Tag Archives: writing

Is this illness or stress?

Autistic people tend to get quite stressed with sensory issues, changes in routine, the need to plan, anxiety build-up, and social communication all playing a part. Stress can and often will have a physical impact: this might be stomach pains, headaches, sickness and more extreme symptoms. I have found this out myself on more that one occasion. Headaches, feeling sick or having pains in my stomach is far from uncommon, and I know by now that they are all signs of an overload. When I was around five or six, before I was home-educated, I would have awful pains in my stomach and feel as if I were going to throw-up knowing that I would have to go to school the next morning. If anyone had seen me they would have thought I was ill, but this was something I felt every night and every morning before school. It was not an illness, it was stress and anxiety brought on by my hatred of school. In more recent years there have been two times when after a big event, for example, a talk or my book launch I have found myself racked with stomach cramps that have led to me being unable to anything, but lie down and wait for them to pass. These have not come on an hour or two after though; the first lot came the night after my book launch, and the second lot came the morning after my talk. I have not had anything like them at any other time, and despite how bad my stomach can get, this was much worse. The first time this came on after my book launch I knew I was going to be sick; it was around eight when I first started feeling the pain, and I was up till after four in the morning, throwing up four times. The next morning I was fine – they were gone as soon as they’d arrived. The second time I was not sick, but again the pain started when I woke up and I could do nothing but ride it out. By the end of the day I was almost back to normal.

It is my belief that these pains and the sickness were brought on by the build-up of anxiety and stress that led up to each event. Add to that the social pressure and sensory impact of the two events, and you can see why the stress and overload might be so great it has a physical impact on my body.

In fact sometimes it can be all too easy to put something down to stress or anxiety or overload. On Monday night I started to feel pain in my side and stomach again, not as bad as the two times talked about before, but the same kind of pain. I had been to two quite stressful and overwhelming appointments in the week leading up to this after months of not doing much at all, so I put it down to that. I had been trying to get back to normal after a long time of not doing anything and I had been doing well, but now my body was telling me not to push it. So when I woke up the next morning and the pain was still there I cancelled the appointment I had for that day, and decided to rest. In fact the pain lasted most of the week. I am free of it today, but it’s been there to greater or lesser degrees since Monday.

On one hand the fact that I was able to see when things were too much, and take a step back with out pushing myself too far is a good thing. In the past I have not always been able to do this, and although I was in pain this time there was no throwing-up, and the pain was not anywhere near as bad as it has been in the past. But it made me think; as soon as I felt that pain and the feeling of sickness that came with it in the first day or two my mind instantly said “stress and overload”. On the third day I thought about the idea that it might be a strain of some kind, but that would not make sense as I felt it in two places, and as I say it also came with a feeling of sickness. But I do wonder how do you tell normal pain and feelings of sickness from pain and sickness brought on by stress? I knew what I had been doing in the week leading up to getting the pain for the first time so I guess it makes sense that my mind would jump to that. But in doing so I run the risk of ignoring a real physical illness that could get worse the longer it’s left. It’s a hard call to make; you do not want to go running of to the doctors every time you have a bit of pain, and it is often good to let things resolve themselves on their own, but even if leaving something will not cause any harm and it does fix itself, I am still left with the question – am I feeling pain as a result of stress, or is there something else wrong?

The pain induced by stress can come in all forms, and sometimes last for days so at what point do I say there might be something else going on? When you add to that my high pain threshold, and the way I tend to get used to feeling a certain way it’s hard to find that point. When I talk about getting used to feelings what I mean is (and this might apply to other autistic people) I mean that I find myself getting used to feeling a certain way very quickly. This has often led to things going unnoticed for a long time in the past. I have talked in blogs before about the infection I got in my foot at one point. When I first began to feel the pain I brought it up, but then within days I was just used to feeling pain in that toe, to wincing every time it touched my bed covers, or I had to put my shoes on. As strange as it might sound I did not think about the pain in-between those moments; I was aware of it and aware that it had not always been that way, but it was weeks or perhaps even a month after first bringing it up that I thought to tell anyone that it was still causing me a lot of pain. Now of course that was nothing to do with stress, and I did not think for one moment at the time that it was. But you can see how it might lead to issues at some point; a pain starts and I put it down to stress, it stays for a few days but stress pains can do that so I leave it, and it would be easy for me to just adapt and not think too much about it from that point. I do know that this might not make any sense at all to some of you, but perhaps some other autistic people might understand what I am talking about.

I have no idea when I start to feel pain if I have hurt myself some how, if there is something else going on, or if it’s due to stress. So I have a day or two of relaxing to try and de-stress and the pain goes away, but who knows, perhaps that is just coincidence? Anyone could feel stress-related pains from time to time, but when you are autistic they happen – at least in my case – quite a lot, and to make things more complicated they do not always feel the same. Sometimes it’s feeling sick, sometimes it’s headaches, and sometimes it’s feeling dizzy or faint, and much more. In the worst case scenario this could lead to me putting something down to stress that is in fact a symptom of something physical. But even if that never happens it is still very irritating to never know the source of any pain that I might feel, to have to make a guess and hope that it is right.

Does anyone else find this hard? Do you know when something is down to stress, and when it’s physical?

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

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And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

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Why I have always hated getting my hair cut.

I have always hated having my hair cut. I have no memories of ever going to have it cut without having to be talked in to it, and spending the whole time wishing it was over. This is far from uncommon with autistic people, and there are a few good reasons for that. I thought I would talk a little bit about what makes getting my hair cut so hard for me – as always bear in mind these will not apply to ever autistic person, and there might be things you find hard that I have not thought of.

