Words On Wednesday

Wednesday (3)

I have Aspergers, and for the most part, living with it does not really bother me but recently I have found myself feeling a bit isolated, especially in work.  Normally, I am quite happy to keep myself to myself and I actually prefer my own company or interaction with just a few select friends but recently I have been wanting to be part of the “crowd”.

With my Aspergers, I find it hard to have conversations and make friends, I never really know what to say or how to keep a conversation going, half the time my mind goes blank and there are awkward silences or I say things that are out of context, or I just feel really awkward and self-conscious.  On top of that, too much interaction can leave me feeling a bit exhausted and overwhelmed and I need time to process my thoughts and feelings.

I have been having these internal conflicts in my head, I feel that I want to talk and add things to conversations but at the same time, I have no real idea of what to say or anything.

Because of this, I very rarely get involved in conversations, especially in work, and now I’m starting to feel a bit isolated.  I don’t really sit near enough to anyone to just chit-chat over the computer monitors and would need to leave my desk to go and chat or have to raise my voice to be heard.  I’m pretty conscious that I have work to do and don’t want to be seen walking around and chatting, nor do I want to disturb anyone by raising my voice, both are things that really irritate me about others.

I do listen when people are talking and do try to join in occasionally but sometimes I feel like I’m not being listened to which is something else that puts me off from joining in.  I have been working in the same office for the past 4 years with some of my colleagues and I feel that sometimes I just don’t get included in things because I don’t get so involved and that can hurt sometimes.

A lot of my colleagues are friends outside of work and see each other regularly, go out for nights out and all sorts of other things which, for me, are too overwhelming.  My anxiety, as well as my Aspergers, makes it hard for me to do these things as I am not keen on crowds or overly loud places.  I struggle if I go out to hear what others are saying or concentrate on what is being said as everything seems as loud as the next noise and can all blur into one deafening roar.  And I think that is partly why I don’t get asked to go places as I normally say I can’t go unless it is to somewhere that I know and that I can leave when I need to.

I know that I won’t always feel like this and that I’m really ok just going to work and doing my job and coming home again, that’s what I’m paid for, but sometimes I think it would be nice to be included in these chats that go on.

I am struggling a bit with this, and really wish I could explain to others how I feel.

 

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Asperger’s and Me

I have Aspergers, or as some would say “high functioning autism”, though I hate the “high functioning” part.  If you have flu, it’s neither described as “mild flu” or “heavy flu” or anything like that, it’s just the flu.  So I have Aspergers, or autism.

Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger’s, is a developmental disorder characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.” (Wikipedia)

I was diagnosed back in the autumn of 2017 though I had an idea way before that, back in 2015, that I had Asperger’s.  It was a relief to get my diagnosis, I finally knew that I wasn’t the weird kid obsessed with art and stationery who was easily overwhelmed by things.  And neither was I the loner that was forever seeking acceptance from the other kids at school.

This presents several issues to me – I have a difficulty in verbalizing things and often have no idea what to say, sometimes what I do say can be classed as inappropriate.  I get overwhelmed by certain things, like certain noises or tones of noise and it can be difficult for me to follow a conversation in noisy atmospheres.  I have difficulty processing things like feelings and can bottle things up until I erupt.  I don’t handle stress particularly well, and can get stressed out pretty easily in certain situations.  I have a hard time concentrating if there is too much noise or other triggering factors.  I don’t like being interrupted when I am working on something as I like to focus fully on that and that alone, this means it can be hard for me to switch my focus to something else and then return to what I was doing before.  I talk too much about the same subjects, usually something I’m super interested in which can mean that I monopolise conversations.  I have a hard time deciphering what people can mean and need people to be really clear in what they say.

But, it’s not all bad…. I love arts and crafts and am really creative.  I do something with a high degree of attention and focus and have an eye for details which others may have missed.  When I set my mind to something I will work hard at it.  I’m a really fast learner, probably because I enjoy learning.  I love researching topics and knowing the ins and outs, whys and whats of subjects and will read every book or article about that topic too.  I have a BA (Hons) in Photographic Art and have a job.

Aspergers is just me, or I am just Aspergers and it is part of me.  I don’t really think about the fact that I have it, to me it is just part of my personality.

