Worry Offers Wrinkles, Lines, and no Solutions

In the Book of Matthew, 6:27 and Luke 12:25, Jesus asked which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to one’s span of life. I admit if my worrying could extend hours to my lifespan, my lifespan would be mighty stretched. Worrying is something I confess I do even though all it gives me is wrinkles, lines, and no solutions.

Worry is a sure sign I am failing in the “faith” department and accomplishing nothing. Someone named Van Wilder said that worrying is like a rocking chair. You can sit yourself down in that chair at sunrise and rock in that chair until the day is done. Come sundown, you’ll still be where you started. That’s as far a distance as worrying gets you too.

One of the hardships of living on the Autism Spectrum is anxiety. ( My own personal nickname for the Spectrum is “Billy”). Tony Attwood, a leading authority on Asperger Syndrome, sees those with highly-functioning Autism, or Asperger Syndrome, managing anxiety as a daily part of their lives. According to conservative estimates, 65% of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome suffer from anxiety and depression compared to 18% of the general population. I’m one of those in the 65% who takes medication for it.

A popular prayer that often comes to my mind is about accepting the things one can’t change, the courage to change the things one can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I can’t change having Billy around and the baggage that comes with him. He can be good to have around but sometimes, I wish I could divorce him. For instance, I can’t shoo away meltdowns. I can’t wish away anxiety pangs that have no rhyme or reason to them. Fortunately, since taking my medication, such pangs are fewer and sleep isn’t a challenge as it used to be. I can’t rewire my brain to turn into an extrovert and thrive on being around people rather than thriving on being alone. I can’t help it that I can’t process verbal instruction as fast as others. I can’t help it that a change in routine puts me in a tailspin. I can’t help it that I need to pace the floor and retreat to my fantasy world to cope with a world I don’t understand.

Prayer is always a good place to start with the coping process. That’s at the top of the list of tools to knock off worry. Take meltdowns, for instance. When one comes, I can do something about it such as finding an area of refuge, stim as much as I need to (pace, jog, rock, etc.), with a prayer on my lips. I can’t prevent their coming, but I can choose to prayerfully weather them through and not to worry about when the next one is coming.

In my better moments of thinking, I see Billy as a daily opportunity to live my faith. He is something I either can choose to worry about or not. Worrying won’t make Billy go away any more than not worrying will either. But I’ll have more peace of mind and more fun by not. Even better, I’ll be living my faith in the Lord which has the added advantage of having a closer walk with Him.

 

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Hangwire

It isn’t a chore for me to organize my stuff; it’s a TREAT! It’s not so much re-organizing the BIG stuff such as beds, recliners, etc. I’ll do that but on rare occasion. It’s more the small stuff such as the clothes in my closet or drawers. I want my space to be as predictable as my routine.  I intensely dislike playing hide and seek where I am the one seeking and seldom the finder.

I went overboard this last summer. With the kids out of school, I was on break since substitute teacher aides are on hiatus. Solo activities help to keep me in a good mood. On one afternoon, I took to organizing my bedroom closet for the upteenth time.  I like doing it so much that I stopped counting how many times I’ve given a closet a re-org.

After I finished tossin’, I needed to go garage shopping. Why? I had tossed more than half my clothes. The criteria for what to toss out was what I hadn’t worn in a year or so. It became abundantly clear to me that a limited amount of my clothes see the light of day. I tend to wear the same old things; a creature of habit.

I had worked so hard that I got sweaty and thus, cranky as a bear. Ought oh! As my energy level goes down, my tendency to have a meltdown goes UP!  I  felt a volcano rumbling within in.  I should have slowed down but once I start something, it is truly hard for me to put the brakes on it. How did I know I was hitting the boiling point? My clue was engaging in combat with the hangers.

I had a lot of hangers left over after discarding so much of what they had hung up. I was trying to put them away in a box but they didn’t want to go away quietly. One entangled with another one and separating them apart got on my nerves. Some flew on the floor. Well, okay, I gave them a little boost.

Fighting hangers was a sign I was heading for meltdown country.  I did what sometimes chases a meltdown away.  I walked away and went out to the backyard for a hanger break. Maybe I could walk off my crankiness. Since I like being productive, I picked up dead leaves and twigs. It may sound strange but it is an activity that sometimes will soothe down the rumbling.

After the lawn looked sufficiently leafless, I had calmed down by then and I returned to the hanger mess on my bedroom floor.  I put the hangers in the storage box without any more combat. After storing the left-over hangers and the clothing that didn’t make the final cut, I took a good look at my closet — my masterpiece. It had more empty space and was organized to the hilt. Just “perfect”.

