; others have, in the past used expressions including ‘fitful’.

Put simply, I don’t sit still very easily. The exception being when I have a purpose to being still, then this requires focus, or frankly I am likely to go to sleep (I do this frequently in front of the TV, in the cinema, meetings etc.) In short, I need to have something requiring incredible focus and attention in order to simply be still. This possibly means that training as a primary school teacher will be the most perfect role.

Some elements of my restlessness are ‘stimming behaviour’, I pace and shift my weight around, stretch my limbs out, tap my feet, flap my hands or draw patterns with my extremities. Some of these things become the result of simply me dealing with having to wait…

.. I despise waiting, I obey the rules such as queuing and being polite, but I cannot abide waiting. When things run late, I get really very anxious, I’m not sure why, but it just happens. Maybe it’s why I hate not wearing a watch, I find it unsettling to not have a watch on even when I sleep; I’m currently using a Garmin Fenix 3 and when it’s on charge, I have to put on another watch!

Time

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Medic alert

I recently decided that it was time to find a solution for being able to have readily available ID on me. I don’t always carry my wallet whilst riding, these days, I tend to use ApplePay for any small incidentals I might need whilst riding and a wallet just adds bulk to my riding gear. I also still have to transfer my Driving License back to a U.K. one, but not having a car at the moment and only having driven half a dozen times in the last three years, I’m in no particular hurry to give the DVLA anymore money.

I opted to try these via amazon, being reasonably cheap.

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I was surprised that they aren’t actually metal, but plastic with a rather naff brushed metal effect on them. However, aside from the aesthetic, the reverse side has a weblink which links to a platform from you-ID.me (upgradeable and rather expensive of course!) This allows the user to input emergency contact details, NHS number, associated medical conditions, allergies and blood group (if anyone actually knows their blood group). This information is then available to first responders and notifies the user who has accessed this information. The app allows two contacts to be added.

However, does it need to be anything more? No, it’s simply there for emergencies and we all hope that it’s never necessary for anyone to access our medical data. It is easily access and paramedics and other first responders will always check wrists and the neck for ID. So, in that regard, it’s suitable.

On the negatives:-

It’s a very basic item, with a rather basic app and uploading an image always seems to be put the image into portrait irrespective of whether the image is taken in landscape or portrait. Which is a major P.I.T.A.

The app also immediately tries to push a premium service, which I dislike.

I’m not keen on the plastic material, metal discs or tags would been much preferred and I suspect that I will simply transfer the weblink and details onto a simple metal dog tag (the sort of thing which you would use for a pet is perfectly suitable and is used by U.K. forces) in due course.

The positives: –

  •  good safety feature allowing access to medical information if needed;
  • saves having to carry around other ID such as a Driver’s License which requires a more lengthy process to obtain the holder’s details.

In short, for those of us who undertake activities with risk, it’s certainly worth consideration, just go for a metal tag.

Peace and quiet

The Guardian online have published an article about noise levels in eateries and restaurants. With someone actually creating reviews based upon volume.

Let’s be honest, dining out should be a pleasurable experience, one in which we ideally want conversation to at the least equal the cuisine and the wine list. You wouldn’t try to hold a conversation next to a someone using a jackhammer would you?

I realise that in some regards I have been very fortunate, I have travelled reasonably and I eaten in some very nice restaurants, both for business and pleasure. One of the most opulent restaurants in London Quaglinos has a wonderful entrance in which you descend into the dining area by way of a sweeping staircase. The noise levels (before the recent refit) were such that you simply couldn’t hold conversation at a normal level. Consider this when confronted with a bill which even 20 years ago was  in the region of £60 a head.

An American study has found that noise levels can regularly reach 80 – 100 dB, (between operating a waste disposal and a power drill, for perspective) which is enough to cause permanent hearing damage. As a former litigator, I question whether this might leave the hospitality industry subject to litigation from staff who develop hearing problems in the course of their employment; afterall, we should not be put at health risk by our employers.

The science bit

Design places a large place in volume. Sound waves reflect off hard surfaces, such as bare plaster and painted walls, mirrors and glass. In most restaurants in the U.K. there’s are glass and mirrors everywhere. Therefore the current trend for stark and hard furnishings (which are, in the interests of hygiene, easy to clean), means that sound waves bounce back and thus the ambient noise level increases. People then have to talk louder and the ever decreasing circle begins.

