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I have often noticed how different people cope with stress. What I’ve seen (in my limited experience) is that non-Aspies, such as my other half, seem to deal with stress a lot better than people like me. I’m not sure if this is generally true.

Something else I’ve noticed is that men seem to cope better than women – but this might be because they have been raised with an expectation of stress, or taught to have greater confidence in their own resources.

Whatever the reasons, I know that my body does not cope well with stress. When I get stressed a whole host of symptoms appear: mouth ulcers, tiredness, sensitive bowel, insomnia, dry skin, comfort eating or loss of appetite. I’m also open to any germs my toddler happens to send my way – mostly colds and sometimes diarrhoea.

This sucks. I am fed up of it.

I have had so many changes to cope with in the last 12 months and no immediate sign of any respite. I always seem to have too much to do.

I suspect, I need to change, rather than waiting patiently for life to ‘calm down’.

So, how do you do that? How do Aspies – or anyone – cope with stress?

All tips (and sympathy) welcome!

Do you find emotions overwhelming and difficult to experience? I try to avoid certain thoughts so that I won’t become sad but they linger at the back of my mind and I know they’re there. I’m quick to cry these days, for sadness and joy. It’s easy to feel unstable. Unsafe.

It’s an unfortunate fact that the more you have, the more you have to lose. When I was younger, it seemed as if I had nothing to lose. Now I have so much. That’s why it’s easy to cry if I hear about someone else’s loss, or someone else’s gain. Life is fragile and the Aspie mind doesn’t seem to make a good filter.

I recently heard a piece of music that made me think a question I’d asked years ago had been answered. Something about the tune just reminded me of how I used to feel, when I thought the Universe had abandoned me. That memory made me think about how different things are now. I cannot erase that history – that old feeling. But I can now embrace those emotions, just a little, without falling into despair, because I feel saved.

It’s always satisfying when I find a concise way of summarising my life – as with today’s blog title. Regular readers (I hope there may be a few) will remember that a few weeks ago I was worrying about a play date.

This time, my fears were unfounded, but I have yet to receive a return invitation and I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or not. My daughter liked the little boy who came over. I thought I’d got on well with the mother, and with the boy to an extent. Should I be worried? Should I invite them again anyway?

I’m also worried about work. It always seems as if the things that worry me most, are things I can do nothing about. Yet I still waste energy thinking about them when I should be focussing on what I can do, and catching up with my studies. Maybe I’m just using these things to help me procrastinate.

What else? O yes, the trip to A&E.

Having spent months suffering a cough that has given me constant muscle-ache in my right side, I was finally diagnosed and given antibiotics.

These made me very ill, so, my husband drove me to A&E where I spent the short wait alternately visiting the toilet and crying because my mum is nearly 70 and this makes me very sad.

Now I have new antibiotics and two weeks with no alcohol, hoping that my cough will finally get lost.

I also have my mum’s birthday party to look forward to, some outings with friends, and yoga once a week, so it’s not all bad.

And breathe…

PS. If you have any tips for relaxing that don’t involve alcohol, I’d love to hear about them in the comments! Thank you.

If you’ve read Becoming my mother, you’ll know that I started taking an interest in gardening a few months ago. This is ongoing, with mixed success. As a budding gardener, I am following in my mother’s footsteps as usual. (I think she may also be on the autism spectrum too.)

I am also following in her footsteps by watching a gardening programme – but not just any old gardening programme – nothing beats “The Autistic Gardener” for me! Have you seen it? An award winning autistic gardener gathered a group of keen amateurs who are all on the spectrum. Some have autism and some were diagnosed with Asperger’s – they are all great to watch on TV.

It was so refreshing to see non-NTs represented on TV, and to see how they flourished with their new responsibilities.

One of the younger team members said to camera, how awful it was to feel useless. I think this feeling is experienced by many on the autism spectrum. We see ‘everyone else’ doing things that we can’t – making friends, fitting in at work, moving into their own homes, and we feel that there’s something wrong with us because we struggle. We convince ourselves that we don’t fit. We’re just useless.

What an awful situation to be in. I hope being on that show has changed his opinion of himself. I also hope people watching it, who have autism, or who know someone with autism, will change their opinions too.

For me, gardening has not been a career lifeline, or a social game-changer, but it is satisfying to have home grown herbs, peaches, and carrots to eat. It is also good to sit out in the fresh air in a space that has become more beautiful because you have worked with nature.

I look forward to adding more to my garden.

Well, here I am several months after writing Sea change and I finally feel as if things have calmed down a bit. So, what’s new?

  1. I’m now a company director, and I’m enjoying my new responsibilities.
  2. I’ve been on a couple of family holidays and started potty training my little girl.
  3. I’ve had a lot of colds and a really annoying cough that keeps coming back.

And there we have it – my entire life and all the changes I’ve enjoyed and struggled with and worried about encapsulated in three little sentences.

It’s taken me a long time to feel capable of writing something for Acceptable Face. It’s also been a long time since I have felt able to continue my studies at an adequate pace but this is also starting again now. I have booked another exam to give me more motivation!

With luck, I will write more soon.

Yesterday I achieved something for the first time. Something that should be no big deal, but has taken me over a decade. I went to my polling station – alone.