The sensory impact: I have talked a lot on this blog about sensory overload and the impact it can have on me and other autistic people, and I realise more and more as I get older quite how much of an impact it has on me day to day. When you go for a hair cut you have someone touching your head and hair. They might be doing this for ten minutes or forty minutes, but in my case at least it’s much more contact than I would ever normally have with a stranger. I do not like to be touched by strangers, nor do a lot of other autistic people, so having my head pushed and pulled, my hair touched, pulled and so on is much more touch than I am used to.

This is why I never have my hair washed before I have it cut – I do that at home before I go out. There is more than enough touching and moving of my head going on without washing it too!

Having to sit there and let someone mess about with your head and hair can be very stressful, and easily lead to sensory overload. On its own the touching is more than enough to bring on an overload, but that is not the only sensory input that comes with a hair cut. There is background noise and often lots of it: talking, hair-dryers, phones going off, and people coming in and out the whole time. More often than not when you are sat having your hair cut this will be coming at you from three sides at once. So when you think about being sat in a busy, noisy environment with someone touching you, and pulling your head this way and that it’s no wonder that, for me at least, hair cuts lead to overload.

Talking: I have been quite lucky the last few times I have gone to get my hair cut as no-one has tried to talk directly to me too much. But it is not uncommon for a hairdresser or barber to start making small talk. “Where have you been on holiday?” is a classic. I understand why they try this small talk; a lot of people do enjoy it, and it can be seen as friendly and therefore encourage people to come back. Add to that the fact that the person cutting your hair works with the same people every day, and might have been working in the same room doing the same task for hours before you come along – it’s not that I do not understand why they might want a chat it’s just that I hate small talk as the best of times. As I have already said having my hair cut can be an overwhelming experience anyway, so the last thing I want to do in the middle of it is start talking. But as I am sure you all know it’s so hard to get out of small talk without being seen as rude. I have never quite understood this; if I were to say that I did not want to talk that would be seen as rude, but chatting on at someone who is basically a captive audience for twenty minutes about inane nonsense when it is clear they do not want to talk is not viewed as rude? Perhaps it’s just me, but that seems a bit strange. Sadly even if no-one is talking to you there still tends to be a lot of talking going on between other people. A lot of people do see going to get their hair cut as a chance for a good chat so even on days when I do not have to try and make small talk I tend to find that there are others all around me making small talk that I can not help but hear, and which only adds to the sensory overload.

Change: We all know change can be hard for autistic people, and the whole point of a hair cut is to change something about yourself. Even if it’s only getting it trimmed back down to its normal length there is still going to be a change in how you look. It might not be a change that we think about very often, but for most of us it’s one of the few things that we do where we actively change something about ourselves. The worry about this change might not even be something we are aware of feeling. For me I do not worry about what I will look like after my hair cut, but I do have a hard time asking for what I want. I know I want to change something about my hair, but I never know quite how to say it “Like it is now but shorter” is about as good as it gets for me, but they always seem to need to know more. As it’s not something I care about or spend any time thinking about I never know what to say when asked for more detail (I forget between hair cuts what I asked for, or what was done). This can mean that although I am not worried about the idea of a change on the outside, when I am confronted very clearly about what I want to change and how, I often find I have no clue and basically just want to keep my hair as close as I can to the way it was when I went in.

Not being able to fade in to the background: This one is a bit more vague than the rest, and at least two of the other points can be tied in with it. When someone is cutting your hair, working on your head, you can not just fade in to the background, and not be noticed. People will keep touching you, they will keep talking to you, you will be asked what you want, and shown how it looks at the end, and asked to say something about it. However quiet you stay you will still have to deal with all those things. Often when I become overloaded I will just stay quiet and kind of fade out, trying to stay in the background and not worry too much about what is going on. But when the focus of an event, or room is on me I can not do that. Even for something as small as a hair cut that power is taken away leaving me to deal with the full impact of what is going on without the option to bow out of it. When I feel I am at the point where I just want to close my eyes, not talk, and not have anyone talk to me there is still someone standing right behind me pulling at my hair, talking to me, and asking me to pass judgement on the haircut.

So overall as you can tell hair cuts are not fun for me, and as I said at the start I know that this is true for quite a lot of autistic people. I keep my hair longer now, and while that means my hair cuts can take longer they are also a lot less frequent. But even when my hair was short, and a cut did not take long at all I still hated them. I know that I need them, and I am willing to have them (although I do put them off for as long as I can) but that does not mean I have to like them.

How do you feel about hair cuts? Is there anything you dislike about them that I have not put in this blog?

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

Autism and the Heatwave: Why I find the hot weather so hard.

As I am sure you are aware the UK has been in experiencing a heat wave for the past few weeks, as has most of Europe and North America. Temperatures have gone in to the early 30s in the UK on some days, and while it has been a bit cooler the last few days the temperature is set to rise again for the coming week. Some people have been enjoying the heat and some have been putting up with it without much complaint, but it has driven home to me just how hard I find the hot weather. At times when the heat is too much I find it hard to do even the most basic of things. Let me explain why the heat impacts me so much.