Personal note 

Personally, because of my sensory issues, combined with both my partner and I have tinnitus, we tend to walk in and turn around and walk out of places that we go for pleasure which are too noisy. We go to eat out for pleasure of the food, wine and company, if neither of us can hear each other, it defeats the object of being together.

I advocate that other people do the same. Even if you have a reservation, maybe customers not willing to sit in an uncomfortable environment and pay good money will change restauranters policies and help influence a warmer, softer and more relaxing environment in which to dine.

How are we supposed to act?

One of the ‘triad of difficulties’ that people on the spectrum have is in relation to social interaction and another being communication issues.  Personally, I’m fairly high functioning in some regards and not in others, but that’s the key, there is not a ‘one size fits all’ in autism; hence it’s a spectrum condition.

Personally speaking, situational awareness is something I struggle with. I sometimes fail to be aware of my surroundings in a physical sense. This is ironic for someone who rides and races mountain bikes, but hell, it took me a very long time to learn to ride a bike. I do occasionally get in people’s way inadvertently although my spacial awareness is good.

Where I sometimes struggle is in how I should act in certain circumstances, I am fine once I have learnt a fixed set of rules. However, in social situations, these rules are subject to variation and change: obviously, social relationships change and develop and what was apt for a first meeting does not apply after interacting with a person you have known for months or even years.

For me, an example is for an invite to a house party. I dread such things, despite the fact that I am not introverted. There is simply too much happening, generally to many people and noise and smells and I probably only know a few of the people who are likely to be there. Who do I talk to? What if I end up hogging the hosts attention for to much time? These are just some of the reasons I seldom attend house parties and I only do now, on occasions because it’s something that someone close to me wants to do.

I have ran highly successful music events and club nights throughout London, the U.K. and have DJed around Europe. I was happy and successful in that high stress environment for around a decade, some would say that I thrived. From a business point of view, yes I did well and was happy making others happy. However, now I rarely return to such a situation; I always had the escape of being able to hide behind the DJ booth, or in the Green Room or simple stand outside and smoke. I’ve quit for five years now and the main thing that I miss is that it gave me an instant excuse to remove myself from situations which became challenging.

How does a person learn behaviour: 

We all, learn behaviour from peers, parents, partners and so on. But is that learned behaviour always socially acceptable?

  • I suspect that a good deal of the behaviour in teenage years isn’t.

Is there a rise in antisocial behaviour in amongst society as a whole, or is there a decline in standards? 

  • I’m not a social commentator and seeing as I do make mistakes, it takes something truly out of the ordinary for me to notice it. I notice social decay and levels of extremely ill manners: I don’t have bad manners, but I don’t alway have the correct filters between thinking or feeling something and voicing something which may or may not remain an internal monologue.

People on the spectrum learn and a lot of incredibly intelligent, but we just learn and engage differently. I mimic sometimes and at other times when I am fortunate enough to have someone with me to advise, I ask ‘So, what is the protocol if x happens?’ I may also give the people close enough to me to understand the consent that they may interrupt me and change the subject or stop me making a fool of myself.
Interaction and communication is a nightmare of pitfalls and likely faux pas, so the autistic person has additional hurdles, many of us can’t read subtle facial expressions or subtlety at all. Changes of tone can be lost on us and we tend to take things said very literally. That said, we patience and compassion we more skilled in some areas. I am better than I was and I continue to learn on this journey.

Rigidity and routine

One of the issues that most autistic people have is the need to establish patterns and routines. In a world which can be disordered and unpredictable, I find that a rigid plan helps me to deal with the world at large. No, I don’t mean this in a megalomaniac style; I have no desire to control others. It’s a simple case, that I plan things, I have to visualise things or plot them. I have done so for as long as I can recall.

This might come across to some people as incredibly organised and in control, the reality is often far from it. Even worse, I cannot always control the plans and routine, for life gets in the way. This results in throwing me completely and can be the cause of meltdowns or shutdowns: at the very least, it causes major anxiety flair ups.

