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Autism: Too Much Effort

I meant to go swimming almost weekly this year. I wanted to do the same last year. My therapist (who is no longer working with me – something about being short term only…) said she could get a free weekly pass to the community centre both last year (but I had no transportation) and this year (but she hasn’t talked to me since she offered.)

I wanted the free pass, but I didn’t get it. I could go for the Toonie swim, and did for three weeks straight in September/October, but I would be more likely to go with the pass.

Swimming is a good activity for me.

Though I am allergic to the chlorine and get rashes, and though I prefer to swim alone (I wouldn’t say the pool was crowded when I went, but there were people I had to swim around, and children who jumped in and splashed into my ears causing earaches) being in the water is calming enough that I am able to get through those things.

When I go swimming I:

  • get out of the house
  • do exercise
  • quickly become calm
  • feel good after
  • am happy
  • often sleep well after

All things my therapist told me I should be doing when she was talking with me.

But there are a lot of barriers to this activity for me.

First of all, I have to contact the Handy Dart bus service three days in advance to book my ride. I don’t know three days in advance if I am going to be functioning well enough to leave the home, so that makes this type of transportation pretty unpractical for me. I understand why they need that notice, but… it would be better if I lived on the bus route so I could take the ‘normal’ bus, or if I lived close enough to walk (as I did when I first moved to this town 17 years ago.)

It also means that I have to leave home. Even when I have access to a vehicle that I could use whenever I want, I struggle so much to leave the house most days that it really isn’t worth the insurance or maintenance costs. It worked when my Mom was here, but not when I am alone (my son likes to leave the house much less than I do.)

Then I have to get changed into my swim suit and get in the water – the thought of which makes me cringe until I actually get in the water.

Afterwards it is awkward to change because I am wet, and I have to take a longish shower to get the chlorine off so I am not itchy for the next few days. Even so I can still smell chlorine (I guess it gets in my nose) for a day or two after.

And then I have to get home again – also which needs to be booked.

Then, too, I didn’t mention that although swimming calms me, the thought of all these steps brings me to panic up until the moment I get in the water.

So I would love to go swimming, but it seems there is just too much standing in the way of me actually following through with the activity – much like many other things in my life. It just takes too much to get there.

cold water

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Autism: Letting Go

It isn’t that the entire day was hard, but…

I woke up at 4am as I have been doing far too often lately. Since it is typically after 12am that I finally fall asleep (that takes a couple of hours itself) it is very unfortunate that, less than 4 hours later, I am awake and unable to get back to sleep. It certainly isn’t that I am not tired. In fact, I can’t even get up – I just lie in bed for the next three hours trying unsuccessfully to fall back to sleep.

Needless to say, I have been very tired, and not functioning very well.

There was some cleaning to do – laundry especially. Ever since the city workers came by and blasted out our storm sewers while I had laundry going, it has been prone to flooding. I don’t know if they are connected, but that is the load it started with. The clothes get cleaned fine, but when the washer is spinning, piles of fur and debris (much more than what is reasonable from what went into the wash) pour out with the water into the sink.

If I am not there to catch it, the water floods over the sink to cover the laundry room floor, hallway, and the bathroom beside (where it pours down the drain by the shower.) Such a mess! This has been happening for at least a couple of months now.

Since I have to watch the washer as I do laundry, I stayed downstairs to sort through boxes of food storage containers. I have no idea why we have so many – but they had been sitting in boxes in storage for over a year now, and we don’t really have storage space in our home.

That was exhausting, but I mostly got through it. I put our Christmas tree outside (so the animals wouldn’t eat it) for the thrift store – I was the only one who cared since our kids were moved, and we really haven’t the space for it (we will use a small tabletop one instead.) I left the rest down in the hallway, though I am sure it will annoy my son who rents the space from us since he has a very curious cat.

In the afternoon I spent several hours sorting toys into bags to give away. This was a very painful activity for me. Though our (foster) kids have been gone for over 8 years, and I haven’t even babysat in 7, and have been considering giving these toys away for at least 6 years, it was still exceptionally hard for me.

But I have felt a strong (near constant) prompting over the past few weeks to do this. Because it hurts, I kept blocking the prompting out, saying I wasn’t ready (I would probably never be ready if left to myself, to be honest) and the push kept getting stronger.

So I got the toys sorted and waiting in the upstairs hallway – but as I said, it hurt… a lot!

