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Monthly Archives: October 2017

Autism: Poor Time Management

While I was working I fully believed that I was good at time management. I would arrive at worked 15-30 minutes before my shift… one time I was only 10 minutes early, and my coworkers were worried that something happened to me as I was never that ‘late’ (even though pretty much everyone I worked with would get there the minute they started, and one was nearly always 5 minutes late.)

I would panic before work, and that panic would grow as the time drew near, so I would go early. Besides, I needed that time to calm down before I had to start. I needed that time to transition.

I would get to work with a list in my head of things that I would like to accomplish on my shift. When I got there, I would add in anything extra that still might have to be done (like if there were rooms that hadn’t yet been cleaned, or a lot of laundry still to be done – I worked at a motel; front desk, but we did it all.)

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Unless there was something unusual – like a snowstorm or an accident that closed the highway in both directions thereby requiring me to be at the front desk helping guests the entire shift – I would get my work done. I knew just when the wash would be done and needed to be switched over, and the exact time I should check the hot tub, add chemicals… I knew how long everything took, and most of the time would be exact in getting it done. That was unusual among my coworkers.

In my life I only ever forgot one appointment – a speech therapy appointment that I had made for my middle ‘foster’ daughter that occurred within days of getting back from a week long trip to the children’s hospital in Vancouver BC for assessments on my youngest ‘foster’ daughter (a week where I was alone with my four children, taking buses in a city I didn’t know well, and wasn’t sleeping as my middle two couldn’t sleep in strange environments…) I felt horrible. I was sleep deprived, and not thinking well, and not functioning well, and…

It wasn’t at all like me.

However, the older I get the more I realize how much that level of time management is bad for my mental health. It causes extreme anxiety to focus for such long periods of time. It causes exhaustion and burnout to live at such a pace (even though I was only working part time.) I can’t hold on for very long.

And perhaps that is a lot of the reason I have not been able to hold on to a job, or continue with school, or do anything lasting any real length of time without it ending in failure.

Time moves too fast for me.

One short activity in a day takes all of my energy and focus and leaves me exhausted for days after. I require a LOT of breaks (which is not something freely offered, or which I would feel comfortable asking for at a job – they are paying me for that time after all.)

Without a lot of breaks and time for thinking, my mental health and functioning declines very quickly.

On a good day an hour or two of work or activity is about all I can handle. That is a full day for me, and even then I need days (DAYS!) off in between to rest. If I do more than that and I crash – often for months after. And that is when I am doing well – which in itself is a rare thing.

Looking at these facts I would then have to admit either that I am not in fact good at time management or that at the very least being good at time management is too hard on me.

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Autism: Nice While It Lasted

For a few weeks I went swimming.

When I was young I lived in a large city, and swim passes were cheap – something like $25/month and there were a lot of public swims. I think that even then the pass was for all of the community centres, so if one was closed, we could go to another. I think.

In the small town I live in now, there is only one pool, and it is something like $6.50 per swim. But we do have what is called a ‘Toonie swim’ which right now is available four times a week. For $2 (the Canadian $2 coin is called a ‘Toonie’) we are able to access the pool and hot tub for an hour. It isn’t a great deal, but it is good enough.

All of last year I wanted to go, but didn’t have a vehicle to access the swims during the day, and was just too tired to go in the evening. Besides, I don’t like driving at night – and while I prefer to do most things alone, I don’t like to go places alone; the thought overwhelms me with anxiety and I back out.

Anyway, this fall all of the ‘Toonie’ swims are during the day, but for a couple of months I had access to a vehicle. On top of that, the Thursday before my birthday this year, my husband had an unexpected day off of work (they had to close to get the electrical system switched or something like that) so I asked him to go with me.

My husband is often tired, and when he isn’t working, volunteering, or going to watch a hockey game, he pretty much likes to stay home – so I was surprised and pleased when he agreed to go with me.

I was anxious. I am always anxious. That is me. But we got to the pool, he paid, and in we went. I already had my swimsuit on under my clothes, so I was one of the first people in the pool.

The moment – the very moment I got in the water a feeling of calm and contentment washed over me. Even in spite of the many people who did end up coming to the pool at the same time, I felt calm.

So the next week, though I was alone (and very close to a panic attack) I went back to the pool, and it was the same.

For a person whose mind is always going, always concerned with things of the past and of the future, I was amazed at how present I was. Just me in the water swimming, with very few thoughts of anything else (even of the people I had to swim around as I did my laps.)

The next week was the same – panic turning to instant calm that lasted for the hour I was in the water.

And then…

That is about how long my good habits last. Timing, illness (I got a cold two days after I went swimming the last time) business – even though I don’t work, and technically most of my time is ‘free’ I still often feel overwhelmed by how much I do have to do… and the routine is broken.