What is a meltdown? Basically, if you think of the brain as being like a computer operating system, when too operations are running at the same time, the result is that nothing works, it goes into a suspensory mode and you get that beach ball or egg-timer telling you that too much is happening and that normal service may be resumed or that you need to shut everything down. We might lash out, shout, stamp and generally act in an unacceptable or unbecoming manner, but at that point, we have simply too much going on and our brain and system is completely overloaded. The person having the meltdown is not in control, there actions are not planned or intended. In short, they are awful and exhausting.

Shutdowns are simply a protective device whereby the person stops interacting and retreats to a metaphorical safe place; thereby limiting the overloading stimulus.

I know that plans don’t always work out as I wish, but this doesn’t limit the effect on me. I’m also aware that I am not the only one who has this. In amongst my cycling friends, I know several who will feel the same frustrations. I suffered from such at the weekend due to racing and running a flat rear tyre within a couple of hundred metres off the start line (despite a reasonable start off the grid for me). Don’t misunderstand me, I had no illusions of obtaining grand results, but I did picture finishing the race. This type of mechanical happens to everyone who races, it’s rubbish and it’s frustrating for anyone. For me, it through my mood for two days and left me feeling like I had no control, which of course, sometimes we don’t, we can simply seek to limit problems.

My meltdown left me unwilling to touch the bike for several days and for a brief moment, I very nearly said ‘stuff it’. Support from my partner and a mate helped to pull me through this and I am training again and have sorted the tyre and will return to normal.

However, for me and many others, it is that simple a trigger to lose control and it’s an awful place to be in. We might lash out, shout, stamp and generally act in an unacceptable or unbecoming manner, but at that point, we have simply too much going on and our brain and system is completely overloaded.

Anyway, onwards and upwards…

Sensory neurones and pushing myself

Many people with autism seem to have issues with pain sensitivity. This might be independent or part of a comorbid condition.

This weekend is the first mountain bike race of the year for me: I didn’t race much last year due to personal things and limitations on travel. So for me, this coming weekend is a big one.

I have my kit packed, the bike has been stripped down (as far as I am happy and confident to do so), checked, cleaned, oiled and put back together. Tyre pressures and clothing choices have been obsessed over. I’m now tapering down on my training towards the weekend in an effort to be most efficient on race day.

Here’s where my sensory neurones will kick into effect on Saturday; I know that racing isn’t easy, it hurts and I have been working hard to get my body used to hurting and still pushing through this; for an hour and a quarter or there abouts. My geek side says that my functional threshold power has increased, my cardiovascular fitness is good enough for me to push my heart rate very high ans maintain it at a level which is excellent for an ex-smoker in my late forties. According to the metrics I can obtain, my VO2 max (the amount of oxygen my red blood cells can carry per millilitre) is also very good. So, all of the numbers and geekery look good, my technical skills could do with some working on, but the course is unlikely to be the most technical that I have ever raced.

I do feel reasonably happy and confident in my abilities and I’m sure that on the day, adrenaline and the fact that I enjoy riding and competing will help me to suppress the pain and nerves. Let’s hope that it all goes well.

Recovering slowly

I should state frankly that as I’ve got older, the shorter my patience has become. I’m not sure why, but I find myself very driven in most things, but waiting for anything, even in a queue becomes very frustrating and I find myself having to constantly stim; sometimes consciously and at others not.

I’ve got my first cross country mountain bike race of the year on the 27th and training has been hindered by my being ill with a cold and chest infection. I’m on the antibiotics and they are helping: today is the first time that I’ve started to feel human in about a fortnight. I can’t wait to get back to training, but I am aware that I’m not going to be pushing myself hard until race day now. Being unable to absorb myself in my obsession makes me irritable and frustrated. So instead I have to plan and prepare without training. This will involve making sure that the bike is running as smoothly as possible and that my kit is prepared, checked, double checked and strategies are firmly in mind. I have, today, organised my race entry and category, which means that I am committed.

Focus has been difficult in the last week or so, external factors relating to my health and that of those around me. My mind has also been feeling rather foggy, which happens when I’m unwell. This has impacted upon things and energy has been rubbish.

However, I am getting back to normal. I’m internally battling not compromising  recovery by doing something stupid and fighting to acknowledge that if I can’t ride for another few days, then so be it. Better to be well enough to race than not.

Keeping my obsession fuelled in preparation will simply have to satisfy me for another few days and next week will involve a couple of gentle spins to just get my muscles happy with turning over.

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