I talked in a blog a while ago about how a cold for me is worse than pain a lot of the time. A cold brings with it a whole host of sensory issues, and sensory issues more than pain make it hard for me to do things, and lead to overload. The heat is the same; I sweat, my clothes feel uncomfortable on me, my skin is hot and overall my body feels different to how it feels for most of the year. These feeling might not mean much if you are not autistic, but when you do have sensory issues having your whole body react and feel different to the way you are used to can have a big impact. It’s not just that I am overheated and sweaty, it’s that those feelings – the feeling of sweat on my skin, the heat of the sun, and so on – feel wrong. There is no basic state you can go back to when sensory impact becomes too much. On a normal day I might go outside and find things too noisy or overwhelming, and come home. After a few hours of rest on my own, controlling my own sensory input, I would be able to get back to my basic level. There would not be any unwelcome sensory input, and that would help me avoid overload.

But when it’s too hot I find I can not do that. How can I go back to a basic day to day normal level of sensory input when I am sweating just sitting at my desk, when even just doing nothing is causing a high level of sensory input I would not normally have? And it’s not just that: it’s the smell of sun-cream, the constant noise outside (playing, cutting grass) and all the sounds, smells etc. of people trying to make the most of the sun. It might not sound like a lot, but a large part of it is the fact that for nine months of the year there is none of that, and then it is all day, every day, and that sudden change makes it harder even though you know it’s coming. This year it has also been the sheer unrelenting nature of the heatwave.

The more sensory input the more overloaded I become, and the harder it becomes to do anything.

Along similar lines I find it impossible to get comfortable in the heat. I tend to like to wear the same things all year round, but even when I do make concessions to the heat and wear a T-shirt without a top over it I find even that sticks to me. If I want to go outside or I have something I have to go to it’s even worse as I have to put sun-cream on, and there is not much I hate more sensory-wise; the feel, the smell and the way you can feel it on your skin for days. Too hot, too sweaty, clothes too uncomfortable, and extra sensory input from all sides – it’s pretty hard to feel comfy or relaxed. Even taking a shower will not always help. I find that if it is too hot I start to sweat when I get out of the shower, and I always feel the need to be fully dry before I put any of my clothes back on so this can make it quite hard. I feel the benefit later in the day, but when I get out of the shower and start getting dry, and find myself unable to fully dry off due to sweat it can make me feel even worse!

There is also the fact that it becomes harder to stick to a routine. Partly because of the heat and partly because of other peoples reactions to it. I might have a plan for the week only to find that it is far too hot to do something I was planning to do. This might be saying that I will clean the house before lunch only for it to be 30 degrees. I start thinking “Well if I do that cleaning in this heat I am going to need a shower, I don’t have the energy to do all that now”. Little things like this can add up, and make it hard for me to know what to do and when. Things that are not normally hard to do become hard because of how badly I cope in the heat which means it takes longer to build up to them, which can throw my whole plan for the day off course.

Add to that the fact that other people might change the plans, “Do you really want to do that on a nice day like today?” “Would it not be better to do something outside?” As soon as the summer heat comes you will find people wanting to change their plans and routines, which in turn can mess up your plans and routines.

Of course it’s not only autistic people who do not enjoy the heat, and not all autistic people dislike hot weather, but speaking for myself I hate it. I do like the way things look: clear bright blue skies, bees buzzing around, and sunlight shining in through windows, but other than that there is nothing fun or nice about the heat for me. It always knocks me back somewhat, and it takes me a while to readjust to it, and be able to get back some kind of work routine, but this year has been much worse than normal. Partly due to the fact that I have been having a hard time making and sticking to a routine anyway (hence the lack of blogs) and partly due to the fact that it has been so much hotter than normal this year. I was hardly able to do anything for about two weeks with the heat. I have been able to do a lot more over the past week due to working out a new routine that works for me and sticking to it, but for a while there the heatwave pretty much stopped me from functioning. It looks as if summers like this are here to stay though due to climate change, so in the years to come I might have to work out more ways of dealing with the heat.

How does the heat affect you? And if you are autistic and find the heat hard what do you do to help yourself deal with it?

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

Why my anxiety levels rise when people come to do work in the house.

Over the past few weeks we have had to have quite a few jobs done around the house. As these are jobs we cant do ourselves this has meant having to have tradespeople around such as joiners,and electricians. You might think that having people in the house and the noise they make when working would be the worst part of this, and for some autistic people it might well be, but for myself – and I am sure for some other autistic people – the worst part by far is waiting for them to come. I don’t just mean waiting for a few hours for them to arrive on the day either. Let me explain what I mean.

In my mind when I make a plan it’s a set thing; if I have to be somewhere I want to know the day and the time I need to be there, and the chances are I will be early. If I can’t make it I will get in touch and give as much notice as I can. You might put that down to my autism and you may well be right, but I also think it’s just basic courtesy. If you are going around to someone’s house you should at least tell them when you plan to arrive! Yet this basic information is almost impossible to prise from most people who do come around; want someone to come around and do a basic job in the house? They will be with you some time early next week. Well what day is that? Monday, Tuesday at the latest? Unless they get busy with something else then it might be Wednesday. OK, and would that be morning or afternoon? Morning, unless they run late then, afternoon.

Ah, OK, cool, just let me put three days aside for a half hour job then. Due to my autism it is almost impossible for me to focus on doing anything if I know I have someone coming to the house. As strange as it might sound to non-autistic people on a day when I have workmen around even though I am doing nothing, and they are doing all the work just having them come around and do the job takes up all my energy for that day. The waiting in, the knowing I will have to have some level of social contact, the not knowing how long the work will go on for, the noise, the disruption of having people in my house and what that does to my routine. Having to set one day aside to deal with this is bad enough, but it must be done in order to get things done around the house. But if this goes on for three or four days as it will if people are not clear on when they are coming, then you can end up wasting half the week being sat round feeling anxious not knowing if someone is coming around or not!

