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mental-health

I realised as I published my last post that I’ve been quite negative lately. This is not what I wanted when I started writing Acceptable Face*, but with my post-labour hormones all over the place and my continuing failure to just wake up one morning and find everything super-easy, I was feeling low.

Depression, and the low moods you get before life gets that bad, are part of many people’s lives and not limited to those with Asperger’s. This means I can’t blame it on the Asperger’s – which is actually a good thing! I do get fed up of it always being the limiting factor, the differentiator. “I’d be like a normal person if it weren’t for the Asperger’s…”, “I’m mostly able, except for the Asperger’s…”, “I’d love to do that! But I have Asperger’s so I can’t…”, etc.

Today, the weather is sunny and my baby is mercifully with my parents, so I’m able to get some work done and even treat myself to a new blog post! Other things have improved my mood more significantly.

For example, I recently read The Lie Tree, by Frances Hardinge. Not only is it an extremely good book, it also reminded me of the best bits of being a teenager. It’s so easy for me to look back and remember the depression and anxiety, but I hardly ever think about the good bits. The truth is that alongside my crushing anxiety, I also had close friendships, parents who would give me enough money for trips to the cinema, and an appreciation of beautiful summer days, which is exactly what today feels like.

This morning, while I was eating an early lunch, I watched a couple of YouTube videos from people with Asperger’s, and the first one in particular made me laugh. I used to watch this guy’s videos all the time before I had children. Linus’s comment near the end, about NTs caring about social rules more than they should, made me laugh – maybe it’s just the way he says it. But that video reminded me that it’s easy to worry too much. Yes, it’s nice to fit in and other people do appreciate it, but how much does it really matter? We will always be ourselves, no matter how much we pretend. Does it really have to be the end of the world if we can’t pretend all the time?

*While adding the link here I noticed I’ve been writing this blog since 2011. Wow I feel old! Also, where’s my book deal?

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At the weekend, we had another children’s party to go to. My eldest claimed she had a good time, and I hope she enjoyed every single minute. I was ready to cry before we’d got half way.

A children’s party is one of those occasions where it’s really obvious that my child and I take a different approach to socialising than, ooh, say…EVERYBODY ELSE. All the parents were mingling, standing around in pairs or threes or fours. All the children were running around in similar groups. All except for me, my husband, and our daughter. Our baby slept, I wasn’t worried about her, but watching our 5-year-old sitting by herself colouring made me wonder…when will she perceive the gap, and how will she feel about it when she notices?

This gap is one problem I cannot fix. I cannot make her fit in with the other children. I can only do my best to bolster her confidence and support the friendships she has made. Now I feel what my own mother must have felt. A kind of hopeless sorrow, driving me to encourage all sorts of pursuits for my daughter in the hope that her life will be easier than mine was.

I still believe my daughter is not as afflicted as I am when it comes to self-confidence and social skills, but I can see the echoes of my own behaviour in her now. The tendency to be quiet and shy is still with her, and I know I make a sucky example of how to make friends and interact with the world.

Maybe the lack of sleep is making me feel worse about my Asperger’s. Maybe it’s a touch of PND. This week I am stuck with the fact that there is no escape, for me or my family.

I knew it had been a while since I posted but – crumbs – over a month!? I think life is like that for everyone, regardless of where you fall on or off the autism spectrum, but what’s been going on?

Well, I’m still adjusting to life with my daughter at school. The schedule changes; the frequent demands for cake sale or fair contributions; the need to prepare for and attend children’s birthday parties; organising playdates… it’s enough to make me miss wine, and beer, and cocktails.

Also, I’ve been on an antenatal refresher course, which was great, but now I have another group of people to get to know with even more social demands.

And let’s not forget the friends I had before, who I’m also mindful of neglecting.

O, and trying to get work done, and attend all my medical appointments, and the volunteering, and housework, and trying to decorate my daughter’s new room, and think about what we need to prepare before the baby comes…

OK, you get it. I’m stressed. My ebb and flow has ebbed off and there is no sign of a return. I’m writing this with one eye on the clock because it’s nearly school pick up time.

With no access to alcohol for at least another couple of months, and thereafter very restricted access due to (hopefully) breastfeeding, it’s time to turn to healthier ways to unwind.

Step one will be to actually listen to the hypnobirthing audio tracks I’ve downloaded. Step two will be to get a massage (booked for next Monday – hooray!). Step three, which should probably be called Step 0.5 because it’s actually going to happen before Step 1, will be to chat with my husband and enjoy my yoga class this evening.

And breathe…

Feel free to post your own relaxation tips in the comments, or just vent if you’re stressed too!

They say pride comes before a fall and this week I am feeling the truth of it. Last week I was practically exploding with pride because I’d talked to a few new people when doing the school drop off. This week, I am feeling lonely again and pretty low.

