Bored Equals Crabby

Jess visibly cringes every time I utter the words “I’m bored”. I’m not positive if it’s an autism thing or not, but being bored makes me downright crabby. And if I’m suffering, everyone ends up suffering (this makes me sound evil, I promise I’m not).

I’m out of school for the summer. I didn’t end up taking summer classes because a: there weren’t any that were super useful for my graduation plan, and b: My therapist, jess, and I all agreed that I needed a mental health break. I was all set for summer, I had a ton of things I wanted to do, like ramp up my physical therapy routine, do a lot of training with the puppy, and volunteer. None of this happened. I feel like at this point there’s no point in making plans because my body will always find a way to screw things up.

Firstly, I managed to injure my foot. I cannot explain how aching feet makes me feel so old, but they do. After seeing a podiatrist I spend several weeks in a walking boot, which was surprisingly ok sensory wise. I mean, yeah it smelled a little weird and the velcro made awful noises every time I walked, but the boot put nice, snug pressure on my foot and calf, it was like it had its own little weighted blanket. Now I’ve graduated to extra supportive shoes with extra extra supportive inserts, but I’m still not allowed to walk normally. This has thrown a medium size wrench into my plans.

There is, however, an massive size monkey wrench too, and it’s called Respiratory Muscle Weakness. I mentioned a few weeks ago that earlier this year, I started to have trouble breathing when I laid down. I am not going to go through the whole ordeal again, but needless to say, I’m up to 12 vials of blood, and 11 radiological tests, and I’m not feeling any better. Being able to exist in a horizontal position is really important for things like physical therapy, and being as to sit upright at length without getting short of breath is ideal for everything else.

So here we are. My plan to stay on a schedule over the summer has been totally wrecked. My entire team and I know that routines are important to my mental health, so being organized is seriously necessary, but there’s only so much I can do.

I am willing to admit fully that when it comes to things like this, routines and plans and knowing what’s going to happen and where or why or how I totally fit the autistic stereotype. All I want to do feel surrounded by carefully planned activities and stimuli that make me feel good.

I’m in a tough spot though. My old plan was based on leaving the house every day, but that’s not really happening right now. So I’m at home. I’m reading a lot of books and getting ahead on writing articles and essays and blog posts. I’m also turning all of the D&D characters that I’ve designed into concrete ideas and  making character sheets for them. How is this useful? I’m not sure but if my current charcters ever dies, I’ll have 2 dozen others to replace him.

A query- is it harder for you all to have to change something completely, or have to change it partways? Because I’ve gotta tell you, it’s illogical, but I almost always do better if I have to say “fuck it, I’m scrapping the whole thing and figuring out something new” then if I have to collect the pieces and try to reassemble.

A real-life example here is that I’m not going to get to lift weights for my physical therapy- it’s just not going to happen. Instead i now have a pull-up bar so I can be vertical and not put pressure on my foot. It took a while to come up with something new, but it wasn’t painful, you know? The dog training on the other hand, I just can’t wrap my head around. It’s still me, it’s still Winnie, we’re still training, but we can’t follow the old plan. Not going to lie, I’m still struggling with this one.

This is just not how I expected my summer to go, and I feel kind of silly being disappointed about the whole thing. I feel like as an adult I should be able to handle change and boredom without turning into a crustacean, but here we are. I think that one of the downsides about being diagnosed with autism later in life is that I was offically ann adult for almost a decade before I found out about the autism thing. This means that I’m still learning to it’s ok for me to struggle with things and that recognizing my weaknesses and being gentle with myself is part of the package.

I’m still crabby though.

 

I’m a Quitter

It’s official. As of Saturday, I will officially be a non-smoker.

I’ve been smoking on and off since I was 16, and while I’ve quit before, it’s never lasted more than a few years. I think a big reason for that is because smoking becomes such a satisfying routine.

And goodness knows that I thrive on routines.

So I’ve been thinking about quitting for a while now, but I’ve been having trouble doing the actual, you know, quitting part. I’ve been slowly decreasing the number of cigarettes that I smoke a day, but I’ve hit a bit of a wall. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to quit, but I was having what I think of as motivation issues.