Christmas – Tips to Stay Calm on The Day

Due to my Aspergers certain things can send my stress levels soaring and I can get pretty overwhelmed too if there are lots of loud noises, it’s too hot or cold, if the lights are too bright, if there are too many shiny things reflecting light, too many different things flashing, and Christmas is no exception.  I developed strategies to help me stay calm and enjoy my day, so if you find you get stressed maybe a few of these tips will help you.

  1. Try the mindful 4-7-8 breathing exercise.  This method is really useful when you can feel the start of your stress levels rising.  Exhale as much as you can through your mouth, close your eyes and inhale through your nose for a count of 4, then stop and hold your breath for a count of 7 before exhaling through your mouth for a count of 8.  Repeat as many times as needed.
  2. Go to a quiet place for 5 minutes.  Excuse yourself for 5 minutes, set a timer and sit, doing nothing for that time.  Don’t be tempted to check on social media, reply to texts or anything else.  Just try to sit and do nothing.  Once 5 minutes is up, take a few deep, belly breaths then return.
  3. Make lists of what needs doing and when, for example : turkey needs to be in at 10, peas to boil at 2.  Cross things off your list as you do them so you don’t need to worry about whether they have been done.
  4. Delegate.  If you need the kitchen worktops cleaned then ask someone to help.  Don’t try to do everything yourself.  If you can, sit everyone down for a talk a few days before the day and explain what you expect from each person, delegate the jobs to them so they know what to do on the day.
  5. Try to prepare the veg the night before.  I always prepare the veg the night before because for me, standing in a hot, sweaty kitchen on the day battling a peeler and the potatoes is no fun.  If you can prep most of it the night before then try to.  I find that peeling the root veg and leaving in saucepans of cold water overnight stops them from drying out.  You can do the same with broccoli and sprouts.
  6. Don’t try to please everyone.  See #4.  If you are unable to get Great Aunt Mildred a drink even though she asked for you to prepare it, don’t be afraid to say that you can’t at the moment, then delegate out to someone else.
  7. Don’t wear tight or uncomfortable clothing.  Tight or uncomfortable clothing coupled with being too warm and eating too much food can cause stress levels to rise and for me to become irritable.  Instead of wearing something restrictive put on something comfortable, loose-fitting or dress in layers that can be easily slipped off if it gets too hot.
  8. Don’t eat too many sweets, chocolate or pudding.  The sugars in the foods may boost your mood for a short period of time but when you hit the sugar crash your mood can come crashing down with it.  Also, feeling too full can cause feelings of irritability that can increase stress levels.
  9. Try not to drink too much.  Too much alcohol + stress can lead to people saying things they shouldn’t, being argumentative or being short with people which can lead to friction and tension in the atmosphere.  If possible limit alcohol to the meal and sip soft drinks, water or juice the rest of the time.
  10. Make time for a nap.  If you can, try to take a nap or at least have a lie down for half an hour.  It will give your stress levels a chance to come back down and will help you to clear your head.  It will also refresh you and you will be able to continue your day feeling better.
  11. Open windows.  The air in the room can become stale and with most homes having central heating on, cooking and guests, houses can heat up really quickly.  Allowing a circulation of fresh air is certain to help everyone’s mood and stop people from feeling groggy.
  12. Try Essential Oils.  Tisserand make some lovely blends of essential oils.  I’m a huge fan of their Aromatherapy Roller Balls especially their Everyday Wellbeing Set, the Total De-Stress one works really well, just apply to your pulse points and inhale the scent as needed.  You could also try a lavender-scented candle or an oil burner with some lavender oil in it.
  13. Go for a walk.  After dinner why not encourage everyone to join you for a walk, it doesn’t need to be a long walk but a breath of fresh air outdoors can do wonders for everyone’s stress levels and can help to boost energy along with helping your digestive system start working too.
  14. Think about the things that make you overwhelmed and try something different this year.  Like the sound of tv coupled with people talking and noises from toys being played with.  Why not encourage a couple of hours with the tv off and play board games instead?

What kind of stress busting tips do you have to help over Christmas?

