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mental-health

Today’s topic has been intriguing me lately. I’m wondering how much can be attributed to the Asperger’s, and how much is ‘normal’. I’ve been wondering if you just get used to different activity levels and the exhaustion just goes away. I’m also wondering how much is down to work, and how much is down to family life.

This last week the baby has finally let me have some lie-ins, so I’ve been getting up at 6.20 instead of 5.20. This is absolutely a dream come true, and yet when I wake, I still feel utterly exhausted. Friday’s are the worst, because I know I have the baby at home that day. On work days and study days, I’m happy. Sometimes stressed – and frequently drinking too much coffee at work – but happy. But does my Asperger’s mean my social schedule is too much? By trying to have it all, am I compromising my physical or mental health irreparably?

I’m sure I felt this way when my first child was very small, so perhaps it’s just an unfortunate combination, Aspie mother, small child. Incidentally, my eldest is also wearing me out now. Almost every night for several weeks she’s been waking me up because of a bad dream. Aside from putting her back to bed, I have no idea what to do about this.

Even so, I know for a fact that many other parents are having a much harder time. That’s why I feel the Asperger’s must play a part in my exhaustion. If it didn’t – then what the heck is wrong with me? All the NT mothers are out there battling lung infections and night waking; working more hours; going out drinking… I just want to be in bed, usually from about 8.30. I don’t have time for romance. I don’t even have the energy to stick jacket potatoes in the microwave once the clock ticks past 7. We end up getting more takeaways.

I like to think I’m pretty competent. I like to think I can handle this thing called ‘life’. Perhaps I just have to accept this limit. I have recently decided to retire from my volunteering, so that’s one less thing to worry about. I don’t want to cut anything else though, except maybe baby-time!

Is this a common thing for people with Asperger’s? Especially parents with Asperger’s? Is this something you just have to ride out? TIA

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Another post, and I still haven’t found time to be a whale. But I was encouraged by lots of positive responses to that post. I think talking about being busy and stressed out has struck a chord with many of you, which is simultaneously sad and pleasing, as if we’re all in some kind of crazy club.

And the first rule of crazy club is… you definitely CAN talk about it. In fact you definitely SHOULD talk about it, if you’re feeling stressed or anxious. These feelings may seem like a normal part of everyday life, especially if (like me) you have Asperger’s but you’re still trying to get lots done. But these feelings can also be dangerous. They can separate us from our loved ones. They can snowball into something so big you can’t sleep properly and you struggle to leave the house. I suspect a lot of my readers have already been there and done that, so let’s not go back!

Anyway, this isn’t exactly what I was intending to write about when I sat down. The title of my post refers to a James Acaster sketch, which I really like, so I’ll try to find a clip of it to link to. Just in case I can’t – or for anyone who doesn’t want to follow a YouTube link, I’ll summarise…

The sketch is about how we define our day by all the jobs we have to do. When we go to bed, it’s not explicitly to sleep. It’s because “no more jobs!” – either we’ve finished or we can’t stand to do anymore. This has been my life for much of the past few weeks. I enjoy most of the jobs, but I still get overwhelmed sometimes and a bit stressed trying to fit everything in. And yet, I’m really stubborn, so even things like my volunteering, which only happens once a month but always stresses me out because it takes time away from more important stuff, I don’t want to quit. I don’t want to let my team down. I know I enjoy the recording sessions when I get there, and I like seeing my team mates. So, I have lots of good reasons not to give that up… and it’s the same for everything else I have to get through each week.

I can’t cut work – that’s too much fun, plus the money!

I can’t cut play dates – my daughter’s social life shouldn’t suffer just because I’m frazzled!

I can’t cut yoga or book group – they’re actually good for my physical and mental wellbeing!

I can’t cut studying – I’m enjoying that and it’s good for my career!

I can’t cut shopping and laundry – because we’d starve and stink!

So, I guess I’m stuck with all my jobs. But that’s OK because I can come and vent here – at my crazy club.

Right. Time for more JOBS!!!!

PS. I’ve not forgotten the clip – I’ll try and add it in later. It’s worth seeing!

If you read my last post, you’ll have some idea of why I’ve been quiet lately. My feelings may have fluctuated, but the busy-ness has been constant!

Today, I’ve been inspired to take time out to talk about regrets, and holding onto negativity, which is something that affects everybody in some way, even if you’re (lucky to be?) neurotypical.

The festive period was certainly joyful in our house, but I found the sheer quantity of guests, engagements, and ‘things I needed to do’ really overwhelming. By the time I got back to work I was frazzled and stressed, wondering where my holiday went.

Luckily my emotions have evened out a bit since then, but I realised I’d been holding onto negativity when I really didn’t need to. Just a couple of days ago, I realised I’d been going to bed feeling stressed, almost every night. From 8pm, I start looking at my watch, wondering when is early enough to get to bed just in case one of the children gives me a bad night.

I’ve been a mother for almost 6 years. Almost 7 if you count ‘brewing’ time. Those years have taught me to cling desperately to my sleep, because children can go through so many phases, and so many bugs. But my two are relatively good sleepers. Sure, there have been plenty of nights where I just wanted to be unconscious so badly… but there have also been many more nights that were good. Yet for more than half a decade, I’ve been holding onto this idea that if I’m not in bed between half eight and nine, I might be an emotional wreck by morning.

When you contextualise the worry like that, it seems ridiculous. And maybe it is!?

