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Autism: Christmas 2017 part 2

Christmas day itself went pretty well. My husband bought cat toys for my son and I (strange, maybe, but for us it was great!) The cats were delighted, and were running all over the place chasing their toys. So much fun for us to watch. Two weeks later and they still spend a lot of time playing with those toys, and Finn even brings hers up to the table with her to hide from the others when she isn’t playing.

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We also made a puzzle. Last year we spend 5 days on a 1000 piece puzzle only to have Finn pee on it on the fifth day (she decided to move from her bedroom to the dining room where we had the puzzle – and I didn’t understand in time to transfer her litter box with her.) Disgusting, and very frustrating.

So this year we did a 300 piece puzzle. It was challenging enough to get our minds working, but easy enough that we could complete it in a few hours. Perfect! And for three strong introverts, that was about as much time as we could happily spend together before needing our space.

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My husband had that week off of work, and a few more times we got together to make other puzzles of the same size. I would say that was good.

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But the depression still had a strong hold on me, and by December 30th, I was as low as I’ve been – and nothing especial even happened save that my husband gave away something I wanted – even after I protested and said I still wanted it… that hurt. It hurt a lot – but the depression was already there before that happened.

Plus, even though that was hard on me, it couldn’t possibly compare to, say, the day we had our children taken. Or the day my dog died. Or any number of truly horrible days that I have lived through.

Yet the pain was bad enough that I honestly didn’t want to live through it. And I think that maybe the only reason I did get through it was that in that level of depression I had a crisis of faith (which happens when my depression or anxiety get so bad) in which I was convinced that God didn’t want me (no one else did after all) – so if I died then it would have sealed my fate, and I would have been in hell forever.

I guess I should be thankful for that.

The very idea of spending eternity separate from God is more than I can bear – and yet for that fear I have to bear the pain of that fear to ensure I don’t spend eternity separate from God. I suppose that those who don’t share my faith couldn’t possibly understand this, and those who do share my faith, but don’t experience the shame and despair that allow these spiritual attacks (I never doubt that God exists, or that He is good – only that He wants me, or that I am actually saved)

It was, maybe, January 2nd before the depression started to lift. Even then, a week later, I am still in a battle. Some days… some months… some years, even, it is tough. Tough to live well. Tough to be in this world. Just… hard.

 

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Autism: December 2017 part 1

December of 2017 was a really tough month for me. A month filled with panic, hopelessness, and despair – and I really can’t even say why that was. It was just hard.

It didn’t help that time seems to be speeding up for me, making it even harder (and it has always been hard) to align my perceptions with reality. It also doesn’t help that there is so much pressure around Christmas – gifts and such – whether real or perceived.

And even if people say not to worry about it, worry I will – for excusing myself from what I feel that others expect of me leaves me with an overwhelming sense of guilt. Even if it doesn’t matter much to them I will still carry that guilt with me… forever (at least it seems like that, since I still feel guilty for every time I disappointed anyone, or said ‘no’ to a request, or…)

So it was a hard month. A sad month. A month where most days I could barely move, and it was all I could do not to cry most of the time. It was only a week before Christmas when I was able to gather up the motivation to even decorate – when often I have things up by the beginning of the month (for I do like the lights!)

Christmas Eve was busy. I made a turkey dinner (because it is cheaper than chicken) for my husband and son and dogs and cats – I don’t eat meat – and we went to church for the 2pm service instead of at 10:45am as we usually do (it was a strange Sunday.)

That might seem normal for most people, but it is a lot for me. So overwhelming that I dreaded it for more than a week before – and I was only cooking for my family. It wasn’t like I was cooking for a large group, or even for friends and extended family (that I can’t do, it is just too much pressure.)

It isn’t even like making food for my dogs (I have 3) and cats (we have 2 upstairs – my son feeds his own cat) is unusual. I do it every 3-4 weeks. But it is something I do on days when my son is cooking usually for it is very time consuming. You see, I make a large batch for them, and then freeze the food in silicone baking cups; enough for a month. The meat has to be cut into small pieces, no bones, and the vegetables, broth and such get blended up and divided after. It is quite a bit of work on the day I do it, so I don’t like to do anything else that day.

But I couldn’t help it for Christmas since the turkey was large and for everyone (but me.)

