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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: What They Don’t See

The week was hard to begin with. I mean… the appointment on the Monday was one I had been dreading for six months. It caused a lot of panic, and nearly constant fixation on my inability to communicate well with the doctor. How was I supposed to say what I needed to say in a way that she would understand me?

She summed up the issue very well – in the very moment she was trying to ease my stress over the issue: “I think you are being very clear,” she told me.

And that is the problem. I think I am being clear. She thinks I am being clear. But, like what happens with most people who talk with me, when she summarizes what she believes I am saying, she is completely off the mark.

So what was I so afraid of? That.

People are so sure that what they are hearing is exactly what I meant, that they won’t even accept when I try to put it in another way to let them know how wrong that was, they don’t believe me. So as a result, they treat me as if what they believe I am saying is actually what I meant to say – and for the most part, it ends up being the worst possible response to my issue.

Anyway, the appointment that caused such distress in my mind for six months lasted all of fifteen minutes, and then was done.

Yet the week was still to come.

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I guess that in most people’s lives, there are a lot of different things that go into a week: work, friends, church, cleaning, shopping, appointments, socializing, phone calls… but for me, if I have one appointment in a week plus church, that week feels busy for me. Anything more becomes overwhelming.

That week, however, started with church, had an appointment thrown in, a shopping day, a friend visiting, and a wedding. Impossible! Stressful. Exhausting. Overwhelming.

It was a lot!

Four days of things outside of routine are at least three too many – even though the appointment only took up an hour of one day (most of it waiting to get in,) the shopping took two hours of another day, and my friend’s visit took another two hours of another day. Five hours spread over three days, plus a wedding to attend.

Written down, it doesn’t seem like much – I mean, I don’t even have to work. In truth, though, I was completely overwhelmed before the week even started, and am still exhausted and panicking two days after it has ended.

I am aware that what I do is nothing compared to how other people live – but at the same time, I think other people are quite unaware of how much panic, anxiety, preparing before, analyzing after, emotional and intellectual work goes into such activities for me. If they did, I think they wouldn’t be surprised that I am unable to live with even that much going on in my life, let alone expecting me to do more.

 

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Autism: Not What I Meant

Evenings are not the greatest time for me to visit at the best of times. Even on a good day, I am tired and crashing, and really looking forward to bed shortly after supper is over. On a harder day, I can barely even function, and speaking is nearly out of the question.

That day was a harder day. While I have very much been enjoying life recently, I am not used to so much activity. Part of it was about me – I had the appointment out of town, after all. It wasn’t like we would have gone if it weren’t for that.

Part of it was just another person’s normal. When you live less than a 5 minute walk from the grocery store, I guess you tend to go more often – and I admit, it is nice to have fresh fruit and vegetables more often, and not just on weekends (when I am less likely to enjoy them since the kitchen is more often in use.)

Some of it is due to having a visitor – we talk more, and walk more, and go more places just because we really don’t have all that long together. Besides, it is nice.

But it is also exhausting.

We have the vehicle, and so have been going with that type of ‘normal’ – frequent trips to the grocery store and such. Crowds wear me down, though – so though we might only spend 10 minutes or so in the store, and though I am pleased that we were able to go and get fresh foods, at the end of the trip I am tired.

And the walks? I think they are wonderful! It is calming to be out in nature, unlike the time spent in town. I love the smell, and the view, and enjoy the conversations (though my son is a lot quieter these days – perhaps he would talk more if I talked less, and maybe I would try it if I weren’t afraid of putting too much pressure on him to speak and having him stop coming altogether.)

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As I said, I am enjoying these days very much – but it is well beyond what I am used to (though likely still a lot less than other people do in a typical week.) So I am happy, but so very exhausted.

That day was harder because it was the third day in a row of what I would consider extreme busyness. Tuesday we went to vote. Then we went to the grocery store for a few things, for a walk in the afternoon, and then to the movies (which I have done more in the past 5 months or so than I have likely in the last 5 years.) On Wednesday, we drove nearly an hour to a much busier city (population about 50,000 I think! – and yes, that is 50, not 500) It was so busy, and so tiring – but we did have a picnic in the park, which was nice.

