Rest week

I’ve never been overly good with rest and recovery. My obsessive tendencies mean that I want to do the things I enjoy, every day. This means that I often end up overtraining and not making the improvements I am capable of, or those I want.

This and the fact I have remembered that I am capable of pushing myself further than I have been, because I allow myself to be defeated, by myself. Mentally, a lot of us do and I have been looking at this recently.

I find that I follow obligations and commitments well, rules and plans as well as structure help a neurodiverse mind. With this in mind, I am starting to work with a coach, Natalie Creswick teamheadset. I will put a link on the links page. This will help with structure and routine as well as ensuring that I am training in a beneficial manner, rather than just ‘banging out junk miles’.

Plus, a lot more yoga… daily sessions of a minimum of 15 minutes, again I will put a link to the course I am doing on the links page

Further to this, a couple of sponsors, in the form of Torq Energy and Sundried clothing and a new team, Team JMC. So, let’s hope for some actual races this year.

Seasonal greetings

It’s a strange time of the year this year. The U.K. and the entire world still in the grips of the pandemic. For many that’s going to create an odd and lonely Christmas.

I consider myself fortune in so far as I am living with my partner and therefore, whilst I miss seeing friends, I don’t actually feel that I ‘need’ anyone else. Working in the social care sector means that work and life have gone on as much as is possible; activities have changed, hygiene has taken on a level best described as paranoid and paramount.

My anxiety and stress has fluctuated a lot, which resulted in burn out and hence the reason I haven’t felt like writing much on here. Burning out leaves me expended of all non-vital energy and I need to make choices as to what requires my mental strength and the things which are less crucial at that point in time.

I remain optimistic for next year, races as planned, coaching sessions as well and my fitness is good for the off season. Motivation is currently good and I just need to avoid distractions in the form of a glass of wine instead of training. (ASD means that negative behaviour and compulsions are as likely as any other obsession, we are addictive personalities).

Anyway, I wish you all a happy Christmas and here’s hoping that 2021 will be a lot better.

Injury and frustrations

OK, now no one likes being injured. However, for the neuro-diverse, having changes to ones routine throw all sorts of issues into the mix. This coupled with lockdown (2.0) and the onset of winter all add to frustration.

Normally, I function reasonably well, within my routine, I go to work, my employers try to bunch my shifts into blocks, which has the downside of being exhausting, but the positive aspect is that, generally I get blocks of ‘rest days’ and days off; which allows me time to do the things I enjoy. I’m used to this routine and think little of the 5am alarm and spending 36 hours straight at work.

Injury, however, means that I am at home, which is nice but limited on what I can actually do for fun (or Mark 2 fun). I am endeavouring to use the turbo trainer, but this needs to work around my partner’s work schedule, which sadly eats into the time we normally would have together.

Turbo training, for those not in the know, involves a weighted or magnetic flywheel, adding resistance to a bike’s drive wheel to simulate an actual surface, thereby allowing you to ride whilst indoors and monitor metrics. My obsessive traits and competitive drive mean that I am obsessed with metrics.

So interruption to an autistic person’s routine cause massive frustration. In people with higher personal needs, this can lead to complete overload and thereby meltdowns. For me, I tend to go the other way, my frustration, combined with depression tends to lead to shutdown, where I simply retreat into myself and engage with others far less or not at all.

Turning to the injury itself, I’m now five weeks in, largely managing inside the flat without a sling and I have started doing gentle exercises, rotation and elevation are sore and I wake up in pain in the mornings. That said, it is better than it was and I have a further hospital appointment next week. Currently I intend to be back at work in another couple of weeks and look forward to returning to routine, whatever that may be.

In the meantime, I have picked up a couple of ambassadorships, Torq Energy and Sundried Clothing. Both of which I will discuss further in other posts.

Anyway, in these uncertain times, we all crave certainty and there is little of it. Even NTs are struggling with the unpredictability of how the world is changing under Covid and in global attempts to control the spread of the pandemic. So, let’s try and be nice towards each other.

Take care, stay well and remember to wash your damn hands and wear a face covering.

Masks

The National Autistic Society offer an exemption card for those who’s autism means that wearing a mask creates a sensory issue.