Anyway, I got through it. Once it was done I could relax a bit.

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Autism: Loads and Burdens

This sadness has been overwhelming me.

  • Does God want me?
  • Am I saved?
  • Why do I fail at everything?
  • Why am I so bad (why do I struggle with things other people don’t seem to?)
  • Will I ever do good (will anything I do have a positive impact on the world around me?)
  • Does anyone want me (will I ever feel like I belong anywhere?)

I think that maybe Christmas is a difficult time for me. Anyway, it has been hard this year, and I am feeling overwhelmed and shutting down, even though I haven’t done anything for it yet.

Time is speeding up, or I am slowing down, or… How did Christmas come again so fast? I am not at all ready, and I look at the decorations as if… as if people put them up in May or something, and it all feels so wrong.

Time is speeding up for me. I go to start something, learn something, research something, and suddenly the day is over though I have done nothing. It is very frustrating. Is it any wonder I wish this life allowed magic, or cheat codes to get through? I don’t expect to win any awards, or accomplish any great thing anyway, but I could sure use some help to get through the day and take care of what I have without being so overwhelmed all of the time, but then…

Loads and burdens.

My pastor talks frequently about loads and burdens – how some people have heavy burdens they won’t share with other people for fear of asking too much of people, and other people ask for help with loads that they should learn to carry themselves.

I have a lot of burdens, this is true. And sometimes I ask for help with them, but mostly I don’t. Other people don’t understand, and can’t seem to help much anyway.

But then I guess what I struggle most with – day to day living – people would consider loads. I know they are… loads, that is. I should be able to handle them. Other people do. Other people are able to do all I struggle with and so much more. I should be able – but I am not.

Loads and burdens.

I ask too much.

Having said all of that, I am struggling these days. I have been writing this blog for nearly 2.5 years – longer than I have ever kept going at any type of work in my life, without a break. But I have also been pushing myself really hard to keep going these past 7 or 8 months or so.

I need a break.

So in light of Christmas coming (and despite how hard this is for me to admit even to myself) I have decided to take some time off from writing my blog, and think that Christmas is probably the time I need to do that.

I am hoping that a month will be enough, and plan to start writing again in mid-January.

Until then I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year, and to thank all of you for your support over these years.

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Christmas 2016

Two days before Christmas, and the snow is really coming down. My two ‘babies’ are resting warm on my lap (no need for a weighted blanket these days, for two Chihuahua’s are just the perfect size for a substitute.) “It’s A Wonderful Life” is playing on my television, and my son is just heading out to shovel the driveway before my husband comes home. In the back of my mind is a small concern of accidents, loss, and change – this weather always brings that fear out in me.

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On account of the weather, my friend who was to visit this afternoon had to cancel. There is some disappointment, but above that is a relief that she is safe at home, for the roads are really bad right now.

The gifts are wrapped in bags we have recycled for years, and are sitting under the tree which is lit in red, with a glowing white angel on the top. I set a record this year, buying everything in one three hour shopping trip a few weeks ago. Not that I bought much, for though I love my family, I do not believe in going beyond my means to buy things they might appreciate, but do not need.

As usual I worry about these gifts that I bought; I am not good at choosing presents for people. It simply isn’t my thing. Will they like them? Are they enough? Are they too practical, or not practical enough? Gift giving is difficult, stressful work – yet I still hope deep down that they will be pleased.

When I was a child, I was always sick at Christmas; too much excitement, I guess. It was too bad, too, for every year we went to visit at my Aunt’s house, with all of my father’s family there. It was exactly where I wanted to be, yet due to feeling so sick, I was always put in a quiet room to rest, and had to miss out on most of the visiting.

These days I still like Christmas. I don’t often find myself sick as a result of the excitement anymore, but I am also not close enough to visit my family, either. I haven’t seen them at Christmas in 17 years, and it does make me sad. Still I have my son, my husband, my church… though my family doesn’t live here, I am not alone this Christmas, and I am hopeful that I will enjoy the day anyway.

My gifts were given to me early this year in the form of my son’s old gaming computer that he reformatted and set up for me a couple of weeks ago when my laptop died, and my second chihuahua – mother to my Clara, who was also given to me nearly two weeks ago – a blessing my husband allowed. I am very thankful for both.