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So many hopes, dreams, memories, and losses tied up in those toys – and to give them away!!! But they should be played with, and…

I can’t have children, and I can’t go back – both of which frequently cause me a lot of pain in themselves. I am being asked to let go, and though it really does hurt, I know it is the right thing to do.

It was Misty (my newest addition – Chihuahua) who was most concerned as I sat crying, surrounded by piles of toys my children used to play with – though Clara and Molly looked to see what was wrong, too. Sweet girls! I am so very thankful for them, and it is only because of them I was able to answer this call to let go, but…

This is hard!

 

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Autism: Life Speed

I have been reading a book that was recommended by a friend. Though I am only about 1/3rd of the way through, and have no idea where it is going, it has brought me to think a lot.

In the book a man is given an unknown substance which causes his body to slow down. To really slow down. Something like four years passing feels like hours to him, and he is unable to register much of what is happening in the world around him.

When he began to slow down, people sounded like they were talking too fast, and their words were all strung together. People or objects would move around him in a blur. As it progressed, he couldn’t hear the words at all, and much would happen without him knowing it.

It just got me to thinking about how I have said on several occasions that the world moves too fast for me. I can’t keep up, and am easily burnt out by what is nowhere near the typical pace of people in the world around me.

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Obviously my challenge isn’t nearly as severe as the man in the story, but…

On what feels like an exceptionally busy day to me I might do 2-3 loads of laundry, vacuum and wash the floors on one level of my house (and not even all of that since one room is storage and one room has carpet that doesn’t get washed so frequently) and clean 1.5 bathrooms – and really, since I generally wash the shower when I am in there the night before, I really only clean 2 half bathrooms.

I will rinse the dishes and load them in the dishwasher, feed, take outside, and maybe walk my dogs (they won’t go out if the weather is bad.) Visit one person for 2 hours, and possibly make supper for my family, which I do 3 days a week.

That is an exceptionally busy day, and even writing it seems overwhelming to me.

I can handle a day like this maybe once every other week, and even then I often struggle to push myself through it. Afterwards I will crash for days.

The book got me to wondering if perhaps some people (like me) actually do experience the world at a different speed – and maybe that is why we are incapable of keeping up (though people who don’t understand this consider us lazy, and are certain that if we put in the effort we would not only be able to keep up, but get used to it – so not true, for me.)

The truth is that life moves too fast for me.

  • The grass grows too fast.
  • The years pass too fast.
  • The night is over too fast.
  • The house needs cleaned too often.
  • The renovations need done too often.
  • Food needs to be bought and consumed too frequently.
  • Life is just… too much – all of the time!

I am never ready for what is coming. Though I don’t work anymore, I am still overwhelmed most of the time – and when I did work, even part time, I was completely burnt out right from the beginning.

 

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Autism: Gone Camping

We were packed and on the road by 8:20am. The weather was almost cold, and the skies were blue! (if you have been following about our summer, it is the worst year on record for wildfires throughout the Canadian province of BC, and our skies have been so thick with smoke we haven’t been able to see the lake or the mountains around our home most days.) On the drive, we saw many eagles sitting on trees, or gliding through the air.

My husband stopped at McDonald’s and got us Vanilla Chai Frappes (so delicious, though I am not supposed to have dairy – but it was worth it!) We were up at the lake, and unpacked by lunch time. It was probably the best day for travelling.

We got the truck camper this time. I requested a camper… my back, my husband’s knees, fears over the dogs and wildlife… packing things in, setting things up, worrying about weather… overwhelming. Other times I have been up I have noticed that the people we have been there with go expecting to use the campers or the dome; even the young people. And we are expected to use a tent. I don’t know why that is.

So I asked my husband to ask for a camper, and we were given the truck camper for the week.

I can’t sleep in a narrow bed – I toss and turn, and have to spread out. If I can’t, I don’t sleep. It is as simple as that. So I got the ‘high’ bed, and my husband took the lower one (he stays still through the night, and often chooses a couch to sleep on… oh – having my ‘girls’ meant it wouldn’t have been good for us to be in the same bed, plus… we both sleep better when we have separate beds.)

I worried because the bed is so high, but brought different sized suitcases and bins that could make a bit of a ladder for my girls. They even have steps to get to my bed and my chair, there is no way they would be able to get onto that bed by themselves, and jumping down would have been dangerous.

As it turned out, we didn’t need the steps. Our niece and her husband have two young children, and had left a bed rail in the camper. (They weren’t up that week.) It was perfect, and there was only one moment through the whole week when I worried about my girls being up so high – Clara decided in the night she had to go to the bathroom, and was running around the bed trying to find a way down (she had a bathroom pad at home, but there was no room for it in the camper – besides, she doesn’t often use it during the summer.) Anyway, I took her outside, she did what she needed to, and we went back to bed; all good.