So – what does this have to do with whales? I hear you ask. Well, I thought if I started to practise mindfulness that would help, and a friend of mine recommended becoming a whale. The idea is, you have to imagine all the negativity being blown out of the top of your head – like water from a whale’s blowhole.

When she told me this, my first instinct was to laugh, and maybe that’s the point. It’s hard to be negative and stressed out when you’re really laughing at something.

I actually haven’t tried it yet (because I’ve been so busy) – but just knowing that I’ve been holding onto stress has made me a bit less worried. I think dealing with stress will always be a work in progress. Knowing that it’s there is the first step to fighting it.

Do you have a good mindfulness tip to share?

I’ve been really enjoying my new job – in a way I didn’t know was possible! The team is good, but the best bit is the work itself. I never thought I’d find a job that really fitted my intellect. As an Aspie, with chronic social-skill failure and lack of confidence, I got stuck in a loop of taking crappy low-paid customer service roles that made my brain feel like it might as well go on permanent vacation. And the stress levels were horrendous! Now that I have FINALLY found an interesting role in finance, I am starting to get excited about the future again.

Of course, my career choices weren’t just based on the Asperger’s. As many women will know first hand, I also felt it sensible to put my husband’s career first (as he was the higher earner), and focus my efforts on child raising, housework, and all that other valuable yet often underappreciated and mind numbing stuff.

Now, part-timer and relative newbie though I am (at the grand old age of 36) I am starting to get ideas. Ideas like “hey, I could actually finish that CIMA course!” and “maybe I could bring in a decent wage” and my personal favourite, “I’m actually good at something despite having Asperger’s!”.

So, how does this relate to the title of my post today?

The truth is I’d almost given up on having a career. I took time out for child rearing, and when I was ready to get back into an office I struggled so much. It was hard to find something that matched my hours. It was hard to find something that matched my skills and experience. But I kept looking because it was important to me to try. The interviews were as painful as you’d expect for someone like me, and the failures were demotivating. And all along, I wasn’t even sure if it would work out well for me, even if I could get a job.

So, in summary, if you’ve written something off that you were hoping to achieve, maybe it’s time to revisit that, and give yourself another chance. We only get one life.

After last week’s misery (which I still feel guilty about, because a mother isn’t supposed to find her baby quite so irksome, maybe) things are looking up. The baby is back at nursery and tomorrow I’ll be back at the office.

And although it’s only half ten here in the UK, I’ve already put my freedom to very good use by going for a run and enjoying some coffee with a cinnamon pastry – uninterrupted!

I don’t know if people without children will quite understand this bliss. Then again, I’ve had some pretty hectic jobs in the past and that also made me appreciate my quiet time. When I worked in a bank, we’d have long days absolutely filled with customers. On busy days, it would literally be a constant stream of people from opening to closing. Can you imagine how much fun that was with Asperger’s?

I think it must be the same for a lot of shop workers, and of course, anyone in the police or NHS. When do you get to take a breather? When do you get to enjoy your freedom?

These moments are so precious – I hope everybody gets to enjoy them sometimes.

And if you’re a mother who’s desperate for a break from your children – throw off the guilt and do it if you can. Or if you can’t throw off the guilt, do it anyway! Ask those friends or relatives, or spend a bit of money if you can spare it. Your mental health will thank you.

As usual, comments, including rants and whinges (you know I don’t mind you venting) are welcome.

Another long gap between posts – and I already used the last one to apologise!

The truth is, I’ve spent the last few weeks feeling totally overwhelmed. I suspect this is a common Aspie feeling, after all we are prone to stress, at least partly because (I think) we’re also prone to over-thinking everything. But first, (well, second now) the good news.

I got a job!

It seemed to come together very easily, and if any of you have read some of my previous work-related posts, like this one, you’ll know how astonishing that is to me.

So, now I have an office job 2 days a week, plus I still do some freelance work from home, plus the kids, plus the housework, plus plus plus…

So you can see why I might be a bit overwhelmed. I am very pleased to have my new job – I really enjoy being there! But at the same time it cuts into what was already a busy week for me. I am at least 70% staying on top of everything, but it always feels like a stretch and I’m wondering if I’ll ever get really good at spinning all these plates.

Fellow plate spinners – how do you manage? Does it get better with time?

 

OK, it’s been a long time since I posted and I feel a little guilty for that. I don’t imagine there are people out there relying on my updates, but when I started this blog it was with the intention of being a friendly voice for other autists. I wanted to be a positive influence and offer encouragement, not just to fellow Aspies, but to anyone suffering from social anxiety, depression, loneliness, low self-esteem, etc. And how can I be that encouraging friend when I don’t even bother to put a post up for over a month?

The truth is I have been struggling. I have been wondering what to do with my life and trying to decide between going back to college or job hunting. I have been trying to keep up with life’s demands with my eldest girl on summer holidays and my youngest getting up in the night with teething pains. The intense heat has stopped me exercising as much, and I have felt a general malaise. A tiredness.

But, life never stops just because we’d rather bury our heads in the sand for a few weeks. I have been forced by the sheer will of the world to keep going, worries and all. And life has been improving.

Last week I had a job interview, which I’m still feeling very positive about. Getting through it was very stressful – to the point where I wondered if some of my insides might fall out during the interview! But it’s done now, and even if I don’t get it, I now know that I am still attractive to some employers and I can present myself well in person as well as on paper. It is nearly always worth pushing yourself to do something scary like that!

And if you fall and fail? Dust yourself off, and carry on regardless. You are worth taking a risk.