Springingtiger's Blog


Family Time
January 20, 2016, 22:30
Filed under: autism, Health | Tags: , , , ,

The emphasis is on time. However much we may love them I don’t think anyone would argue that families are a drain of time and energy. That’s just the way it is and we’re all drainers and drainees according to circumstance.

For me the hardest part of family visits is their unpredictability. A quick visit for a cup of tea and a chat to see how people are can become — without warning — seven hours and dinner. This can be nice, but less so when I have other things planned for my time. I need the events of my life to match the predicted schedule. Thwarted expectations leave me frustrated, fractious and drained of energy. I appreciate that people are being kind, but a kind invitation when unexpected which causes my predicted plans to evaporate is no kindness to me. I like to spend hours with my family, however I do need to know I’m going to be doing it.



Sleep Obsessed

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As anyone who’s read my Twitter feed is probably aware, I have a tendency to insomnia. Indeed a lifetime of irregular sleep patterns has made me a little bit obsessive about sleep. I have created rules and beliefs about sleep which I doubt have any grounding in reality, but can adversely affect my ability to awake refreshed.

If I can go to bed just after 22:00 ̶ preferably with a cup of cocoa ̶ I am happy. I read for a while and get my lights out by midnight. The longer I remain out of bed after 22:00 the more stressed I get. If I am still up at midnight I know the night will be a disaster, I won’t sleep well and I’ll be exhausted in the morning. How do I know? I don’t it’s a belief that experience tells me is true. Is it always true? Probably not, but my mind deletes the incidences that contradict my belief. By now it probably is true because I have conditioned myself to make it happen.

I believe I should not get out of bed before 06:00. I suspect that belief I got from my parents neither of whom welcomed being woken by noise in the morning. If I get up to go to the bathroom before 06:00 I will go back to bed and try to to sleep even if it’s 05:50 ̶ as happened this morning and which prompted this blog.

I also have a rule that says if I go back to bed and am unable to sleep after a couple of hours I must get up and do something to make me tired enough to sleep before 06:00. I have learned that doing something should really not include social media as the point is to unwind. However I’m not always good at keeping my own rules.

I think perhaps I try too hard to sleep. Eye masks make me itchy and earplugs may block out sound, but they aggravate tinnitus. And nothing I can do will stop my mind seizing the silence of the quiet, early morning hours to explore ideas. I suppose I should be grateful and I would be if I could be bothered to note them down when they come, but that would be to surrender to wakefulness.

My cat’s rule about sleep is simple; if I am awake ̶ even if it’s 03:00 and I’m just going to the bathroom ̶ I should be playing with him. Preferably I should be letting him go outside to play. I have tried repeatedly to explain to him that he’s not allowed out in the dark and must wait until the sky begins to lighten, but he doesn’t listen. The other evening I had been having the same conversation with him in the kitchen, when I went into the living-room I found my wife howling with laughter.

“What’s so funny?” I asked ̶ thinking it was something she had seen on the television.

“ You asked the cat, ‘What part of ‘its dark don’t you understand?’” She laughed, “What did the Wee Man reply?”.

Fortunately I persuaded her that it was not a conversation to share on Facebook.

When the Wee Man realises he’s not going out he’ll join me in the bedroom and pin my legs down so that even if I do eventually sleep sleep I’m not going to be comfortable while I get there. He can sleep anywhere any time, I am envious.

Years of night-shifts certainly haven’t helped my sleep patterns, but one reason for doing them was my difficulty in sleeping at night. I found it strange how when I had to work at night the sleep that would otherwise evade me became quite insistent ̶ until I was back home in bed at which point all sleepiness would vanish. I could and did fall asleep on the bus home and wake up in the next town wondering where I was, by the time I got home I was exhausted and wide awake.

Now I don’t work and so some of the stress causing consequences of sleeplessness have gone and I can nap when I need, but I do obsess still over dreams of a good nights sleep. Perhaps I should just lie back and relax.



Puzzling Symbols
April 3, 2014, 21:36
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

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Whenever anyone uses the a jigsaw puzzle piece to symbolise autism there are plenty of others who object, it is so inevitable that some see the whole matter as tedious. We all know the objections, that the symbol implies that autistics are, in some way, incomplete, that they have something missing, or that autism is itself a problem that only needs the missing piece to bring about a solution.