The bed was very comfortable. It had three windows on each side, and the girls and I really enjoyed spending time there (when we could; it would get hot during the day.) The girls liked being right there with me – which is normal at home, but when we are outside while camping, they are in their pen, or on a leash, or in their crate… and don’t get so much time to come so close to me. They loved being able to look out the window on the three sides, and spent a lot of time watching the birds and squirrels and such through them.

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One thing I really liked about being up at the lake this time was that we had people around us the first night, and the last two nights – but in between, even the neighbours weren’t around. Though I did enjoy my time visiting, I really liked the quiet while my husband and I were up there alone. Plus, without anyone around to chase or bark at, I was able to let my girls run around on the property off leash (while I could watch them, of course) and so didn’t feel bad about the time they did have to spend in their pen.

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I really hope we can get the camper during future trips. I think that my husband and I are both past the tent camping stage.

PS – the campers were all old ones that the owners gave, or practically gave for use up at the lake. They are not new campers and most don’t actually belong to anyone – so… Well, maybe we should ask around if anyone has an old camper that we could have so that we would always have one when we go up there, too (especially now that my husband is reducing his days at work and will have three day weekends from October on – so it is more likely we will go up often.)

 

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Autism: Trust and Lies

The challenge was they were going to be there. I wanted to be okay with that; really I did. But I was afraid.

I was afraid something would happen to get my ‘girls’ (chihuahuas) in trouble – like last time – and worried about what they would do. Worried about what she would do.

I was afraid that the forgiveness I had assured myself I had towards the past wasn’t… wasn’t strong enough to be in the same place as them. After all, thoughts of visiting the city where they live (one of my favourite places in the world, though I have only been there twice) brought me to panic. I mean, if we went, they would expect a visit… and could I visit them?

Forgiveness is all well and good in the abstract (notice I am not saying it was easy) but how would it hold up in such a close environment?

And trust? Now, forgiveness is one thing – we all struggle with something, and I know… I know that the failure and shame that I have had in my life wasn’t experienced without a lot of prayer, and study, and energy, and – everything I had really – given to succeed; yet I failed. Do they know that?

I wonder if those looking at my failures actually knew how hard I tried. Frequently it seems they don’t, for they are so angry with me for failing – as if I chose to fail! Really? When I say that I gave everything I had to do well, I actually did give everything I had to do well. So I have to believe that is true of everyone else, too. I have to.

So I forgave them. It wasn’t easy. What they did… what they set into motion… it broke me. Years later I am still broken from it, and I am not certain it can be healed this side of heaven, but… I forgave them.  Over and over again I forgave them – for it seems to me that forgiveness isn’t a one time thing. What was done hurts over and over again. It effects my life over and over again. It comes to mind over and over again.

And every time, I have to forgive again. And I do. I am convinced I do – yet when I am faced with being in the same place as the one who hurt me, I fear it isn’t true.

Trust is even harder. They hurt me once, or twice, or over a period of years, and it was… the worst thing ever. The very worst. And I know they have it in their power to hurt me again, and so I cringe from the contact – for it hurt so very bad the last time. That thing they did? It hurts still. Not a little bit – time doesn’t heal. Time gives perspective. Time lengthens the distance between the waves of pain. But it doesn’t heal it. This still hurts as much today as I think of it than it did then.

I forgave them believing that people fight their hardest to do well – and when we see their failure, we can’t know how hard they tried. But trust is harder for their battle hurt me so much, and I know they have the power to hurt me again.

So as I prepared for my trip, knowing they would be there, the panic grew moment by moment and day by day.

I wrote to my therapist who said, “they can’t take anything away from you but your sleep,” which I know not to be true. They can hurt me again. They can hurt me badly. I cannot lie to myself. I cannot accept other people’s lies – even if they mean well. Even if they are trying to help me find calm. A lie is a lie (whether they know it or not) and it makes the panic worse.

For maybe the worst doesn’t happen to other people (it seems therapists are trained to say our worst fears don’t often happen, and they use that to try to calm people) but my worst fears have happened to me. Again and again. And to tell me that doesn’t happen, or that can’t happen, only makes me feel more alone, misunderstood, and afraid; for the worst does happen to me, so I know it can happen again.