Then on Thursday we went to the thrift store for bag sale, did a little more shopping (not that we’re buying much, but… potatoes, bananas, fresh vegetables… I don’t do errands like that, but it is ‘normal’ for some, and besides… I don’t have to drive!) and had another walk. Not so much, but I was crashing. I was crashing bad. I mean, I hadn’t even been able to catch up on writing my journal since being out Tuesday night. And I was so, so tired.

So when I did go out, and they asked if my mom was tiring me out (for I was obviously exhausted) and I said, “yes” – so they prayed and joked about trouble with mothers wearing us out, well… that is not what I meant.

But I was so tired, I couldn’t explain it well. I love having my mom here. And the fact that I was exhausted for life group this week doesn’t mean she is draining, or asking me to do too much, or… It is just that my normal is so much less than what other people expect, and I do get drained from it. Yet what they heard was not what I meant, and I really hope it doesn’t come back to her and leave her feeling bad.

 

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Autism: Drained of Energy

My head is pounding today, and once more I have no energy. I should have expected it, I guess – but as is usual for me, when I do have good days, I expect them to last. After 40 years, I probably should have learned this isn’t the case for me. Still, it is good to have hope.

For months my energy has been low, even for me. I hardly have the ability to do routine things, like cook and clean, let alone find motivation to add anything to my schedule.

In the last 6 days, I had decent energy for 4 of them. Sunday I was really tired, but I have come to the conclusion (after months of Sundays ending the same way) that church – even when I enjoy it, and feel good there – exhausts me. Every Sunday I am overwhelmed, and exhausted, and prone to meltdowns. I guess that is the cost of being around people.

For four days, though, I had energy. That might not seem like such a big deal for most people, but I keep a ‘mood chart’ which I send to my therapist once a month. This keeps track of how depressed, anxious, and irritated I am each day, along with how much sleep I got, which medications I took, and how much energy I had that day.

The energy section is on a scale of 1-4, with 4 being high. Some days I have taken to putting in 0, as I haven’t the energy to stand, let alone get anything done. Most months I will have several squares marked ‘1’, with more around ‘2’, and the occasional 3. I hardly ever reach 4 for energy; that might come if something exciting was planned, but isn’t even guaranteed for that. I am not a high energy person. Maybe one or two days a month would be marked ‘0’. I just couldn’t.

For the last three or four months however, the pattern looked more like a computer code or something (I don’t know that much about computers, but…) 1-0-0-1-0-1-0-0-0-1-0-1… for months. I was sick twice during that time. Really sick. Well… not hospital sick, but sick enough to think it could kill me. Both times the illness held bad for a couple of weeks, and left me drained after.

It is not unusual for me to have low energy, but this is ridiculous even for me.

And then in the last week, I have had 4 days where I marked ‘3’ on my chart. Four! And I can’t express how good those days felt. I cooked. I cleaned. I exercised. I practised my keyboard. I made a gardening scrapbook. I planted seeds in starter pots. I dreamed.

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How wonderful!

I wonder what it would be like to have energy like that most of the time. Some people do. I know some people do. But I never have. Perhaps if I had energy, I wouldn’t be so depressed all the time… I wonder: Am I depressed because I rarely have energy, or do I rarely have energy because I am depressed?

Even as a child, though, my energy was very low… but then I remember crying myself to sleep every night, too, from the age of about 7 or 8 – so it is possible I was depressed even then.

I don’t know. What I do know is that I had energy this week. I had it, and it felt so good, and I thought that this time I would be able to hold onto it.

Today, however, my head is pounding, and it took me most of the day just to gather the energy to pick up the keyboard sitting on the table right beside me to type this blog. That was all the effort I could manage for today. I wish… I wish I had energy.