The problem is not with the symbol, whatever it is, the issue is one of whose definition it is. The use of the puzzle piece is similar to the use of the word “retard” or a slave owner calling an African, “nigger”. It is imposed upon a minority by a majority who have abrogated to themselves the right to define what is normal and acceptable. There is nothing wrong with people defining what is normal for them, but they have no right to impose that definition on others; the normal of Autism, or rather the normals of Autism, is not the normal of ordinary humans. I can appreciate that the puzzle piece does make sense for many people and I realise that from the outside autism looks confusing; however no more than society does to the autistic. Perhaps autism does need a symbol around which the community can rally, but please bear in mind that for many autistic people, as a symbol the puzzle piece is as welcome as the Robertson Golly is to black people.

The puzzle piece was an honest attempt to symbolise autism and it worked for some people, but now that so many autistic people are actively advocating and campaigning for the autistic community we need a symbol that does not divide us.



Light on Autism
April 2, 2014, 23:09
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

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I shall not be lighting up anything blue for Autism Awareness because I do not believe publicising the American organisation “Autism Speaks” is necessarily a good thing. In the first place Autism Speaks is a regional organisation that may speak for some parents of autistic children in the USA, but only for some, and not for autistic people themselves, many of whom vehemently oppose the organisation.

The opinions of Autism Speaks are not representative of the Autism community as a whole. Unlike Autism Speaks the majority of autistic people and their families do not believe that autism is necessarily a bad thing; we do not believe autistics are necessarily flawed; we do not agree that autism is an illness to be cured although we accept that it presents us with some challenges which need to be addressed; we do not accept that autism necessarily destroys families or tears marriages apart. Just as no two people on the Autism spectrum are the same, so the the Autism community holds many opinions and beliefs. Autism is a spectrum and to light up blue ignores all the other colours, the other opinions. The colors of the Autism spectrum are sometimes blue, but just as often red, or green and orange. We have many colours and shades of opinion; just as sunlight contains every colour of the spectrum, if we are to shed light on autism it must, like sunlight, be a full spectrum light.



Blue Eyes

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Well this is strange, but my world feels different. New glasses may, reasonably, be expected to cause me to see the world differently, but to feel differently? Interesting, and strange.

When I was diagnosed with Asperger’s, Anne Marie Gallagher of the Autism Resource Centre suggested I might want to visit an optician, Ian Jordan, in Ayr, who has had some success in treating the symptoms of autism with coloured lenses. This year, at last, after a long delay, I have finally got around to having him test my eyes and today I got my new glasses, happily at no greater cost than I would normally pay.

I must admit I am surprised at how quickly they have made a difference. I had expected them to help cut out excess light, I had not expected the other benefits. The first, and most obvious benefit, is that my new blue lenses reduce the brightness of the light I receive. One of the unforseen, but welcome benefits is that my lower back and sacroiliac pain fades while I am wearing them, it does mean that my glasses go on as soon as I wake. Another reason for putting my spectacles on when I awake is that when I am brushing my teeth I can comfortably brush the molars at the back of my mouth; in the past because of my strong gag reflex it has been uncomfortable to brush my teeth, but now it presents no difficulty.

I enjoy a sense of calm when I wear my blue lenses and it is my impression, admittedly I have not measured it, that both my stimming and involuntary movements are reduced. Another welcome benefit is that I can successfully see people’s faces as a whole rather than individual features commanding my attention so that their faces had the appearance of a collage. At one point I took my glasses off and remarked to my wife that I had not hitherto realised how hypersensitive I was, she replied, “Oh I had!” She also observes that I am calmer and less prone to obsession, which she explained by saying that, normally, if I am doing something I will go on and on, refusing to pause, exploding at interruptions, until I was finished, but now I am more relaxed. I still have my tinnitus, but it seems less intrusive. However when I take off my spectacles I am assaulted by a cacophony of stimuli, auditory and visual, calmed instantly when I replace them.

I don’t believe there is a cure for autism. Behavioral interventions can alleviate some of its effects, some of its comorbid conditions can be treated too. I do know that some of the symptoms I experience are now alleviated by my glasses, not cured, they return when my glasses are off, but I’m happy with that. In the past I have not wanted to wear my spectacles and have tended not to, now I find I don’t want to take them off.