I am not quite sure why people find it so hard to look at a diary and see what day they are free before making plans instead of putting aside big blocks of time where they may or may not come around if they feel like it. It means instead of the anxiety building up over one day, and then being able to get back in to the swing of my routine the next day, you end up having two or three days of build up and if you’re lucky then having someone come to do a job. Which brings me on to the next issue…..

If you commit to being somewhere at a set date and time and you can’t make it you have to get in touch and explain that right? I think we can all – autistic or not – agree on that. But if you just say you might be somewhere that seems to be some kind of get-out clause. If you said you might come around at six and you realise you can’t you don’t have to ring up and tell the people whose anxiety has been building up all day because you only said you might be there. Never mind the fact that they may well have changed plans for you, changed their routine, waited in and are going to be on edge for the evening in case you turn up. It takes a few seconds to send a text saying “Can’t make it, call tomorrow to rearrange.” And yet the amount of times someone has just not turned up without any form of contact is, for me at least, shocking. Again this is not just about the impact on my autism, though that can be huge. Waiting in all day unable to do anything only for the person not to turn up without any contact to let us know of this change of plans does add to my levels of stress and anxiety, but it also means the day ends with me knowing I have to do it all again. Not only do I have to do it all again, but when I do there will be even more anxiety because now who ever it is has a track-record of not turning up. So I will half expect them not to turn up again which just adds a whole new level to things. But as I say it’s not just that. Again it goes back to common place courtesy: make a plan, make it clear and then stick to it. If you can’t then have the decency to let who ever you made the plan with know.

And when I say make a plan I don’t mean text the night before and ask if you can come around and do a job. The answer will always be no. I need notice, not a few hours notice, but a few days notice at least. This should not be too hard to understand or to give. I do understand that for most non-autistic people this would not be as big a deal as it is for me, but still people have work or university; they do things with their lives’s so you would think that a few days notice would be important for most people. Again it comes back to the fact that making a real plan, showing that you will take the time to plan things out, and then stick to them is always better than doing things on the spur of the moment.

It is hard to get someone who is not autistic to fully understand how disruptive and stressful having someone come to the house to do jobs can be. The levels of anxiety and the change in routine make it very hard, but I honestly believe that if it were more clear and well arranged the stress would not be half what it is. If I knew someone was coming at seven on a Wednesday evening then yes it would still be hard to focus that day, yes I might still feel overloaded once they had gone, but at least it would then be over. A plan would have been made, I would have be able to make plans for that day knowing that work was going to be happening, and how that would make me feel and from the next morning I could be back to my routine.

But if I have to put aside two or three days in case someone comes around only for them not to come around, and then I have to go through the same act the next week just to get one small job done I can lose the best part of two weeks just for an hours work. As well as driving my stress levels up this makes it much harder to get the jobs done on the house that need doing. If it takes two weeks of stress to get one job done I want the next few weeks to catch up on work I missed due to the change in my routine, plus the last thing I want to think about is trying to make more plans to get jobs done. This means other jobs that need doing get left because I just can’t put up with another two or three weeks of messing around just to get someone to come round and do them.

I understand that not everyone knows about autism and even if they do they don’t know I am autistic, but again I think what I am saying should be true in most cases. No one wants to wait three days to find out if someone is coming only for them not to turn up, no one wants to be told someone will be there some time between ten and seven, and no one wants someone to cancel or change plans without notice. The difference is for most people it’s a minor irritation, but for myself and other autistic people it can be a massive disruption and cause of stress/anxiety; something that takes an already stressful event and makes it ten times harder than it needs to be. I can do work around dealing with the stress of knowing someone is coming, and I can try and get myself to a point where I can do other things instead of just wait. But it can’t all be me, at some point I need people to meet me half-way, and at least let me know what day it is I will have to prepare myself for!

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

Writing aims for 2018.

Last year was a bad year for me writing-wise. I put up at least two blogs where I talked about what a strange year it was, and how little I had got done so I wont go over that too much here. I just want to write a bit about what my aims for 2018 are, and why it matters for me to get back in to my writing.

First of all blog-wise I want to put out at least one blog per week. I am already on track with that with this blog, and the one I have already posted this year. Of course keeping that up for a full year is a bigger task, but that’s why I want to write blogs in advance, and plan out when I am going to be putting them up instead of just writing them when ideas come in to my mind. It’s also why I am open to ideas relating to what you might want to see me write about on here this year. If you have any ideas feel free to comment below, or get in touch via Facebook or Twitter. Last year I did write a bit on why blogging was important to me, how it helps me get my ideas out there without having to worry about them meeting somebody else’s standards. And I do feel that is one of the great things about blogs; autistic people can put our ideas and advice out there for each other (and non- autistic people wishing to learn more) to read and learn from. Sometimes if I am having a hard day just coming a across a blog that puts in to words something I have been dealing with can be a huge help, and I know from comments left on my blogs that my writing can also have that effect. I enjoy putting up blogs, and I also like the fact that at times what I write can help other people.

When it comes to books that’s a bit more open. I know I would like to write at least one book relating to autism in some way in 2018, but I am not quite sure what that will be. There is a lot around that subject that interests me so it’s a case of working out what I feel able to talk about and what I want to talk about first, and getting something together. That being said I would also like to do more work on my non-autism related books this year – as some of you know I do write horror/crime books, and I would like to make sure I put the time in to edit the draft of the work I have already done, and write the first draft for another book.

