Update and Sensory Breaks

A lot has been happening in the autistic world lately, most of which I’ve found out from other blogs on my links page (check them out, those who are new here!). There’s what happened to Issy – I think that Ariane (from Emma’s Hope Book) and especially Love Explosions (from Love Explosions), and their commenters, have said things more eloquently than I can manage. Please, take a look at their blogs, and at what they’ve written about the situation; it’s really, really important. There are certain of their posts that I’m going to recommend specifically a bit later on, but… just read, please.

But that isn’t the main point of this post – just something I think is really important for everyone involved in the autism world – whether autistic, autism parent, or autism friend – to read through and think seriously about.

The main point of this post is what’s been happening with me lately, and what happened yesterday, and what it made me think about.

So, I’ve been having a summer that can be called “not the greatest”, if one is given somewhat to understatement. It’s not been the worst, either – trust me, I’ve had a lot worse – but still, there are a number of things that could have gone better.

It is getting better now – read further down to find out how – but before I can go into that, I need to explain what the problems were, so you have the full story.

First of all, as I’ve mentioned in recent posts, I do not deal well with heat. At all. And one of the major traits of summer is that it tends to get hot, even here in St. John’s (though not nearly as hot as Toronto, thank all the gods!). (Unfortunately, I don’t deal well with cold, either – partly because it means I have to get bundled up, which translates to getting hot whenever I walk anywhere, or if I have to go inside – say a store, or a bus, or whatever – and partly because I have TMJ osteoarthritis, and that can lead to serious pain in my jaw and miserable headaches. There’s a very narrow temperature range that I actually find comfortable, and St. John’s is much better for me that way than Toronto was.) Which means that summer leads to me wanting to curl up away from the heat, currently in my bedroom and “study suite”, which are down in the sub-basement, since we don’t have air conditioning. When I live somewhere that has air conditioning, I’m more willing to wander around within the residence, but I still have serious issues with going outside. Which means withdrawal, which leads in turn to depression and problems sleeping, and not exercising, which makes the depression worse.

Also, at the moment, I don’t have a job. That means I’m not getting out of the house daily, and also that I’m not bringing any money in aside from social assistance (which proves problematic when it comes to things like medication costs, and wanting to get the occasional treat). Though that may be fixing itself soon – I have an appointment with Avalon Employment, a company here in St. John’s that works to help people with disabilities get and keep work. With any luck, the appointment means that they’ve received funding for me. (It’s funded by the provincial goverment, and they have to go through a rigorous checking process to get funding for each individual.) Oh well, I’ll find out tomorrow morning. (Here’s keeping my fingers crossed!)

Added to all that, I’ve also been having stomach problems. The first time I had something like this was in the fall of 2010, and it involved the over-production of stomach acid. I had been hoping that this could be solved by diet, and it kept coming and going over the summer, but it’s been too long. I’m now on medication that should fix it (and hopefully within more than 4 months, which was how long the situation in 2010 lasted!), but it made the summer rather unpleasant.

All of that put together also meant that I had problems getting much writing done, and I need to write. Aside from everything else (which involves a psychological need, as mentioned, that I’ve found a number of creative people have, to get our creations out), my psychologist believes that writing, like reading, is a stim for me (see upcoming stims post, the one I’ve been working on since about April, and still haven’t finished)… which means that I’ve been unable to do one of my most necessary stims. My fellow autistics will know what that can do….

This has resulted in messed-up sleep cycles (that I can’t do much about, despite urging from my parents, simply because willpower doesn’t help with everything, and also see my most recent post on hyper-focus and what that does when it comes to losing track of time), which also makes the above things worse, and leads to one of those whirlpool situations I’ve talked about before. Very much in the category of Not Fun. It has also led to a few issues with my parents. (Not as bad as arguments, but they’ve not been happy about my state this summer.)

So, that’s been the bad things. Now, for the current update:

I’m feeling much better than I was even just a week or two ago. My stomach’s still being a pain (literally!), but as far as I can tell, my mindset has been improving. For the following reasons:

I’ve been using my mom’s treadmill to get some exercise – twenty minutes a day, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (on the advice of my psychologist, who explained to me that only people who are obsessive about exercise can really keep that sort of schedule up every day; the rest of us might manage it for a couple of weeks, but then we’ll start losing interest, and skipping, and that will make things worse, because we’ll be failing). That started back in August, but got interrupted the last week of August when my stomach decided to revolt and as a result, I spent half the week curled up in bed trying not to throw up. However, I’ve managed to get it done the last week, and as a result, I’m starting to re-discover my enjoyment of walking. (As a kid, I used to walk around our block for hours at time, working on imagining and making up stories in my mind. Even when I was working as a security guard six years ago – when I was still on the overnight shift – I would quite often walk to or from the subway station and work, which tended to involve a walk of at least twenty minutes, even in the dead of winter. Can anyone say “stim”? But my heat issues got worse, and it’s been harder for me to deal with walking outside the last few years.) This is a good thing. I may still not be able to walk outside as much as I used to in the past, at least not yet, but just regaining the enjoyment I used to have with walking, and doing it every two to three days, has helped a great deal. I think I’ve already lost some extra weight I was carrying, and it’s been improving my mood. (Exercise helps with depression.)