Until last Saturday, that is. Since then, I’ve had tons of motivation.

I’m having surgery in July, and since it involves grafts, the surgeon requires me to not smoke. Fun fact: smokers have a 20% more chance of graft rejection than nonsmokers, which is good enough motivation for me to push through the discomfort and just quit.

Back to the routines. I smoke at specific times of day, every day. The act of smoking is so closely tied with things like eating meals and leaving the house that I have trouble separating the two. These sorts of activities are transitional, and that’s an Executive Dysfunction thing that I really struggle with.

So, the struggle begins to find replacement activities! After much consulting and debating, I’ve got a plan that I think will work. I’m going to use both distraction and sensory replacement to keep myself honest. Enter my Gameboy and coffee flavored hard candy. Instead of smoking before meals, I’ll take 5-10 minutes and play a game (Mario-kart and Mario party, mostly) and suck on hard candies to fulfill the oral fixation.

I’m not sure how this is all going to go. It looks good on paper, but goodness knows that changing routines is far more difficult than it should be, at least for me.

Wish me luck, and please excuse any rant-y posts while I adjust to all the changes!

P.S. If you’ve ever quit smoking and you have any tips, please let me know!

Let’s Be Practical

It all started with a Buzzfeed quiz: Eat Your Way Through Europe and We’ll Reveal Your Dream City! I got Barcelona, and while I was reading through the blurb describing warm oceans and sea breezes I thought to myself “you know, I’d love to see Barcelona some day.”

But let’s be practical, I probably won’t.

I think the most heartbreaking part of being diagnosed as an adult is that I often still think that I am neurotypical. And since I’ve spent 28 years being bombarded by the idea that I can do anything I want, I see no reason why I can’t. As long as I Try hard enough.

I think we all know though, that autism doesn’t work like that. Now I’m not implying that we shouldn’t try! Yoda said “do or do not, there is no try”, and I disagree with the little green bastard because I think “try” is not a placeholder for “do”, I think trying is an action in its own right.

And because of this, I subscribe to the school of Realistic Trying. To me, this means that I’m never going to stop pushing forward and doing things, but I’m going to be realistic about how I go about it. Let’s take Barcelona. Barcelona is in Europe. In Spain. I live in St. Louis, which is 4644 miles away, smack dab in the center of the United States. And thanks to the myth of Trying Hard, a large part of my brain still thinks that traveling that far is doable.

Let’s make a quick list of barriers to travel:

  1. I have a routine, and if it is not followed, it will eventually lead to a meltdown.
  2. I can’t deal with unpredictability, and traveling to a new continent is full of them.
  3. I am a picky eater, and my precariously balanced diet depends on me being able to eat safe foods.
  4. I get overwhelmed by people. I’m pretty sure a transatlantic flight would be the end of me.
  5. Sensory Overload. Enough said.

Yet my brain tells me that I Can Do Anything, and my common sense can’t shut it up. My brain tells me to Follow My Dreams. Common sense suggests maybe finding a more realistic dream, but this is quickly shut down. I Can Do Anything, my brain proclaims.

I can’t do anything.

I can do some things, and that list is always growing. This is what I need to focus on because I logically know that I can’t just push through a meltdown with the power of Trying. What I can do, and what I need to do, is to get to know myself better. Find out where I can make little adjustments without compromising my mental health.

So on days when I try something new, I keep my schedule as close to normal as possible, even if I’m not at home. I talk myself through things that might be unpredictable, so I can be ready for them. I pack myself just-in-case food, and I know where the bathrooms are- just in case I need a break. And for the sensory worries? I never leave home without earplugs, stim toys, and distractions.

I wish my brain thought those little adjustments were a success, but I think we all know by now that it doesn’t. Because my dreams didn’t come true, it tells me, I must not have tried hard enough. Who cares about small victories? I’m not lying on a beach* in Barcelona, so I’ve failed.

Let’s all give a rousing Shut Up to my brain, because yeah, maybe I haven’t made it to Europe yet. Maybe I never will. But hey, let’s be realistic, I’ve got Nashville and Chicago, and Kansas City, all a hop, skip, and a jump away, so let the road trips begin!

*I would never do this anyway. Wet sand is sensory hell for me.