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Autism: Joy at the Petting Zoo

“Did you want to stop in at DeMille’s and get some corn,” my husband asked me as we drove into town on our shopping trip. DeMille’s is the local farm store in our community – and the reason it is the store (when we do have others) is that they have a really nice petting zoo.

“Sure,” I answered. I love going down to see the animals, and I love the feeling of walking through the store full of (mostly) local produce, and pretty canning jars, and freshly baked pies, and… That place is what ‘living’ feels like.

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It is real, and it is natural, and it is… me (though I’ve never lived on a farm.)

Mostly I just head straight for the animals, though, while my husband does the shopping. Today I went in with him. He got the corn. I got a few sweet potatoes (I really liked how they were smaller, and not the huge potatoes the grocery store gets.) He also asked me to pick out some apples, and I got a nice looking 10lbs bag.

We put them in the car, and on the way back to the animals my husband asked if I wanted to buy something to feed them.

Really?!!! We’ve never bought food for them before – I always just go in and look. “Yes, that would be fun!” I replied.

We went back in and he bought two paper bags full of seeds and corn and such, and then went back out to the animals.

They have it set up now so there are two gates to get in (and keep the animals inside.) So now they are able to have some of the animals out of their pens.

When they saw us come in with the paper bags, they came heading strait for us. I took out some seed, and they each took turns eating it. They were all so gentle. They even let me pet them after I fed them, and when we walked to see other animals, we had a following behind us – donkeys, sheep, a llama, some chickens…

We got to some “fainting goats” in their pen just as a worker was about to drop lettuce and such in. She let us take some out of the box to feed them first. We did that, and gave them more from our bags. As we were walking down the ‘boardwalk’ (a bridge of pallets covered with plywood) a rooster came running at us. I gave him some food from the bag, too, and he happily stopped to eat.

We fed more goats, and some Alpacas (with ‘Beatles’ like haircuts – so cute!) and more chickens, and at that point the sheep and a donkey met up with us and got the last of our food.

$1 a bag! That was probably the best dollar I have ever spent in my life! Hours later and I am still filled with joy from the experience. Such a wonderful gift my husband gave to me today – if ever he wanted to convince me he knew me; really knew me; it was in those words, “Do you want to buy something to feed the animals?”

I think my experiences with animals are much like what I see when other people are interacting – but always feel left out and awkward then – completely natural, and full of more joy than I could express.

The only thing I might like better would be a day (or weekend) spent at the fall fair – but my husband and son don’t like the fair, so I never get to go. Anyway, that doesn’t take away from how happy I am at this moment after spending even a short time at the market, feeding the animals.

 

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Autism: Giant Spider

Last night I didn’t sleep well at all – though I tried to go sleep around the usual time.

It was after 2am before I finally got to sleep, and I was woken up at 6am with Ditch (my cat) enthusiastically digging in his litter box (we now use pine litter – which is the best I’ve found as far as litter is concerned, but it is loud when they dig at it.)

For a short time I thought it was my husband digging in the litter box until I was awake enough to be more reasonable.

It didn’t help that I got up at 12am (having not slept yet despite 2 hours of trying) when I remembered I hadn’t filled up the cats food bowls the evening before. I walked down the hall and through the kitchen in the dark in bare feet.

As I walked towards the dining room where we keep their food, I hesitated and decided to turn the light on.

There – directly in my path, just on the other side of the doorway was the biggest wolf spider I have ever seen! It was easily the size of the bottom of our tea mugs (about 6 inches in diameter) or – as my husband said when I described it to him, “the size of a mouse – we had those in Vancouver.”

It ran across the floor and hid under the edge of a cushion Clara (my dog) likes to lie on when I am doing the dishes. Curling my toes in (just in case), and keeping my eye on the spider, I slowly walked over and filled the cats’ bowls before quickly retreating back to the doorway.

There went Finn (my Siamese) nonchalantly walking within a foot of the spider as if it weren’t big enough to almost eat her!

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Needless to say I was very shaken when I got back to my room – which had ‘my girls’ bouncing all over me, trying to help me calm down. It was more than two hours later before I finally got to sleep.

And the spider?

Still out there somewhere.

Of course I didn’t kill it! No, I couldn’t even consider that (and could you imagine the crunch it would make? It would traumatize me forever!)

Besides – while other spiders run away when they are disturbed, wolf spiders have a horrible habit of running straight towards you. There was no way I was taking that chance even if it meant Finn would be spending the night right next to it – besides, she doesn’t seem to mind being so close to spiders.

As for me? I am surprised I got any sleep at all!

 

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