That’s really it when it comes to writing goals for the year, but the main point underlying it all is I want to get back to enjoying writing, and thinking of myself as a writer. Being a writer should be the easiest thing in the world – all you have to do after all is sit down and type. I am not talking about getting to the stage of being a published author or even being a good writer to the point where other would enjoy your work, I am just talking about being a writer. If you write regularly and finish your projects (it does not count if you leave everything half way through!) then you’re a writer. Odd then that there are such a lot of people out there saying they wish they could be writers. Perhaps what they mean is they wish they could be published because as I say to be a writer all you have to do is decide to write, and get on with it. Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of that though, easy to drift off and leave weeks between spells of writing, to fall in to that trap of waiting for the right moment to write, and that’s when you stop thinking of yourself as a writer and start thinking of yourself as someone who would love to be able to write. I feel like 2017 was like that for me; I did not write anywhere near enough to call myself a writer last year, and I want 2018 to be different.

I do not normally care much for New Year’s resolutions, but there is something to be said for looking back on the past year and seeing if it was well spent. If not then when you turn to look at the next twelve months stretching ahead you have to think to yourself “How can I make sure when I am looking back on 2018 I am going to feel it was worth while?”

For me a year full of writing would be a huge step in the right direction in terms of what I want to go on to achieve in my life, and as I say when you bring it down to its most simple form nothing should be more easy to stick to than doing more writing.

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

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And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

The transition in to January: Why it can be so hard and what can help with it.

I have written quite a bit about how hard Christmas and New Year can be for autistic people, but it’s also worth saying how hard January can be. December is full of change and we all know how hard that can be, but by the time you have started to get used to it, it all changes back again. What you eat, what time you go to bed, your routine, the decorations everything goes back to normal pretty quickly. Because it’s going back to normal it might not seem like as big a change, but it is, and it can in fact be even worse. At least with Christmas you get time off or nice food – the change might be hard, but for a lot of people it at least comes with positives. But January is an almost universally hated month to begin with; nothing much happens in it for most people, the fun of the holidays is over, and everything changes back to normal within a day or two.

For autistic people there is also the fact that January can be spent dealing with the build-up of sensory overload that can come with Christmas. It’s not uncommon for a meltdown to occur days, or even weeks after the event that trigged it. There have been times where I have become overloaded due to going out, but have seemed to be doing quite well for three or four days after only to have a meltdown the next week. In December you have a month full of change and things that can lead to a build-up of overload, and the knock-on effect of that can be felt well in to January.

So when you put those things together you have a month that can be pretty dull and grim anyway, starts with a big change all of its own, and is more than likely still being impacted by the events of December.

What can you do about this?

The first and most important thing is just to be aware of it. That might sound strange or not specific enough, but it is extremely easy to forget all about how hard January can be. December is over and that is the month that draws attention to itself; the changes are very clear, and it’s easy to see what impact they might have. But everything changes back so fast it’s easy to forget how long that impact can last, and also to forget that the change back to normal life is a huge change all on its own. Add that to the fact that the year is literally changing, and you can see why you should be aware of how hard January can be, but also why it often gets forgotten about. Just being aware of the issues that might arise will help. If you’re feeling overloaded or stressed-out remember why that might be, and perhaps be on the look-out for signs of a meltdown, or just keep in mind that just because the year changes the build-up of overload will not go away.

Another idea might be writing down how things will change, and if these changes will be good or bad. This is something worth doing at the start of December too, and it might be that you do it all in one go – talking about how things will change for Christmas and New Year, and how they will change back. Or you might do another chart for January talking about how things will change back, how this makes you feel and what the impact will be, for example less time around the house, different food, and the fact that that might make you feel more stressed or overloaded. (If you want to find out more about our strategies for dealing with transition check out our book on the topic https://www.jkp.com/uk/helping-children-with-autism-spectrum-conditions-through-everyday-transitions.html )

If you can you might also ease yourself back in to things slowly. So plan things out: What day are you taking your decorations down? When are you going to change your diet? Perhaps don’t plan one day to switch everything back, spread it out over the first week or so of the year so that it is not so overwhelming. If you have work or school then you will have a set day you need to be back at that, but perhaps don’t change everything on that date. So you could take you decorations down the day before or the day after so that the change does not happen all at once.

It might also be worth planning a few nice things to do in January. It’s a month most people dislike and it can be made better by having something positive in it. This will not work for everyone as making plans to do things outside the norm can sometimes just create more stress and change. For me a positive plan might be to try and get out for a few walks in the park. So nothing with any real social interaction or travelling, just something to help ease the tension in a house containing two overloaded, autistic people!

It might be that your plans are small and specific like mine, or it might be than having a few bigger plans works for you. Nothing will work for everyone, and everyone is different so just find what works for you and stick with it.

December and January can be hard months – fun at times, but also hard – and one key thing that you have to bear in mind is some, not all but some, of the change you can opt out of. You don’t have any control over school, college being closed, but perhaps if there are shifts on at work you could take them. You can’t stop everyone else putting up Christmas decorations, going out or having a party for New Years, but you don’t have to make a fuss about any of it. You don’t have to change what you eat, what time you go to bed, you don’t have to stay up till midnight, and if you work from home you don’t have to stop working or change your routine over the holidays. I am not suggesting that you don’t get in to the holiday spirit as lots of autistic people (like myself) love doing so even if it comes with some challenges. But what I am saying is that for some people not making those changes, and therefore having less to change back in January, might make this time of year a bit easier. And if that’s the case then my point is that you should do what works best for you regardless of any pressure from family, or society as a whole. That might be more of a tip for the coming December, but I just thought it was worth putting in.