I wear one at work when dealing with personal care for clients and I took to wearing one before it was recommended by the U.K. government, mainly because I understand aerosol based germ transmission and have a rudimentary knowledge of biology. I see keepkng possible germs to myself as considering those I come into contact with, I haven’t been able to work from home and my job is very much based in the community.

Personally, wearing a mask allows me some unforeseen freedoms. I often mutter and ‘think allowed’ and plan much of my routine in this way. Doing so behind a mask allows this to be hidden and draws a lot less attention.

It also means that I don’t have to smile aimlessly at people. If I’m reallt happy, it shows eegardless of wearing a mask and on a day to day basis, it helps to camouflage when there’s nothing really wrong but I’m also not wandering around in a state of ecstatic bliss either.

A further benefit for myself is that the mask, whilst hot and sometimes inconvenient, the mask helps to reduce transport fumes, which make me want to claw my skin off.

Yes, it can be hot and uncomfortable, but we’re all in this together and from my own experience, and everyone on the spectrum is different, there are silver linings within the cloud.

In this uncertain time, we have no assurance that a cure will be fast, or efficient so why not try to make it fun.

Nothing verbal

Communication…

The Oxford English Dictionary provides the following definition :-

(1) The imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium;

  • This includes social contact 

(2) The means of sending or receiving information, such as telephone lines or computers. 

Now, generally people assume that a person, with autism is ‘high functioning’ because they can communicate in what is considered to be a ‘neurotypical fashion’, i.e. we verbalise in a manner which is comprehensible to a world in which is predominantly neurotypical.

Is this always the case and the triad of impairments states that anyone on the autistic spectrum is likely to encounter difficulty in one of three areas (to a greater or lesser extent), these being communication, social interaction and repetitive and, or obsessive behaviour. *

Now, personally I spend a lot of time communicating with others. I have been in several professions which rely upon my ability to converse with others or to communicate in some other form. I spent years working in law and insurance, drafting correspondence and making representations in public. I also teach. I write a blog, I keep social media accounts and I’ve recently taken to presenting a current affairs show on local television.

So do I actually struggle with communication?

Historically, my fine motor skills were later to develop than my speech, some will say that I’ve not stopped talking since. Yes, I can talk, but not always effectively. I’m fine with imparting information but I don’t always notice when the recipient has got bored of my talking. It’s not always a two-way process for me.

Further to this. Whilst I am generally considered to be an extrovert, I’m not convinced that I am. I dread meeting new people, unless I know that I have something in common with them and that I can be introduced into the group. I also look and plan a mental escape route: for years I ran club nights and music events with great success and I enjoyed do so. I also spoke to a lot of people, as was necessary for the role to be successful. However, I provided invisible safe zones for myself, behind the DJ booth or outside smoking (I quit 5 years ago and the thing I miss most is that it gave me a chance to go and stand somewhere quiet for a few minutes, either alone or in singular company).

Basically, looking back on my life, I’ve always talked, a lot, but interaction with others is a learned behaviour. It’s not natural for me. I also suspect that this can be said of many of us on the spectrum; in order to survive, we have had to develop skills which are abnormal to us.

mute

Now, this brings me onto the issue of those who are non-verbal. This presents differing challenges. For someone who verbalises, it can be difficult when my verbal communication breaks down; which does happen. Under points of incredible stress, I can simply forget how to string a sentence together, or forget basic vocabulary. I don’t speak sign (although I did once learn traffic directions in BSL) or MAKATON so this makes life harder at these points. The only solution I currently have is to bluster it out. This may mean that I simply say the first things I can and that they may not actually make any sense.

I would be very much interested in hearing from others who have similar experiences and how they create coping strategies. 

*Once again, I make the disclaimer that I am not a medical professional, nor a qualified expert on the subject of autism. I have completed some academic studies and I’ve lived as an expert on myself of my personality traits and restrictions for a lifetime and consider that I know how the condition personally affects me. Everyone one is different, although common traits exist or there would not have been enough evidence to diagnose anyone.

 

Airports…

I’ve just been reading through a twitter thread from It’s Not Shrodinger’s Autism in relation to her experience with travelling recently.