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Stillness in Motion

I cannot sit still, literally, my body moves constantly independently of thought or will. My body is prey to involuntary movement, I often sit and watch my muscles twitching for no particular reason of which I’m aware. We are often told to “sit still”, “don’t move”, “sit at peace” for some of its it is impossible. Some mornings I awaken to discover my leg is bouncing up and down,as it often does when I’m sitting; when I’m awake I may,by force of will, stop it, but rarely in my sleep.As well as the various twitches to which I am prone my fingers have an unfortunate tendency to insert themselves into any convenient facial orifice, for social reasons it’s good to stop them, but my mind is usually focused on other things.

Some of my movements are regulatory mechanisms to support my mental well being. When stressed my body moves more and more violently than usual. However it is fair to say out never stops moving, and most of my movements bring me comfort. I have occasional muscle spasms that can cause considerable discomfort, even periods of impaired movement, but generally I find my movements beneficial.

No one is ever entirely still because the body is always running background processes like respiration and digestion. We are unaware of many off them most of the time, yet without our awareness or wounds still heal and our nails still grow. People make of adjustments to their posture over a day without even thinking about it. The body knows what it’s doing and it knows when to move to prevent cramp or sores; my body just needs to move more.

Strangely most of the time the movement is entirely external. I feel as though I am sitting still and unmoved in the eye of a hurricane.All around me the world and my body are moving, but I am still. Amongst movement, amongst turmoil and drama, in the midst of chaos I am still.

    SPIDER

I sit
Silent,
Unmoving.
Like a spider
I have spun
My web of illusions,
Trapping the unwary
In a web of dreams.
They look,
They do not see.
They think,
They do not know.
They live in hope,
But hope,
Like all dreams,
Will die,
Like my web.
In the end,
There is only
Me



More Than Understanding

Today has been another day of cinema and pie and mash; hey, I know what I like! I was reflecting on an example Jamie Smart uses of how his daughter was scared by Buffy The Vampire Slayer until she developed an understanding of what film is, and some of the processes behind it, Jamie extends the metaphor to the mind. However as looked back on Man of Steel and various other films it occurred to me that there is a level of meaning in films that is not countered by an understanding of the film making process.

In nearly every film, the filmmaker sets out to convey a message to their audience often reflecting the filmmakers own values. While watching some films with an understanding of process may provide an antidote to emotions like fear, political and ethical messages still sneak through. Many films provide a metaphorical support to political moods of the moment, so in these times of fighting in Asia, ‘Epic’ carries a message that war is just to protect one’s culture and that the enemy is the antithesis of virtue. Man of Steel is more subtle, but contains a similar message, coupled with the fairly explicit message that one has a duty to kill to protect one’s people, however much one hates to do so, it’s alright as long as you feel a bit of guilt afterwards.

It may well be argued that the message of many films is positive, and it must be admitted that many films, particularly many children’s films, demonstrate laudable virtues. However around these are many less pleasant films depicting cruelty and sadism, some even promoting crime as a positive, especially when the victims are themselves criminals or in some other way odious, bankers or politicians, in ‘Now You See Me’ there are several such victims. Revenge for injustice is a common theme, and the revenge tends to be very much of the ‘eye for an eye’ variety. These films play on a natural human desire to see justice done, but there is a real danger undermining respect for law. Yes the system is riddled with corruption, there are corrupt, police, politicians, bankers — name any profession you like — but the law still provides a degree of protection from anarchy. Sometimes campaigners feel the need to break the law in order to bring about change, but they should then accept the consequences. The legal system does favour the rich, but it does have built into it safeguards to minimise the risk of a miscarriage of justice although some do happen. When people take the law into their own hands there are no safeguards, just because someone resembles — for example — a convicted child molester does not mean they are he. People are too prone to act upon passion rather than cold logic and analysis of evidence, anything that makes a virtue of bypassing the law, and taking the law into one’s own hands is irresponsible; any film that whips up people’s passions as well is positively dangerous to the culture we would protect.

Stories will always be told, but the storytellers and filmmakers need to to spin their stories responsibly. Ideally the listener, or viewer needs to develop a critical faculty that enables them to reverse engineer the metaphors with which they are presented and extract the message without being manipulated. When I was at school we were actually taught how to read critically, even to the extent of picking apart, logically, the grammatical construction of a passage; do schools still tach this? Personally I am opposed, generally, to censorship, but I can understand why society feels a need for it; sadly our censors are so wrapped up in concerns about sexuality, they are missing much more dangerous content. Do I have the solution to the problem? Unfortunately not. Ideally we would all be so aware we could not be manipulated, but how we bring everyone to that awareness, well if I knew that and could tell you, I’d either be very rich or very dead.