Mental Health and Me

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In a time where mental health is spoken about daily, by the hour and by the minute and in a time where there is, or should be greater understanding of the struggles and difficulties of others it can still be really hard to talk about our mental struggles.  And there is still a sense of shame about talking about our problems and also a worry that we will be defined by our illness or, even worse, treated differently because of it.

I’m writing this as I have recently been diagnosed with anxiety, stress and low mood, and consequently I have been advised to take a break from work and to start taking tablets to help me feel better.  I also have Aspergers which is part of the autism spectrum which means I process things a bit differently to others and certain things can cause me stress and anxiety on a day-to-day basis.  Normally I am pretty good at dealing with day-to-day stresses, whether it be too much noise, the lights being too bright, lots of things going on, lots of different things to do, worrying about whether I am doing things right, interruptions, the list of things goes on and on….  I have developed coping strategies for most stresses that I encounter and on the whole they seem to work.  Well, they have done until recently…I started to notice that the coping mechanisms that I normally implemented were not working so well…making lists and prioritising what needs to be done usually stopped me from panicking but I noticed that faced with several tasks to do, at home or work, I couldn’t work out what to prioritize and started to feel like I couldn’t breathe as there was “too much to do” and that I couldn’t complete any of it.  I found that I couldn’t concentrate, following conversations was becoming hard work, the background noise becoming too distracting and as loud as the person talking to me, even coming home to the relative silence of my home felt like sitting in the middle of a football pitch at half time.  I couldn’t read my book, I lost where I was and kept reading the same sentence or paragraph over and over, or forgetting what I had just read and having to go back a page to re-read it.  Even sleep, the one total shut off from the world wasn’t helping, I was waking up after having nightmares, sweating and gasping for breath, or lying there, so totally drained of energy yet unable to sleep as my mind just kept going over things that had happened. should have happened, could have happened, might happen…

And while all this was happening my skin was suffering too…I broke out with eczema on my face – on my forehead – right.between.my.eyebrows.  (Thank you body for giving me something else to add to my stress and worry list…).

I eventually, after months of pretending I was fine (I sort of made myself believe that if I got up and put a smile on and managed to go to work, I couldn’t be that bad and that it was “all in my head” and that it was just me…) went to the doctor.

The doctor that I saw went through a load of questions with me about my life, feelings, mood, work, sleep and eating habits along with lots of other questions.  He said that my eczema outbreak had been caused by stress and that he thought I was dealing with high levels of stress and anxiety based on my answers to his questions and how he read my body language.  He gave me a prescription for Sertraline tablets which will increase serotonin levels in my brain and make me feel better in due time.

I’ve now been taking the medication for a month or so now, originally I was on half a tablet each day which was then upped to a full tablet every day.  The side effects are not that good, I’ve felt sick, dizzy, hot, cold, thirsty, not hungry, my concentration levels are still really low, following anything on the tv or reading is really difficult and I can’t decide whether it’s the meds or the stress and anxiety still.  I have days where I really don’t feel like leaving the house or even seeing anyone and just existing in my own bubble, though I feel like that sometimes anyway because of my aspergers (though that sort of feeling comes after time spent with too many people and being a bit sensory overwhelmed…).  It’s hard to know what is caused by the tablets, what is stress, anxiety, aspergers, or me.

Sometimes I feel like I am just this bundle of diagnosis’ and it can be hard to sift through what is what to the extent it can become exhausting and overwhelming.  Sometimes I wonder if I am becoming my diagnosis/illness or is it becoming me?  Sometimes I just feel really lost in it all and wonder if I’ll ever feel “normal”, whatever that is?

I do  know that I am really grateful to my family and friends who I am able to talk to and who accept me for me.  I’m sure it can be difficult to converse with me at times,  I am not particularly good at explaining how I’m feeling either or putting words to what I’m thinking or feeling, so explaining how I feel can be hard work.  I’m also greatful that the doctor that I have been seeing is really patient and understanding, he doesn’t try to put words into my mouth, he sits and listens or will ask more questions to get a full picture of it all.

There is no shame in seeking help for whatever is going on in your mind, whether it is speaking to a relative or friend, a doctor or health worker, or anyone who you can trust.  If you notice that you are struggling with things then reach out and talk to someone.