 

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Autism: Dream Within a Dream Within

I had a dream, within a dream, within a dream last night. It isn’t so clear now, but I suddenly found myself in Toronto – like I had teleported there, or something. There was this… ride a bunch of us were told we had to try; a “flying experience” I think they said.

It was like Ferris wheel seating, joined together in a train like a roller coaster, but without a track. It flew above the Toronto skyline, past the top of the CN Tower. It dipped, and turned, and twisted – but the seats tipped, and only had the front bar to hold us in. It was really scary.

Then I was in an airport, watching people moving around. I saw a young couple with a baby from my church. They asked me why I was there, but I really didn’t know. I went down an escalator. There were many floors below me.

I walked into an office with glass walls, and sat down by a desk. I was having an adoption home study interview. When the interview was over, I went to another floor, which was a museum, and started looking around. Some people I went to cadets with came up to me and started talking to me. They were warning me against a person I was supposed to meet, as the person had changed from when I knew them so long ago, and it would be dangerous; but I knew the person was struggling, and I knew why. It made me sad, and I wanted to help.

I walked away from them, and was on a deserted street with a large mountain on my right side, and several shop like stands, and other things I couldn’t see so well. It was Canada’s Wonderland closed down for the season – only the colours were dulled.

I was really nervous. Scared even; for this person I was supposed to meet was coming around a corner towards me. I could hear their footsteps, though I couldn’t yet see them, and I was afraid I wasn’t strong enough for this.

There was a cold stone bench, and I sat on it to wait, trying not to look nervous. Wonderland turned into a Sea Cadet camp (which is in BC, but I was still in Toronto – this I knew) which was also deserted. The person was still coming, and I was rehearsing in my head what I would say.

For the whole dream, I kept thinking: “This should be a dream, but it feels real,” and I was sure that it was.

Then I woke up on a bench at the airport in Toronto, and I saw the couple from my church, and told them I had a dream, and I was sure it was real until I woke up on the bench in the airport. I said I didn’t remember arriving at the airport, but it was okay, because I could get home from Toronto (meaning Hamilton where my family is) and would go see my mom.

When I left them, I repeated the dream I had had before, certain that this time it was real, only to wake up in my bed with my dog crawling out from under my blankets and asking if it was time for breakfast (cute squiggly, wiggly girl!)

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The day after wasn’t great as I was so exhausted, but I love it when my dreams are so real it confuses me while I am dreaming.

 

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Autism: Not a Great Week

This past week has not been a great one for me. For one thing, I didn’t write much, and am now two blog posts behind schedule (keeping in mind that I have been scheduling my posts three weeks in advance, which is best for my stress levels, and am now only two weeks ahead.) It isn’t exactly that I had nothing to write about, but more that I didn’t have the energy to motivate myself to do much more than binge watch Netflix for much of the week. These things will happen with me, despite my best efforts to push past it.

Going along with that really low energy thing, I hardly even worked on my lessons this week. Maybe two days, and I didn’t even do all of them then. It isn’t that I didn’t want to, just… I couldn’t make myself do anything – even the lessons that calm me.

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I did clean, but I can’t express how difficult that was for me. Every moment was like torture as I pushed my exhausted body to move, knowing that leaving it messy would just make everything worse, including my energy level. Yet moving made me so tired that I had to take breaks between every (5 minute) activity: clean the bathroom, watch Netflix; wipe the counters, watch Netflix; vacuum one room, watch Netflix…

I did go for a walk one day with my son. That was especially hard, and I almost didn’t make it home, I was so very tired. You’d have thought I was trying to move after running a marathon, instead of just taking a short walk after a decent sleep. So tired. I don’t know what is going on there.

Then above that, I have been unusually prone to tears. I mean, I would just be going along, feeling okay, when suddenly the tears would come – and everything bad that every happened weighed on me, and the tears wouldn’t stop. And no, it wasn’t the right timing for that.