I also managed to work through some of my writer’s block. I’ve managed to get a bit more of some of my stories written the last two weeks (not a lot more, but at this point, even a bit is a good thing). Added to that, I arranged an invitation to Archive of Our Own (aka AO3), a fanfiction website, where I posted my fanfic last week, and that’s also got my mood up, and my writing “fever” going. Yay me!

So. Now, onto the subject that I originally meant to write this post about (it’s become more a general update on how and why things have been going this summer!): Sensory Breaks.

Yesterday was… both good and bad.

I didn’t sleep well the night before last (yes, my sleep cycle is still messed up. It takes longer to fix than the other things), so I ended up sleeping in later than I wanted (though not as late as Monday!). I had actually intended to get up around 9 or so, so when Mom came home from her first appointment of the day (yesterday was a crazy busy day), I could take the car and go get my hair cut. However, by the time Mom managed to get home (the blood test clinic lineup was ridiculously long), I was pre-occupied with something I didn’t really want to interrupt. And then she mentioned the fact that she had to go to the same mall my hairdresser’s is in for her afternoon “appointment”, the WAMUN fiction book club meeting, so we might as well go together.

That worked out well. I got my appointment immediately, had a personable hairdresser who actually told me the names of the two styles I was considering, and then afterwards, I took the opportunity to pick up some fish for dinner at the supermarket next door, and drove home (having promised Mom that I would come pick her up when the book club meeting was finished).

Unfortunately, the hairdresser’s was brightly lit – necessary, I suspect, when you’re doing that kind of thing – and the supermarket tends to be a sensory nightmare. Brightly lit, lots of people, lots of sound – and the beeping sound of the scanners at the cash registers is frigging unpleasant, to say the least. Not to mention, it was warm out, and warmer in the car.

Then, when Mom was finished with her meeting, she wanted to go to Canadian Tire to see if they had any vacuums that we could use to replace the screwed-up dustbuster (we get a lot of animal fur strewn around, between the dog – Sancho Panza – and two of the cats – Thor and Imber). And she needed my help, because she couldn’t lift anything. (She has both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Nasty.) Sensory-wise, Canadian Tire is a bit better than Sobey’s (the supermarket) – the lights aren’t as bright, at least. But it was warm, and the aisles are fairly tightly spaced. And it was warm.

As a result, by the time we got back to the house, I was almost shaking with sensory overload (headache, stomach was hurting – which might have been partly psychosomatic, the overload aggravating the problems I’m having with it at the moment). I ended up having to ask Mom if she could cook dinner, and I would do it tonight (usually Mom cooks dinner Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, and I do it Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday – and Thursday, because Mom and Dad go out to dinner on Thursday), and just go to lie down.

And I really think that my parents are understanding a lot more about sensory overload and stuff these days, because she agreed. She wasn’t happy about it – but she was tired too, and hurting, and it had been a long day for her, and wasn’t finished – but she agreed. {{{Hugs Mom again}}} Thanks, Mom!

So I rested / slept the hour and a half until dinner – and boy, did it ever help. As a result, I was able to stay upstairs for a while after dinner (usually I retreat down to my room after dinner, but lately I’ve been managing to stay upstairs longer, and be a bit more social if Mom’s upstairs too). And while it’ll be a bit tight cooking tonight (Dad is directing the Wednesday night bridge game, which means he has to leave early – around 6, 6:15 at the latest – and my appointment with my psychologist is from 4:30 to 5:30), I’m just grateful that Mom was able and willing to help me with things last night. (And I’m going to be getting the meat cooked – which takes the longest – between my two appointments this afternoon. Did I mention that it’s this entire week that’s busy? Although yesterday was busy even for this week….)

The point is, I’m learning when to take sensory breaks to avoid more serious problems popping up later, and my parents are understanding a whole lot better about my need for that. It helps. It really, really helps.

So, long update, and sensory break stuff too! And it’s my 50th post (not counting the one describing this blog and the posts page)! Yay!


🙂 tagAught

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