In the past, I’ve had my sister or boyfriend / husband with me, and I’ve always been anxious about it.

Where do I go? What if they can’t find a record of me? What if I do something stupid like walk into something other than a polling booth? What if I make a mistake on my paper? What if I can’t find the ballot box? What if I take the wring door when I try to leave? What if there’s a big queue and I’m late for work?

The list of worries is ridiculous, and I’ve always been reassured by having someone with me who I trust to know what to do and exactly where to go.

This time, I managed it by myself, and it was ridiculously easy. It made me think about other milestones that are harder, and often come later for people with Aspergers.

I was late to drive a car. Late to have my first boyfriend. Late to start my career (I went on to a postgraduate course to avoid making the leap). Now I wonder what I was waiting for. What was so scary?

These milestones are not innately ridiculous, but my disproportionate fear of them has been.

I have always looked like my mum, and since my teens I’ve been aware of many similarities between us. I suspect she also has Asperger’s, although naturally we haven’t discussed it.

In my last post I spoke about making more changes and getting a hobby. I have taken up gardening! I am now the proud caretaker of a peach tree, in full blossom, and several herbs which aren’t growing as quickly as I want. I also have some carrots – just planted – which I’m hoping to catch sight of in a week or two.

My mum is a keen gardener, though she favours flowers and I prefer to grow things I can eat. My parents came to help me clear out my garden over the Easter weekend. We pruned a giant clematis, washed the patio, sorted the compost bin out, and mowed the lawn. Every time my Dad was about to switch on the mower, or any other noisy bit of kit, he’d warn us that there would be a loud noise.

It was this that made me think I was becoming my mother. My husband has been trained to warn me of impending loud noises. He knows they make me jump and recoil. Now I know that my mum and dad have the same relationship.

She dislikes the loud noises so he warns her when they’re coming. He also does most of the driving because she gets stressed and struggles to find her way around.

I wonder where the boundary lies between my Asperger’s and learnt behaviour.

Like all good Aspies, I do appreciate having a set routine, but with the spring sunshine making me feel extra happy, I’ve also been thinking about making some improvements.

First, I thought I needed a hobby. Hmm, restart yoga or take up the piano? Then I thought, it’s too far to walk to yoga and it’ll be expensive. And where would I go to learn piano? And when would I be able to practice?

Then I remembered I had my accountancy training, which I wanted to spend more time on. Maybe I don’t have time for a hobby?

My husband suggested I do more baking and make that my hobby. I’m not sure our waistlines will cope, but it is fun, especially when I can get my daughter involved.

Then I thought about spending more time in the garden. I’d love to get the lawn mowed, and plant some herbs and vegetables. But I hate getting mucky, I hate worms and spiders and most other creepy crawlies.

So, what do I change? Can drinking wine be a hobby?

How do you choose your hobbies?

I struggled with the title for this post. I wanted something pithy – I even hoped to come up with something humorous – but nothing seemed a good fit. Well, apart from that one idea I had which was about a paragraph long.

Anyway, all of this rambling is leading up to me saying that I need more energy. And more enthusiasm. And possibly a kick up the bum. The past few weeks have armed me with a long list of valid reasons why I’m not full of energy and zest for life. I’m sick. The toddler is sick. The weather is gloomy (well, duh, it’s December and I live in the UK)! My course is hard. I have too much to organise. My housework is eating into my valuable downtime…

Ick.

This is life. Life is always complicated and there will always be something happening and, probably, something not quite tickety-boo. If I could just harness that magical energy source…you know, the one that never ends!

So, my title is a surfing analogy. I am waiting for a wave to carry me. I am waiting for an external force to give me a boost. Unfortunately, among my friends and family I am usually the one giving other people energy and encouragement. And I should be able to find what I need from within.

My life is not at a standstill. The studies are progressing and I’m still working and almost keeping on top of the housework and toddler care. Things aren’t really that bad. I just have all these little niggles that chip away at me.

My solution? Tonight I am going out for drinks and a burger. I am going to see my best friend.

After that…I think I’ll have to keep plugging away until the next wave appears.

I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure I stub my toe, knock my elbows, walk into stuff, and drop things more than my toddler does.

After stumbling during an exercise and listening to my PT talk about her love life, I said, “So I’m being clumsy and you’re fucking stuff up. It’s just a standard week.” My clumsiness and lack of coordination have long been a cause of annoyance. Nothing dents the confidence quite like a class full of children shouting at you because you can’t hit a ball, or because the one time you got lucky and did hit the ball, you weren’t sure what to do next.

“Throw the bat down!”

“Run!”

“No – keep the bat!”

“You’re out!”

On the page, these phrases appear helpfully separated by a line space. In real life, I seem to recall they come all at once; an indistinct jumble that I have interpreted years later.

As I grew up, my hobbies seemed designed to improve my coordination. And yet, I am still stubbing my toe, tripping over stuff, and knocking my elbows daily. What would I be like without those years of dancing, yoga, karate, etc…?

Today I watched a woman complete the hardest assault course I have ever seen. The clip was posted on Facebook – maybe you saw it too? Wow. This tiny little woman, with so much strength and coordination. I would love to be like that.

This is why I take the toddler to Tumble tots.