It can be so exhausting living on the spectrum aiming for perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Dear Cube

I can click on it as if it was a pen.  I can glide on it as if it was a joystick.  I can flip on it as if it were a light switch.  I can roll on it as if it were a combination lock.  I can rub on it as if it were a rubber ducky.  It is my fidget cube.

It is the newest gadget to my growing herd of gadgets.  Some people on the spectrum collect stamps, rock, calendars, etc.; I collect gadgets.  One of my favorite stores is the utopia of gadget merchandise:  “As Seen on TV”.  Most of their products I haven’t seen on TV but that’s beside the point.  Some gadgets are practical and some are strictly for fun.  My newest gadget is a fidget cube that is both a toy and a practical tool for my autistic need to fidget to focus.

My first sighting of this cube was a Facebook (FB) ad.  I don’t usually pay attention to ads on (FB) any more than I do on the TV tube, but this ad caught my eye because it claimed to be helpful to those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism.  Since I’m on the spectrum and I do fidget, I clicked on the picture to learn more about this cube.  I got hooked, lined, and sinkered into ordering one from Amazon.  I was dismayed that it took an entire month before I’d get my hands on one.  It was like back in the day when I waited for Santa.

The cube is selling like hot cakes along with its cousin, the fidget spinner.  My grandniece introduced me to the spinner and she wouldn’t sell it to me. HA! So I had to continue to wait for the cube.

Its ad claimed a total of six sensory tools on all its six sides: an on/off- switch resembling a light switch, gears, a rolling ball, a small joystick, a spinning disc, a rubbing pad, and depressible buttons.  All of these fidgeting options on one cube!  Since it can easily fit in my pocket, I can twiddle with the cube without public knowledge.

I have had the cube a few months now.  It has lived up to its billing in the FB ad.  I keep it with me pretty much all the time except I don’t take it to bed with me.  I take it to school with me and fidget as needed in my pocket.  It helps keep me cool, calm and collected when in the midst of chaos such as in the school gym/playground where 30-something or more sets of lungs or going off.

When I go for walks or jog in place, I take it along and click on its buttons creating a rhythm to step or jog to.  Or, use it to count steps as I’m walking or jogging.  While I am at a desk in writing mode, I will fiddle with the cube when needing a “brain break.”

I never thought I’d be attached to a cube but that’s the kick about life.  It has its surprises.  Sometimes those surprises come in small packages.  With living on the autism spectrum, I’m open-minded to any gadget or app that can lighten the sensory load.  With all the options on the cube, I just may give up my other fidgeting activities such as stretching a rubber band, playing with a paper clip or biting my fingernails.

 

 

 

Meltdown Degrees

My meltdowns are at varying degrees.  One can be in the 30’s (a short upset), in the 60’s (a longer teary-eyed fit), or in the 90’s (when hopefully the only thing I’ll throw around the room is a pillow).

My foremost coping skill is a talk with Jesus.  Just telling him whatever is going on inside of me is the best place to start conquering the meltdown.  Oh, I could talk to someone which is not bad advice, but I seldom take that option.  It carries the risk of the person advising me to calm down.  Telling me to do such when I’m in meltdown country is like holding a red flag in front of a bull.

Sometimes I walk into situations where the odds of having a meltdown increase tremendously.  Such as going to the $1.00 store a few days before Easter.  That was a bad idea.

Easter decorations were flying off the shelf.  I don’t like to shop anywhere where there’s a crowd.  However, since I needed some items in that store at the affordable price of a dollar, I took the meltdown risk.  I’m a miser at heart too.

There wasn’t that big of a line when I walked in, but it seemed like when I went to get in line, there had been a cattle call to get in line.  I stood waiting while three ladies who were together separately purchased oodles of Easter bunnies, baskets, eggs, etc.  Now I knew, rationally speaking, they had every right as I did to be there.  But sitting through their purchases raised my odds of a meltdown.

Before I got out of the parking lot, I had to wait for cars to slowly, and I do mean slowly, back out of their parking space.  That’s what one should do when backing out, but I wasn’t thinking rationally at that point.  I started having one of those short meltdowns.  No tears but tension running throughout my body.  My steering wheel got a beating.  I shouldn’t have been driving but it was too far to walk home.

My next stop was what I call my “toy store”, Best Buy!  It was on my official “Saturday Morning Shopping Plan” that was written in my mind before I embarked.  It is my favorite store because I possess a common “autism” trait of collecting things and what I collect is in that store.