Yet presents are not what makes a good Christmas. I do enjoy the visiting, and the Christmas services at church. I enjoy the games, and the puzzles that we do together as a family. For me, time spent is so much more important, and so much more appreciated, than the gifts that come… or don’t.

What I really hope for this year, as I enter the Christmas season, is that our gift to my mother of a return flight to come for a visit is accepted, and able to be used. It has been over two years since I last saw my mom, and I sure do miss her – but the 4000km between us often seems insurmountable, for none of us has much in terms of money.

As I finish this post, and enjoy the end of my movie, I want to take the time to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas filled with love, and family, and all things good and hopeful.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2017 in Experiences of an Autistic

 

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Autism: Halloween Again

Well… this is attempt #2 at this topic, as I lost the first draft when my computer froze up. So frustrating! I almost feel irate (a word I never used before studying Latin, but they use often in the Derivatives section.)

It is that time of year again, when I have to turn off all our lights and hide away in our own house. At least it was last night. It isn’t that I don’t like Halloween; when my children were young, I took them out, and enjoyed watching their excitement. When I was a child, I also went out, and enjoyed it. For years we gave out candy. I think, for children, it is a fun tradition – but we don’t celebrate it anymore.

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For one thing, we were getting over 100 children at our house most years. This because:

  1. In a town full of hills and mountains, our neighbourhood (and especially our home) are rather level.
  2. We live in a rich neighbourhood. We aren’t rich, but many in our area are – so the kids are brought here expecting better candy. I do understand this: it is what we did as kids, too. (Only the middle class neighbours usually gave out more and better candy than the rich ones.)
  3. It was too expensive to buy the “good” candy (chocolate and chips) and the kids complained at suckers.

So we just gave up, and started hiding every year.

On top of that, there were my Autism related issues to consider:

  • My anxiety and sensory issues seem to be getting worse as I get older, meaning…
  • getting stressed out with kids knocking at the door over and over for hours,
  • fear of being judged (for giving the wrong candy)
  • fear of saying or doing something wrong (like dropping things)
  • my own dog who would bark continuously
  • fear of the unexpected (like people saying or doing something ‘off script’)

There are lots of reasons why Halloween is no longer celebrated in this house, but I really do hope the kids enjoyed themselves.

All day I was anxious about the evening to come:

  • What if the kids came before my husband got home?
  • What if they knocked on the door despite the lights being off?
  • What if they noticed we were in the bedroom watching a movie, and got upset with us?
  • What if my dog still barked all night?
  • What if…

As a result of the darkness, however, my husband and I did three things which we have done extremely rarely since our (foster) kids were moved:

  • We ate supper together at the table (which became too hard, too quiet after they were gone)
  • Because we were together at the table, we actually had a conversation (about or wedding, since our anniversary is November 1)
  • We watched a movie together – “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

Despite all of my fears and concerns, I ended up having an amazing night – and felt it was a wonderful way to ‘salvage’ our anniversary since in all other ways it would have been as disappointing as my birthday.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2016 in Experiences of an Autistic

 

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Autism: Thankful for Thanksgiving

Due to how difficult my birthday, and the days surrounding it were for me, I especially wanted to have a good Thanksgiving. The trouble was: same people, same plans, nearly the same food… my family is still so far away. I was just coming out of a very long time period of crashing, and it had been dark and rainy for days.

In my own strength, and depending on those closest to me, it was unlikely that Thanksgiving would be any better than my birthday; any better than any day, really. All I could do was go into it hoping and praying, as I had a couple of weeks prior for my birthday, that something would be different; something would be better… and then try not to hope for too much.

Well, as I wrote in my last post, my husband did take me out the night before Thanksgiving. We went to a hockey game, and despite the rain and the crowds, I had a really good time. In itself, that helped to life my mood from the strong anxiety and depression that had left me struggling for most of about three weeks.

On the morning of Thanksgiving, we went to church as usual. However, unexpectedly I met a friend as I walked through the door. Although she had told me she would try to get to church that weekend (they just moved back to town) her intention was to go to a different service. I had no idea that she would be there, and there she was.