With all that being said I don’t want to sound like I am being wholly negative about this time of year. It can be nice to start a new year and look forward to the year ahead. It’s just that I know from my own experience that it can also be a hard time of year. Hopefully you all had a good Christmas and New Year, and January is not proving to be too difficult for you.

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

Why I have been avoiding shows about autism.

Last year I watched The A Word and did a review for each episode, but this year I have not even caught up on the first episode of series two yet. This is in part due to me being busy and having a lot of other things to watch, but it is also due to the fact that I find it quite hard and cringe-inducing to watch shows/films that seek to portray autism. That’s also why I never got around to watching Atypical, despite thinking that I should write something about it. So why have I been avoiding shows with autism in them? And should I keep doing so?

There has been a bit of patten in recent years with The A word, The Good Doctor, Atypical and the Accountant among others all being released to media praise, and a backlash from autistic people. It normally goes something like this: The show/film comes out and gets widely praised for having an autistic character, autistic people let themselves hope it will be done right, watch the show/film only to find out it`s been badly done and is mostly just stereotypes, and react badly to it. We write blogs and post online about why the film/show is getting things wrong, and urge people not to take what that program is showing them as a realistic image of what autism is, then the show`s/film`s creators respond by saying that the show/film is not meant to represent everyone with autism, and can not tell everyone’s story, and that’s the end of it until the next show/film.

Firstly to address some of those points: of course each show and film can only tell one story, and is not meant to represent everyone, but some of the stories we see in film and T.V. do not seem to represent anyone; they are just stereotypes brought to life on screen. Plus you only have to look at the Rainman effect to see what power films and T.V. have over how people see autism and autistic people. Even now, well over twenty years since its release, it is still one of the first things some people go to when they think of autism. It`s not that it`s a bad film, it`s just that lots of people don’t want to look any further in to a subject once they have seen one film or T.V. show on it. They think they understand it now and can talk about it like experts. The truth is autistic people understand that one show or one film is not going to show everything there is to know about autism, but sadly a lot of non-autistic people do not seem to understand this. Therefore those shows/films have a power that most others do not; they will help shape and create non-autistic peoples` views and perceptions of autistic people for years to come.

So when a new T.V. show comes on the air autistic people tend to have a mix of feelings; we want it to be good – why would we not after all? But we also worry that it will be bad. If it is bad then some of us will feel we have to react to it; to keep watching through the cringingly bad attempts to show how autistic people talk, think and feel, to keep watching even if it passes the point of being offensively bad. And sometimes it is worth doing that – you can`t write about something or hold it to account if you have not watched it. You can dislike an idea, but to call out a show or film you do have to sit down and watch it. You have to think about why it`s bad, write that down, edit it and post it somewhere, and that’s the thing – sometimes it just does not feel worth while doing that.

It is always worth autistic people speaking up and challenging poor portrayals of autism on T.V. If we do not do this then who will? And like I said those portrayals, if left unchallenged, will dictate how non-autistic people view autism. But still, having to watch through them can sometimes be trying. It`s hard enough to have to watch bad films and T.V. without falling asleep or drifting off to find something better to do, but when you have to watch bad TV/films that also try and fail to show autism it becomes even harder to get through. It`s hard to put the feeling in to words; it`s not always that things are offensive, although sometimes they are, it`s more that it can just be downright painful to watch sometimes. I am sure we have all seen a film or T.V. show that got stuff badly wrong when showing autism, and if you have then you will know the feeling I am talking about.

It can feel like autistic people are having to say the same things over and over again when talking about how autistic people are shown on T.V. We pick up on the same issues time and time again, and talk/write about them, and yet not much seems to change.

So is it worth watching and reviewing these shows/films?

It`s always worth talking and writing about how autism is portrayed in film or on T.V. Even, or perhaps especially, if it is a bad portrayal. Of course anyone can review anything, but the views of an autistic person must hold more weight when talking about autism on screen. That being said no one is ever obligated to review a show or film. Once you start writing about things like that it can start to feel as if you need to watch everything to keep up with what’s going on, and give your views on every new T.V. show that comes out. But you might not want to; you might be fed up of watching TV/films that frustrate you, but also you might just not have time to keep up with everything. Right now autism is a pretty big deal on T.V. There are new shows coming out about it all the time, and it would be hard for anyone to keep up.

In short yes it is important for autistic people to speak up if we see a bad, negative, or flawed image of autism on T.V. and also to say when people get stuff right, but it`s also totally understandable if we need a break from doing this from time to time. I will try and catch up on The A word, and despite my talk of bad portrayals of autism on T.V. I will keep an open mind going in to it. And while I can`t watch and talk about every show that deals with autism, I do try and read as many reviews of these shows by autistic people as I can.

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

Why I have not been writing.

As you might have noticed I have not been blogging much over the last few months. I did write a post about this a while ago talking about why I had not been writing, how low my mood was and saying I was going to try my best to get back in to writing and blogging, but as you can see things have not quite gone to plan. There is no point going over those issues again too much, but I thought it worth addressing as I am trying once more to start blogging.

As you will know if you have been keeping up to date with my blog I have been finding it hard to write, or in fact hard to do much of anything for quite a while now. This has been due to a mix of overload, depression and family issues. Back in August when I first wrote about these issues I did mean to start blogging again, once a week if I was able, but it did not work out that way. I have been finding it hard to get rid of my overload, and have been overloaded almost constantly, to the point of not being able to do anything. I will write about this as an issue on its own as it’s still on-going, and there is quite a lot to be said about it. But I am sure you can understand that if I am so overloaded I cannot even think straight, or sit down to relax, that writing,editing and posting a blog has been beyond me for quite sometime.