While browsing inside my “utopia”,  the crisis passed.  My anxiety level shifted downward.  I came home feeling extra tired because a meltdown, even a short one, can be draining.  There won’t always be a Best Buy around when I need one, but on that day, I coped as best I could at Best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tire Meltdown

It is a member of my Prius’s (aka Pree) dashboard warning icons.  I am most familiar with it than others because it pops up more often.  That’s a good thing since I’d rather have a low tire pressure warning light than one warning of a meltdown of my car’s engine.  Any warning icon is an eyesore, though.  With me, on the spectrum, a warning icon can bring on a meltdown.  I’ll overreact with a tight grip on the steering wheel and every muscle in my body on full alert.  It isn’t the end of the world for the tire light to come on, but my brain registers it as coming awfully close to it.

When this happened some months ago, my anxiety hit the roof.  I had to get it taken care of immediately!  I mean STAT!  I was afraid to continue driving Pree. I wanted to get to a tire place to erase the icon staring straight at me.  It was early that morning and fortunately, a tire place a few miles away was open.  I caught them at a quiet time with no waiting.  Pree’s rear shoes needed some airing and it was promptly taken care of.

After getting back on the road to where I was headed, I breathed many sighs of relief.  I would be drained for hours coming down from a full panic alert.  When I felt better, I thought to look up on YouTube how to check the air on a tire and how to air a tire up with an inflator.  I knew this icon would come on again and I wanted to stop having a panic attack over it.  The video of watching someone go through the motions was easier to follow versus reading an instruction manual.  The video inspired me to go on an adventure into an auto parts store and purchase an inflator that fit my budget.

Months later, the yellow icon eyesore came on, but I didn’t grab onto the steering wheel for dear life.  I was armed with a tire inflator.  The YouTube video was replaying in my mind as I got the inflator out from the trunk.  I had NO problem finding which tires were low and aired them up according to my car manual’s tire specifications.  When I turned Pree back on, the eyesore disappeared from my dashboard.  A meltdown had been averted!

I still am not looking forward to seeing that icon on my dashboard, but I have something I didn’t have before.  A tire inflator and the know-how.  If there is a lesson in this story, my guess would be — knowledge is power.

 

 

Living on the Spectrum

Words that light up my panic button:  CHANGE OF PLANS

Need help finding something on the store shelf?  Only if living without that something is a more frightening prospect than asking a total stranger for help.

Never a day without one too many cringing pop-ups of embarrassing or painful memories I would delete if only I could.

I keep something in my pocket to fidget with to keep my hands busy.  Or, I bite my nails.

I’m open to spontaneity with just one condition:  it has to be my idea.  It is rather unthinkable to go along with someone else’s.

Sometimes I ask myself, “How am I feeling?”, and I don’t have a clue.

Frustrating when I think of a thought to share, people keep talking, and the time to share it has passed.

Little things such as calling for an appointment or asking a question isn’t little to me.

Wanting to disappear when someone brings it to the group’s attention that I am the quiet one.

I crave specifics; don’t cater to abstracts.

I will play games provided the other player(s) are under 10.

The fact that something bothers me bothers me too.

 

I edit in my mind my on-the-spot blurred response to a question I was asked days or weeks ago.

Just because my mouth isn’t at work doesn’t mean my brain is too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meltdown Fatique

My meltdown began with music coming from a computer.  I was well within earshot.  Even if my life depended on it, I couldn’t explain why the sound of someone singing on a video triggered a magnitude of agony.   I don’t know if there are words to describe this meltdown; if there are, I don’t know them.

I left the area to an adjoining room but I could still hear the sound.  I didn’t know what was being sung on the video and why it triggered an eruption in my soul.  I could not tell someone to turn the volume down or turn it off.  That would not have been socially acceptable.

I was alone so I curled up in a fetal position, held my hands over my ear, bounced my leg up and down, and silently sobbed.  What seemed longer than a few minutes, I went elsewhere to pace the floor in another empty room.  When I was certain the music was off, I could start breathing again as if I had been sinking and was able to come back up for air.

The meltdown left me utterly exhausted!  I sat down and rocked for comfort.  Before my diagnosis a few months ago, I wouldn’t have known it was a meltdown.  Just me acting crazy.  I wouldn’t have known my rocking and pacing was “stimming” and how such is essential during and after meltdowns.  Such repetitive behavior is the insulation from a meltdown’s cold and cruel wind that sometimes blows in from seemingly out of nowhere.

 

 

 

In a Tough Spot

It was a 5th grade math class.  I am there to help two special education students who are in a regular classroom setting but need help with staying on task.  The teacher asked me to help the two students with the math assignment.  Then she continued her math lesson with all the other students in the classroom.  I walked into this math lesson cold turkey.  I had no preparation or review time.  I didn’t have in my possession the teacher’s answer book.  Not that having the answers would have helped all that much.  It’s one thing to know the answers; it’s another to know the steps of how to arrive at the answers.