Until reading her post today, I was not aware of The Hidden Disabilities scheme. The scheme serves to recognise and promote the fact that, as the name suggests, not all disabilities are visible. Providing a free lanyard and allowing staff to recognise and offer additional support or patience with people who have difficulties. The scheme also operates through some supermarkets and other such places. As yet, it does not appear to be internationally recognised, but may be persuasive and the more people use it, the larger the scheme will gain recognition.

Having recently flown from Manchester airport to Geneva early on a Saturday morning, I can state that on this occasion, as someone who used to fly weekly from Manchester that I have never encountered crowds like it, in any airport anywhere. I used to fly a lot from Gatwick, Southampton, Geneva, Manchester and I’ve flown from some of the busiest terminals in the world.

We were only away for a period of three days so travelling could be simplified by use of only carry-on luggage (which we were offered to stow in the hold at no extra cost) an option which we took on the return flight. Security were excellent, despite stopping, taking swabs and ‘wanding’ me. I explained metalwork in my body and was processed with courtesy and professionalism.

However it was impossible to get a drink or something to eat without monolithic queues. Fast food outlets (I fail to recall due to the stress of the experience but I think that it was Burger King) had tills down and faulty self-service screens. In the end, my partner and I managed to settle on a bland sandwich and I had a glass of wine which was far more expensive than any glass I had whilst in Switzerland (the bar staff serving had the gall to tell me to “Smile, you’re on holiday” to be given the response that I that I paid for a bottle and got a glass and couldn’t wait to get a bargain at Swiss prices*)

Anyway, I digress. The lanyard scheme allows use of something called the Sunshine Room, which in Terminal One, Manchester Airport is located behind the fast food outlets. These areas are quiet zones, with reduced lighting and an escape from the pandemonium of the airport terminal. If only I had known about them. Personally, I do consider myself high-functioning, I currently live alone and generally manage to maintain myself and my small flat. However in the throng of crowds I struggle. I really could have used the solace of a quiet area for just a few minutes.

I won’t go into details of our holiday, at least at this point as it would be going off at a tangent which even I would be alarmed at.

We arrived back at Manchester Airport on Monday at around 23:30, having retrieved bags, gone through passport control and all of the usual rigmarole. Having spent suitable time in consideration of transport back to Bradford from the airport, the earliest (and quickest) and fastest option was National Express at about 03.20. A four hour wait in Manchester Airport Arrival lounge. Whereupon there was one shop open. Yes, one! It’s not like airports operate on a 24 hour basis is it! Oh, yes… An utter farce, absolutely nothing to do, for hours on end. The options for food and drink in the arrivals lounge is poor at best, but at least keep them open for pity’s sake. Here there wasn’t a quiet area. People lingering around plug sockets trying to power phones and generally one of the more miserable environments to spend time in.

In summary, I really must look into the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme as I felt that having a few minutes of quiet time would have made the experience more enjoyable.

—-

In contrast Geneva airport:

Welcoming, helpful. The nearest to a stressful experience was my partner showing me a watch which costs more than I would consider spending on a house, several watches, several mountain bikes and an Aston Martin. Thankfully, she was only looking and the staff joked that there was a defibrillator nearby.

*If you’ve not been to Switzerland, I can state, having lived there, that it is not known for bargains. 

Boredom

Well, over a week of not being able to train and I’m already climbing the walls.

My GP has got the results back from my X-Rays and I’ve been offered an appointment, next Thursday. Seeing as I’m in not inconsiderable pain, this is ridiculous; I’ve had to take three days off from tutoring now and this obviously affects the lousy amount that I earn. It may also impact upon future plans and that’s incredibly frustrating and may end up costing me a lot of money.

All through no fault of my own. Lawyers are dragging their heels already; so far busy doing nothing.

My anxiety levels are consequently through the roof and I’m tempted to spend several hours sat in A & E to expedite this now. I anticipate that all of these factors are likely to begin affecting my depression in time.

I accept risk as a part of my sport, mountain biking comes with an element of risk, riding a technical trail at race pace with an elevated heart rate in competition with others increases this risk manifold. However, this injury was caused through no fault of my own, simply walking along and a poor maintained surface and me having a moment of simple misfortune.

 

ankle

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

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 😉