It is something of a vicious circle as not being able to write has only added to my low mood. For years I was sure that I wanted to be a writer, that writing was something I enjoyed and would always want to do. But when my mood dipped, and I was so overloaded I could not even think about trying to write without feeling worn-out, and fuzzy-headed, some of that belief started to leave me. It’s hard to make a living out of writing. I don’t do that now and I never have done, but my hope has always been to one day be able to make enough money from my writing to live off. Even though that’s hard when you are getting up early every morning and writing two thousand words a day, posting blogs every week, editing one novel while writing another, and having articles published in newspapers and magazines, it is easier to imagine. When you get to the point where you are hardly writing, you are not posting your work, and you are not even thinking of good ideas – or if you do think of an idea you do nothing with it – then it becomes harder and harder to think that you will ever make a living off it.

When I decided not to go back to university it was so that I would have more time to write. At the time it was a good idea; after all, I wanted to be a writer so what was the point in using the time I could be writing to do something else? But then when I became unable to write confusion set in; if I was not using this time to write had I made the right call? I had made a choice, uni or work, and I had chosen work only to find I was not doing either! Now on a logical level I can say to myself that knowing the way I have been feeling the past year or so that university would not have worked for me. As I say I have been too overloaded and depressed to even pick up a book or watch a film a lot of days, let alone go to university. So whatever I had chosen I would not have ended up doing due to my mood.

But even so doubt starts to set in. The more I think about it every job I would want to do involves writing, and I have been writing in some form or another since I was six years old. I have a book published, have co-written two other published books, and have written over one hundred articles so most of my life – certainly any part of it involving work – has been centred around writing, and being a writer. So when I suddenly stop being able to write what am I meant to put in its place? What am I meant to work on? To aim for? It puts me in a place of uncertainty, and casts doubt on plans I have been working on for years. And we all know that change and uncertainty are not good for autistic people. That’s not the only impact – writing is like everything else; if you want to be good at it you have to work at it and do so often. You can not just write once every few months, and expect what you write to be good. Even looking at my writing here I can tell it’s not my best. That being said I do not judge myself too much on my writing in blogs. I feel they are less formal and I tend to worry less about the style of my writing. But the point still stands – if you want to be good at something, at anything, you have to do it as much as you can. Taking breaks for months at a time is never going to have a good impact on your writing skills.

So I can’t write because of my low mood and the less I write the worse I feel.

I have been working on lifting my mood and cutting down on my overload quite a bit over the past few weeks, and I will write more about how I have been doing that, and how it has been helping. You can see of course that what I have been trying has been working somewhat as I am writing this now. Although it is only one blog that in some ways is just going over issues I have already blogged about, or setting up blogs I plan on writing, but have not written yet, I am still glad that I was able to sit here and type it out. It might not be a lot when compared to what I used to do, but compared to what I have been doing most days for, well for most of this year, which is absolutely nothing, it is a lot. But how ever much it is I am just happy I have been able to write something, and I plan on keeping it going. My aim now is to write something, even if it’s only a few lines every day, from now until the end of the year, and then take stock in the New Year and see where I go from there. Things are still hard in lots of ways, but I feel more upbeat about them now than I have done for the last few months.

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

100 BLOGS!

I recently posted my 100th blog on ASK-PERGERS. I am writing this after the fact so it should be around post number 102 now. There is not a massive amount to say about this, but I wanted to make some acknowledgement of the milestone. A lot of hours of writing and editing have gone in to getting to one hundred posts, and I am glad that I have been able to stick with it and keep thinking of things to write about. I have been giving some thought lately to why I started the blog, and if I feel it is accomplishing what I wanted it to when I started out. So why did I start the blog?

  1. I wanted somewhere I could write what I wanted to write without having to pitch the idea to someone, or have an editor change it. It’s not that writing for other people is bad, it’s just nice to have a place where I can put down my ideas without having to run them past someone who can reject them. People might not read what I write, or they might not care about it, but there is nothing and no one stopping me from writing it. It would be kind of hard not to accomplish this as that is the very nature of a blog, so just by using my blog and writing with freedom, I am accomplishing this goal.

  2. I wanted to help educate people about autism. I can’t speak for all autistic people, and I don’t claim to be able to, but I do hold the firm belief that autistic people are the best experts on autism, and we are the ones who should be listened to by those wishing to learn more about autism. Have I been able to educate people? The feedback I have received leads me to think that I have. Parents often tell me that they feel they understand more about their autistic child after reading one of my blogs. This is great on two levels; one, it makes me feel good about what I am writing, but also it means that parents are listening to me as an autistic person, and realising that the best way to understand autistic people is just to listen to us when we explain something.

  3. I wanted to see how much other autistic people would be able to identify with what I was writing about. Often when I read other blogs or tweets, or even look at memes made by autistic people, I can instantly identify with what they are saying. They might be saying something that I have never heard anyone else say before, that I realise applies to me. I learn more about myself and about autism from reading the writings and tweets of fellow autistic people than I do reading any books written by so-called experts on the subject. I read something another autistic person has put out there, and realise they have given words to something I have always felt but have never been able to sum-up. So part of me wanting to write about autism – and especially any of the blogs that relate to my personal life/feelings – was in the hopes of being able to do that for someone else. Have I managed to do that? Once again by looking at the feedback I have had over the years I can say yes. Often when I post one of the more personal blogs I will have autistic people reply to me and tell me they are happy I wrote it, and that I summed it up perfectly. This works two ways; I get to write down something that I find hard, or write about something that impacts my life without knowing if anyone else out there is going to feel the same, and put it out there, and someone else gets to find it, and we both get to recognize that there are others out there who feel the same as we do.