A diagram was on the board.  It was a coordinate grid.  I only knew that because that’s what it said on their worksheet.  I had seen one of these grids before in one of my earlier lives.  HA!  Now I only had 15 minutes with them.  Well, that was 14 minutes too long.  I was saved from utter embarrassment only because one of the two students knew more about coordinates than the other one.

A moment etched in my memory was when the one who was more or less clueless about the grid said to me, “Ms…., I need help.”  I didn’t say this since I didn’t want to admit my grid ignorance; I only thought: “You and me both kid!”

 

 

Breathe

My meltdown started with the voice mail symbol on my cellphone.  This symbol will push my inner panic button every time.  Fear and anxiety are predominant emotions in my living on the spectrum.  In this case, the fear of the unknown caller and message.  I could hear my heart beating in my chest as I called my voice mail.  I don’t dare hold off listening to the message because if I put it off, the fear of the unknown message will continue to press on my panic button.  Usually, a phone message is no big deal and I can sigh a ton of relief.  But not that morning.

It wasn’t a message for me but for someone I know.  It was upsetting because I didn’t give that person my number.  They were trying to reach someone else through me.  This infuriated me being put in the middle.  I don’t get many voice mail messages and I don’t want to get any that are not for me.

My world had temporarily been rocked.  I was screaming inside.  The thoughts that this was a small thing and within my control to delete the message was overwhelmed with my thoughts of invasion of my privacy and fear that I would continue getting calls that weren’t for me.  But I had a place to go and a job to do.  I wanted to go to some safe corner and rock back and forth; or pace the floor, telling whoever a thing or two, but that wouldn’t have gone over too well in a gym filled with fourth graders.

It got to the point of being almost unbearable as I walked around the gym monitoring the students.  I said a little prayer pleading for help.  Then, my mind took a turn to the music.  The coach was playing Neil Diamond songs.  I knew those songs.  Back in my youth, I paced the floor to Diamond songs with my wild imagination.  I knew most of the words and so I started mumbling them.  I “stimmed” to the music with foot tapping.  It was working.  My heart stopped pounding so hard and I was able to breathe.

The coach began a new activity.  At the roll of a jumbo dice with names of exercises on each side, the dice landed on the exericse those who lost had to do.  I decided to join those in the middle instead of observing from the sideline.

I did the arm curls, leg lift-ups, knee bends, and touch your toe bends.  Now when the dice landed on push-ups, I sat that one out.  HA!  It was a relief that the exercies were increasing my heart and breathing rate instead of my panic button doing the honors.

I thanked the Lord the crisis had passed.  It helped me tremendously to pray followed by the idea of singing to the Diamond songs and exercising with the students.   Just things to do to channel my energy somewhere else.

My thinking about the phone message eventually turned positive.  I can’t stop whoever from leaving a voice message, but I can delete it with the push of a button.  Maybe next time it won’t push my panic button, but if it does, I know Who to call on.

 

A Selfie

I came across a poster on Pinterest that defines Asperger’s and it was as close as I ever seen of a selfie of myself … psychologically speaking:

A nxious

S ensitive to criticism

P eculiar

E asily Distressed

R eal Literal

G ifted

E xtreme Difficulty Understanding Others

R esistant to Change

S ocially Challenged

 

I relate to all these except I’m not sure about gifted.  That one is a stretch.  HA!

Sensitive?  Well, if someone is sensitive who can be crushed if someone so much as corrects them ever so slightly,  then I plead guilty.

I’ve heard it said that life is change.  Well, if so, no wonder I have a hard time with life.    Now I’ve had plenty of changes in my life, but most of them I didn’t plan on making.

How socially challenged am I?  Bad news is a party invitation.  Good news is a party cancellation.

If I was caught on video camera when I am alone having a meltdown, the word “peculiar” would be a nice way of describing it.

As far as understanding others, I don’t.  HA!  Sometimes I cross paths with someone I feel as comfortable with as my favorite pair of P.J.’s.  But I know the pain of frustration when paired with someone for even a short spell that I couldn’t connect with.  It was like we were ideally supposed to be playing a violin duet, but instead, the other was playing the violin and I was playing the harmonica.

I do take what someone says to me as being LITERAL!  If they say one thing and mean another, I am clueless on the “another”.If someone tells me, “You should have known I what I meant,  that’s just common sense.”  Well, when they were handing out common sense, I must not have gotten in line.

Finally, at the top, anxiety!  It is an ongoing battle.  I win more battles than I used to because of medication.  The pills don’t erase my anxiety, but do knock the level down some pegs.

The above isn’t a complete list of what Asperger’s looks like.  I’ve seen similar posters that list other “aspie” traits, both positive and negative.  It is just the above one hit so close to home that I call it my “selfie”.