Meltdown

I’m often stressed or anxious. I sometimes have shutdowns, however, a full blown meltdown is rare for me these days. Let me clarify something, there is a huge difference between a tantrum or sulking and a meltdown. Whilst all of the above may result in challenging behaviour; a tantrum is something conscious, which the person exhibiting the behaviour has a control over. Compare this to a meltdown in a person with autism; this happens when there is too much stimulus or stress and the person literally cannot process.

This happened to me on Thursday night, quite late when the cat decided to trash my wardrobe (one of those canvas affairs). Wardrobe crashed down and clothing everywhere, just as I was about to retire to bed. I then couldn’t find one of the supporting plastic lugs which holds part of the thing together. Cue, overloading and the first major meltdown in a while.

Aside from the mental exhaustion, the physical feeling of incompetence and frustration as well as feeling emotionally and physically wiped out, pretty much meant the anything I did on Friday was impaired by fatigue. In order to combat this, I decided to follow my obsessions and went for a ride but refused to attempt anything technically challenging. Anyone interested can find a link to my Strava account in the links pagep_101237901

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Behind the veil and exhaustion

I’ve discussed the concept of ‘masking’ before, this is when a person with autism camouflages their autistic traits in order to attempt to fit into a world, which is predominantly neurotypical. Most high-functioning autistic people have done this at some point or another and many continue to do so, depending upon the circumstances and the environment. Some people fail to identify my autism, because I am both high-functioning and able to mask some aspects of my condition; to others, it’s blatantly obvious. I will state, at this point, that I am very open about my condition and it’s an area I not only enjoy writing about, but discovering more about how it affects both myself and others on the spectrum.

Should we be forced into hiding in, or as I prefer to think of it, ‘hiding in plain sight’? That’s a tricky question. In many situations, the world dictates that we all hide aspects of our personalities.

We are expected to conduct ourselves in an accepted manner in much of life, especially in adulthood. For example, I really don’t like wearing a tie and yet, I have worked in various environments in which a tie is considered the norm. Occasionally, I will make attempts to challenge this norm, by doing something like wearing a cravat or an open collared shirt; I have struggled with the concept of ‘MUFTI’ or ‘dress down’ days. My interpretation of a dress down day is not, generally speaking, a polo shirt and chinos; hell, I don’t own a pair of chinos, nor do I want to. This has lead to discussions about not wearing a Sisters of Mercy T-Shirt and jeans for dress down Friday, when I worked in an office. I responded by either digging in my heels and ultimately,  wearing a suit and not wearing a tie.

Attempting to fit in, without a set of rules is frankly difficult, at least for me. If I’m given rules or guidelines, I’m generally pretty good at following them.

From a legal perspective, there is protection in place to help and protect autistic people, including making reasonable allowances and adaptions within the workplace and so on. However, many os us work in very similar fields, there seems to be a lot of people on the spectrum in the education, I.T. and artistic sectors from my knowledge and I suspect that a lot of professional athletes are on the spectrum. Maybe these areas allow us to still exhibit autistic traits, such as a high level of focus and attention to details and still excel in the workplace.

It can, however, be exhausting. A working day, or one spent in study or even recreation, around others can be hard work. Human interaction comes with a myriad of complexities, potential pitfalls and hidden agendas. The difference is that the NT person is more likely to be able to pick up on the subtexts, whilst we, the autistic community, haven’t a clue: we generally take things at face value. Which means that we spend time an energy trying to read subtext or we simply bumble around.

If anyone is looking for definitive answers to this issue, I’m not able to give them. It is my personal opinion, however, that in being open and honest with people and asking questions and for guidance, it can be easier. That and a lot of patience, tolerance and understanding from those around us. Giving people knowledge is empowering, for them and you. We shouldn’t have to hide. We’re not social lepers, we’re just using a different way to get on the same journey.

owl

Unique

We’re told that people on the autistic spectrum are unique; I rather suspect that neurotypical people are as well. We’re just differently unique.

I express this because I recently noticed a theme in my wardrobe choices. Basically, I like a colour or a theme, I tend to purchase almost exclusively on that pallet. Now, considering that I am a Goth, it’s unlikely that I am be seen sporting vibrant pinks, yellows and so on. There is, and always has been a dominant amount of black in my wardrobe. I do, however, really like reds and purples; I noticed this on realising that I brought a second polo shirt in exactly the same shade as my favourite polo shirt.

My wardrobe choices colour-wise are eclectic in style; but colour is clearly predictable. If anyone knows of a nice red fitted shirt, I would be interested as I don’t own a shirt in that colour 😉

 

 

Anxiety and exams

Do not misunderstand that I have taken and passed far harder exams than a GCSE in Biology; I need a hard science in order to teach primary school, so I have Paper II on Friday.

My anxiety has therefore increased, like many people with autism, my anxiety tends to run higher than average. I’ve been on Sertralin for years now and trying to cope without it just didn’t work for me. Medication helps to restore the balance that my brain doesn’t find without it, in short. The effects of it, are far less than me trying to deal with the world without.

I’ve also returned to yoga, which does help me with core strength and stability as well as balance: all of which are good for a cyclist. The other effect is that I find it helps me to find a place and sense of tranquility when normally I struggle to quiet my mind or body.

So, anyone struggling with anxiety, whether co-existing or not, I highly recommend both medication and yoga.

Anyway, this is a very short entry this week as I’ve revision and training to complete after a few hours of tutoring this morning.

Hurting…

Anyone who is a competitive cyclist has a masochistic streak; training hard hurts, racing hurts.

This weeks training is not as efficient as I would like, I have an exam next Friday so that takes priority; I need a ‘hard science’ at GCSE to teach Primary school, so Biology it is. It’s also good to learn and I believe that that we should continue to learn and develop knowledge and skills throughout life.

Anyway, back to training as it’s something that my follows my obsessive behaviour. Most people with autism will exhibit obsessive behaviour and these passions can become very consuming. We therefore need to moderate time spent on them and that can be difficult as these interests provide us with a great deal of happiness. Mine includes all things to do with mountain bikes and racing them. During the lousy weather I opted to start using a turbo trainer, basically converting a normal mountain bike into a static bike. This allows me chance to train regardless of weather conditions, time of day and so on. I’m also not very good at determining how much is too much and how much is not enough; I tend to ride until time ran out and or my energy was suitably depleted. When I lived in Switzerland, it was not uncommon for me to ride and run on the same afternoon, which is a sign of both commitment and lack of structure.

With the turbo trainer, it can link to various training platforms allowing static training to feel a little more interesting (indoor training is not particularly interesting it must me said). I began by using the Zwift platform which was a good starting point and very much creates a game of riding the turbo. Albeit a game for masochists. I used this for about two months. It was fun, but lacked structure.

Needing to create a more structured training plan meant looking around at the other platforms on the market and there are several. It seems like a growth industry at the moment. I needed to find one that gave structure and was compatible with a basic smart trainer. I will provide links to the resources and equipment I use below. For me, the one which ticked most of the boxes at this point is Sufferfest which provides me with a training plan via another application Training Peaks. This gives me the structure that I crave and hopefully will offer me the performance gains I require.

Training has been hard this week, my thighs are tight, despite using the foam roller and self massage. Yesterday saw my heart rate being far too high, whilst my power output was far lower than I would expect which dictated that I pulled the session earlier than planned and rested. Rest days are not something I’m good with but rest days improve performance and I need to learn to enjoy them. If nothing else, it allows me to catch up on the monumental amount of laundry that indoor training creates!

 

Links:

Equipment I use:

Turbo Trainer

iPad bracket 

Applications:

Zwift 

Sufferfest 

Training Peaks

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