I haven’t gone back, and after this week I won’t have access to a vehicle to go. I can get a bus, but that means I need to know at least three days in advance that I will be up to going in that moment. I don’t believe a second vehicle is a good use of money for our family as it is very rare I am up to leaving the house anyway, but…

Who am I kidding? Three weeks. Three weeks and even a good habit that brought me so much peace was broken – even though I did have the van for a few weeks after. But it was nice while it lasted.

Summer 2015 011

 

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Autism: Change of Perspective

Speaking of age, my husband said something to me one day that caught me off guard.

We were talking of things that need to be done around the house: water heater, window, passports… I said the passports weren’t exactly a rush as we had no plans to go anywhere, and the earlier we had them done, the earlier they would expire.

I mentioned that I thought they only lasted five years (as that is how long we had our last ones.) My husband said he thinks we can get them for ten years now and “that’d be my life.”

Ten years.

Ten years ago my youngest ‘foster’ daughter was sick and falling over. Ten years ago we were told about ‘our’ children’s youngest brother, and were asked to adopt him.

Ten years before that my cousin died from complications with her Cystic Fibrosis, and my grandfather had a heart attack and cancer, and died a few months later.

Ten years is nothing.

I focus on the idea that the world might end in a few months – just to keep going. Anything I do, however, is with the consideration that I have as long left as I have lived so far – so renovations, and even habits, are important considerations for carrying me through the future.

When I get overwhelmed with the renovations that need to be done, or the skills and habits I would like to form (all of which I fixate on often) I get a strong impulse to move to a home that would make these things easier for me.

My husband’s statement sent me into another perspective which I haven’t seen before.

It isn’t so much that I thought he would live forever, but… the idea of his death was in how it would affect me – and such thoughts placed a sense of urgency on getting things in place that would help me and my son to endure it (for thoughts of him dying bring me to a place of panic – how will I keep going on my own?)

But this thought, spoken from his mouth as such a fact, transformed that perspective to what he might be considering as a result.

With ten years left, there is no benefit to moving (even if he were someone okay with change; which he isn’t.) With ten years left, what is the point of altering his diet or his habits and thereby making his life harder and less enjoyable?

And the things around the house? Some – like the window (which has cracked in many places and is held together with tape) and maybe the water heater are necessary. Others – flooring, paint, decluttering, updating, or even getting a wood stove – I suppose would not be so important at this point in his life.

They matter to me, but of course they wouldn’t matter so much to him: Ten years is nothing.

Obviously he could live longer, and that is the hope – but it isn’t like he will pass a certain date and the danger will be gone. Instead things are likely to become less important to him with time.

A complete change of perspective in just a few words, “that’d be my life.”

Easter 2015

 

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Autism: Age Is Just A Number

My husband is twenty four years older than me. Twenty four. He was born the same year as my father – though my father died of cancer just as we started dating (so they were never really the same age.) Age is an abstract concept, much like time and distance. One of those things that when I am pretending to be ‘normal’ I also pretend to understand, though in actual fact I do not understand. These things are too abstract for me.

So while we were dating there were a lot of people who disapproved of our relationship. “She just wants someone to marry,” they would say – or, “One day she will wake up and realize this isn’t what she wanted.” But age is a number; an abstract concept. It isn’t a thought I can hold in my mind long enough to matter.

The difference in our ages only registers in my mind when I think about things like how we couldn’t have children, or when I was considering his retirement and panicking at the thought that being the income earner would be my responsibility (and I can’t even support myself, let alone my family.) But then I know people who married people their own age and couldn’t have children, or one was unable to work due to health issues or something. These issues aren’t exclusive to us with the age gap.

There was a time in our marriage that it did seem to register – but that was when I felt we were failing the children we were trying to adopt. We had been asked to adopt their younger brother as well. I wanted to, my husband didn’t, and I felt a failure as their mother. The thought came strong in my mind that if my husband had been my father, perhaps I wouldn’t fail my children.

That thought did a lot of damage in my mind and in my marriage – yet I couldn’t shake it. My husband was a ‘good’ husband. He would have made a ‘good’ father – much better than mine was; in the things that broke me anyway. But if my husband was my father… well, like I said, that thought did a lot of damage.

Probably I was seeking a ‘good’ father in my relationship with my husband – but that had nothing to do with his age. That question comes through my mind often with men that I… almost trust and feel safe with: “If I were a child, would you adopt me?” Would I be too much? Would you want me?

Forget the ‘adult’ relationship that people assume I am seeking when I am drawn to a man – what I am begging to know is if they would want me, accept me, love me – but as a child, not an adult. And that is as true of men my age as it is of men so much older than I am. It isn’t an age thing; it is a trauma thing, I guess.

However that wasn’t what I was thinking when I started dating my husband. I did want to be married. I did want a father for my son. I did want more children, and a family. I wanted those things. I imagine most people do want such things when they get involved in serious relationships.