Normally I don’t like surprises, but this was a good one. I sat with her through the service, hoping she would enjoy it (everything has changed since she was there last – mostly for the better, I think, but still…) and thinking, “I am sitting with my friend!” Obviously that doesn’t happen often. Usually I sit with my husband, and since we sit at the very front (not a popular choice) we sit alone. I was thankful she was there; I was thankful she enjoyed it; I was thankful to have a friend.

After church, I went home, and nothing was much different than on my birthday. My husband went to his thing, and I went to mine. After lunch, however, when I asked him to come along for my dog’s walk, he came. The weather was beautiful, a really nice autumn day, and I enjoyed that time spent with him.

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When it came to supper, I made the food, but he peeled the potatoes – just as I like it. It isn’t that I think I am such a great cook or anything, it is just… I can’t handle different. I would love for other people to make most of my food, if only they would make it just as I like it. Since that doesn’t happen, I’d rather do it myself. I am much less likely to have a meltdown that way.

Supper was pretty good. I enjoyed it much more than any (mostly) vegan has a right to enjoy meat – I didn’t say I don’t like meat, I would just rather it didn’t come from animals is all – and vegan ‘meat’ is often made with wheat, soy, and mushrooms, which I can’t or won’t eat. Plus it doesn’t taste the same.

Anyway, I agreed to eat meat for holidays, birthdays, and when away from home – because it is just too difficult not to. Yet the very fact that I enjoyed supper left me feeling guilty, and sad for the turkey.

After supper, we each went back to our thing. It is exhausting after all to spend too much time together. Even though there was very little different from my birthday, those few little things made all the difference. I am not extremely needy or anything. Just a little care, and I am content.

And so for all this, I am thankful for Thanksgiving.

 

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Autism: Christmas Celebrations

Once again it is snowing. We are supposed to get 5-10cm, my husband told me. But I am in my home, under a blanket, and quite comfortable. Let it snow!

It sure is pretty on the trees and mountains. I love to look out the window and see it, and to feel the freshness in the air as we take our dog for his walks. There is something just magical about this season – although if I had to drive, or go anywhere, I would more likely be anxious than thankful.

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But I am home, and the world looks beautiful from here.

We were blessed to have a white Christmas this year. We haven’t always been so lucky, but somehow it always feels more like Christmas after it has snowed.

My husband, son, and I stayed home this year. The entire day, I didn’t even go outside… but that is okay, I very much enjoyed myself just the same. It has been a rough year this year, and we didn’t have a lot of gifts under the tree – but what we did have was given with love, and was gratefully received.

It is easier on my son to stay home… even on Christmas. He becomes so overwhelmingly uncomfortable when we go places, that he usually just ends up sitting alone (trying to blend in with the furniture) and waiting for it to end. I can understand that. I get that way, too, and have experienced more than my share of social events feeling the same… but I like to do something different for Christmas – just to show that the day is different than any other.

On Christmas Eve, my husband and I went to the candlelight service at our Church. As I missed church last Sunday (my husband was singing out of town, and I was too anxious to drive there and go alone) I was really looking forward to that service – and I was not disappointed. It was amazing! Just so well done, and I was near tears in thankfulness while listening to our Pastor speak. What a wonderful way to start the holiday!

Then on Christmas day, my family decided to take out a puzzle to celebrate the day. My son and I both love puzzles. I find it to be a relaxing way to socialize. I don’t have to talk much. I just have to be there – and even when I am severely anxious, puzzles are one way I can overcome my discomfort and participate.

For my son, I think it is an area where he feels competent. He has amazing spacial awareness. He always has. I bought him his first real puzzle at the age of 2 (he had just turned 2.) It was a 48 piece ‘Dudley the Dragon’ puzzle, which I purchase after his grandmother had told me that his birth dad was doing puzzles by that age.

We got home, and I opened it up for him. I went to do dishes, and was going to help him with the puzzle after – but when I came back out of the kitchen, I found him with his puzzle completed.

He has always been good with puzzles. So it was a really good way for the three of us to spend the day together, and I very much enjoyed myself – in spite of, or perhaps because of, the quiet of the day.

Thankfulness.

It is found in the little things: The quiet moments with family; the snow coming down on the trees; Hobbit puzzles, warm quilts, hot mugs of tea… What a great Christmas!

 

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