A whole week of nothing. I went to care group, but didn’t speak – my words weren’t working this week. My brother in law came for a visit, and stayed two nights, and I struggled to talk with him, too. I worried that he would think I was being rude, or angry, or… I don’t know – whatever it is that people assume I am when I can’t talk to explain myself.

Everything I ate made me sick, and so I ate a lot of wheat – not the best choice for me, but the easiest to get down when I feel like that. Of course, then I had heartburn, and itchy skin, and horribly itchy ears, and insomnia, and of course it only made the nausea worse – but not until after I had eaten it, which is why I could. Eating wheat also brings cravings, and reduces my self-control in eating other foods… all to say it was a horrible week for health and diet.

All of this brought my functioning down to a very low level. If I could have brought myself to do my lessons, I wouldn’t have understood them anyway. If I could have talked to people, what came out likely wouldn’t have made any sense. It was not a week for making decisions. It was more one of those weeks that in the past have caused me to fail at just about everything I have tried to do because people will push me, and will not accept that while I am quite capable a lot of the time, sometimes I am just not!

So I guess it is just as well that so little got done this week, because whatever I did would have just become another regret to add to the pile of things that torture me at times like these. And once more I am thankful that they decided I needed to be at home – because really, at times like this (which happen too frequently to count) I just can’t survive out there.

 

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Autism: Learning About Food

It started with a Dogwood bush I purchased a couple of weeks ago. Or perhaps it began when I couldn’t deter one of my cats from using the raised bed as a litter box… Regardless, at some point over the last couple of weeks, I decided on flowers and trees over food for my garden. It isn’t that I didn’t want to grow food, but…

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I think I will like the Dogwood bush, though the main reason I chose it when I went to the garden centre was price. I couldn’t get over the cost of their trees this year. Really, it takes me a very long time to come to terms with inflation, and by then, the prices have gone up again. It makes it very hard for me to buy anything.

Something like nine years ago, I bought most of my fruit trees, for example. I paid $20 each for them, which was about normal. Now, however, those same size trees are more like $40-$50 – how can prices double in just nine years? It doesn’t even seem like that long.

Even the Lilacs I paid $10 for a few years ago, are now $15-$20. Unreasonable, I think, as wages haven’t anywhere kept up with these inflated prices – not that I am working at this time, but still.

Anyway, I had the desire to grow food, preserve it, learn to live on less somehow – but I haven’t really the energy for it. More, I don’t have the energy (or concentration) to learn how. I spend my time researching, and by the time I am able to do something, I am too tired to do it.

So I planted the Dogwood bush along with some wildflowers. I imagine I will enjoy the garden when it comes up. I think that even my husband will like it. It won’t look like everyone else’s garden in the neighbourhood, but I am more of a meadow/forest person than a perfectly manicured lawn person anyway. I hope that it grows well.

Meanwhile, I have decided instead to take the advice given by readers in some of my earlier posts to try to learn to preserve food I have bought from the store, or the market, instead of doing all the work from the seed to the table. It is less to learn, for sure, and maybe I can be successful in them.

I have been spending hours on Pinterest, and looking at the links, trying to figure out what foods I would like best (and that my stomach and mind can handle) and hoping to have the energy to follow through and make them.

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just pull something from a picture into reality, and try it that way… I never said that my imagination was realistic – but I have often wanted to possess this ability.

I have a thought that I will probably regret not planting tomatoes this year. I am the only one in my house that likes them, so we almost never buy them, and somehow store bought tomatoes leave a lot to be lacking. But then… cats. I love my cats, but it would be nice if they wouldn’t use my garden for…

Anyway, the plants are in, and I am waiting for them to grow. I hope I use the time this spring and summer well to learn more what foods I can eat (that will leave me feeling good, as most food doesn’t,) how to make inexpensive meals for myself that don’t take a lot of time (for I still need to cook for my husband and son, who will not eat like I do) and perhaps even learn to preserve food, so that when I do grow my food garden, I will be well educated in what to do when the harvest comes in.

I think that is more than enough of a goal for me for this year. Even that seems exhausting, but I will do my best.

 

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