Those are the key aims I had when I started to blog, and as you can see I feel that each one of them has been a success. There have been other benefits of blogging too of course: I have met and talked to a lot of new people, got better as a writer, and also found that when writing is hard I can often still get some done by working on a blog rather than having everything be a big project like a novel. But those are the three main reasons I started blogging, and I feel that with those three being accomplished – as well as all the other benefits – blogging has been well-worth starting, and is definitely something I want to keep working at. At times it can be hard to think what to say; I feel that I need to make some important point in each blog or educate people all the time, but the truth is it all goes back to that first point – if it’s your blog you can put anything you like in it, and that is what is so good about blogging.

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

Autism and issues with my routine ….

Last week I wrote a blog about my new routine and how it has been helping me get more done, and feel better about myself, and while that’s true it would be misleading to leave it at that, and not talk a bit about some of the things that can, and have gone wrong with it. These are things that have gone wrong this time, but could also go wrong with any routine; so they are not issues with the routine itself, instead they are things that happen that impact on if, and how I can stick to my routine.

Sometimes it`s hard to establish a routine: What I mean by this is that for me if you do something a few days a week it`s not really a weekly routine. So when I plan out what I will be doing on each day of the week (planning to do the same thing each day) and then have to say “ Well not on Wednesday because I have to go out, and not on Friday because I have to go out then too.” It feels like I am not taking the time to get myself set in a new routine. Of course life throws up things you need to do, and I would not be able to stick to the same plan every day of my life, but if I can`t even stick to it for the first week how am I meant to feel like it`s a daily routine? If I only do it a few days each week it`s hardly a routine. The best thing would have been to clear a week, and do my routine each day so that I was in the swing of it then start to change it as, and when it was needed to fit in the other things life throws up. This way I would have been set in my routine, and more able to get back to it if it had to be changed one day.

Missing one part of it can mess up the whole day: If I say I am going to be up at six, work out and start my work by eight, and in fact I do not get up till seven then that can throw my whole day off. Why? You might be asking. I am at home all day after all, so what if I do the same things just an hour or two later than I was planning? And it`s a good point – that would be the smart thing to do. But sometimes it is not as easy as all that. Often I will try to get back on track after something has not gone to plan, and just find myself unable to do so. Try as I might the days where things go wrong early on hardly ever end up going well. If I am going to make a routine work I need to stick to it fully. Something as small as getting up a bit late can throw me off track for the whole day. Perhaps planning to get up as early as I do is the issue? I like to be up early and enjoy working in the mornings, but if I do have the whole day to work with perhaps I am less likely to fail to get up if I plan to get up a bit later? Or perhaps I just need to make sure I get to bed at a better time so I am less tired in the mornings? Either way that issue can be dealt with, but the point is that anything that goes wrong can mess up the whole routine for any given day.

Not having a plan B: Sometimes things will happen that you just can`t control, for example I get hay fever and sometimes it`s pretty bad. Some days it`s normal; just a blocked nose and a bit of sneezing – nothing too bad. Nothing I cant work through. But every now and then I wake up and it`s bad; I am sneezing every few seconds, my head hurts, and I am sweating and burning up. I feel dizzy, and at times like this there is just no point trying to work. It does not happen often, and only ever lasts a day at a time, but when it does it messes up my plans. I spoke about how I need to plan my rest time too in my last blog, or I end up doing nothing, and this ties-in with that. If I find myself waking up unable to do my routine I am often unsure of what to do. Do I try and do it? Do I admit that I can`t and do something else? What else is there to do? If I had a plan B, a back-up plan to be used on days when I can`t stick to my routine this would not be an issue. The plan could be something as simple as “Watch a few episodes of a certain TV show”. That might not sound like much, but when I am overloaded or feeling the impact of a sudden change of routine it`s very hard for me to find something to do. This is in part due to the fact that I don’t want to do anything, and just can`t get exited about doing things when I feel that way. Therefore, if I were to think about watching a T.V. show on the day I would not want to do it, but if it was pre-planned “If I am unable to do my routine I will watch this show” the chances of me forcing myself to do it (and enjoying it) are much higher. This cuts down on the risk of me just sitting around feeling overloaded after a change to my routine.

Having too much free time: Free time is good, and for me it is needed; I don’t like working to a routine where every minute of the day is planned beforehand (some people do, and it`s just a case of what works for you). But I found that I was working until 12 and then the next thing I had planned was to read at nine at night. This meant I had a lot of time to fill. It`s not to say I did not spend any of that time well: I got films watched, I read and I did work around the house, but I do think perhaps giving myself so much free time in the end was not helpful. I could have half that time, and still have a lot of time to relax and do whatever I want to do. Again how much time is planned, and how much is set in the routine will depend on the person, so to a point I am just trying things out to find out what works for me.

So overall I would say my new routine is a good one; it has helped me somewhat, and has definitely made me feel better on the days when it has worked, but it`s far from perfect yet. But that’s OK, as I said it`s about trying things out, seeing what works, what helps and what makes things worse, and coming up with a plan that helps me to get more done and feel better. That takes time and there might be a whole load more things to learn before we get there, but as long as we get there in the end that’s the main thing. And even in the mean-time having some kind of routine, some basic plan for at least parts of my day is helping me do more than I would if I had nothing at all. Things might not have worked out right away, but they hardly ever do and a good routine is something that’s worth taking the time to get right.

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any help or advice abut Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762