What I remembered this week is that, being surrounded by so many people in the playground makes me scared to make eye contact. When I arrive in the morning or afternoon now, it’s so busy, and even if I see one of the mothers I spoke to last week, they’re invariably in conversation with someone else. So, I’ve been feeling sorry for myself and a bit like a failure again.

Before my daughter started at school, I would at least be able to talk to relatives when they came to collect her for babysitting, and the people at nursery who took care of her. Now, I speak to no-one, almost every day. Last night, to complete the loneliness, my husband went out for the evening and didn’t even send me a text message to say when he was coming home.

OK, I know that he knew I’d be in bed when he came back and he doesn’t like to wake me. Even so, I felt awful. Today, rather than moping again, I am trying to pick myself back up.

I’ve arranged a play date. I’ve arranged to start volunteering again at a local school. I’ve got relatives coming over tomorrow, and I’ve invited my sister and nephew to come on Friday. I’ve also left a message with a friend about meeting for coffee.

Each of these steps was difficult to take. I’m in the middle of a self-pity pit right now, and that makes it harder to climb out. Part of me feels like the loneliness can’t be fixed, because I know the Asperger’s can’t be fixed. In fact, I know from past experience that if I make an effort, things can improve.

I am trying to focus on what I do have, not what I don’t. How are you feeling this week?

After the other week’s anxious exchange, and even more anxious rushing to meet some deadlines, I am in the happy position of being able to say “I did it!”.

I did not offend my client. She is still in touch and keen to keep working with me. The cherry on the top is that, so far, she is also pleased with my work. Naturally, I am still a bit anxious, after all, the project isn’t entirely over yet! My next hurdle will be to negotiate phase 2 of the work.

But, I am happy to have had some success, and I am happy not to be in such a rush at the moment. It’s very easy for people like me to skip between worries without stopping to appreciate, or celebrate, when something comes to fruition or goes well. For example, I am currently worrying about three separate issues, but I’m trying not to.

Last Thursday I met two big work deadlines and on Friday I celebrated with my daughter, sister, and nephew, and lots of cupcakes and gingerbread men. I can tell you, after some long, stressful weeks, salted caramel never tasted so good!

So, what’s next? I still have plenty to do but I don’t want to keep worrying about it all. I want to move forwards with confidence, because actually, I do sometimes know what I’m doing.

Let me remember the salted caramel a little longer.

Here’s a question for you: Is losing sleep always a bad thing, or can it be a good thing?

Normally, having missed many hours throughout my life thanks to anxiety-related insomnia and then having a child, I wouldn’t even think about it. There was no doubt in my mind that losing sleep was one of the worst things that could happen to me. Yes, I know, I could be horribly injured under a bus or my country might declare war and there are countless other things that really are worse…

But to me, because my sleep is so often disrupted, I felt that losing sleep was the absolute nadir of my existence. I go to bed early every night in a desperate attempt to get enough hours. Yet I often wake up feeling sluggish and slow, wondering why my daughter got me up three times or why my husband chose that night to snore so loud. Last night I lay awake for three hours worrying about a possible new client project.

And yet…

Today, well, I still felt a bit slow in the morning. And I did accidentally pour gone off milk into my husband’s tea before I realised. But I’ve also got a lot done and I feel happier and more competent than I have for ages. I’ve been to medical appointments (don’t worry – just routine), I’ve got work done, I’ve emailed that possible new client who I’m still a bit scared of, and I’ve even mowed the lawn. (This may not seem a big deal to you but it was my first time – I was too scared to try).

Consequently, I am starting to wonder, is it really worth going to bed so early? If my body has the energy to keep awake for three hours between 2 and 5am and I still manage to perform better than average, maybe I didn’t actually need those hours at all? Maybe my body wakes more because it knows it can and should be doing more in the day and it’s just getting annoyed with my brain for making it shut down early? Maybe, sleep is not the answer I am looking for?

How do you feel when you lose sleep?

After last week’s sorrow, I am relieved to say I’m feeling better. The problem I wrote about hasn’t gone away, and I know it never will, but I’m feeling stronger anyway.

If I’d had a wobble like that 15 years ago, I would still be in the grip of it now. Time does not cure Asperger’s, but it does give us the opportunity to get better at living with it!

Something that helped me come out of that fog, was the simple act of hitting ‘publish’ on that blog post. The likes I got after were much appreciated. So, my recovery was initiated entirely by people taking the time to press a few buttons. I took the time, and so did you. With the internet between us, these tiny movements are enough to make a big difference.

We hear a lot about people causing trouble for others online, but not so much about all the good things that get done. Simple things that take seconds, like adding your name to a petition, making a charitable donation, or showing someone you took the time to read what they wrote. And for people with Asperger’s, or other conditions that put limitations on communicating, the internet is really a lifeline.

Thank you.