I had never dated anyone much older than me before him – but as I said, age was just a number; an abstract concept I could not hold on to long enough for it to matter. He felt safe. He felt comfortable. When I went out with him and couldn’t talk (which was a lot of the time) he didn’t seem bothered by it. That is why I stayed with him.

It wasn’t until I started to feel I was failing my children that it even crossed my mind as an issue – and even then I am sure the thought of “if I had a good father…” would have done as much damage to a marriage to someone my age as it did with my husband – for my grip on the difference between fantasy and reality is not very strong, and I know that the thought “if my husband had been my father,” would cause me as much struggle with someone my age.

For the relationship of a husband has to be different than the relationship of a father. It has to. So the challenge to my marriage – contrary to popular belief before we were married – is not age, but is in my trauma, in my fixation on whether a ‘good’ man would have wanted to be my father, and my inability to separate that from my need to be in a safe and accepting marriage.

Age itself is just a number.

Easter 2015

 

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Autism: Hostile World

I don’t belong here.

It has been the resounding theme of my life.

Unliked. Unwanted. Not like them.

Not trusted. Not accepted. Not belonging.

I want to be liked.

I try to fit in.

They allow me…

Because it is Christian.

Because I am… family (of a sort.)

But not because I belong.

I don’t.

First they let me know;

By glances and actions rather than words.

I try harder, and harder still.

And rather than improve their acceptance of me –

It gets worse.

They don’t want me there, and…

I wish I could be a person who doesn’t care.

But of course I care.

I’ve always cared.

Yet if I can’t be accepted,

My impulse is to run.

Maybe another school,

Another group,

Another part of town?

Maybe another province,

A city where I have never been?

But wherever I go,

Whatever I do,

There I am:

Not belonging.

So I build these worlds.

These fantasies in my mind.

And the more pain my reality contains,

The further from reality my fantasies take me;

Until there is little left

To bring joy or relief

In the world around me.

So much fear.

So much pain.

I would spend most,

If not all of my life,

Dreaming;

Just to endure it.

But the older I get,

The less the dreams satisfy;

For I know my dreams,

These fantasies,

They won’t come true.

I return to a world that feels hostile to me.

Alone and fearful and full of pain

Thinking “maybe if I try harder,

Try harder,

Try harder…”

But the harder I try,

The less I belong.

I wish I didn’t care,

But I do.

I am still nothing more than that small child,

Crying to sleep at night

For being abandoned in a big, frightening, painful world

That never wanted her.

me at 7

 

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Autism: To Dream Again

This morning was “The Summit” church service at the wharf – were once a year all three campuses and five services of our church get together for church, worship, and lunch after.

It rained a lot yesterday – which is kind of a big deal since we had a drought all summer with only half an hour of rain in about 2.5 months. Today was sunny and the skies were clear (which also hasn’t happened for much of the summer.) It was a nice day for outdoor church.

While I was there I once again noted something that surprised me. I was watching the parents with young children, and the older children at the awkward stage, and was surprised once more to acknowledge that I don’t want children.

Stressful, exhausting, difficult…

It is a foreign concept to me to not want children. Until a little over a year ago, even after years of infertility and a traumatic failed adoption, having children of my own was the main desire of my heart – even though I did have, and raise, and still have, my now adult son.

I would see other parents with their children and felt… envy, and sadness, and… lost, alone, forgotten. Other people had families – why couldn’t I?

It was another, and a major, characteristic that separated me from them – and I hated that separation. I still hate it, maybe, but at least I can see what I couldn’t see then: Children are overwhelming.

Beautiful, and fun, and worth the effort? Yes – but…

Children call attention to their parents. Always. You see the children, you see the parents – and there is advice, and there is judgement, and there is a lot of stress that comes with the job.

And I can’t be watched.

As I sat watching the parents dealing with the children I remembered that. I can’t be watched, and children call attention to their parents. Always.

I can’t be watched, for when I am watched I operate from a different part of my brain which significantly drops my functioning level to the point where I pretty much always fail. So having children – no matter how much I wanted them and loved them (and I did) – was a recipe for failure. There was no way beyond it for I can’t function when I am watched, and parents are always being watched.

As I began to accept this revelation – which has come to me in the past, but I always fought against (“if I could only try harder, or do things different, or research more, or… maybe I could” – but no, I can’t function when I am watched, and whatever else a parent faces in raising a child, they are always watched – and if they don’t want to be watched, there must be something really wrong with them, and they shouldn’t be trusted with their children to begin with; right?)

As I began to accept this revelation I began to realize that if it weren’t for the memory of the trauma of losing ‘my’ children, and without the fixation of a lifetime of wanting children (possibly because that, in my eyes, was the measure of success and ‘normalcy’ – to be a ‘good parent’) I might even be able to admit that I am happier and calmer with my life as it is now.

The traumas are there, and they do cause me to struggle a lot of the time – but this thought that I could live okay without children… it is mind blowing. It is to turn completely in the other direction, and accept that it might be possible to dream again.

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